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Quirkiness Wrapped up in a Box
on 18 January 2010
This is my first real venture into this kind of RPG. I would definately call myself a 'Square fan-boy', but after watching a few video reviews I thought i'd give it a punt.
To begin with, the appearance of this game is wonderful. The colours are vibrant, the artwork is clean and clear - great. The characters and scenes are generally 2D, giving it a real retro feel, which feels really nice after playing all these high-graphics games. Some of the enemies do appear in 3D, which really feels odd, but kinda cool at the same time.
Now, I won't lie, I really like to get my teeth into a good story when it comes to RPGs - this doesn't exactly get there. The characters, as far as i'm aware, are from a miss-mash of other anime RPGs so on that basis, I couldn't really expect the story to blow me away.. okay, I can forgive the weak story then.
The gameplay is very confusing initially, but the opening tutorials do give a good insight into how the battle system works (which is far more than can be said for the awful instructions manual! You expect me to see those pictures!? Let alone read the text in them!!). Basically, each person in your party (which consists of up to 4 members) has a limited number of AP (Action Points) to distribute during your turn. You have abilities assigned to different buttons, and can unleash hell so long as you have enough AP to spend on the move you want. Inputting moves in a set order can lead to a combo being available with someone else in your party, thus giving a really experimental feel to the battles. Good so far. When you run out of AP, or when you want to end your turn you can manually do so, and the enemy may strike back. After they've finished retaliating, you get AP points restored that let you unleash even more hell and it goes on until you or your opponant(s) die. Each character also has special abilities that do BIG damage, but to use them, they both need a lot of AP AND a bar in the top right corner needs to be filled through attacking and being attacked during the fight.
Lets make this clear, you will be battling A LOT. Battles are not random - you will know when there is one coming up. A coloured blob on the world map will gradually change colour as you walk, and when it reaches red, you'd better have your weapons ready! Whilst on the world map, you are required to hunt around for Souls (part of the story, but to you and me, that means treasure!) and Events. Events could be a quirky and often hillarious cut scene, or sometimes lead to an epic boss battle.
Other than that, there are also dungeons to explore that link each area to one another. Dungeons turn the game on its head into a basic, yet cutesy 2D platforming game. Battles still apply in the same fashion as on the World Map, it's just a bit more fun going about it.
The cut scenes are short and sweet, usually of great humour, and give you breaks in the sheer number of battles you'll need to be doing. Unfortunately, leveling up in this game is fairly slow, so you'll be pleased to know that all your characters gain EXP even when they don't participate (there are so many characters it's untrue! Many of them arrive in the first couple of hours!). EXP gained does improve as you progress, but bosses are still extremely tough. I am playing Hard mode right now though, and wouldn't be able to assess how much easier they were on Normal or Easy mode, but basically, they hurt. A problem with these boss fights is that many of them don't require you to beat the boss, but instead withstand a set number of turns without dying. This to me is both annoying and frustrating in equal measure, especially if you want to go for an 'Overkill' (Overkill, as the name suggests is where you've already killed an enemy but keep attacking it after. If you manage to refill the health bar of the enemy fully after defeating them, you can get rare items. Even if you don't refill it, they're dead so don't worry!)
This game both contains fun and tedious grinding in equal measure. I would love to rate it higher than I have, but feel I must be strict and fair. There is no question that the battle system is enjoyable, clever and requires you to think on your feet (there is a timer during your turn that you have to beat otherwise your combos stop) - the issue is that there is so much battling against similar monsters that it really makes you inclined to flee even when you're after the experience.
The difficulty scope is pretty high i'd say, which means plenty of replayability, but also lots of frustration. Battles are generally (even at the very beginning of the game) long, so it is advisable to go onto the Playstation Store and get the free downloads to make the first few hours of the game a little less strainuous and help you get used to the battle system.
I would recommend this game to all fans of strategy RPGs and those who want something retro to go on their PS3 (there won't be many of them about, i'm sure). It's going to be hit and miss whether you'll enjoy the game after you've worked out all the fundamentals, but as they say, 'if the price is right...'.