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A Natura Review

As part of RMN's Review Exchange, Edchguy and J&L requested me to play this game and review it. Unfortunately, I was only able to last for two hours before I finally caved in. I realize that this might be your first game, but I find it hard to hold back criticism I feel strongly about. I apologize in advance if my review offends you.

Natura does everything that I absolutely despise in an Action (RPG Maker) Game.

~The Plot~
The game starts with an unnamed protagonist. For reasons unbeknownst to him, he finds himself in a prison and stripped of his memory. One day, they tell him that he's free - free in a sense that he can move around the prison and loot items and finally go to the exit, where he loses them anyway. But little did he know that he was suddenly in the middle of a coliseum on a rainy day, fighting monsters.

When a sword falls from the sky.

He picks it up.
Then proceeds to beat the everliving hell out of the poor, gigantic monsters.

Next thing he knows, the exit is open, he escapes, the guards block his path only to be slaughtered, and finally, he meets a man named Dhaser who claims to be his savior.

While I was writing the plot above, it sounded like it could've been an exciting start. But needless to say, the plot was not enough to grab my attention and see it until completion. As it falls flat on...

~The Presentation~
This section covers music, level design, graphics and all other things.

The game automatically goes fullscreen. Don't ever do this with RPG Maker games unless you are using VXAce with Vlue's fast FullScreen script. You are going to kill computers and I'm using a brand new i7. It took at least 15 minutes for the game to load.

The game starts with a title screen where the music AND the font scream Wild West. If I'm not wrong that font is even called Bleeding Cowboys. The game sports a Western feeling but the colors of the logo don't compliment it. The way the title screen transitions to the game is also visually irritating. This has created a dissonance between the game's real setting and first initial impression. The radical change of the game's soundtrack didn't help with it at all.

The other thing that turned me off is when the developer's logo and the text appeared, and then it repeats itself as it goes to the real game. It's like it's trying a modernistic/western feel at first and then quickly switching to medieval/traditional way of presentation.

The first time I saw the prison, I thought the atmosphere of the game was well presented. You have a knack for good light tones and the fogs. The main character's sprite has behavior graphics which is always a plus. Unfortunately, the menu didn't wow me, especially on the font's alignment. I also didn't like how I have to check a bag to find out how much gold I have instead of it being displayed on the main menu. Something like this layout this would've helped a lot more with your game. A brownish parchment background instead of pure black would've added more to the game's feeling too.


The guards are probably the dumbest people to have ever graced humanity. They let me roam around alone and raid the prison. I also have to thank them for allowing me to know the prison's layout as I take my sweet time reaching the exit unharmed because nobody cares. They didn't even seem to think that later on, I could probably sell this knowledge to vagrants and tell them how to move around the prison for possible escape.

What kind of prison has broken bars while holding a prisoner inside? Why are the guard barracks accessible just below the prisoner cells? Why is this guard asleep while guarding the storage room and the two guards below him are just ignoring him?

Was I really confined in such a poorly maintained prison with the most irresponsible guards on the planet?

It doesn't help that my character was implied to have some kind of superhuman ability. This setup has destroyed any suspension of disbelief I had right at the beginning. I'm not sure if the listed above is for comedy effect or intentional.

I guess my point is, little things like these are headscratchers especially given the tone of your game. My suggestion for Natura 2: please don't decorate a map for the sake of decorating it. Imagine it as how the layout would function and any safety measures that might've been taken into consideration.

The other thing the game fails to deliver is the sense of urgency or that I'm actually in danger. When I came out of the building, I thought I was in some execution grounds or the prison must be somewhere where there's tons of monsters outside. But it was, apparently, a coliseum. I heard no cheers. And it eludes me as to why the audience decided to watch the very unexciting beginning of my supposed to be certain death during a rainy day. It wasn't until Dhaser explains to me later that it was a coliseum hosted by some wealthy folk as a source of entertainment and income. I also didn't understand why there's a hefty lack of guards or excitement in my escape towards freedom.

Which also confuses me: how come nobody was escorting me outside and making sure that I would fail? It seems that they were hell bent on making sure that I was dead. It seems that they never intended to give me freedom.

Which I thought was a shame. It could've been an epic beginning!

As the game went on, the mapping became spacious and unnecessarily big in some areas. It doesn't help that the teleport events are one tile and direction sensitive to work. I spent at least half an hour navigating through the forest, looking for the next teleport as the dirt tiles didn't lead me to where they could be.

There are some presentation choices that are questionable. For example, when Dhaser asked me to go to the 2nd floor, he probably just finished reading that letter on the floor in a pitch dark room. Just the way the Main Character went with the flow and followed Dhaser and did chores on the very day he escaped was just unbelievable.

But, the biggest mistake this game made was how the save points were distributed. Or the lack of indication of possible 'boss fights.' They have limits on how much they can be used to save, and it isn't until a boss fight and a few scenes later where you can access one again. So if you die or have to quit because of a game crushing bug or getting stuck, you will have to play maps earlier on and lose a considerable amount of progress.

