Well, with Star Ocean 4 out of the way, I've now begun work on Avalon Code, my next project. I'm only about 40 minutes in so far, but pretty much all I've been doing is exploring the first town. This is a game that seems to be very heavily focused on exploring. Considering that the Harvest Moon developers had a hand in it, that's probably not very surprising.
That said, there are a few things to note. 1) It doesn't look like the Book of Prophecy is going to make the game ridiculously easy like some people thought. On the contrary, it looks like it's going to be used in a sort of puzzle-game way. How do I know this? Well, I encountered a girl, who I expect is one of the main characters, who's currently very ill. I wasn't able to remove this illness, however, as it was surrounded by barbed spikes in the book of prophecy. These spikes also had the added effect of locking all the other attributes touching it to the girl, so I wasn't able to remove any of it. I haven't found it yet, but there must be some way to break the illness and rewrite the data in the book, and I expect that that sort of thing is going to play a key role in the game.
So far all I've really been doing is searching the town for stuff. Each area has data to be collected about it, generally three spots which can be easy or extremely hard to find. Collecting this data adds to the value of the book of prophecy, which I think will help to progress the game. Even more interesting, by completing the data in a few of the areas and houses I've visited, a tablet appeared with information on how to create new items. The information is basically just a combination of specific attributes, and it seems you have to find the base item first, but it certainly seems intriguing.
I'm definitely interested in seeing how this game plays out. So far it's got a very charming style, and the soundtrack is surprisingly good. I'll keep you all updated.
03/08/2009 - 21:00
A bit farther now, and in what's come as something as a shock to me, Avalon Code is remarkably similar to the Legend of Zelda series. As you progress through the game you get new weapons that seem to have special abilities for advancing through the levels, all enemies hit you for 1 damage, or 1 leaf on your health bar, which increases by finding certain items after bosses, or hidden in the world. Even the combat bears a similarity to the old 2D Zelda games. Simple, yet surprisingly addictive.
Even in terms of how the story is laid out bears some similarity. You play a mute kid, ironically garbed in green, whose sole method of communication seems to be the little fire sprite that follows him around. The story itself is fairly simple so far, but charming in a very Zelda kind of way.
It's not entirely like Zelda, obviously. The book concept alone is highly original, and the puzzles seem to be standalone to each individual room for the most part, not intricate dungeon-long ones like Zelda is famous for. They're not nearly as mind-bending either. But the resemblance is certainly there.
One thing I definitely want to talk about is the game's difficulty level. It's FANTASTIC. Technically I would have to call the game very easy so far, but not in a bad way. The game is designed so that anyone can play it and have fun. You can save anywhere at any time, and if you die, you can continue from right where you left off. The only penalty being that you have to start the room over again. Interestingly, choosing to continue instead of reloading might actually be more difficult in some cases, as the game brings you back with only 3 HP and 50 MP. However, much like Zelda, the game seems to be designed so that you can go through without taking any damage if you're careful, so it shouldn't be a problem.
I'm definitely having fun, but I still have a handful of complaints. The book menu, I foresee, is going to get really annoying and cumbersome later on. There's no quick way to find the codes you're looking for, which means traversing the book's entire stock of people, enemies, and equipments/items in order to find it. As it increases over time, it's going to get more and more irritating.
03/09/2009 - 23:30
Well, I'm officially stuck. There's a puzzle here I just can't figure out, after attempting literally every tool I have in my possession. I'm contacting XSEED for some assistance, but until I hear back, my progress is pretty much halted. It's going to be something retardedly simple, too, I'm sure of it, and I'll feel like a complete idiot.
Update: It was retardedly simple, and I can't believe I didn't figure it out sooner. At least I figured it out without help. Oh well. The game shall continue tomorrow!
03/12/09 - 20:50
Still plugging away. The relationship system is interesting, though I can't be sure precisely how it works without a second playthrough. However, as it stands, it seems as though you can choose between any of the female character if you're a boy and any of the male characters if you're a girl. In order to get them to be your lover, you have to talk to them regularly and give them gifts, based on what they like. As you keep talking to them, their special sidequest unlocks and you can complete it to destroy the negative code fragment that's keep them down. For Fana, who's the default choice and the one I went with simply for the sake of simplicity, I was sent into the forest to retrieve a special flower that would cure her illness.
Oh, for reference, flowers are another part of the game. There are a whole bunch scattered throughout the world, one associated with each type of code. An NPC in town identifies them for you, telling you their special meaning and allowing you to access the code fragment they contain.
Anyways, the flower I mentioned meant "Happy News" and contained the code Hope. At that point the game informed me that by surrounding Fana's Ill code with Hope, her disease would be cured. I did just that, and lo and behold, she was all better. It wasn't long after that that she professed her love to me and the relationship was formed. I could be wrong about this, but I think the actual relationship cannot form until a certain point in the game. That's what it seemed like, in any case.
For those curious, the other potential female partners include a busty witch, a ditsy princess, and a hostile elf girl. I can't tell for sure just how many of the different characters you meet can become involved in a relationship, but those three I know for sure because scenes did start for them. Until I try the game again as a female character, I can't say for sure which male characters are available other than the obvious Yumil, which is the default name of the male protagonist (Fana is the female protagonist).
The game is pretty fun, and the puzzles are getting more and more clever as the game moves on. The boss fights are also pretty terrific. Most of them have some sort of clever puzzle to make use of in order to complete. <span class="spoiler">For example, one fight had me up against a demon that no attack would damage. However, planting a bomb at its feet and detonating it would send its sword flying. Destroy the sword and the demon would shrink to an itty bitty size and proceed to run away as fast as possible, allowing you to chase it down and beat it up with a sword. Eventually it would regain its strength, and you'd do it again until it died. Another fight had me facing off against a giant robot sentry that was immune to damage until it exposed its core to attack. Once its HP was whittled down, it would go cold still, allowing the player to push it off a cliff. Then it'd pop up and change its attack patterns. Two more times and it was defeated.</span>
So far the game's flaws haven't been enough to prevent me from enjoying myself. It's a unique little title that I'm having a blast with.
Maybe I'll log out and check my e-mail or something...