Adventures To Go!
Developer: Global A
Release Date: 10/28/2009
Adventures To Go! is a Gamestop exclusive PSP game. I’m actually a little bothered by this on two fronts. The first is how this screws over PSP Go! Owners, of which I am not one. Sony had madly dropped the bomb on making sure games are on the PSN for those adapters at the same time the UMDs hit stores, but in this case it’s the Gamestop exclusivity that causes the problem. The second front is that as a Gamestop exclusive, games are forced to go there to get this game, even if they prefer a local mom and pop store or something like Game Crazy or Amazon.com. I really don’t like the idea of a single retailer being the only place a product can be purchased and doubly so that Gamestop hasn’t done anything to truly promote this game or justify it have the exclusive sales rights to it. When I went to pick it up on launch day I had to go to three different Gamestop because no one had even heard of it at the first two and the third one I went to only had this single copy. I didn’t take a review copy from Natsume because they only had five to give out to all the sites on their list. I’d rather support them when their store of choice gives them the middle finger.
In all, this ends my rant save to say the marketing and decision to make this a GS exclusive was a horrible idea all around.
Global A is best known in the US for the Dungeon Maker games for the PSP. While I rather like the first, I was not a fan of the second. Still, Global A has made a name for themselves with Roguelikes and I had fun with titles like Master of the Monster Lair and several of their other games, so I decided to give them another shot and see if my PSP could get a nice quality RPG to take for a spin.
How was it?
Your main character is a young man named Finn. His father is in dire financial straits, so Finn decides to become an adventurer. However, he doesn’t actually want to travel the world and risk his life. So he joins Adventures To Go, a magical training camp for adventurers. You see, most heroes use this as practice before going on real adventures. Finn, however plans to use the training ground for more…nefarious reasons. He’ll do a A2G adventure instead of leaving the town, collect items from the monsters he kills there and then retrieve bounties before the actual adventuring adventurers can get back to town. Clever and sneaky is our boy Finn.
Of course, right before leaving for his first quasi-adventurer, his dad strikes it rich and gives money to his son…which defeats the whole point of why Finn made this life-shaping decision in the first place. Of course, as you progress and rake in the dough, do you give any to your dad or sister? Of course not. That’s because Finn is a first class dickhead and he treats everyone in the game, whether it be his family, his fellow adventurers that eventually join up with him or the various townspeople, like complete and total trash. Yet everyone looooves Finn, especially the female characters who want to jump his bones. You can’t begin to imagine how annoying this is, especially Finn himself, who is one of the most unlikeable protagonists ever.
You start the game by yourself, but eventually you find a Heroine ticket which conjures up a witch named Amelia who joins your team and is incredibly bi-polar. When you first meet her it is heavily implied that she is actually a staff member of Adventures To Go! Who is joining your team and offering to be your girlfriend because she is being paid to and she even says, “This time I’ll call myself Amelia.” This is basically a step away from prostitution (and would be full blown if Finn ever had sex instead of berating any girl who is nice to him. He’s got some serious abusive tendencies) which makes me feel a little uncomfortable that the censors somehow missed this and gave this game an E-10+ rating. “Mommy, what’s a call girl?”
The game really doesn’t have much of a plot past the first five minutes of the game, and as everything wraps up nicely before your first adventure, all the game consists of is taking some quests, building a randomly generated dungeon, killing things, getting the quest item, and returning. Occasionally you’ll get a ticket or a medal or a new character on your team, but there’s very little in the way of plot. This is a pure Roguelike grinding session with only about 1-5% of the game being story points. This way annoy a lot of RPG fans who play these games for stories, but fans of hack n’ slash or Roguelikes will enjoy that the game just gives you the tactical action you want to experience.
Overall, the game’s characters are all pretty unlikeable, unless compared to Flinn himself. The story is one of the shallowest I’ve seen this generation, and especially so for an RPG. As other Roguelike games have proven in the past, titles from this genre can be especially good even with a horrible plot. The focus is on the grindfest afterall. However, after several high quality Roguelikes that we’ve had over the past few years, the shallow, almost nonexistent story here was really disappointing.
