Review by x_Hiryuu_x
"SRPG with a storyline that's easy on the H-Game..."
Right off the bat, I will honestly say I wasn't expecting anything about what Utawarerumono was in terms of a game. The only reason I sought it out was because it was an SRPG, it seemed like it was done decently for the graphics situation and there was a recent translation patch made in English that allowed me to play in a language I understood (though still in development). Needless to say, until I did some digging, I didn't quite realize that this was an 18+ rated game.
Cue interesting takes when I found the reason for its rating in-game the first time or six.
Interestingly enough, however, if you omit the certain scenes (few, to say the least) that make that rating, then this would likely be an ESRB-T-rated SRPG, not too much unlike titles such as Makai Senki Disgaea. Regardless, it's not too terrible, but if you're not used to mature content in terms of H-games, not 18, or just a weenie in general (especially over animated characters and anime-based games in general), this is probably not a game you'll want to tamper with and you may want to wait a few years first before uncovering some scenes in this game which is, ironic for a game such as this, coupled with an overall great storyline and game design and idea overall.
Those of you who are more mature, perverted beyond belief and/or don't mind their parents possibly looking in on them and over their shoulder, read on.
Story - 9/10
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Though there were some iffy points with the translation, I can't befall errors on people that didn't really create the game. As of this time, that's Mirror Moon's doing. However, the storyline that was understood was actually rather good, albeit somewhat short for your typical SRPG in this day and age. I probably put in roughly 25-30 hours playing it, beating the game in about 10 days. The basic premise is the main character waking up in a place he does not recognize, meeting people he does not recognize and, more importantly, realizing the fact that he doesn't know who or what he is. Yes, another cliche amnesia start, but done well enough that it's left alone when the plot line develops. Interestingly enough, because there is so much story, the first battle in this game will not happen for most people for a fair few hours. In that sense, a lot of this game plays out just like a novel, something you may expect similarly from games like the Xenosaga series, more noted for their epic and engrossing story than their battle system.
Overall, I was rather impressed with the story all told when playing through on the Normal mode. There was enough of a hold on me to keep me entertained from start to finish, though some areas did get long-winded at times.
Graphics - 8/10
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This is more or less a half-and-half perspective of a rating for graphics. The truth of the matter is that the hand-drawn, still-frame graphics are by far some of the best artwork I have ever seen in a game of this caliber. Yes, the mature scenes benefit from this aspect as well (though there are places are omitted somewhat). Most of the character dialogue work around still-frame artwork (ala Disgaea) when people are emoting different feelings, changing to whichever one is appropriate. No lip work is used at all.
That brings me to the sprites used in game for the battles. The graphics here are okay to say the best about them and sub-par for those living in a post-'02 graphics era, used to fine art that make bleeding edge comps and gaming consoles cry. Some of the art done for the finishing moves that characters are given after raising them up to a certain point are either cool to watch or absurd depending on the character. Attack and magic animations are good and overall don't leave too bad of an impression on the game.
That said, I'd have rated still a 10 and the sprite work a 6. An 8 will work for this section. I suppose this game was made more for its 18+ rating than for decent battle sprites. You can tell what was prioritized in some cases.
Sound - 7/10
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Not the best soundtrack I've ever heard in a game but certainly not the worst. The game music used isn't too rough on the ears and does a good job in flowing with the game, but there are few tracks, some are repetitive and the overall sound effects used in the game are short to say the least. Worse, there is no voice acting in this version of the game at all. I heard that more things were improved in the PS2 version of the game and this area was one of them. Sadly, you'll have to do without, but it's not like most English-speaking people would benefit from it anyways aside from having the silence filled with something other than the background music.
Gameplay - 9/10
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There were quite a few things that this section of the game did right. For starters, as the whole game does play out just like a novel, you can save the game at any point of the story with a right mouse click to get the menu, provided that you are not in battle or are in an after-battle related story. That said, most of the game is played out by mouse clicking. You will likely not use your keyboard at all while playing this game, or at least I would not recommend it. Left clicking will cycle through text and the web scroll button up and down can scroll up and down through said text in a dialogue in case you missed something. You can also customize other things such as volume, text speed, and other various settings with the right click in the menu.
