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Review: Asdivine Cross (Nintendo 3DS)By RudyC3 At 11.08.2017 16:24

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Harvey is part of a gang of thieves, the Watchers, but the kind that only steals from the rich and corrupted to give to the poorest. It is with that mind-set that they one night infiltrate the house of the chancellor to the Kingdom of Luminia, Duncan, a corrupted politician who seems to be a bit too rich to have been leading a honest life from their point of view. However, Harvey is set up by Zig, the son of the Watchers' leader, Isaac, who seems to be jealous of his father's constant tolerance of Harvey's repeated blunders. That's how he ends up in a jail cell next to a girl named Amelia who professes to be the real princess of Luminia, currently being replaced by a perfect lookalike used by the chancellor. Isaac comes to the rescue and the party, composed initially of just Harvey and Amelia, make their escape, and will embark on a quest to overthrow the chancellor and reclaim the throne.

A plot not altogether surprising for a game that tries to evoke the 16-bit era, but nonetheless an interesting premise that is conducted by some decidedly fine English writing. The dialogue does tend to be hilarious and cheerful... Amelia's cute but naïve demeanour, an apparent copy-pasta of Colette from Tales of Symphonia, turns out really loveable, and Harvey's big mouth and cheekiness counterbalances it perfectly. It's not on levels of originality like Chrono Trigger could be at the time of its initial release, but nonetheless it keeps the player entertained, for sure.

The sad part about this is that not enough effort seems to have been put into the presentation of the game. Games from the era that Asdivine Cross tries to imitate, or at least the good ones from that era, had in common that, as mentioned above, they used clever tricks to help convey a general atmosphere and mood through the characters themselves, and through the soundtrack, as well. Asdivine Cross does very little of that. More often than not, a flashback will occur, or the scene will shift to a different location to show what is happening there at the same time, for storytelling. In such moments, the music will, in general, not shift to one that would fit the mood of what is being shown, but instead the track being played will remain the same that was playing right before the scene shift, which could be anything from a village theme, now playing over a dramatic scene to a dungeon theme playing over a funny one.

This is regrettable considering the story in and of itself turns out genuinely interesting and, again, well written by JRPG standards. Moreover, the graphics themselves are a bit too generic for their own good. The character art is decent enough, but the background graphics are rather bland, and character sprites have really stiff and limited animations extremely reminiscent of old versions of RPG Maker, which is almost so striking that one could wonder whether this is just a coincidence or not. If one wanted to play RPG Maker games on 3DS today, RPG Maker Fes came out not long ago and offers a free player to play other people's creations free of charge, so that pill of bland graphics is now a bit harder to swallow.

This is not helped by the fact that the graphics are not rendered with a perfect pixel for pixel style, but rather scaled to fit inside the screen, inducing a very apparent blurriness that makes subtle pixel art detail hard to make out. Because it is scaled, that means that this allows for zooming in or out on certain scenes for dramatic effect, but this is practically never used in any meaningful way, so this is an odd choice that kind of suggests that this was made so as to fit more things on the 3DS's low resolution screen when porting the game over from Android and iOS devices, which typically have a higher resolution screen... all without having to rework any of the graphical assets.

Having said that, however, this style of game is best played with a D-pad and buttons, which smart devices lack, but the 3DS has, so the 3DS ends up being the favoured system to enjoy this game on, even with the slightly blurrier visuals. The soundtrack, even if, as mentioned, it is not used enough to good effect to contribute to the storytelling, turns out very pleasant and better than the average Super Famicom RPG because, let's face it, even if the West got few RPGs on SNES, it did get mostly the good ones.

There are a ton of Super Famicom RPGs out there that were hard to recommend back then and are even more so today, and thankfully Asdivine Cross aims quite a bit higher than that despite its aforementioned shortcomings. It is, for example, certainly not lacking in mechanics and features. In fact, it does a bit more than even the bigger names of the 16-bit era in that regard, veering more towards the 32-bit end of the spectrum. The Trust Gauge, for example, fills up during battles from taking hits or inflicting them on enemies, and allows one playable character to unleash a powerful technique onto either the party itself or the wave of enemies being faced.

There's magic, of course, with proficiency levels for different elements, though that it is rather typical and unsurprising. Weapon fusion and effects transfers, however, are not quite as usual on games of that pedigree, so the amount of depth in the gameplay ends up being much higher than one would anticipate, judging solely on appearances. Battles are also rather swift in general, which means they don't get too boring too quickly. In battle, the order in which each playable character and enemy will take action is constantly displayed in the top left corner of the 3D screen, which is yet again a welcome inclusion.

Speaking of the 3D screen, because of its iOS and Android lineage, no stereoscopic 3D effect was included, but being originally a smartphone game, Asdivine Cross retains an advantage that makes it good for 3DS play in that it allows for saving at pretty much any given time when the player is in control of character movement. Coupled with a comprehensive story journal and active quests log, this makes Asdivine Cross a good fit for JRPG gaming on the go in shorter bursts, since it can be picked up and played for a couple of minutes, and then be interrupted to come back to it later. Even those with a bad memory can always check up on what it was they were supposed to do if too much time has passed between two play sessions, so that's a well understood thing. Furthermore, being on 3DS, the lower screen turns out well used also, constantly displaying a basic map of the surroundings.

It seems to have been automatically generated from the tile physics of the game from its appearance, but at least it does a good job of showing where the party can go or not. It does not show secret passages, but wherever there seems to be a part of the accessible map disconnected from the rest, it certainly means that there's a secret passage somewhere in proximity.

Secret passages in this game are mostly like Final Fantasy IV where in a lot of places, there will be invisible bits of wall that can be traversed to access small chambers usually holding a few chests with good gear in them. These can either be spotted from subtle changes in appearance in the tile graphics, or they can be revealed by using an appropriate item that remains active for a limited time.

It even turns out that it also does something that few other RPGs do, and certainly none that immediately springs to memory, by allowing the player to know exactly how many chests there are in the game, and how many the player has already opened, which dramatically helps for completionists out there, and was severely lacking in the early 1990s. Even nowadays, this is not the kind of thing one would expect to be included in a modern JRPG, but it is in this case, so this deserves praise.

On that same note, while being able to change the difficulty level at any moment is not so rare these days, being able to tweak the enemy encounter rate is not so common. Asdivine Cross does so, though, which, when exploring certain convoluted dungeons, can turn out to be very appreciable, and if it sounds like a cheat, well, of course, not battling as much means the party may end up underpowered for upcoming battle, so the flipside of lowering enemy encounter rate counterbalances the advantage. Likewise, cranking it up to accelerate the process of grinding levels should it ever prove necessary is equally appreciable because of its sheer convenience. Then, of course, there are the usual enemy guide and tracking of some key stats that are nice to see, but which we're used to by now.

Therefore, while Asdivine Cross certainly does have a few shortcomings in some immediately apparent aspects - regrettable ones at that - it also has some things going for it that it does really well.

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Gameplay ()

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Final Score
[i]Asdivine Cross[/i] turns out to be a surprisingly pleasant adventure to plod through. It is not too expensive and not too long, either, so it can easily fit in between meatier titles played at home and in shorter sessions on public transport and the like. Its shortcomings in terms of presentation may make it harder to grow fond of, especially early on because it does not do quite enough to make its interesting characters and story stand out. It is nevertheless a title with enough good qualities and even some surprising efforts that wouldn't normally be expected from a smaller title such as this, which all contribute to make it a recommended buy for people yearning for a 16-bit style RPG that is not a remake of something already existent.

7

/10

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