Review: Sudeki (Microsoft Xbox)

Sudeki
Genre: Action RPG
Platform: Xbox
ESRB Rating: Mature (Violence, Blood and Gore)
Developer: Climax
Publisher: Microsoft Games Studios
Release Date: 7/20/04
Official Home Page: Sudeki @ Xbox.com

British developer Climax is a company that most probably haven’t heard of, but they’ve actually been around for a while. Lately they have been known for their “extreme racing” titles like Moto GP 2 and ATV, but they also did ports for Blizzard (Diablo and Warcraft 2) and Bullfrog (Populous) for the Playstation. So now they are stepping into uncharted territory for them. Can this rookie RPG developer pull off a great title? Or will it float away with the “ho hum” generic games of the genre? Oh, and it should be noted that they either had enough confidence or did well enough on sales that they have already started development on a sequel. But we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin.

Story
From the opening intro, we learn of Sudeki, the world in which the game is based. Ruled over by the god Tetsu, Sudeki is a prosperous world, but Tetsu is lonely, so he creates himself a brother, Heigou. His brother is not nice though, and ultimately the two fight over who gets to control Sudeki. Tetsu calls forth four brave warriors to help him fight his brother, and in the ensuing conflict, Sudeki is split into two worlds, Haskilia and Akloria. This intro is actually one of the simplest yet most unique stylistically that I’ve ever seen. I really liked the use of “puppets” to tell the story. It’s too bad that they were used in the ending as well.

As for the story itself, well, it kind of goes downhill from there. 1000 years after the split, Aklorian warriors are attacking Haskilia frequently, and the castle of Illumina and its Elite Guard bears most of the brunt. One of the Guard, Tal, is one of the main characters. His first mission is to go to New Brightwater and escort the Princess Ailish, the 2nd main character, to the castle. The other two main characters are Buki, an anthropomorph (part human, part animal) and Elco, the scientist. These are your playable characters throughout the game.

While not a bad story, really, it’s just really generic. Collect crystals? Save the world? It’s all stuff we’ve heard before. It gets much more interesting as the story progresses, but not enough to make it completely different. The characters are likeable though, and you do grow fond of them as time progresses.
Rating: 5.0

Graphics
The graphics as a whole are really good, but there are a few things that just don’t sit right with me. Take for example the character designs. While unique in their own way, the two female characters are designed way out of proportion. Both have very large breasts and both show way too much ass crack. It’s as if their costumes were painted on. Other than that, the character designs were pretty good, but nothing too unique. The biggest problem with them though is that they have no textures. It’s as if they’re just Barbie dolls moving around.

Speaking of movement, it’s pretty good. It’s not too extremely realistic, but it’s certainly passable. The environments are very well done though. All of them seem very real and lifelike, from the countryside to the canyons. In addition, the draw distance is very far, except for shadows. It’s somewhat jarring moving towards a tree and seeing the shadow draw in, but easily ignored when playing.

The enemy designs are pretty good, but sadly, there are too few enemies. Not counting bosses, there are probably a total of 10 different enemies, then there are more that are a little different, say with a different texture. That was a bit of a let down.

The characters are also very colorful, but it’s too much color. It almost causes sensory overload, there’s so much. And finally, the game tries to let you run around on most of the world without having loading screens, but there is the occasional time where you move to a new area, and it seems to hang for a second or two, then goes just fine. It will occasionally say “Loading Area” but I would have preferred they either have a seamless world, or just have completely separate areas.

Overall, they did a good job with the graphics, but it’s not the best looking game on any of the current generation of systems. Granted, Climax isn’t used to making huge areas like we see in this game, so they do deserve credit for doing what they have.
Rating: 7.0

Sound
Here’s a point of contention for me. Do I be nice or do I rip them a new one?

For one thing, the music ranges from average to good. Nothing too fantastic, but nothing awful. It’s very muted and is just there for mood, for the most part. Sometimes it gets better than that, but not often. It just doesn’t stick out much. So I’m not going to rip any new holes there.

But the voice acting is another story. I’ll be a little nice and say that a few characters have good voices. Tal’s voice is good, because it sounds a little like Cam Clarke. Not a whole lot, but a little. The rest of the voices are a mixed bag. I’m not really sure how I feel about Ailish’s voice. Sometimes it’s really annoying in the slutty valley girl type of way, but once you get used to it, it’s not TOO bad. Buki’s voice more of a guttural masculine type voice, and is decent. Elco’s voice is just plain AWFUL. There is no consistent accent. Sometimes it seems Asian, sometimes Russian, sometimes just made up. It’s just bad.

As for any supporting characters, they range from generic to just bad. There isn’t a single voice in the game that I could say was excellent. The best I can manage is pretty good, and that’s just for Tal and Buki. The rest are just toss outs. I believe all the voices were done in house because there are no credits for the voices, not in the manual or game, unfortunately, which shows that they didn’t have confidence in them to begin with.
Rating: 3.0

Control
This game is fairly unique, but not too unique. Battle controls depend on which character you have selected. Tal and Buki are melee characters, so attacking with them is similar to an action game. One button is a vertical attack, another is horizontal, and a third is a sweeping attack that does little damage, but is useful for clearing enemies from surrounding you.

