Every once in a while, it’s refreshing to get away from all the grit and dread of emotionally puncturing “big-name” games as well as the nigh-cynical “retro” flare of indie titles. To get back to something more reminiscent of what retro games actually were: implementations of mechanics far outreaching available tech. Purposely or not, the success of indie games has given a much-needed time machine to get developers back into the same mindset that allowed the creation of Symphony of The Night; The mindset that eventually resurrected in indie titles like Cave Story.
KairoSoft’s High Sea Saga is an Android RPG that laces itself with lush pixel art and snare-infused, upbeat music. It isn’t a game attempting to be anything other than itself, which after reviewing at least a dozen gameboy look-alike titles for Android, was a welcome relief akin to finding a lost son or a new favorite La Croix flavor. There was nothing in this game that seemed re-iterative to me–at least not specifically–and by that I mean High Sea Saga feels fresh despite its lack of innovation, by the mere virtue of arranging each of its plucked elements for its own sake, not just to capitalize on Clash-of-Angry-Birds-GO or whatever. To give an example, you can recruit a crew, but it never feels the same as other games with crew recruitment, because leveling your crew is done using mainly items, instead of actions. While nobody could describe that as some brilliant new direction, it definitely keeps the game from much-loathed familiarity.
That said, it was difficult to enjoy that freshness, because everything you do in this game is walled behind an obtrusively complex UI that does no favors for advancing you through the game at a brusque pace, which I would argue is almost essential in a mobile game. If the game spent a little more time explaining how everything worked, rather than leaving the player leash-less to rummage through the sprite landfill that is the menu, then the game would have a lot more energy to it. As it stands, just about everything you do (from navigation to dungeon fighting to waiting for arbitrarily lengthened build times) has a iron ball shackled to its legs. You could almost say that the overall experience is somewhat… Anchored? *slap*
The final verdict is that this game, despite its flaws, is pretty to look at and by no means a cash-grab. It’s inspired and plucky, but really, any mobile review these few weeks will be overshadowed by That Game, so wondering where your time is better spent is more or less an exercise in futility, and yes, there is jealousy in my data-less voice. Still, if you can manage to put your Blastoise down long enough to avoid getting hit by a car, High Sea Saga is worth a shot while you’re waiting for the server downtime to end. And, if not, your hospital stay will go by like lightning while you’re trying to figure out how to equip a pirate’s bandana.
A complex and cute MMO-style game about pirates.