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Blue Skies smiling at me. Nothing but Blue Skies do I see.

  • pianotm
  • 05/15/2016 09:33 PM
  • 1594 views
Name: Blue Skies

Developer: Starmage

Story: Take on the roles of Skye and Caven and go out in the world to put an end to suffering throughout the land. Skye bonds with a mystical creature. Caven seeks to make his parents proud and become a worthy king. An evil empire invades everything. It's up to Skye and Caven to save the world!


Wake up, Neo. Follow the white rabbit.


Writing: There are a lot of points about this that really need to be addressed, but let's start with the positive points. The developer does a very good job of driving a story and a plot, even if the cutscenes are a bit more verbose than they need to be. Information gleaned is focused on moving forward and getting the player to the next scene. The writing also leans heavily on character development and growth and works hard on establishing relationships. The developer is also careful to give equal focus to each of the main characters. As far as writing and development is concerned, nobody is underused and the characters are balanced with each other quite well, although, this only applies to the heroes.

Unfortunately, even though the developer drives the story and plot, the game lacks a great deal of focus. As a result, we're not even sure what we're being driven to until a couple of hours into the game, in which we meet our main villains far later than we should. We first meet Skye and his friends, we then meet Caven. Once we're done with Caven's mission, the next person we should meet is the ruler of Xmiel, even if it is just in a cut scene, but we don't. We return to Skye and spend a significant amount of time on a series of fetch quests. Finally, after a dungeon facing bandits, we meet the rulers of Xmiel. This is much farther than really makes sense, and at this point, their introduction is unexpected and awkward. Even worse, this is the first scene in which we get a clear idea of what we're even doing here. It's at this point that the game finds its footing and the story finally knows what it's trying to accomplish, but the damage is done.

Remember how I said that the scenes are a bit more verbose than they need to be? While driving the story, the developer tries to mix banter with exposition. Unfortunately, the banter feels forced and and pointless and ends up being longer than it has to be.


You'd think this would shut them up...
Also, there's a very distracting mapping error on the roof of Skye's house.
You'll find that this tile misuse is repeated for every building, but I'll go into more detail in the Graphics section. Also, notice anything distracting about that facechip?


Reducing conversation would definitely have a desirable effect on the flow of the game. One of the problems is that the banter is doing nothing to drive the story, and when an effort is made to add info to it, it simply repeats information. This can be balanced out by spreading exposition throughout the conversation. What's happening here is that we're spending the first two minutes of a conversation getting the information we need to advance the game, and then spending the next five minutes listening to everyone pointlessly gab like chickens. If you must gab, don't confine it to one cutscene. Spread it out. Close out the cutscene and then continue the conversation elsewhere. Consider how the Final Fantasy games do this. The player goes into a dungeon, and each time they step onto a map, there's a brief pause so that everyone can say something else. Also, don't beat a dead horse. Once a conversation is over, continuing to rehash it over and over again simply annoys the player. There are numerous examples of this problem throughout the game: the girls gabbing at the opening of the game, Caven on his tirade in the Gwado mayor's office, Caven taking control and helping Skye to focus in the Fidel sewer. With the exception of the Gwado tirade, the characters make their points and then keep repeating them. In the Gwado tirade, Caven takes overlong getting to his point and does so very inelegantly.

Another thing: this is a video game which means that breaking logic is fine. However, stripping logic naked, beating it with a stick, and kicking it in the groin is not fine. This is what happens in Fidel when you have to help a fellow get a job at the pub. It seems nobody in the mayor's office can get into the pub to speak with the manager (soldiers) included...because they don't have VIP passes and would have to fight security. This makes no sense at all. Nowhere in the world is there is an establishment that will actively prevent state officials from conducting government business. This is just a really, really strange inclusion in the series of fetch quests. This really disrupts the narrative and is a tremendous break in logic that I doubt anyone will accept.

