Review by ArchSageBadge

""O Holy Blade, Release thy power!""

The Nintendo DS is a very popular hand-held system, with many genres to support it's popular game library. Sports, action, adventure, driving, puzzles, even some Role-playing. But, as many games as they had for strategy, not a lot lived up to it. That is, until this game came along. Rondo of Swords, recently new from Atlus's developing company, is a nice addition to this system.

Story:
You fight against an evil nation that is after you, the last heir of a fallen kingdom, with nothing but a cursed sword, with an armored knight and a lance cavalier by your side. Immediately your thrown into combat and are being chased by the empire itself. Seems pretty generic so far.

But alas, there are plot twists, something that is also expected out of games but at the same time make it unique and fun (and you don't know what to expect out of them). Immediately after the first battle, you realize that the main character is nothing but a pauper to the real prince, who is died. How or why, is still left unknown, but you have little time to worry about that. All you will focus on is being Beltwelde's new king, and lifting the curse off the sword, all the while gaining help from other smaller nations. A story that is well done and unique in it's own place.

Music and Sound:
The music in this game seems to fit with the setting, even if it is the same you'll be hearing a lot. It isn't boring, but not at all exciting either.

I don't have much complaints of the English Voice Actors either. You don't hear from them much except when they're about to attack or use their skills/spells, but it works. I'm never one to be very picky about this sort of thing, but I'm not one to catch up on the slightest mess-up either. But if you find their voices annoying, you can always turn off the volume.

Graphics:
If you're on of those people who only love games because of their pretty graphics (FFXII, Super Mario Galaxy, ect.) Then this might not be the game for you. The graphics aren't amazing 3-D detail that jump off the screen like Super Mario DS, or environmental friendly like Zelda's Phantom Hourglass. They're 2-d and average. They do come with detailed art pictures of the character's avatar, like Fire Emblem does. They don't move their mouths whenever they talk though, nor do a lot of them have distinctive facial changes.

Still, it's nothing that really hinders the game a lot, and isn't something I find a bad thing to worry about. You'd get use to it after a while and enjoy the game for the fun, not the eye candy. But hey, it could have been a lot worse, I tell you.

Gameplay:
RoS is something fresh out of the DS franchise that is unique to other strategy games. Instead of moving your unit adjacent to your opponents and attacking them from there, you literally pass through them, causing damage along the way; aka the Route Maneuver system. This is the first time it actually allowed you to go through an annoying enemy, but not without risks. At first, I was worried that such a step towards that direction was a bad idea; attacking the enemy once and not insuring it's defeat is risky, especially when the placement of a unit is vital.

Let's say, you have a weak mage right behind another soldier, who is protecting said mage from a unit to attack them. In any other tactical game like Fire Emblem, this would be a sound strategy. But not here. The mage is almost very likely to get killed when the soldier passed through them here. Such a battle system would require you to think critically before moving, less it costs your unit.

Along with the Route Maneuver system, there are skills to assign your characters to improve on. Such are passive skills like increased Att and decreased damage from arrows, active like increasing Def and decreasing Att, stat bonuses when allies pass through the units (like HP recovery), or spells for the mages like White Dust. Or even a skill that prevents units from passing through you! (Only 1 or 2 of your units can use this skill, while a lot of your enemies can, so be on the look out for them).

Then there's Momentum Counter and Over Break. MC is the number that represents you visibility towards an enemy, The higher it is, the more likely it is for them to attack that unit, and vice versa for lower the number. Naturally, when you reach 99, you can get upgraded bonuses from your allies and leveling up becomes that much easier. It's a big high risk, high reward thing.

Over Breaks are like the characters final skill, or Limit Break for a lack of better term. They're very powerful and can help turn the battle around, like Serdic's Brave Ray that attacks units 5 spaces in front of him in a powerful energy blast via the sword. All the units you use have one, as do some enemies. The OB can be immediately used at lv 1, but is stronger when used at lv 2 or 3, the maximum limit. You can't move and perform an OB at the same turn however, so plan carefully.

Replay:
This game comes with a New Game +, where you start from the beginning again and have your three original units with all their skills and stats the same, along with all your items. There are multiple endings in this game and different ways to beat it. It's sure to keep you occupied for a while longer.

Overall:
This is a game that really requires some smart thinking, so some may be able to do it, or some may need some guidance. It's a good game for the strategy genre and a great addition to any collection, either for strategy lovers, Atlus fanboys/girls or gamers seeking a challenge.

P.S. Not all the aspects of the game are explained; some you will just have to figure out on your own. That's part of the fun of playing video games, is it not?


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 05/05/08

Game Release: Rondo of Swords (US, 04/15/08)


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