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Balancing Blues in Paradise

''Paradise Blue'' by Ocean's Dream is a classical NES-like RPG made with ASCII's RPG Maker 2003. It was in production for about at least 2 years and got finally released in late 2009. The game was awarded by the RMN users with 1 Misao award for the best artworks and graphics in that year. It has a playtime of about 5 hours at least.




Story:
The story is typically clichee-like for a game of this kind. The plot is set in some kind of kingdom on the island ''Azulea'' which's king is about to pass away. Therefore there a 2 factions and both of them want the new king to be one of their own guys.
So one of the 2 sides sends 4 guards to make sure everything will happen as they wish to to take over the throne. You play those 4 brave people and have to fulfill some missions after another to reach the final encounter against the other side's leader to make him bite the dust.

For me it was very hard to get caught by the story. It still does not work because it is so uninteresting, overdone and lame. Another problem are the characters. You can pick your 4 playable people, their appearances, their names, their genders and, most importantly, their skill class at the beginning. However there are specific personalities for each. One of them e.g. seems to be very cruel, violent and heartless wanting to kill every opponent on the spot because it would be the most effective way. Another one seems to be a quite kidding person, another the serious person etc. It depends on your choice at the beginning who is who. Their dialogues are well written in my opinion but after all I could not get very close to the characters. For me it is always easier if there are facesets used (even without expressions), because you have the feeling the person talking stands right besides you and talks to your face. ''Paradise Blue'' uses charset sprites as faces which makes it more easy to see who is speaking, but that's all. A lot of people consider facesets disturbing if you have them in a game which uses a lot of charset poses. But this game doesn't, so I would have liked to see facesets in the same kind of style as the tremendous monster battle pictures. But after all it looks like the author did absolutely not focus on the story or the characters, so he obviously did not find ideas like that necessary. Maybe this was done to stick with the style of old NES RPGs, but my rating is:
2.5 out of 5 points

Graphics:
First of all I am really no fan of this old NES style. Maybe it's because I have missed its era and started with the SNES era (why I guess I stick with RPG Maker 2k/3 to make SNES-like games), but I think you can not make better NES graphics like this game has. There are also a few graphics which do not fit to the rest (e.g. the edited ''Tales of Phantasia'' grass or foliage), but these are exceptions and maybe you wouldn't even recognize it if you don't know the originals.
The mapping is quite well done, untypically for a NES-style game, but absolutely necessary to create a paradise-like atmosphere. It also has a few average mapped areas, but not many.
Additionally there are used blinking graphics, a nice substitute for light effects.
The monster battle pictures are amazing and you will see tons of them since there are a lot of fightable opponents, different ones!

One word: awesomeness.


For me it always hurts a little bit when I see someone limitading the always quite limitated RPG Maker even more by using NES graphics and I try to imagine how it would look if the author had used all 256 possible colors, but still the graphics and artworks are the best you could make in that style, but may not be everyone's taste.
4.5 out of 5 points

Gameplay:
The game is absolutely focussed on its battles. The RM2k3 standard battle system which is semi-round-based is used in a nice way. There are tons of spells your fighters can learn. You can change their battle class early during the game whenever you want to. The battle animations are nice and there are added even a few gigantic spells.

Outside the fights you can do a lot of sidequests besides your main quests. I do not know what they are for (except for seeing more of the game), but after all I couldn't find any hint of getting another ending sequence after doing all the quests or anything.
As a help you have a quest log in your inventory. It shows you where you have to go, what to do and which one is the main quest and which are side quests. This log is quite helpful although I detected a mistake in it which leads you to the wrong place at one point.
You will encounter a few cities which are just huge. They are filled up with many many NPCs, houses etc. Not bad but maybe it is a little bit too much. I myself didn't talk to everybody.

A nice idea was to make the sequences be skippable, so if you had died you was not forced to read all the stuff again. Unfortunately the ending is extremely unsatisfying. And there is no indication to unlock another one or something.

The main problem about this game is the lousy balancing. Let me give you the info (if you do not want to cheat or if you do not even have RM2k3) that everytime to reach a map with encounters on it you should really clean the map completely.

