Review by ZanuffShadow

"A hack 'n' slash game that's more cute than fun"

First off, let it be said that the score of 6 does not, in my opinion, depict Maple Story as a bad game. Instead, it merely offers to assign a feeling of mediocrity to this side-scrolling MMORPG, which I must admit is a novel idea.

For those of you unfamiliar with the hack 'n' slash genre of MMORPGs (or other types of games, for that matter), Maple Story is pretty fundamental. You have a weapon, you kill monsters that don't kill you in a couple hits, you level up, you put points into skills and stats, you get money, you buy better equipment to kill harder monsters, rinse, and repeat. Sounds pretty dull and repetitive, so why is it so popular then, especially in Asia? And why is it becoming increasingly popular now that the English version is playable?


===== GAMEPLAY =====

The gameplay is very straightforward; like mentioned earlier, it employs a side-scrolling effect so it feels something like a Super Mario Bros. game and I'm sure many other people use this same comparison. You can jump around on platforms and whack anything that gets in your way, but you can't jump on the little mushrooms (or the big ones for that matter) to kill them, unfortunately. You can also assign items, skills, and magic (if you're a mage) to a variety of keys so that you have mostly whatever you need at your fingertips. It's easy to learn and even easier to play- walk, press a key if need be, and move on. Some sections and quests of the game may be a bit difficult to maneuver at first, but with some practice and proper timing it should prove to be a moderately difficult task at best.

Movement is controlled by the arrow keys, and the default keys assigned to attack and jump are Ctrl and Alt, respectively. The simplicity of the game is a plus, I suppose, since just about anyone can walk around with a weapon in their hand and go up to an enemy and mash Ctrl to kill it. Ranged characters have it pretty much the same, except they mash Ctrl (or whatever key they've assigned) from a distance.

Maple Story also has the ever popular character customization that gives somewhat of a choice to users in how they look. For instance, certain gears that have the exact same stats will look different, either in appearance (such as some Warrior Helmets) or color (Magician Hats). Shirts, pants, and shoes also have different colors and styles to choose from, and even certain weapons can look nothing alike but have the same performance. People tend to stick with one certain "set" of armor/weapons, however, but then again that's not the fault of the game developers. Still, you often find someone who looks exactly like you... no, excuse me, you find a lot of someones who all look exactly like you, at least until you move a bit higher up the level tree.

A few extras Maple Story has are pressing down to lie down on the floor (required for some maneuvering in certain quests) and the ever-popular anime facial expressions that range from a smirk to a big smile to an angry face to a constipated look.

Perhaps the only gripe is the way experience and monsters are set up in the game. It comes to the point where you are in the same area, preferably with a high respawn rate, killing the same few monsters (or in some cases, the same monster) again and again for a few hours to level up once, twice, or if you're lucky, several times. Sure, the experience is good, but it gets a little dull after a while. Unless you're brain-dead or want to do anything other than study, this gets old and you'll find yourself wanting to do something else.

A minor whine and complaint, not really a full-blown gripe, is the lack of good hairstyles for the male characters. Almost all the males choose the 2nd ones because the other 2 just don't look that good. It's true and they all know it.

One difficulty in the controls that players might experience is that jumping over a monster in your way, while feasible, generally doesn't happen the way people want and results in damage taken that could have been otherwise avoided. This is annoying, but it's part of the game, so most people just take it in stride.

Verdict: No major complaints here, other than the repetitiveness. 7.5/10

===== SOUND =====

Cute music, nothing really catchy, although you might find yourself humming the tunes of certain maps while you're walking around the house. The music itself is above average, and few will find it annoying unless you've been in the same area for hours upon end, maybe even days if you're dedicated (and crazy) enough.

If you're kind of sadistic, like me, you might even find yourself laughing at the monsters when they make a little squealing or some otherworldly noise while they're on their death throes. It's the little amusement I found that kept me playing the game for that much longer.

Verdict: Simple is good, and Maple Story pulls through, with some funny on the side. 9/10

===== GRAPHICS =====

Maple Story is definitely heavily anime influenced, as is evident in the character and monster designs. The monsters will make little faces when they're getting hit and the players themselves will also grimace when they take damage. The art is also anime-like and produces a very cute and friendly looking environment that looks fun. The maps are drawn decently for the style of the game, and it fits quite well with the overall theme. Attention to detail is paid, for the most part, where its due, so at least the developers didn't slack off in this department. In fact, one of the first things that impressed me about this game was its overall look. It isn't convoluted and easily grabs the player's attention. Although certain areas tend to make a few players lost, most of the game has nicely detailed foregrounds and comparable backgrounds.

