Review by HYD

"Possibly one of the sweetest freeware RPG"

Introduction
Vantage Master - Possibly one of the sweetest freeware RPG
Enter Vantage Master. This is a freeware online game that was produced by Falcon in hoping that it will have more popularity for its sequel, ''Vantage Master Japan''. Is this game in Japanese then? As many people will tell you, it's been translated by 95%, and only storyline cutscenes are left in Japanese. Will this hurt the gameplay? It will, by a bit. 'course you have absolutely no idea what's going on. But it will still last, as a freeware online game for a while.

Featuring 24 different monsters!
And those are called Natials. So how does the game run? Basically, once you boot up the game, you are brought into an onscreen that asks you some questions that determine your starting cards according to your personality and characteristic. Then, you would be brought into a fuzzy messy interface that would most likely confuse you if you were a new player.

There are different icons flashing continuously on the maps that are battlefields. Click on one of them, and your teacher will tell you about the map terrain, and some tips. Vantage Master also features a class system, which is determined by your answers for the few starting questions. That's pretty neat, and will definitely aid you if you're extremely new to the game.

After confirming the location you would like to battle in, the screen will display the actual playing field and your character. The character's appearance differs with each class. A Savage would likely have a Minotaur character, and a Paladin would get a knight in shining armor. The graphics are typical, but are sufficient enough not to make your eyes go sore.

Fa-Rencell and Hepitus...good team, no?
So, you're tossed into a terrain that you chose all by yourself, and your hero is basically alone on this barren land. Across the vast fields, you see another figure, that's the opposition. Heroes are called Masters in this game. And they have the extraordinary power to summon little critters called Natials at will. Of course, they must have the sufficient MP or that would be an impossible task.

Natials fall into four huge category. One of them is called the always used, totally clichéd, Fire element. It spawns bulky characters, and normally packs a huge amount of firepower. Fire opposes Heaven and is naturally afraid of the Water element. Located in the Water element are swimming Natials, for obvious reasons. Some of them have the ability to walk on both land and water, although they do swim faster than walk. However, some of them are restricted totally to Water. That's pretty bad. 'cause you would want them to secure the underground Mana Stones. We'll get to that later. Naturally as well, Water wipes out Fire and gets swallowed by the Earth element.

In the Earth category, expect to see huge, walking tanks. Well, not really, but one Natials in this element is exceptionally huge. One Earth element Natial has the power to petrify an opponent. It may seem useless, but being immobilized for a couple of rounds could be a difference between life and death. All in all, Earth is afraid of the holy Heaven element, and opposes the Water element. The Natials that fall under the element of Heaven bears the appearance of flying saints and angels. They normally pack a punch with their dangerous lightning skills. Most of them are quick to the feet, but have terrible defenses. They bear the value of life, and hold the power to heal. Neat, eh? They are physically afraid of Fire and wipes out the Earth element.

Across the terrain you're playing on, you are bound to encounter little huge stones that flash a color of these three. It's either bearing the color of Red, Purple or Blue. If it flashes either Red or Blue, it means that this magical stone is under the works of the particular Master under that color. If it's under the color Purple, it means that this magical stone is under neutrality. No one is controlling it.

If you see a neutral magic stone, be sure to devise a plan to snag it! Magical stones supply your Master with everlasting MP, and with that, you can summon more monsters and cast more spells! All in all, more magical stones can turn the tide into your favor, so bear this in mind.

Entering Phrase II...
Each terrain holds an opposition, usually an opponent Master. He would also summon Natials according to the AI he has programmed too, obviously. Beat him, and conquer the map, and earn yourself a new Natial. Once you beat a certain amount of Masters in different maps, a new phrase would be unlocked. This would normally be confirmed when a cutscene with Japanese wordings appear.

If you cannot read Japanese, then it's no tragedy for you. As the story isn't much of a concern in this tactical RPG. Vantage Master uses the traditional RPG method like most turn-based RPG goes. First, the computer would churn out the speed stat of each character. Then, the first one would move first. Simple, basic and elementary. Three simple words to summaries this sweet feature.

*Poke*
Amazingly, for a freeware turn-based strategy RPG, you have a lot of audio packed inside. Each and every Natial has a SFX to each of them. And they are pretty cool as well. Expect to hear numerous different background music, and some miscellaneous audio that you would never expect to hear as well. I guess this is quite shocking for a freeware RPG. Thus, I devoted a section especially for it.

Online capabilities - The Special Mention
TCP/IP, LAN, Modem, you name it, they have it. Vantage Master features extremely awesome multi-playing. Once you get connected with an enemy, you are all set and ready to play Vantage Master. All maps are unlocked for you to ensure easier play. Whenever you move the cursor over the map, the witch on the lower left hand corner will describe its basic surroundings, and whoever has the advantage. This is really useful for newbies to face against pros as they can choose the level of handicap they want. If you feel that your skills are pretty much leveled against the opponent, there are maps with no advantage over each other as well. Of course, there are symmetrical maps available too.

When all these are done, it's time to choose your characters! For a fairer game, players are advised not to change the class' base stats, and this could allow them to get an overpowered Master. Masters can also alter their name, and their color. (Between Blue and Red)

Summary of the Pros and Cons
+ Freeware
+ Quite interesting gameplay
- Easy to learn, difficult to master
- Time consuming

Buy or Rent?
Neither! Get it for free at http://www.falcom.com/vantage/index_e.html!

Results
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 8/10
Story: -/10
I do not understand Japanese. Perhaps someone could explain it to me.
Replayability: 8/10
Online capabilities ensure longevity, to a certain extent.

+Final Score:+
8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/28/03, Updated 04/28/03


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