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Strategy is key in this little event gem!

  • Oblic
  • 12/02/2012 10:39 PM
  • 1788 views
Although I am a huge fan of long epics and can enjoy grinding out that last bit of experience to make the next boss fight a cinch, it is nice to take pleasure in some of the shorter, faster paced games that dole out rewards more freely. That being said, Wine & Roses is far from easy, and even though some rewards are given out like Halloween candy (HAH! Got at least one reference of the holiday in there), some of the greater rewards take a bit more thought and strategy to earn.

Considering how balanced, polished, and pretty this game is, it’s quite surprising that it was only made in a matter of weeks. I can definitely see myself coming back to this game in the future and trying different things, challenging myself in different ways, getting hours of enjoyment out of the game that were not originally intended!

Story:

I’m starting to notice a pattern in the games that I end up reviewing: they have very little in the way of a story. Either that or I barely understand what’s going on, tuning it out anyway. It’s strange, because, like I said, I do enjoy the long epics that have deep and involved storylines.

Anyway, the story pretty much boils down to a cursed skeleton and his three crony exorcists (the three playable characters) that are trying to retake his castle that has been cursed. Apparently he was kind of dick, so almost all the creatures in his castle want to rip him a new one, especially his old girlfriend.

That’s about it. Considering a lot of the content is optional (although it is not recommended or very feasible to skip most of), some of the story may not even be fleshed out in each play-through. Regardless, the minimal story goes great with the faster paced gameplay.

Graphics:

Other than the RTP mapping (and I think some monsters, too; I’m not that familiar with VXAce yet), the artwork is original and gorgeous! Francisco (the skeleton guy) has a wide variety of faces for a variety of expressions when he is giving out his advice during battle. Each character has their own very unique and very well done portrait associated with them. Again, considering the time limit, I’m very impressed with how stylish and pretty this game is!

I noticed recently that some people didn’t exactly like the mapping. Although it is entirely RTP, I think it is actually very atmospheric, giving a certain feel to each area of the castle. The mapping is far from groundbreaking, but it is by no means bad.

Music:

Although I played this game with the sound off for most of the time, I did enjoy quite a few of the songs. Most of it, like the battle music, got on my nerves after an hour or so of playing. I don’t think it had much to do with the music itself, but rather I started associating the music with all the frustrations that came with the battles and the exploration. I’m pretty sure if you had a short list of music playing on your radio while lost for an hour in your car, you wouldn’t be terribly inclined to listen to it again, at least not for a while.

The true shining gem of the music, though, would have to be the final boss music. If you look through the comments, Craze posted a link to the guy that made it, and I HIGHLY recommend looking into his stuff (at least if you liked what you heard in the game). I actually listen to the song on loop (contrary to what I said about the other stuff) while I do chores around my apartment. It is THAT good.

Gameplay:

As usual, the gameplay section is the thickest and most important. Maybe this is the reason for reviewing shorter games. It’s pretty easy to talk about gameplay compared to anything else.

First, I want to get my only true gripe out of the way, mostly because it is barely related to the gameplay: the lack of a map. When playing your average RPG (or any adventure game for that matter), the areas you explore are broken down into finer and finer pieces (world map to dungeons and towns to buildings and rooms). Having this hierarchical break down makes areas easier to digest and memorize. This makes the implementation of a map of each individual town unnecessary. But, when you only have one giant interconnected super dungeon, similar to those in the Metroid-Vania games, a map can be very helpful, sometimes to the point of the game being impossible to navigate otherwise. I wouldn’t go so far as that in the case of Wine & Roses, but it would have been very helpful. This was further aggravated by the fact that there was a minor mapping error (which I’m pretty sure is fixed by now) that causes you to warp through a room. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it blew my mind before I found out it wasn’t intentional.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the juicy goodness of the game!

I thoroughly enjoyed the unique battle system. It is much more strategic than most RM games I have played, and involves many fewer “spam attack” and “SPAM ULTIMA!!!” moments. Since there are no random encounters, and as far as I can remember, you don’t fight any enemies more than once, you will rarely be able to spam any attack, unless you want an untimely demise. Plus, since you have all the time in the world to make your battle choices, there’s no reason to rush and “spam” anything anyway.

The best way to describe the battle system is to take a turn-based strategy RPG, compress all the fighters to be within attacking range of one another, and make the game two dimensional. Each party (the player and the enemy) has a turn, volleying whatever attacks they can at one another, or until they decide to end the turn. At the beginning of each turn, each of the player’s characters gets a set amount of energy to be used toward their attacks. This energy can either be used in its entirety each turn, or it can be saved for later turns in order to perform more powerful attacks later on. Depending on certain status effect, more or (in most cases) less energy can be gained each turn, helping dictate the flow of battle.

Another very unique aspect of battle is Sanity. At the beginning of each battle, each character starts with 100% sanity. This indicates that the character is at a nominal battle level, and skills should act accordingly. If this number drops below 100%, all sorts of effects take place that make the battle more difficult, most notably lower damage output. Other effects, such as defense and critical hit and status effect rates also decline as your Sanity drops. These effects help to guide the player through the dungeon. If your sanity drops to a point where battle is nearly impossible, chances are you need to change your equipment or come back later. On the other hand, Sanity can also go over 100%, which can increase the power of some attacks to a degree, but also helps to maintain a higher level of Sanity after a particularly nasty enemy attack. It is important to note that most of the more powerful attacks also come with a Sanity cost. This means that, not only are you spending an inordinate amount of energy on the attack, you are also weakening yourself in the process. Keeping this in mind is important to survival in some of the more difficult battles. Not understanding what Sanity did for the first couple of hours of gameplay made some of first few really hard battles nearly impossible to complete. Be sure to figure out how Sanity flows throughout the battle to stay alive!

