Monday, February 22, 2010

Quick & Dirty Thoughts: Sands of Destruction

I was originally going to call this "x things I Think I Think" but I'm pretty sure Peter King of SI would be crying gimmick infringement. So I'll stick with "Quick & Dirty Thoughts" while waiting for the NA release of Heart Gold and a newly-functional Pokewalker. There are no spoilers here.

I recently picked up Sega's "Sands of Destruction" (aka World Destruction) because I needed a RPG to play and Glory of Heracles got off to a really slow start. Plus, I was ticked at the world as it was and destroying the world seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did manage to finish it, so it had to be doing something right, but it did have some issues. For starters...

- The battle system is equal parts simple and frustrating. You'll basically ignore an entire class of your attacks starting about the 1/3 mark of the game once you build up a stat system. The frustrating part is that some random encounters need 2-3 attack buffs just to do any damage at all, and that's if you're not missing all of your attacks. Plus, the enemies will sometimes get 8-9 turns IN A ROW for one guy - especially egregious with boss battles where these attacks are doing 1/4 of your health per hit. That's not Pokemon Battle Frontier cheap, but it's close.

- The cutscenes can be skipped, which is nice. However, the in-battle cutscenes can't. This gets annoying for two reasons - when the boss is unleashing its super move for the nth time you want to skip it, and once you start being able to use yours regularly you want to see them once and then go on. My clock finished at 23 hours and I'm pretty sure I could've taken 1-2 hours off if I could've skipped the super move cutscenes just in the second-last dungeon I did.

- It seems like the developers were counting on me using DS Sleep Mode a lot more than I did. I was playing this game a lot prior to going to bed, and can count at least three or four times where I was at least an hour (counting the story sequences) from the last save and had to turn it off because the next save point was two areas away. Either let me save anywhere, or put a heal and save point in towns and at the start/end of each extended areas. Is it that hard?

- The last character you pick up is useful for about an hour before he becomes bloody pointless. His only useful skill (a revive spell) gets trumped by the mandatory party member you get shortly after, and he needs either a metric assload of grinding or cash spent on skill points before he's caught up to you - which screws over the rest of the party when you have to buy their 2nd-best equipment at the endgame. Five party members is enough, especially when 4 of them are useful and you only have 3 slots.

- There's a lot of delays when the character is speaking while the lip-syncing catches up. I have to wonder if this was a localization issue.

It's not all bad, though.

- The storyline has a nice hook in which you appear to start out as a Villain Protagonist - wait, I'm the one who's trying to DESTROY the world? Even after things shake down to a basic RPG plot, it's still what I was looking for at the time and has some cool twists near the endgame.

- I'm a sucker for a Kato plot and Mitsuda music and wonder what it would've been like if they weren't going for a SERO B (equivalent to a low-end T game for the ESRB, though I'd have rated it E10). It's not as good as Chrono Trigger, but what is?

- The game doesn't use the stylus unless you want to play with the camera, and the camera is usually in the right spot so it doesn't come up at all. The game does a good job of using both screens for battle (unlocking a second set of attacks) and having the map up top where I'm more comfortable looking was a nice touch. The only thing I'd do is give an option to switch the map to the touchscreen and maybe allow control with that method.

I wouldn't pick it up for full price, but might look into it if I get more cash and if it comes up on an Amazon sale.

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