Review by ShadowAspect
"A solid entry into the PSP library by up and coming NIS"
This review is on the latest NIS America PSP offering, Aedis Eclipse - Generations Of Chaos. If you've looked at the FAQ sections already (or any of my old posts) then it's already obvious that this will be a positive review (one it does honestly deserve). However, I can also admit that it's not a perfect game and some of its problems are at least significant enough to warrant at least a rental first for those not interested in this genre initially. So, just how good or how bad is this game? Lets find out
Aedis covers three different campaigns, but all of these are supported by its own main storyline arc.
The basic premise is this: In ages past, the world of Aedis was a peaceful, tranquil world. However, much like in most any fantasy story in gaming, war and hatred and ambition led about to conflict. These conflicts lasted over time broken up between periods of truce but, unknown to it's world's inhabitants, their emotions were feeding and creating a monster known as Mugen. Mugen would eventually shatter Aedis into separate parts. One part would form as separate continents floating in the sky ..while a separate part would form underground, deep within the planet's layers. As the destruction was that terrible, the surviving population would retreat into a monolithic structure known as the Otherworld Tower. It would turn out that while the people of Aedis hid out here, 4 heroes would at the same time be setting out to (and would succeed) defeat Mugen. However, while they were able to defeat him, they were not able to destroy him and thus he was imprisoned on one of the floating continents in the sky that would be separated from normal reality and be known as the Forlusion. Eventually, the general populace would leave the tower to the broken world that remained, but not as a whole. A third would travel upwards to the top of the tower and settle on the largest floating continent (that was available) and over time would evolve into two separate societies based on the Angelic and Devil traditions and forms differing from their original selves. Another third of the population would travel to the bottom of the tower and settle in a new land and would split into 3 separate governing bodies of government (on a side note, close to 98% of the population here would turn out to be humans). The remaining survivors would choose to remain on the .well remains ..of Aedis. These people (made up of a wide variety of races) would form splintering kingdoms and reestablish their traditional cultures and customs. The heroes themselves responsible for Mugen's imprisonment would separate and go to the different worlds that now existed and would live out their remaining days in peace.
Over time however, the survivors would come to forget what their progenitors had gone thru or how they came to be who and what and more importantly where they were and was. Those who retreated underground would come to develop a sort of Steampunk style of technology and sophistication with trains, airships, and cybernetic power suits. For the most part, this world remained relatively peaceful, though over time leading up to the game's time this would come to an end. Those who retreated to the sky would return to their racial war and hate that existed between angel and devil (who would rename themselves the Hellions). Magic and magery is commonplace in this land as well. By the time the game starts however, there would be an uneasy peace in place. Meanwhile, the original surface dwellers would continue the petty conflicts that had existed all along off and on and the game finds itself in the middle of one of these conflicts as one particular kingdom shows dominance over all others existing ones. These people wouldn't develop much beyond what they originally were and would remain in a sort of fantasy medieval like setting with knights on horseback, castles, elves, etc.
Unknown to most however, several different Mugen Cults would spring up around the three worlds, preaching a dogma that Mugen would come back to the world and extinguish all life everywhere (basically a doomsday philosophy). Most of this would go unnoticed or be ignored, but one group known as the Saint Delus Society would see this as an omen that Mugen was breaking down the dimensional barrier that had imprisoned him and that he could very possibly be able to return to normal reality soon. However, they also had foreseen (as they had within their mists what would amount to soothsayers) 3 divergent people that would cross over the different real worlds and into Forlusion. As such and from behind the scenes, they would use their considerable powers to summon various heroes and anti heroes (and even villains) from other worlds beyond theirs (i.e. other Neverland/Idea Factory games) and be able to compel them into helping these 3 champions of their respective worlds without their knowing (save one, who would grow to truly resent what had happened and what they had tried to do to said self).
The story is very unique as it allows for seeing the distinctions between the three totally different cultures side by side thru the 3 different protagonists. For the lower world, the protagonist is called Quinn and he is a military undergraduate student at school who yearns for an adventure and gets exactly what he wants and more when a skirmish breaks out in his normally peaceful hometown between an unknown force and the local police. For the surface world, Duo is the main character and he is a member of a pirate brigade (think more like a Robin Hood style of group as opposed to say Blackbeard sensibilities) who is transporting a mysterious guest and gets caught up in an power struggle with an evil empire currently in the process of conquering the world (as they know it). For the divine world, the main character is the prince of the Hellions named Atrapollus .who has just suffered a death in his family .his Father, the previous ruler. As this death was (supposedly) at the hands of the Angel population of the world, the peace treaty is in the process of falling apart (much to the dismay of Atrapollus, who is in love with an Angel).
There's enough panache and creativity to the story for someone to really be able to hook into what happens. The only downside to all of this is that so much focus is put on the main characters and their immediate associates that there is a huge number of supporting cast (including those who were summoned by the Saint Delus Society) that can seem really just faceless and cardboard with little to no character development. It can be very distracting to an otherwise solid storyboarding.
