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Lackluster in some places, but it really does try to make up for it’s short comings.

Little Wing Guy plays Tales of Ateria an Rm2k3 game made by Riku Rocks. Demo Version 1.

Why should you play this game?
- Buckets of RPG Maker nostalgia and charm. I did not complete the demo because I wanted to review it, I just couldn’t stop playing.
- Clear effort was put into this game. Lot’s of cool ideas, no bugs and thought out dungeon design.
- Lenghty demo with lots of content.

Why should you give it a miss?
- No “wow!” moments and the game is limited to a target audience.
- Lack of challenge. Battles are too easy.
- Mapping quality varies and it’s got the worst world map that I have ever come across.

Review:

Tales of Ateria was dumped onto RMN’s database, with zero promotion and three forest screenshots. Only described with the words “Old school” and “basic” stamped on, it sounded like my kind of game! This game is not a “Tales of” fan game though, despite the fact that it shares the name, uses Technique Points instead of Magic Points, battle voices when using a skill, music and sound effects from the series and even pays direct homage to Tales of Destiny by mirroring a scene from the opening of the game. Fan game? Nope! Nu-uh! Tales of Ateria is set in a world where a magical energy called Tetra governs everything in life, SPOILER ALERT! Life is important. The story follows the adventure of Van and company as he discovers he is the next Tetra Seer, a person who appears every century and constantly spouts Tetra Energy from their being like a foul body odour, in simple terms; he is the chosen one. The problem is a young girl named Ariel also is a Tetra Seer, and well, there has only ever been one at a time before. Events unfold and eventually you have to go on a pilgrimage to light all the elemental seals around the world to bring about a time of peace until the next Tetra Seer appears, while an evil group want to kidnap you for reasons unknown. It only sounds like Tales of Symphonia a whole lot.

As the game begins we are given something I was not expecting to see in this game. A skip introduction feature. I wept. I know nothing of RikuRocks as a game developer but from the vibes you get off of the game page, my hopes where not that high. I thought that this must be a very early game, perhaps his second attempt at RPG Maker. The truth is, this very much feels like a first game but amazingly manages to dodge some of the common traps that early games fall into, yet still keeps all of that wonderful charm. Whether this be from some godly beta tester, multiple play throughs or the creator actually knew what he was doing, I have no idea. If you so choose to watch the anime inspired introduction, it’s unintentionally hilarious. Characters stand around on cliff tops, looking around doing nothing why pumpy Japanese rock music blasts away.


But, wait. I’ve forgotten what game I’m playing! Can anyone tell me?



The story, as you can probably tell is a pretty generic and standard fare as are the predictable underdeveloped cast. We have our usual varied protagonists, the hero Van wants to help everyone, Aron is a total coward and Ariel is a damsel in distress with a hidden power. The villains also get some screen time too, although we aren’t show their plight. This could be due to the fact that everything is, of course, a mystery at this early point. Velcross does stick out though (enough for me to remember his name). He acts as a comic relief second hand villain (I hope intentionally) and he gets some good stuff to say. The problem is, the characters are a little bit one dimensional and unexplored, they have their one personality trait and no real back-story; which is fine I guess if they develop during their travels but we don’t deduce our own feelings about characters early on. For example: the author keeps telling us that Aron is a coward, instead of showing us from the start. The later two party members are complete blank states, especially Richt who undergoes twelve personality transplants in the space of an hour and says whatever is necessary for the plot to continue. None of our characters have exchanges you would expect to see or disagree with one another much, they’re all on the same wave length, hand in hand, skipping down lollypop lane together. They drop core issues if it would trouble plot advancement. A big offender of this is Aron, he happily leaves the village by himself to find Van, when earlier he was too afraid to help a dying girl in the woods because she might be too dangerous! It’s kind of a double edged sword. I could argue that part of the games charm comes from the brief exchanges between characters, the game doesn’t want you to get wrapped up in relationships with the characters too much. It wants the plot to keep moving all the time. It is a plot driven story with Van as the star, I get that, but a game cannot rely solely on a weak plot with characters that are not consistent! It’s hard to like someone who’s hot and then cold, yes and then no, up and then down, wrong when its right, it’s black and it’s white.

