Mimana: Iyar Chronicle
Publisher: Aksys Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 04/01/2010
Ah GungHo, we meet again. Earlier this year they gave us Ragnarok DS and Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, both of which received positive reviews. This time, instead of XSEED doing the publishing, it’s Aksys Games.
Iyar Chronicle is an odd little RPG. It’s obviously meant to be a franchise for GungHo, with the ending being a “To Be Continued” at Soul Reaver levels and the game is only 8-9 hours long unless you do all the subquests, which then brings the play time up to 12-15 hours. That’s exceptionally short for an RPG where fans of the genre are conditioned to forty-hour long titles. However, some RPG’s like the original Shadow Hearts and Rhapsody have shown that it can be a short game and still fondly remembered by gamers. Is Iyar Chronicle able to pull that off?
It sucks to start this review off on such a negative note, but Iyar Chronicle is one of the dullest, most generic RPG’s I have ever played in terms of story, featuring a cast of characters that are so unlikeable and annoying that I had a hard time playing through the entire game, and it’s one of the shortest RPG’s ever.
Your main character is Crais, an angsty mercenary whose snarky comments and secret past of sorrow and rage belies a heart of gold. Cliché #1. Broke and drunk, he is given a ray of salvation when a mysterious super cheerful and optimistic girl in pink and red named Sophie offers him a job. Cliché #2. This job is to go with her to collect seven (although once or twice the game accidentally says six) gems but she can’t tell him what they are for or why they are doing it. The game is then just going through the dungeons to get the gems. Cliché #3. Along the way you meet four more women that will join your team, all of which are “quirky but cute” in some way. Cliché #4. You will also encounter two shadowy individuals – one a Black Knight who seems to be testing you as much as he antagonizes you and the other a strange evil warlock in white who holds the secrets to your main character’s shattered past . Clichés #5, 6, 7 and 8. The warlock also has a bad ass warrior girl who is also strongly connected to your past and yet you don’t recognize her until the penultimate (second to last, not second biggest) battle in the game. Cliché #9. As well, right before you get the last gem, your benefactor puts herself in harm’s way for you and at that moment your main character learns to care about others again and open up his heart to the five women who have accompanied him on this quest. Cliché #10.
That my friends, is the plot of Iyar Chronicle. There is nothing original about it. It is the most generic and dull story I have encountered in years. It is the personification of a paint by numbers story. I didn’t even start to get interested in the game until eight hours in when I encountered Timon, who was the only likeable character in the game and even then she’s a stalking obsessed polearm carrying berserker who is prone to fits of rage. And that’s the MOST LIKEABLE CHARACTER. The game also contains a sorceress named Melrose who is easily the most annoying character I think I have ever encountered in a video game. I would rather play something like Tingle’s Tea Party than see another line of dialogue or sprite for Mel again. Awful, awful, awful.
The game has some VERY LIGHT dating sim elements, but it’s more Star Ocean 2 that Thousand Arms or Sakura Wars. At set times (generally after completing a dungeon), where you are given a choice of who to talk to. Get a high enough rating and then you can get a special ending with that girl. Huzzah.
Look, I beat this thing in twelve hours (because I was exploring everything as a reviewer should) and it felt longer than most 40-80 hour rpg’s. I would finish a dungeon and it would feel like I had been playing it all night rather than just an hour. There is so little story since 95% of the game is dungeon crawling and what little there is has been ripped from every generic RPG since the NES days. It scares me to think that this is meant to be the first in a three or five (conflicting reports from across the Pacific) series, especially as if the others are as short, they would combine to the length of a regular RPG, and yet you’ll be paying $39.99 for each of them if they come to the states. That’s as uncool as the story is bad. I’m glad there were a scant few side quests and some very light dating sim elements, but this is still one of the worst RPG stories I’ve ever encountered. The original Dragon Quest had more depth than this.
Story Rating: Dreadful
Iyar Chronicle is a very pretty game in the battle sequences. The sprites are highly detailed and the animation is quite fluid. The monster designs are pretty original and fun. You won’t find goblins or orcs here, but you may find a giant flesh eating sheep or chickens that are bigger than party members. Boss sprites are huge and pretty weird, ranging from a giant skeleton to a treant or a giant purple crystal thingy. Spell effects are also unusual and quite creative and visually, GungHo did an amazing job with combat. VISUALLY.