I wouldn’t exactly call the equipment and skill allocation system unique, but it definitely provides many opportunities for party customization. As you explore more and more of the castle, you acquire new abilities that can be used in battle. There are only a few abilities that are unique to particular characters, which are automatically available anyway, so they don’t really affect customization. Generally speaking, each ability has a battle effect that does damage, causes a status effect, heals an ally, or a combination thereof. They can also enhance, and in some cases decline, certain stats, such as attack and HP. This can make for interesting combinations, since there are four ability slots per character. One of my characters had two abilities she never used, just so she could take advantage of the stat boosts.

Each character also has four equipment slots. Equipment usually only boosts a character’s stats, but some of the better ones add special affects during battle, like making certain attacks poisonous and leeching life from enemies. Since all equipment is character specific, the amount of combinations is reduced, but there are still plenty of ways to mix and match each character’s armaments.

As far as I can tell, there are only three different elements in the game: Physical, Lunar, and Solar. Physical doesn’t have a direct stat in the status menu, but it usually draws from a characters attack power. The other two can be augmented with equipment, both raising that characters’ strength with that element and their resistance to it. They don’t necessarily oppose one another either, so if an enemy absorbs the one, don’t automatically assume it’ll take a beating from the other. These latter two elements help dictate what skills and equipment each character should use. Some of the equipment (again, character specific) heavily favors one or the other, so trying to use Lunar skills with a character that has mostly Solar boosting equipment could prove counterproductive. Although this can pigeon hole your characters to some degree, it at least gives a good starting point in terms of skill assignment.

Finally, I want to talk about the openness of the game. The game page appropriately compares Wine & Roses to Mega Man. Although there is a logical pattern to follow in Mega Man in terms of the bosses weaknesses, you are not forced to take a particular route through them. Same thing goes here. There are many areas and enemies available very early on (including the final boss) that are clearly not meant to be opposed until more power-ups, equipment, and skills are acquired. Yet, you are not forced to do so either. There are enemies that, despite being ridiculously difficult with a limited inventory, can be beaten with patience and a bit of luck. This leads me to the game’s replayability. Even though there isn’t a whole lot to do, I can see some people, myself included, replaying this game just to challenge themselves. I have tried a few different ways of killing the final boss (all of which have failed thus far) early on in the game. Although it can get repetitive, I think it’s fun to try and break down a path to take within the castle to optimize your equipment and skills as early as possible to make the final boss beatable.

Speaking of the final boss, she is HARD! And I don’t just mean the strategy is hard to figure out; this bitch will kick your ass if you are not ready for her and still can if you are. Not only is she difficult on her own, if you take too long to kill her, she starts summoning little friends to help her out, each of which is just about as nasty as she is. With all that said, she is still beatable. I have done it a couple different ways, so it is definitely possible to bring her down with the treasures you are giving throughout your travels. It really boils down to perseverance and inventory juggling. Don’t give up on the first or second or even fifth try. This nasty little thing can be taken down if you try, try again!

Afterthoughts:

- I like the little hints and allusions Francisco gives in battle. Most of it is actually really helpful and can make the difference between victory and defeat.
- Never underestimate the usefulness of status effects; all of them have their place.
- Another small gripe I had with exploration was the walking speed. Even “running” was pretty slow, considering the size of the castle.

Overall:

I really love when event games come out of the woodwork and become true gems in their own right, even beyond the parameters of the event. It seems to be rare, but I feel like it’s where some of this communities best games have come from. This is a shining example of what can be done with a very limited amount of time, not only with RM, but with any project in general. It is clear a lot of work went into this game and it deserves any praise that comes its way.

On to the scoring!

Even after reading the “guidelines for reviewing” on the forums, in which they suggest giving a score of 5 for games that AREN’T flawless, I still have trouble giving 5 out of 5 to a game that is not truly perfect. It’s a nasty quirk, but I can’t help it. I am not going to say it’s impossible to get a perfect score, I just think that if you are going to have a scoring system, it should have some meaning. That being said, Wine & Roses is one of the best RM games I have played to date and will receive the highest score I have given a game thus far.

4.5 out of 5

This game is definitely worth playing at least once! Now that it is featured, no one has an excuse for not at least trying it out!

Posts

Pages: 1
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13616
Why thank you, good sir!

I was not really expecting anybody to love this game so much, but I'm ecstatic that people do. It makes me feel all warm and productive inside.
DE
*click to edit*
1313
Well, I can safely say this was the best Craze game I've played and one of the best gaming experiences I've had in quite some time. I literally refused to put the keyboard down until I beat it. So that's that.
Oblic
Once a member of RMN, always a member of RMN!
1752
author=Clareain_Christopher
Good review.


Thanks!

author=Craze
Why thank you, good sir!

I was not really expecting anybody to love this game so much, but I'm ecstatic that people do. It makes me feel all warm and productive inside.


You're very much welcome!

I thought it was a fantastic game! It was fast paced and easy to wrap your mind around. It's hard to beat that in a game that looks as good and is as balanced as this one.
author=Craze
It makes me feel all warm and productive inside.


Best type of reaction.
Pages: 1