Friday, March 7, 2014

Review #100: Mimana: Iyar Chronicle

 Awful. Terrible. Happy 100th review, eh?
 I've been playing RPGs ever since I first came across Quest 64, and I've been enamored with the genre ever since. I've seen JRPGs evolve into fantastic games like Wild Arms 3 or the modern Shin Megami Games, and I've also seen them devolve into a nische genre, character development is not as important as it once was, no, now we get the equivalent to junk food of JRPGs, stuff like Ar Tonelico or HyperNeptunia that appeal to a very particular audience that like their games raunchy and with fan-service as its focus. Or we get games that just try to hard to innovate where there was no need to, like Final Fantasy XIII and it's sequels. My point is, I love RPGs, both Western and Japanese  My point is, RPGs are my jam, my thang, and I was actually looking forwards to Mimana, and while on the surface it looks like just another Ar Tonelico, it actually avoids most of its worst qualities, yet falls flat on is face when it comes to everything else.
 Meet Crais, the character that you'll be playing as, a mercenary that has a problem when it comes to gambling, and hates kids, don't worry, he loves reminding everyone about his hatred every chance he gets. He soon gets hired by Sophie, a little girl, and must aid her in finding seven orbs scattered through the country(Yeah, no world-wide adventure for ya). Alongside the way he'll come across four other dames, each with a defining character trait that will aid them on their journey. Yes, it's one of those games in which you can somewhat romance one of the girls, and whichever your romanced, gets a bonus extra scene at the end. Surprisingly, while character development is almost null or incredibly forced, the five female leads are actuall well designed, with almost no fanservice in their design, props to the character designer. However, there is a slight problem with the plot, this game was meant to kickstart a series(which it didn't), and they never came to be, so the game hints at many things that will never be explained, and leaves a couple of threads hanging. Not cool.
 As previously stated, the scale of the adventure is very small, after you gather each gem you'll have to return to the game's only town, well, there's another one but there's nothing to do in it, trigger the next scene in which they'll tell you where to go and so on. That's, basically, it. Combat in the game comes in the forms of random encounters as you travel through the dungeons, get used to them as the encounter rate is pretty high, which brings us to the first annoyance: Load times. Load times are long, pretty long, and the encounter rate is through the roof, unless you resort to walking around, so if you wanna get anywhere fast, your best course of action is, probably, walking. Even better, there are loading times after each battle, so running away solves nothing. Annoyingly so, you'll have to go through Tanis Woods in order to reach any other dungeon, later in the game you'll be assaulted by unavoidable(Unless you walk) low level encounters that don't even give any experience points turning it into a very annoying time sink, it's so incredibly annoying. It doesn't end there, every dungeon is like a labyrinth made up of similar looking rooms with no landmarks, except the blue healing circle at the start of the dungeon and the pink one before the boss. It's impossible not to get lost in the latter dungeons, and there is no map available, it's even worse when switches are introduced into these mazes, now couple this with the high encounter rate and you are in for a very, very annoying experience.
 Combat fares better, if only because you can't get any worse than the lame dungeon design. It takes a page from the "Tales" franchise in that it takes place in real time, you take control of Crais(And only Crais) and the CPU takes control of three of the ladies. Now then, you can set, only outside of battle, how these character will behave by adding or substracting points into "Attack", "Magic" and "Recovery", which translates into how often they will do each action... yeah, it's awkward and too vague. It gets worse, the AI is incredibly stupid, often times staying put in place as enemies get close to her and attack her, and only then will they move away... a few inches. If you want to make the most of your spell casters, manually tell them to cast each spell, as they love to just stare at nothingness. As cool as the combat sounds on paper, casting magic as Crais is pretty dang useless, as you stay in place and hope not to get hit so that the spell goes off. Your casters get it easier since you can protect them from harm, but guess what, since you get free movement, evading non-targeted spells is as easy as moving two inches up, and the enemy's spell will miss completely(The AI is not that smart, sadly, but it applies to enemies too, who will happily stand in the way of a spell). Crais does get a couple of special attacks in the form of spells, but why waste mana on them if your basic three-hit combo is so good and useful? Mashing that X button quickly became a chore, but it got me through the game just fine. Even through that last boss that can 1 hit KO you even if you are at max level.
 As far as minor complaints go, I've a couple more. For instance, every time your party gets disassembled and reassembled, you lose your party configuration and battle positions, very annoying. Then there's the fact that enemy design is incredibly lame, you get roosters of various colors, beetles, then there's sheep and jelly, that come in the form of cones or cubes. The game does include a couple of sidequests... but they are very well hidden, easy to miss as you only get one and one opportunity to trigger them at specific times and the rewards are not worth it. There's a new game plus that let's you carry over your levels and ups the maximum from 50 to 99. Supposedly there's a hidden boss if you grind up to level 99, but that would take weeks, as enemies give you less and less experience as you level up.
 Presentation is the game's strongest quality, but that's not saying much. Sprites look pretty nice, while not in motion, but the animation is a mixed bag. Some animations look pretty nice, but other could've, nay, should've used more frames. Backgrounds look very low quality as well. On the flip side, voice acting is fantastic, with a plethora of well known Voice Actors... but then again, the music is pretty forgettable and short on quantity. Dungeons have no music at all. Those long, maze-like, random-encounter infested time sinks have no music. NO MUSIC. This game is terrible.
 I've... I've nothing else to say. This game is awful, it has a bunch of neat ideas when it came to combat, but it's so poorly implemented. While it looks like just another harem game, the female leads are actually pretty well designed, it's a shame that they star in such a bad game. There's almost no redeeming qualities, good ideas executed poorly don't really save a game.
3.0 out of 10

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