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This is scarier than Tartarus bosses.

Disclaimer: This is based off of a full playthrough and is broken down into five points: Writing (Are the characters and plot interesting?), Aesthetics (How pretty is this game? Does all art assets mesh together?), Gameplay (Is it balanced and functional? Bugs?), Engagement (Is it fun? Interesting?), and Effort (Did the creator show that they put work into it?). Trying to be less harsh but still honest. Also, going by an average since doing total scores is not as accurate in terms of individual portions of a game.

Some parts are written under assumption that the game is in a series of chapters, since the title is Chapter 9 on the page.

By now I've realized I'm biased in writing about the gameplay department. Apologies in advance if this bugs some of you.

Might be spoilers. Might.

Hello all! I've been trying to get back into RPG Maker for sometime now. Browsing the games section, I saw this little beauty of a game and said to myself, "Huh, this doesn't look that bad." Seeing as I must reiterate over and over again that I love SMT (fanboy for life, ho), I downloaded it with a few good hopes to gain some inspiration for my own game project.


Morpho Metaphor: Ch. 9 is a short game where you play as a rag-tag group of students (Makoto, Toshiro, Tessa and Hui-Ying) who go into an abandoned hospital to purge the place of Shadows. At night. With their own supernatural guardians.

Sounds oddly familiar.

I didn't even know they had Personas until this part.

Here, they travel through the hospital to find the source of the Shadows in the area (I assume)... and that's really all there is to it, aside from character banter in the halls and such.

I think this game was made for a contest... I think. Likely. I dunno, I'm uninformed. Still, here's what I have to say about it.

Writing: Not bad. Nothing too special. (3.5/5)

The writing in MM is good... in the sense that it's not bad. As hinted above, the story is something already done before and something the player may be familiar with already. High school kids fighting shadows at night. If you can't get enough Persona, you may like this, but your mileage may vary.

The characters themselves are nothing too noteworthy. Makoto is the person in the driver's seat, being a cheery, supposedly gluttonous girl. She also seems to be slightly cloudcoocoolander, but only slightly. Toshiro is a shifty looking guy who serves as the more serious person on the team (and the only guy to boot.) Tessa is sortof a party-pooper and is more or less cynical towards the others. Hui-Ying is a politer person and is, for the most part, the sane one in the group. As a group, they didn't really seem too special, partially because the story didn't really flesh them out a bit more. This can be forgiven, though, due to the nature of this game. Maybe it would've helped if I played the other chapters (if I could find them/if they exist somewhere on the internet).

Dialogue between the characters is slightly amusing, but otherwise average as well. There weren't any outstanding moments of dialogue that stuck in my mind; nothing quotable. It wasn't atrocious to read, though, since there weren't any glaringly bad grammar errors, and there were a few parts that I kinda liked (mainly whenever Tessa comes up. I may not like her that much in terms of personality but I like seeing the others react).

Toshi is not amused.

The only real "gripe" I would have with the game is a plot point or two that are kinda left in the dust, but this seems to be an episodic series, at least. Particularly, a certain Sandalphon individual that appears out of nowhere to battle. Again, this might be a hook to another chapter, so it's forgiven. I don't know why the last boss would summon shadow neighbors/friends though, given that we never see one of them till the end and one doesn't even appear. I would've liked more of a build-up to that, or a foreshadowing. However, that's just me.

Aesthetics: Dem menus and original art. (5/5)

Clearly the strongest point of the game. Even though the game is not comprised of 100% original graphics, it's roughly a good 90% at least. Character busts/expressions are very well drawn, even if I'm not a big fan of the noses. The UI and menus are all custom for the most part, giving it a nice feel to things.

I would've liked skill information, though...

Important scenes are drawn out with full artwork, as shown in above sections, which is a nice touch to the story scenes. Simply put, I really liked the amount of artwork in this game, and applaud the creator for it.

Makoto, this is a restroom. What sticky stuff would you expect to find here?

As for the level design, it felt like what you'd expect from an abandoned hospital. It felt a bit like a dark, normal world Tartarus, with the repetition of rooms and stuff. I probably would've liked a little more variety to break the monotony, but then again, it's a hospital. It works in context, and it has enough detail. Still, probably could've made the place more demonic or something as you went upwards. Something like that would've been nice.

I lurk in the Shadows to catch Shadows.

On the topic of sound and music, the sound effects were standard RTP sounds and such. Nothing fancy. Music came from a few sources, such as Devil Survivor 2: The Animation and Shadow Hearts. For the most part, it works.

Gameplay: I think the Random Number God is sadistic. (2/5)

Despite the nice art, this game's difficulty made me cry within 30 minutes. Not even Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne made me cry that fast.

