For every stellar JRPG that’s released unto the world’s ever-growing library of video games, there’s about 10 not-so-stellar pieces to match it. And what makes a good JRPG great? Well, we need only to look to classic titles such as Chrono Trigger, Earthbound or nearly any title in the Final Fantasy series (Final Fantasy X being my favourite, but whatevs) for inspiration. Between the giants and microbes of Japanese role-playing games, is where we find Unlucky Mage, strewn in the ‘not life-changing, but not life-endingly awful either’ category.
The game takes place on the continent of Adamantia, which is currently ravaged by a war between monarchies, and the recent and unexpected appearance of monsters. This is a world, where although the mystical and arcane arts are nothing new, they are condemned and vilified, especially those who practice them. This turns the archetype of mages and wizards on their heads, who are usually seen as the learned and revered sages of their respective worlds.
Our protagonist takes the form of one of these mages, a young man called Jasper. Jasper holds only scorn and distaste for the human race, borne at the hands of the people who’ve mistreated him all his life. However, as he meets more characters who prove how untrue his prejudice is, he softens and shows a more open and accepting side of his personality. Jasper is joined on his adventures by an array of other people, ranging from the wizened yet sharp Kyan, the feisty and fierce Carnelia and her elder sister, Christel, who all bring their own humour and quirks to the party, and improve the players’ experience as a whole.
The story of Unlucky Mage won’t be unfamiliar to RPG lovers, as it follows the narrative of a ‘reluctant protagonist, who slowly but surely softens, and grows into the hero the world needs’. That being said, the advantage of using such a well-known story trope, is that it’s tried and tested. Unlucky Mage is, in my opinion, one of Kemco’s better-written games. There are very few spelling errors, unlike previous entries, and the humour permeating the story doesn’t seem forced, and rings off as the various characters’ natural charisma.
As far as diversity in terms of gameplay goes, there isn’t much to differ Unlucky Mage from other titles. The game’s battle system is that of a traditional RPG; turn-based combat, with a line-up on the top of the screen indicating whose turn is next etc. You’re given the familiar options, such as ‘Attack’, ‘Skill’, ‘Guard’, ‘Item’. However, you’re also given the option titles ‘Formation’, which allows you to alter the formation your characters take in battle. This option grants another level of strategy to the game, as different formations offer different stat-boosts, as well as increasing or decreasing a character’s chance of evading an enemy’s attack. Towns are rather unremarkable, really presenting the player with no more than shops and an inn. NPCs suffer from a lack of originality, in that they don’t emit much in terms of conversation. The world map is similar to that of Dragon Quest’s; an enlarged sprite, roaming from town to village to dungeon, whose meander is interrupted only by random enemy encounters.
One gameplay mechanic I did find interesting however, is the addition of campsites to dungeons. These campsites are no more than a simple spit over a fire, but they give the player an opportunity to rest their party, refilling all HP and SP (skill points), and erasing all status ailments, up to 3 times. I think this a worthwhile addition for casual gamers, who don’t want too much of a challenge, and for the more seasoned gamers, well they can just choose not to make use of said campfires.
While the review has been mostly positive thus far, I did run into a few issues in my time spent with Unlucky Mage. This game suffers from the same ailment many of its Kemco comrades do; being a mobile-port, and so having no touch screen capabilities. This exclusion is incredibly jarring, as I repeatedly found myself tapping the screen out of habit, attempting to manage my party’s inventory, or send a foe to their grave. Surely any game released on the 3DS, be it a port or original title, should have some degree of touch screen functionality? The game offers no 3D mode either, which leaves one questioning why they should purchase this game on the eShop, when it offers no new features to the original mobile game?
In conclusion, I mostly enjoyed Unlucky Mage. The story was nothing new, but the characters and humorous writing made up for this. The in-game music is very reminiscent of the early 90s era of gaming, yet only adds to the sweet and traditional nature of the game. However, a lack of basic 3DS functionalities and at times, unattractive graphics hinder this game from being an eShop gem.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo 3DS code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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