It has come to my attention that keeping Retro Treasures' current schedule may not be possible for the month of October. This is due in part to the fact that I'm organizing my applications to grad school, but more importantly, it's Halloween, which is a huge holiday for my family. As a result, most of this month will be spent either working on applications or decorating the old family home. So, for the month, I'm going to try shifting the updates to Friday in the hopes that that will free up some time. This may not solve the problem and more than likely I will still miss a couple, but it does place the updates on one of my days off, which should help. Now, on to the real topic.
Visions and Voices was the game I mentioned having played while I was away. In essence, it's a simple 16-bit J-rpg made in RPGmaker with an active time battle system and a dark story line. And although I don't want to talk too much about it, I do want to share a few thoughts on the game.
For one, it looks exactly as one would expect of a game from RPGmaker. Its rather a simplistic yet clean look that excels through the use of setting and atmosphere far more than it does through some of the choices in sprites. Take Telia's sprite for instance, which, without context, looks like a young school girl. This clashes harshly with the fact that not only is she a bard, but that she's also sexually active and a con artist, which are both mentioned enough to get ridiculous. Not to mention that Elena, the female warrior, looks like a stereotypical dancing girl.
The story in the game is slightly non-linear as it's up to the player to find clues and determine where they want to go next or even if they wish to follow up on them. But the main thread of the plot is that the Wanderer, an ex-con, has journeyed to Montfort village in order to investigate the rumors that people have been disappearing and that those that don't are losing their minds. When the Wanderer arrives, he runs into his old acquaintance and bed mate, Telia, whom is being chased by a man that is at that particular moment growling trying to murder her. After killing him, Telia offers to join the Wanderer and help him on his quest to uncover the secrets of Montfort.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is like a JRPG, except that there are pretty much no levels. After a good number of fights a stat just might go up, but this happens so rarely and battles are so dangerous at first, that grinding just simply isn't feasible. As a result, choosing the correct stats at the beginning of the game to suit your play style is crucial.
The stats are also different from most RPGs. Rather than having stats like Strength and Speed, Visions and Voices has stats like Bravery and Perception. Bravery, for instance, influences how hard your player can hit with a melee weapon. However, it also determines how well they defend against a melee attack, as well as how often they are targeted by the enemy. Perception, on the other hand, influences how hard you'll hit with ranged attacks, how well you'll defend against ranged attacks, and how fast you are.
Of course, having no levels, one might be groaning at the thought of fighting group after group of enemies for no reason, but that would be a misconception. There is something gained by defeating the enemies. You get to survive. Thinking about this game as a standard jRPG is doing a disservice to the uniqueness of the game. It is in essence a survival horror RPG. Managing the finite materials in your inventory and picking when you fight the on screen enemies are every bit as important as those choices are in a Resident Evil game. The better you manage your inventory and pick wothwhile fights, the more you can explore, and the more you explore, the stronger you may be able to get.
The game does have issues though. Having a character with low perception means having a character that is almost too sluggish to be useful, espceically early on. Seeing as I chose the standard warrior class at the start of the game, my Wanderer was slower than Christmas. In fact, Telia could often almost attack twice before the Wanderer would even get to choose what to do.
The characters are also a bit juvenile. Not really in who they are or how they came to be, but in how they are occasionally written. More often than not, they will make direct statements to facts about themselves that most characters would probably allude to or not just flt out say. Some times, this comes off as feeling fresh, but other times it just feels silly.
On the whole though, the game is definitely an enjoyable experience. It's unique and different enough that it's worth playing despite some off putting moments with thecharacters and a few quibbles with the battle system. And besides, it's hard to beat free.