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One of the best indie RPGs ever released.

  • Decky
  • 04/21/2010 02:43 AM
  • 3816 views
Throughout gaming history, a handful of landmark releases have been released for every console. For instance, the SNES had A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, Super Mario World, and Chrono Trigger, to name but a few. These games are generally the cream of the crop on the system, or at the very least represent the first high standard of the generation. Final Fantasy VII may have "boasted" mediocre dialogue, iffy characterization, and awkward graphics, but it set a high standard that all subsequent RPGs would strive to attain for the rest of that console generation.

This pattern also applies to RPG Maker software. Every maker has seen its share of quality games, usually influenced by a core group of early releases that are often considered infallible. For RPG Maker 2000, one such game was A Blurred Line.

-=Story=-

A Blurred Line is a futuristic action/thriller that follows Talan, a working man turned fugitive. The game follows his clashes with the Agency, a powerful organization similar to Shin-Ra in Final Fantasy VII. Along the way, Talan befriends numerous figures, including robots, gang members, farmers, and spunky ladies.

Without spoiling much, A Blurred Line's story is effective and heavily character-driven. Each character has a distinct personality, and the overall story is well plotted and paced. Lysander has succeeded in creating a story to match the setting -- that of a futuristic, cyberpunk world. Big corporations are fittingly corrupt, and scandals run wild in the untamed streets of Lashe. It's Star Wars meets Final Fantasy VII, and it's quite delicious.

The dialogue is fairly well written; there are some scenes that appear to be forced or overly cryptic (such as a conversation with a powerful figure before a major twist), but I'll chalk that up to the storyline being unfinished. Yes, the story is very much unfinished, and it won't be finished for a while. Lys resurfaced in 2010 and vowed to finish the story, but it's probably a long ways off.

-=Graphics and mapping=-
The mapping is mediocre, and most of the graphics are typical for RPG Maker games. However, neither issue is distracting, as the maps more than serve their purpose as mediums for the story and gameplay. This game is a demonstration of a straightforward RPG Maker game, not an artists' work with the mapping tools. Keep this in mind.

Nevertheless, areas are somewhat well designed and sprites generally match their environments. Nothing really stands out as excellent, but the overall combination of chipsets and charsets helps paint a convincing near-future world. RTP sprites mix well with gamerips, and the run-down, semi-futuristic regions are populated with poverty-stricken, dirty characters. Some of the areas outside Lashe, to be quite honest, are quite blocky and awkward.

Lys tends to sprinkle an overabundance of chests around his maps. Instead of working for their meat, players can search virtually any corner and find something. I think this is a slight flaw in the mapping, as I would prefer to earn my chests and have to search every dead end and/or manipulate my environment. Excellent mapping and better area planning are the only things this game needs to become a true champ.

-=Music=-
There is not much to say about the music. All of the tracks invoke the feeling of a futuristic thriller. To this end, many tracks are MIDI remixes of classic Konami music. I recognized very few tracks during my first playthrough, but most of the common themes were stuck in my head by the end. The boss theme in particular is top-notch; it's from a game called Konami Wai Wai World. Lys also incorporates music from one of my favorite shooters: Life Force.

There are a couple tracks that seem out of place. At the end of the intro, a somewhat emotional song plays during a feverish event -- emotion wasn't a bad feeling to encourage during the scene, but it just seemed out of place. Additionally, the "Lunar Pyramid" theme, while perfect for points of this cyberpunk thriller, would have fit better in a large dungeon as opposed to "running" sequences.

-=Gameplay=-
A Blurred Line features a modified default battle system (DBS), like most of great indie RPGs. There is no need for a fancy active battle system here, folks. Lysander makes full use of monster party scripts; each character has at least one unique ability, and some characters can select from a range of features. Talan, for instance, can learn enemy skills based on the element ("aura") of an enemy. Another character can gamble for credits during the battle, and yet another can mimic enemy attack patterns. These in-battle bonuses help break the monotony of spamming "enter" -- a flaw among 90 percent of RPG Maker games. Newcomers to RPG Maker 2000 or 2003 should take a look at Lysander's monster party pages for ideas on how to spice up the DBS. He even includes a small Custom Menu System, which is always a nice touch.

The game also boasts numerous minigames, including espionage, hack-and-slash dungeons, mining, acting, farming, and car chasing. Giving away details would spoil the fun -- it is sufficient to say that they are enjoyable and do not feel tacked on. Each minigame is as polished as an early-generation RPG Maker 2000 project can get; I encountered no glitches in these.

A Blurred Line's inventory is very straightforward, though the equipment system can get a little bloated. Some items have concise and effective descriptions, such as "RL" for a two-handed weapon or "HP" for potions. Skill names are also a little bloated and uninspired (such as "SummonGorillaMonarch"), though most make sense.

This game is fairly challenging for an indie RPG; on both of my playthroughs, I recall dying multiple times. Grinding for levels and stat increases is not really necessary, as long as players make optimal use of skills and equipment. In that way, it's sort of like Final Fantasy XIII; you can grind a bit, but it may be best to use strategy instead. As a matter of fact, players who use all available skills and items will find that the difficulty will actually decrease over time. Lys probably figured that some players would not have the patience or attention span to master an RPG Maker battle system, which, sadly, has been known to be true for other games.

The gameplay is also not entirely linear. At several points, Talan can choose a profession or a path to a short-term goal. Entire dungeons may be tacked on or omitted based on these choices. Moreover, each choice usually results in a new party member with a unique trait. For instance, if Talan chooses to become a farmer instead of a warrior, his party's dynamics will shift completely. Early on, Talan could be fighting alongside a party boasting great physical skills, but this could eventually shift into a more traditional party with balanced characters like Emily. At any given time, though, Lysander gives players all the tools they need to succeed without ripping their hair out.

Overall, A Blurred Line's gameplay is effective, well balanced, and innovative (for its time). It is a great first step for aspiring game makers. Dive into the coding and figure out the simple yet elegant ways in which Lysander makes full use of the DBS.

-=CONCLUSION=-
A Blurred Line was one of the first indie RPGs to maximize use of the DBS while also offering an engaging story, branching paths, and bonus features. If you haven't played this game, you should consider checking it out -- if only to experience the first indie classic.

Posts

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I think ABL is really good EVEN by today's standards. I can't think of many recent games that are that good.
Decky
I'm a dog pirate
19645
Yeah, it's still really good. I was mostly giving the nod to Legend of the Philosopher's Stone and Hero's Realm.
"most tracks are MIDI remixes of NES game music"

if recall correctly, it's actually a mix from alot of consoles (amiga, commodore, genesis, nes, snes, etc.) plus, for example, the intro which is a midi-rendition of escape from new york
Decky
I'm a dog pirate
19645
comment=27545
"most tracks are MIDI remixes of NES game music"

if recall correctly, it's actually a mix from alot of consoles (amiga, commodore, genesis, nes, snes, etc.) plus, for example, the intro which is a midi-rendition of escape from new york


I should probably remove/rewrite that line, since I was going to develop another thought but it pretty much fizzled.
well it's a kick-ass collection of tunes anyway
Decky
I'm a dog pirate
19645
Yeah, it's a wonderful collection. Some of the tracks are staples in newer RPG Maker games as well. Wonder where they got 'em from :)
I remember playing this around the time of the release and dying right off the bat.
Perhaps it's time I forgave, forgot, and tried again?
If you died right off the bat, you should definitely play it again.
But if you played it through, I don't think you should play it again. Because there are... you know... options.
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