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I want Francisco's Hat.

If you've been around long enough to remember when I used to actually write reviews, you probably know I have had a love/hate relationship with a lot of Craze's games and game design philosophies. I've enjoyed a lot of his work in the past, like Demon Tower and Visions & Voices, but I've also made fun of the fact that he kept releasing what was essentially the same game over and over again.

This is not that game.

Wine & Roses is probably Craze's greatest work to date, and is certainly one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played. No "RM" qualifier, this is just a genuinely fun experience.

The skeletal Lord Francisco has fallen under a curse and lost control of his home, Fort Adder. Despite being armed with an awesome hat and an arsenal of atrocious puns, Francisco must call on the aid of three exorcists to help him purge his home of the demons lurking inside. The three women follow Francisco's orders and begin their journey, but naturally things inside the fort are anything but what they seem.

The game starts in medias res with no explanation or justification for why your characters have begun this journey. You begin exploring the castle and can fight an introductory battle where Francisco explains some of the mechanics of the game. After that, the story of what happened to the Fort and those within is uncovered only through exploration.

The game has a set number of encounters, each of which is unique. Rather than offering experience, killing these creatures grants access to helpful spirits who offer useful items, teach new spells, and reveal snippets of the game's narrative from the perspective of the three heroines, who speculate on the motives of Francisco and the intruders.

They also enjoy showing off their fabulous fashion sense.



You are free to explore the entire castle from the beginning, and new areas and plot revelations come frequently enough that the player is never confused or bored. But while the plot was not taken out back and shot as is so often Craze's wont, the narrative elements of the game are minimalist, and the main focus of this game is still very much on the game's battles, which often in a lot of ways also serve as puzzles. Battles take place in rounds, with your three heroines taking as many actions as they have Energy available, and your enemies will do the same when you're done. You can choose however many actions fits in your strategy as long as you have energy, or choose to not spend any and just save it up to deliver one glorious carnage-filled round of death. You must also watch your character's Sanity, as if it gets too low their attack and defense power diminish rapidly. I found that Sanity was just important enough to keep an eye on but was never actively an annoying hindrance, but some enemies can deplete your sanity quickly, so be careful.

Each encounter is crafted to rely on a different strategy, from single powerful foes to squads of lesser creatures. Some fights you can simply power through with brute force, but others will require you to try something different. Status effects are useful and effective against all enemies, so there's more to winning a lot of fights than simply doing the most damage. Your three exorcists have a wide variety of weapons, spells, and abilities at their disposal, and using them wisely is key to your success. Once you leave the first area, the difficulty of encounters spikes rapidly and you need to think on your feet to stay ahead. The combat is supplemented by dialogue from Francisco who unobtrusively offers hints and suggestions for dealing with enemies, as well as revealing bits of narrative flavor or occasionally just serving as comic relief.

Here, Francisco gives me a hint that would have been useful if he'd given it to me one round sooner.



There really is no right or wrong way to play, and multiple strategies are often viable for dealing with enemies. You can run from any battle at any time with no penalty. If you lose a fight, the game merely encourages you to try again when you get stronger, and the game continues like nothing happened. This lowers the frustration factor to nearly zero as you never feel like you're being punished for failure or experimenting, making each battle feel more like a puzzle to be solved. You can retry a failed battle immediately or strike out to find another battle you're ready for. However, the battles tend to be challenging enough that it doesn't feel like the game is coddling you. The game wants you to win, it just doesn't want it to be easy.

The only real complaint I can come up with for this game is navigating can be a bit of a chore, the fort is large and there are many featureless rooms, making it easy to get lost. A map or some sort of waypoint function would have been welcome additions. I can't honestly say this ever really annoyed me though, and as you grow stronger and master each new environment, it becomes less and less intimidating to find your way around. Entering the fort for the first time is a bit daunting, but that really just adds to the flavor. The entire game is mapped in VXAce RTP, so if you're a graphics snob, this game probably isn't for you. The musical choices are excellent, creating a lingering sense of mystery without being distracting, and the battle themes are subtle and unobtrusive, and varied enough that I never got tired of them.

This game is really a remarkable achievement for such a short development time, and a great example of what can be done in VXAce. I enjoyed every second of playing this game, and I can't say that often. For what it is, I'd say the game achieves what it set out to do perfectly and the end result is a very fun, entertaining game that is easy to pick up and play. To be honest, I can't really think of any downsides. I never found this game overwhelmingly difficult or frustrating, and the core mechanics were plenty to center a short game like this around. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys RPGs.

This game may not be for everyone, but if you're someone looking for a short game to play for a few hours, who enjoys intelligently-designed enemy encounters and light narratives, I encourage you to try this.

Yeah, I'm giving this five stars, you can't stop me.

Posts

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LouisCyphre
can't make a bad game if you don't finish any games
4523
envious as usual

sigh
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18257
author=TFT
ps: is there any way to play this at full screen?


Alt+Enter should do it.
Captain Reviewer strikes again.
TFT
WHOA wow wow. two tails? that is a sexy idea...
368
author=kentona
An approachable Crazegame? Time to download this.

ps: is there any way to play this at full screen?
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13865
SOLITAYRE, STARBRINGER OF THE SOUTH
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18257
author=Craze
SOLI YOU TOOK MY STARS ON THIS GAMEPAGE


I gave you other stars instead! Quit your whining!
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13865
SOLI YOU TOOK MY STARS ON THIS GAMEPAGE
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18257
author=Sailerius
5/5 from Solitayre?


