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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: Nintendo
Developed By: Monolith Software
Genre: Action RPG
Rated: E10 (Everyone 10 and up)
Players: 1 (Online Multiplayer)
Release Date: February 26, 2008
Screenshots: Link
Play-Asia: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

Monolith Software has made a name for themselves during the GameCube era with the release of Baten Kaitos 1 and 2. Since the last generation ended, not much was really heard from the company beyond being bought out by Nintendo and developing and action RPG known as Soma Bringer. From the early screenshots and artwork that was released for this newly developed DS title, it was hard to determine whether I would give this title a chance or just past it by due to its childish take on the visuals. However, considering my love all things RPG, I decided to give the game a chance.

While sticking to the formula that has brought success to titles like Bauldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Diablo, Soma Bringer actually has a vast and engaging quest. The game has been divided into six acts, each taking place within their own respective regions alongside multiple contiguous areas. Within each act, players will traverse various dungeons killing monsters, battling insane bosses, collecting lots of loot, and customizing various equipment.

While having several similarities to Diablo and Bauldur's Gate, Soma Bringer utilizes a very intuitive map system, which allows players to assign various magical spells and attacks to the faces buttons on the DS. While this may seem like a basic feature, there is actually more depth to this function. You also have the ability to assign multiple spells to the face buttons, thus allowing you to cycling through different abilities simply by pressing The R button. So one page could be for various weapons, while another page you can have magical spells and health potions assign.

Not stopping there, the game also utilizes a break system, which helps to prevent random button mashing on the DS. When attacking an enemy with a certain attack, a '!' appears over the opponents head. Once the enemy receives a third '!' point, they enter the break mode, which allows you to deal higher amounts of damage. While this feature won’t always be utilized, it definitely helps when facing a difficult opponent, which normally would take several attacks to defeat. There are even several attacks that have bonus abilities, which can knock an enemy back or stun them for a certain amount of time.

While the gameplay mechanics are only a part of the overall experience, Soma Bringer also features a unique skill system, which allows a player to reach a new rank every ten levels. However, what makes this system unique is the fact that when you access to skills/abilities, they are independent of each other. Normally in RPGs, you must max out a certain ability to gain access to a more powerful version. Within Soma Bringer, once u reach a new rank, you gain access to new abilities and upgrades that don’t require maxing out the previous ones. You also have the ability to take skill points away from a currently acquired skill and put them toward a new, more powerful ability. Since this game has a strong need for strategic gameplay, having this element incorporated into the game is a welcomed addition.

When it comes to the visuals, Soma Bringer is more of a paradox. Basically, the game is comprised of beautifully hand-drawn environments which will remind some gamers of titles like The Secret of Mana. The character models are nicely compiled and look rather solid. However, when you zoom in on the action, the 3D character models retain their detail, while the surrounding environments seem to detiriate into a collection of blown out pixels. Another reason who this game is a paradox visually is because the overall look of the game comes down to what type of a character. With an archer or mage, you deal with long-range attacks, but as a fighter, you spend a lot of time zooming in on the battles, lowering the overall quality.

While the visuals are iffy, the in-game soundtrack is rather impressive to listen to. By this title being designed by the Baten Kaitos and Xenosaga creators, an awesome musical score is expected. With Soma Bringer, who get to witness Yasunori Mitsuda's finest work (my opinion) since the days of Xenosaga and the Chrono series. There is more than 3CDs worth of music crammed into this title, all of which you wouldn’t mind just listening to without having to play the game. Though there have been moments when a few of the musical tracks got annoying (due to their length and the length of the game area), overall there's a pleasant and welcome addition to the game.

While this game doesn't feature a full-blown online structure, you can play several of the single player dungeons and the EX dungeons via the multiplayer mode. I haven't had the chance to really test this mode out, but considering there are several secret bosses that seem to be invincible, teaming up with a friend doesn't seem like a bad idea. For those gamers who must try to unlock and/or acquire all the weapons and skills, or simply to level your character to the max, there is reason enough to come back for a second, maybe third play through.


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