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The Fate of Mundus: Paradise Castle Review
I'm Back...FROM THE DEAD: A Review of Paradise Castle
Review by eien_tsubasa
MAN, It's great to be back...I suppose. My recent comic duties have knocked me out of the review radar, so I'm hoping my coming back will help shake some of the rust off. After all, I've been gone for what seems to be an ungodly amount of time, so maybe this review will get me up to snuff again.
I also noticed a few new games popping up so I went to take a quick glance at them. Some interesting, some...not so much, you know the usual thing I do when I open up RRR. It was then that I came across Paradise Castle, a game made with the RMVX engine. I read up on the basic premise and it wasn't all that bad to me. It seemed solid enough; basic, but not too basic, and oddly intriguing. But then I actually played it and...well, let's just say this is a perfect example of good premises with bad execution. Anyway, on with the Review.
The story begins with an empty black screen telling us the game's backstory. The text tells us that a magnificent “castle of wonders” was built many years ago (one thousand to be exact). However, in some unspecified time, said castle became tainted by an unknown evil. We're not told of what exactly the castle did and who was responsible for tainting it but apparently it put the world in grave danger, and the only one left to save the world from it is the Chosen One.
We then cut to our protagonist Thaun, who just so happens to have been dreaming the previous exposition garble after apparently sleeping through a massive hangover. (I WONDER IF THAUN IS THE CHOSEN ONE???) So he sets off to the City of Tune to confront the unsubtle slutty bar hostess who seems to constantly winking and giggling at him (maybe she's some psychotic serial killer, I don't know.) But first you have to fight a bunch a slimes to obtain enough money to buy a gate pass to get past the city guardsman to-okay! What the hell?!
Alright, I'm not one to complain about run around missions, as I don't really mind them, but this one scene shows us a ton of weaknesses both in the writing and battle systems (thing's that I'll get to shortly). But what really gripes me is this run around quest and all the contrivances behind it:
Okay, so you obtain a potion that you don't need, and you have to buy a gate key for 100 gold. So you go “Okay, good plan. I don't need the potion yet, so I'll just sell it and start myself with some cash before I go back outside the city and grind for some gold.” That would work except you can't sell the potion. So now your forced to grind for gold the long way for an event that doesn't need it. Thaun mentions that he was at the city a night before the events of the game. So by that knowledge, shouldn't he have money to start off with already? He's armed, so I thought he was a mercenary of some sort, but he's not, he's just a traveling swordsman. How did he support himself for his journey then? Unless he never left town and just spent his time getting wasted, then he should have money on hand to begin with. Gah! The more I talk about him, the more stupid he seems, so let's just move on.
Anyway, after...that, you encounter the bar wench, watch Thaun blame her for the hangover he got from his drinking binge, and the plot finally moves forward. You encounter an old bar regular who knows about Thaun's dreams about the Chosen One and he suddenly goes all doomsayer on him. He rants on about the time of “paradise” and tells the history of the castle, but with some new details. Apparently, Paradise Castle was there for some time now, but was quietly inactive for years due to someone sealing it with the “Signum of Paradise”, and that no one knows how to remove the seal but him (plot contrivance anyone?). As such he tasks you with removing the seal, even though he gives you no reason as to why he can't remove the seal himself. With that, he sends Thaun to the Temple of Spei to prove himself to the gods and prepare to remove the seal.
Wait a minute. If the Signum of Paradise is removed, won't that just release doom the world anyway? So essentially the plan is to remove the seal before the seal...removes itself?? Screw it, let's just hurry up and get this over with...
-Decent Use of RTP-
Well for what it is, it shows new creators the simplicity of RPG Maker VX and how you can make a story without the need of super awesome scripts. With an exception of some of the facesets, much of Paradise Castle is made with the default RTP stuff. And while many players would often shun this type of game, I see it as a godsend, as many of the games I played did have awesome scripts but used them in a predictable fashion (ex. Tankentai Side View, Yanfly etc.). And don't get me wrong, I use Yanfly's scripts too, but its rare to see a game made with default RTP, and for that, I praise it.
The opening does what it has to do: it tells us about the titular castle and the mystery behind it. And while I think the approach of it was weak, it was pretty good in comparison to all the other stories ad games I played.
Notice how I put party in quotation marks. This is because Thaun is the only character in the party. And while this seems okay in the story's perspective (as he's its focus), this leads to a ton of other problems. The first is that because he's the only character in the party, there's no interesting interaction with anyone else unless they're involved in the story (except the bar maid, who is completely useless). You'll notice more times than many that you'll be taking a back seat to main character droning on about his binging and quest to become bad enough to save the president. As such, you won't feel anything from the character as he's already the strongest super-dude in the world that no-one can kill.
