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Hope you like pudding

I played this game a while ago but never reviewed it! I'm really losing my touch! But anyone who recognizes Anaryu around here knows that his games are almost always worth checking out (and I'm not just saying that because I've worked on a few games with him!) and this one is no exception. I feel like this game is a great example of what someone can do with RPG Maker in a short amount of time of they put their mind to it.

The game focuses on three heroes: roleplaying-enthusiast Blanc, money-enthusiast Ashure, and Junket-enthusiast Junket. These three mercenaries are hired for the important task of curing the sick king by defeating the legendary black pudding. In fact, there's an awful lot of pudding in this game...

There are two main attractions to Boutalles, it's combo-based combat system and a surprisingly in-depth item customization and synthesis system.

The synthesis system is easily the highlight of the game, and may in fact be one of the greatest achievements in any RM project to date. The system allows you to combine the properties of two items with similar properties to create a stronger one, whether healing items or weapons. (It's somewhat similar to Dark Cloud, if you've ever played that.) This gives players an almost unheard of ability to customize their own equipment with properties they like.

The combo-based combat system is a little clunkier, at least at first, and a little hard to get used to. Each character can be assigned various "classes" that unlock skills and other perks. You can assign various skills to certain button inputs, sort of as a hybrid of some of Anaryu's previous projects Outlaw City: Dark Past and World Outside. Learning how to string together an effective combo is important, but since combat is conducted in real time it can feel button-mashy as you struggle to get your input in before the enemy kills you, and since each character is likely to have completely different set-ups its a lot to memorize right from the start of the game. Pulling off a carefully-planned combo can feel rewarding, but it takes a lot of work to get that far.

The class system offers a lot of options to experiment with, but it needs to be explored with caution, as early on in the game it felt like any class but the heavily-armored melee classes would quickly be crushed in combat, as many enemies have absurd amounts of HP. This isn't really a problem, for as with most of Anaryu's games you can alter the difficulty from the menu at any time, and the game is fairly forgiving, handing out huge numbers of healing items right from the start, but it's still something to be aware of.

The story is very silly and self-aware, with the characters often commenting on how ridiculous everything is. The game has a limited number of locations to explore, but many items are randomly generated so you could spend a lot of time hunting for items if the synthesis system intrigues you, though this essentially amounts to a lot of grinding.

The characters themselves, complimented by Krisanna's colorful and expressive character art, are vibrant and well-developed with a fairly small amount of dialogue (though I admit I had a hard time not reading their lines in Liberty's voice...). I quickly found myself hoping that the game ended with Blanc and Junket leaving Ashure bleeding out in a ditch (which wasn't out of the question; it's that kind of game.), but every character gets at least a few good moments.

Pretty much the closest thing the game has to a real villain.

I will say the game is fairly difficult to pick up and play though, as starting the game entails sitting through a lengthy "joke" intro, a mandatory combat tutorial, a character introduction, and introduction to the plot before you really get much chance to do anything. Ironically, the characters are getting sick of all the tutorials by this point, so the synthesis system requires you to mostly figure it out yourself, and solving the synthesis interface can be a challenge in of itself.

This game has a lot of great ideas but you have to be willing to put a lot of work into the game to get a lot out of it. For some people, that's enjoyable, others may not like how top-heavy the game is. All in all I feel like the game works better as a proof of concept, an example of the kinds of great ideas a dedicated game maker can execute in RPG Maker, and I'd love to see the concept refined and streamlined in a lengthier game with a less oppressive deadline, where players can appreciate the ability to grow their equipment, as well as the class levels, over time. It feels like the ideas go to waste in such a short game with an admittedly very silly premise.

The bottom line is Boutalles is a game with a lot of really great ideas and fun characters but a steep learning curve and occasionally clunky presentation brought on by a short development time.


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i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
This review looks at what I find to be a sad trend in Anaryu games: as they become cooler and Krisanna's art gets better and better, they become much harder to get into. Outlaw City was very fun and easy to pick up and play in my opinion, but it lacked some of the visual flair and cohesiveness of later games. By the time stuff like Avarice and especially Boutalles came around, the games are just Fucking Weird to the point of even a genre-savvy player like me going "what."

I love that Anaryu does new, interesting work, and Krisanna's art is always wonderful. It's just too much to take in all at once; I'd appreciate the same amount of effort put into making the games approachable.
Doesn't the time limit for the project have a lot to do with that?

Time and effort are resources to be allocated. It's pretty clear to me how this game was oriented.

I guess... for me, I prefer a silly nonstory over poorly written drama. At least this way, I can enjoy the combat mechanics without cringing every time someone opens their mouth.
Sweet review, got two in short order!

@Solitayre: Boutalles was intended to be a high-mechanic walled game; like the Disgaea series and similar games where you need to play and experiment to learn more, I left really deep mechanics and just enough tutorial to let you explore as far as you wanted. I don't think mechanic accessibility has been too bad in most games (World Outside and this one are probably the worst of the lot!) but this time it was intentional.

I don't think additional tutorials would have helped much, what it really needed was more content to make that curve more gradual!

Also, the theme of the contest was "What can you do with RPG Maker VX Ace?" - so powerful and new mechanics was my secret plan to win (basically exactly what you said, a "proof of concept"!)

Spoilers: That plan apparently sucked.

NOTE: That's not really an excuse, there are certainly dozens of things I can do to improve this game, I actually have a version where that combo system was removed and replaced with something more logical and simple, but I have bigger ideas for the actual Boutalles+ (since I really enjoyed the humor and want to expand on the characters more.)

@Craze: I'm not sure I follow what you mean, but I think I do. And if so, what it lacks and OC had was actual, lengthy, content. All my later projects are definitely very tightly packed mechanics and story. The mechanics feel thrown on you and you don't have the time to adjust nicely, and the story feels compressed and rushed.

Sadly that's a side-effect of fitting too big a scope into too small a timeline. Outlaw City was like a 2+ month project, and since I couldn't do much with mechanics or the systems I focused on making an RPG - much more effective. My other games are mostly all really just compressed stories in a tech demo.

Finishing a game of real length is a much different and bigger challenge than completing something like a contest game, and it's one I'm still struggling to complete. I've found what throws me off the most is not having all my resources so I can just grind through the game-creation, I often have to wait or know I'm lacking certain resources, so I don't move on the project until I get them, but then they don't get done because I'm not far enough to NEED them yet... vicious cycle!

If I misinterpreted what you mean by "Fucking Weird" and hard to get into - please let me know. It's kinda hard to follow but after I thought about it I think I understand the issue.
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