Out of combat, things are a bit odd. The game’s graphical quality not only goes down some, but you’ll also experience slowdown when walking around or exploring. Yes, there is no slowdown in the action part where twelve different characters are flailing around on the screen, but there is when your character is walking on static pre-rendered backgrounds. How odd is that?
Honestly, Iyar Chronicle is one of the better looking action RPG I’ve encountered on the PSP. It even has half a dozen fully animated cut scenes that are anime quality and are amongst the high points of the game. Pretty but vapid – that’s Iyar Chronicle.
Graphics Rating: Good
The music of Iyar Chronicle is pretty forgettable. Like the story, they are pretty generic tracks that you could find in any fantasy RPG, but unlike the story, you won’t be offended by them. They’re just kind of there to provide white noise as you hack and slash your way through the game. There’s actually a surprising amount of tracks on the game considering how short it is, so that’s a point in the game’s favour. There will be large stretches of time where there isn’t any music though, which is odd and uncomfortable.
The voice acting quality ranges dramatically, with characters like your antagonists, Melrose and Feine being phoned in or just poorly done while the actors for Crais, Timon, Sophie and Patti literally save the game from being a total waste of twelve hours of my life. Although the script was deplorably bad, these four actors do the best that they can with it and their delivery often made me laugh or smile where had it just been words on the screen, it would have had me hate the story all the more. As slightly over half of your play time will just be with Crais and Sophie, you’ll thankfully be saddled with the two best voice actors in the game.
So forgettable music and voice acting that runs the gambit from total suck to, “rare shining light in this black hole of awful.” Let’s hope that if the rest of the series actually does get made, Aksys will jettison the bad actors and keep a death grip on the awesome ones.
Sound Rating: Mediocre
4. Control and Gameplay
Much like the story, the actual gameplay of Iyar Chronicle is amongst the worst I have encountered in a RPG in quite some time. You can definitely tell the engine was inspired by Star Ocean: The Second Story but where that did things right, Iyar Chronicle goes spectacularly wrong.
First up are the random battles. Oh my god, there are so many random battles in this game that you will start keeping track of the number of frames you can walk without encountering an enemy. My max was ten. Ten frames of walking before a random battle. For an entire game. This was so annoying it wasn’t even funny. Worst of all is that you will be maxed out level wise before the end of the game because of this (Level cap is 50 unless you get a special password to max it out to 100) and so for the last two hours of the game or so, you’ll be battling constantly with no reward. AWFUL. The game really needed to cut back on the random battles because you don’t even have to grind in order to slaughter bosses. At only one point in the game (aside from scripted battles where you half to lose) was Crais ever knocked below half his life. Too many battles kills a game, and I haven’t seen a game this littered with them since the Japanese version of Thousand Arms. It’s also worth pointing out that if you are trying to climb up or down stairs when a battle is triggered, you will be set to the beginning of the stairs after the battle leaving you to try it again. It once took me seven times to get down a flight of stairs. SEVEN TIMES.
Then there are the battles themselves. These again are like Star Ocean 2 or the Tales series where all of your team is on the screen at once but you only control a single character. Unlike those games, you can only control Crais, leaving your three other partners to do what they want, when they want. The most control you have is to pause the game and tell them to cast a specific spell or to set their AI out of combat, but the AI in the game is so laughably bad, it doesn’t matter what you do as your teammates will just flail wildly and cast the wrong spell at the wrong time. You can turn off access to specific spells outside of battle, but if you have more than four active on a partner, expect them to simply screw up repeatedly. Thankfully your character is so wildly overpowered, you’ll never really need them except for an occasional heal spell. For the last boss in the game, it was myself, Timon and the two healers in Sophie and Patti. I had both healer JUST casting heal spells and I hacked away at the opponent while Timon just ran across the screen wildly. Not even a challenge and it was basically a one on one battle against the LAST BOSS IN THE GAME and I still cakewalked it.
