The Sacred Tears TRUE
Publisher: Nyu Media
Release Date: 09/25/2014
Nyu Media has brought quite a few doujin games over from Japan, primarily shooters like the eXceed games and GIGANTIC ARMY. They also released the visual novel Cherry Tree High Comedy Club (and are working on the sequel). The Sacred Tears TRUE is the the publisher’s first RPG release. Let’s see how it is.
The story is centered around childhood friends Seil and Seana. While they moonlight as private investigators (who basically take any odd jobs that walk in their office) during the day, at night they’re up-and-coming thieves looking to make a name for themselves. There are a total of 48 episodes, 24 comprising the main plot and 24 being side stories. While there is a larger arc that gradually emerges within the main 24 episodes, the overall feel is more of a slice-of-life in Seil and Seana’s lives as they go about their business both during the day and at night. Most of the episodes are meant to stand alone (there are a couple that are more connected), with the smaller arcs introduced at the beginning usually wrapping up by the end, though some aftereffects from previous episodes do bleed into subsequent episodes. For example, failing to convince some gang members to leave a priest living next door in peace will drive him to move. Chests opened and items picked up do not regenerate. In addition, some NPCs have different things to say in each episode. While not all of them do, enough of them do that the town feels a bit more dynamic and provides a bit of incentive to walk around and chat them up a bit before tackling the main objective of the episode. There were a few scattered typos (i.e. “use this the letter?” “I’m not interested in your or anything”), but they were not egregious enough to obscure the meaning go what’s being said, but still noticeable
The game looks like a 16-bit JRPG, and I kept thinking of SNES RPGs as I played. The character sprites, as you might expect, are more of the chibi variant with head and eyes being the dominant features. The battle sprites are more detailed and move smoothly. There’s some nice art that shows up during major moments and at the end of episodes, as well as a somewhat animated introduction. The character portraits are varied enough that their expressions fit the situation at hand and don’t seem static. The music has a couple of established names behind it: Hiroyuki Ojima (Accel World, When They Cry anime) and Shimotsuki Haruka (Atelier Iris, Ace Attorney Orchestral Performance). The tracks suit the respective situations they play in, though the battle themes are the first to come to mind when I think of the music from this game.
The controls for both keyboard and 360 controller are laid out simply: Z to confirm/examine (A on 360 controller), X to cancel and open the menu (B on 360 controller), Z (also A on 360 controller) and a direction dashes (stamina bar depletes), shift (X on 360 controller) toggles chapter name and stamina bar/place name placements, and shift in menu displays party talk. During battles, up and down toggles between selecting cards and using items, and
shift uses a potion. However, you can only use the analog stick to move, not the d-pad. I actually found this awkward when trying to position the characters properly to examine something, go through a door, or talk to someone, so I ended up sticking with the keyboard to play, which worked fine. Also, even after the stamina bar depletes, the character still kept dashing at the same pace, so there didn’t seem to be any real reason to pay attention to the bar.
The battle system is a card based battle system which is somewhat like card battle systems in Kingdom Hearts re: Chain of Memories and Fate/Extra, except you don’t move around the battlefield. Cards have five levels (1-4 and S) and five actions (attack, defend, evade, magic, special attack). You cannot draw S level cards, but rather during or after battles cards have a change of being upgraded one level (i.e. a 4 turns into an S). Level 1 sword cards may convert to a 4 when played. There’s a bit of a rock-paper-scissors system when the cards are the same level: special trumps dodge and block and stalemates with attack and magic, attack loses to evade and defend and stalemates with special and magic, magic wins over evade and defend and stalemates with special and attack, defend beats attack and loses to special and magic, and evade beats attack but loses to special and magic. Each turn you pick three cards to go up against your opponent’s cards. You can see a preview of what your opponent’s cards might be, though accuracy of this relies on your partner’s prediction level. Red cards indicate a possible special attack, blue attack, and green evade or defend. Your opponent counters you after two dodges or three shields, but you can do the same. I found it helps to try to get rid of lower value cards on a turn where there’s no warning the opponent’s playing a high level card and, when a warning does come up, to play at least one card that’s almost guaranteed to beat whatever it’s up against (and be ready to use a potion if needed). Both Seil and Seana level up as you win battles and accrue skill points. Skill points can be reallocated at any time, allowing for experimentation in builds or if you need to boost up a stat for a given fight or mission. They can also upgrade their skills and acquire new ones through books you find in the course of your explorations.
