Review by Aussie2B

"If Alf was to comment on this game, he’d say: “Catching kitties in bubbles is almost as good as eating them.”"

”Anyone looking for a 3D Platformer... need look no further than Tail Concerto.” – EGM

Despite the stupidity of that illogical statement, it actually holds a lot of truth within it. If you’re a PlayStation owner and you like 3D platformers, Tail Concerto should be in your collection. The system never had much to offer in that genre, and Spyro and Crash Bandicoot just don’t cut it. Dare I say it, Tail Concerto could be the best PlayStation 3D platformer period. It has one thing that kills it in the eyes of many PlayStation gamers, though. It’s...

Cutesy.

Okay, now that you’ve had your chance to recoil in horror or shudder and cringe, hear me out. Chance are, if you’ve seen Tail Concerto before, your experience was this: you skimmed through the store’s PlayStation games, and a game with a cheap price tag – oh, say 20 bucks – caught your eye. You picked it up, and to your disgust you saw an anime dog in a police suit sitting in a robot machine, which was reaching to grab an anime kitten wearing a vest and MC Hammer pants trapped in a bubble. You mumbled “Ooooooookay” and promptly put the game back before anyone could see you considering purchasing such a thing.

But frankly, I don’t understand that mentality. I don’t consider a game “kiddie” unless it’s actually designed for kids, ie edutainment. And cutesyness, eh... who cares? It doesn’t diminish a game’s great gameplay, graphics, story, music, etc. But, hey, I understand some people can’t get past the cat and dog people of Tail Concerto. Oh well, their loss. There are more than enough reasons that make Tail Concerto a great game even for “kiddie game” haters.

Eat your heart out, Square.

Tail Concerto is one of the few games, and I mean FEW, that actually wrapped me up in the story. I’ve played lots of RPGs, I’ve played Square games, but time and time again I find myself being bored with most RPGs because not only was the gameplay just plain monotonous, but the stories were so contrived and shallow that they’re practically an insult to my intelligence. Diane Sawyer once said that there’s nothing dumber than a teenager trying to sound smart (hey, but that’s what I’m doing...), but I think I can top that (unbelievably). There’s nothing dumber than a video game scenario writer trying to make the game’s plot incredibly deep and mature because, frankly, they nine times out of ten fail miserably.

So what does a plot have to possess to impress me? Charm. That indescribable, unexplainable magical feeling a game once in a blue moon manages to give me. I can only call it charm. When I love the good guys, hate the bad guys, and get absorbed in every bit of text or cinematics in a game.

Tail Concerto has charm by the boatload. The game oozes it. The character personalities, the relationships they have with each other, the constant voice clips, the dramatic and touching anime FMV sequences, everything. And it’s all wrapped up into one neat package, a full circle. You start out with a FMV, you have a beginning, a middle, an end, and then a final FMV that brings you right back to the beginning. Tail Concerto is one of those amazing games that almost feels like an interactive story at times, yet never lacks in the gameplay department.

For those of you who need a brief description, Tail Concerto stars a police dog named Waffle, who lives in the floating sky land of Prairie. While the land is mostly inhabited by Dog-People, there are also Cat-People. Most Cat-People live peacefully with the Dog-People, but a group named the Black Cats Gang is rebelling. They feel the Dog-People hate Cat-People, so they hate the Dog-People back. They want to get all the Cat-People together to form their own country isolated from the Dog-People. The leader of the Black Cats Gang is Alicia Pris, one of the three Pris sisters. Waffle is in charge of detaining the members of the Black Cats Gang. Waffle seems to know Alicia, but time will tell what exactly happened in the past between them...

From Power Rangers to this?!

After all you’ve read, you’re probably thinking Tail Concerto must be made by a pretty good well-known company. Something like Konami, Capcom, Namco, Tecmo, Sunsoft, or Natsume. Believe it or not, it actually was made by Bandai. The company responsible for Power Rangers, hideous action figures, and other assorted junk I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, not only made a game, but a very good one at that! It can only be a miracle.

