Game: Alphadia Genesis
Publisher: Marvelous Europe
Release Date: January 12th, 2015
Platforms: PC, Mac, Wii U
Reviewed Platform: PC (copy provided by developer)
Obsession seized me long ago, way back in the days of yore (Super Nintendo specifically). This addiction lead me down a dark path with many nights spent before the glow of a television set. I learned, long before my days of min-maxing in MMORPGs, about the best potential party composition, item management, and equipment optimization. The halcyon days of my youth spent playing good and bad JRPGs made me love video games all the more. No genre aside from survival horror has ever given me the highs of a truly magnificent JRPG. My desire for them, especially heading into the Playstation and Playstation 2 days, consumed me to a point where I was akin to that fellow panhandling in the streets for just a bit of change. Donations for the waifu fund, sir? MISTER PLEASE!
So, yeah, I like JRPGs. That is established. I used to stray from the formerly evergreen pastures of Square-Enix, NIS, and Atlus into the territory of games that either came from unknown developers or startups that wanted to do the JRPG tradition proud. Sometimes it paid off. Sometimes it didn’t.
Kemco, known more recently for their mobile offerings in the RPG sphere (Symphony of Origin is pretty darn good) has hopefully started a trend to bring more of JRPG goodness to the PC. There’s one thing the company does quite well: build definitively old-school styled RPGs that improve with each iteration. These games tend to have a lot of the genre’s 16-bit DNA in them. It is not a crime to tell a story so complex or full of disparate fragments that can only be pieced together via future DLC or subsequent sequels. I love the genre, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I do long for the simpler days. I don’t mind something more akin to Chrono Trigger. Navigate the world map, fight some goons, level up and save the world. That is exactly the sort of thing a player does in Kemco’s Alphadia Genesis (now available via Steam).
It has been fifteen years since the Energi War ended…
The setup for Alphadia Genesis is quite simple. Fray, a naive but good-natured warrior and card-carrying guild member, wins the yearly combat tournament. He is immediately summoned to meet with the King thanks to his bold display of strength and courage. The venerable ruler of Archleign tasks him with investigating an incident of grim violence in a neighboring town. It seems a wealthy man was murdered, sadly, at the hands of clones. Fray’s sister, Aurra, tags along as well. She’s a genius — conveniently well-versed in the ways of clones, and she loves dried liver. The nearby kingdom of Ghalzabine sends a few diplomats of their own to join the team and away we go.
Lagoon, the world that the Alphadia series takes place in, is teeming with all this Energi. It brought about prosperity, allowing mankind to flourish very quickly, but ultimately led to a massive conflict known as the Energi War. Both countries at the heart of the conflict, Ghlazabine and Archleign, hit the Research and Development track hard and developed weaponized clones infused with the aforementioned Energi to fend off one another. It nearly tore Lagoon apart, and the rest of the story from there is up to Fray and his motley crew of adventurers to figure out.
It isn’t exactly going to win an award for originality in regard to narrative, but it does deliver a no-nonsense plot that is paced throughout with a few twists and turns. Some of the better parts of the tale Kemco wove together for Alphadia Genesis are the smaller moments: the more interesting character foibles and interactions among the crew that really establish them as nuanced personalities. It would have been nice to get English voice-acting for the title, but the Japanese voice-work is decent enough.
Without a doubt, Alphadia is derivative of the stories of the console RPGs released before it. It’s not a bad thing. A story such as this, while not offering as much of the depth of a Shin Megami Tensei or an even more overblown Final Fantasy, still manages to be entertaining the whole way through.
Welcome back, old friend!
The hand-drawn 2D sprites evoke nostalgia from those of us who revel in the marvels of Japanese RPGs. The expression and quality of the art in Alphadia Genesis feels a bit underwhelming in parts, but ultimately delivers a well-rounded aesthetic. One must remember that this game began as a mobile entry. There is quite a bit of dialogue in the 13 or so hours you’ll spend playing this game so it is a great thing the character art that accompanies the dialogue is quite good. The overworld is a bit sparse in detail but at least it’s not a menu town like so many other games in this genre tend to sport. The trek from point A to point B is straightforward affair with in-town design feeling a bit generic. The game’s mobile roots definitely show here.
The sprite design outside of character dialogue is decent, but could have used a bit more in the way of expression. For example, if a character is nervous the whole sprite tends to flit back and forth in a way that is a bit too speedy. If they fall unconscious they tend to just tip over. While the effect looks a bit comedic it is rather basic and could have used refinement. I could not help but think back to the early days of the Super Nintendo, Gameboy, and Playstation catalog of RPGs when it came to the sprites on display. But the nostalgic feel Kemco was going for? It hits the mark.
