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Chantelise – A Tale of Two Sisters

The Best Game Never Played

Chantelise – A Tale of Two Sisters (Action RPG/ PC)

Introducing the Genre

I found a great Action RPG on a Steam Summer Sale. I have to emphasize both parts of the genre, it’s not an action game, with RPG elements, it’s not a full RPG, it’s one of the great undiscovered gems that would have been at home with the likes of The Legend of Zelda, Beyond Good & Evil, or the Square and Enix renaissance of the 90s with Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Illusion of Gaia, and their kind.

Introducing the Game

I accidentally discovered this game while I was investigating another. I saw another one of Extra Credits’ “Games You Might Not Have Tried” videos where they mention Recetteer: An Item Shop’s Tale, a game where you run the item shop for adventurers. This game was part of a package sale for games from the same publisher and developer. I decided investigate. If this other game was as clever and original and surprising as Recetteer, it’ll be worth it. What I ended up with was actually not as original or as clever. It was actually a throwback to the difficult Action RPGs of the past, the like I haven’t seen or heard of in a long time. It was a welcome challenge trying to beat Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters.

Gameplay

The gameplay is simple to learn but difficult to master. Aren’t the best games like that? The best way I can describe this is, “what if The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time had come out much earlier, with the Super Nintendo’s limitations with an early 3D FX chip?” There is a town, roads to dungeons, dungeons, bosses, sword fighting, a little bit of magic, secret items to find, even a little bit of fishing just to finish the Zelda parallels.

Combat from the beginning of the game is not too different from combat at the end of the game. You don’t have to purchase your attacks in order to string together 20-hit combos. You have most of your abilities at the beginning of the game. As you progress, you may find items you can equip to give you one extra ability. You’re forced to choose between special abilities, only able to have a limited number of items equipped at any one time. You can swap out on the fly, sometimes. This forces you to have to come up with some kind of strategy for difficult encounters, and believe me, there will be many difficult encounters.

The first real boss almost made me quit the game entirely, but I gave it another chance. There is a sharp difficulty curve when you reach the first boss, at least there was for me. Don’t get discouraged, you just have to come up with a strategy. Hint: Use magic. You can’t just power attack your way through the game. Figuring out how to defeat each boss is a satisfying challenge. They’re not quite Shadow of the Colossus specific and tricky, but it reminded me of that first time playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I really need to stop comparing it to Zelda.

Once you beat the game, or if, there’s plenty more to keep you occupied. This is the type of game that should come with achievements and trophies, just to prove you’ve done the amazing. There’s in-game counters for secret items, special items to buy, super boss battles to take on, a fishing journal to fill out, even a crafting system if that’s your thing.

There’s an “old” amount of monsters throughout the game. By that, I mean there are few in variety, but there are plenty of pallete swapped versions that show up as you progress. You’ll end up seeing the same flying eyeballs, slimes, and floating wizard sprites again and again. This is actually a positive. The enemy placement is used to devious effectiveness, using what little they have in effective ways. Good old Mario has a limited number of pallete swapped enemies, but that never makes the games any easier. It’s how they’re used and placed that make things tricky. The developers of Chantelise definitely took some notes and implemented that design strategy. They’re not too punishing, but more than you’d expect considering the recent crop of Action RPGs to come out.

Story

I don’t want to say this. I don’t want this to come off sounding derogatory. However, if this is the sort of thing that would turn you off from a game, you probably don’t deserve to play it. The story is very girly. The heroine is a young girl trying to save her sister and break a spell after she’s been turned into a fairy(another Zelda-themed similarity).

The tone of the story is very light and the main characters are very bubbly, which matches the anime shojo art style. Still, be ready to get your pride handed to you by the difficulty of the game. If I had a daughter, this game would serve as an excellent gateway into gaming as a whole.

Graphics

I briefly mentioned in the last section about how the game is anime-inspired. There are very pretty and handsome male characters with chibi and cute female characters. It matches the tone of the story. No one is over-sexualized, so it’s great for all ages.

Even earlier I mention it’s also 3d. Imagine a 3d environment, but all the characters that you see are 2d sprites. It has slightly more graphical demands than the original Doom. If you’re on a budget PC, you’ll be able to play it, and probably enjoy it more than some other more demanding games.

Music

It’s a shame the soundtrack didn’t come with the game like some other Steam sales. I hope this is the last Zelda comparison I make because the game really does stand on it’s own. The music reminds me of something Koji Kondo, of Zelda fame, would do. Imagine if someone else had scored Zelda, you’d end up with a soundtrack like this.