Story Rating: Bad
The visuals are actually pretty nice for a Global A game or for a Roguelike title. Just compare this title to the two Dungeon Maker titles that Global A put out in the past two years. Although the game has the same trappings of a single town with only one to two static images, the visuals are improved in every way, especially in the randomly generated dungeons. Here you’ll find some of the best backgrounds and monster designs outside of Chunsoft’s Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, which are pretty much the benchmark for this subgenre of RPG. The backgrounds are so colourful and detailed, you’ll be surprised at the fact this game is only about 35MB.The monsters are pretty fun too, and range from water buffalo (no, really) to were-pit bulls. There’s a great deal of originality here and it’s nice to see all the different monsters in the game (all of which are viewable in a bestiary after you encounter them).
Although Adventures To Go! isn’t the best looking game on the PSP, it IS one of the better looking RPG’s. The only thing really holding it back is how static the town aspect of the game is.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
This is probably the weakest aspect of the game besides the plot. There’s not a lot of music here in the game, with a single track for the all the town aspects of the game and only a handful more tracks than that for the rest of the game. It’s very minimalistic, but thankfully the music never grates on you. That’s the most you can ask for where there’s this little variety.
There is no voice acting and hardly any sound effects. You get an attack noise when you well, attack, and also a few different noises for magical attacks and items use.
There’s not really much here to talk about. Suffice to say although the audio aspects of this game are extremely shallow, there’s nothing here to complain about.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
The Gameplay is where Adventures To Go! really shines. As this is a Roguelike game, every dungeon is randomly generated. This means it is statistically very improbable you’ll ever get the same dungeon twice. It also follows the trend of more modern Roguelikes where your character(s) retain their levels instead of losing them all and returning to Level 1 when leaving the dungeon.
Where the game greatly differs from the usual Roguelike is that you can design your own randomly occurring dungeon. That sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? You can design something that is randomly generated. At the start of the game you’ll have two locations (plains and badlands) and two types of monsters (bugs and beasts). As you progress through the game you’ll unlock other monster classes and locations to mix and match in order to complete quests you have chosen. You see, different monsters will show up depending on the mix you have made. Beasts plus caves may give you something different from beast and forests. As well, in order to get certain monsters, you’ll have to design levels in a particular order. For example in order to trigger a particular monster the professor needs, you’ll have to be able to have a three level dungeon that is plains, plains, and caves. Only if this is done in that order, will the needed monster appear in the third level of the dungeon. You’ll have to mix and match continuously throughout the game in order to draw out the right monsters for you to kill and then collect on the posted bounties. This is a lot of fun and breathes quite a bit of new life into the whole Roguelike genre. You’ll also get tickets on occasion that can either give you a boss monster to fight, or provide you with treasures. You’ll only know once you use them though.
As the game goes on, you’ll unlock new quests, locations, spell shards, monsters, allies and more. With spell shards, you’ll be combined elemental fragments (between two and four) to create spells for your characters. Warrior type characters can have up to four spells at once while mages can have eight. When you combine spell shards, you’ll get one use of that spell per dungeon, so if you find a spell you really like, just keep creating it to ensure your magic users have a ton of spells to catch. The game only occasionally tells you a spell combination that you can make, so you’ll have to try on your own to see what you can create.
Then there is combat. Battles are randomly occurring, which is unusual for a Roguelike. However, once the battle start, things get even further away from the usual Roguelike game. Battles in Adventures To Go! unfold like they would in a tactical RPG. Each character goes in order of speed and you move along a grid-based map. In a tactical RPG though, one character would attack and move (or vice versa) on its turn and that is it. In A2G, each character and enemy starts the round with a specific number of Action Points. Everything costs AP and you can keep going until you are out of points, or you feel like stopping with that character. The benefit to stopping early is that your leftover points roll over to the next round, meaning it might be in your best instance to play defensively and save up those points while the enemy comes to you. Remember, EVERYTHING costs AP, and that means moving or even changing the direction your character faces. Because this is so different from most other RPG’s, it may take a few dungeons to get used to the battles, but once you get the hand of things, you’ll find the engine to be surprisingly hard to put down. I really loved the combat here, mainly because I am a SRPG fanatic, and this felt as revolutionary to me as Phantom Brave‘s gridless map system did back when it first hit the PS2.