The gameplay is simple on the surface, but it’s always throwing slight creative twists at you. Basic fighting involves catching every kitten in an area. This gets interesting because the kittens run away from you, hide from you, throw damaging weapons at you (bombs, snowballs, etc.), try to hit you with their vehicles, and sometimes they’re even in planes which you have to shoot down first. What you shoot at them is bubbles. Waffle’s robot suit is special in that his father equipped it with an artifact from Prairie’s ancient civilization. It creates bubbles that contain an energy field, which captures organisms or objects of a certain wavelength. It’s set to that of a kitten. Thus Waffle can capture the kittens in bubbles and grab them at his own leisure. The bubbles disappear after awhile, though. The artifact also transports the kittens to the police headquarters. (So, no, they’re not all being jammed into Waffle’s police robot. ;) ) Later in the game, you encounter various machines manufactured by the Black Cats Gang that harm you, yet don’t contain kittens.

Boss battles are a bit different. You are usually fighting some giant machine that at least one of the Pris sisters are operating. A boss life bar, a la Castlevania, shows up at the bottom of the screen. You have to damage the machine by either shooting at it with your bubbles or throwing the machine’s weapons like bombs and missiles right back at it.

Finally, the game throws some platform challenges at you. This includes flying around, making precise jumps in slow-motion, dodging tons of obstacles, and getting through areas within a very limited amount of time. This is where the game’s true challenge lies. At first, many of the platform challenges seem very unfair and cheap, but not so. A good challenge will frustrate you at first, but in time you will master it. Such game design is sorely missing from most current games, but Tail Concerto manages to capture it to some extent.

That’s fine and dandy, but how about some analysis?

Okay, okay, descriptions are boring even for my long-winded self. You wanna know if I think the gameplay is good or not, right? Well, it depends on how you play the game. Tail Concerto lets you choose from three difficulties – easy, normal, and hard. It’s easy to ignore the Options screen at the beginning, so in case you’d like to know, the default it normal. Anyway, the different difficulties affect how much damage you receive and how much damage you do to enemies and bosses. The difference can be hard to notice at first, but once you get into some boss battles, you’ll feel it.

Overall, easy is a rather unfulfilling experience. The platform challenges remain the same in all difficulties, so you still have that to deal with, but boss battles are too dull on easy. You shouldn’t have much of any trouble, and the game will go by FAST. It’s not bad if you’ve played the game before, and just want a quick play game to kill some time with, though.

Normal is best to start with. Bosses are easy to beat at first, and the areas are easy to get through, but it picks up towards the end. It’ll probably take you many times to beat the last couple bosses.

Hard is for the Tail Concerto veteran who wants to get everything out of the game. The boss battles will take a LONG time, so you’ll have to memorize many bosses’ attack patterns to survive. Getting through some areas without dying will take some effort too.

Tail Concerto is a game with unique gameplay that’s varied and challenging at times. It even has bonus objectives to complete, like collecting all the photo pieces in the game. It’s everything a 3D platformer should be.

Pffft. Amano. *rolls eyes*

The first thing you’ll notice about Tail Concerto graphically, whether it’s from popping the game in your PSX or simply checking out the manual and packaging, is the anime. Oh my goodness, THE ANIME. It might not look like much in the manual due to its refreshing Breath of Fire-ish simplicity, but when you see how it’s incorporated in the game, you will be amazed. They will absorb you into the game and its plot. They will make you laugh, touch you, make you angry, surprise you, maybe even make you cry. They’re used so effectively, yet they never go overboard with the dramatics, it never feels forced. The anime scenes in Tail Concerto put anime scenes from other games, like Lunar 1 and 2, to shame.

And these aren’t just generic anime scenes by some unknown artist, they got a serious professional behind them – Nobuteru Yuuki. The name is probably unfamiliar to you, but he’s the artistic genius behind the Chrono Cross and Seiken Densetsu 3 artwork. In the anime world, he has done Record of Lodoss, Vision of Escaflowne, and X: The Movie.

