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One of the best games I've ever watched.

No, really. You wouldn’t believe how much of this game consists of cutscenes. I’m not saying this is a fault, mind you! This is a very story-heavy game and honestly I’m completely fine with that. But I’m going to be really upfront about that right here in the opening paragraph; if you hate watching cutscenes, this is not a game for you.

But if you like them, then you might really enjoy this game.

The game opens with a hero named Jado leading his team of super badasses to take down a powerful evil. A delightfully over-the-top sequence ensues in which they proceed to mow down legions of enemies in minutes. Unfortunately, they falter when faced with the final enemy.

A time skip follows, and we meet our protagonist, Phenix, who is a kind young lad with impressive sword skills who takes care of a bunch of orphans and wrestles bears for a living. (Seriously.) But a rampaging enemy army destroys his home and forces him to become a refugee. He meets Sledge, a great war hero, and the two work together to discover who is slaughtering innocent villagers and why, while Phenix waits for the opportunity to take his revenge.

As mentioned, a great deal of this story is told through cutscenes with little player interactivity. This means a lot of time spent reading and watching the action unfold on your screen. This would be a big problem in most RPG Maker games with banal writing and static, lifeless characters. Fortunately, Neo Jado delivers. It’s obvious that an enormous amount of detail was poured into every single scene, and nothing was phoned in. The characters move, fight, animate, sit down, swing swords, and it really makes the game pretty fun to watch unfold.

The quality of the writing is also extremely high. The characters are witty and likable immediately, the author has a great sense of comedic timing, and the conversation always feels smooth and natural. I never once felt like just mashing a button to get to the next part.

Things fall apart a little in the interactive sequences, however. The pathos of the main story arc clashes with the abundantly silly elements found in the game. Money is called the G-Unit, townspeople make fourth wall-breaking jokes, the likes of Mario, Kirby and Nicholas Cage can be found among crowds, and in general it feels like a completely different game. Thankfully the comedy never devolves into “haha I can make my video game character say bad words!” (Mostly.) But it’s kind of distracting when, in the middle of a dramatic scene with tense music playing, we have to watch Goku go Super Saiyan (complete with overblown transformation sequence) and then see Mega Man shoot him in the face.

Some of the playable sequences also suffer from a lack of direction. Upon arriving in the first town, my goal was to locate the mayor, but no one told me this, so I had no choice but to walk around town and talk to everyone until triggering the plot flag, followed by another plot flag at an item shop which was similarly un-clued. The fact that the two developers then appeared on screen to point out this flaw didn’t make this easier to swallow. The fact that you’re aware that it’s bad design and point it out to make a joke doesn’t make it okay! Tales of the Drunken Paladin tried to get away with that, and it annoyed me there too. The town was rather sprawling and it took me a while to realize that the edge of the screen could take me to another section of the city. So again, a bit more direction would be nice. For the exploration-minded, there’s a lot to look around and find, however, and occasionally items hidden in inconspicuous places, but unfortunately these items are never anything interesting.

This bell tower hides an Easter Egg, but unfortunately it isn’t a Red Jewel.



When faced with combat, the player is almost always given the option to perform a quicktime event instead of fighting, where success skips the fight entirely. Other fights consist of QTEs entirely. I’m neutral towards this, it’s nice to let players skip the fights if they want, but the fights are never interesting in of themselves. Character HP totals are low, and one of the common flaws of RM2k3 is present, where enemies tend to all act at once. If you’re facing a large number of enemies and they all gang up on one character, they can kill them quickly. Healing items are thankfully extremely common, but revival items are not, and equipment has so little influence on your performance in combat that it might as well not exist. So really, since combat is a grind it tends to feel like you’re getting punished for failing a QTE, rather than being rewarded for succeeding.

Some people have pointed out that the lack of graphical consistency is an issue, and I’m inclined to agree, honestly. Seeing the likes of RTP mixed with FF6 and Breath of Fire sprites with Fire Emblem portraits is pretty distracting. I think picking one style and sticking with it would have produced better results, though I understand the creators are working with what they had.

All in all, I’d say the story and action sequences of this game are a lot of overblown fun, the characters are likable, and it’s clear the developers have put a LOT of work into this project. It’s clearly of a highly ambitious scope, there are mountains of characters and the developers obviously have a lot of story to tell considering it took me well over an hour just to play through the prologue. It reminds me of the adventurous, ambitious projects we probably all wanted to make when we were kids, the creators obviously have a lot of affection for this setting and its characters and it’s heart-warming to see someone put so much heart into their project. I’m inclined to say the project seems too ambitious to ever see completion, but I can’t fault the developers for trying.

If you like playing games for the story and enjoy cheesy, overblown action scenes, give this one a spin. People who hate “games” that focus on story or cutscenes should give this one a pass.

Posts

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Holy wow, that was fast. Thanks for the review. I honestly wasn't expecting it within hours. Did you manage to finish the game?
Seiromem
I would have more makerscore If I did things.
5385
author=Sauce
Holy wow, that was fast. Thanks for the review. I honestly wasn't expecting it within hours. Did you manage to finish the game?

