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Love Walks In

(Portions of this review appear on my "capsule review" of Romancing Walker at TV Tropes, but this review reflects my revised opinion of the game.)

(Disclaimer: Romancing Walker is a game that's quite close to my heart, as it's one of the three elements in my massively overlong, crossover RPG Maker fan-fic - the other two are Love and War and The Way. This review is written from a fan's point of view, and your mileage may vary, especially if you're an RPG purist.)

"Look, Mommy! Is it an Eastern RPG? Is it a parody? Is it a dating sim?"

No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be. The old song title, There Will Never Be Another You, can be applied to this game without any reservations.

When FLARE made this one, she certainly threw away the mold.

Introduction:
Romancing Walker tells the story of Ryle Laster, a young man from the very small town of Lavas, who wants to be a sword-wielding adventurer. Like most teenage boys, he also dreams of romance. At the end of the story, he certainly gets both, but not quite in the way he expected.

What's it all about?
This game is an odd hybrid. It can be viewed as a straightforward, if rather cliched, Eastern RPG; it also has strong "dating sim" elements in the form of "attraction points", which end up being essential to completing the game. But there's also more than enough reason to believe that the game shouldn't be taken too seriously; despite the drama that intrudes at times, this is clearly an affectionate parody, or at least a close cousin of one. This thin line between tribute and parody makes for engaging gameplay, and can keep even a cynical player (like yours truly) hooked.

Characters: (5 out of 5)
What makes Romancing Walker work in spades is its memorable set of characters. Now, it can be argued that all the characters are stock anime figures, and do not deserve the praise I'm lavishing on them; as Damon Albarn would say, "They're stereotypes - there must be more to life!" Well, I'd tell Damon to hang on a second here, because though the characters look like stereotypes, every one of them has an interesting backstory, and in the case of Hayami and Fina, unravelling that story unlocks enough background for an entirely different game. It's also important to note that, though the "base" of each character is rather two-dimensional, each of them has something memorable that adds a touch of - dare I say it? - gravitas and depth. For example, Orubia isn't just the shy childhood friend - she is also a genuinely good person who helped out another of the girls in her darkest hour. Caris isn't just a Naru clone whose mission is to beat up Ryle for the smallest reason - she's also a motherless child trying to assert her independence. Little touches like this mean that the player can relate to almost any of these - in fact, the girl you prefer is a fairly good, if crude, Rorschach test of your personality.

Gameplay: (4 out of 5)
Gameplay is easy, except for a couple of bosses; there's a linear progression in skills, and if you find yourself getting stuck, a little backtracking should solve things easily. The "dating sim" aspect is also not too hard - most of the chances to build a relationship are in the form of conversation options, and it's fairly obvious what you should and should not say. (Later on, if you finish enough side-quests, there's another way to do so, but I frown upon the use of love philtres of any kind!) Gameplay only truly becomes challenging in the last one-fourth of the game, but by then, most players would automatically have levelled up enough to tackle most hazards. All in all, there's a nice sense of balance here that is lacking in many other games, and it is fun to play and replay, especially since some side-quests are easy to miss the first time around.

Graphics and music: (4 out of 5)
The graphics are a combination of anime-style custom art and RTP, and they work quite well for the sort of comic adventure that Romancing Walker ultimately is. There are a few nifty battle animations and special effects that liven up the proceedings. Music is, again, a nice blend of original tunes and RTP, and most of the original tunes are quite catchy and hummable, even if they're a tad predictable in terms of emotional effect.

Story: (4 out of 5)
The interesting thing about Romancing Walker is that, for all its heavy comedy, it actually has quite an interesting plot. Though the classic RPG tropes are all there - young warrior coming of age, mysterious evil conspiracy, kingdoms and kings, plucky young girl heroine - they're tossed up like a particularly tasty dish of Chinese fried rice (forgive me for that metaphor) and some of the plot twists, though not too hard to see, are clever. The writing is, of course, marred by several spelling and grammatical errors, as well as some mild PG-13 innuendo, but it's all in good fun, and somehow, the typos actually add to the charm of the story. It's hard to explain why the plot works as well as it does, but it does.