Sound

Voices are all in Japanese, which doesn’t make any real difference. The accompanying text in speech balloons and text windows are all translated into English. Sound effects are very classic game-y, the kind you might have heard on an SNES. If you’re a fan of challenging, but not impossible Action RPGs, it’ll sound just right. The sound helps establish and remind players of the pedigree of the game.

Controls

I had no problem with the keyboard for controls. They’re sharp and responsive. Camera control is better than most. Deaths were more due to lack of a strategy than by any hangups caused by the interface. If you have a controller, you can use that, too.

Multiplayer

Even though the game is about two sisters who are always together, there is no multiplayer. For most RPGs, action or otherwise, that’s usually for the best. RPGs have never been for the competitive players. It’s hard to tell your own story when there is another player involved. The only multiplayer I can imagine would be asymmetrical like Super Mario Galaxy’s star collecting with the Wii-mote. That might actually make it better for younger players.

Depth/Replayability

Start to finish, the game is very straightforward. There are plenty of perks for traveling off the beaten path, like winning challenge and time attack rooms. Besides bonus items, they help to train and refine your fighting style. If you saw a reward for beating a boss in 2 minutes where it took you 10, it plants the idea in your head that there is a trick you haven’t figured out yet.

I’ve put in 22+ hours into the game and beat the final boss. I’m pretty sure I can double that before completing everything extra. If you’re the kind of player that likes challenges, real challenges, not artificially inflated difficulty, you’ll love this. There’s just as many “easy” challenges to bait you into seriously upping your game and wanting to complete others.

If you can get a group of people to buy the game, this is the type of game you can really talk about and exchange strategies. It’s the kind of game you’d talk about at recess and pass rumors about before people just looked up information on the internet. Sure, I could just do that to find all the hidden treasures, but I’d just be cheating myself and cutting my enjoyment of this wonderful game short.

Some levels are just fun to replay, thankfully this game lets your replay any one of them at will, even the bosses. You can’t XP grind because there are no levels. So replaying levels helps further refine your skills as a player.

If I were to start again, now that I’ve mastered the combat/magic system, I wonder how quickly I can beat the game and cut down that 22 hour time.

Personal

I’m SO glad I bought this game. It’s been one of the most satisfying buys, in a long time.

The penultimate boss was harder than the final boss. Classic!

At one point, you fight your shadow, another Zelda-ism. You know, if you were to re-skin everything, this could very well be renamed, “The Adventure of Zelda.”

You can buy riddles to find hidden treasure. They’re not obvious, but just enough to spark a treasure hunting bug.

If you’ve played Recetteer, you will find something familiar about the town’s item shop and the item shopkeeper.

Mastering the magic system, as a player, did wonders to my ability to progress through the game.

I can’t wait to see what else the duo of developer EasyGameStation and publisher Carpe Fulgur LLC come up with. They scored two major hits with this and Recetteer. Maybe I should check out their other collaboration, The Summoner.

Boiling it Down

If you like Zelda, classic difficulty, on a budget computer, for a budget price, this is for you.

Sudeki

Originally written on 4/5/2011

The Best Game Never Played

Introducing the Genre

Action RPGs come in all shapes and sizes. The top down dungeon running variety have quite a view, Diablo, Torchnight, Titan Quest, Space Siege. A fully 3D world, where you can actually move the camera evolved after the likes of those, Beyond Good & Evil, Hellgate: London, Zelda: Ocarina of Time and it’s future console sequels. Some of my favorites came from Enix. Square made good RPGs mostly, but they had a few like Secret of Mana and Secret of Evermore. Their main rival, Enix liked to put a little more action into their games like E. V. O. The Search for Eden, Soul Blazer, and Illusion of Gaia. I imagine this game to be a spiritual successor to those top down action rpgs with real time combat in the Square Enix cagalog.

Introducing the Game

I was looking for more games to review and I decided to scan my iTunes library. A good chunk of my iPod is filled with 1980s, Celtic, and then video game music. I found this and I wanted to share this game. I don’t see it on many top ten lists, for either the genre or on the platform, and I wonder why not. It’s a nice staple of the genre, Sudeki.

I first played this game when a roommate said he was going home for the holidays. He said I was welcome to try anything on his XBOX to pass the time. He specifically recommended Sudeki for me. Alright, so I gave it a shot.

Gameplay

I imagine that the best way to describe this is to say it is the spiritual successor in gameplay to the real time combat action RPGs of Square and Enix. What would Secret of Mana or Illusion of Gaia look like if they had come out today rather than in the SNES age?(Come to think of it, a complete remake of those games would be phenomenal!)

