Review by jimfish
"Want a sandwich?"
Maple Story is a pretty toned-down version of the hack-n-slash RPG genre, but don't let that put you off. It might not have the large scale that RuneScape has, but it's got enough bells and whistles to try out.
Now, I've spent literally days trawling the depths of the internet looking for a solid FMMORPGTJDHTPF: a Free Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game That Jimfish Doesn't Have To Pay For. "It can't be done, dude" was the response I got across the board, or a shrug and a "Get World of Worldcraft." Well, I struck gold when I heard of Maple Story. It wasn't the super-awesome 3D Pre-rendered adventure I wasn't expecting, but it sure was the miracle answer. The gameplay is very old-skool - a 2d side-scroller RPG. Most people make the comparison to Super Mario Bros 3 (I would of said the original, but the third is the closest to Maple Story), as you can jump, climb ladders, ropes, smash boxes and battle hordes of monsters (even some mushrooms!). Those who want to do more than just jump and smash monsters has more at their array in the way of new items, skills and magic spells to assign to hot-keys. All the keys are customizable, so if your pinky can't reach that P button for a Fireball spell, assign it to F and burn to your heart's delight. Simple controls make for great gaming. Customizable controls make for excellent gaming. Hold a key to move left and you go there - no awkward glitched-up camera to tackle. Your character's movement is controlled by the standard 4 arrow keys, with the jump and attack to the Ctrl and Alt, but like I said, you're free to move them where you want. There's only one downside to having one attack button: ...mashing. There's no combos to build up by hammering X and Z before finishing with a C, just a single finger prodding the Ctrl button until the bad guy expires. They tried to make up for it by having a few different attack animations, but it's still dull all the same.
As with all RPGs, there's the greatest flaw of all: R-E-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N. You will feel uninspired at times, as slashing the same mushroom for hours and hours at the respawn point for measly EXP, running to-and-fro to deliver some obscure letter to some hermit for a quest, or just generally the long periods of waiting to level up. You kill monsters, you level up, you boost your stats, you get cash, you go to general store to buy badass equipment to kill bigger monsters and from there, it's an endless cycle.
Why do people enjoy this genre? Same reason why you bought that Tamogotchi. You want to build a character from scratch, watch 'em grow and live. Over time, he gets bigger and wants more food (in MapleStory's case, it's better weapons). However, there was that dreaded day when thousands of Tamogotchi flooded the landfill sites of the globe: ...boredom. The little pet you had grown to full size, had all the skills and powers and there was nothing left to gain, so there's only one way out: the quit button.
An excellent little feature which no RPG should be without: the 'customize a' character' screen. If everybody looked the same, it'd be a nightmare, so you're free to build your own identity. Standard stuff like shirt style and colour are changeable, along with a few hair styles, but it's not as unique as you'd find in the Tiger Woods and Tony Hawks Underground games, or even the newly released Godfather game. Neat feature, but you'd meet several of your own twins during your time at Maple Story.
Now, the reason why Maple Story is so appealing to gamers is the graphics. To say the least, they're different. If you've ever seen an anime, you'd know what I'm talking about here. Maple Story is definitely influenced heavily by the anime scene if you glance at the screen. The cliche wide-eyed dork of a hero, the little happy cute faces, the grimace of defeat...it's all in there. The colours are great, the background are great. What impressed me most was how the game takes zero time in loading all the graphics, as for such high-quality, I imagined waiting. Some of the environment you can't help but feel has been recycled from the previous screen, but the dedication that went into creating it makes you forget. To match such beautiful scenery, you need a suitable music score, and it's anime style a-go-go. There's nothing on an epic-scale here like you'd find on a boss-fight, but they help ease the gameplay when you feel slightly bored - nice, soft, relaxing tunes. Nothing to great, but it's better than most I've heard.
Final words? Yeah. You're either an anime-freak or you're not. If you are, expect to be hooked on this title for a very long time, but if not, it'll be a week of curiosity before you hit the Uninstall button. Download it now from http://www.mapleglobal.com to give it a whirl.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/31/06
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