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I don't understand this game, but I had a lot of fun with it!

Ok, I'm sure that now you are wondering what I do not understand of the Cerebral Symphony.

Well, not the story or the system, but another thing: I don't understand if this is a nice game with some flaws, or a parody and all these flaws are made on purpouse, if these are references or maybe if I'm reading too much in it.
Probably it's both, as there are surely some situations and dialogues that refer to other games or movies, and some design flaws. Still I find difficult to understand which is one and which is the other, but let's start this review!



The Cerebral Symphony follows the adventures of Ivan, your apparently typical sword-wielding jrpg hero. But Ivan is not like the others, he's an angsty boy with three personalities that give him different powers: The upbeat personality has elemental (fire) powers, the pensive personality has telekinetic powers and the dark personality has... hmm... dark powers.
At the start of each combat you can choose to change personality or not, but that's important not only because you will change the abilities you will have during the fight, but also because the corresponding personality will earn the kills, and making enough kills means unlocking other abilities.
For this reason it's suggested to change personality often in order to improve all three, as the enemies are weaker to some particular attacks than others, anyway I fould difficult guessing which ones, by the way Ivan is strong enough to face every danger, no matter of the personality chosen.
The companions are a different case as they are not all equally useful, but I like how they are wildly different: we've a female werewolf healer, a bard that attacks with instruments, a little girl with the power of imagination that summons different creatures, a scientist with a syringe that causes different effects to friends or foes, and a couple of others.
Despite having all the same quantity of life points (500) they aren't balanced: for example the bard can cause lots of damages with his instruments, but he has four of them and only one will cause damage to the enemy, the others will do 0 hits. The problem is that there is absolutely no way to understand which is the correct instrument, or so I think!
Anyway, I don't care, I had fun!

I spoke of this weird group, that we can call adventure party or maybe mercenary squad, as they live in a dark techno-fantasy world.
Oh yes, the world. Very basic.
World map recalls one of these old 80-90's platform videogames with an ice region, a desert continent, a medieval continent, a jungle continent, and so on. And all these places are just squares. Lazy design choice or clever reference to the old classics? You decide! By the way you've to visit all these places once as this is a linear game, but let's talk of the main hub.



This is a dark cyberpunk-ish city that immediately made me think of Midgard from FFVII: you've an evil corporation, a criminal syndacate and even a corrupted government, and all these organizations will be involved in a great quest for power.
But let's go back to this dark city (that contrasts with the bright world outside): it's bleak, ugly and hard to navigate at first as there are a lot of dead ends and no indications about the shops, or where to go during the missions.
Luckily you can explore and get accustomed to the weird layout of the map, there are few locations of interest, because most of the equipments are found during the quests. Anyway there are a couple of useful shops where you can sell your loot, find a couple of useful items (CDs and books that when equipped alter the character's skills) and buy the usual curative items.
Since you'll earn a lot of money during the course of the game and there's no equipment to buy, it's advised to spend a lot on curatives and energy regeneration items as you do not need anything else: even if a character is incapacitated during a fight, after combat he'll be alive with one hit point, ready to be cured!
Oh and there is also no need to grind as there is no level progression at all, and except for Ivan, they start with all the skill, except for those they will earn automatically during the course of the story.



Combat is not that difficult, except for some bosses, I also like the layout chosen (side view with battlers). the different skills the characters can use, anyway it's clear that this is only a secondary part of the game, the most important part are the characters, the story and the minigames.
Oh yes, the minigames, because every trip will have at least a minigame, puzzle, stealth section or something like that. I found most of them pretty easy, but if you want to earn the additional items you have to aim for the perfect score. Some of these were pleasant, other annoying but luckily they are short and they can be done, even if, for example, the survival minigame was more based on luck than skill/planning.
But yeah, I was happy and satisfied when I was able to beat it!

Music choice is good, character portraits are ok, while I found the edited sprites a bit too... bright and made with plain colors. They could have been done better, I think!
Unfortunately there are also some other imprecisions, like for example some spelling errors ("unfortuantely" on Bain description, "auhtenticity" on Catherine's) and other little bugs like invisible monsters (the earth elemental in the pyramid).
For a moment I assumed that these were done on purpouse... but I'm not that sure. Anyway it's nothing game-breaking, so it's ok even if without these it could have been an even better game.
Graphic and maps quality is mixed, some locations are cured and well done with a lot of details (like the haunted mansion), other places feel large and empty (like the carnival and the caves below), but in the end it's not bad at all. Except for the main hub, as I've said earlier!
The cutscene instead are very well done, I liked the style of some events, the dynamism and how it was chosen to tell them, I loved the humor and the quirky character, not only the party members, but also the other people you will meet, love and hate!

