Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review #109: Orphen - Scion of Sorcery

 I call upon Sword of the Fallen Devil!
 Orphen - Scion of Sorcery was one of the early PS2 games, and the only Orphen game ever released. It tried to mix the action-adventure and RPG genres to mixed results, which probably explains why it never got a sequel.

 The game boasts an all new story, featuring the main characters from the Sorcerous Stabber Orphen anime, Orphen, Magnus(Magik), Clio(Cleao), Vulcan and Dortin are all here, and are joined by three new characters, Mar, Zeus and Sephy, all three who have lost someone important to them. The game offers three different routes, one for each newcomer, and in order to get the true ending, you'll have to go through all three. Each story is fairly alright, each one deals with slightly different subjects, all releated to the theme of loss. As for the main characters, they are a little bit different from their anime incarnations, they took the characters main traits and defined their personality around it, Orphen instead of being a jerk with a heart of gold is just a jerk, Cleao instead of being a tsundere, spends all her time whining(it quickly grows annoying)  and Magik instead of being a insecure trainee is just insecure.
 The game's adventure mechanics consist of playing as Orphen or one of the 5 allies(Zeus, Sephy, Mar, Magik and Cleao), jumping around, attacking bugs or evading traps. It sounds alright, but it's all very flawed. For instance, the camera is very unwieldy, it turns too fast, and the distance to the character is not ideal, getting a good angle through objects on a small room is a chore sometimes. As for the jumping, characters perform huge, gravity defying jumps, so sometimes seeing where you'll land is a bit tough. Then comes attacking, for some reason, only Orphen, Zeus, Zephy and Mar get attacks on Adventure portions, not that you'll use it much, there are very few enemies on this mode, and they are usually just bugs. Something that I found hilarious, is that you'll amass a ton of items(healing, bug stoppers and bug attractors, the latter two which you'll have to use, at most, only on one part in Mar's route), and the descriptions for the healing items are "Heals 10 hitpoints", "Heals 30 hitpoints", etc. Why so funny? The HP in the action-adventure portion is portrayed by a colored orb. How numbered hitpoints translate to colored orb is beyond me.

 Eventually, your walking and jumping will take you into scripted RPG-like battles. These are not random encounters, the amount of these battles is limited and they cannot be replayed. Most of the time you'll play as Orphen, sometimes you'll have your allies(CPU controlled) and other times you'll battle as Zeus, Mar or Sephy on their own. Mar, Sephy and Zeus can find equipment on the adventure portions, while Orphen gets spells that he learns every now and then after certain boss fights. All four of them can have up to three weapons/spells, which you'll use with X, Circle and Triangle, and you also get a block button in the form of Square. Battles are not turn based, however, after using an spell, Orphen loves to strike a pose, so you just can't use another spell right away. Your playable character remains stationed on his place, and you select your targets with the analog stick. The combat system is not terrible, but it feels a bit clunky and not much fun, and it's poorly thought out as well, the best way to dodge an attack, for instance, is to wait for the attacker to get close to your character, and engage a melee attack on a far away target, your character will rush towards his target, avoiding the attack of the nearby enemy!
 The game also has some rather "interesting" design choices. Saving can only be done after certain scenes, at which the game will promt a save screen, if you don't save then, you are out of luck until the next checkpoint, keep this in mind as I'll go back to this in a second. The game is filled with conversations at every turn. While it's entertaining at the start, the huge amount of these quickly turn tiresome as they are very, very dull. And they are unskippable. Remember how you can only save at certain moments? Well, if you die, it means back to that checkpoint, which means having to go through all of these unskippable, dull conversations. And Cleao's constant whining, obnoxious shouting is very grating to the ears, shame she gets so many scenes. There's a little trick to aid you, on the combat scenes, if you press start and go to change "equipment", you can restart a battle, if it is not going your way, it might be cheating for some, but it beats having to go through these annoying cutscenes again.

 Oh, presentation. Keeping in mind that this was an early PS2 release, it's not too bad. Environments are pretty big, when compared to PS1 games, and colorful, even if they feel a bit lifeless. Character models look alright when standing still, but when they move, you'll notice just how stiff the are. And sometimes they don't move their lips when they talk, but sometimes they do, it's very odd, and the way they move their mouths is so freaky that it's better when they don't! Still, there are a couple of anime cutscenes, they use a very different style from the Sorcerous Stabber Orphen anime, but they are still very good and pretty high quality. There's not a whole lot of music in the game, most of the time you'll be adventuring in silence, but the few tunes that the game employs are actually kinda good, if a bit generic-sounding for the genre. Voice acting is actually pretty good, sometimes the models and their stiffness don't convey well how the character sounds at the time, but it's alright.

 Orphen - Scion of Sorcery, is not a terrible game, it's actually pretty playable, but it simply has nothing going for it, nothing to stand out. For fans of the anime, it's probably alright, but otherwise it's best to skip it.
 5.0 out of 10.

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