Finally, this game really needs a proofreader. Grammar is not terrible, but there are some spots where sentences become very cumbersome. There are numerous parsing errors. Grammar seems to be word perfect for a few pages and then briefly devolves into poorly worded sentences that become rather difficult to understand. Ordinarily, it's not a problem, but in scenes where characters are being long winded (Caven in particular) this becomes an issue. Also, the game consistently writes "thank you" and "be careful" as single words.

Gameplay: Overall, the game is a very good demonstration of the RPG Maker 2003 basic battle system. Combat is fast paced. The developer makes the excellent decision to make encounters touch based. I would suggest that the developer work on the on screen enemy AI a bit. They move fast so that they are somewhat difficult to avoid, although not to much so. Still, they only move randomly. I would suggest inserting in the encounters a conditional branch that detects the player's XY coordinates and sets the enemy to pursue whenever the player gets within a certain range. Battles are very well balanced, though there are a few exceptions.


Here's a battle that could prevent Caven's ascension to the throne.


With Caven facing the the dual snake fight alone, he's forced to combat between poison and blood drain, and often it uses up too many resources. Another poorly balanced fight is the boss battle in the Fidel sewers. The real problem here is paralyze, an status that acts like petrify from the Final Fantasy series. A significant problem is that statuses almost always hit. You face the boss creatures with only Skye and Caven. The main boss in the battle has a tendency to spam paralyze, meaning you have to often use healing herbs every turn. If one of your characters is killed off, which can easily happen since there are at least three attacks in play that take off more than 100 HP, the boss is easily able to simply finish the fight with a paralyze attack, and usually will. This is awfully unfair to the player, who now has to essentially deal with a creature with an insta-kill ability, and Caven is the only effective fighter here. Skye has to keep Caven alive, by healing or by using the healing herb, which will disappear quickly. Frankly, Skye isn't going to do both, and he's going to spend most of his time removing paralyze from Caven, who loses a turn. If the monster paralyzes Skye, this often becomes certain death, as Caven loses his turn so that he can revive Skye. Caven will often then be paralyzed and Skye will be killed before he can do anything to solve the problem.

This brings me to Skye. It's fine to have a character that can only provide support and has no attack capability, but Skye only really has anything to do in toughest boss battles. Elsewhere, he's not very useful. He occasionally has to heal, and sometimes, his other abilities can be useful, but he spends most of the fight relaxing. It's fine to have a character that is exclusively support, but he needs to have something do, otherwise he's just taking up space, and breaking the flow of combat.

Finally, we need to address healing balance. We've already established that the developer is using the default database. This means everyone starts at level 1 with HPs ranging between 300 and 500. This also means that potions heal at a rate of 100 HP, and high potions, which have thankfully been included, but not nearly as many, and not purchasable until significantly later in the game when their impact is negligible, heal at 300 hp. this is wholly inadequate for such high HP levels. Potions are really only useful in the first two dungeons. After that, enemies simply take too much HP off for them to be really effective. Also, Skye's healing abilities are equally inadequate, with his single healing spell healing at a percentage; roughly a quarter hp, and healing wave healing each player at barely 30 to 50 HP each. As early as the third dungeon, the ruins where you get the ink, healing wave is already useless as enemies already cause more damage than it's capable of restoring. All restoration values need to be doubled at the very least. Potions need to hit 200. Healing wave needs to heal at least a base of 50 points with at least an additional 15 to 20 percent. The developer would probably be better off making that a base of 75 or 100. High potions are better early on, but you shouldn't need them this early. They should at least hit for 500. Food also restores some HP, but at 15 to 20 hp, this is pretty much useless as health restoration. Food also gives some MP; between 5 to 15 depending on what it is. This is marginally more useful, but again, mostly pointless. Without accessories, you'll need to consume two apple pies just to get enough MP to cast a single spell.

Ultimately, what you're doing is grinding and running back and forth to the inn in order to deal with the healing deficiency this game presents. Only the first and second dungeons are passable without having to run back and forth to an inn.

MP is handled well and while I would like to see some more mana springs, I wasn't really hurting for them.