Here’s an example of how bad the AI in the game tends to be. Let’s say Sophie is down to ten hit points (out of 2000) and I am missing one or two. She will choose to heal me up every time rather than stay alive. As well, do your computer controlled partners every block or even try to avoid attacks? Only once in a blue moon. Don’t worry, the antagonist AI is just as random and retarded so it all balances out into the biggest mess I have ever seen an action RPG degenerate into.
There are a few other hilarities worth mentioning. If you choose to run away in combat, battles continue until a time ticks down from 99 to 0, but that’s less time than all but boss battles take so what’s the point? Dungeons are enormous, yet there are less than ten of them in the game. Most of the dungeons increase their length (and thus the play time of the game) by forcing you to backtrack constantly through them over and over again to turn a stone or flip a switch or tough a sigil to let you go back to the other side of the dungeon and proceed with your movements. It’s playtime inflation and it is as dull as it sounds. The dungeon crawls are even more boring than the plot and with random battles happening literally every few seconds, you will be sorely tempted to just stop playing, even though the game is so short.
So, random battles are so numerous you’ll probably have more fights here than in a full length RPG, the AI for both your partners and enemies is so bad it’s embarrassing that the engine was even green lighted, you have little to no control over your partners and the only enjoyable thing about the system are the dating sim elements and even then the game tries to push you to the most unlikeable character in the game or pedophilia. Nice. Again, Iyar Chronicle gameplay is as bad as the story, and both are amongst the worst I have encountered for an RPG in a long time. The only thing nice I can say about the engine is that the game is pretty.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Dreadful
The nice thing about Iyar Chronicle is that if you find yourself LIKING the game (and every game is someone’s favourite), you can replay the story several times to get each girl’s special ending. I will say that the New Game+ bones you as none of your items (save for the Water Stone you get from beating the final boss) carries over and all your characters go back down to Level 1, so there’s no real point in having the NG+ feature unless something is going to carry over from each chronicle, like your rating with the ladies (ala Sakura Wars) or the Water Stone. This was a bit of a disappointment as I was really hope the item you get right before the last dungeon, which decreases random encounters by 50% would carry over, but alas, it does not. Again I ask, what is the point?
So if you’re a masochist, you can easily replay for Mel, Timon, Patti and Sopie’s endings, and you can see all four in the time it would take you to play a regular RPG. The question is, would you want to? At least you have the option to see those endings and each of the optional end game quests as well.
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Again, Iyar Chronicle is not a well made game. Balance just might be where the games is at its worst. We’ve already heard me bitch about the sheer quantity of random battles to the point where your characters will be maxed out a dungeon or two before the final one, making much, if not all, of the game the easiest RPG you will ever play through, even though three of your four party members are little, if any, help to you. Just imagine how easy the game would be if your characters actually had some modicum of intelligence or strategy!
Enemy characters are so easy, you have to wonder the thought process that led to a ton of battles that give you more experience and gold than you will need but also to make them super easy so the game is as boring as it is plodding. Bosses are just as easy as rank and file monsters and at no point was I ever in trouble of losing a single battle, save for the ones where you are scripted to lose. Even in those, I lasted far longer than I should have for a scripted battle as the enemy rarely attacks and when it did it was so telegraphed I could avoid their attacks easily. In both cases I had to commit suicide by moving my guy in front of either unbeatable character and let them hit me, because otherwise it would have never ended. Once again, this is a horribly unbalanced game. In no way, shape, or form does this game provide any challenge or difficulty and the last boss’ only real attempt at giving you pause is its ability to heal itself. Yeah. That’s it. So it’s just an extra long battle rather than a tough one.
Honestly, the only challenge in Iyar Chronicle is navigating the exceptionally long dungeons and even that is easy if you stick to the basic dungeon crawling credo of always going right (or left) and never deviating. Also, making a map can help if you didn’t grow up in the old school 8-Bit or SSI D&D PC game era of gaming.
In terms of challenge, AI, balance, or anything else that can fall into this category, Iyar Chronciles is one of the worst RPG’s I’ve ever played. It’s so badly broken (and in your favour) that the sheer ease of the game combined with the onslaught of random battles from mentally challenged monsters will leave you hoping that the rest of the series never actually gets made.
