[INDENT]The following review is based on the demo version of
Iron Gaia Part II: Mana From Heaven. It may contain spoilers with no immediate warning. Read at your own risk!
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... tars-3.gif[/IMG] Story
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... tars-2.gif[/IMG] Gameplay
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... tars-4.gif[/IMG] Graphics
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... ars-25.gif[/IMG] Sound
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... tars-3.gif[/IMG] Presentation
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... tars-3.gif[/IMG] Overall (not an average)
I believe it would be best to go about doing a €˜compliment sandwichâ€™ type of thing to describe Iron Gaia Part II: Mana From Heaven
: Iâ€™ll start with something great about the game, move on to areas needing improvement, and end with a compliment. Although, I do fear that it may end up being more of a compliment ice-cream cone in which the top scoop is a delicious chocolate-brownie-fudge combination and the following scoops are, well, plain Jane vanilla. But hey, the cone at the end is kind of good, right? €¦Right?
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re here for the same reason I am. And if youâ€™re not, then something is wrong with you. Iron Gaia Part II
is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing RMXP game shown to date. Everything seems to have been meticulously worked on for hours, and the result is nothing short of amazing. As to be expected, the first glimpse of this beauty comes in the masterfully created title screen. The foreground is adorned with a flashy, attention-grabbing font, and the background portrays a city wholly devastated and in ruins. Strangely, the combination of mass ruin and inviting text irked my curiosity more than it should have, and I felt strangely compelled to start the game right away.http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... Gaia-5.jpg
[/IMG]The title screen, which Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re all very familiar with.
Following a short and fairly boring summary of the events from Iron Gaia Part I
€“ which, from what I could tell, contained only one piece of original artwork; the rest was a handful of Googled scenes from various sci-fi movies and the like €“ I was thrown into a junkyard, as to be expected from the title screenâ€™s background. This was no ordinary junkyard, however; it was a collection of trash heaps at their graphical best. The tilesets are a combination of custom work, ripped graphics, a handful of KNightblade pieces, and a couple of RTP chunks, and as to be expected, there are some consistency issues, but they still are some of the best modern/futuristic sets for RMXP yet to be released. Perhaps the most obvious graphical inconsistency is that the RTP-styled character sprites clash violently with the heavy detail of the ripped graphics. While weâ€™re on the subject of characters, the portraits of the major characters that show up during dialogue are perhaps even more eye-popping than the title screen and tilesets combined. They are beautifully hand-drawn works of art and give a much-needed sense of individuality to their respective characters.
And while weâ€™re still on the subject of characters, this may be a good time to point out that despite their attractive portrait counterparts, these are some of the most mundane, dull, and uninspired characters I have played as. The intro scene is about five minutes of dialogue between four characters as they sit around a fire in this junkyard: Carter, the party leader with a fuzzy memory; Tom, the generic big tough-guy brute; Mariah, the unexplained female tomboy that also has a fragmented memory; and lastly, we have Xenos, the mind-reading alien. During this yawn-inspiring scene, the monotony is occasionally interrupted by a four-second or less scene of a mysterious man running through a nearby building. These brief foreshadowing scenes did nothing to distract me from what I feared most would plague this game: unimaginative dialogue. Every character, no matter how physically different, speaks with the same dialect-less, universal, unheard voice. The only characters that occasionally shows signs of creative dialogue is the alien, Xenos, but these uncommon performances of genuine personality are too far apart. Come on, a large, brute-ish Marine shouldnâ€™t speak with the same enunciation and fluidness as an €˜educatedâ€™ alien; similarly, a woman with a disjointed memory should speak in disjointed sentences, not as clearly and thought-out as Carterâ€™s inquiries.
