Review by DestructoYue
"Origins outshines the original in almost every way!"
Having just finished the game a few hours ago (70+ hours in 9 days of playing time), I've come to several conclusions about the game that all point towards a 10/10 score. Read on if you'd like to see why for the fifth time, I give a 10!
At first, I had trouble grasping the idea of the new setup, but after a couple hours of playing, I got the hang of it and was hooked. The speed is better than that of many RPGs, despite the fact it uses a card-based battle setup. Starting with a small deck of basic cards, battles take place in 3D zones with excellent enemy and character modelling that matches up with, in my opinion, some of the best ever on GameCube. Speedier combat is only part of the game. Exploring is a big factor, and as with many games, a 'run' option is employed by tilting and holding the control stick at a stronger angle, but an extra option which allows you to fly short distances -- sometimes only part of a screen before having to take a break -- can be used while holding the B button. From Subquests to exploration, Battles to cutscenes that let the story unfold, it's excellent. Without going into much detail, the cards used in battle each contain a unique number, ranging from 0-6. Starting with a low number and working your way higher, you can create a combo, and Relay Combos as well.
Every area seems to have been given a great amount of thought, from menus to music, backgrounds to battles, it's all wonderful. One new area to this game in particular was surprisingly different than I had expected when I learned of it months ago, well before having seen it for myself. Definitely looking at it from an artistic level, it's one of the most unique things I've seen in a video game, and it only adds to the level of beauty, while staying "simple". Being that this is a prequel, certain areas aren't available, while others are exclusive to this title. The voice acting fits well, and although it grates on my nerves at times, it's much less than I had anticipated it would be. A few typos and missing words are annoying though... Having said that, we'll move on to the story.
I'm still partial to the original game on this point. The introduction is peculiar... but, well, let's just say that the story has far more intriguing points, with plenty of plot twists to drive you forward, hoping to see what will be next. Boss battles are well done, adding to the story in a lot of cases. Characters seem to show plenty of emotion, whether it's spoken dialogue, or text, and a lot have their own, unique "personalities", which goes a long way in an RPG with a drawn out story that spanned, for me, 70+ hours -- with plenty of Subquests, etc. to make it even longer. That's not to say the story is without lows, too. I would very highly suggest that, if you play the games for the first time, play this one first. There's far less overall spoiler-wise if you do it that way. Having known about a few things in advance, it was interesting to see how it played out, but far more still I would assume if I didn't know what was to come in the future.
The only thing keeping this from a perfect score is the fact that a bit more animation could've been used during the in-game cutscenes. The gorgeous, wonderfully done backgrounds really seem to mix well with the characters. Not once did I see a person who seemed completely "out of place" in a town, or otherwise. Each of the areas seemed to contain some form of unique style and characters. Battles, which are done through the use of 3D 'zones' as I like to call them, sometimes involve cutscenes as well, which really helped to drive the story onward, while giving you an actual reason to be fighting. They look amazing, and seem to be more stunning than the first game. Character models are fairly well detailed, and when I saw some of the character portraits that pop up when someone is speaking, it helped to see different expressions to fit the mood of the dialogue. Next up is sound.
What can I say about sound, other than it is more amazing than the first. Gone is the strange effect that makes things sound a bit muffled, which allows for sharper audio during spoken lines. The music is brilliant, and composed as wonderfully as I expected -- more so at times. Sometimes, I found myself stopping, just to listen to the next new song that began to play when I entered an area. Voice acting is done well, and some lines just wouldn't have ANY effect on you without being spoken aloud, and I'm glad they chose to use voices on them. The emotional impact of hearing characters speak is much greater than reading lines on-screen (although it still has plenty of moments when text-only is appropriate, and does a good job getting the point across to the player). If ever a soundtrack is publicly made available (in the US in my case), I would gladly pick it up, and suggest to others they do the same, as it would be a great addition to any collection.
Replay Value/Subquests/Miscellaneous Content: 9.5/10
Admittedly, it deserves a 10, but I found a few parts annoying, due to difficulty or not knowing what to do next. It offers the option of Easy for Battle Mode, but I found it more likely that people should use Normal, as it goes faster, which creates more time towards progressing the story and other things. One battle took upwards of 54 Minutes for me to complete it, having not known a strategy or anything for it, whereas the shortest took a mere 34 Seconds. Subquests (listed as you gain them in the menu) are useful, but also funny if you pay close attention to what a few of the characters might say to get you started. Clues are almost always given, but they can be vague to the point it will take you until hours later before you realize it, and you say to yourself, "Ohhh, so that's what it was..." Luckily, there seem to be multiple opportunities for Quest Magnus in a lot of cases, so it's less frustrating, but having found the ones you need, and thrown them away for whatever reason, it can be tough to know where to go for them without some sort of list of where to find them. Miscellaneous content would include things like speaking to NPCs who deliver some hilarious lines at times, although it takes a bit of thought to really "get" the meaning of them in a few parts (or maybe I'm just strange, and laugh at the wrong things). Replay value is rather low, since it's an RPG and once you know the story, it's practically done, but with tons of Subquests, one of which that may or may not count could last many, many hours just on it's own if completed, and still add enjoyment long after. All of that said, it's great to finally have another RPG on Gamecube!
Overall Score: 10/10
The last section is by far the most important. I'd say people should buy this game, only if they can look past the "cards" and enjoy it for what it is. It's much quicker paced, and the rewards are great for playing, as some of the best plot twists come after a difficult battle (or is it before?) and you really should take the time ti play it. If you rent it, be prepared for several times, as it's a long, long game, spanning many varied environments, filled with beautiful artwork, and intelligently written dialogue that enhances the experience. If you play this game, and complete it, and never once smiled, laughed, or said "Wow!" at some point, then all you must be is a lifeless puppet with no magna essence to call your own, and you should see a Doctor for a check-up!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 10/09/06
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