The games pacing isn‘t too bad. We start the opening with our sister violently waking us up with the dialogue “Your friend was looking for you earlier, you‘re so lazy, our mums dead and the mayor wants you to find his trousers” but it doesn’t move at a snails pace, I quite liked that it isn’t in a hurry to get you going right of the bat, because pace picks up later and it doesn‘t feel like nothing eventful has happened an hour in. It doesn’t force you to do anything you don’t want either, if you want to explore the town, cool! And you will be rewarded, but there’s no one standing at the town gate with some pointless excuse for him to hinder your progress. You can go wherever you want and the world map is MASSIVE. The pacing is quite good after the opening, the plot and characters were both very predictable yet charming, but ultimately some will feel there’s still something left to be desired in that department.

Enemies are sprites on the map, they were mostly easy to avoid but they acted very unpredictably, you could walk right past them and they wouldn’t care at all, then suddenly they get a short burst of blood lust and chase you down! The maps are also littered with tons of enemies, you didn’t know what they were going do, it was kind of like; if you were going to do all this, why not save yourself the trouble and set it to the built in function of random battles? Especially since when enemies are killed they fade and after a certain period of time the screen flashes and they re-animate. It was cool but I would have preferred they disappeared entirely until you left the dungeon because the game throws enough battles at you.

The battles themselves have one major downfall. They are easy. It’s not a “I could play this in my sleep” way, but I don’t think I ever saw the game over screen, and for me to say that? You’ve got a problem on your hands. In simple terms, they weren’t challenging enough to be enjoyed to the fullest. Characters learn around four or five skills by the time you’re at the demos final dungeon and they’re all useful enough for different situations. The problem? The only thing that makes them diverse is each person has a different elemental affinity. Typically in a JRPG such as this, elements play a big part in battles but here, it didn’t seem to matter if I had Aron cast Earth or Richt to cast Thunder. The enemy still promptly died! This is quite lucky really though, as there was no way to tell what enemies are weak to apart from guessing. I’m thinking of other RPG Maker games and commercial ones like Final Fantasy ten and Lost Odyssey, they all have very approachable systems in place to help with elemental strengths and weaknesses. You should think about a way to import this into your game. Obviously the boss battles are more of a challenge, but the final boss of the demo was the only one I had actual trouble with. Something that sets it apart from other games that use the DBS is a limit break condition called “Unlimit”, but it’s not handled in a conventional way. It’s an item, used in the same way you would a potion. This state of “Unlimit” turns you into an ultimate badass, it doesn’t give you any new skills to mess around with unfortunately but it does send your stats sky high for exactly five turns, it turns any battle in your favour. The fact that it was an item was interesting but, it meant I often forgot I had some and I only ended up using it twice, and one of those was during the tutorial boss. Another thing I did find it interesting was that Van, the male main character also served as the healer of the group.


What a beautiful world map! *pukes blood*


Aesthetically, the game is a mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing terrible going on visual wise and the music choice is spot on for every area. First of all, on the good side of things; anything natural, he’s got down. The forest dungeons look great, there are multiple winding paths that are easy enough to navigate, there are plenty of goodies to find and straight lines are mostly absent. He’s gone a bit over the top with canopies though, and by a bit I mean a lot! These forests are the densest RPG Maker forests I’ve ever seen. The final mountain dungeon is mapped well too with an interesting gimmick. The dungeon teases you with chests just out of reach and it took me a minute to figure out how to get to them. You also have to roll a boulder on one of five switches and it opens up a different door at the end. You aren’t told what these switches do or why there’re here though so you just sort of fool around with it for a bit and move on. Since you’re not alerted to what it does until you reach the end of the dungeon, I had to backtrack at least three times.

However, I was somewhat less happy with the look of the towns exterior. They’re aren’t ugly but they are certainly a lot more empty. You can kind of see that each town was sort of thrown together and left alone, it looks like he had a bit of trouble with there design, but they seem so off because they’re all missing simple things like paths and fences which would have greatly improved presentation. They may have NPCs walking around but the town doesn’t look like people live there. Does that make sense? I think the creator plays to his strengths and spends more time designing dungeons than town exteriors. Building interiors are a different story. It’s almost like the game had two mappers or the project was picked up after he had improved. The interiors are compact, pretty and very well put together. There are lots of interesting houses and every one is worth a visit for different reasons. One house, in the second town is a puzzle which you can solve, it was nice to go in there and see something totally unexpected. I was thoroughly impressed by the look and layout of both the dungeons and especially town interiors.