Saving money is one of the objectives, though the catch is that you don’t earn money from winning battles. Instead, you can get money from completing episodes, finding it scattered around, or by selling items to traders. Each trader has different prices at which they buy items, and to maximize profits you’ll need to sell specific items to the trader who’ll give the most for them (I can say right off the trader near Seil and Seana’s base of operations give all around terrible rates). It’s a lot to keep track of, though somewhat mitigated by the fact you’re limited to one town and two fields to the west and south thereof and not having to buy equipment for your party or anywhere to spend money (except through crafting items or buying a Goddess’s Tear, which revives Seil if he’s defeated during battle). The auction house is a bit of a gamble, as while it’s possible to get more than you would’ve from a trader, it’s also possible to get less than base price. When you put an item up for auction, you have to wait until the next chapter and revisit the auction house for it to actually sell. While not necessary to finish the main story episodes, side episodes are unlocked after saving up a certain amount, so if you’re interested in those episodes and/or are just a completionist, you might want to start saving, especially if you want to hit that goal of saving 300,000 fil (good luck with that).
Once you finish an episode, you cannot replay it. I wish you could do because some episodes seem like they could’ve been resolved differently, or something I later realized I missed, so it would’ve been nice to be able to go back and experiment or get those things without having to start from scratch. Having 15 save slots does somewhat help (and I as the compulsive saver naturally took advantage of those. That turned out handy when there was one boss fight that I found particularly difficult to get past. I ended up just loading a save prior to entering that episode and did some side episodes partly to grind a bit and partly to make some form of progress. Before that scares you off, after I finally did get past that point, I did not encounter anything that was that much of a block. The episodic nature of the game helped because it made it easier to pick it up for either short or long bursts, or in the aforementioned case go off doing side stuff for a bit if you get stuck in the main part (with the caveat being you can’t back out of an episode once you enter it, so better keep multiple saves).
Each episode has a little blurb in the menu screen to remind you of what you were doing, and the party dialogue can also contain hints thereof, so even if you put the game down for a while you can pick up where you left off. Most of the episodes have fairly straightforward objectives. However, there was one episode with a confusing part wherein you’re directed to a place, but since you can’t enter said place yet and you can only see the name of a location by entering it, you can’t know that’s the place you’re looking for. That’s after being sent on a wild goose chase, mind you. Somehow I minded the goose chase less than that one part after said chase. Fortunately that wasn’t the norm. There tends to be a stigma against RPG Maker games, and to make things worse, this was made with the 2000 version. That being said, there is a fair amount of content for the price. The developers also added a bunch of things to build up on the RPG Maker foundation, like the art and battle system. Still, the scope of exploration possible can feel constricted because you can really only explore one town and two fields (excepting certain episodes where you’re teleported to where you need to be if not in those places), especially given some of the characters talk about places outside of Genoseed, but you don’t really get to actually visit those places. The battle system might also be an adjustment for some, and there’s always a bit of luck involved in getting the cards and healing potions (which you can’t buy, only hope they show up during the course of battle) you need at the right time. You can try out the demo first if you’re not sure it’s something you’d want to drop money on, though it does give you plenty of hours for the $9.99 asking price.
Short Attention Span Summary:
The Sacred Tears TRUE may be an RPG Maker game, but it does enough to differentiate itself. The art and music are generally well done and complement the rest of the game well. The battle system might take a bit to adjust to, but it keeps battles engaging. Since it revolves around one town and you don’t really explore any other places except in a few episodes, it can feel a bit confining. But there is enough variety across episodes in terms of objectives and dialogue to mitigate that somewhat. The story has a mostly slice-of-life feel to it, which may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it does have charm.