Review by SPaul

"It'll blow your mind, at least, at first..."

Well, well, where to begin? Maybe with the idea that I this was the first game I bought along with my new system (which an above reviewer said was supreme torture, and which I beg to differ). It was used, so I didn't shell out the full $50 price tag for it (which may be good info for those of you willing to shell out dough for this game or not, depending on whether you like what I have to say). I got the system hooked up, put the game in, and loaded it up. After the short intro, I was instantly introduced to my first ''Wow...'' on the system as I glazed over looking at the pretty Playstation 2 graphics. But I digress.

What's Orphen all about, anyway? Well, Orphen is a wizard, and damn good one, too, despite being an outrageous jerk with two annoying sidekicks: the loud-mouthed, ''want to punch in the face'' Cleo, and the over-exuberant student Magnus. While on a stroll through town, they come across two idiots known as Volcan and Dortin, two brothers that owe Orphen a lot of money. These two tell Orphen that there's a ship headed out of town, which will hopefully give them a chance to pay back Orphen. Wrongfully assuming these morons are actually doing something right for once, the pleasure cruise almost immediately goes sour as the ship gets caught in a storm and sinks, washing Orphen and his companions ashore on a place known as Chaos Island, a cold, desolate place nearly bereft of life. With determined resolve to leave this place behind (and wanting to give Volcan and Dortin a severe beating), Orphen must explore the island in his attempts to get home.

Besides his two sidekicks, Orphen will join up with one of three different companions that were also on the ship, each with their own separate agenda. Depending on who you choose to travel with, be it the dancer Sephy, the mighty warrior Zeus, or the musical boy Mar, Orphen will follow one of three paths across Chaos Island, each varying wildly from each other. While journeying on these paths, Orphen (or at some points, one of his fellow travelers) will encounter numerous battles against the nasties that infest the island. When winning certain battles, Orphen will be rewarded with new magic spells, some of which are extremely potent and devastating to the creatures you'll find.

GAMEPLAY: 6
While there's puzzles that require split-second timing and/or planning, much of the game is spent mostly looking at the pretty visuals to be found on Chaos Island (which isn't necessarily a bad thing; more on that in the Graphics section). Even the battle sequences, except for the fairly tough boss encounters, seem to be mostly of the ''shoot until it's dead'' quality. Battle is real-time, though, and easy to figure out. Kudos to the team for allowing battles to restart if you need to change equipment, as if you die in battle, chances are you'll have to watch extremely long movie segments, which cannot be skipped. However, this system does lend itself to less variation in what you can do in a fight; you can't fling a fireball, for instance, then change to a ice shard without having to start the fight over. Battles are NOT random, so if you fight in one area and have to replay the segment over for some reason, you'll definitely fight in that area again.

One REALLY nice feature about the game: NO LOAD TIME. Honestly, too many PS2 games are being put on CD, which is a bad idea. For comparison, look at the load time of Oni compared to Orphen. Actually, don't. There is not comparison. Sony: GET PEOPLE TO PUT THEIR GAMES ON DVD! In the long run, consumers will thank you for it. This game loaded segments faster than some N64 cartridge games.

STORY: 8
RPGs tend to need good stories to keep them afloat, and Orphen is pretty on top about this. Although there aren't many characters, they tend to interact a lot, which keeps the game from being just more run-and-jump action. There are moments of almost unnecessary humor, especially when the anime movies are playing, but overall the story flows well. The voice actors add a lot to the game as well. Although there are some moments of pure badness (mostly spewing from Cleo's mouth), there are some moments of actual emotion. I'm not one to get emotional over a video game, but there are definitely some strong moments. Orphen sounds proper as a jerk, but a cool jerk.

Audio/Video: 9
This game got me to go ''Wow'' when I first saw the actual graphics and not the anime intros. For a game barely touching the abilities of the system, Orphen really does shine, especially as an older title. The characters move around realistically (except for Cleo and Sephy, whose arms bend spastically with each step), while clothes shift around and hair gets blown by the wind. Chaos Island is a pretty atmospheric place, with deserts, fog, underground passages, and the like. Unfortunately, the sound in the game is a bit underdeveloped, as for the most part it is speech, footsteps, and the occasional fireball noise. Music is generally sparse and uninteresting, but it does help in the areas where it is present. Also, as another reviewer mentioned, the attempt to match voice with mouth movements is terribly off. But, I grew up playing PC adventure games, where for the longest time mouth movements never matched the actual voice of the character, so I was able to overlook this. Still kinda funny, though. At least the monsters make some interesting noises on occasion. And who can honestly not laugh at the poorly acted line, ''Ha ha ha ha! Die!''

REPLAY: 8/5
No, the above is no fraction. It represents two forms of replayability. Depending on how you felt completing one path, you may or may not want to play the other two. In general, I think that most, liking the game or not, will at least want to see what happens, which means that for each path replayability is 8. Beating the game overall, though, it's probably 50/50 that you'll actually sit down again for 10 hours or so and play all three paths again. So, overall replayability is 5.

OVERALL: 8
Personally, I just like the attitude of the game. Sure, Cleo mouths off a bit too much, but at least she has a personality, unlike many other Action-RPG games. It's got a sense of fun that most RPGs have forgotten, with their enormous, epic storylines about saving the world. Orphen just wants to save his own skin, and isn't in the mood for delving into the secrets of the island any more than he has to. It's paced well-enough to keep the game going, as well as having a plot twist that...but I've said too much already.

BUY/RENT: 5/9
Buy is 5, rent is 9. Since I'm sure most of you don't have enough cash to scrape together 50 bucks for each game, and since I got this game used from someone who got tired of it already, I suggest renting it first. I'm happy I own a copy of the game, since I really just like it, but I'm sure renting is the best thing to do. The game is really recommended for those who enjoy developed storylines told in RPG format, with a little jumping and trap-avoiding along the way. If you like that, I suggest buying it, since Orphen probably won't disappoint. And it'll make that PS2 collection of yours look a little bigger and more impressive.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/26/01, Updated 02/26/01


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