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Punch, Kick, Oh No I'm Trapped in the Web!

  • unity
  • 08/29/2023 03:09 PM
Somewhere beyond death, tangled between the unknown planes is a place called the Web. Those caught within are never free and cannot truly die, being caught somewhere between life and death. Edmund finds himself there, in a strange prison surrounded by laughing robed figures, and his only way forward is to escape.

A Ghostly Rose is somewhere between a remake and a reimagining of zDS's previous game, Three Ghostly Roses, and is quite a bit longer with more optional content. My playtime clocked in at just under ten hours. If Three Ghostly Roses is a throwback to a Gameboy Color RPG, then A Ghostly Rose reminded me more of a NES RPG, but the graphics are bigger and the landscapes more imposing than the previous version.

The game is a one-party RPG. These types of games are often hard to do competently in a way that makes the combat fun, and I'm happy to say A Ghostly Rose really pulls it off, aside from maybe a small hiccup here and there.

Enemies take reduced damage and are very dangerous. The goal to win fights is to "break" your foe, which will ruin their defense and attacks and make them easy to take out. How you break them adds an element of puzzle to the game; sometimes it can be as easy as inflicting a certain injury on them or sometimes there'll be a little more to it, from simple things to just dishing out a lot of damage to them or fulfilling other conditions (for example if you kill the enemies watering the plants, the plants will break).

What a sweet battle UI, and I really dig that minimalist moody battle background!

The game has head, body and leg injuries, and you and enemies have bonuses you'll lose if you get those injuries (head removes a small regen, body lowers defense and leg prevents you from acting more than once per turn).

Seeing as both you and your foes get these bonuses, you'll have to decide which injuries to dish out to make the fight easier. Does the baddie have a million actions? Injure their legs to slow the rate of their attacks. Is their defense too high? Break their body to make them much easier to damage. And like I said, Head injuries prevent regen but in some enemies it can also prevent them from using their more devastating abilities.

How do you inflict injuries? Edmund quickly learns techniques to bring on the pain. An uppercut here, a legsweep there, and a good old dropkick to the torso and you'll be injuring peeps in no time. Use your regular attack to build AP, and then spend that AP to use these skills, called Artes.

On top of that, you'll eventually learn devastating Blast techniques. Blasts cost nothing but have cooldowns, and unless you break your foe or reduce their defenses, they'll be able to block a good portion of blast damage. Even so, blasts can be great just to throw around a little more damage when you need to.

Put all this together and this gives the battles a very puzzle-like feel to them. This is cool because figuring out how to break enemies and kill them quickly is fun. The downside is that fighting enemies you already know how to beat can be a little tedious, but the game throws new enemies your way (or just in formations that make things tricky) often enough that it was never a deal-breaker for me.

Even on vacation, these jerks have zero chill.

The enemy designs start off very basic, as most of the people you meet in the earliest area are just dudes and dogs. But things quickly get weirder and the game has a lot of fun, weird abstract enemies with designs I really dig! :D

Battle animations are all very minimalist, but in a way that both fits the aesthetic and has quite a bit of charm to it. Bosses and stronger enemies have a habit of really brutalizing Edmund, and you get to see your little character sprite get flung around, strangled, stabbed, and even flung against the moon at one point. It all feels very visceral and honestly some of these animations are pretty impressive from a technical standpoint.

That feeling goes into the overall gameplay as well. Edmund breaks boxes and pots with his fists and feet to look for gold, and smashes down cracked walls with his bare fists, which all feels great to play. It's like BAM I'm coming through and you ain't stopping me :D

Levels are fun to explore and sometimes have a nice bit of interconnectedness, like kicking down ladders to make shortcuts or moving over planks to connect areas. After you've beat a set number of enemies in any area, the screen will tint blue and flowers will bloom, giving you a full restore, and it always feels great to achieve that.

Edmund can't equip gear, but you'll still find swords and all sort of equipment on your quest. I won't spoil what it's used for, but finding new equipment and seeing what happens always put a big grin on my face.

One heck of a moody place :D

I really love this game's look, and areas are all rendered in this minimalist style that just scream "mood" and it all works very well. Really gave me nostalgia for like old NES games but looks even better in a lot of ways.

The music in this game is very good, really making areas feel bleak and battles and tense moments feel deadly and perilous. The haunting moodiness of these tracks really elevates the levels. Sound design overall is on-point as well, damaging moves sound like they hit hard and a lot is done to make the atmosphere really work!

What the hell is going on here?

You'll probably notice that I've touched on like none of the story. It may sound like a cop-out, but I really feel like this is one of those games where it's best to go in blind.

What I will say is that a lot of it centers around Edmund's struggles, both personal and against the Web itself. There's a lot of emotional stuff in here concerning Edmund and his family and I also enjoyed trying to puzzle out what was the deal with the Web and it's denizens as the game went on. Also I really like the blue-clad gatekeeper guy :D

I had some small nitpicks, but this review is already getting long, so I'll just tuck them under a hide tag, click here if you're interested:

As for critiques of the battle system, sometimes it can be hard to know what to do to break some opponents and you'll often have to trial-and-error your way. Luckily, zDS has added a very cool Status option that will tell you, without costing a turn, who you are fighting (and usually a small hint) as well as the option to tell you about any status ailments you currently have.

Something that I found a little confusing was, as the game goes on, it becomes harder and harder to inflict injuries on foes (which makes sense, otherwise you could shut them down too fast) but I always had trouble guessing how many times I'd need to hit them with any one technique to injure them. Like, how many times do I need to Legsweep this guy to take out his legs, and if I fail to do so fast enough does it reset? No idea. But this is a small nitpick because I can't really see an elegant way to solve it.

Another nitpick is with getting injuries yourself. While you cannot cure them aside from waiting for them to wear off, you do get Stance moves that will prevent them for a while. What was sometimes annoying is when these stances have run their course after a few turns, they will wear off right before the enemy's turn. I often like having Flower Stance to protect my legs, but it's possible for the stance to wear off, then the enemy can injure my legs before I can renew it, which can be a little frustrating.

A similar frustration (that luckily rarely came up) was a sort of injury-loop that some hard foes could inflict, using a special move to injure you and then, the second the injury faded, they'd re-apply it before you can set up a Stance to prevent it (and you can't set up Stances to protect from injuries you already have).

I feel like both of these issues could be better solved if Stances and injuries wore off after the enemies turn, not yours. All in all, this is just a nitpick, and only occasionally gave me some frustration.

In conclusion, despite my small nitpicks, A Ghostly Rose is an overall very solid game experience. I really enjoyed my time with it and it's very clear that zDS has learned a lot from designing previous games and put a ton of love and care into making this one. Please give it a shot if you can, it's criminally underrated and deserves a ton more love! :DDD


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Wow, thank you for the very kind review! It is a great honor!

I agree with the nitpicks as well haha. I don't remember why I gave up on it, but the ailment ending before enemy turn was because I had the enemy attack data in the Troop event section rather than the Enemy data itself. That was to establish much more control. I probably could have found a solution for it, but for whatever reason I settled for it.

You're magical to me.
Ultimately it's a pretty small thing and doesn't ruin anything. Game's still great and I hope more people will check it out :DDD
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