2nd April 2010 - End of Eternity or Resonance of Fate for the multinational release, is yet another JRPG in the wake of Final Fantasy XIII. Developed by tri-Ace, also known for their games Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, it has been floating around Japan since January. It may indeed be a Resonance of Fate that the game bears little to no resemblance to aforementioned Japanese Role Playing Games and instead aims to woo western audience with a slick combination of gun-play and school girl dress ups. The following, is my adventure as a 21 yr old girl...
So although there are 3 characters in this story: Zephyr, a 17 yr old dude who at the start of the game rescues 21 yr old Leanne/Reanbell which leads them to Vashyron the 26yr old ex-military bounty hunter, it's just so much fun to dress them up that I couldn't help always using the young girl as she prances around and pistol whips people. What will unfold in this review is that although the story revolves around steam-punk future dystopias, where citizens of Basel have build a giant clock tower to live in, high above the wasted Earth, tri-Ace and the men who made this game, have a fetish for young 21yr old girls.
To be fair it's all completely in line with Japanese culture and styles both with the 'joys' of dressing up, to putting 'younger than necessary' girls on a pedestal of perfection for their embarrassment and subsequent amusement of older men. It also makes for a laughable plot.
Basel is a sad city, highly urban and multi-tired with many levels leading to a glistening Chandelier above where the religious leaders or Cardinals rule the people. I'm not sure what's in the smoke on the lower levels, but the rulers of this world are crazy. As would be with many RPG the game has many layers but basically plays out like a book with chapters. Each chapter ends and a new one starts with a select number of missions. The story mission almost always involves working for a Cardinal 'boss' as there are many governing different aspects of Basel. The dudes are eccentric, and for lack of a better word, creepy pervs. Hilarious in their eccentricities it highlights some of the issues with RoF and we haven't even talked about combat. The game would seem to be aimed at a younger audience. The game play reflects an audience under the age of 18 as the 17yr old hero is suitably emotional and moody all the time and there is a large emphasis on puzzles and dressing up. Unlike other big franchise in the JRPG genre, RoF seems happy to do its own thing, with a combination of running around small towns, collecting quests, shopping talking to everyone and generally getting enough coin to upgrade guns and buy clothes. There is a rather deep puzzle mechanic to the map but one that can also be overlooked.
The difference between day and night
There is not a lot in Final Fantasy to compare to and yet it seems like all the problems in XIII are addressed here with unique solutions that mostly work. To kill the issue of mindlessly running around waiting for a battle or spending 30 hours going in just one direction, tri-Ace have opted for the big screen version of a colored piece puzzle game mashed into an RPG. There are some excellent puzzle/battle games out there, mostly phone, arcade and PSP titles and this builds on it.
Whenever you leave an area, zone or map, you enter the world map- displayed as a bunch of hexagons. The problem is; you have to constantly unlock the path. You can buy and trade and find more shapes or pieces which you lay down to unlock a path to the next elevator dungeon or city. As you travel the path random attacks will occur with locations and levels based on where you are in the world. It's a neat idea, and adding colored pieces means additional effects for that area, it's just unfortunate that it doesn't look very nice and is totally at odds to the other environments in the game.
It's a bit jarring to constantly leave a battle and be reduced to an icon on a map which you move around. It works though and allows for some random treasure hunting as you spam the hex pieces to unlock the whole world. In theory also the story fits in that the world has lost power, because of how it was built and so partly placing colored hex’s allows you to restore the city to its former glory and reach further areas.
Too many guns is never enough
When you do get out of the map, and everyone is suitably well dressed and equipped it's time for combat. As a 21yr old girl, Leanne is pretty adept at pistols and healing, but you can always try out the other 2 combinations of grenades and machine guns. Now videos don't really do the combat justice and although strikingly different to anything seen before it has certain logic to it, so here goes:
Imagine a game of chess, but with the gun play of Bayonetta and tactical cover of a turn-based strategy and the combos of final fantasy. It's real time, turn-based, tactical oxymoronic fun, for the whole family. Basically combat occurs on maps, based around different environments in the world. When you enter a map you can see the entire enemy and any structures, bunkers and walls. Each character takes it turn to move either in real time or across a 'line of sight'. The key is to use attack chips to set up a line across the map and hit play- and once you do, the camera and game takes over as your player unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse and bullets onto the selected enemy. You can re-fill the attack chips by performing combos and although you can't 'move' while matrix flipping along the line; you can jump as well as charge up attacks and combos. Multiple charges may send the enemy into the air while jumping above them may make a 'smackdown' move. As long as you have attack chips you can continue the barrage of lining up your players and sending them across the map shooting enemies as they go past.
Heres the kicker: You only have machine guns and pistols. One character can have grenades in the off hand, while one should always have different clips like flame, ice, electric or the healing items. Machine guns will not do damage; imagine everyone has an invisible shield. Machine guns will only ever convert shields to actual damage as a sort of multiplier for a pistol packing character to finish them off. The execution is very slick and looks great as the fluid animation of characters perform some very stylish moves.