Gameplay is simple. Encounter Shadows on map, fight them. Battles are based upon Yanfly's Free Turn Battle System. The party has one turn for each character present and can go in any order, while enemies attack normally. In a twist, most skills have cooldowns lasting 3-5 turns and are able to combine to create stronger skills for more bang-for-your-buck. In addition, there's the Awaken command, which is basically a Soma Drop (HP/MP heal) with a partial Luster Candy (All stats up... except speed), activated like a Limit Break.

Nothing can go wrong, right?

On paper, I can see how this sort of gameplay can prove to be strategic, in that you would need to allocate your turns wisely to deal the most damage. However, there are two major flaws to the system that make the gameplay harder than it should be: the Random Number God is unbearable and the enemies are often OP even with said Random Number God.

Enemies have absurd evasion rates. For what reason, I don't know, but the fact stands that my attacks missed. A LOT. Either it's RNG, or I'm really unlucky. Debuffs missed as well, too. Now, this in itself is not automatically bad, but the offender here is skill cooldowns. As said, every move, has a cooldown time of 3-5 turns. This made missing MUCH more infuriating, because now my strategy could be foiled by the system and then I would need to survive without the skill for several turns, without gaining any of its benefits. If I were to invest points and several turns to use this one skill, I WANT IT TO WORK MOST OF THE TIME. I don't want to cast Megidolaon and have it miss every enemy (seriously, that managed to happen).

You'll be seeing that Miss pop-up often, as well as Evade.

Even without RNG help, enemies themselves are random-acting and I felt like they were more than a little overpowered. Sometimes, they would not be very threatening (see: Prophet using Hama/Mudo and dealing little damage), while other times they would wreck you like a truck (see: most times an enemy casted Megido). It was hard to keep up with. RNG made this harder by giving the enemies higher than average critical rates, which applied to spells as well (I think). Needless to say, I tried dodging enemies when possible, but sometimes it couldn't be helped (clever Shadows hiding in the dark...). I saved after every encounter. This game felt kinda like another game I've played on the site, Infection by InfectionFiles, in which I actively avoided encounters to save my own skin. The difference, though, is that while in Infection it is discouraged to fight many battles due to it's genre (survival), Morphos Metaphor is an RPG, and such, battling is somewhat needed to proceed (read: grinding/prep for bosses).

Death is a hunter unbeknownst to its prey...

There were a few moments of BS-worthy things, such as Hama killing Toshiro, who was supposed to block Light skills (According to the pop-ups; and why is the enemy version of Hama an instant kill when Hui-Ying's is a blinding skill?) and the fact that sometimes enemies attacked multiple times in a row. They were powerful enough having one turn as it is! I do realize at least for states, the former would have needed a script to prevent the effect, but there's things out there like Victor's Incapacitate States that can accomplish at least blocking Light instant kills. As for enemies with multi-turns, a little indication that they could do so would have given me a heads up.

Towards the end of the game, I managed to have a grasp of the system and had an exploitable strategy where I would buff Speed through Toshiro and Hui-Ying (read: every speed buff gave an extra turn), increase Makoto's Attack and Crit rate through her "passives" and Hui-Ying's Tarukaja, and simply wail on enemies using Blade of Fury/spamming her normal attack every turn (six times in a row). This is the only example of where the RNG was positive; I managed to crit a lot thanks to this, Makoto's normal attack repeating twice, and because of how criticals work here (I think triple damage), I was dealing absurd amounts of damage to enemies, leading to a frustrating game becoming a cakewalk. This is... not really ideal. It indicates a really steep learning curve and an unbalanced system. I think if the RNG and enemy stats were way more forgiving, this game would have been more enjoyable.

Other food for thought:

- I did not use combo skills often. Mainly because the enemies were so powerful/evasive that this left me no room to experiment with them. (Plus, my exploitable combo was way more straightforward.) I wish the game has more indicators/logical methods of possible combos; I would have never guessed a multi-hit Wind Spell combined with a Light blast would lead to a nuclear explosion.
- I had more trouble surviving Field Encounters than bosses. Let that sink in for a moment.
- It would be helpful if the battle HUD could display inflicted states/buffs. The last boss in particular casted Blind and Rage on my party and I didn't realize that Rage incapacitated control of my characters for that turn because of this.
- Displaying innate elemental properties of characters could have been useful, even if the gameplay ultimately did not revolve around elemental weaknesses as much as other games. You could include it at the bottom of the status description, such as:

A random reviewer who lives under a bridge.
Kind of insecure but does his best.
Null: Light, Dark Weak: Fire

Or something. That's what I'm doing with my own project.
- Normally I would complain about lack of enemy diversity, but the enemies were so strong I was glad I could at least expect what I would be fighting.
- I'm not exactly a fan of damage numbers over a thousand at level 1, but that's a personal preference.
- It makes me confused when events occur and then I'm warped somewhere completely different than where I entered. Check those Transfer Player events.
- There's an annoying pop-up glitch that occurred to me three times in game, where battle pop-ups stick around on the screen until the next battle. Might want to look into that, it's distracting.

