Monday, January 23, 2012
The secret is in the presentation. In looking like an RPG Maker project (indeed, I have to wonder whether this game was built on RPG Maker), Ash 2 is an instantly appealing game to fans of the old SNES classics. Even better, on the iPad, the gorgeous sprites, cute character art and vibrant colours truly pop out in a way that transcends anything that was achieved on the SNES and PlayStation 1. The sheer quality of the visuals is enough to make me pine for developers and publishers to make these kinds of games for the PlayStation 3 or Wii; the artistic value would be incredible.
This visual artistry is accompanied by a very clever little script. There's a sense of wry humour throughout, and the game never wastes an opportunity to have a poke at the JRPG genre. And yet, like the best comedies, this game doesn't stretch things to the ludicrous. The humour is tempered by a creative quest that could have easily be turned into a serious JRPG.
The game itself is as standard as JRPGs come, and doesn't even try to break from the established norms. Characters are on set development paths, and there's little room to deviate from their set combat roles. Battles are completely turn based. The quest itself is almost completely linear. The only concession to modern JRPGs that Ash 2 makes is in doing away with the random battles to have the monster encounters represented on the map instead.
In battle, enemies also have very little variation in terms of tactics to deal with. Indeed, the combat is the single greatest flaw in this game; it's way, way too easy. Not once did I feel threatened by this game, even in the boss battles, which is a sure fire example of a game with balancing issues. As someone who likes a challenge in his RPGs, I got to the point where I tried to avoid the enemies as much as possible, not because the combat was frustrating (it's actually quite fun), but because I wanted to try and save some challenge for the boss battles.
But this is one of those rare instances when a JRPG doesn't succeed or fail on its battle system. This is a game which is all about the fun of nostalgia, and it largely succeeds. While we wait for an RPG Maker to come on the iPad with the ability to share games with other players, this is an admirable, and well crafted little bit of genre fan service.
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