Pro Tip: Try to position your players in a 3 point Triangle around the map. As long as you have more than 3 attack chips to use you can almost always pull off the famous tri-attack at least once per battle. This allows a devastating combo of shield (scratch) damage and actual damage. Throw in some `nades for bonus fun!
If the above gameplay sounded like a confusing mix of free flowing combat and puzzles with some tactical and adventure elements throw in; the graphics are not much better. They tend to vary from good to not so great with some very detailed models up close and yet for the most part the camera is too far away to every notice. Not surprisingly the camera is fixed inside towns and always at a distance. Not bad but not good enough to see either the costumes of your characters or hidden items in the ground.
Generally, the environments themselves are largely uninspired 'steam-punk' maps of brown and Grey cogs and wheels with a few red barrels thrown into the mix. The world map is slightly prettier but so large in scope that it is always zoomed well out with little detail throw in up close. That said it has the feel of a game from about 15 years ago as you run around and talk to people in one of those point and click adventures.
The highpoint of this mechanical frag fest are the cut scenes, which are both always amusing and actually very pretty. Up close the 3 main characters look excellent and a lot of fine details have been built into the extensive range of clothing options. The physics in the game allow for some very dynamic hair pieces as well as small things like chains and dresses that move with the animation. Lip syncing is a bit off but to be expected with a better than average English Dubb.
Branded for life
The game just wouldn't be complete without some dress-ups and for Leanne a 21yr old girl, it makes all the difference. As you play the game you can unlock sets of clothes (A, B, C) and within each set u can modify just about everything from the hair color to the belt and shoes or eye color. Characters will comment on your clothes and for the most part is spices up the battle animations and finishing moves. As you unlock more you will find many of the clothes are branded or straight out of a Tokyo Fashion magazine. It is surprisingly more of a draw-card than you would expect with hidden contact lenses to unlock and different glasses to get your look 'just right'. This is the first collaboration between SEGA and tri-Ace and it is disappointing they couldn't pull off a more polished experience.
Both Motoi Sakuraba and Kohei Tanaka take to composing for RoF and once again, leave it in a mixed bag. Largely, the music is epic, if somewhat repeated, but it varies so dramatically from sweeping orchestral pieces on the world map to synthetic cheesy pop during battles to something akin to circus music.
On top of everything else, it's almost as if the producers let each department try to express 'humor' and the three didn't really mix. Thankfully what the tunes do do is identify each zone or part of the game uniquely. In an odd way it makes sense for the map to have slowly more natural music and the fighting the have faster hectic beats. It is hard to remember all the music that have come and gone with JRPGs but after playing through the campaign at least some of it will linger.
The voice acting on the other hand is always perfect. RoF is a real roller coaster for tri-Ace between excellent and not so good but the voice acting almost carries it over the line. Weather intentional or not the English dubbing captures the mood perfectly as well as the characters actions and this is where my adventure as a 21yr old girl ends.
After slapping both male characters for walking in on her in the shower during a black out, having her face painted as a flower and presented as a sex symbol to an old pervert, kicking someone in the groin and then the constant sexy innuendo between the 17 and 26yr old, Leanne/Reanbell is a laugh a minute. Nolan North is the voice of Vasharon and almost every line is gold; “I guess Leanne is too flat for you to see anything-" *Slap*
Leanne: Should I be on offense or defense?
Vashyron: Hey... Wuddya know? Leanne goes both ways.
Zephyr: Stop that!
How does 150hrs sound? Pace yourself because that is what is waiting for you after you finish this review. A rush can see it finished in 50-80 hours which is still double the length of Final Fantasy and the whole thing- 150! There is a battle arena separate to the rest of the game which allows gambling for fights. It is a grind and has about 300 odd battles across bronze silver and gold to complete.
Despite everything RoF comes down to a point shoot, rinse and repeat formula. It has some excellent depth in part but the length and well executed humor and dialogue do not make up for lack-luster graphics and repetitive gameplay. Stick with it because you may be playing for a while.
Pro Tip: Hidden contact lens colors always come in pairs and are hidden near each other. If you find the left eye then chances are the right eye is nearby somewhere. You could always have two different colored eyes though!
There is a sense that RoF really tries to cut in on the more traditional RPG (read: western) market. It borrows too many different conventions though and doesn't mix them too well. Cities are too small to explore while the puzzle map is too big. Zones and strings of maps become repetitive. The idea to replace swords and magic with guns and grenades is excellent while the Bestiary has some of the most original critters and mad bosses that have ever been conceived. This is no Monster Hunter but it comes close.
AAG SCORE: 7.5/10
- Off the wall sense of odd-ball humor and characters
- Unique approach to tried and true /turn-based combat
- The graphics are underwhelming and bland
- Can become a grind and less fun as it repeats
- Aimed at a slightly younger audience
Reviewed and Written By Ian Crane