Review by Heretic9

"Frustrating Game Design 101"

Sting. The last thing I think of when I hear that word is a video game company. But it does exist, and they excel at making obscure RPGs. No really, they do. Atlus publishes these games, and I've only played two. Riviera and this game, Yggdra union. Riviera, while it had a frustrating leveling system, was a good game. Yggdra Union is a decent game, but it's so frustrating that it's hard to get any enjoyment out of it for anyone except maybe a hardcore Korean gamer or something.

The story is easily one of the most bland stories I ever seen. I guess Fire Emblem started this crap, and Yggdra Union makes no attempt to expand upon it. One kingdom or whatever invades another, Yggdra is a princess on the run, blah blah blah, forms an army blah blah blah saves the world BLAH BLAH BLAH. It's dreadful. Thankfully you can skip this with the simple press of the R button. Amazingly a lot of people don't know that!

The visuals on the other hand aren't too shabby. The style is over the top cute, almost too cute. But regardless, it works. Animations are fluid, action in battle scenes is impressive, and overall not bad. But there are some flaws of course. For one thing they really got lazy with the sprites. There are WAY TOO MANY generic sprites. You'd think storyline related characters would have their own unique sprite but they don't! They have a portrait, but not a sprite! In fact a portrait is all they have! Your Undine character for example is just a palette swap! THEY DIDN'T EVEN TAKE THE TIME TO DRAW AN ACTUAL PICTURE FOR HER IN THE PRE-BATTLE SCREEN! She's just another Undine in the pre-battle screen. What the hell??? WHY WERE THEY SO LAZY??? Skills that you execute via cards aren't very special either, and in fact I find myself wishing I could skip them most of the time. Not a very good effort, but still not too bad.

It's obvious they put effort into the music however. Everyone has their own battle themes are most are quite catchy. Very good for GBA standards. It's not the best, but not the worst. They're overall pretty good techno-ish beats that serve their purpose: Getting you pumped. The sound effects are good too actually. Clangs and slashes litter the battles and they all sound very anime-ish. The shoe fits, so let it pass. The sounds rarely get annoying and it all works.

You'll be keyed up for a while thanks to the music, but then the problems start. To begin with this game is a little too complex. Movement is shared between all units on the battlefield, and the amount of times you move is based on the card you select. So you need to coordinate your movement. By coordinate I mean spam Milanor because he's the best character in the game, and probably the only one really worth your time. Yggdra is weak at first, but eventually becomes stronger. However her problem lies in her weapon. The weapon triangle is ripped right from Fire Emblem and it's her biggest problem. Swords are weak to Lances, and the most dangerous enemies in the game wield them. Ouch. She's strong against axes, but too bad the weakest enemies in the game use axes. Another ouch! Meanwhile Milanor uses axes (or a giant scythe but the game calls it an axe) which happen to be STRONG AGAINST LANCES! Poor Yggdra. It should have been called Milanor Union.

So movement is shared and Milanor is overpowered. Anything else? Oh yeah there's a lot more. Formations for example allow you to link characters up and have them all take part in battle, which is the biggest part of the game since movement is limited. Also, only one character can attack on the whole turn, so Formations are mandatory. The leader of a formation is an Ace and they can use cards later in the game to activate skills. Cards determine how much damage you do and so on. It gets VERY complicated and if I stopped to explain it all, this would turn into a FAQ rather than a review. Morality is the HP of the game and even that is complex. When you lose a fight, a random amount of it goes down. It seems to be based on... Random stuff? I don't get it honestly. I think it's determined by the enemies card, how well they did, etc. But it's really annoying when sometimes it barely goes down at all AND THEN RANDOMLY ZOOMS DOWN! One time I lost a fight but I wasn't worried I mean I had full morality, which was rare for me to have. But one battle I lost (from a critical hit no less) managed to axe MORE THAN HALF THE MORALITY/HP/WHATEVER! ARE YOU SERIOUS???? NOOOO!!! WHAT A JOKE! WHAT A NIGHTMARE!! How does that happen? How does it go from barely losing any morality at all to losing like half of it? Obviously when it empties, you die. If Yggdra or Milanor die, it's over. Most of the time it doesn't matter if anyone else dies, they just withdraw, go down to 1HP, and lose all experience gained and return on the next map. Yeah it's a heavy penalty, but at least the game continues.

