| paleface [sys=GBA; cat=Strategy; loc=NA] |
|Yet another super-deformed tactical RPG, the one strikes a nice balance between complexity and ease of use. For instance, each character may be able to change to multiple other classes, but the menu makes it obvious which ones you can change to, and what their benefits are. Switching gear is equally well illustrated. When attacking, on-screen displays show your chance to hit, damage you'll probably inflict, and so on. Still, it took me a while to get used to after the extremely streamlined Onimusha Tactics (see entry 781): it seemed like everything took one too many button presses; for instance, you have to click to confirm every attack.|
Character death here is permanent, so you'll probably want to be careful with your troops. As seems typical in the genre, you can take about eight people into battle, but you can have many more characters than that in your character pool--you can persuade enemies to join you, or hire help in the shop. If you're like me, though, you'll pretty much stick to a team of eight that you settle on pretty early in the game, so as not to waste time levelling up additional characters.
This works well, and in fact midway through the game starts to get a little easy, except for two occassions where you suddenly have to split your team in half for "tactical" reasons. Um, great strategy there. So I ended up fighting four battles with just four characters on my team, and those were a little hard.
Thankfully, there really is some strategy you can use, and the AI isn't all that smart. The AI, actually, tends simply to trundle around in a fixed radius from their spawn point, so if you're careful, you can aggro just a few of them, while the others wander around confusedly on the other side of the map. They will sometimes try ganging up on a character who's low on health, but not very consistently.
On the other hand, you can't just surround baddies and take them down one-by-one as you could in Onimusha Tactics, because inevitably at least a few characters on the other side will have area-effect attacks that will really start to wear your side down if you keep your members bunched up. So you have to stay spread out and make coordinated use of one or two fighters backed up by a few ranged attackers on a target. Finding ranged attackers isn't a problem, since just about everyone can get some kind of missile attack.
Melee has some nice complexity in attack direction and counter-attacks: attacks from the sides or especially the back are more likely to hit, and those from the back cannot be targetted by what will otherwise be an automatic counter-attack. Elevation also helps.
What else... Everyone on your team goes at once, then the other team goes. You can't move/action in any order you want, as you could in Onimusha Tactics: you have to move first, then do an action. This works better, I think, than giving players a choice of the order, since that made it kind of easy to abuse certain strategies in OT.
Characters have a lot of HP in this game: taking down an average fighter will often take the coordinated attacks of all of your characters for several rounds. On the one hand, this makes battles feel kind of epic, and you don't usually have to worry about a few lucky hits suddenly killing one of your characters, so long as you keep them reasonably healed; on the other hand, if the enemy has a healer or two, it can be very difficult to start making a dent in their forces. And they usually seem to have an unlimited number of healing potions, so you'll get a guy down to a near-dead state, and then in its turn the computer will heal it back up to near perfect health, so you just have to bang it all the way down again. Sigh.
While there is some depth of character customization in the aforesaid class system, as well as in arranging equipment and spells, and pumping stats (through the use of found items), the variety of options seems to run out pretty quickly. For instance, my ninja character had the same shuriken missile attack for the entire game, from level one to thirty or so. It would have been nice if the attack had evolved somehow. This goes for spells, too.
The game is only about thirty hours though, by the internal clock, so chances are that lack of ability depth won't really start bothering you much. I like the flow of the game: you can see on the continent map where your next story battle is, but you can also wander around and do random encounters if you want to level a bit. Also, you'll usually have two or so story encounter areas to go to, so while the game is in fact quite linear, it feels like you can tailor the order of encounters a bit. There's usually a little story sequence between story battles, and the writing is decent, although there are a few too many weird names thrown out for my tastes. The story itself isn't all that compelling, in fact it's mostly annoying in forcing you to use a certain fairly weak character in some battles (or splitting your forces, argh), but at least you feel like you're engaged in some kind of epic plot, even if it's a little shakey on the details.
Graphically the game isn't great shakes, but it looks okay. There's some slowdown when scrolling over certain parts of a map, or when effects go off. Area effects have to animate their hit per each square separately, which is tedious. The music is mostly very nice, but too loud, and you can't adjust its volume independently.
While I can't call it a brilliant game, I enjoyed it. I hardly scratched the surface of the available character classes, and I didn't do the optional treasure-hunting quest mode at all (it cost money, and wasn't necessary since I started kicking everyone's butt without having to level anyway... Well, except for the final battle, grr), but, aside from the two frustrating occassions where my leader "decided" to split my forces, it was pretty fun to rampage through the story mode.
|Download added: archer.gif (97320 bytes)|
"My archer takes aim. These dudes almost never missed, it was sweet."
I particularly appreciate how, on any menu screen, you can use Select to enter a query mode and bring up detailed story and stat info on any item. You never feel left in the dark thanks to this feature, and those who enjoy little details will enjoy reading all the little info bits on each item, ability, and location.
|Download added: encounter.mpg (7645188 bytes)|
"My team begins the slaughter of a fairly wimpy random encounter."
Oh, one mild annoyance: you can use found items to boost your stats, but you can only use them in battle, so generally you have to start a training battle, go in, use the items, then quit the battle. You really should have been able to use the items from the world map menus between battles.
On a more positive note, I like the rate at which magic points regenerate between rounds in battle. Most characters can sustain casting simpler spells (such as fireballs, ice bolts, or simple heals) indefinitely, while mages will need to save up for a few rounds or pop a mana potion if they want to get off the bigger and nastier ones. One odd side effect of this, since everyone starts off with zero MP at the beginning of the battle, is that mages are useless for at least the first round, and usually for the first couple.