The JRPG factory known to us as Kemco just keeps on trucking. Every month, they’ve got a new mediocre-to-good game out, which is pretty impressive in itself. The fact that all these games look pretty much the same and play just like an old handheld installment of Final Fantasy notwithstanding, making a game a month is a feat we should all respect. That doesn’t mean the end result is always very good—but here and there, Kemco still manages to squeeze out a little creativity from their assembly-line development process. Soul Historica isn’t anywhere near the finest RPG you can find on the Play Store, but it’s still interesting to fool around with.
You begin the game in the middle of a fight between our hero, York, the unfortunately-named female sidekick Ibis, and a gang of monsters. (Kemco really should have done a little research before naming one of their main characters after a group of wading birds.) Humans are clinging to life by a thread, and knights like York and Ibis are all that’s keeping them from getting their souls destroyed by monsters. Well, knights and the guidance of Lord Nemesis, their masked and precognitive overlord, who proceeds to use a major city as bait to attract and destroy most of the monsters with bombs. This secures everyone’s safety, except for the people who died in the blasts with the monsters. Since York’s lady love Eris is one of those people, he gets a little miffed—enough to be expelled from the Order of Knights and become a full-on alcoholic.
We join the action again several years later, when another masked precognitive weirdo shows up, tells a drunk and belligerent York that his girlfriend’s still alive, and leaves. York breaks into the Knights’ tower, grabs Ibis and Eris—who has no memories and believes her name is Fiora—and goes on the run. Then they all go dungeon-crawling to get Eris/Fiora’s memories back. But is Fiora really Eris? Why did Nemesis have her locked up in a tower? And what is the deal with all these masks, anyway?
After the initial oddity of the setting wears off, the story quickly falls into the same weary JRPG territory we’ve come to expect from basically any developer in the genre. There are some fun beats, but with Ibis’s crush on York and a party consisting of the same four character archetypes that appear in every other JRPG, it’s hard to argue that Soul Historica has anything resembling originality in its plot. The script itself is wooden and much too pat, though thankfully free from the translation errors that have plagued Kemco in the past.
The gameplay itself is nothing to write home about, either. Soul Historica‘s main claim to greatness is that it has multiple endings depending on the choices you make. That’s the press release talking, anyway; in reality, you get to make one choice at one point in the game, which determines which of two endings you’ll see. It’s hardly groundbreaking, especially when there are so many other points in the game where players could have made their own choices. If Kemco was willing to slow down their relentless production rate, they might have had time to make a branching storyline that was actually worthy of the term. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Chrono Cross, the PS1 game that gave you about six different plots depending on a few choices, but Soul Historica‘s promotion seems flawed.
Far more interesting than the story is Soul Historica‘s class system, which closely resembles the Disciplines system in Final Fantasy XIV. Nemesis has introduced humans to devices called Soul Cages, which keep one’s soul safe from destruction when fighting monsters. These monsters will also drop souls when killed, which can be collected and stored in Soul Cages to boost characters’ stats and unlock more powerful specialized classes. Finding and combining different souls to get the best combination of class and character is actually pretty fun, and introduces a level of character customization I haven’t seen in a Kemco game before.
That said, Soul Historica is still wholly derivative of work Square Enix did for the genre years ago. The bare-bones graphics, combat system, and story arc are all painfully familiar for longtime JRPG players. Again, it’s not like Kemco couldn’t have done better if they’d tried—but their business model is too set in stone at this point for them to ever break out of their creative rut in any substantial way. The problem with this game is not that it’s bad, exactly. It’s just too mediocre for me to muster any enthusiasm whatsoever. Anyone who hasn’t gotten tired of Philosophy 101 debates about freedom or female JRPG characters being used as shallow plot devices will probably have a good time playing Soul Historica. Everyone else will most likely grumble about how they could have spent those four dollars on a stiff drink instead.
Soul Historica doesn’t do anything wrong, but it sure doesn’t do anything exciting, either.