T (Teen)Release Date:
March 16, 2010Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
Anthony CaraMay 28, 2010
- 2010 has been a pretty big year for gamers hasn’t it? In just the first few months of this year a myriad of AAA sequels flooded the market and highly anticipated releases were so commonplace, I’m surprised most gamers didn’t have to sell a kidney or take out a second mortgage to stay caught up! Maybe you went out and bought GoW III, maybe you were just getting to the good part in FFXIII and couldn’t put it down…. Perhaps you were still engrossed in Mass Effect 2? But chances are, you may have missed out on this charming little gem that definitely deserves a great deal of attention for its beautifully bleak world view and surprisingly charming character interactions. Sega’s Resonance of Fate blurs turn based classic RPG combat with a very challenging active battle system revolving around high-flying gun-toting explosion heavy action!
The setting and story of Resonance of Fate unfolds slowly in a series of cutscenes between chapters and story missions. For the first time in over a decade I actually had to read the instruction manual to get a little more background on the world of Bazel. The backstory for this game involves a sort of post apocalyptic-man-ends-world-through-negligence sort of thing. Basically the Earth has become so toxic that humans began to die off rapidly. The survivors built a great machine to purify the land and eventually people began to live closer and closer to the machine- eventually ending up living inside of it. With nowhere else to go as civilization began evolving; the people decided to build upward- turning the machine into a great tower of Bazel with Chandellier at its Zenith. After you boot up the game, if you wait patiently you are treated to not one but 2 opening scenes. The first shows Vashyron fighting a young man who looks like a strange, savage version of his in game companion, Zephyr. The second, shows two Cardinals (high standing political/religious figures in the Resonance of Fate world) going to see “god” who actually turns out to be a massive clock-like machine that decides who lives and who dies. With little real explanation as to what is happening, the game begins…
The cutscenes move back and forth between stories of high political intrigue and day to day bounty hunter life. The game focuses primarily on the three bounty hunters: Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne. Their interactions are somewhat light in the beginning, but as the story progresses you soon discover that each has suffered their own dark past and has come to their current position by strange twists of fate. After reaching objectives and completing story missions, various events play out showing a strange and disturbing high conspiracy being set into motion- of which our protagonists will find themselves at the center.
The game play and battle system is at first a little strange and overwhelming. You begin the game in town. This place is like any other RPG (that is, any other RPG that thinks towns are important or essential RPG components), you walk around, talk to NPCs, take on new missions, buy weapons/items, or buy/change clothing for your characters. Once you leave town… things get a little weird. For whatever convoluted reason the game’s story tries to give, you can’t actually walk anywhere without first placing down energy hexes. The entire world map is made up of a hexagonal grid that has been completely grayed out (the exception of course being hexagons that are a different color thus requiring special colored hexes that act as keys to new zones). Through completing missions and fighting enemy mobs, you can collect more energy hexes, but the game does a great job of always blocking off more areas with different shaped grids. Basically, you have to lay down your hexes in these bizarre Tetris like shapes and every piece of the energy hex has to touch down on the map and must not hit a hex of a different color. To make this much simpler, you can uncover a very small amount of space in the beginning because there is a straight line just above you, and none of your energy hexes will be straight lines for a few more chapters. There is an elevator at the top right of the map, but there is a yellow hex blocking you and you will not get yellow energy hexes until you progress further in the story. This is basically a world map that you fill in like a giant puzzle! One you have laid down enough hexes to get to where you need to go, you exit the hex menu and begin exploring.
As you explore the world map, the game designers didn’t seem to think it was necessary to have walking sprites or 3D models for your characters. In a strange design choice, you are just a little arrow pointing to what hex tile you are currently occupying. If you wander off the beaten path for too long, violent gunshots will crack your screen and you will find yourself in a random encounter. These battles are a great source of fun, challenge, and pure unadulterated frustration.
In battle there is basically one fundamental strategy and several ways to execute it. First, deal “scratch damage” then deal “penetrating damage.” It is just that simple. In the beginning, this simply means you have to have your machine gunner (Zephyr by default- but this can be changed at any time) shoot first, then have a pistol user follow up and finish off the enemy. Machine guns deal tremendous amounts of damage, but this scratch damage is temporary, and even if you deplete an entire enemy’s health bar, they will not die! Pistols deal very…very…very low amounts of damage, but a single shot from a pistol turns all scratch damage into real damage. In this way, a fully depleted bar of health goes black as soon as one pistol bullet touches it. You may think you should just use pistols all the time since they are all that can actually kill, but in reality, they deal so little damage it makes the difference of 40 HP per bullet to 3!