You start off controlling a warrior named Tal. Like most warriors, he comes with his own sword. You have two attack buttons, light and heavy. Chaining together those attacks creates a special flourish of an attack. Memorizing those combos will be important. There are a good amount of them, but not as much as say God of War or Bloodrayne 1 & 2. Anything was a combo in those games. No, this game, you had to think about which out of 7 or 8 combos you would do. And there’ll be lots of time to practice them. It’s closer to resembling Marvel: Ultimate Alliance’s combat or X-Men Legends. In those games, one combo was for tripping, or launching upward, or block breaking, etc.

What sets this apart from those top down Action RPGs is that, well, it’s not top down. The camera is very close to the action from over the shoulder.

Later, you get more people in your party. That’s part of why it reminds me of Secret of Mana. Those characters can be ranged or melee. When you control the ranged characters, you go into an FPS mode and fire magic from a staff, or shoot from a gun. The other melee character has the same combos as Tal, is a bit faster, but a bit weaker.

If you have a longing for action RPGs, this’ll fit the bill. It’s not a dungeon crawler or runner where you pick up every piece of trash to sell to someone. There’s more focus on the action than on treasure.

Story

The opening video is a great shadow play describing the mythology behind the creation of the world. It shows the world of Sudeki and the gods that created it. The creator split himself in half so he would not be alone. But that person became an evil twin that split the world in half. Sudeki is the story of two worlds.

There is the bright and shining world in which you live that is being constantly invaded by these people from that other world. At one point through the game you will actually travel there and meet doubles of yourself.

Now, to me, I always love that angle. I always love seeing alternate versions and parallel worlds. I loved Sliders. I loved Chrono Cross and it’s reality shifting “what if this person had died” story. I’ve always loved It’s A Wonderful Life and how the people in George Baily’s life turned out without his influence. So this story of alternate worlds was particularly entertaining to me.

Graphics

The graphics were great, I had no complaints. It came out on the original XBOX so it might look a little dated. Everything looked smooth to me, but I’ve never been a graphics whore. The world of Sudeki, at least the first world, looks like a fantasy/tropical paradise. There are bright greens, blue oceans, palm trees, everything looks clean, shiny, and new. That other world, it’s a little less picturesque, but it matches the same art style. Like I said, no complaints. Nothing was ever hard to see or looked ugly.

Music

Sudeki was one of the few games that I went and sought out the soundtrack for. Yeah, I enjoyed it that much. The cheerful and happy “town” music of New Brightwater and Shadani-Mo will stick with you. Those two tracks wouldn’t sound out of place at a picnic. The rest of the music, battles and dramatic scenes, aren’t really picnic worthy, but excellent nonetheless.

Sound

All the sound work is excellent. The voice acting is great. I didn’t recognize any of the voice actors, though. Sometimes that’s a good thing. I don’t remember anything particular standing out about the sound, but that’s the sign it’s been done right.

Controls

I never owned an XBOX, and rarely ever touched a controller. I’d had my hands on the original controller when I demoed a unit at a Best Buy, thankfully I played on the smaller one. But this was my first real experience on a controller for any length of time after my SNES. A friend had loaned me a PS1 and N64 for the sake of Chrono Cross and Zelda Ocarina of Time. But those didn’t help prepare me in the slightest, they all feel so different.

I probably started off rockier than most trying to learn the controls of the controller at the same time as the game. “Which one was B again?*look down*” happened more than once. This same pattern repeated itself when I had another roommate with a PS3.

Tangents aside, I managed to learn the controls quickly, even with such a handicap. Any XBOX owner should pick up on it with no problem.

Multiplayer

Sadly, no. Even though I call it a spiritual successor to Secret of Mana(in gameplay, not in story), it was one player only.

Depth/Replayability

Like most of the action RPGs, one playthrough ought to be much the same as the last. Although there is a character development and character advancement system that lets you tailor each character a bit. There are the occasional weapons found that have certain properties like damage over speed, and the player has to decide what to use and when.

I really wouldn’t mind playing it again right now. I don’t have an XBOX or that old roommate nearby, sadly. It has as much replay value as any of the other “spiritual” versions of it. They’re all long journeys, not to be relived rapidly, like a good book.

Personal

Even though I managed to learn the controls, I still wish I had a keyboard and mouse. I’m always much better at those.

I can’t get that music out of my head.

Boiling it Down

Solid action RPG in the style of Secret of Mana or Illusion of Gaia, evolved with modern technology. If that appeals to you, so will Sudeki.

Other Resources

Trailer