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Oh, the Things I've Seen and Heard

Visions & Voices is an atypical RPG created through the combined efforts of Karsuman and Craze. The original version was made in three weeks and had some fairly serious issues, but their recent overhaul has improved things considerably…or so I’m told. I never played the original version, but I heard about some of the problems it had. It seems those previous concerns have almost all been rectified now. Anyway, let’s get right down to it.

The Graphics:

A mix of RMVX, some custom stuff, and whatever “Mac” is (thanks, Credits section of the Help menu!). The game world is built out of VX’s pretty tilesets, and the charsets used appear to be edited versions of the VX ones. The sprites are tall like you see in XP, but retain some of VX’s chibi style. Anyway, the monster battle graphics are custom made, though I don’t know if they were created specifically for this game. Everything generally blends together well, but there’s a noticeable difference in detail between the custom monsters and everything else. With the smaller monsters, it’s not so bad, but some of the larger bosses are painfully obviously lower quality. It’s generally a forgivable clash, though.

The Audio:

More custom stuff, and a big thank you to Denny Schneidemesser. Most of the music used in the game is custom, but surprisingly wasn’t made specifically for it. They were created for another project of Craze’s that fell through. The original project was set inside the innards of a dragon, but the setting shift for this game has had little impact on the relevance of the music. I adored the soundtrack used. The songs really work to create a specific atmosphere for each locale you visit, and help set the pace of the action. The game even sports multiple battle themes, so you won’t hear the same song over and over during fights.

As for sound, well, RTP’s as fresh as ever.

The Story:

Karsuman’s big contribution to the project is the writing of the story and dialogue. His approach to the story is similar to that of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. The story progresses through a series of days, and the progress made depends on what you accomplish (or fail to accomplish) on each day. Running out of days spells your doom, or so I have heard. In this way, the story merges with the gameplay by restricting your ability to (ab)use the Inn. Each day will be as long or short as you like; the only way to end one is to go to sleep. The nature of the narrative is also quite interesting; since the story depends on your own efforts to find it, you won’t have it rammed down your throat by lengthy cutscenes. How much or little you discover is your burden, and the story is just mysterious enough to keep you looking for more.

The Characters:

Although the game allows you to name your initial hero, he isn’t a blank slate silent-type. He’s able to be given a name because his character is that of a wanderer who uses a new alias everywhere he goes. This lets you personify yourself as him while he still has his own personality and place in the world. The rest of the cast is just as interesting. Every character is unique and distinguished from the rest. They don’t fall perfectly into tropes, and some will even betray your expectations of their character (like Ox, the well-read farmhand). Like the story, how much of the characterization you experience will depend on you as the player. Most of the characterization and party interaction happens at the Inn, where it’s completely up to you whether you talk to your group members or not. The conversations tend to be a little long, but this is the only time any extensive talking really happens. Even better is that the party members will have something new to say each day of the game. Aside from this, you’ll hear a snippet or two from each member as you explore. Be it a simple observation about the place your visiting or a snarky quib about how they gained a new ability, these little tidbits help develop the cast almost as much as the conversations at the Inn do.

The Gameplay:

And here’s what makes this game so special. On the outside, this may seem like a typical RPG, but there are some major factors involved that make it anything but. For starters, the stats are very…complicated. The game seems to have two of everything. For example, there’s Physical Damage, but that’s boosted by weapons of both the Melee and Ranged variety. Furthermore, the amount it’s boosted by depends on the character’s Bravery and Perception, respectively. This same idea goes for magic as well, with Magical Damage being affected by Psychic and Force weapons, whose effectiveness depends on Charisma and Tenacity. Confused yet? There’s also two kinds of MP (Willpower and Sheer Force) and Logic, which fits in their…somehow. I heard before that this game suffered from serious transparency issues in its initial release. Well, it now sports an in-game guide that explains all this stuff in clear, understandable language. But it’s still confusing as all hell. Without a chart in front of me pointing out what relates to what else and how, I can never remember what all these stats do. Furthermore, their impact in battle is very difficult to gauge; you kind of have to take their word for it. If nothing else, these unique stats force you to really think as a player and understand what it is you’re trying to do. You can’t just slap ‘the best stuff’ on your party members and go on a rampage. That’s how you get your ass kicked.

Let’s talk about battles next. Of very important note here is that grinding easy fights will not get you very far in this game. There are no experience points whatsoever. You don’t level up. You can expand your abilities by finding them in the field, and on occasion a stat will go up by 1 depending on how many fights you’ve fought, but this is ultimately inconsequential. You’ll never get to the point where nothing can oppose you, because that’s just how the game works. Once again, this forces you to play SMART and actually have an idea of what you’re doing. While this is a refreshing approach from other RPG Enter-mash-fests, it’s also very mentally taxing. Playing this game for too long could make your head hurt. On the plus side, this means everything is within your capacity to overcome from the get-go (with the right strategy, of course). This enables you to always be able to continue exploring, which is the next big selling point.

The game is set in a little town positioned around a lake. You can go in houses, talk to what few people live there, and collect stuff from treasure chests. There are a few offshoot areas you can look around, but there isn’t really that much to do. Until the days start going by. With each new day, the town changes a little. New treasure chests appear, and some old ones disappear. Most notably, new pathways open up all over the place. They aren’t just stupid RPG obstacle #37 was removed; but rather portals to mini dungeons that pop up just about anywhere. It’s these dungeons that establish the flow of the game, and every day there’s more to look around in. You’ll find yourself retracing your steps each new morning looking for anything that wasn’t there before; it’s practically mainstreamed replay value. Treasure hunters will have plenty to keep them busy.

This gameplay section is really dragging on, but there’s just so much to it that I can’t adequately cover it all. Even mentioning it all in passing would be too much, so I’ll just end my rambling here.

tl;dr version: THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL RPG.

The Design:

This game is very well put together. Leaving out the design aspects mentioned in the previous sections, I’ll note that the mapping is generally very good. Objects you can interact with and teleports to other maps are clearly marked for your convenience. This helps you get around and find new locations with ease. It’s well-balanced and offers difficulty levels for players who may not want it so rough. Battles are all engaged by touch encounter, and won’t chase you in the field unless you get too close to them. You can usually find a way around a fight if you’re not up to it, but some are just unavoidable.

I don’t know what else to write. There’s so much I could say about this game, that it’s hard to keep it all straight. It’s definitely a remarkable project. It’s both simple and complicated to play at once, and offers something totally unique compared to the usual RM* fare. Craze and Karsuman have done an amazing job, and proved that team efforts can produce good results once in a while.



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why would i heal when i could equip a morningstar
Thanks for this review. =D

Disclaimer: The music was never created for this project. I downloaded it for a previous project, named it to fit the theme, and then didn't bother to change it for V&V. The final boss track by Mr. S can be found with his other music on newgrounds.com.
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
Aw, that's what I get for doing-my-homework-but-not-really.
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