Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version
The Xbox 360's first Japnese RPG places you in the control of Atsuma, who early in his adventure manages to inadvertently open a seal which revives the fierce Devil Golem. You'll make use of Golem support characters as you work through the game's strategic … see full wiki
Read on, Dear reader...
•• Story ••
The story begins in Enchant University where our hero, Atsuma is a young, mouthy kid (note the stereotype mentioned above). While in class, we learn about his friends, the handsome dark haired boy and the amazingly homosexual Makoto. Apparently the Japanese have a very strange perception of gay people because Makoto represents a stereotype not seen since the likes of Three's Company. He is wimpy, plays musical instruments as a means of battle, and seems to profess his love to every male character in the game. No bother, this character does not have major role in the game for long.
The story is really about Atsuma and his magic arm. We don't know why his arm is magical or what it does until we progress further into the game. But we know that Atsuma doesn't want to be a hero and the story takes on the typical Joseph Campbell mythos of the reluctant hero. But this time, he's fighting against a Golem that he and his buddies accidentally released (oops). What's a Golem? Back in the day, Golems were created to be helpers for humans as well as warriors. I wouldn't describe them as robots, since they take on the forms of anthropomorphic animals, monsters, plants and yes, a young school girl in a very short skirt with a high squeaky voice. Oh and a thing modelled after a giant pizza. Not kidding.
These Golems apparently rose up and rebelled against their human creators and ushered in the Golem wars. Today, Golems still exist, but are tightly controlled. The evil golems of the past are hidden away, though not very well. Hence the ability of our intrepid heroes to accidentally find one of them... in the basement of their own school!. This released Golem destroys the world as we know it and it's up to your gang of heroes and golems to save the world. Enjoyable, but certainly not award-winning.
In all, the story is quite good, aside from some seriously lame dialog obviously translated from Japanese. While there's nothing as bad as "All your base are belong to us", the dialog comes across as stiff and not very conversational. For long segments of dialog, the game switches to an interesting profile mode where you see the characters profiles as they talk. Annoyingly, the A button needs to be pressed after every single line and this gets tiresome. I found myself reading the subtitles for each line and skipping past the recorded dialog.
•• Gameplay ••
The main view of the game is 3rd person. You'll control Atsuma from behind as he runs around the world. There are some opportunities to swim, but mostly you'll find yourself running from place to place gathering information, buying things and fighting.
And when you're not running around, you'll find yourself mostly in battle mode. This is the meat of the game and the place where the strategy lies as well as the opportunity to earn experience points, tablets and gems to buy more golems or upgrade your party. The Battle grid consists of each team being on a 5x5 grid of squares. You can't cross into the other teams' grid which limits your strategy, but also makes it easier to learn.
Each player has a set of powers. On the first part of your turn, you move your character into square you want and then decide which attack to use. Each attack will hit everything in specific squares depending on the attack itself. One might only hit the square in front of you. Another might attack every single square on the other side.
Where the other teams reside on their square, which characters you have on the field all contribute to the strategy you'll employ. Anyone familiar with turn-based board games like chess, Risk, or even something more complex like HeroClix will be right at home with this system.
But it gets even more complex than this. Each character has a certain skill based on the elements of Earth, wind, water and fire. These elemental abilities affect the enemies in different ways depending on which elemental family they belong too. Then can do extra damage or cancel each other out. So the player needs to be aware of which elemental characters they are bringing into the party. As well, multiple characters attacking a single character will net the player combo bonuses and do more damage.
Also typical of RPGs are different stats. Instead of going into depth about what each one is, there are levels, health points, and tablet points that you are awarded based on your success or failure in battle. You can use some points to upgrade your stats such as range and damage and some points can be used to buy things at stations along the way.
Some of the things you can buy at these stations are Golems. In order to have a Golem in your party, you need to be able to buy the core materials using tablet points you win in battle or find in chests along the way. But this is only the first step. You also need to synthesize a purchased golem using specific gems you get through battle or by buying them at the station. As well, you can buy powers and skills at the station to better equip your party. Once the Golem is synthesized, he can be added to your party. You may have only 4 members of your party at once, but as they get damaged, you can swap them out at any time between battles. So building your army of golems and friends is a pretty important part of the game.
When not in battle mode, the game consists of lots of exploration and talking to people. While the game is mostly on rails, you'll be able to explore certain parts of the areas you're in. London city, for example, lets you go to a casino to play blackjack, bingo, slots and golem battles. The first 3 are self-explanatory and allow you to bet your earned tablet money on the games. Golem battles allow you to put money down on your party and duke it out with the AI. The higher you go in the ranks, the more money you win, which of course can be used later to buy new golems and skills. A nice diversion of mini-games, this doesn't add a tremendous amount of depth. The real depth comes from the battles, which seem to happen every few seconds. This gets a little annoying at times as I'm trying to progress the story. All of a sudden, I'm being attacked by a leaf of lettuce, a blue puppy and a schoolgirl. As enjoyable as the battles are, I would have liked them to be further spaced out so I could really get into the story faster.
•• Graphics •• The graphics are quite stunning in this game. With an obvious Japanese style, the vistas are expansive, the environments detailed and lush. The characters are oddly designed, but flavorful and interesting. The models aren't tremendously detailed, but certainly good enough for the few times you see them up close.
The real strength of the graphics lies in the environments and the effects. From Mr Pizza's flying fireball to Atsuma's blazing phoenix, the effects are a joy to look at and really show off the console. While some may argue that the gameplay is not exactly next-gen, the same could not be said of the graphics. They are quite excellent and add a lot of character to the game.
•• Sound •• The music in the game consists of symphonic scores, punctuated with some vocals during battles. The main theme is nice, but not memorable. Each town seems to have it's own musical stylings, and these add some character to the towns and their inhabitants.
The VO work is a little over-the-top, as noted by the Makoto. The rest of the characters all sound the same. Why is it that every girl in a Japanese RPG has to have a super-high squeaky voice? Bland and generic, the VO work comes across as uninspired and goofy.
•• Multiplayer ••
The Multiplayer was tacked on and consists of Golem battles with other players. This isn't exactly deep gameplay as the battle system doesn't lend itself to tournaments. Nevertheless, it's an interesting diversion if you really enjoyed the battle system and don't want to be bogged down by that pesky story thing.
•• Achievements ••
The Achievements are all secret and unlock as you progress through the story. I really hate this kind of design because it doesn't allow me to strive to achieve anything. They're just sort of dropped on you as you go.
•• Parents Should Know ••
The game is rated T for Teen and seems appropriate. There is constant battling, but no blood. A few scary cutscenes are in the game, but nothing older kids can't handle.
•• Conclusion ••
An enjoyable story with a complex battle system to satisfy my need to play a thinking game. Recommended.
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