Holy Crap, I Just Bought Final Fantasy for $4.
Kemco is back to try their hand at cornering the Android market for JRPGs. Like their last offering Symphony of Eternity, Symphony of the Origin is definitely a faithful throwback, another love letter to ‘90s-era SNES role-playing with all the usual archetypes and a few modern touches. The question is, will anyone care?
Our hero, Ryle, is a young warrior helping his kingdom fight against the Evils of the Earth-Depths, which seems to be a fancy term for “demons.” Naturally, his parents were murdered by these beasties years ago, so of course he’s out for revenge. One day, while biting off more than he can chew, Ryle meets a mysterious and snarky golem underground, a discovery which sends him questing around the world. The story, as any casual fantasy fan can already tell, is laden with JRPG tropes, right down to each character’s personality. As time goes on, the party grows to include a small girl with absurdly advanced ninja skills; a gorgeous, naïve cleric (bonus points: she’s an elf too); an old dude with stupid powerful attacks; and a character whose only motivation is food.
For the most part, their dialogue is mechanical and artificial, like the golems themselves, but that seems to be a translation issue rather than an inherent flaw in the original game. Either way, it’s a shame; the concept is pretty solid, and as the plot advances, more and more of the individual exchanges become amusing, even tongue-in-cheek.
Origin’s basic gameplay is classic dungeon-crawling fun. Unlike most of the classics though, these dungeons allow you to see each enemy prowling around its territory, removing the annoyance of random encounters. What’s more, surprising the enemy—taking them from behind—allows you a preemptive attack. Thanks to the simultaneous joystick/d-pad combo, it’s also one that can be utilized effectively, given practice (though it might be a little less buggy if they weren’t both controlled with the same overlay), and it’s practice that will pay off. Despite simple combat early on, the learning curve is staggered effectively so encounters begin to get difficult at about the same time as things start feeling too easy. RPG veterans will want to start on Hard Mode though, as the default difficulty is hardly pulse-pounding. The menu is completely unlabeled, but unless you’ve never played an RPG before, players ought to be capable of figuring out the icons on their own. No time is wasted on unnecessary tutorials, which will come as a relief to those longtime RPers, who just want to hurry ahead to the boss fights.
Still, the majority of Origin is nothing new under the sun. The layout and turn-based combat system are carbon copies of what we’ve seen in every Final Fantasy game since 1993 (with a storyline to match). For the most part, the graphics are good, if a touch reliant on sprites that appear to be marching in place. (I was trapped for a few minutes in an inn by an NPC who was determined to high-step right through the floor, blocking my only exit.) It’s reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance; there’s nothing special about the visuals, but the colors and layouts are detailed enough to remain interesting long enough for the next environment to come along.
Symphony of the Origin is not a dull game. Nor is it an unimaginative one, though it could certainly use some creativity in its storyline. What it is, is a game that is solidly for the nostalgia crowd, like its predecessor; in the hands of anyone who’s hungry for something groundbreaking, disappointment is inevitable. Still, the adventures of uptight Ryle and his sarcastic golem buddies are a fun way to while away a train ride, and despite its flaws, Symphony of the Origin is a well-crafted adventure that does well by its genre.