On first glance, Alphadia Genesis, the first PC release from developer Kemco, seemed like it might just be on the right side of wacky for me – certainly enough to fulfill my craving for some outlandish Japanese madness. My hopes in this regard were elevated when I happily stumbled upon a sassy soldier sitting with his penguin buddy in a tavern.
The old-school RPG attempts to feast upon nostalgia by drawing heavily upon the typical gameplay, graphics, and storytelling of its 16-bit forefathers. Drawn in the style of classics such as Chrono Trigger, the title is set in a quasi-fantasy world, where the science of cloning makes an unusual appearance alongside swords and magic.
Fray, along with his sister, starts out the journey. They gradually gather together the typical RPG squad and are tasked with a murder investigation. It all seems rather generic, yet solid. However, the murder mystery gang quickly gets on your nerves; the protagonist is queasily friendly, our foe is typically tragic, and side-character Walter is an overly-conventional caricature of a douche.
Communication comes through text, accompanied by detailed anime-style close-ups of characters. Japanese voice acting, either suitably or awkwardly, depending on the scene, voices only some of the conversations. Interactions can entertain at times, but, for the most part, the speech is clunky and painful to listen to.
In terms of plotting, Alphadia Genesis can nearly all become too much; the main story stretches to around the 20-hour mark, and flops helplessly at times. However, all of these negatives don’t stop there being instances where you do care about the characters, and some unpredictable twists and turns manage to pluck strongly at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between.
The dull, predictable characters sadly mirror the feel of the environments. While colourful and innovative on occasion, the dungeons, villages, and overworld are plagued with a problem common to JRPGs: linearity. Corridors stretch and meander endlessly, and seem so uniform in texture that you’ll often get lost due to a lack of distinction. This is only worsened by the omission of dungeon mini-maps, which makes exploring dungeons – a valuable way to advance your characters – a frustrating ordeal.
The random encounters that litter most areas do, to a certain extent, break up these bland stretches. Offering a nice graphical change to 3D character models, they also mark some of the game’s strongest music, with the boss themes being particularly impressive.
Battles offer a wide range of attacks to choose from: a normal attack, energi (magic), break skills, and assist combos. Each of these are dependent on the team you’re using and the equipment they have. With three elements (water, fire, and light), a variety of equipment boasting unique abilities, and even the characters you decide not to use in battle having an effect on your party’s skills, you have a fair amount of customization options without it being overwhelming. However, these modifications can seem a little pointless at times.
While a certain amount of strategy can pay off, battles are typically extremely easy, giving little to no reason to bother putting effort into your characters’ skills. The retro, turn-based battles seem overly slow – with no option for an active-time battle system – and as such you’re given as much time as you need to decide upon your battle plan. There may be moments where you struggle, but for the most part there’s no threat of loss. If your party is annihilated, you can simply start the same battle over, or you can just flee from the fight; both without penalization.
Money is also in plentiful supply, and a monotonous routine can easily be fallen into. The best weapons and armour are always affordable, and, even after purchasing each, there’s plenty left to spill over on a ton of supplies. Along with this, by advancing in the Battle Arena, succeeding in side quests (‘kill 10 of this creature’-type missions) and exploring for hidden treasures, you can make your party nearly undefeatable. I only died twice throughout the game, and one of those times was so that I could save my progress.
There are the makings of a good game here: aspects such as the story can come down to taste, the music is heart-pulsing, and, for the inexperienced, the game may be a good entry-level RPG. Nevertheless, for many, Alphadia Genesis may become lost among the gargantuan selection of RPGs, especially in a time where innovation isn’t just a plus, but a necessity.