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Old RPG review #1: Threads of Fate.NuMetalManiak Hey peeps.
So as I said in my profile, I have started a blog post series where I will be reviewing old RPGs, giving that I play many of them. I have been playing RPGs on the NES, SNES, PSX, GBA, SMS, and Genesis so far, although most of them I have played using an emulator. The idea behind these RPG reviews is to provide some insight on how well the gameplay, plot, characters, music, and other things in each RPG play out. So with that in mind, expect spoilers in these reviews. If you are interested to know, I do give letter grades for each.
The first old RPG that I will review is Threads of Fate, also known as Dewprism in Japan. Threads of Fate is an action RPG from Squaresoft for the Playstation, released in 2000 for North America. If you don't know what an action RPG is, think of how The Legend of Zelda plays.
So let's get down to business:
There's two, Rue and Mint. Rue is the male lead and the one who has the more serious story, while Princess Mint is the female lead with the more amusing story. Both characters are searching for an item known as a Relic (which for some reason is always in brackets in the game dialogue, more on that later). Anyways, Rue is seeking the Relic because he wants to bring a dead friend back to life. Mint searches for the Relic for revenge on her sister, as well as world domination. Yes, that's right, this girl is quite spoiled. More on that later. Given their goals, it is obvious that both are definitely hoping that their wishes will come true. Grade: A-
Supporting (NPC) characters:
There's a number of supporting characters as well. Klaus and his family are a good example. Belle and Duke fulfill "rival" type characters, in which you fight them during the course of the game, but they help you later. There's also two hoodrat type characters, Smokey and Blood, who you also fight but are not necessarily evil. There's this guy named Rod who is a swordsmaster and challenges you to fight him if you pay him. He also has this crazy machine that he uses to travel. The real evil characters are pretty cool in showing how they are the real baddies. Unfortunately, they all seem to go under the same name, with "Master" at the end of them. There's Doll Master, Psycho Master, Trap Master, and Mode Master. Very unoriginal if you ask me. They all do have real names though, but all of their real names are revealed in Rue's story only and don't play too much of an aspect in the game. The villain's use trickery against our main characters, as well as Princess Maya, to achieve their goal. Doll Master wants to bring back Valen, the ancient Aeon from long ago, to have his own wishes. Grade: B
Fighting, controls and experience:
Rue is a special kind of character, as he is quite powerful with the weapon he uses to fight enemies with (some kind of axe thing? Not sure what it is). The big caveat with Rue though is that he has the ability to transform into the monsters that he fights, and utilize their abilities. Very interesting, but I found him to be quite hard to use. He can have up to four monster slots, and to get a different one, he has to kill a different monster and get it's respective coin (if it drops one). As for Mint, she fulfills the role of "magic user" with her ring providing several types of magic (which she of course finds for herself). The rings that Mint uses are also her means of attack. Although weaker than Rue's attack, they are faster in attacking, or maybe that's my personal preference, I dunno. Although she has a lot of magic, I found Mint to be easier to use, probably because I'm used to magic in most RPGs. Anyways, this is an action RPG, which means that the player can move and attack enemies at his/her own pace. HP dwindles by enemy attacks and pitfalls, and MP dwindles if Mint uses magic or if one of Rue's monster forms has a special attack that uses magic. Killing monsters nets the player with potions that restore HP and MP. The unfortunate thing is, outside of resting at the town, this is the only way to regain HP and MP in the game.
Wanna know how to get experience in this game? You don't. Yes, that's right, you don't get any experience in this game. But how exactly can you increase your stats? In Threads of Fate, you can increase your Max HP by taking hits from enemies (be careful not to die), and you can increase your Max MP by using up MP. Very odd. I never liked that you had to use up HP and MP to increase the maximum. And there's no level ups in this game either. As for strength and defense increases, you have to earn them by doing good deeds or buy them at an upgrade shop.
There is jumping in this game, and there are a few platforming bits. I don't like them at all. Both characters do have a jump attack though, which is stronger than their main attack. Falling into a bottomless pit, deep water, lava, or other similar substances makes your character lose 5 HP, sometimes 15. A number of boss fights have you utilize jumping to get around, and given the 3D movement, it can be pretty rough to fight some of them.
Speaking of bosses, they can be pretty tricky, but at least you can judge how much health they have left since they do have health bars. Most of the earlier bosses don't really have any strong points, meaning you can hit them anywhere, but the later ones have few spots of weakness (like Psycho master can only be attacked from the back). Some of the bosses are really tough, especially in Rue's story. I found the three Chimeras in the Ghost Temple really annoying for example.
The controls are alright. I stuck with the regular control scheme and reverse camera movement (which for some ironic reason is the better choice, as turning left in reverse movement actually makes the camera turn left). I used the X button for my regular attack and the triangle button for the special attack (Mint's magic or Rue's secondary attack). Circle was my jump button and Square was my select monster/magic button. It works fine, but oftentimes I forget where I should use my jump or my magic. Grade: B-
Since there's two separate plots for two separate characters, I will separate them, starting with Mint's story. I started with Mint's story first since she was the first character I played. Again, spoilers inbound.
