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Don't waste your time reading this, just play the game.

This review is based on the first demo of Three Ghostly Roses, the one made available on 05/08/2016 (so no one is confused). Although I am dividing this text in sections, I am not going to score each individually as this is a demo and I believe games should be appreciated as an experience and not as a recipe made of graphics, gameplay and music.

Without further ado, I will get into the game.

The game starts with a classic amnesiac trope, Edmund Brigham doesn't remember who he is, where or what he is doing.

He soon meets the Gatekeeper who reminds him of his name which conjures in Edmund an image of a rose. Much of the rest of the story is revealed to the player through interactions with the Gatekeeper, the other amnesiac inhabitants of this strange world and notes which can be found lying in chests around. I will not say more because like much of the game, the story is very minimalistic but charming and interesting.

I found the texts and dialogs to be well written, but I personally had a problem with characters saying things like "hehehehehehehehe" or "hahahahahaha" which really stood out from the rest of the game and not in a good way.

Spoiler alert! hehehehehehehehehehe

Fortunately, the story gains in depth as the player progresses through the world. It is not overly complicated, but features other characters who also have simple but interesting stories like the Gardener.

Setting, Tone and World
After the intro map, Edmund makes his way to the Keep, which acts a bit like Sumner's Tower in Gauntlet or the Nexus in Demon Souls. At first the player can only save and rest (for a fee of course), but once progress is made the player can fast travel between the keep and different areas.

The game's world design is somewhat similar to a metroidvania in that the player has to physically walk everywhere (but everything is fairly close together) with enemies along the way. Edmund can set up ropes to use as shortcuts in order to be able to quickly get through an area without facing all its enemies again.

In addition to the Keep and the forest area only two "dungeons" are available in this demo, a network of caves (which I didn't catch the name in-game) and the Garden Tower. Both are very well designed especially the Garden Tower which I really appreciated. Even though it's not that big, it succeeds in making the player feel lost with simple level design.

It is unclear when the game is supposed to be happening. There are some things which are clearly medieval fantasy (knights, skeleton, maidens), but Edmund knows kung-fu and also faces some enemies which would definitely feel out of place in a purely fantasy world. This helped giving the game it's own flair and originality.

Overall in term of mood, the game is pretty dark and depressing. The dialogs, story, music and even the very sober graphics of the world and enemies contribute to that feeling of dread. I am personally a fan but some may already be full from the gritty dark fantasy which is currently prevalent is mainstream fantasy RPG. In the RPG maker scene though, I feel that there is an abundance of cutesy anime JRPG compared to darker more serious games. It is simply not done nearly as much and when it is, it's not pulled off as well as this game does.

Except for this part. "Wheeeeee!"

Combats are like puzzles to which the player must find the optimal combination.
The rules are very simple, when an enemy is killed Edmund regains some HP and a FP. Whenever an foe is attacked, Edmund gains a FP. Some enemies do not take damage from certain attacks and the player must use the right Art. There are three arts: Uppercut, Dropkick and Leg Sweep (Top, Middle, Bottom). Memory and intuition will help finding the right combination. Although they are simple animations by RPG standards, decimating a group of enemies using the arts is very satisfying. Combat is very short and when the "right" combination is achieved it is obvious to the player and it brings a sense of closure at the end of the fight.

Encounters like these make you stop and think twice at the way you will approach it.

One of the first combats (the one with five dwellers) does a fantastic job at explaining the mechanics of the game. The player will kill one, the four remaining will attack. Rinse and repeat and every time Edmund will take less damage every turn. Once they are all dead Edmund is back to 100 HP.

The two bosses were a good experience, forcing the player to "charge" their attacks using regular attacks and then using the appropriate arts or spirit. Regular enemies do not feel dangerous, their function seems to be to wear you down if you do not perform the encounter properly as you will have lost HP after the fight, which is problematic since Edmund does not have access to potions or healing spells.

Leveling up seems to only give Edmund more HP. Unlocking skills and additional attacks is done by progressing through the story. Other than resting I have found no use for gold and you will find A LOT laying around in chests and when defeating foes.

The menu is minimalist, much of the default RPG Maker crap is gone (which would be useless in this game), leaving only skills for the player to review and key items.

The graphics were all made by zDS. They have a very 8-bit feeling ala Dragon Warrior which I personally like a lot. They are a little weird if I think of the overall story as the plot is not very high fantasy, but I found they fit well with the minimalistic feel of the rest of the game. Visually, everything is coherent and what is available in the demo is very pretty.

Just like the graphics, the music is all composed by zDS. The soundtrack sounds a bit like MIDI, but they are in fact high quality ogg. My favorite tracks were "A Road to the Under" and "Only Down". All songs are coherent with each other and they do sound similar, but in my opinion that is not a negative as it solidifies the overall ambience.

Really minor stuff honestly. I tested for collisions and other things but other than the two things mentioned below, the game is very polished.

If one presses F12 to return to the title while a dialog is scrolling, the dialog box will remain stuck there (until another dialog box erases it).

Same happens if the player presses F12 in combat.

it even stays there until the next combat.

I am giving this demo 4.5/5
Some of you will be pretty alarmed by this rating which should be reserved to the top-tier games of this site and especially not to a demo lasting less than an hour. In a way, this rating is an alarm. I hope it will encourage more users to try it out (26 subscribers but 21 download, whuh?) and if someone really disagrees with the score, that someone should write a review of their own, point out what was wrong with the game and help the developer further into making a great game.

I am personally in love with this game and even though it is short, I cannot wait to get what comes next, I would even be ready to shed some money on it if it was on steam. In that way I think the game is very successful.

The graphics, music, gameplay and story add up together to make something worth more than the sum of its parts (at least so far). The combat, although simplistic at first, grows wonderfully in complexity and I expect it to get even more satisfying (and maybe a tad harder) as the game continues as it has so far. I was not really impressed with the story at first, somehow sure that I could see where it was going from miles ahead, but the way the lore was slowly revealed and the impact it had (at least on me) is very impressive and I must urge the users of this site to give a try to this pretty unique game.

Except for the score I'm giving this game.


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This is a wonderfully written review. As happy as I am to get a high rating, I'm even happier to get a high rating with an actual well written review pointing out what works, the flaws, and actually getting what the game is about and talking about it.

I am quite happy the story did not go as you expected, for I was initially reluctant to start off with Edmund being amnesiac. While being amnesiac is cliche, I felt like the game's beginning would have been best to give the player a sense of mystery, gradually revealing the plot elements as you go. My hope was to assure players that this was not just another JRPG and something very much its own as you progressed, and it seems like I have succeeded so far.

The gold not being useful will change in the full game, as you will be able to purchase new Arts and Blast skills. With that said, I do feel I put a bit TOO much Gold chests and will change some around to add a little variety. I am going to have an item where you collect enough, it opens certain doors. I also plan on replacing some of the gold chests with healing chests.

Thanks for pointing out that bug! I would have never found that myself.

And the laughing dialogue, I will definitely consider an alternate way of portraying laughter via dialogue text.

I much appreciate the effort put into this review. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I'll try not to disappoint with the rest of the game, there is much more to come.
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