Combine this complexity with the fact this game is A BRUTAL BLOODTHIRSTY BEAST INTENT ON YOUR FAILURE and you have a very frustrating game. I swear this game WANTS you to fail. It is a living breathing entity that is hell bound on making you miserable. Enemies score critical hits (Which result in an instant loss, I've never seen anyone win after a critical) often, they ambush you, BLAST YOU FROM A DISTANCE WITH CANONS THAT CAN DAMAGE AN ABSURD AREA OF THE MAP, REFUSE to die (literally many enemies in the game simply cannot be killed, more on this later) and generally doing whatever they can to make you miserable. Canons become an instant problem as there's little the player can do in the face of them except take the damage to their Moral (Called HP from here on out since that's what it is). HP in this game is always in constant jeopardy as well thanks to the fact the game rarely gives you healing items. You can convert items to HP, which helps sometimes, but not much. Just to tick you off, it doesn't replenish EVER. When you beat a map, chapter, boss, whatever. It doesn't ever replenish. Get used to it. This makes it very possible to back yourself up into a wall and end up having to restart the game all over because you got so low on HP you can't survive. I had to start over the 2nd time a cannon became involved since I was already crippled. In games like The Terminator, Contra, Sonic 2, this isn't really a problem because you can beat those games in an hour. But this game is rather long so starting over is really annoying.

I hope you have ESP, because you need it in this game. Enemies often ambush you, and the objective often change suddenly leaving you confused and sometimes screwed. To give an example, one map starts with the usual kill all enemies objective, but then suddenly changes and requires all 4 of your characters to land on 4 squares before a overpowered enemy force bears down on you. WELL IF YOU HAVE CHARACTERS TOO FAR FROM THESE SQUARES BEFORE 2 TURNS ARE UP YOU'RE SCREWED! Unless you somehow have super powerful cards or units, you're gonna be done for. And does the game tell you this objective will start? NO! And since it's 4 squares (the max amount of characters you can have for that map) I assume if one of your 4 characters croaks, you're done. Gotta start the level over again. How fun! And levels are broken into parts. Usually 3 parts. That's 3 different objectives on the same map, which is cool, until you lose and gotta start over from Objective 1. Damn!!

Speaking of characters, you'll eventually have a good number of them but some maps restrict how many you can use at once. Why? So it's okay for the enemy to have like 20 units BUT I CAN ONLY HAVE 4??? WHY CAN'T I USE MY FULL FORCE??? The amount you can have changes from map to map, but it's still annoying. It just seems very unfair. I know this is common in these type of games but in this game is just irritating. Why only 4??? That is ABSURD! Especially when I have 6 characters in total. Why not bring all 6??? WHY NOT????

Ambushes are the worst. On one map I intentionally left Yggdra out of the battles because her weapon type (AS USUAL) wasn't suited for the enemy. WELL AS LUCK WOULD HAVE AN ENEMY AMBUSH TRIGGERS RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER! She died because (again AS USUAL) she was low on HP, and if she dies, the game is over. Crap!! REAL FAIR!

And enemies that don't die? Still wondering about that? Well it's true, some don't die. They get reduced to 1Hp and then get "PROTECT" status and won't die until something happens. God, it never ends with this game does it? It's a constant pain in my ass. It's so frustrating that it's hard to enjoy it. And one battle requires you to get hit by 6 canon blasts. 6??? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? AND ANOTHER REQUIRES YOU TO LOSE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF MORAL! OH COME ON!! Moral/HP is something I'm typically low on! Cut me a break... Thought FFT was difficult? Play this. It'll drive you nuts. This game is like one big Gustav battle, but imagine if you needed to figure out a new trick for beating Gustav every single time!

It really never ends. How can I enjoy the game when it keeps PISSING ME OFF? When I finally beat the game, I was happy but also very annoyed. Ever beat a game you hated? If you have you know the bitter feeling of having pissed your time away and caused yourself endless frustration all to fulfil your nerdy and stubborn desire to beat the game. To worsen all these problems, many items are hidden with no indication that they're there. Ever played some of the desert maps in Fire Emblem games? Remember how items were hidden in invisible spots??? WELL THIS WHOLE GAME IS LIKE THAT! You need a FAQ by your side the whole time if you want to find everything. And many of these items are VERY helpful for beating the game. On my 3rd time through (yes I had to start over 3 times because of the HP issue..) I was so angry I just decided to use a FAQ to get everything possible. It made it possible for me to beat the game.

Yggdra Union is another one of those games with good ideas ruined by some batch of flaws or another. In this case, the flaws are the CHEAPNESS of the game. If the game weren't so cheap maybe I could enjoy it. But I can't. I beat this game purely out of nerd rage. I was pissed. I wanted to kick this games ass, and if that's what the designers were going for, they succeeded. It's a shame because the game does have redeeming factors. I already mentioned the graphics and music, but the formations were also very cool. It had the potential to be a solid strategy game but instead turned out to be a painful experience. Apparently others agree, the other reviewers also had some painful experiences with this game. It's just not fun. It's a troll. Literally this game is a TROLL! It wants to annoy you. It wants to make you suffer. It's so cruel.. And the developers knew they screwed up because the PSP version is much easier. It still has the ambushes and such but your HP actually recovers! SO THEY KNEW THEY MESSED UP WITH THE HP! Stay far away from this and unless you enjoy pissing yourself off. And if you do decide to get it, get the PSP version. The PSP version looks better, sounds better, and even plays better due to the fact you recover HP upon leveling up.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/02/09

Game Release: Yggdra Union: We'll Never Fight Alone (US, 11/21/06)


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