Fucking massive is an understatement for the games horrible world map. Every time I was ready to leave an area I got scared. I was frightened that I’d never been able to find my way back once I got lost, because you always get lost on this world map. It’s inevitable. No one in this game thinks to tell you which direction you need to head in, that would be excusable if there were paths leading you to actual places. The creator clearly thinks you should use the path tool make random circles every now and then. There’s a little patch of forest, then a little patch of dirt and then a big patch of nothing. Repeat. FOREVER. No eye candy and certainly no distinguishable features or patterns to prevent you from getting lost. If you were walking around or driving in your car, going to a new place, what helps you?… whoever just said Sat Nav can get out! I’m talking about signposts of course! No one ever thinks to put these on a world map.

Conclusion:

The game has it’s fair share of neat ideas, some implemented better than others. By pressing shift the game offers a synopsis, a brief update on the latest event, telling you where you’re heading and why. There are push block puzzles scattered around that aren’t just “push block - block moves”, you grab a hold, it changes colour to notify you have grabbed it, and it moves back and forth with you. Everytime you enter a new place a picture pops up at the top telling you where you are. I really liked all this but the game ends up as a completely average RPG Maker game. Tales of Ateria doesn’t look terrible enough to be insulted and doesn’t look good enough to be complimented, therefore, it’s been downloaded a whopping three hundred times and has been on the site for over two years. The only real comment on the game page is mine! It’s a shame really, it is a perfectly average game with all things considered but, if you’re looking for standard Japanese RPG experience, then you’ll have fun with this. I did!

SCORE NOT AVAILABLE, AS IT IS ONLY A DEMO

Posts

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OH MY GOD, SOMEBODY ACTUALLY REVIEWED THIS PIECE OF CRAP.

Thanks for the review, I didn't even think anybody remotely cared about this. Yeah... That... Opening...
I kind of did that as a joke, just to see what it would look like, and left it in. Thank God i left in the option to skip it. That mirror with Tales of Destiny, I didn't even notice when I made that part! I guess I subconsciously put it in. And that thing with the game's name under the battle backs, they only took up the top and I didn't want the bottom to be bare, and I made this on a Win98 comp, and the LNG of the logo got saved like that...

A few of the characters do get their backstory explained later on, Snowe's in particular I had fun crafting, and I had more haracters I was eager to have in the game but wasn't that far in. Richt is supposed to be a little serious, but enjoys screwing with people, so he tends to act odd. All the fun interactions with the characters I had planned out a bit later in the story, and some characters did hit friction at one point. In fact, I had the story for this whole game mapped out in my head! I just had to actually get the work done.

Speaking of maps, I do tend to do better on nature and interiors than other things. I was NEVER good with designing town exteriors, probably my worst skill in map making. That said, the world map WAS horrible. But that was because I didnt really try with it. If I do a world map, I want to do it well, but it takes time, and I didn't want to spend that time on the world map that you'll only see little of. I was going to really spruce it up for the full game, so I figured the demo could settle with the crap that it was. I figured since there were no battles, no one would have a problem exploring it. Guess so.

I kind of bad this feeling everyone was like me and screwed with the games they downloaded in the editor. Because if you had done that with my game, you'd know I ended the demo with a simple switch, and if turned off it actually went on a little longer! In fact, put in a bunch of neat stuff that was to be in the full game, like the titles and some of their effects, for example, the one that gives Van a suit, and changes the dialog of every female NPC in the game to flirt with him. Had fun with that one, and a few that changed some story dialogue. I also had a bunch of crap premade for the whole thing, and if you kept leveling the characters, you eventually get their late game stuff.

This was my first release online, but CERTAINLY not my first time using the editor. I've made dozens of games, all scrapped very early or left unfinished, so I'm very familiar with the workings. I also play others' games and know what design flaws to avoid... Mostly. But nope, I had high hopes for this game, but eventually I got tired of it and dropped it shortly after releasing this demo.

But you know, I still have the story in my head...
You’re welcome mate! The review is slightly on the harsh side, I tend to focus on the downsides more when I review, that’s just how I do it. I originally gave it a 2.5 or 3 star score before I decided that only complete games should get a rating. So I did enjoy it.

Like I said a million times in the review, the game has a nice sincere charm to it, that reminded me why I came here in the first place. I don’t know if you’ll ever make anything again, but you’re definitely a developer I’m interested in. Good luck whether you decide to make anything else or not.
I've actually got an idea I'm working on for an classic-style RPG with a more complex and modern battle system, which may need the scripting of RMXP or RMVX, though I'll probably use some other engine. I also have character and world designs in my head, and want to do EVERYTHING original. It may be a little ambitious, but I'm still in the planning stages to get how everything will work out, but that's something I really want to do. Probably will be a while before I even start making it. I just do with what RPG Maker and resource sites give me, for now.
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