Sunday, July 15, 2012

Resonance of Awesome.

Lately, as I combed through my gaming library, I've been thinking about games that just don't receive a lot of love.  While I could list off countless titles (instead, I'll opt to write about them at a later date), let's focus on one for now:  Resonance of Fate, one of Sega's creations for both the XBox and PS3.  Truthfully, I finished this game quite some time ago (and even made a gift of it to my good friend Nick), but oddly never got around to writing it.

Well, it's about time to remedy that, don't you think?

Too Tedious to Resonate?

First, look at this:

Seriously, is that not one of the more badass openings you have seen for a game or what?  It certainly got me pumped up to play the game.  Unfortunately, Resonance of Fate is not the world's easiest game to get into.  One of the first things I did upon gaining control of my party was to run immediately to the arena and go completely through all of the tutorials.  While they helped somewhat, I still didn't quite fully understand the combat -- but I knew enough to get by.

Then I made the mistake of putting the game down for a bit:  The next time I picked it up again was when I was over at the Enabler's house, who picked it up at my insistence.  I booted the game up to show her how cool it was and navigated into battle.  ..Only to promptly forget what the heck I was doing.

Thus instead of showing her how cool some of the initial sequences were, she watched, interested, but amused, as I once again went through the arena tutorials.  All 20 of them.  Naturally, we got caught up in other games and conversation, and I put the game down, again.

..And picked it back up months later, only to have to go through the arena tutorials yet again.  This time, however, I was smart enough to continue with the game and understand the combat, when I was hit with the next big hurdle:  Figuring out the weapons.

You see, Resonance of Fate does not give you a wide array of equippable weapons like some RPGs, but instead opts to allow you to customize your firearms in a variety of ways.  Unfortunately, the ways to maximize your firearms isn't always intuitive, and you often end up coming up with something that looks like this:

Pimp My Ride meets the NRA.

 Now I'm sure by this point, you might be asking why I put up with this.  You've read enough of my posts to know that at times, I can be a bit masochistic when it comes to suffering through games, but it wasn't my dogged determination to 'get back at the game' that did it, but rather a more simple reason:  I knew it was worth it.

A Diamond in the Rough

In a previous post, I had mentioned how a lot of current gen games just lacked a certain flair, or as a writer at Hardcore Gaming 101 might say, "zazz".  Resonance of Fate had that in certain key areas that I was looking for at the time.  Specifically:

1)  While tedious, combat is fun

Say what you will about them, but if there's one thing Tri-Ace (or Crescendo) does consistently well in their games, it's designing a good combat system.  While figuring it out is a bit of a pain at first, the combat in Resonance of Fate manages not only to be fun, but challenging in the right amounts (provided you've taken some time to go through the tutorials).  When you spend the bulk of your time doing this in RPGs, this is crucial.  But perhaps it's better seen in motion, rather than through my words:

It doesn't show the entirety of what you can do, but hey,I don't know about you, but I'm down with a game that lets me spend the majority of it doing that even at the beginning of the game.

2)  It's surprisingly hilarious

When I saw the opening, as well as much of the promotional images for the game, I was ready for a dark, serious story.  I won't kid you:  There is some pretty dark stuff going on in the story (and often obscure at times), but some of the cutscenes before each chapter are hilarious.  The in-combat banter between the three characters is great:  Seriously, even if you are one of those snobs that hates all dubs, you're seriously doing yourself a disservice by not playing the game in English.  The cutscene for the beginning of chapter 2 further enforces this.

Furthermore, the ability to dress your characters up in various costumes can make for some pretty hilarious cutscenes:  Even moreso than, for example, having all of your characters in Tales of the Abyss dressed up in their swimwear as they face off against the final boss.

They're just getting ready for the after-party ahead of time.

3)  The Characters

The characters stand out not so much because of a huge amount of development (there could be more, honestly), but in how the main three (Vashyron, Leanne, and Zephyr), interact with each other.  Not to mention the occasional badass line thrown out from time to time -- here's one, courtesy of TV Tropes:

"You really think you have a chance? You're nothing but a common thug. We are the merchants of death!"

But aside from that, they just mesh well together.  Then again, I could just be a sucker for stories that have an unlikely mercenary-type trio:

Amazingly,  Gintama never parodied this game.  ..Yet.

4)  Exploration is unique

The entirety of the game takes place in Basel -- a giant tower central to the story.  You unlock further areas of the map by placing different shaped hexes to open up new areas.  While it seems like a simple concept, it's one that made exploring the world a little less tedious -- especially when opening a seemingly benign hex can score you some loot:

As you can see, there's a lot to uncover.

There are other good things to say about the game, of course:  While I'm not exactly a snob for graphics, the game, while leaning towards many shades (though thankfully not fifty) of gray (it is a steampunk setting), looks gorgeous.  A soundtrack composed by Motoi Sakuraba also does not hurt things.

With so much going for it, why was the game so underappreciated?  Well..

Fated to be Overshadowed?

Resonance of Fate is not without its issues.  As my initial story notes, the combat isn't exactly intuitive at first (I figure most things out pretty fast, so if I had to go through tutorials that much).  Weapon customization, another central point to the game, is also confusing -- to the point where I imagine that most people would have to look online to figure it out.  While I praised the witty banter and some key lines from the characters, the story, while present, is a bit haphazard:  I'm personally torn on this, as while I can appreciate a story where everything isn't spelled out for you (I'm looking at you, PSP Lunar remake), there were some legitimately confusing points that could have been clarified a bit more:  Even if it was only through the dialogue of NPCs (which they do. . to a small extent).

However, there seem to be a number of reviews out there that agree that Resonance of Fate is a good game despite these flaws.  Unfortunately (and perhaps, ironically, given the earlier mention of Tales of the Abyss), the game suffered from a bit of poor timing.

Like the eclipse that blocks out the sun

That's right:  Resonance of Fate was released shortly after Final Fantasy XIII hit the shelves, dooming it to be overshadowed by the looming shadow of Square-Enix's massive franchise.  Perhaps some of you even passed this game up due to your wallets still feeling the hit from FF13's release.

But perhaps there are others of you that did pick up this game, and simply forgot about it due to your own backlogs (two people in particular know who I'm talking about. .).  If you're in this camp, then you owe it to yourself to slug through the tutorials and figure the game out:  It's worth the investment.

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