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Sacred Reviews: Phina

Intro

"Phina" was developed by Caz using RPG Maker MV for the 2022 Indie Game Maker Contest and is a hard game to define I suppose. Though if I was forced to choose I'd pick visual novel considering the four endings are based on how many times you interacted with certain characters over the course of your game. Though how this creates room for four unique endings isn't exactly clear and I'm not willing to put in the time to find them all anyway. At any rate I should probably get to talking about the game's summary.

Story
Summary

You play as Phina, a phoenix, whose rebirthing ritual is coming up fast, but in order to perform this ritual you'll need to use your amulet which has gone missing. And in order to find your valuable antique you decide to open up a pawn shop in order to see if someone will be willing to sell it to you. After all, if someone stole your amulet they might be willing to pawn it for some fast cash.

Strengths/Weaknesses

On the strong side of the scale the game makes pretty good use of Maggie. I thought a lot of her early interactions with the player were there to imply that she had stolen Phina's amulet. Admittedly this approach was pretty ham-fisted, but it turns out this was just bait in order to lure the player into her tragic backstory of how the only thing she has left of her wife is her amulet since she was also a phoenix.

On the other hand the bulk of characters in this game say the same thing everyday. And considering how short the game is it would have been nice if they at least cycled through a few different dialogue options even if they had nothing to contribute to the plot.



Ending

It probably goes without saying, but this section only covers the ending I got in my Let's Play for this game which is scheduled to come out in June of 2023. So this section only covers one of the four possible endings. And it should go without saying that this will reveal major spoilers about that ending. So continue reading this section at your own risk.

One of the possible endings you can get in this game involves Maggie giving you the amulet of her former wife in order to see if you can use it to activate the ritual of rejuvenation. Of course, this doesn't appear to work at first glance, but after Phina takes her jacket off in order to see if it screwed up her arm motion she realizes she was wearing her amulet the entire time.



And ending that is both underwhelming since it implies that Phina is a real bird-brain and rather disgusting since it implies that Phina wore the same clothes for two week straight. And it also implies that she slept while wearing all of her clothes as well. And while I can't speak for all humans. Most of the people I know tend to sleep in just their underclothing. And I really can't see why phoenixes in this game's universe would be any different.



Gameplay

On the gameplay front there isn't that much to do. You can run around and investigate the town at night, but there are only two meaningful characters to actually interact with. And both of them are at the bar. Outside of working yourself towards one of the game's four endings. You can also participate in two mini games. The first of which isn't optional where you'll clean antiques in order to earn money and hopefully end up buying back your amulet. Though in order to buy antiques you need enough money so you'll need to clean and resell various antiques in order to have a chance at this path working out.



Though in order to raise the price of the antiques were going to need to carefully clean them which is done through a mini-game where the player needs to tap the arrow keys in order to polish the four corners of the antique. A mini-game which will quickly lead to tired fingers if done in rapid succession, but the time offered is rather generous. So I never failed to finish cleaning any of the antiques that were brought to the pawn shop. Though if you do struggle at this mini-game you can also partake in a mini-game where you help out a local farmer by clearing all 100 weeds out of her field. A task that really doesn't take that long, but if your actually willing to subject yourself to playing this game more than once you'll probably be thankful for the weed whacking upgrade you can purchase at the end of the game. After all, it takes a little more effort then some might like to whack 100 weeds 1 at a time.

Graphics

Graphically the game features entirely original assets which are nice to look at. Though I wish the world outside of the town could be explored since it would give the player a little bit more to do in my opinion, but I guess monsters are far too aggressive at night for this to be feasible. And while the woods surrounding the town are quite nice and colorful to look at. The farmer's field is a bit of an eyesore with it being mostly brown. Though, I suppose I should look at the bright side since it means Phina doesn't have to worry as much about spiders getting in her hair or field mice trying to run up her pant legs.

Sound

Sound wise the game is simply alright in my opinion. Which is to say the game's various background tracks simply did their job, but weren't remarkable enough to comment on beyond that.

Conclusion

"Phina" is a short visual novel whose design elements are a bit underwhelming. After all, this is a visual novel where there's only two important people to actually interact with. At the same time this game was created for the 2022 Indie Game Maker Contest so my expectations weren't that high to begin with, but I really think this game would benefit from a little more polish even if it's just to give some of the characters in this game a few random lines they can use since talking to them everyday and getting the same line every time was rather annoying after the first couple of days.