May 12, 2014

Sol Trigger Review

Posted in video games tagged , at 8:58 am by riulyn

I beat another game in Japanese! And this time I have mostly positive things to say about it.

TLDR: if you have a PSP and want a solid RPG experience, you can’t go wrong with this. There is even an English translation patch out there? It’s not amazing/life-changing/super creative, but it doesn’t go wrong really anywhere. However, it does have a bit of a feeling of underdevelopment or cut corners. With a bit more polish this could have been really good.

GAMEPLAY/BATTLE SYSTEM

This game has random encounters and a turn-based battle system where you select a command and the turn executes then before moving to the next. Small icons of your characters and the enemies show the turn order at the moment. You can have up to four characters in the active party at a time.

When it is a character’s turn, you can select a normal attack, a skill, item, defend, or escape. Skills consume “Sol”, which is pretty much the MP/TP/etc. of the game. Using skills increases your mastery over them (max level is 6). With increased level mastery of a skill, you can use a skill at higher power levels, though it consumes more Sol. Sometimes using a skill at a higher level/more sol means an added effect, such as the ability for the skill to be used on all allies/enemies instead of just one, or an additional status effect. Some skills at max level grant an extra attack.

Skills are learned mostly from equipment (weapons and accessories). They need to be “awakened” before they can be used at will. Most skills seem to awakened randomly, but certain skills are only awakened when conditions are fulfilled (such as Cyril’s “revive” spell only awakened when someone is knocked out). Not only are there skills that you select for a character to use that consume sol, but there are also skills that are “reactive” that party members learn. These skills, like counterattack or defense up, occur randomly and aren’t leveled up by use. A few of them are situationally-triggered, like a regen spell for someone with low HP.

The battle system itself is fine, but it’s presentation is a bit shoddy. It’s kind of a graphical downer for it to be first-person view, or like SMT where you don’t see the battle characters usually, except when they execute a sol-based attack. Also there are a lot of sound glitches when skills are used; normal sounds are sometimes replaced with squeaks and characters sound like chipmunks. It’s pretty weird. However the animation usually doesn’t glitch.

Save points are pretty frequent and allow you to teleport to your base, where you get HP and Sol restoration and can sell items and buy armor. Money is tight at the beginning of the game so I teleported back a lot. However I think I abused the system a bit too much, as I was pretty overpowered at the end of the game.

STORY/CHARACTERS

The premise is “overthrowing God” so in a way, you are terrorists. But of course “God” isn’t such a good thing in this world. Play the game if you want to know why 😀

The story is broken up into short chapters. It’s kind of like a dungeon/chapter and in operation style, each chapter is pretty much a mission. It might get a little text-heavy but the beginning of each chapter will usually have the team sitting in the strategy room discussing the next objective. It doesn’t get too complicated though. Usually before each required battle there is a cutscene, even if the battle is not a boss battle. There aren’t any sidequests that I know of in this game or ways to unlock extra character dialogue. If someone knows about these things, let me know. Otherwise I found the first half of the game to be 20 hours for me (so probably ~15 hours for someone who isn’t spending a lot of time looking up words in a dictionary) and the second half to be about the same. I think it took me ~40 hours to beat the game, so it’s probably more of a 25-30 hour experience for most people.

The cast of characters is pretty good. Battle-wise they are all useful (which makes being stuck with the MC always in your party a little annoying) and they all get a decent amount of lines in the story. The romance part is important for the story for major spoiler reasons, and I certainly think the characters you need to romance could have had good chemistry, but I don’t think there was enough effort/time put into developing these relationships. The romance of the second half of the story is done a lot better and believable, and in this case I want more because I ship them and the creators are such teases!

Because I didn’t have a 100% understanding of what was going on in this game, I cannot say with 100% certainty that the plot has major holes. However, it felt like there were certain things that were too convenient and other things that are just never addressed and should have been. Either way, I feel like with some more scenes it could have felt like a better and fuller experience. I would have loved to get more time with the characters (especially if I could get more backstory on them). Without that, the characters do feel a little bit flat.

OTHER

If you read the other sections, you probably get the feeling that I mostly wish this experience was fuller. This is definitely the case. Little things like more care to the graphical and sound presentation would be nice. While the base music is good, this game is especially lacking in cutscene music. Of course as a Japanese reader I would have also loved to have had subtitles for the movies. I guess I rely on subtitles too much…

As this is the 4th RPG I’ve played in Japanese, I have to say the language level isn’t too high. There is some more “technical” terminology for locations and mechanisms, but it’s not much harder than Tales of Innocence R was in that regard. The characters speak in pretty much normal casual conversational language, making it really only a game where you need to look up vocabulary. Major lines are voice-acted, but a lot of them aren’t. Then again, if you are playing PSP RPGs, this is pretty much expected.

SUMMARY

I really liked this game and I think it would be a game that a lot of people would enjoy. I just see a lot of ways that this game could have been better. This is the first game I’ve played made by Image Epoch and it seems to be a solid effort. Wikipedia says that they also made Time & Eternity, so I’m not sure I can trust all of their work. However, I have 7th Dragon so I will look forward to seeing how their efforts went there.

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