|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Success||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 15, 2008||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|
That said, Rondo of Swords is not a game for the weak at heart, it's really, really tough. And I mean it -- it's probably the hardest game I've played on the DS to date. Even in the first level, there are probably thirty or more enemies on the field. Oh, and your own army? A mere three soldiers. You're forced to flee, and you've got to make sound tactical decisions to come out on top. As you progress, the game only becomes more difficult. You'll be faced with massive groups of soldiers and be asked to wipe them out with your severely outnumbered group. The enemies are no pushovers, either -- they're often at higher levels than your own units ,, and they move and attack intelligently. It can make the game somewhat frustrating, however, as oftentimes the strategy needed to win is only found through trial and error. Still, this will be an appreciated aspect of the game by hardcore SRPG fans.
Holding this innovative gameplay mechanic together is a disappointingly weak plot. Serdic, the king of a peaceful nation, is killed during an enemy attack while attending his father's funeral. A double for Serdic steps in for the deceased prince and leads a small band of soldiers on the offensive against the attacking country. In traditional RPG fashion, there are tons of groups and factions and alliances and individual characters, and keeping track of them all can be a bit confusing at first. Still, the plot itself is fairly predictable and the writing lacks much life or originality.
Visually, the game is actually pretty interesting -- screenshots just can't do this title justice. There's certainly a very distinct art style in this game, and chances are you'll either love it or hate it. There are character portraits a la Fire Emblem, and the combat animation actually shows your characters -- far preferable to seeing boring, repetitive character models copied and pasted. Still, these animations will get a bit boring after a while -- luckily, the developers have included the ability to skip over the scenes and just see the outcome.
Rondo of Swords is a really excellent SRPG and probably the best game of the genre on the DS to date. Admittedly, it's certainly not for everybody; in fact, this game is clearly geared toward hardcore gamers. It's not a good introduction to the genre for casual gamers, thanks largely to its huge variety of gameplay implementations and its really punishing difficulty. Still, if you're looking for a fun, innovative, and rewarding DS title, then Rondo of Swords should not be missed.
CCC Freelance Writer