And, this may be a personal thing, but to me he's pretty unlikeable. When you break him down by his personality, Thaun is just a bumming, loud-mouthed, wise-cracking, back-talking swordsman who goes on this journey because the script demanded it. He doesn't do it for the people, he does it simply because he's told he has to. Thaun is written like a bad-ass to look independent and to be the “doesn't take crap from anyone” archetype. And yet, some old guy says he has to save the world and just like that he's on it like the drop of a hat. He does have doubts mind you, but after his meeting with the old man he becomes really generic and very stock.
Personally, Thaun didn't feel...”human” enough. He sounded “written” if that makes sense. He feels less human because he has no one to interact with, no one to learn from, or fall in love with. In short, Thaun is “boring” as a character.
-The In-Game Map-
There's an in-game map in Paradise Castle, and I know, that sounds awesome, right? However, what should be a helpful tool in your journeys in game only becomes counter-intuitive and a nuisance. The map clutters up a gigantic portion of the top right screen and blocks out a good section of the area. So when there are puzzles that require you to jump across holes, you'll be mashing the space bar only to find out that there was no platform across from you. Or it'll obscure some treasure chests that are located in the top right screen. And while it does help you determine if certain doors or locked or not, it removes your focus from the game itself, forcing you to only look to find people, or solve puzzles, and not letting the character explore.
This is something I would like to call the “Peter's Breadcrumb Disease” (named after Peter's Breadcrumb Trail from Fable 3). Essentially it's a mechanic that is made to help guide the player around the stage. However it removes all focus from the game itself and forces them to stare only at that map or guide. Why is this so bad? Well, because the maps are really good. But, because I'm forced to look at the mini-map, I can't admire all the time it took to make that map look good. It's a reoccurring problem in many Role Playing Games nowadays.
In short, the map gets in the way...a lot.
-Really Boring Battles-
The battles are boring, and I mean REALLY boring. Just mash the Z button and watch everything from slimes, bees, and other devilish apparitions disappear in mere seconds. You learn spells from store bought skill scrolls, but you'll never need them because the main character is a living powerhouse. Two swords for double damage, beefed up armors for awesome defense, and baby-easy enemies, and Thaun is a force to be feared. This is a BIG problem, and I'm gonna tell you why: every RPG tells a story, but its the battles that get the player involved. But what makes the battle more interesting is the danger, the tension of facing new enemies and trying to win those battles without dying. When the battles become too easy for the player, there's no feeling of danger to be had from it, and thus no reason to fight. In short, because the battles in Paradise Castle are extremely easy, the combat in the game becomes pointless.
-Random Curse Words-
I'm gonna sound like an old man while talking about this, but the swearing in Paradise Castle is just...immature. If it's to be used in a comical method, then it fails because it wasn't funny...just annoying. If it was made to add personality to the character, then it fails because it makes the main character Thaun look like an asshole. I guess if you don't mind it, it's cool, but I personally hated the swearing. It was just annoying...
There are a lot of puzzles in the game, but they're almost, always the same. One you'll notice is the rock puzzle. Don't touch the rock or you die. That's it. There one that teleports you, but otherwise its the same. There was a point where I almost gave up playing it because there were so many damned rock puzzles that I thought I was hitting the deep end of my insanity. Other puzzles would be nice. Just saying.
The music is pretty good, and is very atmospheric. IT makes the journeys in game a lot more...”mysterious” with a combination of themes that manipulates the emotions of the player, making him feel wary when in a strange ruin or feel primed for battle during a monster encounter. Its a memorable musical score that will be remembered through the ages.
...Or at least that's what I would have said had the soundtrack not been ripped from “The Dark Spire”, a DS game that won Classic Game Room's Game of the Year Award in 2009. I'm sure others who play this won't mind, but I always found it tedious to play games with soundtracks that already exist. And while I only played Dark Spire very briefly, it kinda sucks that the soundtrack to said game is being used for an RPG that to me, barely meets up to TDS’s standard..
As usual, the rating system:
-Classic style of play
-Obstructive On-Screen Mini-Map
-Overall bad execution
When you look at the game for what it is, its a pretty innocent game that pays homage to RMVX's RTP system and shows us that games don't need an over-abundance of script to tell a story. But then that gets buried by the one-dimensional characters, predictable story plot, and repetitive dungeon traps. On the other hand, the creator did say that he would change a few things, so maybe things will start looking up...hopefully.
Note to the Players:
If you like game's for what they are and respect the use of RTP in games, give this game a whirl. But for those like me that look for playability and story in RPG's, play it at your own risk.
Not to the Creator:
Despite everything I said, this is a good start. You're understanding the basics of what Maker has to offer. Now is the time to do some exploring. Write interesting characters, look up some scripts (if you want to of course), look up some tutorials to balance out your monster's and add some awesome stuff to your game. You have a general grasp of the dimensions, you just need to look around more. I have high hopes for the revision, and I'm sure you'll use this review to fix some stuff. I hope it helps.
Reviewer's Score: 3.5 / 10, Posted Tue, 08 Nov 2011 16:00:46 -0500
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