Aedis has wonderful artwork when it comes to character portraits. It carries that distinctive Japanese style of eyes, hair, and body contours that will either really impress you or turn you off (depending on if you're a fan of anime or not). However, it's probably a foregone conclusion that if you're playing a Japanese strategy game of this ilk you have to at least tolerate this style of art and thus it doesn't disappoint.
Battles are done in ¾ perspective. The battles are of mid-era PS2 quality but are still very pretty and interesting in their SD style of artistic design and HD glory. Armies march towards each other in a sort of mute blind rage and then proceed to hack, chomp, or poke their way to victory. It's all very cute and gives a sense of hectic squad combat in glorious SD style. Again, you're probably a fan of this art style if you're even looking at this game more then once, so it won't disappoint. Commander type units come with their own special attacks and these are simplistic graphics but flashy and colorful in execution.
It's disappointing that, for all the effort put into other aspects of appearances that the overworld maps as well as the individual battlefield maps themselves are so completely generic and bleh. The overland map uses tiny symbols to represent different locations. Squares, triangles, circles, and the such litter the texture-less map. Battlefields are made up of predesigned squares set up in a boardgame sort of style such as what you would see in a game of say Monopoly (complete with simple towers, towns, and other random objects on certain squares). Sometimes especially at the beginning it can be hard to figure out just what it is you're going to be landing on .and it rests solely on the graphics on the battlefields as the cause of this. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that these two things are more PS1 graphic quality then PS2 and that's just a shame since it's obvious that more production efforts were put into other aspects of the game at the same time.
Quality wise, it's decent but not stellar. The music played has a nice tempo and ranges from melodic to rock music. However, since there are not that many tracks, one should expect to hear the same music (especially the different battle music types) over and over again. VO work is average, with some VO being very good and some being downright awful. You'll hear certain VOs over and over of course for things such as when a commander does a special attack for example, and those can sometimes just sound so funny and out of place but you just have to keep in mind that it all fits into the same Anime mold common even to this day (think for example how characters announce their attacks in DBZ or Bleach .it's somewhat similar). Sound Effects are also in the range of generic with several monster noises being reused for different monster types. All around, it's average across the board. It won't distract too much, but it's not going to knock your socks off either.
In any campaign, you control a set number of units (made up of at a minimum of a Unit Commander .and then populated with a front line and a back line of troops that can be the same or different types and then also a Vice Commander should you have one available and very rarely a Summon). You move these units around on the battlefield board and take over different locations on the map or otherwise do battle with hostile forces. When battle does ensue, you can assign commands to your different groups (Leader, Partner, Front Line, Back Line, Summon but in that case only if you want to use a special power) as you see fit. Combat is mostly an automatic affair in much of the same way as it was in its spiritual ancestor, Dragon Force. This may turn some people off, but you have to keep in mind that this is a strategy game and as such the focus is on proper tactics planning as opposed to live action.
Each side is limited to 5 turns max per round .to try and limit swarming tactics to a certain degree. A turn consists of moving a unit around on the map but not other actions (such as exploring a map spot). Each unit can only move once a round total and only within its movement range (determined as its own stats). This actually works well as it provides a certain amount of depth to the gameplay.
You can usually get away with (if you're so inclined) rapidly moving thru the different story chapters thru most of the game, but eventually if you haven't been properly leveling your units (or enough units) you will get to a point that you have to grind levels on characters. Thankfully, all levels are playable once you've completed them on their story event.
Menus can be a little intensive in terms of layers and what you can do. This can sometimes make things a little hard to follow at the beginning. Thankfully, there's a tutorial at the start of the lower world campaign (what the game considers the easy first story to follow). It should be noted that in terms of other Neverland games, it's a drastic improvement over previous entries. Another improvement is in load times ..it's a lot better then many other Neverland games ..though you will occasionally see them (such as when they load VOs for special attacks) it's not too bad at all. Not perfect of course, but not bad either.
The biggest problem with gameplay however is Battle AI and Pathing. As you have to give orders and not directly control units, you tend to need as solid of an AI as possible. Sadly, Unit AI (for both Friendlies and Hostiles) is borderline dumb at times and some units (especially captains) take off in odd directions or will run by a target from time to time. It can lead to occasional bouts of swearing and frustration. Many times, it won't be anything significant however, it will make you wonder how it made it thru debugging at Idea Factory's office.
It should be said that this is a notable improvement over some of Idea Factory's other offerings (or NIS's for that matter) and it is a good entry into an otherwise spartan category of games on the PSP. Lately, NIS has stepped up with production of more and more software for Sony platforms (this being the most recent PSP product and PS2 getting GrimGrimoire maybe a few weeks prior to the writing of this review). This is a good thing as it's important to have companies like NIS providing an alternative to main-stream genre games. Here's to looking forward to the further improvements of future games.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 07/13/07
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