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So much red...a review of Time Arena.

  • EnderX
  • 07/08/2012 08:28 PM
According to Sylenus, this game was translated from French to English, and is supposed to last about half an hour or so. In both cases, he's fairly close to the mark. It's an...interesting setup, at least.

There are two main points to dealing with graphics in a video game: One, they should be reasonable (as opposed to eye-watering combinations of color and pattern) and two, they should be consistent. That is, graphics of the same type (multiple chipsets, for example) should be in the same style, and sets of graphics, such as character{Charaset, Face, Battler} should have a clear and noticible relation to one another.

The graphics are all somewhat-reasonably matched together. I don't see any particular problems with interrelations between them.

Map Chips:
Eurgh...I hope your monitor can display red properly. For whatever reason, the main setting of the game's plot is a dungeon literally soaked down with blood...or, at least, red-spattered floor and wall tiles. Technically, I can't really say there are any problems with the map graphics, but the red did tend to become overpowering after a while. (That plus I tried to tune it out because I'm somewhat squeamish.)
This section also applies to the battle backgrounds - the backgrounds were apparently put together out of the chipsets.

Character Graphics:
The character graphics, both PC and NPC are RTP-styled, although all of them are 'original' (that is, no actual RTP characters were included). There were a fair number of different character images, and no character image was duplicated on any given map.

Face Graphics:
'Faces' were only used for the in-menu face blocks. I put the word in quotes because in each case, the chosen 'face' was actually an image of the character's front-facing map sprite.

Battlers were scattered across the board somewhat.
Since it's a 2k game, there were no visible battlers for the heroes.

A number of the enemy sprites looked as though they were world map sprites drawn in, and from various locations - I recognized one as being the map sprite for the boss 'Trout' in Breath of Fire 2, but was unable to place the others in this style.

Two enemies that I can recall ('Bat' and 'Mimik') had default 2k-RTP enemy graphics for them.

The rest of the enemies were 'normal' imported enemies, but they look as though they came from multiple sources. No enemy party that I can recall had enemies from two different sources together (that is, the enemies in any given party all shared similar qualities - I do not recall any party, for example, having both sprite-size and 'normal'-size enemy graphics in it at the same time).

A video game can be well-designed, and the most beautiful thing you've ever seen, but without sound, it will seem dull and lifeless. There are two kinds of sound; point-in-time (aka 'sound effects') and constant (aka 'background music').

Music was chosen to give an appropriate effect to the maps - 'urgent' on the first, and 'nerve-wracking' on the latter. I do not specifically recall having heard these songs before, but I'm not sure about that - I may simply have not heard enough. Boss battles had their own background music, but regular random battles carried the music from the map. The only particular song that stood out to me was the ending theme - it was a vocal song. (I did not actually pay attention to the words, but the fact it had them was of interest.)

Sound effects, as far as I can tell, were the generic 2k-RTP stuff.

Map Layout:
Some games don't need map design. Pong, for example. But for most games, especially VRPGS, maps are critical. They don't just show the world, they are the world, and should be treated accordingly.

The maps were just general twisty-turny maze structures, albeit in some cases (notably the first map with battles on it), there were teleport points that took you back and forth.

What's going on? How much do we see, how much do we learn?

After a movie one night, Zack (the main character) got into a fight with his girlfriend. She somehow ended up turning into a killer robot and exploding. Now, he's on a quest to earn the right to use a time machine to go back and prevent this from happening. Why this has to be earned by wading through oceans of blood is never really explained.

What are video game characters? Are they simply collections of pixels and statements, or are they people, with real personalities?

Zack's motivation is given in the storyline, and while it's a little iffy on exactly why it has to be done this way, at least he does have a solid motive for what he's doing. Only about three other characters ever received much characterization, and that's iffy - two of the motivation reveal points appeared down a branching story path point, and the third was the slightly-hurried motivation given to the storyline's antagonist.

How well was the game designed? Do things interact nicely, or is the player likely to throw down their keyboard in disgust?

What gameplay there is is technically limited to the battles - other options (trigger events, for example) tend not to be usable until you've passed the right storyline point, at which time they have a small glowing arrow indicator above them.
The battles themselves are a bit difficult to start with, as you have limits to how much you can heal yourself and the enemies tend to come in packs of two or three, but after gaining a couple of levels or so you'll have few problems. Also, except for boss fights, every battle appears to be perfectly escapable - I was never prevented from escaping when using that command. This can be a lifesaver in the first few battles.

The only real problem you'll have is with one of the later bosses - it's got a skill (Single-target, fortunately) that can do ~120-130 damage, and the members of your party are all limited to fewer than 100 HP at max level.

Take a break from the action. Why not try a refreshing minigame while you wait?

There are no minigames in this game.

Custom Systems:
What kind of custom systems are there? And how well designed are they?

There were no real custom systems in the game - the closest was a displayed menu for a group of mandatory interrelated events. There was a picture displaying the individual parts, but all selection was done by means of the 'select choice' function.

Bug Count:
How well fumigated was the game? Are the bugs mostly dead, or are there still plenty of them crawling around to make problems for the player?

Didn't appear to be any actual mechanical bugs, but the translator missed a fair bit of stuff. The usage script for several skills appears to have been left in French, even though the skill names were transferred into English, and a few bits of commentary (a door that won't open when you first approach it, for example) were untranslated. Additionally, the terms for HP and MP kept jumping back and forth somewhat in item descriptions - I'm assuming that's also a relic of translation errors.

Replay value:
Is the game worth replaying? Are there places of non-linear decisions that invite a 'what if I did it this way?' mentality?

Not really. It's fairly linear, so once you've played through it once, there's little reason to do so again.

A short game, capable of burning an hour or so away in amusement if you can stand the nearly-monochrome color scheme.

Final Score:
I'm not giving this a score - I don't really have a good handle on assigning numeric values to the parts of a game, or how to weight them properly. I will say that I found the game to be fun, and do not feel that the time spent playing it was wasted...although I really wish there hadn't been so much red in the background.


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Glad you enjoyed it, I kind of rushed translating this game.
And, uh, it was translated from Italian in English.
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