Review by Arkrex
"A more readable story, but still the same story"
GRAPHICS - 8/10
SOUND - 8/10
GAMEPLAY - 7/10
REPLAY - 8/10
DIALOGUE - 8/10
TILT - 6/10
After the success of localising the first Swordcraft Story just earlier this year, Atlus does another marvelous job bringing in more 'niche' games to us Non-Jap folk. Here we have the follow-up to the crazy dialogue-filled action-RPG. But is it just more of the same? Has it improved... enough?
A Wonderful World
If you have played through the first (and this review assumes most readers have) then you'll be right at home with Swordcraft Story 2. It is not a direct storyline sequel, but the new characters, locales and plot development are just as good as before. Many of the enemies are recycled, but then there are a lot of new ones too. This time around there is a nice variety of environments to grind your way through, so no more plodding through the same-looking labyrinth that featured in the prequel. Esthetics wise, this is extremely good looking for a GBA RPG which was released in Japan more than a wee while ago.
But, yes but - even though superficially it looks great, the core of the game remains pretty much the same: make your away around uneventful dungeons, defeating randomly encountered enemies along the way; talk to so and so, head to that destination, talk some more, head back, etc. etc. This formula gets very repetitive. It's nice that the encounter rate is not as volatile as the last game, but the amount of text borderlines on overload. Since earlier-encountered enemies are not worth fighting (weak plus negligible experience) you'll be doing a lot of retreating. So essentially the game boils down to initiate key event, (back)track your way to specified area whilst running away from most battles, key event again, rinse and repeat.
The game structure is still too rigid, too linear, with little time left to wander around and explore on your own accord. But then again, there are no 'real' sidequests in the whole game; just a couple of random small jobs in the main town which you'll probably complete by accident anyway. Wait, there is one sidequest where you have to destroy every single bush/crate/whatever... but this must be the lamest excuse for a sidequest ever! On a positive note, the fishing mini-game is a nice deviation for a while, but lacking depth to be something you'll want to go back to often.
Building Blocks of Success
The core pull-in of this series is the weapon construction, and in this respect this sequel deserves a pat on its back. Just like before, you forge your own weapons from raw materials found all over the place. There is a staggering amount of different weapons, all of which can be upgraded multiple times. You may even create special items for equipment or other purposes too. Gamers who revel in seeking out everything will have a long journey ahead; others will appreciate the versatility of the system - each game is truly never the same. So good thing there is a New Game + feature then eh?
All About Fighting
The battles are the usual linear-motion kind, inspired by the Tales games. You control your main chosen character with your chosen Guardian Beast there to support you. Nothing new here really. The AI is still pretty stupid, attacking you and then ignoring you. The beasts have more attacks, but still lack strategy and direction; you can comfortably win most battles (including bosses) by attacking, blocking, attacking, blocking, perhaps throwing in a stat boost or fancy spell to break the tedium. Speaking of boss battles, it's nice how you can save anytime with certain items, but sometimes the encounters sneak up from nowhere. You can't swap magics during battles or dialogue so if you weren't properly prepared, say hello to your last distant save point. This occurs a lot at the start as the difficulty gets easier as your magic quantity use increases.
In the overworld, you trek from point to point as I mentioned before. It's nice to see that your weapons can be used to break/cut/move/activate certain obstacles or items throughout - somewhat reminiscent of Pokemon's HM abilities - but it is vastly underutilised except for the last dungeon. Here's hoping the 3rd game of this trilogy gave more importance to this interactive aspect.
If you balled over from the exceptional script in the last game, you'll do the same here. Character interaction is just as witty, and with multiple scenarios depending on chosen characters, the interlude choices etc... there's a lot of great moments. But again, for the most part the story doesn't take itself seriously. So while the text is sharp, there is not enough depth to make you want to keep playing this for long periods. The plot wanders all over the place so sometimes you can be lost as to what your goal really is amongst all the shenanigans. Bad guys will enter the scene and leave just as easily without any resistance. It's all very comical, but I felt the big twist didn't have that much 'oomph' due to the storyline jumping about all over. And why do you even fight Death?!
On a small note, the audio is of very good quality and the tracks themselves are highly memorable. Some bits are ripped from the previous game, but everything fits in all so nicely and sounds so good I really couldn't care less here. You won't get tired of the audio side of things that's for sure. The voiceovers are poor, though infrequent enough so that they won't constrict your nerves any time soon.
Refined, but I wanted more of an overhaul
So is it worth playing? For those who really got into the first game, the answer is a definite yes. For those looking for a new RPG to hack, and have not previously tried this sort of action-rpg, then give this a try as long as you have patience and have somewhat fluent reading skills. That way you'll get more out of the extensive customisation and have a good time with the wonderfully written dialogue. You'll never find another game which has quotes like "In order to get the next Daemon Edge I have to make myself sexier" lol! Well maybe the next game will will go all out... we'll see.
For myself, Swordcraft Story 2 is an improved take on the original's concepts. But the flaws present before are still here, and so even though the good stuff is refined, the overall package doesn't raise itself enough. It's still tedious, with a large dialogue:action ratio, and there's not enough variety bar weapon making (in which collecting parts can be a chore as is). Upon completion there are several bonuses including Boss Rush, playing as a crazy mechanical bunny, and a whole lot more dungeons to run through. Just like the first, there's a lot of bang for your buck, but it really depends on how much you can really take.
If you have to try one of 'em, try no. 2!
Fair Game 6.5/10
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/06
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