Catches me off guard too.
*opens SMBX*
author=seiromem
Catches me off guard too.
*opens SMBX*


Working on it right now.

@Soli
If you made it through Borton, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the Deril hideout and the Cave boss minigame.

We've been contemplating throwing out the basic combat system (boring, unintuitive, and almost token anyway), and focusing on gameplay through an actiony CBS, where the party statistics/equipment still come into play(e.g. Phenix HP = minigame HP).

In my opinion, traditional RPG combat needs several things to thrive. The main thing it needs is a consistent party. That consistent party is not very compatible with our story, which takes precedence over everything else.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18062
author=Sauce
@Soli
If you made it through Borton, I'd like to hear what you have to say about the Deril hideout and the Cave boss minigame.

The Thieves Guild maze I unfortunately had to skip because it caused too much slowdown on my computer. I was thankful that the game gave me the option to skip it, at least.

I think the cave boss could stand to have about half as much HP, or at least attack fewer times.

We've been contemplating throwing out the basic combat system (boring, unintuitive, and almost token anyway), and focusing on gameplay through an actiony CBS, where the party statistics/equipment still come into play(e.g. Phenix HP = minigame HP).


I think I would support you mostly using the QTEs. My PM to you actually had similar thoughts.
I feel like making character statistics/equipment and restorative items still count will be the biggest hurdle. Maybe building a intuitive group dynamic, too. Other than that, it's probably not that radical a transition considering that it's already minigame heavy.

As for the review, I agree with everything in it. Accurate representation.

The only thing I'm sad about is that there was no mention made of the music selection.
I take pride in that stuff. =(
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18062
I like a lot of the music! A lot of it is stuff I recognize from various sources, but I appreciate that you at least got remixes in most of the cases.
I had a lot of fun with this (already several hours long) demo and I agree with most of this review, including the fact that I hope this project will reach its end someday despite being quite gigantic in scope.

The only part where I'd disagree is that for me, sillyness and overblown pathos work quite well hand in hand. Oh, and I wasn't disturbed for too long by the patchwork graphics: it is not optimally beautiful, but since we meet Megaman and random yellow taxis anyway, it's hard to care. Although I think it might work against the ability of this game to be perceived as good outside the community, if the creators ever had such intent.

Overall I loved the quirks and the fourth revolving door in lieu of a wall. While some of the gags may fall flat (honestly, distorted or lampshaded tropes were much more fun than wanton pop culture insertion, although it has its good moments such as the packing of alibis) there are just so many that it doesn't matter - a bit like the Leslie Nielsen movies for me, very hit and miss but we're under such intense fire that something will get through anyway. I laughed out loud very often and that's not a common feat of RM games.

Finally, I totally agree wth the fact that the default battle system was painful and felt tacked on, especially compared to some of the awesome QTE battles (that boss of unlimited evil WAS a bit too long to beat, but the animations and everything were so great that it was okay - just a bug : his HP seemed to stop decreasing two bars from zero, for three or four turns I thought I wasnt hurting him at all).

If you (the creator) want to keep equipment and power-ups, I like the idea of tying them into the minigames : each minigame could rely on a given characteristic (like arm wrestling being based on strength) to make the QTE easier, and there could even be some skill checks allowing to avoid them at all if we wish. That way the player could choose between counting only on his reflexes (and getting long and hard minigames like the cave boss or the second maze) or developping the characters.

Edit: ah yeah, about the music, I was honestly a bit disturbed by the fact that I recognized many themes at first - this used to be ubiquitous in RM games but I'm not that used to it anymore - but overall the selection was nice, and more importantly you used it well. Although did you willingly avoid putting a music in Borton ?
You didn't hear music in Borton? There should be. "LoD - Royal Capital", which is from Legend of Dragoon.

If you're missing the file, it would have crashed.

As for the minigame stuff, I rebuilt it already. Tossed the DBS. All custom with a custom menu for skills, too.

We need to get some testers together to try it out before we throw it back into the early chapters. It's a smaller task than most people might think. There's so little DBS in there, especially very little to rebalance. We pretty much need to delete the old monster events and replace with the CBS ones. It's common events heavy. Soon as that's all done, we'll re-release Episode 1.

Which did you like better, the comedic stuff or the main story?
Okay I have no idea why the music won't play in Borton, it is in the directory and all. Well nevermind if I'm the only one in this case.

That's great news for the DBS (or rather the absence thereof).

Honestly, the game stands out much more through the comedic stuff: the main story is not exactly of the never-seen-before variety, and while it makes a nice counterpoint to the sillyness to have a real story happening on the side, it wouldn't hold my attention on its own. In the present state it does work though, in great part due to the quite amazing animations and the writing/direction in the cutscenes.
And don't get me wrong : it's good to have something that makes the game a bit less aimless than purely comedic ones, and I liked the insertion of "meanwhile in the world of real heroes" cutscenes, while the poor Phenix deals with excessive town introductions and unavoidable events. I can appreciate an admittedly cliched storyline with evil villains and corrupt officials and dashing heroes, if it is excessive and daring enough to become a flaming Tarantinesque cliched storyline, and I feel that you've been doing a good enough job in that department.
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