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Narrative brilliance, with a few minor flaws

  • icovoc
  • 01/22/2013 09:17 PM
  • 5163 views
Seraphic Blue is easily the most ambitious game translated from Japanese for RPG Maker. It's a sprawling, 50 hour epic which (despite appearances) has less in common with anything on SNES and feels more like one of the great PS1 RPGs: Xenogears, Chrono Chross, FFVII. It's got an innovative, complex narrative, conveyed through long, in-depth cutscenes, plus a unique customization system and challenging battles. Also, like those games, it's a little too big for its own good, but in the end I don't think holds it back from being genuinely great.

Visuals: 4 out of 5
Seraph Blue looks like an RM2k game. Towns tend to be extremely bare, especially in the beginning, but they're accented with some fantastic custom art for character portraits/key moments in the story. Battlers and backgrounds look great, and the game has absolutely gorgeous custom menus. The visuals aren't the strength of the game, but they aren't a weakness either.



Gameplay 3.5 out of 5:
Seraphic Blue uses a sphere system that reminds me a little of the Materia from FFVII, but the characters feel less like blank slates because of their affinities to certain kinds of magic/attacks. It also has an innovative take on item management, stores, and pretty much everything. The system is in-depth and very fully realized, with some very difficult battles that require lots of strategy.



My only big problem, considering how innovative this game was in other areas, was I got extremely tired of the arbitrary dungeons, especially crossing the worldmap and/or random mountain ranges/forests when the game was just trying to send you somewhere. I get the feeling lots of them should have been taken out, or at least the random encounter rate should have been lowered a little. Also, it would have been nice to use status effects on bosses, which would have elevated the fights onto an even more strategic level, like Wine&Roses. Still, there's nothing game-breaking here, and these are problems even the greatest RPGs have as well.



Story: 5 out of 5
The main draw of the game. Really, Seraphic Blue has so much story its amazing it could ever pulled off--more twists than 3 or 4 other games put together, and it's done better as well. It's not quite as unconventional as The Way or Dhux Scar (my favorite RM games), but it might be more complex even than those.



Seraphic Blue starts as a familiar quest narrative, but turns into something else almost immediately. It takes place in a world as strange as Planescape Torment, with a quest that sort of spirals in and out of itself, and involves parallel universes (maybe); a sort of metaphyiscal cancer eating away at a living planet; memories encoded into wings; and lots of other things I don't want to spoil.

The pacing is fantastic. The game has no problem with giving new information or advancing the plot constantly, instead of making you wait until the end for things to develop. It's also very dark/bizarre, and includes elements I've never seen in games at all--the institutionalized murder of children, cannibalism, even necrophilia. Also, unlike most games, it's genuinely profound, and you'll probably come away thinking about the story for a long time after you play it.

Last thoughts:
Next to The Way and Dhux Scar, Seraphic Blue is one of my favorite RM games--and it's not even done yet! In some ways, it's more conventional than those games, but Seraphic Blue is aware of the familiar elements it uses and is careful to do something different with them. It's also... well, a little more Japanese than other RM games. The "J"in JRPG is authentic this time, which might bother some players, but in my opinion just makes things feel more authentic.

Bottom line--if you like narrative RPGs, you have to play this game. And even if that's not totally your thing, there's a lot here you'll probably like. It's good enough to be a featured game at RMN when it's finished, which I think it definitely deserves.

Posts

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Thanks for the review, icovoc! I'm sure the original creator of the game, Tempura, will appreciate the review as well :)
No problem! It's definitely nothing compared to all the fantastic work you and he did on the game.
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