Yes, because the Cerebral Symphony IS a good game, not too hard and full of humor and diversions, of adequate lenght. For me it's surely a solid 3.5 (4 if he was without the little errors!)

So... maybe I don't understand this game, but surely I had a lot of fun with it!

Posts

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Oh wow, a new review for TCS! The first one in seven years and the first one ever for the full game and not just the demo!

Thanks so much RpgmakerAddict, your review is very much appreciated.

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the game and had fun with it :)

3.5 stars, well, so I have gained 0.5 stars in the seven years since my last review--that is progress!

I think you probably DO understand this game: the spelling errors and invisible sprites are all accidental errors and were NOT done on purpose. By the way, in the latest download of the game they have been fixed--if I manage to fix all of the 'little errors' in the game, will you bump me up to 4 stars?? No problem if not.

However, things like the World Map looking like a Mario level hub, the complete absence of leveling up, and the heavy focus on story/writing/character are all my own design choices--they are meant to connect with the game's atmosphere of being like a weird drug trip inside someone's mind and they also reflect my own personal tastes and what I like/dislike in rpgs ;)

By the way, did you beat the whole game or just up to chapter three? Did you get to the bit where you get incarnated in the game as yourself? What did you think?

Oh, and it IS possible to work out what different enemies Ivan and Jean's attacks are strong against--the best way is to use the "MINDREAD" command once you get Catherine.

Anyway, you should know that I take all my reviews very seriously and I will incorporate your feedback into my revisions of the game, as I am always editing and updating the download. For example I'm going to put some arrows into the Espia hub to show where to go as a few people have said it's a little tricky sometimes trying to get around there.

So, many thanks for a great review, RpgmakerAddict! Happy gaming!

If I get 5 stars for my next review then TCS's review score will average out at 4 stars! I better get to work on editing!
author=Faenon
Oh wow, a new review for TCS! The first one in seven years and the first one ever for the full game and not just the demo!


And I found the game so late! I also noticed that Ivan had a different name before, isn't it???

author=Faenon
I think you probably DO understand this game: the spelling errors and invisible sprites are all accidental errors and were NOT done on purpose. By the way, in the latest download of the game they have been fixed--if I manage to fix all of the 'little errors' in the game, will you bump me up to 4 stars?? No problem if not.


Hm yes, I guess, unfortunately english isn't my native language anyway I think I understand most of it! ;) But well, in the beginning I was thinking that the earth elemental WAS the floor (stone floor = earth elemental!) and that spelling errors were made as a reference to the "engrish" presentations of some characters in old games.

I said and I meant it, 4 stars would be!
Anyway I forgot to mention also a couple of other little things like the scientist falling asleep also in the prison break section were he is not present, and little some problems on the final section of the wind sphere tower part. Nothing much anyway!

author=Faenon
By the way, did you beat the whole game or just up to chapter three? Did you get to the bit where you get incarnated in the game as yourself? What did you think?


That's a spoileeeeeer!
Hey hey, I always play the games to the end! Like it a lot that part but it's a pit that the best parts came towards the end! Nice, some games become usually worse/boring during the end but this is not the case.



Oh, here I am, unfortunately there was no bald/shaven head option! :P

author=Faenon
Oh, and it IS possible to work out what different enemies Ivan and Jean's attacks are strong against--the best way is to use the "MINDREAD" command once you get Catherine.


Ok, true but you get her SO late, and also not always you've her in the same group of Jean.

I admit I seldom use the abilities that tell me the skills/abilities/weaknesses of the opponents... well ONLY with boss enemies, since usually you can learn them from their element type or appearance (for example in Fifth Era, one of my favourite games, you have a gunner that has different bullets, some strong against reptiles, others against robots, others against undeands... and you can guess them from the opponent appearance) and it's not worth losing a round as weaker enemies are... weak!

author=Faenon
Anyway, you should know that I take all my reviews very seriously and I will incorporate your feedback into my revisions of the game, as I am always editing and updating the download. For example I'm going to put some arrows into the Espia hub to show where to go as a few people have said it's a little tricky sometimes trying to get around there.


Hmm no need for arrows, as (I wrote that in other reviews) I found them distracting. I'd just put some signs on the shops, market, club and travelling station. Just to distinguish them.

author=Faenon
So, many thanks for a great review, RpgmakerAddict! Happy gaming!


Thank you for the answer and the game, I know that it was a lot of work and well, it was a good result!
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