May 24 2008

Rondo of Swords

(I wrote this a few days ago but couldn’t get it to post. I’ve now played enough that I know some of my theorizing isn’t totally accurate, but I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway.)

In the game, the holy sword wielded by the King has been cursed. I’m sure the Universal RPG Protagonists consider this a refreshing change from all those other RPGs where the holy sword has been lost, or the holy sword has been broken, or the holy sword has been transformed into a monster you have to fight.*

The-Hero-With-High-HP Serdic goes to The-Wizard-With-Like-No-HP Arios to try and get it un-cursed, and we are treated to this fabulously subtle piece of humor.

Arios: I’m interested in your body.

Serdic: What!?

Arios: When we have a spare moment, may I perform a thorough examination of your body?

Serdic: E-er, that is… Ah yes! You must see this!

Arios: This is the Holy Blade of Bretwalde, isn’t it? I’ve always wanted a good, long look at this.

Come on, Atlus localization team, get on the ball, here. If you’re going to do this joke, you’ve got to say long, hard look. Do I have to do everything around here?

The game’s humor is mostly like this (and the romance stuff is thus far equally unsubtle), but there’s actually some really interesting meta stuff going on in the story. Basically, you get the story from four sources, and all of them have a slightly different view of what’s going on:

1) Narration before stages, which is very serious-sounding stuff about the progress of the noble Prince Serdic and his command of the valiant army of Bretwolde. Third-person omniscient, scrolls across a screen with a weathered map on it, so as to convey the vague impression that we are reading a historical document.

2) Cut-scenes at the beginning and end of battles. Basically, these consist of the characters have little conversations where they tell each other the Latest Big Plot Points, and what the next battle’s going to be about. Town X has been invaded by pirates – go kill them all while preventing the villagers from taking damage! The princess and one of our most valued bishounen have been kidnapped by a guy who kinda looks like Wolverine – rescue them! The desert is hot – leave!

The cut-scene conversations mostly seem to be held in public, with all the playable characters and a few non-playable ones apparently listening in on them.

3) The dialog you get within a battle, most of which happens when two characters stand next to each other for a second. Sometimes you’re required to talk to an NPC or a bad guy to beat the stage, but most of the in-battle dialog is “optional.” It’s possible to miss a lot of it if the “right” characters never line up, or you don’t take the ones who have something to say into battle with you.

These conversations seem to be private – people hit on each other and bicker and make fun of characters who aren’t present. Occasionally someone will even have a thought that they don’t share. (“Man – my identical twin brother so does not perform masculinity in a traditionally heternormative manner! It’s a good thing I wear this purple cape, otherwise people might confuse us!”)

And – sometimes – they say shit that’s really important to the plot that doesn’t show up anywhere else.

4) The character bios, which sometimes contain stuff that you’d call a spoiler if you were posting it on LiveJournal. There’s a stage where, if you click on one of the enemies and look at the bio, you’ll find that it describes him/her as “friendly with [party member A].” If this A talks to the enemy, the enemy will agree to join your party after a short conversation, apparently never having met A before. Did the people writing the bio jump the gun, and forget that Enemy is the enemy when he/she first shows up? But if you happen to have party member B with you, and B happens to line up with ex-enemy, they’ll have a conversation that seems to hint that A and ex-enemy have met before.

(Actually, this particular stage and enemy are interesting in all sorts of weird meta-ways. Though Enemy’s bio establishes him/her as being a member of the Evil Organization, and the player can clearly see that Enemy is highlighted in bad-guy-red (and can, I think, even kill him/her, though I didn’t try), A and B’s conversation make it clear that Enemy’s redness isn’t evident to them. So the game mechanic itself tells a part of the story not indicated by the dialog or art.)

5) The sound effects. Everyone has little phrases they say when they die, attack something, or perform certain other actions. Like the bios, these also tend to contain information you’re not “supposed” to have. An enemy in stage seven whispers, “I’m sorry, (spoiler) Princess…” when he dies, which tells the player they need to redo the stage and make sure the Princess talks to him.

Now, the very serious-sounding narration between stages focuses heavily on the brave Prince Serdic’s attempts to de-curse his sword and get himself properly coronated as King, so he can take back his kingdom from the evil empire. The player, however, learns at the end of the first stage that (spoilers for that, and for the beginning of stage eight) Continue reading “Rondo of Swords”


May 15 2008

DS still trying to kill me

Thus far, I like the dialog and character designs for Rondo of Swords. But it is insanely hard. I can’t even get through the whole of the tutorial.

Conversation had on my fourth or fifth try on the first level:

Fuzzy-san: No, wait, you had another guy, on a horse -

Me: He died just now! I think in one hit!

Fuzzy-san: I did not even see that.

Me: It was one of the three guys in armor who are right behind me. And look, look at this, there’s like five more right behind them! And a bunch of wizards waiting to ambush me when I finally get over here – there’s more guys over here -

Fuzzy-san: These at the bottom aren’t wearing armor. So are they just some random villagers? Are they safe?

Me: They’re highlighted in red, so they’re just some random villagers who want to kill me.

Fuzzy-san: The one in blue is the important one, right? So if you can have the one in gray sort of guard him -

Me: Blue guy just died.

Fuzzy-san: Oh, he’s giving a nice death speech!

Me: Yeah. His voice actor’s okay.