Ailish and Elco are ranged attackers. Ailish uses magic wands and Elco uses guns. These characters fight in the first person perspective and it controls almost exactly like a first person shooter, where the left stick moves, the right stick allows you to aim, and the right trigger fires. There is even a reload time on many of your weapons (which can be switched on the fly).

Whenever you are in a battle, you can hit Y to bring up the quick menu, and you gotta be quick because it doesn’t pause the game, only slows it down when you have the menu up. You can use items from this screen, switch weapons, or use Spirit Strikes. There are regular Spirit Strikes, which will either damage the enemy or some will heal you or protect you from damage. You can also learn new skills called Super Spirit Strikes which are very powerful.

The game plays a lot like regular RPGs in that you earn experience for killing enemies (as well as from completing quests and solving puzzles, which is more common in computer RPGs). With each level, you can raise some of your stats or learn new Spirit Strikes. Unlike many RPGs, enemies don’t drop money. Instead, they’ll drop items, or even hides or gems, which you can sell to traders to earn money. It’s more realistic this way I suppose.

While everything here has been seen before in some way or another, it hasn’t been put together in quite the same way before. And the battle system is pretty fun, but it isn’t the end all be all of any game. It certainly doesn’t deserve all the praise it’s been given. But on the same hand, it could be a lot worse.
Rating: 7.0

Replayability
None. Well, ok, if you missed something the first time around, you may want to replay it, but otherwise there’s not that much to do. It’s not too difficult to get everything in the game, and max out your characters the first time around, and there’s no New Game feature, so it’s most likely a one time deal. In addition, the ending is so bad that you won’t want to replay it.
Rating: 2.0

Balance
Really the game isn’t all that difficult, but it’s not a pushover either. As long as you master the art of combat, including attacking and defending, as well as being able to fight in first person, you won’t have too much of a problem. That being said, enemies do get more difficult, and more will come at you at once, so it’s not too easy even if you do master combat.

In addition, there are times when the game is needlessly difficult, for example, near the end (not spoiling anything), there is a point when one character is alone and must fight their way through several waves of difficult enemies. In addition, it’s one of the first person characters. And it’s pretty dang hard. But it is surmountable.
Rating: 6.0

Originality
This would have gotten less, but there are a few unique elements about the game. For one, I haven’t seen a battle system include action and first person shooting in different characters that you can switch to on the fly. And the story is pretty different as well. As for the rest, all has been seen in other games.
Rating: 4.0

Addictiveness
The game is pretty fun while you’re playing it. You don’t really want to put it down, but if you need to go to sleep, you won’t have problems sleeping, wishing you were still playing the game. This game is a time killer while you’re playing, but nothing more. But as the game progresses, there are frustrating moments where you get tired of playing and have to take a break. I suppose a lot of games are like this, but they shouldn’t be. Frustration leads someone like me to put it down, except never to pick it up again.
Rating: 4.0

Appeal Factor
Sadly, the game will probably sell pretty decently because the cover features Ailish with her tig ole buckin’ fiddies sticking out. But DOA:XBV this isn’t. It will probably sell well as well simply because it IS the first exclusive RPG on the Xbox that has gotten any sort of hype. But that being said, it probably won’t fly off the shelves simply because it IS an RPG, even if it has FPS and action elements.
Rating: 7.0

Miscellaneous
One thing that has grown a lot in recent years is the time it takes to complete a game. Originally, you could complete a game in a few hours. But as RPGs have grown more grand in scale, so too has the length of the game. Nowadays, the average length of an RPG is probably about 30-40 hours. Some certainly can be played for much longer. Dragon Quest VII can last over 200 hours easily if you want to get all the jobs, and Disgaea can last over 1000 hours if you want to reach an insanely high level. Granted, these are extremes. Most games aren’t that long, nor would we want to devote such time to that length. That being said, RPGs are expected to last longer. This is a deep story and characters that you invest emotions to, or should. That’s really the point of an RPG, to feel like you’re with the characters you control. So to invest those emotions, you expect to be with them for a while. Sadly, this is not the case in Sudeki. This is easily the shortest RPG I’ve played in a long while. And it needn’t be. When I finished the game, I clocked in at right around 16 hours. If I wasn’t tired of the difficult battles at that point, I could have stretched it out for a few more hours by leveling up or something, but that wouldn’t have made it more enjoyable. It wouldn’t have helped me with the boss battle (which was relatively easy compared to some battles). There simply wasn’t enough story to the game. Some issues could have been expanded upon. There could have been more to it. And there could have been a real ending. I’m not going to spoil it or anything. I will say that it was more than saying “The End”, but not much.

This is another problem with games to date. Endings should be worth playing the game over. Because really, what’s the point of fighting an ultra hard final boss if the ending sucks? Why not continue playing the game and not go fight the boss ever? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Rating: 3.0

Ratings Summary

Story: 5.0
Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 3.0
Control: 7.0
Replayability: 2.0
Balance: 6.0
Originality: 4.0
Addictiveness: 4.0
Appeal Factor: 7.0
Miscellaneous: 3.0

Average: 4.8

Short Attention Span Summary
Climax deserves praise for what they accomplished with this game. They did some things right and some things wrong. But they did well for their first try at the genre. They have a bright future ahead of them, so they shouldn’t be disheartened. Ultimately this is an average game, and I’d advise anyone to rent before buying it, unless you buy pretty much every RPG like I do. There are better games out there, but there are certainly much worse games as well.