|Console||Nintendo 3DS, Android, iOS|
|Purchase (3DS)||Must be purchased from Nintendo eShop app.|
|Purchase (Android)||Click here to purchase from Amazon.|
* Previously published at Indie GAGA *
So I got this $10 RPG from the Nintendo 3DS’s eShop. From its trailers and screenshots, it looks like a promising throwback to the old SNES JRPGs that we have come to love so much back when we’re kids. Games like Final Fantasy IV (called II outside of Japan), Final Fantasy VI (called III outside of Japan), and Chrono Trigger. At first, I was stoked that I could get a similar experience out of this game.
But after some digging around, I found out this was previously a phone game for the Android and iOS. In the end, it definitely feels like one… oi vey. So let’s see what we have here.
And I apologize for the very small screenshots, but this is the best I can do with the 3DS’s Miiverse. Thanks, Nintendo.
So right away, you’re introduced to your main characters: a family of treasure hunters down on their luck. After some forced exposition from daddy Grieg and sister Mika about some ancient ruins and that your mother being apparently dead, you begin your little journey. You are also a generic anime hero who only speaks when prompted to, though they’re mainly short responses.
Gee, about as convincing as Cloud Strife’s dialogue choices.
Yeah, I just went there. I can hear all the booing from the distance, but I don’t care.
The graphics are alright for the most part and they capture the 16-bit JRPG look pretty well. But a few small inconsistencies bother me. Some nitpicks.
For one thing, your character sprites don’t really match up well with the overworld map. They just give the illusion that those characters are 100-feet tall giants that can easily crush the mountains that they’re next to. I know it’s common practice to use the same-size sprites in the overworld as in the smaller individual maps, but just look at the screenshot above and tell me that doesn’t somehow look off to you.
There are also the clashing character portraits. They’re fairly generic and seem too polished to belong to a 16-bit RPG. It makes me think that they were imported from RPG Maker’s library of avatars. To get the gist of what I mean, look at the avatars from Final Fantasy VI.
The art style of Final Fantasy VI’s characters definitely helps add to its already dark and gritty setting. The art style of Grinsia, on the other hand, lacks an identity of its own. Chrono Trigger is similar in this regard, still managing to capture Akira Toriyama’s art style but still belonging to a 16-bit RPG.
One last thing to note about the graphics is the lack of animations on the maps. Yeah, I know there some moving water currents on the overworld and the bubbles that appear in the shipwreck map, but even some basic water and fire tiles aren’t animated. This makes the maps feel strangely lifeless. Like everything is frozen in time.
These are just nitpicks on my part, but that one mile stretch could’ve really helped with the game’s presentation.
The battle system is very simple. I would even dare say it’s very similar to the one used in the first Final Fantasy game. In a turn-based system, you can use a normal attack, use a variety of skills you learn from leveling up, escape from battles, defend for less damage, use items, change team formation, or set the battle to auto mode. You know, all of the fairly typical commands. There is at least a low learning curve, so a beginner to RPGs can get a bit of a crash course by getting used to this system.
Unfortunately, the actual battles do not require much strategy and are very repetitive. And that is because the stats boosts gained from leveling up end up butchering them. I have literally won 90% of my battles in the game by setting them to auto mode. Leveling up is pretty fast, even when I’m not trying to grind for levels. This very rarely gets me killed as long as I keep Elysha healing my team every now and then.
And of course, the random encounters happen very often. I have to keep using Talisman Stones and my avatar character’s Camouflage ability to decrease the encounter rate. Even then, the encounters are still rather common.
The battles are by far the most disappointing aspect of the game for me. I just don’t find them very challenging and I rarely have to resort to skills, except for the endgame and some bosses (and of course, an optional superboss). And even with the large variety of skills, the ones with a larger area of effect tend to be quite overpowered, such as Grieg’s Sonic Boom or Oreana’s Meteor Strike. They’re also not much more MP expensive than the weaker skills either, so using them over the cheaper skills always pays off in the long run.
And every time one of your characters levels up, the HP is restored to full and any status problem vanishes. While I personally find this to be unnecessary handholding, I suppose it’s passable since this is meant to be a phone game to be played on the go.
However, there are some bosses that can give enough trouble if you don’t have a proper team setup or don’t have enough levels to keep up with their damage output. So at least the game isn’t completely void of challenge.
Another big aspect of the game is exploring the dungeons. And believe me, the map layouts of these places bother me immensely. Right from the get-go, the dungeons feel like they are randomized. There are so many branching paths that it becomes tedious to explore whole dungeon maps. And with the the game’s annoyingly high encounter rates with monsters, I’m not really interested in exploring the game’s world. And most of the treasures you come across just aren’t worth picking up, as they’re the same kinds of loot that you get as drops from random battles anyway.