That Shadow is clearly Unconscious alright. (Seriously that's distracting ._.)

Engagement: Not unbearable, but gameplay made it difficult to continue. (3/5)

This game isn't as bad as some other atrocities I've played. It's really good in visuals and there's a strange satisfaction in being able to slash through enemies that have been destroying your arse for most of the game.

Still, the fact that they've destroyed my arse most of the game was really off-putting to me in the beginning. I died so many times on the first floor alone; I would have easily quit. And I would have, if it weren't for the fact that the whole thing feels like it was more professional than other RM games. I would say that if the gameplay was more balanced I would have gone on easier, because I really like modern-day RPGs and Persona, even if the premise is familiar.

Regardless, I managed to beat the game and was at least satisfied afterwards. That meant it did well in engaging me, even with the difficulty curve.

Effort: Full steam. (5/5)

I think we can agree that the work put in is spectacular. Lots and lots of art. I do realize most of my criticisms above were probably due to time restraints, and I recognize it here. I'm sure if the creator had more time, they would have gone through proper testing and the like. I know art takes a long time to accomplish, so to that I say: Well done!

Final Verdict: 3.5/5 (Good, but needs more work)

Reasons: The game has strong artwork and visuals accompanied by decent writing and gameplay marred by an unfair RNG.

Play this game if you enjoy: Nice visuals and shorter modern-day RPGs.

Don't play this if you dislike: Really difficult random encounters.

Personal Advice to the Creators:
I kinda already said what needs to be said. Balance gameplay, maybe tweak a few things and it should be good. The visuals and story can lead to a lot of potential outcomes, so if/when you continue this series, I'm sure polishing gameplay can lead to success. I personally liked the game, I just wished it was more accessible/forgiving, and that's coming from a guy who could get through the first dungeon of Shin Megami Tensei IV without dying to the Minotaur!

Also, flesh out dem characters. They have a bit of potential to be... more. And where are the other chapters? Is there any? Or is this out of sequence?

Either way, you have my interest. Would want to see more. :)


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Thank you for the review. I(and my team mates of course) appreciate it. I definitely acknowledge the points made here.

- Playing through myself, I did realize that the RNG was kind of a bitch. Especially seeing multi-hit skills miss for every hit. Or just hit for one, and other such nonsense.

- Displaying states is definitely something I need to look into as well. I sort of ran out of space in the HUD, but I think I'll be redesigning it to fit that in next time.

- The enemy variety definitely needs to be more varied. That's something that will likely be addressed if there is another game.

- Being a non-scripter, some errors just completely eluded me during development. And in the time frame I had, all I could do was hope they didn't crop up. But I'll try and have those addressed for next time.

- Displaying Elemental Attributes is a good idea. That's something I definitely need to include for next time.

- And the difficulty disparity between normal encounters and bosses needs to be addressed for sure.

- Combo Skills need to be better conveyed, yes. I'll deliberate on some way to put them across better for next time.

- As for the characters and story; yes they come from an already established RP group. This game is a single dislocated chapter in it's story. So the rest of the chapters don't exist as games right now. But that's an interesting idea...

- I actually tried to follow SMT Nocturne as much as I could for the gameplay. I probably went a bit too far, ahaha. My bad!

If I ever do another chapter as a game, I'll definitely try to address all of these points. Thanks for playing!

And thank you for giving a bit of creative inspiration. I've been in a rut for a while and started playing RM games to learn/observe a thing or two. I got a few ideas rolling because of this, so thank you. It's really nice, if not hard.

author=Skie Fortress
- As for the characters and story; yes they come from an already established RP group. This game is a single dislocated chapter in it's story. So the rest of the chapters don't exist as games right now. But that's an interesting idea...

Ah, so this is from an RP group. My sister would be interested in stuff like that. Not sure if you should go for the chapters before this one if it's too much work (because we don't want Duke Nukem Forever syndrome), but if you do attempt it in the future I would like to see more. :)

author=Skie Fortress
- I actually tried to follow SMT Nocturne as much as I could for the gameplay. I probably went a bit too far, ahaha. My bad!

Interesting, I got more of an impression of Persona 3 from skill names. It does have a brand of the type of difficulty Nocturne had, if the RNG was Mara. :D I like how my Makoto technique is basically the Focus-Freikugel spamming of Nocturne /slap

Also, one other thought for the future would probably be a broader range of normal element commands, since I noticed electric skills were not present as regular commands. Tesse probably could have been spiced up in the skill department as well, since all her skills were Physicals of varying scopes. Maybe consider things like Stun Needle where it is able to inflict ailments.

But yeah, again, good stuff! Just keep these in mind in the future and it'll do really well (at least in its niche of RM players :P).
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