This week I'm going a little old school with a kind of throw-back game. Idea Factory's Record of Agarest War has been called a strategy Japanese role playing game (RPG) meets dating sim. Well lets see if I can swing a sword and impress some ladies.
The story starts out with a brief prologue about a war between the gods and an evil darkness in the world of Agarest. The war ended with the gods banishing the darkness, but at the cost of the world. Wanting to return the world to the paradise it was, the gods sacrifice themselves. As time passes though the bonds that held the evil weaken and it slowly invades the world again. A millennium has past and a new war has started. General Leonhardt of the human army, known as the Golden Leo, starts to take notice that something isn't right. In an act that marks him a traitor, he saves the life of an female elven child from death at the hands of his own army. Left to bleed to death after saving the elven girl, Leonhardt is visited by a mysterious woman named Dyshaha. In return for saving his life she demands Leonhardt become a "spirit vessel" to defeat the evil, and if he can't do it in his lifetime, his descendants will inherit his powers and quest.
Record of Agarest War is very old school in that the controls are mostly menu based. You move your characters around via the D-pad or left thumbstick, but most everything else is menus. A lot like the old RPGs of the Super Nintendo and first Sony Playstation systems. In combat each character waits their turn to act and then you select their action from a menu. In each town you have a menu of the places you can visit. It's almost refreshing to have a game to take this old school approach.
The main gameplay element is the strategy RPG battles. Anyone familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics or maybe Advance Wars will be right at home. It's set on a grid with each side getting a move phase and then an action phase. The move phase is very important because of a little added twist. Certain spaces will allow characters to act at the same time depending on how they are placed. This becomes even more important later in the game to help defeat tougher opponents. So instead of each character waiting their turn, if you set them up right they can all attack at the same time and land a devastating blow.
The other gameplay element is the "dating sim" or what the game calls "Soul Breeding." Really though "dating sim" is kind of a misnomer. It's more of a do the right missions to please your potential mate. The reason for this element is that the story actually covers five generations. At the end of each chapter which ever woman you have done the most missions that she agreed with is the one you will "mate" with. While there was a lot of hype around this part of the game, there is nothing "naughty" to it. So those of you thinking of something like God of War, you won't find it here. Your child from each marriage will inherit the best part of their mother and father, and then take up the "family quest."
Graphics and Sound
Again this game also keeps it old school in the graphics department. The cut scenes play out with static hand drawn anime art and the combat has animated sprites that are very reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics.
Sound-wise the music is very good. In the voice over department they decided to keep the Japanese voices and just subtitle everything.
This game is very Japanese. From the graphics to the sound to the story and gameplay it's all very much a Japanese game. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but may put off some gamers. Also those that bought into the dating sim hype thinking they were going to get a "naughty" game (even with with the collectors edition having the "special" mouse pad and pillow case) will be disappointed at the lack of "naughtiness." Those that do stick with the game or are fans of Japanese RPGs will find a pretty decent game. Granted it's not going to win any big awards for cutting edge graphics or deep story, but it was never intended to. Record of Agarest War is very much for those niche gamers that still love and miss those old school RPGs. Final Fantasy XIII is a long ways away from what it used to be back on the old Nintendo NES or Sony Playstation. This game brings you back to those days. Another nice thing, lots of DLC for the game already, most of it free. The reason for so much DLC is it's been out in Japan for two years already, so they have had plenty of time to work on it.
The game isn't without it's faults. For example there is the need to grind for experience to level up be able to take on some of the more nasty monsters and bosses, but really that's just part of the Japanese RPG experience. Hats off to Aksys Games for bringing these games stateside for the fans here and Idea Factory for still making them.
So for me I liked it so it gets the 4 out of 5.
Record of Agarest War is rated T for Teen for Alcohol Reference, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes. It's available for download on the Playstation 3 and on disc for the Xbox