Overall, though, the gameplay is nicely implemented. It actually goes to show that the problem with a lot of basic RM games isn't the RTP; it's how the RTP is put to use. This game keeps the play fast paced and interesting. It has a very nice retro style. There's just a lot of mistakes and balance issues that can really be chalked up to a simple lack of polish.

Graphics: Once again, we have an example of how RTP can be made really very pretty. Maps are well laid out and nicely decorated. Town layouts are well thought out and most of the space is very well used. That said, there are some pretty consistent mapping errors throughout.


The poor guy doesn't know which way's up or down!


Starting with the above image, we can see that the developer knows how the tiles go together, but doesn't quite understand dimension. Is Caven standing next to cliff face and is that path to right going up? Or is that a crevasse and is everything level? One of the issues we see is a misuse of corner tiles. This is especially apparent with the rock in the upper right corner of the screencap. Notice that we have a diagonal wall ending on a horizontal corner. The RTP includes triangular corner tiles on the second layer that can be used here. Also, where the cliff face meets the grass, it looks like it's on the same level. That's because only the middle of the cliff tile is being used. The RTP has shaded, cliff borders that show where the cliff is ending and would better show whether this is a cliff going up or a crevasse going down. Also, there's something odd going on with that water. First of all, what keeps it from breaching that ultra thin wall? Also, the dev appears to be shift mapping the water edge against the grass edge, which looks very strange.


Nope. The game hasn't figured that out, yet.


This next screen shot shows a mapping decision that looks aesthetically odd. Instead of those square corners, the triangular corners would have been better.

Another thing that the player will notice is the white background on the facechips. It clashes badly with the overall game aesthetic. That should be set to transparent. To make sure that no other white is included in the transparency, I usually turn my backgrounds neon green or some other odd color that isn't often used.

Music: I'm not sure where much of the music comes from, except that I can clearly identify the FFVIII Balamb Garden theme in the town of Suna. The music overall, wherever it comes from, is fast paced, and really plays a tremendous part in helping the game to move along.

Conclusion: Overall, this game is really not bad. I feel that there are some narrative issues early on that will cause a lot of people to give up on the game, but those who manage to get past them and enjoy nostalgia will probably find this game enjoyable. The game is by no means a must play, but I don't regret having played it. At this point, I can recommend it for a lazy Sunday. Beyond that, it does need a significant amount of polish. With a lot of editing and proofreading in the writing and some tweaks to the combat engine, this game could end up being a classic. Until then, even though I really want to, I don't feel comfortable giving this game any higher than three stars. As good as the game is, there's simply too much taking away from it to ignore.

Posts

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Hi pianotm!! I was indeed quite interested in reading your review!! and wow!! thanks so much for pointing all those out!! xDD actually, I don't have any excuses that it's my first RPG maker game, cause you've indeed pointed out some important factors like the narrative (having introduce the main villain earlier than that) and the mappings on the map etc.! and as a player of many classic RPGs, I should have already known about all that!! xDD

And yes, there have been some complaint about the battle system when it comes to the healing, I've actually been buffing that! because it was worse in the previous versions! xDD but my, never thought it was still that weak!! x(( but still, note taken! ;) I will address all these balancing issues in the future! :) especially now that I'm working on a new game with RMXP, all your points will be useful for this! :) xD

Also, I've been bugged about the face-sets myself!! x(( I was quite confused because it seems the face is already as-one with the BG itself when I downloaded it from Gozaru's website! xD it was indeed strange to say the least! :)

Once again, pianotm! thanks so much for everything that you've pointed out and this review in general! I really do appreciate it and I'm very happy that you took the time to play the game and share your thoughts about it!! they are indeed very helpful!! :)

Also, yes! english is indeed my worst points! xDD I have always been quite a newb when it comes to english language (scores of 11/90 in english class haha!) and I understand what you mean by it!! but I will do my best to improve my english as I progress in creating RPG maker games!! :D

Thanks so much once again pianotm!!
This is a surprisingly good review. Keep up the good work.
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