As bad as the plot of Adventures To Go! is, the gameplay is one of the best fusions of Roguelike, Action RPG’s and SRPG’s I’ve ever seen. It’s both innovative and familiar all at the same time, making Adventures 2 Go! a likely sleeper hit if you can find it.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Classic
Although the chapters in Adventures To Go! fly by pretty quickly (I finished the first three in about as many hours), things do start taking a bit longer when you have to do a lot of trial by error to figure out the next dungeon combination needed to advance the plot or get you that next bounty. Because of the sheer amount of time that can be spent trying these different combinations, you probably won’t want to play this game a second time after finally beating it. Why? Because you’ll have already learned all the dungeon and spellshard combinations, meaning there won’t be any challenge or discovery in subsequent playthroughs. That’s half the fun of this game, so Adventures To Go! is probably best left as a one-off game or played with a year or so inbetween run-throughs.
Sure, the game engine is pretty innovative and a wonderful blend of multiple RPG sub-genres, but the game is still pretty much the same thing from beginning to end, with the only change being the mixing and matching of parts to create new dungeons and seeing what monsters that gives you. There is an amazing amount of repetition here which may bore quite a few gamers. The detective work offsets this particular flaw, but only if you’re into trial and error or piecing together clues to help you make the right dungeon.
Call it a thumbs in the middle here. The main plot points are extremely linear and will always unfold the same way each time, but how you get there will be mixed up due to the random dungeons and sidequests.
Replayability Rating: Decent
Balance is a tricky thing here, because the game is as hard or as easy as you make it. You can choose to grind with lower level monsters and locations all you want and then eventually fight the hard monsters, or you go challenge yourself from the getgo. Boss battles can be tough if you’re unprepared for them, but all you’ll need are a few more levels or some better equipment if you find yourself having trouble. I love that fact that you can give yourself as little or as great a challenge as you are comfortable with.
However, the game is never really that hard with regular battles. The toughest things might get is with your first encounter with a rank and file monster because you are new to them and are unaware of their attacks. Still, you’ll never be in any danger of dying with the sheer amount of heal pills that you get or with how weak the enemies are compared to you. No, the real challenge lies in figuring out what dungeon to make and then waiting for the opponent to drop the needed items for you to complete your quest(s). If you’re astute, read all the clues and are pretty good with deductive reasoning, you’ll cakewalk through this game, while younger or less intuitive gamers will have to rely on trial and error. Even then, trial and error is half the fun because you never know what you are going to get.
Adventures To Go! is one of those rare games that challenges you in a multitude of ways and which you can scale back or increase the difficulty as you see fit. You have to love that.
Balance Rating: Great
There are literally dozens of Roguelike games out there for the current generation of consoles. However, there are none that play out anything like this. I love the quasi-“Design your own dungeon” aspects, along with the uncertainty of knowing what you’ll encounter or where. The random battles are an unusual touch for a roguelike game, but it really helps to fresh both this genre and that concept. I mean, random battles in turn based RPG’s have become one of the biggest criticisms about them. Here though, it’s so outside the box, it makes it fun. The same with the tactical battles and the use of AP points to determine what your characters does. These are some great touches giving this genre a much needed facelift.
So many aspects of Adventures To Go! feel familiar and sometimes even cliche. However when you look at all the parts assembled into one game, you’ll notice there’s nothing quite like this game and it provides a pretty unique experience that freshens up aspects of various RPG sub-genres long thought overused.
