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Building the Perfect RM game. One Block at a Time.

  • Sauce
  • 12/17/2011 12:53 AM
  • 3227 views
So I was flipping through some of my subscriptions when I couldn’t help but notice. Does Zephyr Skies really not have a review?? This game is a gem like no other. I have to remedy this. I’ve never done a review before, but here goes. Be kind.

Story

The plot revolves around the unlikely and equally unusual friendship between Nathaniel Everard, a stubborn freelance mercenary, and Reginald Scott Piedmont, a wayward crown prince. A chain of events unlike anything one could imagine unfolds as the prince tasks Nathaniel with a most disturbing mission: kidnap a 12 year old girl.

Naturally for such a task, any self-respecting RPG hero would assemble the motliest crew possible.

And naturally, said band of heroes would be antagonized by the strangest villain possible. That villain is Aven – a man whose nonsensical mutterings put even Sephiroth’s unhinged lunacy to shame.

While it’s true that Zephyr Skies carries the same cookie cutter template as other mid 90’s RPG, the strength of the story is not in its originality but rather its execution. The party members play off each other so well. The group banter is excellent, albeit sometimes repetitive.

The plot, itself, is one for the ages. Zephyr Skies constantly throws surprise after surprise at the gamer. Often times, the next big surprise comes falling from the sky, and you’re caught completely unawares.

The ending, especially, of the playable demo is one that will replay in your mind time and time again.



Atmosphere that rivals The Longing Ribbon.


Graphics

At first glance, Zephyr Skies is graphically just another rm game abusing rtp sets and m&b chips. But don’t let that scare you away. The maps are brilliantly crafted. They remind me of BadLuck’s rm2k3 games: lush, vibrant, full of splendor, and crawling with majesty.

Fairly unique to ZS is its weather system. The weather effects, mostly pictures, are randomly generated (I think?) based on the environment, internal game clock, and I believe also based on the magic cards currently in your possession. This is significant for when I discuss the battle system in the next section.

One point I wanted to make is that the weather effects are perhaps too random. One moment, you’re frolicking through the meadows like in those Bambi movies. The next, the monsoons descend upon you Old Testament style and you’re making a B-line for the nearest Noah’s Ark.

And that’s before you’re hit by a sandstorm, a hurricane, some ball lightning and then finally a meteor shower. For good measure. It’s comical at first, and I loved it. However, given the serious tone of the game, it might not be the right design choice.


Battle System

First and foremost is the magic card system. For all the effort put into it, Zephyr Skies feels like it wants to imitate Baten Kaitos’ card/deck system, but it refuses to commit 100%. As such, it retains its default battle systems for nonmagic users, and the card system winds up as an elaborate skill subset.

That, of course, isn’t a bad thing. Actually, that’s the good news. Customization and optimization of the magic cards has to be the single biggest attraction of this game.

The bad news… there are 13 classes available to you, and exactly 3 of them are any good at using magic cards. For the other 10, collecting and training magic cards is largely a novelty. A novelty that likely took an exorbitant amount of effort to implement. Still, the default skill system does offer much to the gamer for those 10 or so classes.

Zephyr Skies is one of those games that give you more skills than you know what to do with. Remember playing the FF6 opening for the first time? They gave you six different beams in your little Magitek armor, and all you were thinking was “should I use the missile?” The answer was always emphatically yes. Unlike FF6, Zephyr Skies’ enormous catalog of skills actually serves a purpose. As a matter of fact, carefully planning out the usage of said skills is about the only way to win its traditional boss fights.

The skills themselves are well animated (maybe TOO well animated), and their effects are self-explanatory. That being said, rarely in an RM game do you experience a battle system where decision making has such a resounding impact.

Something as simple as forgetting the current weather can spell doom or dry spell or tornado or meteor shower... I mean is that even a real weather forecast?!

“There’s a 90% chance of meteor shower. It’ll start at noon and carry on through your evening commutes. Drive safely.”

Actually, I got so OCD checking and rechecking the weather in game, I started taking into account the real weather when I was taking my accounting finals.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s deluge element outside right now. That means the answer is B) accrued liability, since that rain is accruing hardcore.”




