Do you know about Resonance of Fate ? If you don’t, I don’t blame you. Sega decided it would be best for the game to be released the same week as…Final Fantasy XIII. This wise decision threw Resonance of Fate into oblivion for all but the most hardcore of JRPG players. It was secretly the game to get that week.
Tri-Ace, the studio known for Star Ocean and Valkyrie Profile finally managed to create a bigger production with the help of Sega. The result is a wild, mechanically exotic JRPG that replicates the feeling of some of the best anime around: as funny as it is serious, with a heightened sense of melancholy permeating the universe.
No swords in this fantasy world
The most surprising aspect of its gameplay is that there is no close-quarter weapon. You fight with guns, and your enemies does too.
The weapon types are divided into handguns and machine guns. In order to whittle away the health bar of your enemy, you have to deal scratch damage with your machine gun, and then confirm it with your handgun for direct damage. This means that the whole idea is not about who has the strongest weapon, but teamworking with your party of three as they only have two weapon slots. Your levels are also determined by your proficiency with a weapon type, which means that specializing yourself into a single one is a huge mistake. There is also another type : grenade. They’re not part of the general equation but they can deal different types of damages or status effect that can be very beneficial. You always have to diversify yourself, may it be dual-wielding, having an item box, two different weapons, etc.
There is also the hero gauge. On the bottom of the screen, there are bezels that is your health and your ability to do special actions. If your life bar reaches 0, it doesn’t put your character into a downed state but it shatters a bezel. When all the bezels are gone, you reach critical state where your characters cowers and runs around frantically. Their aim are reduced and they receive more damage until you manage to get a bezel back.
But what is the most important about these bezels are the hero actions. A hero action is a straight line starting from your character to any direction that allows you to move and attack at the same time. If your line goes through the line that connects the two other characters, then it creates a tri-attack that allows all your character to do actions at the same time, for the cost of only one bezel. Think of it like a baseball field, but it is much better to understand with a video.
There is so much to do with the gameplay, it is also very overwhelming and will very much require some additional reading, but the outcome is worth it. If you’re willing to work a lot to make your gun look like this, then you’re all set to go.
Maybe the best thing to come out of this game is the customization feature. You can buy or find clothes for your character to wear, and it will be visible in every fight and cutscenes. It ranges from down-to-earth jeans to wild animal costumes. You can even wear anime t-shirt, like i’m sure everyone of us do in real life !
A different vision
What will be most striking with the game is that it does things very differently in the JRPG landscape. While quite open-ended, the game is cut in chapters that are more the kind of Cowboy Bebop episodes. They are loosely connected but it all works towards a finale. This means that you will not get the high of meaningful story development for a long while, it will mostly be about the characters and the world they live in. The focus is put into the general atmosphere that you get while playing this game, the playful nature of the team doing contract work and the interest you might have for the background of the characters.
It doesn’t hold your hand in any way, which is why it is a game few played, fewer got past the first few hours and almost nobody managed to get to the end. It is an anomaly, even today, but it is a game that offers a lot and offers something completely new and refreshing. Going through the tower, listening to the beautiful music by famed anime composer Kohei Tanaka with the help of Motoi Sakuraba, fighting your way through enemies with a lot of banter between characters, it holds many of the tenets that makes successful games in our current landscape. It was at the same time too late and too early. Trying new ways to engage the player in the JRPG formula while going back to the storytelling and atmosphere of classic animes.
It’s an oddity, but it is one that is worth playing. I especially like is the introduction FMV, that will tell you everything you need to know about what the game will try to convey through the whole game, definitely worth a watch.