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A great mystery, but annoying combat.

Audio -- 4

The music in the game is beautifully crafted, and really adds the perfect feel to almost everywhere in the game. One notable exception being when you enter the "twisted" version of the jails -- which I think actually includes several other portions of under the town -- you get a feeling of being rushed or desperate from the music, rather than a feeling of horror (which is what I would feel if the walls looked like they were made of flesh). Sounds, however, almost all (a few exceptions would probably be the screams, etc.) just RTP, so really nothing special there. One annoying factor, however, is the utter lack of a victory fanfare; this breaks the mood when you finish battle as the normal background music starts in the middle of the battle interface. Rather than having a feeling of "Woo! We lived!!" you get a feeling of "Great... another monster down... where's the next group of them that I really don't want to fight, but come after me anyways...". With the difficulty of many of the fights in the game, compared to your average RPG, the first SHOULD be the feeling you get.

Despite that, as I said already, the music is very fitting -- from the music of the village, to the many battle themes -- and definitely shouldn't be overlooked.



Graphics -- 3

V&V featured the 'tall' Mack sprites for all of the characters, as well as all most maps being built using Mack's Tileset (a few exceptions being in some of the "twisted" and weird maps, though it doesn't detract since, for the most part, the mapsets are not mixed).

The maps are created in a way that really helps to set the mood, given with a gray-ish tint, and usually followed with rain to emphasize the feeling of mystery... The "twisted" maps really give the feeling that something weird is going on -- trees in an icy cavern, lava and back rocks in a library, basements being consumed by ice or fleshy walls -- and plays upon the fear of the unknown, while the mirror zone creates a feeling of mystery, especially since you can feel that it has a much larger role than you can originally see. Also, of note, the maps are definitely crafted at an above-par level when compared to many other RMVX games.

The battlers for the enemies look rather on the cartoony side, which helps to fit in with the comical side of the game... if you have a certain character join you. Otherwise, many of the battlers feel out of place with the overall feel of the game, since they are all cell-shaded cartoon-looking beasts. Ability graphics are generally sub-par, usually consisting of mostly of flashes, and simple animations based off of RTP animations; with this particular side-view battle system, it wouldn't have been difficult to include a few flashy battle animations. Also, of note, the resized battlers (such as the bosses) are extremely pixelated, which make them look very low-end for quality.

Not nearly as important, the menus and text are all sharp, though the character status menu is the same, bland, RTP variety.



Gameplay - 3

Plenty of good, yet still plenty of bad.

Probably the best thing about the game is how open-ended gameplay is, as well as how it evolves. You can (usually) choose what enemies to fight, what places to explore, and when to do that exploration. Depending also on how long you spend playing the game (which WILL transition into how often you sleep at the inn), the world around you will change... becoming more and more on the weird and mysterious side -- buildings appear, new passages open, people come and go, answers are given but more questions are given. Slowly, you are sucked into an ever-changing world which will have you constantly guessing. The game is even open-ended enough that you can play solo without any other party members (with the game adapting to that playstyle as well), as well as having the ability to choose (or even create) your class and select a difficulty for the game.

Next up on the good is the character design: every character you can have join your party has a little something to give to it, and themselves have something completely unique about them. I'm not only mentioning the character design for the gameplay values presented, but also for the aestetics of the game. For example, the character Telia has a rather superficial outlook on everything, or so she pretends. She acts as if everything is about sex, stealing, swindling, fun, and appearance -- never looking deeper than the skin; however she appears to have a crush on the Main Character, who can never seem to realize this, despite all of her teasing of him. The Main Character (hereafter referred to as MC) also seems to resent everything that Telia did to him in the past (which, as far as I can tell, is never told in great detail). However, if you allow her to join your party, he seems to warm up to her somewhat, teasingly calling her "shorty", though still seems somewhat angry about whatever happened before. As you play through the game, more details about each character slowly openning up... details such as the fact that Telia sleeps in the nude, and that the merchant in front of the inn is probably (though he refuses to openly admit it) involved in some bad business.

When you're not fighting enemies, you're exploring the town each day, seeing what's changed (as a general rule, something different DOES happen each and every day you sleep at the inn, whether you end up finding it or not), and seeing if any of it will lead to some sort of clue as to what's happened. Because of the fact that the world is never the same from day to day, you will generally never get bored of simply exploring, then sleeping, and exploring again; previously apparent dead ends open up into something new, new chests appear for you to loot, new clues appear, new enemies and characters show up (and one, elegedly, warps in too)... there's even a hidden vendor who will change his stock every few days.

