I’ve gotten into a bad habit of starting a new game right as I’m about to finish an old one, and then getting into it so much that I forget to finish the previous one. In fact I started the Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth game right before I reached the final boss in this game, but luckily the last dungeon was so pain-free that I ended up finishing it anyway.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Summon Night X: Tears Crown was my very first game in the Summon Night series, as well as the only traditional turn-based RPG in the whole series, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going on. What I expected: just an ordinary RPG to kill the time. What I got: just an ordinary RPG to kill the time, but with a fun battle system and really charming characters, well worth the time I spent playing it.
I don’t know if I want to write a full review of this. I mean, it really was ordinary. The twist at the beginning where the main character [spoiler ahead, stop now] ‘s dad [stop now, really] turns out to be evil and sends the brainwashed Prince Noin to kill the king was unexpected because I hadn’t read a synopsis, but after that everything followed automatically with almost no other surprises. Fight, conquer X place, take it back from the Evil Empire, move on to the next place, fight Empire over macguffin, lose somehow, fight some more…you get the drift. It’s a very linear game with your hand held every step of the way: Go to Tower X, it’s north of the Y plains, after that go to Cave V, it’s north of plains Z, etc. But I wasn’t looking for surprises, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the trip. The trick to enjoying this game is low expectations, after all.
Low expectations should also apply to the music, which is rather bland, and the graphics, which are quite hideous by DS standards. Don’t get me wrong, the characters designs and character portraits are cute and lovely (a little baby-faced, but in a good way), but the actual sprites on the screen are horrible. Muddled, blurry messes with obscured features. They’re almost SNES-level bad, but not quite. It took a lot of getting used to, but as I said, I wasn’t looking for anything special, so I took it in stride.
So, ordinary cliched story, bland movie, bad sprites…what haven’t I mentioned? Oh yeah, the battle system. This wasn’t quite so ordinary. I mean, it’s definitely turn-based, active time battle system where the faster person goes first (this will almost always be the enemy, especially in the case of bosses). Some of your party members can fly, so they’ll be on the top screen, the others will be standing on land on the bottom screen. Same with enemies, though the number of flying bosses is disappointingly small.
What’s the point of all this? Well a lot of attacks target a specific group of enemies/members, so if you have at least one member in the sky, you can survive a lot of things that would wipe out the party. Also the one in the sky can score critical hits on flying enemies, which most land-based party members can’t do. On the minus side, a lot of buffs will hit only those in the buffer’s zone, something to take into account. Overall I liked that the battle system used the whole DS, it made the same-old system feel a little fresh and different.
See that red-yellow-green gauge near the top? It’s a burst-gauge of sorts, and for each bar that fills up, the main character (Dylan or Fara) gets to unleash a co-op attack with one of your party-members. One attack for one bar and an ultimate attack for the full three bars. Maybe this is just me but I think Elnardita’s is the most useful because at just level one it heals all party members for huge amount and raises attack, all without using MP. That’s probably only on Dylan’s path though (you can choose one of two mains). Your choice of fighting characters will probably depend to an extent on what co-ops they offer, so do some research before you start blowing too much money on equipment.
Last thing about the battle system, you see that big yellow creature on the right of the top-screen? That’s a summon beast (duh, it’s called Summon Night), and you get them by…usually by finding them in chests. You equip them to a character much like you did with GFs in FF8, and they provide all your magic attacks in the form of buffs, debuffs, healing and offensive magic. As you use them, they “level up” and learn new skills. And to power up these skills, you need special red Mana stones which are really (annoyingly) rare and must be used with care because they can’t be reused. A tip: don’t power up any offensive magic or debuffs, pour your stones into buffing and support magic. And be stingy with those stones until the latter half of the game when you get the good summons.
Phew…I said I wasn’t going to review it, but I got carried away. I really did enjoy Summon Night X, much more than I liked DQ9, at least. As proof, I actually finished it. And I did all the “Parliament” sidequests too, as soon as I unlocked them. What’s “parliament”, you ask? It’s a really whack system where your party members propose quests to do, e.g. a little boy’s gone missing, let’s go find him, then you and your party members debate over it, then in the end they vote on whether to do it or not. Sorry, I actually made that sound like fun, but it’s not. Because the debate consists of them throwing questions at you that you have no idea how to answer, and they don’t give you any hints/ideas, and if they vote you down you can’t do that quest for the rest of the game. Hit restart and start all over again. The worst offender is Muumuu ‘cos all he says is “Muu muu!” then you have to pick
-You want to boil the fish, huh?
-You want to fry the fish, huh?
How the hell would I know!? What’s worse, apart from the last few ones, most of them give you crappy items as rewards, stuff you don’t want or need and won’t ever use. Crap! But I did it anyway! And I liked it! Because despite everything, I really did care about the characters and I really did enjoy spending more time with them during those quests. Some of them were really funny, and a few gave really good experience.
Okay, that’s enough for one day. I wanted to talk about the “Brave” part of the battles, or about the great voice-acting, but all you really need to know is that Summon Night X ~Tears Crown~ is a pretty good game, in an ordinary way. It won’t be the best game you ever played, but you won’t regret getting it if it ever comes out in English. I hope they make more in the same vein!