Now that you're used to that concept, the Normal mode and Training modes are where you'll likely need to start. Pointing and clicking with the left in battle will be enough for most people to start out, like something similar to a turn-based Ragnarok Online, game, but eventually you will start to notice that the enemy is doing more than one hit in a turn.
That would be the VIT system that is used in this game, which is a gauge under your HP which most know are your life or hit points. The VIT gauge, when maxed, allows for an extra hit if you LEFT CLICK a shrinking red circle when it appears, adding a diminishing damage extra hit to the chain and clearing your VIT gauge when MAXed. For each hit you make afterwards, your gauge climbs back up to MAX. A state known as TECH in this game, is also another factor in this. Normally, this starts out as 1, but as you progress through the game you can stockpile BP after winning battles and killing enemies with characters (battle points) which in turn increase your stats of attack, physical defense and magical defense. TECH is another stat you may make higher per character, but costs far more to upgrade. Each character's stats are different, in terms of leveling, than the next. It may be easier to level someone's attack stat with one character than it is with another. A lot of similar things are things to look out for.
With all this in mind, an extra TECH point will give you get an extra white, instead of red, circle when you want to attack an enemy physically. This white circle attack does not take out your VIT gauge but rather restores it even faster. Each additional hit, however, does less and less damage per turn, but comboing is usually a good thing because of finishing moves you will unlock later in the game with this in mind. I won't spoil, but it's something you'll need to look forward to.
Magic is also in this game but is unlimited. Healing is also unlimited, but only one character in the game can use it. Magic is restricted as well in the sense that only two characters in the game have this ability and, in order to use these techniques, they may not move before using this technique and they cannot move afterwards as well. However, afterwards they are open to fire out attacks to their hearts content or until their HP depletes to 0.
Overall, considering that the story has a considerable edge over the rest of the game, the game's core attraction, the battle system, is actually quite solid. They may have benefited with a few extras thrown in here and there (more is shown in the Hard mode, thankfully), but overall it's enough to keep most SRPG people happy and the challenge is good enough in Normal mode and more than enough in the Hard modes.
Replay - 7/10
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This is more or less one of those RPGs that you want to beat one time just to say you did. It's not a grinding RPG whatsoever, but after you play through it, it does kind of hit the average but conquered trophy section, in my opinion. Even though the system is rather innovative and there are additional skill levels that you can play through in which give the option of skipping the story altogether, there is only so much you can do to this game. There are lot of side extras that are in the OMAKE sections but even that is limited. Truly, the great challenge of the game is beating Hard Mode 3, which is simpler said than done, as the computer is very unforgiving but very possible. Normal mode is quite the opposite. Honestly, this is more or less a taste perspective. If you're one of those people that were in it for the 18+ rating, there is a Replay Scene area for those appropriate places as well...which may knock your liking of this up a point.
Overall - 8/10
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It has been a while since I've taken down an RPG, a strat RPG at that, in less than a week and a half. I will say that I had fun taking it apart and having a sick day to myself and reading and playing most of this game when I had the option. Though the few mature scenes shown in here didn't do much for the game overall, they were an okay option overall and weren't really forced on you, as it didn't comprise the whole game's atmosphere. In fact, you forget about it when it comes down to the more engrossing parts of the story. It's really anyone like or dislike point there - it depends on your tastes more and, as I said doesn't make up the whole game.
That said, it is a solid game overall, albeit short. If you're looking for a good story, a good strat battle system or a perv moment or three, this game is probably right up your alley. If you don't want to put in the short amount of time that it took to read this story, are too young for something rated past your age or aren't into the whole animation curve that this was based off of (yes, it is an anime as well) then you would probably want to steer clear of this.
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Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/22/08
Game Release: Utawarerumono (DVD) (JP, 12/12/03)
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