Presentation: I’ll cut straight to the point; This game is eye bleedingly gorgeous. Environments are rich and detailed, with various subtleties like leaves falling in the background, and light shafts shooting through the forests. Some gamers and spectators may be put off by its ridiculous character proportions (both male and female characters), but denying this game of its focus on vibrancy, intricacy, and its attention to detail would be a crime to all artistically inclined individuals. This is an anime inspired Baroque painting come to life, and I can’t get enough of it! Character animations are slick and impactful, even if often times over-exaggerated and over-sexualized. I won’t get into the whole “sexism in gaming” argument, but all things considered, this game is exaggerated in many ways. I don’t have any problem with the character designs or the way characters are portrayed in this game, and I feel that an artist should have the freedom to make whatever character designs said artist wants to create, as long as it’s not purposefully aimed at making a statement such as “Girls r dumb, men are teh best” or vice-versa. The user interface is sleek, simple, but stylized, and navigating through menus is never a chore. In terms of music, the music is always appropriate to the environment around it. Each environment has its own feel thanks to the great art direction and music.
Gameplay: Gameplay consists of fairly simple, yet deceptively deep, mechanics. You play as either a Warrior, an Amazonian, Sorceress, Dwarf, Elf, and Wizard. Each character has their own set of moves, abilities, aesthetics, and voices. During my playthrough, I played as the Scorceress, who, as you guessed it, uses magic as her primary means of attacking. Pressing the square button lets you release a short range magic shot which damages the enemy slightly and refills some of your magic. Holding down on square charges up your magic. Pressing the circle button and a variety of directions will grant you different magic effects, depending on the staff you have equipped. You can choose between fire, ice, and electricity, and will find that certain elements work better against certain enemies. I quickly became a fan of her jumping magic attack with the electricity staff, as it creates several thunder bolts around you, damaging all nearby enemies both in front of and behind her. Stringing combos together, even as a sorceress, isn’t overly complicated, and yet pulling off those impressive air juggles still feels super satisfying.
Each area has hidden areas and treasures for you to find. Using the right analogue stick, you can hover over elements in the foreground and background to find glowing/shimmering spots that allow you to gain more points per match. Simply put, the gameplay is addictive and franticly fun.
Not all is perfect however. Although there is online and offline co operative multiplayer, you have to wait until you’re fairly deep into the gaming experience (around 6-7 hours) before you can play with any of your friends online. In addition to waiting to play with friends, there are absolutely no ways to communicate with other players through voice or text chat. What is this, the early 90’s? Some argue that voice communication isn’t important, or isn’t a prerequisite for online gaming, but I strongly disagree with this statement. In a day in age where social connectivity and communication are so heavily integrated into our lives, you might as well be playing with NPC’s and AI, as opposed to other human beings. Not even having the option to voice chat with other players is a huge detriment to the online experience. There have been several times I was playing with other gamers, and didn’t even realize it. Another gamer got upset with me because I moved onto another part of the level before he was ready to stop fighting a boss. It’s honestly a shame, because these are the two biggest reasons why this title went from a “Must Buy” to a “Buy”.
Story: The story is fairly basic. There is an ancient dragon (a very powerful one at that) that is capable of destroying worlds. There’s a crown that must be retrieved, and a character who deceives you… I won’t spoil anything here, but do know that the story and character development aren’t this title’s strongest points. The game is narrated by a very well voice acted man, and follows a structure similar to what you’d see in a Dungeons and Dragon’s game. Once you get to a certain point in the game, you can travel on alternate paths within the levels and fight tougher enemies, but again, there isn’t much substance in terms of story.
Lasting Appeal: Overall, this game is a lot of fun. With some improvements, mainly to the online multiplayer, it could be a must buy. The gameplay is satisfying, getting new equipment is fun, and the enjoyment from just experiencing the visuals can be breathtaking. The music, voices, and art direction can really immerse you in the experience… There aren’t many games out there that have this sense of cohesive direction. Although it has it’s shortcomings, it is really hard not to recommend this title. Once you beat the game, you unlock hard mode, which is definitely more difficult than normal. You can continue playing with your character, and switch game difficulties to match friends with lower difficulties. The maximum character level is 99, which can only be achieved after beating the game multiple times as those playthroughs unlock the other levels.
- Amazing visuals and art direction
- Smooth, fun, and addictive gameplay
- Excellent sound design
- Final Boss is pretty cheap!
- No voice chat for multiplayer (what is this, the 90’s?)
- Takes too long to unlock multiplayer