Just as I was about to call it quits and take a nap or do something similarly interesting, a surprising event finally grasped my attention. The man shown earlier running through the building was revealed to be a sniper. He takes aim, and POW!
goes the head of Xenos. Carter is infuriated at the loss of his friend (though I half expected him to hardly react to the death) and expresses his anger by swearing. A lot. For the next minute or so, nearly every other word is a curse word. The anger and the myriad of emotions that he is feeling is evident, yet the excessive cursing just seems childish and immature. Iâ€™m not sure if that was a creative way for the writer to express Carterâ€™s immaturity or the writerâ€™s immaturity leaking through into the game, to be honest. The three remaining friends then flee into a nearby underground bunker to escape the sniper.http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... Gaia-3.jpg
[/IMG]One shot, one kill. The enemy sniper prepares for his kill while the heroes wait unknowingly.
The bunker, like the junkyard, is strikingly beautiful. Itâ€™s dark, itâ€™s eerie, and it has the creepy feel of something you would expect to find in a Resident Evil
game. The only source of light is the small globe of visibility around the character. However, similar to the junkyard tileset, the character sprites donâ€™t match well with the high detail of the metallic walls and floors. Despite the dungeonâ€™s physical beauty, I was quite disappointed with the audio of the dungeon. The eerie feel could have been exponentially enhanced with ambient sound effects, such as dripping water and zombie moans. The background music was quite fitting and added to the mood sufficiently, but my eardrums yearned for more.
This dungeon is pretty straightforward in the way it plays out: You turn on the power to open one door, get a key from that room, open a new door with the key, fight a boss, and leave. Nothing too innovative here, and everything is laid out pretty flat in front of you. Even with the lights on, though, the aesthetic creepiness remains in the entire bunker. Some of the rooms have innovative lighting effects that flick on and off, giving a remarkable sense of realism to the game. http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... Gaia-4.jpg
[/IMG]The light on the right flickers on and off. Spooky!
The battle system, like the dungeonâ€™s gameplay, isnâ€™t anything to gawk over. Its hero battlers are wonderful and certainly unique; the backs of the characters are towards the player while the characters themselves face the enemies they are fighting. (It eludes me as to why this wasnâ€™t done before.) But it is fundamentally the same system weâ€™ve all played hundreds of times. Most of the enemies can be dealt with very easily, I found, by using Carterâ€™s €œFluxâ€ ability. But to be honest, I played through the dungeon twice. The first time, I felt it was extremely hard and the enemies had an unfair advantage in strength and numbers. The second time through, however, I could crush the enemies while getting hit only once or twice. Hell, I even beat the boss of the dungeon €“ a massive, zombie-like blob of flesh €“ without getting hit once. This can prove one of two things (or both things): 1, the battle system involves more strategy than mashing the enter button, and 2, I was a little slow the first time and didnâ€™t pay much attention to strategy. I wasnâ€™t too pleased with and of the battle music options (the player can select one of four battle themes, which seemed more like a gimmick than anything else).
At this point, the only real saving grace of the gameplay is what is called the Augmentation System. The Augmentation System is an enhancement shop that has a wide selection of enhancements and upgrades available for any of the playable characters €“ or at least, the three playable characters in the demo. I must admit that the idea of purchasing an ankle blade that enables €˜devastating power attacksâ€™ was more than enough incentive to try to dispatch enough enemies to earn the 5000 nanites €“ the gameâ€™s currency €“ needed to purchase it. If it wasnâ€™t for this enhancement system, I genuinely would see no reason in fighting enemies.http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c82/u ... Gaia-1.jpg
[/IMG]The dungeon would actually be much more fun with more easter eggs like this lightswitch-activated treat.
The demo took me about 56 minutes to complete, which certainly could be increased much further if one were to save up nanites and purchase a handful of augmentation upgrades. As the game is right now, there isnâ€™t much going for it other than the great visuals. The gameplay is generic and unoriginal; the characters are flat, under-developed bunches of pixels; and the story is, well, confusing at this point. Sure, itâ€™s just a demo, but we should at least have some clue as to where weâ€™ll be going to next. Still, though, the game is put together well and has a polished feel to most aspects of it. There are very few grammar errors in the dialogue and even fewer technical bugs. The game definitely has potential, if not solely because of the unique graphics; but I still feel it will need more than a character enhancement system to really keep people interested from start to finish.[/INDENT]