Verdict: Good job. Game has a very nice and friendly look that's enticing to players. 9/10

===== PLAYER BASE =====

Oh boy... here it comes... the massive rant. OK, so I won't rant on and on, although I really want to, but let it be said that Maple Story's player base isn't exactly filled with the sharpest crayons in the box. The majority of players in Maple Story are most likely either too young to understand rules or too old to care; few fall in between these two into the category of "civil" and, god forbid, "nice". This is not to say that everyone is a jerk, although you may be inclined to think that is the case, but suffice it to say a large portion of the player base are... well, jerks.

The biggest problem is kill-stealing, popularly known as KSing. This occurs when Person A is killing a monster when suddenly Person B runs over, whacks the monster a couple times and kills it, stealing part of the experience. Naturally, Person A wouldn't be happy about this, since he worked hard and perhaps spent a few potions worth just to kill this monster, and Person B just stole his kill, and thus part of his hard-earned experience. Sometimes it's unavoidable, especially in situations where you want to go somewhere but someone is killing a monster and they're both in your way. What's even worse is if they are doing piddling damage to it and expect you to sit there and wait for them to finish. HOWEVER, a lot of people just randomly walk up to other people's monsters and begin to attack with total disregard for any rules on civility. All they want to do is level, even if it resorts to stealing experience.

The worst of these are the people who do a decent amount of damage and run around killing enemies left and right, claiming everything for themselves. Since the item-gaining system is based on picking things up off the ground, and the person who did the most damage gets the items, this kind of KSer will end up getting part of the experience AND all the items. Quite annoying, indeed.

Common remedies have been developed, however, to combat these types of losers who love nothing more than to make other peoples' lives miserable. It's advisable to travel in a party where money and experience gained are shared; this way if all the people in your party attack one monster at the same time, the experience is shared and leaves less chance to KSers. Plus, with a party you have more people to help pick up all the items to safeguard against looters who just run around stealing items off the ground. Also, it is easy and quick to change a "channel" -- kind of like a server, in some respects -- to avoid someone on a certain channel who is known to KS and loot.

It all boils down to keeping an eye out for lamers that try to benefit on your work and time, and playing smart.

Verdict: Not bad, but with the side-scrolling genre comes many problems. 6/10

===== SO WHY IS IT SO POPULAR? =====

The game is repetitive. There are lots of losers in the game that seem like they're out to get you. Leveling is boring. The game is hard. And so on. These are many of the complaints that are voiced by players who've experienced Maple Story... and yet they continue to play the game. Why?

Probably because the fact that you have a character, you make and watch him (or her) grow, get stronger, fight better, and learn cool new skills, brings a sense of personal satisfaction. I mean, why else would people play RPGs? It's all about watching your guy kick the other guy's butt because it's funny and you love feeling superior. I know I do. That's why I played this game.

But somewhere along the line, it comes to an end. There are people who continue to watch their characters grow stronger and stronger, pouring hours and hours into the game, and there are other players who play for maybe a week or two just to satisfy curiosity. In any case, this game warrants at least a try, and it doesn't even take up that much memory space on the computer.

For hardcore fans of MMORPGs and especially hack 'n' slashes, this game should be right up your alley. Liking anime will probably make you like this game even more.

For the casual RPG/online gamer, this game will be fun for a while, especially if you bring your friends with you, but don't expect this to be a long-term commitment. Enjoy it while you play, then gradually taper off until you delete it.

For people who are easily angered, stay away. This game will only raise your blood pressure and make you want to curse at the top of your lungs. Seriously. I've seen rants on forums about this game that are just out of this world. It's like some people take this game so seriously it affects their real lives.

===== CONCLUSION =====

All in all, it's a quaint little game that is pretty fun-- no scratch that -- VERY fun for the first week or two. Then you either begin to love it even more, or hate it. It's your call. All I can suggest is that if you're an MMORPG and/or anime fan, give Maple Story a chance. You might find yourself liking it much more than I did and be glad that you took the time to play the game that will begin to suck up whatever's left of your social life.

I didn't enjoy this game quite as much as I thought I would, but you might.

GL HF and most importantly, DD. Because you lose experience if you die. And who wants to lose experience?

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/08/04

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