Review: Resonance of Fate (Playstation 3)

Resonance of Fate
Genre: RPG
Developer: tri-Ace
Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 03/22/10

I have been told wonder stories about tri-Ace titles for a long time. The battle systems especially have been lauded to me by friends and even some critics. I actually own Radiata Stories, which is a tri-Ace game, and it was a title I never could get into. The battles seemed a bit too easy, and something about the systems just didn’t appeal to me. The options for good quality RPGs lately have been rather limited, though, so I took it upon myself to pick up this title and give it a look. In the midst of other big names like Final Fantasy XIII and Pokemon coming out within a week of this release, I found myself wondering if this game would be worth its sixty dollar price tag as opposed to these other two big name franchises.

1. Story

Resonance of Fate is a story about three “hunters” that take missions from generally high class clientele in return for money. It is set on a gigantic skyscraper that protects humanity from a poisonous gas that nearly wiped them out. The high class lives on the upper levels and the low class lives on the lower levels. There are these crystal things that prevent diseases like cancer, but can also kill you if your specific crystal is broken blah blah blah whatever, no one cares, if you want a plot summary go somewhere else. The plot is rather interesting but it has too many elements to summarize and it’s far better if you just play it and figure out the intricacies of it on your own.

It is important to note that JRPG stories are usually very cliché ridden and have problems with convolution. A quick example of this would be in Final Fantasy VIII, and a not so quick example of this would be in Xenogears. In Final Fantasy VIII there are a numerous amount of plot elements that go into the story, such as guardian forces, sorceresses, Laguna, gardens, different political powers, and quite a few other things. The story didn’t suffer that much, in my opinion, because the game was long, the story was extensive and having a meaty plot fit the forty to fifty hour length of the game, especially since the plot was a constant presence. If you want to figure out why I think Xenogears has extreme complexity, you can refer to the wiki because I’m certainly not going to elaborate on it here. My point is that the plot for Resonance of Fate isn’t bad per se, but it suffers from an overabundance of big reveals and large twists in a fairly small amount of “plot” time. The story only unfolds in the following manner: chapter begin (cut scene), primary mission complete (cut scene), chapter end (cut scene), ad infinitum until game end. I’m not going to go as far as to say this fails, as it doesn’t. What it does do is leave me wanting a whole hell of a lot more than what I did get, and with each character having an interesting back story, it would have been really nice to see more of them. Many of the chapters are not really pertinent to the main storyline either, so the frustration grew with each chapter I completed that had little to no character growth or plot development. If you were to watch everything pertinent to the actual storyline of the game you’d probably go through about one or two hours of talking sequences and have the whole thing. For a game that sports sixty plus hours of gameplay (and I dare you to try and beat the game without any of the grinding that’s needed) the plot being laid out like this left me shrugging my shoulders. It’s bad storytelling to do things this way, plain and simple.

I do have one major problem with the content of the story specifically. The characters you control are supposed to be heroes, or at least they come off as not being the pinnacle of all evil. There is a point in a chapter where two members of the trio kill a rather large number of guards for a completely petty, unjustified, and stupid reason (basically for comedic effect). In fact one of them even states, “that was unnecessary”. I’m all for having a large amount of funny in a game, but having characters massacre an entire group of guards for no reason other than to get some pictures of a girl doesn’t strike me as funny. It strikes me as heartless, and more importantly, it strikes me as completely out of character, which is one of my biggest gripes when playing video games. Sometimes characters do things completely opposite of their personality because the video game writer thought he’d get a chuckle from the audience, and that’s lazy. That’s REALLY lazy. I didn’t like it when it happened in Uncharted 2, and I still didn’t like it when it happened in Resonance of Fate. As a writer I would think that my characters were developed with careful planning, love, rainbows, bunnies, sunshine, and maybe a little bit of spice. I don’t know why anybody would want to screw up the recipe they’ve worked so hard on by curveballing an act of pointless evil onto an otherwise good character. It makes no sense, and after that scene I had to do everything within my power to pretend that it never happened in order to enjoy the rest of the story.

