Title: Record of Agarest War Zero
Published By: Aksys Games (North America) Ghostlight (PAL)
Based on: A prequel to the game Record of Agarest War
Console: Playstation 3 / XBox360 (North America Only)
Rating: This title has been classified Teen under the ESRB rating system for Alcohol Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity and Sexual Themes
Audio: Japanese Dubs
Region: This review was conducted on a North American version of the title. It will be making its way to PAL regions under Ghostlight very soon.
Cost: $50ish from Play-asia.com
Blurb: A prequel to the initial game that boasts a much improved gameplay system and is generally a more enjoyable game to play. The storyline still consists of visiting different spaces on a world map which can get tedious with the number of bosses there are, however it has some classic sprite character designs and detailed character portraits.
This is a game I received as a birthday present from myself and having only played around half of the first game, thought it might be more appropriate to start from the first chronologically in the series. There isn’t much you need to know from the first game to enjoy this thankfully, so you can start on this game if you would prefer. A word of warning, as with the first game, if you go through long enough, your perseverance will be rewarded with sexually suggestive imagery alongside mild-fanservice. So as the classification above suggests, no matter how child friendly this game may look (Err…. yeah), this is not a game for children. Okay then, I now invite you to read on for my full review of Record of Agarest War Zero.
The light and the Dark. A bitter struggle for dominion between two disparate gods was enough to divide the world of “Agarest” and threaten the very existence of every species inhabiting the world. Afraid that their conflict would annihilate the very world they desired, the gods reached a compromise in which mortal agents representing each side of the conflict would act in their stead so that the power of the opposing gods wouldn’t overwhelm the affairs of the world.
With the accord between the gods in place, it seemed as if the embattled world of Agarest had finally entered an era of peace. However, the armies of darkness slowly gained power and began an assault on the forces of light… It is at the “Sacred Mountains”, the boundary created by the gods to separate the two sides that this story begins.
For it is here that Sieghart encounters a young girl surrounded by creatures from the armies of darkness whilst on a mission for the forces of light. Whilst fighting off the girl’s assailants, Sieghart was mortally wounded. He was saved in turn by the mysterious young girl; however, her powers were somehow transferred to him in the process. With this unexpected twist of fate, Sieghart embraces his new role in the conflict and throws himself headlong into the war.
You may be wondering why I have included such a big synopsis and that most of it are in a much lighter shade of gray? Well, let me tell you…. for the most part – everything shaded in grey is presented to you, but you will most probably forget all about it in oh say, 5 minutes after starting. The story is without a doubt interesting and one I shall not describe in too much detail in this review, you will early off find that between getting the tiny fragments of storyline, you will be met with increasing numbers of battles blocking your path that are unavoidable.
Thankfully I kept notes on the games story, however all I felt after completing the story of Sieghart (The first protagonist) is that he traveled the world after being resurrected by the mysterious girl Mimel (No generic sounding names here folks) who also lost her memory and along their journey to restore her memories and power, they meet a number of other females (and the occasional male) to form the perfect harem filled with both interesting and fanservice storylines. Your main result at the end? Letting Sieghart and partner of choice have a child and then continue the story on from the point of their son. Overall there is a total of 15 characters over both generations, with a predominantly female character base and cater from your normal humanoid warrior to your enthusiastic catgirl to a quiet scythe wielding girl… you know… the normal.
However, not is all well with choosing your wife, as some of the interactions are completely random – and in one case, not telling a character you just met where you are heading, can reduce your likability with some characters who are not even in the scene, or even with your party. Still, with the options they provide you, the characters all recieve some development and some potential romance provided you play your cards right. But as I said previously, the storyline is perfectly fine but needed more of a focus over the battles you will have to complete – as after navigating through a dungeon filled with obligatory mobs of enemies, you can’t sometimes be expected to remember what happened in that short pre-dungeon scene.
Depending on the style of game design you prefer, you will either enjoy or detest these graphics. This game takes both a refreshing new stance on character portraits similar to that of other Compile Heart games such as Trinity Universe and Hyperdimension Neptunia however in terms of battle and overworld levels, takes you back to a simpler time where sprite characters were all the craze. Observing the battle environment first, all the characters as you can see above have an associated character sprite and I honestly love them. The character sprites are respective of the characters portrait designs and are creatively done. That being said, I am not a big fan of the battle environments, as the 3D designs are perhaps a bit more realistic then I would have liked, leaving a mismatch between the anime-designed sprites and the battle stage. In terms of attack effects, no real improvements from the previous game and they work, go well with the spell but after a while get repetitive and are extremely slow – to the point where I set the game to skip skill effects.
Going back to the dialogue aspect of the designs, I think these are really nice. All character portraits have been designed to have breathing movements alongside lip syncing which gives the dialogue that extra added effect. The portrait designs are also nice for each character, with characters also having alternating clothing depending on a number of factors. Environment designs are also of a quality I would expect, however simple designs such as the default town design is used way too much.
In terms of music, it is comparable to Agarest War and perhaps some of the tracks of Cross Edge. The tracks in use are generally the heavier song-style for the battles and your generic out of battle song tracks for everything else. They are not bad, however they are frequently overused. Sound effects however are enjoyable and suit the style of gameplay they are attempting to put across. Voice acting is exclusively in Japanese for this title and the voice cast is enjoyable and suit their roles well.
Besides running around the linear world map and doing your normal alchemy/shopping, the main compoenent of the gameplay is obviously the battle system, and I think there is enough in it to appeal to most JRPG fans. All characters are locked onto a grid alongside enemies, and given MOVE and ATTACK turns which you move and attack your enemies (Duh!). You are able to bring up to six party members with you and their weaponary ranges from the simple sword to a staff to a scythe. However, characters are not able to combo with each other easily. Every character depending on their direction and position, have only certain squares in which they can combo with the characters in them. It is a frustrating system to start off with, but it does bring an element of strategy into the system.
In terms of difficulty, I would say that the game is perhaps above average in difficulty and provided you have some experience and take your time, you should not die in most battles. However, you will find that the battles can be time consuming and limited further by the animation times. Sieghart’s abilities are primarily based on the games pseudo-character creation system, where you can choose his stats, skills and weapon efficiency through the selection of a Base Class Card (Warrior, Battle Mage or Sorcerer), Sub-Soul Types (5 out of the 24 cards available) and four Skill Slot Cards. Whilst this is a creative way of doing it, and I enjoyed seeing how much detail they used….. most of the time you are kept in the dark about what the changes can make until you have to confirm him after going through all the menus. If you like randomness, that is perfect, but if you want to tailor Sieghart especially, be prepared to spend some time working on it.
You will also find that all the system menu’s are almost directly identical to the menus of both Cross Edge and Agarest War, where you can organize your party members, look at the many different “books” to see collected CG Art, Character Profiles, Item Compendium etc, use PP to level up your characters and so forth. As well, in the towns are a number of classic Compile Heart game systems such as the Titles System, Alchemy System and the town healer who is extremely expensive at the start of the game when you need her but when you don’t, she is very cheap. Overall, I thought that the gameplay aspect of this game was fun, and the storyline as well as other little bits and pieces should keep you playing this game for several dozen hours.
Personally however, I am a bit undecided on this game. I love the gameplay aspect of the game and the design is solid, however I find myself thinking that this is the third time I have played a game almost exactly like this. I think this game is good none the less, but in future versions, may benefit from having at least a bit more added to help it stand out from its predecessors.
Character Development: C
Voice Acting: B+
Personal Opinion: C+
Overall Score: B-