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
Your time in each dungeon will be pretty short compared to other dungeon crawlers, and the chapters progress rather quickly as well. This means that you may find yourself pretty deep into the game in only a few hours. Because you’ll find yourself so far into the game for such a short while, you’ll probably ending up wanting to keep playing just to beat the game. However, that’s when the game has you.
At this point you’ll have to start solving requests completely on your own without any real hints from the game. It’s this detective work that will suck you in even further and you’ll find yourself playing a dungeon five or six times just to get the right combination so you can solve a quest. I realize on paper this sounds a bit tedious, but it’s actually not. You’re experimenting. It’s like video game chemistry and there’s a huge amount of satisfaction that arises when you craft the correct dungeon, allowing the right monster to appear so it may potentially drop the item you need.
It was very hard for me to put down Adventures To Go! even though I absolutely hated the story (what little there was). The gameplay and crafting aspects were exactly what I wanted for an RPG and this is now up there with the PMD series and Azure Dreams as my favourite Roguelikes ever.
If you’re a fan of RPG blends or outside the box games, you’ll probably find yourself sucked into this, especially if you like games that test your mind as well as your gaming skills.
Addictiveness Rating: Good
9. Appeal Factor
Roguelikes have never been that popular in the North America with only the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games gaining any true ground, but that’s due to the built in Pokemon fanbase rather than the genre itself. However, the game has one thing really going for it and that’s that aren’t a lot of high quality RPG’s on the PSP to bury this title. This means gamers like myself who have a constant RPG itch will be able to add this to their collection along with games like J’eanna D’Arc, Dungeons and Dragons Tactics and more. Is this going to be an A level RPG? No, it’s a bit too shallow and repetitive for that, and the lack of story will repel a lot of RPG fans. It also doesn’t help that this can only be found at a single store that hasn’t even bothered to market this exclusive title. In the end, only the curious and the RPG connoisseur will even hear about this, much less pick it up, and even less than that will sadly have fun with it.
For those that do like how the trappings of Adventures To Go! sounds, they’ll end up loving this.
Appeal Factor Rating: Below Average
I hate to end a mostly positive review, but there are a few problems that make this game kind of hard to give a full recommendation to. Of course the first is that the game is a Gamestop exclusive. You’ve already seen me bitch about that, but it does bring things down in this category. The second is that the game is thirty dollars and it’s less than 40 MB. Seriously. It’s a very shallow game that is 90 percent repetition. This could have easily been a $20 title or even a PSN download and it would have helped this game immensely. I’m surprised this wasn’t made a budget PSP title, but then Natsume is a smaller publisher, meaning that they probably need all the money they can make, especially off this particular title and the lack of attention being paid to it coupled with the scaled down market penetration.
From a marketing or sales perspective, there’s a lot Natsume did wrong with this game and it will be interesting to see how all these gambles pay off for them. I have a sad feeling they won’t break even on this release, which is a shame because it’s better than a lot of the rehash Harvest Moon and River King titles they like to throw at us. Here’s hoping it does well enough to garner a sequel, because with a little more plot and characterization, this could have been a pretty nice success for Natsume and the PSP. Now, it’ll probably be a hidden niche title lost to the sands of time in a few months.
Miscellaneous Rating: Bad
Control and Gameplay: Classic
Appeal Factor: Below Average
FINAL SCORE: ABOVE AVERAGE GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Although both Natsume and Gamestop have done a good job limiting gamers’ access to actually purchasing this obscure little game, once you manage to track it down you’ll have a delightful, if shallow RPG that shakes the foundations of a Roguelike game. The biggest downside to the game is the fact there is little to no plot, and when there is, you’ll hate every character in the game for being either bi-polar or a total jerk without any redeeming qualities. However, the highly innovative gameplay that combines Roguelike RPGs, tactical RPGs, and the concept of Action Points more than make up for this. It all depends on if you play RPG’s for the story or gameplay. If it’s the former, don’t bother with this. If it’s for the latter, you’ll find one of the most interesting fusion engines released this generation.