Review by astrangeone
"Kingdom of Decency - Not bad for fifty bucks!"
Kingdom of Paradise
Kingdom of Paradise, a title developed by Climax, has the difficult task of shoring up the scant amount of RPG titles for the playstation portable.
An obviously Japanese inspired title, Kingdom of Paradise had gamers drooling on the thoughts of a game that could match any Shaw Brothers film. Gamers like myself, were anticipating a game that would be like playing a part in the Bride with White Hair. They instead, got a game that was satisfying but in the gameplay instead.
Story - 3/10
Recipe for Kingdom of Paradise: take a cup of Final Fantasy and mix with a dash of cheap Wuxia. Season with a liberal dose of Oriental culture and serve hot. Basically, a young warrior is outcast, and his clan is decimated. He goes off in a journey to learn about his past and perfect his swordmanship. He meets a fellow Seiryu disciple and manages to save the world from ruin. (Must every RPG protagonist be a hero?)
I would have liked to see more influence from Wuxia, all the characters in Kingdom of Paradise use some type of a bladed weapon. You don't get to see the fantastic weapons like bladed gauntlets and even top heavy polearms. However, you do see the question of loyalty and honor - two ideas that consistantly run through the fabric of good Wuxia.
However, one problem with wuxia inspired things is that you get a whole bunch of estoric names for places. It gets confusing as the game progresses...you'd be playing twenty questions with the locals as you try to figure out where to go next.
Gameplay - 6/10
This game could have been shortened drastically. Mostly, all your missions consist of "run from town A to town B and fight something monsterous". Combat is interesting, and rooted in Wuxia also. You can collect scrolls that illustrate fighting styles called bugei. The stances are called kenpu and can slot into bugei to create unique and interesting fighting styles. With five clans and thirty kenpu each, you can create some extreme combinations. Unfortunately, enemy encounters are very staged, and you know after crossing the area once, how many enemies and where they will attack.
Magic in Kingdom of Paradise is governed by the Oriental concept of chi(qi). It is the combination of spirit, body and mind...but in the game, there are actual places that govern chi. Again, each clan has it's own style of chi. For example, Suzaku uses fire chi whilst Seiryu uses wood chi. The symbols representing each clan resemble kanji for the five elements of wood, water, metal, fire, and earth.
Graphics - 9/10
Let's talk about the cutscenes first. The cutscenes are beautiful, and the backgrounds are a tiny bit distracting. Kingdom of Paradise places a copy of the figures behind them, sort of a reflected image. I wish Climax didn't put in this idea into play, as they ruined the movies's dramatic impact by having those "reflections" behind the characters.
Backgrounds in the rest of the game are done really well. Waterfalls and water lilies are perfectly rendered, making you want to visit Ouka to see the sights. When Shinbu walks in waer, he splashes water up in little footprints that fade with time.
Sound - 8/10
What's that? Is my compact disk player on? No...it's the score for Kingdom of Paradise. The music uses a combination of Oriental instruments, like the two stringed instrument called an "er hou" and some modern instruments like flutes to convey the mood. The music changes in relation to what Shinbu is doing - the battle music is a driving mass of drums and the music before a hostile miltary invasion is drums too, but with a meek and scared seeming overtone.
The only dark side to all these music effects are the enemy taunts; they all sound completely the same. You can tell what type of Kirin enemy is attacking just by the battle cry. Fighting bosses provides more aural rape. The bosses have one or two taunts that they use constantly...Shinbu is no better, when he's faced with any enemy his battle cry is a dry "Come on!".
Thank goodness you can adjust background music and effects volume in one of the menus!
There is voice-acting in this game. In fact, all of the cutscenes are done remarkably well. There are the problems inherent from using voice-acting, the voice-actors don't pair up well with the onscreen characters and translation of dialogue. One of the female characters is supposed to be sixteen years old and she sounds like she's middle aged instead.
The English dialogue that the characters have shows an inaccurate translation team for Climax, although. The word senpai means master or mentor in Japanese. It's a common mistake to make in translation, to use "senpai" in a sentence that already contains the English word in reference to another character.
Note to parents and guardians, this is an "teen" rated offering...and there is mild swearing in the game. No sign of the f-word although.
Control - 7/10
Button mapping is wonderfully done here. The shoulder buttons change active bugei and switch between equipped items. The X button is used to throw your sword, the square button is used to charge magic, and the triangle button is used both for attacking and defending.
The combat mapping is a tad annoying. You'd get hit a couple of times before Shinbu decides to block a sword hit, and swing out of the way of combos.
Multiplayer - 2/10
The multiplayer in Kingdom of Paradise screams afterthought. Just two modes only. One to trade kenpu and the other to fight as Shinbu against each other's bugei. I would have liked to see a multiplayer cooperative mode, a la Double Dragon. Imagine two Shinbu's fighting side-by-side, or even one person controlling the enemies and one controlling Shinbu himself.
Trading kenpu is a bit like trading Pokemon, each person has to verify that he or she wants to trade the kenpu. The bugei exhibition mode is all too easy, as some people have collected 100% of all kenpu, whilst others are still starting out on their journeys.
Extras - 3/10
Your reward for finishing the game once is a "hard mode". In it, you are faced with defeating enemies with a much extended health bar and many more enemies. An example are the archers, in the "hard mode" they use exploding shots to knock Shinbu down. The bosses aren't much harder although, the normal enemies are.
Also, Climax designed a few weapons and kenpu that can be downloaded through wifi access. These require passwords and a steady hand to input them in the PSP's lousy text entry forms. These weapons and items make the game all too easy as they boost up Shinbu's power too much.
Final Thoughts - 7/10
A half-way decent choice in the limited area of RPG psp games. I spent the better part of three months defeating this game completely. If you aren't such a rubbish player like me, you'd finish this game easily and painlessly. If you fall into that category, you'd do well to rent this game for a couple of weeks, you'd finish it by then. If you are a really bad player, buy this game, but get a decent guide for it...you wouldn't regret it!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 02/27/06
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