There are those chests that allow you to acquire some rare gear, but those are also hard to come by. You don’t really need them though, as you can easily get to the next part of the game with plenty of leveling.
Branching paths in dungeon maps may happen all the time in RPGs, but this is getting overboard. It’s just boring trying to explore maps that have no rhyme or reason for their layouts. It’s like the map makers wanted to leave as little unused space as possible, so they used up 90% of that map space for walking around.
Thankfully, you can easily get around the world by utilizing these Porter panels. They’re usually located in every major town and right before the boss battle in dungeons. This also makes the game much easier, but I rather not having to go through 20 more wild monster encounters before facing a boss.
This begs the question though. If these things are all over the world and this one generic citizen knows about them, then what use is there for any other method of transportation? You can probably argue that the Goddess Mave only allows your characters to travel around with these things, but that doesn’t explain why other people can’t use it. Considering some places in the world have obstacles (and even this one NPC character who can’t return back to her hometown because of one), it makes you wonder.
There are a total of eight playable characters you can choose from, each with different strengths and weaknesses, but you can only have four in your team at a time (your avatar character is not interchangeable). You will unlock three of them through the main story, but the other two are only unlockable through optional side quests. I used Grieg (physical attacker), Elysha (healer), and Oreana (mage) the most since their attributes are highly specialized. I do wish I could ditch my avatar character, since he is meant to be a jack-of-all-trades but his skillset generally sucks compared to everyone else’s.
There are also a few more side quests you can do, but two of them are only accessible towards the end of the game and the recurring one is where you collect and bring old glass bottles to this old man out at sea so he can give you some good gear. The glass bottles are often behind doors with silver and gold locks that you need special keys for, and sometimes placed in a random chest in a dungeon, but they’re not worth actively searching for. You can get through the game just fine without them.
And for some towns, you can play this ridiculously easy shooting mini-game where you can earn regular items or good accessories. I always get the most valuable prizes on my first tries, so no need to worry about budgeting your Target Coupons. Not the real-life Target… but uh… the in-game items.
The soundtrack can definitely use some work. There are only a few tracks in the entire game and most of them are not very catchy. However, I do turn up the volume whenever the boss battles come in.
I mean, the music overall isn’t bad. But when the game only uses the same 5-6 tracks for the entire running time, even for dialogue cutscenes, they get old pretty fast. And considering I had to listen to the standard battle theme thousands of times, I just had to keep the volume slider all the way down.
There aren’t very many sound effects either. Most of your characters use the same stock sound effect when they use a normal attack, like a 16-bit trombone blowing a sour note every time. Nothing really appealing, so let’s move on.
To further elaborate on the story, the Goddess Mave calls upon you and your small family to fight against the Empire (no really, that’s all they’re calling it) and collect six ancient relics like they’re Dragon Balls. Why you and not some other heroes in the world? I have no idea.
The collection quest is painful enough, but do you really have to factor in a nameless generic empire with an emperor called Emperor? At least give them all names or something. Oh, and this “evil empire” uses machines because machines are bad, mmkay. Because it’s not like that hasn’t been done before.
So you get a fairly predictable story with some small quests along the way. While there are a couple of decent twists, they lose their impact by the time you confront the final dungeon.
And let’s face it. Some of the contemporary dialogue is pretty jarring, for a game meant to be set in the “ye olde” times with some machinery. The humor, awkward. Kinda funny, but awkward.
Actually… never mind! This chick seems very eager!
Whatever you say, jerk.
All in all, this game is quite playable. It’s not a bad game, but not a good one either. It’s at the point of being barely fun and it still demands 20+ hours of your time to complete. Unless you really want to play Grinsia, there are definitely better portable JRPGs out there. I can’t speak for Android and iOS users, but I can for the owners of current generation handheld consoles. If you really want to relive the glory days of 16-bit RPGs, I would just go back to playing those same RPGs.
- The battle system is very comprehensive and easy to pick up for beginners and veterans of RPGs alike.
- There were a couple of decent twists in an otherwise forgettable story.
- Much of the game captures the 16-bit art style quite well.
- The music is decent but not very catchy.
- The battle system is lackluster to the point where you spend much of the game playing itself for you.
- The dungeons are a pain to explore, making it easy to miss important items and exits.
- The story is too predictable and simply borrows JRPG tropes that we have already seen many times.
- The overall sound design is lackluster, only using several music tracks for the entire game and very few sound effects.