You’re looking a bit jagged there, dude.
One of the bigger problems with the game can definitely be found once a battle is initiated. It is here the 2D gives way to a more polygonal 3D engine crafted by EXE-Create. It is the same one they’ve been working on for years and while it is a welcome change to see battles given a bit more life compared to the 2D counterparts, it falls flat in many respects. Character animations are, well, limited and attacks mostly consist of basic motions and occasional swings of a sword. Spell effects are minimal with the various elements on display (Light, Water, Fire and so on) looking a bit slap-dash, honestly. This is one of the biggest problems with the game as a whole — not just the models, but the fact it is a port of a mobile RPG. It is welcome to see more honest-to-goodness JRPGs on the Steam marketplace but the transition from the phone/tablet screen to computer isn’t without its issues. They aren’t quite as blocky as, say, the in-game characters of Final Fantasy VII (CLOUD! MY HANDS. THEY’RE JUST BIG SQUARES!!) but they could have had a bit more work put into them for the PC release.
The monster design also lacks definition aside from the usual re-color/re-name tactic most RPGs of this kind employ. There’s the bird enemies, the human enemies, and the blob ones. The boss characters are decently defined and stand out from the usual cannon fodder but, honestly, after a while many of them started to blur together.
This one’s a breeze
One of my biggest pet-peeves with games from this genre? Menu towns. Persona titles, fantastic as they are, tend to rely on menu towns and the interface melded with the map far too much. Overall, the interface system for Alphadia Genesis works quite well. Menu systems are clean, crisp, and are explained well. This translates into battle where it is actually difficult to get confused by anything happening on-screen at any given point. The port to PC did well to borrow heavily from the game’s mobile beginnings, as any RPG crafted for that platform desperately needs. Dense menus full of a million options tend to falter on a phone. Movement is a cinch via the usual WASD keys and mouseclick. Dungeons were actually quite nice to plumb as they’re full of secret passages to explore and are rarely, if ever, designed in a way as to get the player lost.
That ease of use definitely lends itself well to the overall difficulty of the game. This is, without a doubt, one of the easier titles I’ve come across in some time. I didn’t 100% it the first time through but I never saw a Game Over screen throughout. Grinding is definitely at a minimum here which, thankfully, kept the playtime at lean number. If ever a major conflict is coming up the game telegraphs it well with characters mentioning that danger is ahead and even giving the player an opportunity to regroup before entering the fray. Wandering around the world and dungeons could have led to far too many random encounters in most games, but Alphadia warns the player of an incoming battle with a border around the screen that steadily transitions to blood-red right before the battle starts. You can even engage in an Auto-Battle feature if you so choose to make the combat fly by even quicker.
Break Skills are varied and bring quite a few unique opportunities to the table though the low difficulty means that, more often than not, using the full range of them aside from a few specific encounters isn’t really required. They are this title’s version of Limit Breaks. The various Magic (otherwise known as Energi) elements used by the team run the gamut of the usual Heal, Revive, and elemental varieties with no big surprises.
The cast of characters swells as the story rolls on but the party size remains static. Once four characters are assembled the rest serve as a backup to those in the heart of the fray and are actually inserted into the combat via a team-up mechanic that works quite well. They’re akin to the Double/Triple Techs from Chrono Trigger in a way, bringing a unique mechanic into battle that also means even if a character isn’t in the main party they’re still getting experience with the active group.
Veterans of the genre will undoubtedly be put off a bit by the ease of the game. The difference between the Easy and Normal setting really only adds a bit more of the grind into the gameplay — those newer to the genre will benefit from a title like this. It works well as a sort of primer for the genre in general. The plot possesses most if not all of the conventional fantasy tropes and execute them in a serviceable manner while introducing character customization, battle mechanics, and item management in a very simple way.
Kemco’s port of Alphadia Genesis delivers a satisfactory JRPG experience that is tailored more towards newbies to the genre and players focused on narrative. It tells a story that pulls no punches, gets to the point, and wraps itself up at a decent pace that is refreshing compared to much of what the current landscape has to offer. The characters, while living up to their archetypes, still manage to be engaging in various ways with the quieter moments between the adventurers resulting in some of the better dialogues to read and listen to. The mechanics of the game are basic yet feature improvements over their earlier Kemco counterparts that are welcome changes. The switch from 2D to 3D for battles doesn’t work quite as well as it should but is serviceable. If you’re looking for a solid JRPG on the PC you won’t have a ton of choices, but Alphadia Genesis is definitely a decent one.