2. Graphics

The graphics are great. The cities (what few of them there are) have gears popping out of every corner and steam coming out of every hole. The in-game engine is strong enough that the majority of the cut scenes don’t have to be FMV pre-rendered masterpieces, and the characters look great with little exception. Battles especially look great with super awesome XTREME camera angles to show you the wicked sick moves your characters are totally doing off the freaking hook. If you watch any preview to this game you’ll quickly notice that every time you do anything in battle your characters look like they jumped straight out of a Wachowski brothers film. It’s cool the first three-hundred times, but eventually the glamour of it all wears off and it becomes just another part of the battle system. The attention to object detail in this game is, for lack of a better word, staggering. I paused the game several times to look at designs on tables and patterns on clothing. My only complaint with the graphics (and this is getting picky) is that the character’s faces look disgusting to me. I’m not usually one to criticize someone’s art style, but I don’t know what the character designer was trying to do with the facial features. The eyes look weird and the mouths look even weirder. I understand it’s supposed to be kind of in an anime style, but the effect served to creep me the hell out.

3. Sound

The sound is very good. There is a door sound every time you leave a building. Gunshot sounds are done well. When running over different materials the sound of footsteps change from metal, to marble, to wood, to chain links, to grates (I pay attention to all that shit, you better believe it) and so on. When bullets hit certain objects the clang sound that resonates out is generally accurate to whatever object you just hit. Apart from the sound effects, the music is also pretty well done. I won’t be picking up the soundtrack or anything, but the alternating classical and heavy electric guitar styles of music used in the game sort of fit the whole theme (half renaissance half steam punk, the characters dress in opposing fashions as well).

The voice acting, especially, is very well done. Characters sound believable, and it seems as if the actors were really voicing the game like it were an actual job rather than just reading pre-determined phrases in front of a microphone. One thing I will note is that a decent amount of banter back and forth between characters happens at the beginning and end of battles. During storyline missions the characters usually say just a couple of words in relation to the plot at the beginning of each battle which is a very nice touch. Throughout and after the battle, however, the characters revert back to generic mode and end up spouting the same obnoxious catch phrases when they get done shooting their guns or when they finish the battle. I can only hear the words “Didn’t even break a sweat!” so many times before I want to start hurting people. This is a general trend in a lot of games (especially RPGs), and I would like to state that finishing a battle didn’t aggravate me nearly as much when it was just Cloud spinning his sword and sheathing it. Now it seems that at the end of each battle it is the character’s personal mission to show you how much of a jackass they are. These phrases don’t add anything to the game, and they serve no purpose. I beg you tri-Ace, Square-Enix, anybody who will listen. I beg you to please, please, please shut your characters the hell up if they don’t have anything to say. Witty jokes are good, but hearing the same joke fifty times is torture.

4. Control and Gameplay

There are three different main modes of play. You can run around the city going to vendors and resting your characters, there is the overworld which consists of a hex grid system, and there are battles. The hex grid system is not that complex. As you battle you are rewarded with energy hexes in different shapes that allow you to clear hexes on the grid in order to progress toward side quest goals or the main goal. There are also special hexes that, when used in large enough quantities and connected with a destination and a power source, will grant your characters bonuses in battle.

The battle system is dubbed the tri-Attack system, and it has one of the steepest learning curves I’ve seen since my last venture into an Atlus title. If you manage to brave the multi-step tutorial (it takes about 2 hours) you will probably have an understanding of the system ranking somewhere between good and great. I had an understanding that was around the good side of that scale, and the game was extremely frustrating for quite a while. The game starts off with three bezels, which basically means you get three attacks that are worthwhile (this isn’t completely accurate, but you can report me to tri-Ace if you so choose). If you fail to kill the enemy in these three turns, and also fail to restore your bezels (you can do this by killing an enemy, breaking its gauge and lowering health below the break, or by busting a guard that the enemy has up) you will, ninety percent of the time, die. Also, after your bezels are depleted, the game goes into haha-you’re-an-idiot mode and your characters start shivering, acting stupid and become quite useless. If you choose to move a character when they are in this state they run horribly, which is to say they look like an epileptic patient walking out of a strobe-light convention. I assume tri-Ace did this to make the game seem as if it’s pointing and laughing at you when you fail (which I do appreciate). Anyway, it’s offensive to my eyes, and was my primary motivation for not letting my bezels run out if I could ever help it. Using tri-Attacks by building up resonance was another part of the system that I didn’t quite understand in the beginning, but made the game infinitely easier once I mastered it and aided in my eternal struggle against letting my bezels fall to zero.

