|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. 14, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Leon Hendrix III
This whole reviewing gig is bittersweet. Day after day I find myself researching videos and press releases to write optimistic previews about marginal games. Occasionally, I get to review something worthwhile and for that brief shining moment, I truly honored to be able to offer my humble opinion to you gentle gamer. Out of respect for that relationship I must say: don't fall for the nostalgia; The Dark Spire is a cringe-inducing look back at everything frustrating about early RPGs.
There is an obvious answer to why we've seen so many remakes and updates in the gaming world recently (starts with an 'e' ends with 'conomy'), and it makes sense that developers are looking to the past to find some surefire moneymakers. What doesn't make sense is the utter lack of effort to produce anything that could reasonably be anticipated from a game like this. The Dark Spire is a bland, unexciting, and seemingly untested assault on my sensibilities as a player. As a gamer and critic, it's time I put my foot down. Let me start at the bottom and make my way up.
Do you remember how much fun you had with those old pen and paper RPGs? The ones that used arbitrarily assigned and improved stats to determine the outcomes of randomly occurring enemy battles and everything else from lock-picking to magic spells? Yeah, neither did I, but developer Success seems to think we loved them. Someone had to anyway, and this game will definitely appeal to a very specific niche of gamers who love that sort of thing. As for the rest of us, there's nothing to get excited about.
You begin The Dark Spire by selecting a team of adventurers. There are a few races (elf, human, hafling, etc.) and a few classes (mage, priest, warrior, etc.) to select, but for an RPG this seems terribly limiting even though you can take on secondary classes later in the game. Each of these adventurers has a specific alignment and skills that can be learned later (magic spells, trap disarming, etc.). For all of the retro gamers out there, The Dark Spire is very reminiscent of earlier NES RPGs like Final Fantasy. Players will use their weapons, skills, spells and wits to battle the forces of a dark wizard holed up in the top of a tower. Why? In order to defeat the wizard and return the stolen jewels to the queen. It's predictable, but it's forgivable since it is a remake.
The meat of a game like this is the exploration, which is tedious but not unexpectedly so. You will do much of your journeying between towns and shops via the menus. In fact, most everything in this game is done through them. This, of course, is one of the game's greatest problems. As a fan of untraditional RPG's, I may be biased, but using menus as pretty much the sole means of player interaction is a tricky thing.