Amateur. You need to wait for Drought effect before you use Torch. No wonder you’re losing.


Dungeons

Oh man, where to begin. The Dungeons are huge. Yeah, capital D, because lower case d just doesn’t do them justice. Normally, when a story is as gripping as Zephyr Skies,’ I loathe the extended dungeon crawl.

My seething hate for story ‘interruptions’ is tempered here by two factors:

1. The monster encounters are almost all entirely avoidable.

2. The puzzles are excruciatingly awesome.

The puzzles are a throwback to the glory days of Lufia 2. With 15 years of innovation retroactively integrated, rather… seamlessly. So seamlessly in fact that, at times, the puzzle designs feel like several well-placed and well-timed slaps to my face and the faces of aspiring puzzle makers across the globe. Zephyr Skies’ turn seemingly simple outpatient procedures, er... puzzles into small works of genius.




Levers. Weight switches. Change party member. Thrice the variables. Thrice the fun.


Verdict

This game, top to bottom, is easily one of the most well-rounded and promising 2k3 games on the site. Zephyr Skies has something to offer any prospective gamer. Unfortunately, a number of gamers are complaining about critical errors, fatal crash bugs that make this game virtually unplayable. As such, I’ll have to knock its rating down until otherwise corrected.

Personally, I have not experienced any major bugs. There were a few but nothing of serious consequence.

It might be because of said bugs that this game has not garnered as much attention as it should have.

And that’s a damn shame. If only someone could fix up the bugs and piece it back together.


Posts

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This would have been more entertaining had this review been posted closer to release.
I'm sure plenty of people haven't played it.

Plus. I wasn't on rmn when it was released.
We appreciate this review and will be hard at work crafting the sequel: Zephyr Skies I-2.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
My response to this review, in sequence:

*STERN LOOK OF DISAPPROVAL*

*BEGINS TO TYPE REPROACHFUL POST EXPLAINING WHY MISLEADING REVIEWS ARE BAD*

fuck it hahahahaha yes

I don't know, I think some classes (like the alchemist) were a bit overpowered.
Sure, you can even things out with a smart use of the Magic Cards, but still.
I love this review
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
18323
I've played this, and can't argue against anything that is said here. I totally agree.

Side note: This review just as misleading as anything else on the game-page. Fitting, somehow.
I'm stuck on the 6th floor of the tower. Help me solve the puzzle, please.
(will I really get any help, I wonder)
Here is a step by step solution, Avee.

1. Reset the puzzle and return to the entrance.

2. Take your first left.

3. Ascend the ladder.

4. You'll see a 4-way intersection in front of you. One tile path all the way through. There's a 3-way T-intersection down the middle, with the west and east paths of the 4-way intersection looping north into it. )

______
|__|__|
......|

5. Down the west path, nestled in the corner, is a block. It won't move north; part of the floor along that path, near a pressure switch, is raised so that you can walk by it but can't push a block down it; you have to push it east instead. Drag it to the central intersection and loop around to where the block was. Push it to the right path corner, where that fancy tile switch is located. This will invert the room.

6. Now you're on the ceiling. You know that area on the left path that is slightly higher than the rest of the path - that you couldn't push the block down earlier? There's a switch there, so we want to align the block below it so that when the room is reverted, the block will depress the switch or at least be on the raised section so you can push it onto said switch.

7. But how do you revert the room? Directly north of the pressure inversion switch that you just pressed is a switch that doesn't need to be weighted down. This will revert the room. Make sure you push the block like I said in step 6 before pressing the switch!

REGULAR:
................................................................................_____
portal switch on top of slightly raised floor-> |__|__|<-inversion switch
.....................................................................................|

INVERTED:
..........................................................................reversion switch
.....................................................................................\/
................................................................................_____
place to where you should push the block-> |__|__|
......................................................................................|


8. Once the room is reverted and you press the switch, a portal will appear at the 4-way intersection. This will bring you to Floor 7.
chana
(Socrates would certainly not contadict me!)
1584
Thanks, that really helped (I was stuck on the 6th floor too). The puzzle with the mini-giants on floor 7 is a real treat, great job guys, can't wait for the sequel.
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