Mint's story: So as I said before, Mint is quite a spoiled, impatient character. How she is considered a princess in the kingdom of East Heaven is beyond me. At the beginning of the game, her younger sister Maya takes the right of the throne away from her, with the help of a guy named Doll Master. Mint tries her luck against her, but Maya has the Book of Cosmos which is stronger than Mint's magic. Mint gets chased away by pumpkins (she hates those) and runs away. Later, on a ship bound for the one town in the game, she plots revenge, as well as world domination. Clearly she has her mind set. As far as her main plot goes, Mint has the more silly plot. She always is plotting to rule the world, talking right in front of other characters. Also, she jump kicks people a lot. Amusing, but rude, she does things her way. I found Mint's adventure to be easier than Rue's adventure, probably because I found her magic easier to use in most circumstances, but also because the bosses she faces are also easier. In the end, Mint loses the Dewprism in a fight against Valen (it's creator), although she managed to beat him. So her goals have not been met. However, she did save Rue from Doll Master, and subsequently Valen. After the final battle, she is welcomed by her grandfather and Maya and they all come home. Grade: A
Rue's story: Rue's friend, Claire, takes good care of him. But a disturbance shows up and a man kills her. Rue vows for vengeance, and seeks the Relic to revive Claire. So he journeys to find it. Rue's story stays very consistent and serious throughout the game, and he is steadfast at his promise and his goals. Rue does not show any signs of silliness as opposed to Mint. If you play Mint's story, you will find out that he only needs to use the Relic just once. His will to save Claire is one of the main reasons that makes his story so brilliant, and that will holds up near the end. He has a very special connection with Doll Master, and it is revealed that both of them are actually dolls of Valen. There rebellion against their creator was one of the more shocking moments in the final part of Rue's story. After the final battle, Rue actually gets his wish, so this story was the much stronger (and more heartfelt) one. But given this, it was also the harder one to go through, the bosses are much tougher (and the first fight with Doll Master is a scripted loss). It's definitely worth it though. Grade: A+
Both stories eventually intertwine with one another, where both main characters meet up. They both realize that the other is searching for the relic which makes them both competitors, although other characters get in their way as well. Both stories also have, more or less, the same bosses in most cases, but there are exceptions. One is where Mint goes to Gamul Forest, while Rue heads for the Ghost Temple. This is a case where both characters are working together but in different places, and you can't go to the place your "partner" goes to (like Rue cannot go to Gamul Forest). Also, if you manage to beat the game with both stories, you get to see the true epilogue of the game, which probably hints at a sequel (although it unfortunately never came). Overall Plot: A+
Threads of Fate has interesting dialogue. There's no voice acting, so it's very classical (like old, text-based RPGs) in terms of dialogue. There's also a lot of foul and semi-foul language by several of the characters. Mint says "dang" a lot, and there are a number of other characters who all say "Damn" at points. There were also points where actualswearing is, and that is shown as "(expletive)". Mint does say these words, as do other characters. Quite interesting dialogue throughout, if a bit mundane. Grade: B
Shops, items, and money:
This is a bad point in the game. There is only one town in the entire game that you always go back to, Carona, and it's not really interesting, just a central plaza, some houses, shops, and some alleys. There are only three places to shop at in Carona. There's Tonio's item shop, the tavern, and Hobb's upgrade shop where every upgrade is expensive as hell. What makes it worse how you are supposed to earn money. You need to kill monsters, but also you need to sell the monster coins that you have earned from killing the monsters, and you need to sell them at a shop. Bear in mind that this is the primary way to get money. The only other ways I could think of was beating Rod in a battle and selling items you find in your travels. Speaking of items, many of the regular items found in the game don't have any use. The various stones can be sold for money, and that's about it. The coins can be used if you die in the game, as continue items, but that's about it. Grade: C
This is one of the best things about the game. I love the soundtrack. It has very good bits in just about every song. The Carona town theme is a nice dittie of a tune, that doesn't grow old. The main boss theme is good too, but the more unique boss themes (like the Psycho Master battle theme) are better. Two of my favorites are the Carona forest theme and the Underground Ruins. Both are very happy tunes for the places they are in and have that "feel-good" attitude to them. Valen's Fortress has a very mysterious yet regal tune making it my all time favorite. Grade: A+
Overall grade: B+
This is an above average action RPG that did not get as much attention as other Playstation RPGs. Although gameplay has a few hiccups here and there, the soundtrack and the characters' stories make it more or less well worth it. Rue's ending is also very heartwarming, so if you are gonna play only one character, play as Rue, even if it is the harder of the two stories. Mint has the easier game and the funnier story though. The soundtrack is great as well. Overall, I'd recommend playing this one!