Musings:
When I first played this game, I rated it about 7-8 out of 10, but it has grown on me, like the friend that you suddenly realize you've fallen in love with. The high rating I give this game is not because of its flaws, but despite them, and in a way, that's quite fitting - all of us may have a Platonic ideal of perfection, either in games or relationships, but grow up to find that we can be quite happy with that one game (or boy or girl) that strikes a chord with us and stays with us, even if it / he / she isn't perfect. Romancing Walker isn't perfect, but it's a good companion, and at the end, what more can you ask for in a relationship? After all, aren't we imperfect too?

Highly recommended.

Posts

Pages: 1
Tau
RMN sex symbol
3206
Your rating confuses me. If story got a 4/5 and graphics the same, how does one end up with a perfect 5?

Not to say this game isn't good and everything's subjective to each individuals interpretation just.. :\
Professor_Q
"Life is a riddle I wish I had the answer for..."
3233
author=Tau
Your rating confuses me. If story got a 4/5 and graphics the same, how does one end up with a perfect 5?

Not to say this game isn't good and everything's subjective to each individuals interpretation just.. :\


My review scores aren't generally averages - for example, my Rime of the Ancient Mariner review would average a 2.5, but the game gets a 3.5 because it's a novel and fresh use of the RPG medium. Similarly, my score on this would average to 4.25 (17 out of 20), but I give it a 5 simply because it's so likeable. =)
author=Professor_Q
No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be.


Considering how much I like games with properly executed Relationship Values, as well as humorous and lighthearted RPGs, and given that my intention in joining this community is to actually make games, let's just say I hope that's not the case.
unity
You're magical to me.
11100
author=Desertopa
author=Professor_Q
No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be.
Considering how much I like games with properly executed Relationship Values, as well as humorous and lighthearted RPGs, and given that my intention in joining this community is to actually make games, let's just say I hope that's not the case.


Make a Romancing Walker-esce game of decent quality and I guarantee that I'll be the first fan and subscriber ;)
Professor_Q
"Life is a riddle I wish I had the answer for..."
3233
author=Desertopa
author=Professor_Q
No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be.
Considering how much I like games with properly executed Relationship Values, as well as humorous and lighthearted RPGs, and given that my intention in joining this community is to actually make games, let's just say I hope that's not the case.


Shhh....that's my next game project. =)

(No, I'm not kidding. It's going to be an affectionate tribute to RW, but set in a science-fictional rather than fantasy setting, and with an odd combat / spell system. I already have the storyline, some of the moves, and three major characters down, but I have to finish my current work-in-progress first!)
Professor_Q
"Life is a riddle I wish I had the answer for..."
3233
author=unity
author=Desertopa
author=Professor_Q
No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be.
Considering how much I like games with properly executed Relationship Values, as well as humorous and lighthearted RPGs, and given that my intention in joining this community is to actually make games, let's just say I hope that's not the case.
Make a Romancing Walker-esce game of decent quality and I guarantee that I'll be the first fan and subscriber ;)


Of course, if either of you does get there first, I will be among the first to subscribe, play, and heartily applaud.
unity
You're magical to me.
11100
author=Professor_Q
author=unity
author=Desertopa
author=Professor_Q
No, it's Romancing Walker. There is nothing quite like it in the RPG world, and there probably never will be.
Considering how much I like games with properly executed Relationship Values, as well as humorous and lighthearted RPGs, and given that my intention in joining this community is to actually make games, let's just say I hope that's not the case.
Make a Romancing Walker-esce game of decent quality and I guarantee that I'll be the first fan and subscriber ;)
Of course, if either of you does get there first, I will be among the first to subscribe, play, and heartily applaud.


I will play either of your games. The second there's a gamepage, lemme know and I'll subscribe :D
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