As I went on using a save the maker gave me due to the cat bug, I realized that it didn't have the 2 crystals I got for defeating a monster at the caves and had saved for later. That seriously turned me off and I stopped playing the game for a good amount of time.

When I finally progressed, I was welcomed by what seems to be a very uninspired labyrinth.

My suggestion is to play Romancing Walker. It had a similar dungeon like this but it was extremely fun and entertaining. The lack of puzzles and just being a maze failed to deliver why this labyrinth was such a danger in the first place. It's like a walk in the park. There was one battle which wasn't really a threat and while it was a nice add-on, this section of the game was just boring.

There's also some inconsistency in presentation. It's hard to know if the main character is having an inner monologue at times. Or that dirt path that won't let me jump back when there's no difference in elevation.

~The Gameplay~
I played the tutorial of this game thinking there might be something special with the game to have it separated, like Knights in the Nightmare. I found that it could've been integrated into the story easily and could be turned on/off. But I guess it's okay.

The gameplay shows a Health and Stamina bar. The Stamina feature is something I absolutely hate in any Action RPG I played. I would've accepted it better if there was a slight delay before attacking again like Ragnarok Online or Casting Time. Or just a normal hack and slash like Ys. But I really hate this feature. I'll elaborate on that more later.

The gameplay's presentation can also be misleading and I'll list the gripes I had while I was playing this game.

> The attack animation shows that your standard attack is 2 tiles long and 3 tiles tall. It isn't.
> The lack of animation for enemies when they're about to attack is frustrating. Not even a flash or character animation.
>The lack of delay between enemy attacks is ridiculous. They can attack 5x in a row and stunlock you.
> Because the interaction and attack key is the same, when my character auto-uses a stamina item when I was checking objects to find if they're interactive or not was frustrating. I suggest having "Battle Mode" and "Exploration Mode." The automatic items should be toggleable as well.
> This game needs a Direction Lock key. ANY Action RPG should have it actually. It's hard to target monsters and attack them without this.
> My first reaction: this guy freaking sucks, look at how much stamina it takes for him to wield the sword. You can attack 4x straight. If you miss 4x because of the lack of direction lock, your character gets tired and you are potentially prone to getting cornered in some wall and getting spammed.
> Hotkeys for items instead of opening the main menu.
> Daggers/Attacks miss even when we're facing each other?!
> The lack of gimmicks between bosses didn't make them feel like bosses. Since you're using XAS, I recommend giving the game Desperation of Alcoholic Dream (DOAD) by Skie_Fortress a whirl. He used the same engine and managed to use it right. It might give you some ideas.

I admit that I breezed through the game most of the time, until I got a crash while chasing Dhaser. But when I found out the items I accumulated on my original save were gone because I'm using the "fix" save, accidentally replaced my latest one and I'm miles off from where I last left off... I just decided that I can't play this game anymore.

I really wanted to finish this game. I really did and I feel bad giving this review as an exchange for your wonderful review. But I just couldn't. If it gets a remake/fix I'll definitely play it and give it a second chance. It's just that right now, there's some glaring flaws which are hindering my progress and turning me off majorly.


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You the practice of self-promotion
Nessy, thanks for giving it a try (and putting up with XP! :P) and providing valuable feedback on what you have found so far. I think it will be very helpful for the development of Natura 2 and a possible Natura revamp (it will be up to J&L whether that happens). Also, thanks for taking some time to read our HS reviews. I wasn't sure whether you done so, since you don't comment on them.
Also, thanks for taking some time to read our HS reviews. I wasn't sure whether you done so, since you don't comment on them.

I'm sorry about that! It's more like "Oh god, I need to finish my Natura Review first! I'm sloooowwww" kind of guilt that's why I haven't been replying since I feel like it's wrong to reply when I'm not done yet ;^; )

(The review kinda took me the whole day so I'm rushing towards this remaining work xD)
"I cannot complain when your icon of choice is a penguin"
Everyone who finishes the game seems to have an overall *good* impression of it. I've come to realize that it probably is because the story only starts making some sense well into the game and that the beginning is nowhere near as good and exciting as the second half of the game.

I'm glad to have read your criticism as many of the things you have mentioned are things that we have worked really hard to improve in the sequel.

But I do not mean to just excuse myself. I will work on a new version that attempts to address all of these issues. Thanks for the review, Archeia!
"The game automatically goes fullscreen. Don't ever do this with RPG Maker games unless you are using VXAce with Vlue's fast FullScreen script. You are going to kill computers and I'm using a brand new i7. It took at least 15 minutes for the game to load."
Really? I have a two year old Lenovo desktop, and automatic fullscreen games in VX & Ace work fine. It might be just be though.

Anyway, nice review. I think this game does have a lot of potential.
"I cannot complain when your icon of choice is a penguin"
I've never had a single issue with the fullscreen thing, which has always made the game run just the same for me and my partner. It's also worth mentioning that I have owned two laptops and both were worse than an i7, so it might have something to do with our version of RPG Maker XP. It doesn't take much effort to find the line that goes fullscreen automatically, so I'll do that.
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