Record of Agarest War
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-07-17 PS3 Strategy/RPG T (Teen) Aksys Games / Compile Heart

Record of Agarest War caught my eye because of the combat system (Shining Force meets Final Fantasy Tactics) and interesting goodies in the box. For the regular retail price, you get a limited edition with game soundtrack, sexy anime art pillowcase and a mouse pad with boobies as your wrist rest. As much as I'd like my wrist to rest on boobies, I ended up with a download code for the PS3, and that was fine. And then I found out that there was a relationship component to this strategy RPG and didn't know what to expect anymore...

The intro sequence in Record of Agarest War reminded me a bit of EverQuest lore as far as world creation and deities. To make a long story short (and trust me, it really is a long intro): several Gods create the world and the different races, then there's a huge war between them and Agarest is destroyed. However, the Gods of Light have won, and from the bodies of the Gods of Darkness they create a new world. And now, the world of Agarest is in danger as darkness rises once again.

The events in the game revolve around a conflicted character, "Golden Leo" Leonheart, a Gridamas army commander who refuses to fight alongside his soldiers, thinking their cause is unfair. By making a pact with a strange female to become her Spirit Vessel, Leo gains enough power to defeat the Dark Knight, thus saving the life of a young high elf girl. What follows is his quest for the truth and what is behind the army's change of behavior.

Progression is done on the world map, which is divided into paths with circles along them. Each circle is a battle, a town or a free-roaming environment. For the battle spots, you enter them right away. You can adjust your equipment and set party members position on the field before you begin the battle. You won't be able to progress to the next "circle" until you clear the previous battle.

In the towns you can access the shops, but visiting them is done only through a menu and not actually by walking around. You can buy or sell items in the Item Shop; visit the Blacksmith to create items or improve existing ones; exchange TP for items , research skills and receive titles in the Guild; exchange or combine monsters that you have captured in the Monster Guild; resurrect a fallen party member in First Aid; bring former party members back to life in the Alchemist; you can even check the next generation hero's skills at the Fortune Teller.

The only actual walking around you will do is when you enter one of the free-roaming environments, which - in traditional RPG manner - you are free to explore and contain some random battle encounters and a couple of treasure chests.

The combat system is turn-based. Similar to Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics, you move your characters on a grid. Like in Joan of Arc, in the first phase you pick where to move each one, and then you attack on the second phase. But what makes what would be simple combat turns pretty complex when you add a system that can link characters together. Each character has "extended areas" which allow them to link themselves to another character. You will see this on the battlefield as green lines connecting said characters.

When one of the linked characters' turn to attack comes up, the others can also attack on the same turn. That's not the only cool thing about linking, since this allows party members who are further away to reach enemies that would otherwise be out of reach, or for everyone to cause massive damage in collaborative attacks and Extra Skills. This is quite useful, and not just in boss fights, since you get extra items when you Overkill something (Overkilling means killing something by doing damage equal to its total HP plus current HP).

Then there is a whole bunch of Skills, Extra Skills, Arts, Special Arts and Break Arts that are complicated to explain since some lead to others, but all work based on the linking and make your attacks much more effective.

As you progress through the story, you will be faced with choices. While there is no right or wrong, your decisions will affect your direction (Light or Darkness) and the way you relate to your possible love interests. The purpose of gaining someone's affection is to Soul Breed, which means having a child with your chosen "bride". Although you don't directly choose her, since it all has to do with choices. The higher your affection is with a girl, the better the skills of your descendant if you Soul Breed with her. It will be this descendent that will continue into the next part of the story, replacing you as the new hero. This will happen in each chapter, which represents one generation.

While I enjoyed the gameplay quite a bit, there are still some things that weren't quite as expected.

First, the artwork differences. The character art is colourful, gorgeous and detailed, with the girls showing a lot of skin and cleavage for extra sex-appeal during times of war (that was sarcasm you read there, by the way...). But then you look at the character sprites and go "...what the hell?". They seem like they've been pulled out of a GBA game, and the pixelized look is even more noticeable when you're playing on a 50 inch TV. Sure, they're cute with their chibi oversized heads and stuff, but it seems like the style doesn't belong with the rest of the game.

Another graphical disappointment is the battlefield, which is basically a flat square with bland backgrounds. There are some trees, some rocks, some grass... it would have been much better to have the free-roaming environments become battle fields themselves, since you would have height to consider and other obstacles. And what's with the camera angle? Battles take place in an isometric view, and you can rotate the camera, since sometimes it's difficult to see the exact position of everyone related to the enemies. But when you rotate it, expecting to get a better view and... wouldn't you know it, and these huge trees that looked like part of the background are now blocking your view! Um... okay... what purpose did that serve exactly? I don't know, but do watch the very short clip so you know what I'm talking about.

While the voice acting seems appropriate, you only have the original Japanese voices, so some of you may be turned off by not having an English version to replace it with. The text dialogs are in English though. As for the music, it was nice enough, but it didn't stand out too much, so it's sort of just "there". I felt like this story and this type of game deserved something more memorable as far as soundtrack.

Ultimately, it was the combat system that kept me going. Yes, there are what seem like way too many fights on the world map, and the battle fields repeat themselves a lot, but I liked the endless possibilities with linking characters together to unleash devastating attacks upon my enemies (wraar!). And the surprises of the relationship portion of the game were interesting, even if not too in-depth, just to see what kind of hero I'd be creating next, and would he or she look like, what kind of skills would carry on from the parents.

With a few improvements here and there, this very lengthy adventure would have been even more enjoyable for me.

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