Balance Rating: Worthless
You’re kidding, right? There is absolutely nothing original, innovative, fresh or new in this entire game. It’s all cribbed from some other game or list of RPG stereotypes. The game’s plot is one of hundreds of other games. The characters are taken from everything from Tenchi Muyo! to Final Fantasy and the engine is a fifth rate version of Star Ocean 2. Everything about this game is shallow, vapid and short and had this been say a $10 per episode DLC thing on the PSN for your PSP, then I’d have probably been kinder. But $40 for a twelve hour game that does little to nothing right and some things so spectacularly wrong that you have to wonder if Gung Ho needs a license (ala Lunar and Ragnarok) to guide them into making a decent game.
Originality Rating: Worthless
Okay, the first eight hours or so of this game were gruelling, especially as you only had three characters in Crais, Sophie and Melrose, and only Sophie is likeable. Timon and Patti made the game more interesting, but there is little to no character development for anyone save Crais and it’s so by the books you would think it was written by a middle schooler. Even the dating scenes are fluff and you don’t get any real insight to who these characters are or why you should care about them – and this is the optional part that is supposed to provide depth! Still, once the options opened up and I had a choice of character to talk to and optional quests to go on, I hated the game less. I still hated it, mind you, but now it was just horrible instead of a form of torture.
It took me as long as a normal RPG to get through this simply because I would have to keep putting this down due to it being boring, annoying, easy and full of so many random battles. I guess the fact this game is so short compared to other RPGs turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Addictiveness Rating: Bad
9. Appeal Factor
The thing is that Iyar Chronicle is so paint by numbers that some people will enjoy it for what it is – a mindless twelve hour RPG with the usual generic crap so that they can wade through it. Will anyone consider this a great game or one of the best RPG’s on the PSP? Not even close. At best, people will find this a mediocre but inoffensive and overpriced affair and I’m sure some people will want to continue the adventures of
Cloud Strife and Aeris Crais and Sophie and their Ghaleon look-alike arch-nemesis, but thankfully I won’t be one of them. Again, tastes vary, but in the case of Iyar Chronicle the audience that will enjoy this is slim, and those that find the game good compared to others that they have played with almost the exact same plot will be even slimmer. For those looking for the same exact experience they have had for several console generations but with less story and a crappier engine, then you won’t be disappointed with Iyar Chronicle.
Appeal Factor: Bad
$39.99 for a twelve hour RPG that is obviously one third (or even a fifth) of a full length RPG that has been carved up is totally unacceptable no matter how you look at it. At BEST, Iyar Chronicle should have been an episodic RPG made specifically for downloadable content at ten bucks a pop per episode. If that had been the case, I could have overlooked a lot of the flaws in this game as well as the trite story, because you’d be writing for episodes and not a full game, so one would expect the first piece to be a little light.
The bottom line is that Iyar Chronicle is an overpriced broken game that is going to leave a lot of gamers feeling cheated and will alienate nearly everyone that picks this up from buying the second instalment – if it is ever released, and let’s all hope to God it is not
This is downright shameful and one of the worst scams for a buck I’ve seen released in 2010 so far. Not cool Aksys. Not cool at all. Now I’m even MORE frightened to see what you did to Ghostlight’s Agarest: Generations of War.
Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Bad
FINAL SCORE: BAD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
Congratulations Mimana: Iyar Chronicle! You’ve just surpassed Sands of Destruction as the worst RPG released in 2010 so far, and that’s a pretty impressive feat indeed. If forty dollars for a twelve hour RPG wasn’t bad enough, Iyar Chroncile features a cast of the most unlikeable characters seen in this generation of gaming, a plot that looks like it was written with the help of Mad Libs, and an engine so broken that you will be amazed at how your character can walk right up to enemies and they will either just stare at you or walk away rather than attack. The only positive thing that can be said about this game is that it is pretty, but other than that it is the most shallow, vapid, dull and easy RPG I’ve played in a long time. Do not waste your money on this.