Aside from the scratch/penetrating damage quirk, the game also employs “hero actions” and “tri attacks” and specific victory/defeat conditions. If this seems a little too confusing to take in during the course of a game review, fear not, there is a lengthy tutorial that introduces you to each concept slowly. A truncated version goes like this: You have a gauge at the bottom of the screen with just a few bazel shards at first. Every time a character looses their entire bar of health or executes a hero action, one shard is depleted. Every time a piece of an enemy breaks off, their gauge “breaks”, or they are completely defeated, one shard returns. If your bar gets completely empty, you can no longer perform hero actions and when any character’s life bar is fully depleted, you lose. Fear not, so long as you have the cash- you can buy yourself a redo! I spent over an hour and about 16K retrying one particularly difficult optional boss fight before I finally succeeded. Battles can be won by defeating the leader, or if there is no leader, killing every enemy on the battlefield. This is most easily accomplished by carefully planning hero actions and coordinating tri attacks. Remember- if you perform a hero action you are spending a shard, so if you do just a few hero actions and don’t manage to kill or break any enemies, you will put yourself in critical condition and likely die. I have killed myself like this dozens of times trying to setup complex tri attacks. As you progress the story and defeat bosses both optional and compulsory- your hero gauge will grow and once you have 4 shards, the game is exponentially easier! At the “4 shard” stage of the game, my typical battle would go something like this: begin my turn by having my machine gunner perform a hero action that has him run between my other two characters while jumping in the air and shooting at the leader, have my character on the left do the same thing but run toward the right, have my final character run straight forward (and in between the other 2 characters who have already attacked). Running between my own characters during hero actions has now built up 3 “Resonance Points” (which are required for a Tri-attack) and if the leader isn’t dead already, after unleashing my deadly Tri-attack on the creature, it certainly will be! If this battle explanation just blew your mind and left you dazed and confused, I advise you check out some game play videos online or simply enjoy the extensive tutorial the game has to offer.
In addition to its strange world exploration system, the game also offers a somewhat odd dungeon exploration method. Rather than having you walk around as you do in town and get into random encounters, the game divides its “dungeon” zones into several separate battle areas with objectives and treasure boxes spread throughout. In other words, exploring a dungeon-like zone feels more like one long continuous battle but instead of returning to a world map after the fight is over, you just walk over to the next zone. Sometimes as you explore the different areas, enemies will respawn in older zones, but the battle will never be quite as hard as your first time in that same zone. At the end, there is often times a grand boss battle that forces you to exploit your hero actions and tri-attacks as best you can. Due to their suicidal nature, tri-attacks may not be too helpful for you until much later in the game.
Now that its oddities are explained, I shall give you the basic rundown of a chapter. First you watch a scene that lets you know what your rag-tag group plans to do. Once you gain control of your character, you are free to walk around town to see if there are any glowing white treasures lying around or simply to see what your neighbors have to say. Make sure to stop at the bounty hunter’s guild to pickup side quests as their rewards can prove invaluable. Then head out to the world map and move toward your objectives. The story objective will always be marked “next” and your sub mission objectives can be viewed in the main menu at any time. If you see a glowing red hexagon, be prepared for a challenging battle that may reward you with extra shards, quality items, or just a ton of weapon-based experience. Hit up all your sub missions, level up through using weapons in combat (switch out weapons frequently to level as quickly as possible), finally complete your story objective, head back to town, and enter your base, selecting “advance chapter” as you do so. Lather, rinse, repeat- enjoy!
The game is definitely something new. It’s hard to explain, but easy to enjoy once you overcome its learning curve. The graphics may appear a bit lackluster when compared to other titles of this generation. They appear to be closer to the highest end of the ps2 spectrum and not quite the stunning high definition you may be expecting. Don’t let this turn you off, the game is definitely a solid one, but the graphics are by no means at a Final Fantasy XIII/Uncharted 2 level. An unexpected delight is the ability to change your characters’ outfits/color schemes and have them maintain through basic game play and most cutscenes. Many RPGs let you customize your characters’ equipment and vicariously their appearance, but sometimes you are just forced to deal with how they look. This game separates functionality from appearance so you can switch up your characters’ looks at any time (providing you can afford it) and not worry about the impact on their combative capabilities. The sound is decent enough, blasting guns violent explosions and charming Japanese/English voice options. The story and the characters are so brilliantly drawn out that even the critics who despise JRPGs for their use of stock characters and settings would be pleasantly surprised by the depth and quality of this unique IP.
Now that the game buying season has started to slow in its release of dynamite titles- go get this game game! If you love RPGs and are looking for something new, this will certainly tickle your fancy in unexpected ways!8.7/
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