Hey, remember that game Recettear? It was a Japanese indie game that was evidently received quite well. It was a sort of playful spoof on JRPGs in which you run a shop and sell items that you’d expect to find in a Final Fantasy game. There was some dungeon crawling and combat you could do, but most people considered that to be the boring part.
It wasn’t a masterpiece or a breakthrough in design, but it was a fun little diversion. I only played the demo, but I thought it was pretty good.
Well now the studio behind Recettear has made a new game, Chantelise. At a glance it seems to be cut from the same carpet as Recettear. The title is comprised of the two main characters’ names spliced together. It follows the story of a girl and her fairy companion. It has the same art style, items, general cuteness, etc.
The main difference here is that instead of it being a spoof of RPGs, it’s just, well, an RPG. An action RPG, to be specific, but an RPG nonetheless. They took the combat from Recettear that nobody liked and decided to run with it.
And the result: A resounding, low-pitched, “Urrgh.”
Okay, it’s not completely dreadful. The combat does have some much-needed variety added to it. You can pick up magical gems from the bad guys you kill and use them to shoot spells at other bad guys.
… Actually, that’s about it. Other than that it’s the same old story. You run around and attack monsters, and you run from monsters when they try to attack you because the game lacks a block button. And you get hit a lot because the camera is a piece of shit this time around.
Why is this, exactly? The camera in the Recettear dungeons typically was able to show me all the enemies trying to kill me. This time around, well, I challenge you to not get blindsided by any attackers just in the demo for Chantelise.
The levels are very linear. Often times you’re just walking through narrow corridors stuffed with monsters. The monsters themselves are quite repetitive too.
All in all, it gives me a “Tales of Symphonia but not nearly as good” vibe. But none of those annoyances were enough to kill the game for me. No, that didn’t happen until I died for the first time.
Many people, myself included, have talked about the lives system seen in the games of old and how it’s a completely obsolete feature for games nowadays. The general gist of it is that you have around three lives, and if you die that many times in the level you get kicked out of the level and have to start from scratch. Even if the level has checkpoints throughout it, you have to start at the very beginning if you run out of lives.
Chantelise technically doesn’t have a lives system, but it feels to me like a game that has that system but only gives you one life. Whenever you die you get kicked back the world map. Actually, no, you get kicked back to town. Then you have to leave town to get to the world map, and then enter the area you were just playing in. The area you play through in the demo consists of six levels, plus a boss fight.
See how it lets you start in any level you want? Yeah, that’s just for the time trials. If you actually want to get anywhere in the game you have to play the “Story Mode,” which always starts you off at the very first level. So when you get hit one too many times from some dick you couldn’t see because the camera didn’t have the decency to show you what was going on, that means you get to trudge through every shitty fucking level just to get back to where you were before, and you better make sure not to get hit this time.
I must confess that I didn’t actually complete the demo; I lost against the stupidly overpowered boss fight and decided I had better things to do than play through the entirety of the Terran Ruins again. And of course I haven’t discussed any of the mind-blowing depth of character yet, so there’s that.
But if the demo’s job is to make me want the complete game, then it has completely failed in that regard. Unless the combat completely changes after that first world, I really don’t think there’s much reason to buy this.
And it’s a shame, because this is a sort of game I really want to like — a hack-and-slasher. We don’t see many of those on the PC. I suppose Diablo-style dungeon crawlers technically count as hack & slashers, but they feel very different than the kinds of games I’m referring to (God of War, Ninja Gaiden, etc.) and I’m kind of burned out on Diablo clones by this point.