Lots of different opponents with fitting battle artworks. Unfortunately you have to kill them all. They won't come back.


Do not avoid even one single fight or you won't even stand a slight chance against the bosses. And this is really no joke. Of course I don't know what is all possible in the game if you picked other fighters, equipment etc. than I did, but the problem really seems to be the party's defence and I think I had the best and most expensive shields. I don't know what the author was thinking, but I died hundrets of times and was forced to cheat nearly the same number of times, because I had absolutey no chance in hell, not even after level up and level up and level up...

The fighting itself is quite good, there are side quests (useless or not) too, but the poor balancing brought down the rating extremely. May be possible to kill enemies more easy with the right strategy, but in that case it is surely not easy to figure out.
3 out of 5 points

Sound:
As far as I heard all the midis in this game are self-composed. And it was worth the work. Some of them are really idyllic and fit perfectly to the atmosphere. Some also won't get out of your mind that quickly. Besides the good mapping we have one more nice thing here which is untypical for NES-like games: non-8-bitty music.

One of the best atmospheric place in the game with amazing music:


The sound effects are also quite nice. Especially some of the battle attacks' sounds rock! What else can I say about all this than:
5 out of 5 points

Conlcusion:
If you love great atmosphere you absolutely have to check this out. The sound fits perfectly to the graphics. Although it is all NES-style the graphic and especially the artworks are awesome. If you hate NES games because of their lousy mapping, random encounters or disturbing 8-bit music you won't find any of these problems in ''Paradies Blue''. Unfortunately prepare to level a lot (or to cheat ;-)), but in a great dynamic battle system with a lot of different self-designed and interesting monsters and battle animations. The story and characters won't catch your interest very much, but because of the questlog you aren't left alone. And if you still feel helpless you can use the PDF walkthrough as a last help.

Posts

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Lots of different 'ooponents' x)
Still a pretty good review.
Fixed.

It's weird that another review says this was well balanced because for me it was extremely hard and the walkthrough also says you need a very high level to beat it. So I guess I am right... unfortunately, otherwise I had given 4.5 points maybe. X-)
I know what you mean, the game requires a lot of grinding. I always felt bad killing off the enemies :(
Grinding? I beat this game with minimal grinding! It's too easy even! I don't get it when people say it's hard.

Ah well I guess we all have different experiences.
Ocean
Resident foodmonster
11009
Haha, awesome, thanks for the review. Yeah, I'm going through the faults so I can avoid it in my next project.

I find the battles were hard to balance. "What if players only fought like 3 battles per area? What if they fought them all? What if they did the areas in a different order than I did?". I know how the game works, but I also don't like high difficulty so I tried not to make it too difficult. The people who tested said the battles were too easy, so I figured that it was fine. I myself beat the game at Level 1 so I guessed it should have been easy enough. Buffs are overpowered though so I think that probably broke the battle system. Haste/Power Up/Focus are very useful, make sure you have them. The Blue Magic BigGuard can really help a ton.
I guess the thing is that it is just hard to figure out HOW to beat the opponents since there are tons of options... classes equipment etc. etc. The problem is that there are big worlds lying between the right way and the wrong way to fight: For you who programmed the game it is even possible to beat it on level 1 which is nearly unbelievable to me since my whole party got killed with 1 or 2 hits only a lot of times although I cleaned lots of maps completely via grinding. I didn't see the walkthrough before since it is only linked on RRR and not here.

Mary
I always felt bad killing off the enemies :(

HAHAHAHA! On map they look cute, but in-fight they are damn awesome looking aggressive beasts. But it looks like you are that kind of person who also feels bad after killing all the flies in kitchen. ^o^
Really? I didn't grind in this game at all ._.
I did reach that area that gives massive amount of AP so I spent a few minutes (hour possibly) but really it's not that hard at all once you got a dream team (Archer with TripleCut, Dark Knight or something with Mighty Guard, etc.) c_c

Glad to see someone else enjoyed this game as well :3
Oh and Blue Mages are GOD SEND and awesome D:
I used two healing guys, 1 red magician, 1 time magician. :-(
Personally, i prefer 2 summoners, a time mage, and some warrior guy thats fast.
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