|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Matrix Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Xseed Games / Marvelous Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Is in Your Hand
by Joseph Catalanotto
December 16, 2008 - Xseed is currently best-known for its work on the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III as well as Final Fantasy IV. While these projects gave Xseed a chance to exploit the graphical prowess of the DS, it didn't require much creativity on their part; the titles they worked on were remakes, after all.
But now the development team is teaming up with Marvelous Interactive of Harvest Moon fame to show just how creative they really can be. Their brainchild is a DS title called Avalon Code, and it's shaping up to be one of the most groundbreaking RPGs the DS has seen.
Avalon Code gives you the choice to play as either a male or female character. Unlike many games where this is solely a personal aesthetic choice, choosing to play as a male or female has a significant impact on the entire game. Your overall goal for the game may change depending on the sex you choose. Needless to say, this offers tremendous replay value.
Regardless of the character, the game starts out the same: plagued by visions of the apocalypse, you stumble upon a tome called the Book of Prophecy. You'll then soon discover a fairly typical RPG plot, including four nature spirits that need your help. The looming destruction of the world is also a big plot element, but even more interesting is you can choose to aid this destruction or attempt to prevent it.
The story really just serves as a backdrop for the incredibly innovative gameplay that makes Avalon Code such a promising new IP. The game is, at its core, an action RPG, but in addition to lots of combat, a huge draw of this game is the Book of Prophecy. Hitting any living object with the Book reveals its essence, a specific make-up of elements that makes each object what it is.
But the Book of Prophecy doesn't just show you these essences; it also allows you to manipulate them. The make-up of living items is shown visually as pictures laid out in a grid. You can simply drag individual essences out of the character or item and onto a board, which is like your palette for your adventure in the world of Avalon Code. You can then take these essences and insert them in other beings and even some items to dramatically change their characteristics.
Needless to say, the puzzle-solving possibilities with this system are endless. You could drag the poison out of a sick person and put it in a particularly tough monster, thus simultaneously curing the person and weakening the enemy. Each person's disposition is also determined by their essential make-up, so by dragging and dropping elements among people, you can change the way they react to situations. Additionally, these essences can be used in your weapons and items; for example, you could drag the illness from a sick townsperson and put it in your sword to create a poison blade.
While the Book of Prophecy is the most interesting aspect of Avalon Code, combat also plays a large role. Combat is controlled with the DS' face buttons; the D-pad is used to move, R is use to roll, and the face buttons are assigned to the Book of Prophecy, one magic attack, and two weapons. Combat is not simply an exercise in button mashing, thanks to weapon variety and a very cool combat system that allows you, with perfect timing, to launch an enemy into space. I know; it's crazy.
As I've already mentioned, Xseed has a lot of experience making beautiful DS games, and that practice has been helpful as theyve created Avalon Code. The game has already released in Japan, and screenshots that we've seen are absolutely gorgeous. The game is in full 3D and features beautiful, fluid animation. Environments have been meticulously crafted and look beautiful, and overall there's a charming sense of atmosphere throughout the entire game.
Avalon Code is a collaborative effort between Xseed and Marvelous Interactive, and the latter has been sure not to be showed up by Xseed. There are a few game mechanics that are classic Marvelous Interactive conventions; for example, the dating sim aspect of the game seems straight out of Harvest Moon. The dating component to the game may seem a bit out of place in an epic RPG, but it should work well as an emotional tool. That is to say, you're not just some character without personality, traveling from town to town and fighting lots of monsters. You can develop friendships and deeper relationships with NPCs you come across, which should allow for a lot of character development.
Avalon Code is definitely one of the most promising RPGs for 2009. With some really clever puzzle mechanics and a ridiculous amount of customization for battling and defeating foes, this should be a very deep, rewarding title. RPG fans will definitely need to check out Avalon Code when it releases early in 2009.
CCC Freelance Writer