The battle system becomes fun after you put in the necessary hours into learning how to manipulate it, and is actually a fairly rewarding venture. The customization options involving grenades, healing, dual wielding guns, and different types of ammo added quite a bit of preparation strategy that was actually really nice to see. Having my decisions before a battle matter almost as much as my decisions during is something I’ve always enjoyed. However, due to the fact that the system has an extreme learning curve and the vast majority of people on this planet would probably vomit blood rather than waste hours of their time trying to decipher it I would say that the system is definitely not designed with a western audience in mind. Though, I personally hate the trend that Japanese video game producers are doing right now where they try to pander to western audiences, so I give two thumbs up to tri-Ace for doing what they believe in.

5. Replayability

You can replay this game on hard mode. That is the extent of any reason there would be to play this game again. I have heard of no easter eggs, and the new game plus that I’ve read about doesn’t have any mind-blowing features that I’m aware of. So the replay value is completely dependent on how OCD you are, and if you got everything the first time through (and it’s quite easy to miss things).

6. Balance

Poor at best. That’s fairly typical for hardcore JRPGs though. The battle system is unforgiving until you learn it, and the battles seem rather random with their difficulty. If you choose to do side missions you’ll end up doing battles that are ridiculously difficult in comparison to the main storyline. My recommendation for anyone playing this game is to do the tutorial, and then sit your ass in the Battle Arena until you understand the system completely.

7. Originality

The battle system is very original. Planning out strategies with three people in mind, trying to build up resonance, break gauges, and conserve bezels makes for a fairly in-depth system, and an experience I haven’t really had before. The battle system alone puts the game high up on originality in my book. The storyline can hold its own fairly well too, but I would say it’s rather forgettable, and loses points for the game as a whole.

8. Addictiveness

This game is extremely hit or miss. Some people will get addicted immediately and try and max out all the arena rankings, unlock the entire hex grid, and get every customizable outfit. Others will try and play through the game as if it were any other RPG, and that really misses a lot of the content and a lot of the addictiveness. When I went back to play the game again it wasn’t so I could continue in the storyline, it was to get that final rank in the battle arena, or farm those last few hexes to complete a grid. I would say that, though the addictiveness is limited to specific people. It is still there, and for the OCD gamer it’s there in spades.

9. Appeal Factor

The appeal factor for this game is low. It comes off as an extreme action shooter. When really it’s more of a tactical turn based RPG akin to something closer to Valkyria Chronicles than anything else on the PS3. Tactical turn based JRPG games have a very hard time reaching an audience in America. Another thing to consider is the steep learning curve. Sure the game is fun, but it’s only fun after putting in the time to learn it, and putting in work to play a game is not something a lot of gamers are willing to do. Fans of other tri-Ace titles; however, will be delighted with the game. Unfortunately for tri-Ace their fanboys aren’t really all that numerous.

10. Miscellaneous

For this edition of Miscellaneous I will discuss the clothing options, which are extensive, unnecessary, and completely amazing. I applaud tri-Ace for making me want to spend money on clothing rather than useful items. It is extremely rare when I find a game that gives me aesthetic customization options that I actually care about. Generally I have no desire to make my character in a console RPG look like anything other than average or whatever the game gives me as default. My character names in Earthbound are Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo. My commander shepherd is Mike Shephard, and I have the default face of that awkward looking Greek model (or whatever European country that guy came from). I never changed my clothes in Fable 2, I barely customized my character in either Saint’s Row, and I spit in the face of anyone who tries to give me customizable aesthetic options, because I want to play the goddamn game! I don’t want to sit and ponder how cool my character looks. But for some reason, they did such a good job on the clothing design here that I was willing to sink in hours of my time finding outfits that I wanted. They ranged from generic and silly to completely awesome, and I really got a lot of enjoyment out of it. The best outfit easily goes to the Christmas outfits though. There is a youtube video of the Christmas “episode” of the game, and anyone who plays this game owes it to themselves to play that far, or at least view the video.

The Scores:
Story: Decent
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Very Bad
Originality: Incredible
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Below Average
Miscellaneous: Great
Final Score: Above Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:
Resonance of Fate will appeal mainly to hardcore JRPG gamers. The storyline is sparse in relation to how much time the game takes, but when the story does crop up it feels rushed. The graphics are crisp while the sound and music is fitting. The battle system has a very steep learning curve, but once it’s figured out the game can be quite rewarding. All in all, though, I would say that if you have sixty dollars to spend the average gamer will probably enjoy the much more popular recent releases of Final Fantasy XIII or Pokemon over Resonance of Fate any day of the week.

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