I know! I was surprised too!

Maybe this is what the Mayans were talking about...
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
5/5 from Solitayre? That's about as strong a recommendation on this site as I can imagine. Gotta check this out.
I'm definitely giving this game a download. I like a lot of the projects you're involved in Craze, and if this is credited as being your best work, then I'm genuinely excited! Woo! =D /downloads
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
20832
An approachable Crazegame? Time to download this.
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13865
Thanks a lot, and the "approachable" bit is very good to hear. As you said yourself, I have some, uh... issues... with that.
My last save file indicates 4h05 but I must say I had to wander around the castle a lot and restart a few fights. My actual completion time is more likely around 6 hours.

I agree with Solitayre's review. The battles are very well designed, character customization is interesting and fun, difficulty curve is well balanced, I had a fun time and was hooked and beat the game in two sittings.

I felt that Wine and Roses is much more "approachable" than your earlier games and the learning curve is fine even for an oldschool gamer such as me ^^ (maybe it's just me, but the huge amount of information I'm presented with in some of your other games just overwhelms me).
Personally, this is a good example of how I'd like future Crazegames to be.

So congrats for making such a fine game and best of luck with the contest ;)
Thanks for sharing Zirconmusic's NG.

That's kinda funny. I just wanted to finish him off like a boss! It's not like I lose EXP. Sacrifice the exorcists!!
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13865
If you want to hear the guy's other music, check here: http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/271030

Regarding the CC, thank you. A map is actually something I wanted to do, but... yeah. Time limits. That's why there's the huge gap between the menu options and the ladies' faces when you enter the menu; I was going to put a map there. =|

Regarding the pacing/difficulty... it's different for everybody, is the thing. The game does direct you to generally go LEFT, RIGHT or UP, and those fights are easy for L/R and currently impossible in the throne room. If you go "too far" up and hit the Celsius sector, you'll reach some easy, rewarding fights.

From there, yeah, there's not a lot of cheese between big battles -- I didn't want to pad the game out.

The script error is caused by you trying too hard on a boss that requires you to be gentle. XD (Seriously, though, it's reaching for an actor that no longer "exists" according to the game. I never got the error because I knew how to fight the boss, lol)

Re: HP... man, everybody who's talked to me about this game has wildly varied opinions on it. ;_;

Thanks again; I do appreciate it. I'm not sure if I'll ever re-release this, but if so I'll take a looksee over this again ~

This is a really good game for the amount of time you got to work on it. Here's some CC, by CC, 'cause who doesn't like CC?

- Saving anywhere. Awesome!

- Free turn battle system <3

- The Lord's sprite is so freakin' awesome.

- Am I supposed to see the tint change when I enter the castle? Though I will say that it is subtle enough.

- I love the fade out/in of music when I leave and enter the castle.

- I'm not a huge fan of anything that can attack more than once, but you balanced it pretty well.

- Is there slower movement speed? I feel like I'm moving like a snail, or playing Final Fantasy 11. Bad memories...

- Turning off animations does nothing. Please take this feature out, for it is pointless if it won't work :P

- I agree with Solitayre. A map would be amazing for this game. 'Cause you kinda
throw me in here and I'm a little lost. The chances of RQ could be a tad high, I'll be honest.


- I like the music.

- I LOLed at Donte's character and The Lord's dialogue.

- Rampaging MuAHHH! Okay, good job freaking me out with that battler ;_;

- When a boss spams Daze, I want to cry.

- Small bug on the heart boss where an AoE will kill one of the trash monsters, yet the battler won't go away and I can't target it.

- Byrde boss fight: No sleep spam on it for the entire fight? FUCK EVERYTHING EVER. That daze that... daze... spamming... NIGHTMARES!

- The health on some of these bosses really tests my patience. Remember what I said about Star Stealing Prince and how it didn't have easy fights complimenting the hard fights of late game? Yeah, I had a similar problem here.

- On that Usurper boss:

Got this after killing myself with one of Nynavae's spells. I used another skill, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was.

- Map Bug:


- All of the maps are pretty good.

- Haha ^//^


- I like the final boss and LOVE that theme song.



All and all, this game is very love-hate. After playing, I'm kinda stressed out.
The difficulty system reminds me a lot of Ill Wills, but I think this game will do well to mimic how that game set it up.
It needs to restrict itself a little bit more. That lack of direction really shows in my overall enjoyment compared to the review.

This is how Ill Will set up the difficulty (at least for early and mid-game)

DUNGEON EXAMPLE 5
You come in here and it is pretty freakin' hard. But after you fight a couple bosses, the next 2 or so are easier. This not only gives the player a break, but also makes them feel powerful. I don't feel powerful wiping over and over again, with no real sense of ever-growing power.

And once I'm done with that, I get a big, hard boss to test my new skills on.
Fun, sexy, safe. Go to dungeon 6 and repeat until the second coming!


Going back to that whole map idea, I think a feature like that would fix this problem easily. Of course, I don't expect this.
I just want to share my thoughts :)

Gonna keep an eye on your other projects. Hope development goes well!
*Steals the final boss mp3, and puts it in my personal playlist*
janussenpre
愛・おぼえていますか
1274
Good review. I agree wholeheartedly. This is definitely the best Craze game that I've played so far.

I'd love to see a remake of this game (made without the time constraints of an event) or perhaps a sequel.
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