Besides all the glitz and glamour of FMV, you got polygonal graphics. A lot of the time you’ll hear people saying: “This game would have been better on PlayStation.” (Or nowadays you’ll hear ‘em saying PlayStation 2 or Dreamcast.) This is one case where the game probably would have looked better on N64. The PlayStation just isn’t a great 3D system.

But I’m not going to say Tail Concerto should have been an N64 game. Too many things would have had to been sacrificed. It’s fine on the system it’s on. Nevertheless, you see the polygonal problems all too common to 3D PlayStation games. No anti-aliasing means jagged edges. Many polygons are rather simple, thus pointy and blocky in appearance. On the other hand, though, they did put a lot of effort into what counts. The bosses are very impressive. They’re huge and perfectly smooth and rounded. One thing thankfully not in Tail Concerto is moving textures. They drive me nuts in so many PlayStation games, but I didn’t notice any occurrences of that in Tail Concerto.

Characters look good, but not great. They get the job done and usually have a decent amount of detail, but sometimes certain things look a bit silly. For example, Flare Pris’s mouth looks painted on. Minor characters (ie not the one you play as) move rather stiffly sometimes.

Backgrounds and environments are textured well and always fitting for the theme of the area. Little details are thrown here and there, like the Iron Giant’s huge skull in the mines and the ladder by it, which shows the workers have obviously been inspecting it. Many parts of your environment are not only there to add atmosphere, but also interactive. You can open cupboards, pick up and throw furniture (much to the dismay of the owners), break open crates and barrels, and pick up and put to use various items.

One final point that isn’t graphically related necessarily but involves the visual aspects of the game is the camera. It can be unforgiving at times. Thankfully, you can rotate it up and down and left and right. You can also control the reaction time of the camera. It’s best to leave it on the slower mode if you don’t want the camera spinning around wildly.

What?! Voice acting that doesn’t suck?!

Tail Concerto has voice acting, voice acting, and more voice acting. If it’s an important scene, be it FMV or in-game, there’s gonna be voice acting. American voice actors tend to go overboard in their performances when dubbing anime, or they can’t get it through their heads that anime isn’t for seven year olds, so they use incredibly grating unrealistic voices. The dubbing gods have blessed us with a miracle in Tail Concerto, though. Besides a few weird voices like the ones for Chamberlain and Fool, all the voices are great and perfectly fitting for their characters, and the amount of emotion imbued in the acting is never too much or too little for the particular scene.

Music and sound effects in Tail Concerto are... good, but nothing special. The music is reminiscent of RPGs, and considering the game’s RPG nature (areas divided up on a world map with towns, “dungeons”, a castle, etc.), it makes sense. The normal towns have light-hearted orchestral pieces, while the grittier or in other ways unusual dwelling areas, have songs fitting for their themes. Areas of danger have more dramatic urgent songs. Some of the tunes in the game are catchy, but overall they’re only there for atmosphere.

Thank you, Atlus.

Tail Concerto has been described as a game that can appeal to everyone. While I disagree with that, it comes close. Fans of 3D platformers, adventure games, RPGs, and anime games can all find something to love in Tail Concerto.

The game suffers from one major flaw, though. It’s short. I don’t mean under forty hours short, or even under twenty hours short, I mean under seven hours short. The game makes up for it, though. It has the bonus photo pieces to collect. If you collect them all in one game, three more bonus pictures will show up in your album. Then, of course, there are the three different difficulties to try. Those things, along with the sheer creativity and charm of the game, give it great replay value for me. And everybody needs a few short fun games for when you’re in the mood for a quick play game.

While the length and other minor problems keep me from giving the game a particularly high score, make no mistake, I absolutely love Tail Concerto. I’m so glad Atlus gave this unique, wonderful game a chance to reach American shores.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 09/17/01, Updated 09/17/01


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