However, with every pro, there are cons, the most notable of them is combat. Playing through the game, its apparent that combat was meant to have greater importance to the game, though ends up being more tedious than rewarding. Spells cost too much to cast, and its easy to run out of Willpower (one of the game's forms of Magic Points/Mana) after a battle or two, leaving even spellcaster to be forced into melee, in which they are generally weak at, unless you can find a weapon that suits the character's attributes, such as a wand for a spell-user. This, however, is still far ineffective compared to their spell casting abilities. Also of note, most "potions" -- in the forms of "shots", "elixirs", and "gems" -- don't heal nearly enough Willpower or Sheer Force (the other form of Magic Points/Mana that slowly regenerates itself in battle, but is in extremely short supply for the most part), meaning that if you run out of either, especially Willpower, in the middle of a boss battle you're tough out of luck. Because the players tend to always run out of magic before health (at least, after you have 3 or more characters in your party, especially the priestess), the battles will boil down to spamming attack over and over, with little strategy, aside from periodically casting the MC's Necrotic Wish ability on tough enemies so that your elemental damage-dealing weapons will deal additional damage; however, it goes without saying, that most battles tend to become this even with plenty of Willpower and Sheer Force, especially earlier on in the game, due to the lack of offencive abilities -- to my knowledge, at the beginning of the game, you have a single offensive spell, Necrotic Wish, which will generally do less damage than the character's attack either way. This is all, of course, not to mention that battle is almost in no way visually stunning, and the fact that many buff and healing spells can actually miss your allies; tending to do so when you need the heal the most.

Battles are also not random, you can clearly see them on the game screen as what appear to be smoke/dust clouds (think of a cloud of dust a cartoon would have if two cartoon characters got into a fight) which, half the time, can be easily avoided; you only enter combat if you come in contact with the cloud, and the cloud only chases you if you come within 2 squares of it while walking, or 3 (and sometimes 4, I think) squares if you're running). Though this is not usually a bad thing you are sometimes forced to fight enemies you do not want to because it would simply be impossible to avoid, and these instances are in no shortage. Because no experience is given (all advancement is based on items you obtain, and the members you can convince to join your party), the only rewards for a battle are saleable items (rare), rare weapons/armor (very rare), and/or a few coins (every battle) which you can spend, generally, on food -- which you will consume more of recovering from the fight than you can buy with the coin you earn -- you will be trying to avoid fighting whenever possible. It is clear that, in a few locations, you can drag an enemy cloud away from its original location, forcing it to follow you, and place it some place else out of the way -- you can make the cloud stop following you if you run far enough away fast enough -- though these places are far and few in between, mostly in the mirror zones (which, coincedentally, generally contains some of the best treasure early on). It would probably have been a better idea to include more areas in the game where you could "drag" an enemy cloud away so you can snag the loot they're guarding -- it would fit the mystery/puzzle theme of the game more than simply being forced to run up and fight the enemies.

Most of the battles, especially earlier on, are extremely difficult (on Normal Difficulty), and end up being more or a race to kill the enemies before they KO one of your party members, which can happen quickly if you're not careful or properly advanced... which can be difficult at times. Because of this, you will be finding yourself running back to the inn every 1-3 battles if you have only 2 party members, and every 3-5 battles with 3 or more party members. This heavily dampers what you can explore each day, forcing you to only gather a few treasures and explore a couple places before being forced to run back to the inn to sleep for a night. I suppose this is part of what actually allows the game to actually have some replay value (since you can simply just explore different things for somewhat different results), however I feel that the limits it proposes are far too great and because of this, it puts a damper on the gameplay value.

Also, the fact that there there is a serious lack of places to save in the game -- being limited to one save spot in the inn, where you rest, and from the use of an expensive item -- also doesn't help; whenever you feel like you've completed something you're either forced to use a Log to save (which are best used right before enemies you think may kill you, such as a boss, or if you need to suddenly quit the game), or run all the way back to an inn to save. Of course, this could probably also a personal preference of mine, since I am especially notorious for saving a game every 5 to 10 minutes.



Overall - 3.5

Almost everything about this game helps set the theme and mood to be along the lines of a mystery/suspence, puzzle, and exploration game, but the flaws of combat -- its unattractiveness, difficulty, and the sheer fact of how it limits the the player's exploration too much -- really drags the fun factor of this game down. It is apparent that the game developers originally had intended that combat make up a large portion of the game -- based on all of the different attributes for the characters and how each weapon's damage is based off of those statistics, and the fact that there are two different types of "magic points" as well -- though due to its implementation, its become more tedious than necessary and would probably have served just as well, if not better, if the combat was pushed into the background.


~~Gingercake~~

Posts

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LouisCyphre
can't make a bad game if you don't finish any games
4523
Good lord that's a hefty gameplay section.
Craze
why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
15240
This review was for the PRE-OVERHAUL version of V&V. The game is now updated and many issues in this review have been tended to.
Pages: 1