When I saw Children of Zodiarcs on Kickstarter, I was intrigued. Their descriptions brought to mind classic RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Ogre Battle, evoking memories of the Strategy RPGs that so many of us loved as kids. They then mixed that with promises of incorporating the dice and deck style mechanics that board game aficionados are so familiar with, bringing together two seemingly disparate playstyles to create a happy family.
An ambitious goal. Not only in taking two completely different genres and tying them together, but also breaking into an already-niche genre dominated by well-established heavy hitters like Final Fantasy, Disgaea, and Fire Emblem as an indy game. Could a small studio pull this off? Could they live up to the Kickstarter promises or would this be just another example of a Kickstarter promising more than they could deliver?
The Persona series’ Velvet Room has always defined each game. In Persona 3, the room appeared as an elevator representing one of the game’s core story themes. In Persona 4, it is a limousine shrouded in fog signifying our protagonist’s current transient state. Persona 5 ups the symbolism a notch by making the Velvet Room the prison that is meant to be a window into the lead character’s current peril.
Within the first hour of your time with Persona 5, you’ll come to the realization that the story here is not light-hearted. For all that the music is extremely up-beat, what we’re dealing with her is a story of misfits ground down by the world and trying to strike back – to reclaim some sense of life for their lives. In Persona 5, our protagonist – known by the code name Joker – forms a group of thieves known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts and seeks to right the wrongs of the society that has failed him by stealing the twisted hearts of the wicked who are preying upon the innocent. Sounds simple, right?
Welcome to Fejite, the home of the Alzano Imperial Magic Academy – the most respected and prestigious institution of its type. Attending Alzano are Sistine Fibel and Rumia Tingel, two of the show’s protagonists. Their school life is happy and fulfilling until one of their teachers goes on an unexpected extended leave and is replaced by Glenn Radars who – at first glance – appears to be a lazy, good-for-nothing fool with no qualifications for the job.
Sistine, being the diligent student she is, quickly comes to hate the new teacher, and this escalate from there… but is he really as incompetent as he seems?
In Seiren, we get to watch three separate mini-series style storylines featuring the school life of protagonist Kamita Shoichi as he gets involved with our three female leads: Tsuneki Hikari, Miyamae Toru, and Kyoko Tono. Over the course of three 4-episode arcs, you’ll get to see his relationship with each of these young ladies develop in pretty standard slice of life form.
If you’re afraid that you might be stepping into harem territory here, fear not. There are no harems here, only pure slice of life. You see, the show’s writers chose a unique format… each 4-episode arc occurs in the same year, but on a slightly different timeline. Essentially, each four episodes assumes that the other episodes haven’t happened and won’t happen and provide a complete story.
A few years back, one of the most unique games I’ve ever played came out… a strange gem called ‘Nier’. Nier was not a great game, but it had such charm that it was hard not to love it. It featured gameplay ideas from a wide variety of genres, numerous endings, awkward mechanics, and an amazing soundtrack. Somehow this mix of disparate ideas, awkward implementation, and amazing music created one of the most interesting and memorable RPGs I’ve played, even if the game was nowhere near perfect. And as interesting as it was… it did not sell well.
Given that, you can imagine my surprise when SquareEnix announced a sequel coming, developed in conjunction with Platinum Games, a developer notable for great, unique action games – surprise, and excitement. When thinking about the strange and wonderful ideas the Nier team had to begin with, and matching those up with the polish Platinum is known for… it really felt like the chance for Nier to shine how it deserved. The big question: Did it live up to these escalated expectations or did it disappoint?