Today I had a chance to spend some time on Garnet Chronicle, an anime style RPG game but unfortunately its the Japanese version and as far as I know there is no release date for the English version.
Story and controls
Since its in Japanese, I vaguely know what is going on, so far! Your hero character is a knight student from a Knight academy. Your first quest is to bring a recommendation letter from the principle of the academy to the commander somewhere near the village. All of a sudden the entire battalion is being attacked by an evil looking character and his werewolf like companion, to no surprise, the entire battalion is wiped out and of course our main hero survives but barely and saves by a sexy female elf thief/treasure hunter. From then on, she joins you in the quest for the “Stone of the Evil Mind” (sorry that’s a direct translation from Japanese to English). Then once inside the “Tower of Lost” you meet up with another character, this time he’s a wizard class and he joins you afterwords. That’s how far I am in the game.
The controls are typical walk with your analog stick, R will bring up the map but so far there is no map when venturing inside dungeons, circle is confirm while cross is cancel, typical Japanese style, the American version might have these two buttons reversed. Unfortunately there’s no run button so walking around might feel slow at times. You can also save the game anytime and thankfully the menus are in English as well as the Japanese explanation, only the menus though.
Game play and graphics
Game play is pretty much the same old turn based RPG similar to Final Fantasy (up to Final Fantasy X-2 since the battle system has changed starting FF11). You and your enemies will take turns to attack/defend/cast magic on each other. Which is fine except it feels really slow and rather boring, it would make a huge difference if the attack was smoother and faster such that attacks are executed as soon as the one before finished its move. But as you gather more people on your team, the fight gets more interesting and faster so its not too bad after all. Level grinding is also part of the game but not necessary. It is surprisingly fast to level up though, at least for the first 20 or so levels which can really speed up the grinding. As you finish each battle you are rewarded with money, experience, random items and skill points. Skill points can be spent on each character’s skill tree to unlock more powerful attack and support skills. Skill points are shared among all your characters unfortunately! And last but not least money you earned from each battle obviously will be for buying weapons, armors and support items. There are also cards and stones that can enhance your weapons such as turning your sword to have ice element and upgrade your special abilities. Treasure chests are scattered all over the map, inside buildings, out in the woods or anywhere in the villages. Some are less obvious as I have found one hidden one so far.
One interesting feature that I have never seen before, at least in an RPG, is the “sneak” feature. When you approach your enemies from behind without being spotted, you can deal damage to them before the battle starts. Same applies to the enemies, if they spotted you, they would run to you and if your back is facing them then you will get attacked first. You will know when your enemies have spotted you when an exclamation mark appears on top of their heads. This feature is independent of who attacks first when the battle begins, so that means there’s a chance you can attack twice before an enemies can attack you, same applies to the enemies. If you can utilize this feature you can really gain an upper hand when fighting and makes battles a lot easier.
Graphics are nothing fancy but well drawn anime style. Everything is 2D based but don’t let that get you because even though the characters are simple 2D sprites, their expressions and body gestures can be seen clearly depend on the situations. There are also nice flashy special effects when your characters use their speical abilities.
One thing I don’t like is the fact that, all enemies look the same on the map, so you don’t know what kind of enemies you will face until the battle screen comes up. I don’t see why the developers cannot make the enemies show up on the map as well. But then again, what if there are more than one type of enemies, which one would they show? Maybe that’s the reason why.
Your typical anime music, your characters and enemies will say something before they attack which makes battle less dull. Sometimes your characters will even voice over during conversations. I can imagine the English translation will be bad and takes away the Japanese “atmosphere” just like any other games that went through the Jap to English translation. In general the music is great most of the time, but sometimes they can get a bit too repetitive and get annoying afterwords.
Overall I think this game is worth a try, this type of game is nothing new but the game is still enjoyable. I had problems turning off my PSP until it went out of batteries while playing it. That should give you an idea of how addictive and enjoyable this game is, specially for level grinders like myself. Hopefully the American version will be released soon so you English speaking people can enjoy this game as much as I am now. And for those that can read Chinese, Japanese or don’t care about the story, you should be able to get a copy from ebay or YESASIA.