If you enjoy JPRGs then this will be a game for you. Rising Star Games seems to be releasing niche titles (Akai Katana) and it seems to be working for them. This is a deep RPG with fun combat and lots of details and stats to work with. The graphics are dated sadly and this seems to be just a port of previous games, but that’s not a bad thing. Casual gamers may not care about the details and just see the graphics and walk away.
The story is a typical Japanese one, the seven year war has ended and peace is around the land. Our hero is called Zelos, a contractor by trade. One day investigating a site he finds a seal called the core elemental. He then sets out with a team to investigate other seals and we learn more about his past. We find that we are indeed in a war between the humans and the new superhumans and then things gets very twisted, although I won’t give away any spoilers. Rest assured the story makes sence, mostly, and sets the tone for the action and battles well. It’s a typical story really, but I’m glad to see the main hero is not some moody guy but one with a deep story and well worked motivations for doing what he does.
Turn-based isometric gameplay is the order of things here, you lead your squad across the screen against the enemies. Each character has the same control options: move, charge attack, skills, item, call up and standby. Move is fairly obvious, skills is where you attack using the many different skills and abilities each character has. My favourite option in the charge one, this allows multiple characters to sacrifice their turns in order to attack in a simultaneous chain. I like this for two reasons, firstly, you can turn the tide of battle in an instant, and secondly, they look really cool. Each move uses different amounts of SP, so it’s a balancing act between the strength of attack needed and the number of times you want to attack. The units available to choose vary from ranged spell caster, to up-close brawlers and some that are a bit of both.
There is a lot to explore and a lot of options to play with. The Synthesist is where you go to enhance and develop your weapons, the alchemist is the option chosen when you need to create new items or powerful equipment. The item is usually a ring of some kind, but keep trying and something great will be your reward. The customary item shop is present and clear. You get missions from the guild and at the start you need to gather information before you can get any missions.
The graphics have a nice sprite drawing feel to them, you can zoom in and out of the game map and spin to see the different levels and angles so you can see who is closest to your enemies. The backgrounds and the world look okay, but nothing specials. This is in no way pushing the PS Vita, but it’s a port and a PSP game at heart so we can forgive it.
The main issue with this game is the search feature, it’s a new feature but implemented horribly. You need to search on the world map for new areas and story levels, but once you search you find something that you can’t play because the rest of your party is not at a high enough level. This makes you grind levels out and it feels like a chore more than a fun aspect of the game. It needs a lot of work, as this could really have been something revolutionary. Sadly, I think this is a major flaw and even the most hardcore of fans will hate it.
The music is a rock guitar mix with techno infusion which, after a while, gets annoying. Interestingly, the voice acting is actually very believable and heartfelt. The writing is decent enough and there’s is a nice flow to it.
This could have been a real treat, as it is I enjoyed the game. The story is good and the voice acting is a great accompaniment. The gameplay is familiar to all JRPG games and the isometric design is a good way to present things. Turn-based combat, however, is not for all gamers and most will not be into this. As said before this is a niche title for niche gamers. Rising Star Games know what they are doing and have provided a real winner. The graphics are nice Manga sprites and when you zoom in close they look nice. Zoom out and they become a bit blocky and scratchy. A nice game form RPG fans.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation Vita code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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