- Genre: JRPG
- Platform: Xbox 360 via Series X compatibility
This is one that was sort of floating around in the ether for me for a long time. It’s a JRPG from a company (tri-Ace) that I’ve tended to like, but historically has had a lot of ups and downs. Critically, this one was definitely one of their down moments. It has decent combat, but the mechanics around it are often pretty questionable leading to a vague, if not frustrating experience that ends up feeling less like skill and more like trial and error grinding.
The core combat of this one typically would be fine for me to keep wanting to play. It’s action-based, but distinctly a JRPG in terms of stats, buffs, debuffs, etc. Where there’s simplicity in controls, there’s a lot of depth in their use. For example, different combos (A-B, A-A-B, etc) can have different results. Some are knockups, allowing you to juggle your enemy in the air. Some are knockdowns. Some are AoE attacks. Learning which to use at the right time is core to effective combat and has really good overall combat rhythm. You can also link with your active party members and use skills related to them. It can be a bit awkward in the 15+ year old game sense, but more often than not it works well.
Where the game really falls apart is in the specific mechanics often tied to a dungeon.
For example, the first dungeon in the game requires you to mind control two specific enemies to a door as sacrifices to unlock it. In isolation, that’s a really cool idea. However, it requires a few things – the knowledge that one of your party members has an ability that can mind control enemies, the knowledge that it can be used to do more than talk to NPC animals, and then the luck to have them actually hit the ability. There’s a bunch of things in that list of things that you just kind of have to accidentally stumble upon, because they don’t teach you.
However, the fight that ultimately did me in was one that I thought was obvious, but just downright frustrating – and as it turned out, was not obvious. I was fighting a boss that could go in and out of visibility on a timer that could lead to my failure. Of note, this was only the second time I was fighting one of these types of battles. The main character has a flute that could bring the boss out of the invis state, allowing the party to attack….except the main character could not attack him. I figured this was intended, and was just frustrated at my AI characters inconsistently attacking. Due to AI issues, I ran out of time and hit a game over, losing me a bunch of time of backtracking in the process. Looking online afterwards, it turns out that my main character had gained a skill that allowed him to attack these shifting enemies, and I had gained it almost 20 levels earlier. Didn’t know it had that secret power, sure as hell never saw it in the description or had any reason to care about it when I earned it 5+ hours ago. Now that I knew about the mechanic? Trivial fight.
It’s that level of inconsistency that follows with other tri-Ace releases. Games like the previous Star Ocean, which had really fun combat but was mechanically inconsistent surrounding it. Games like Resonance of Fate, that had interesting weapon mechanics, but pretty rough story and visuals. This one shows its bad side in those forced mechanics. They don’t make the game more fun or interesting or better. They don’t bring a level of inherent skill to the fights. They simply provide a guessing game of which thing you have in your possession that you never quite read the description of, or never quite saw the meaning of, or got hours ago and forgot existed. Once you figure out the mechanic, it’s easy, but until then it’s a wild guess, and honestly just not worth playing.