SONY PSP REVIEW: KINGDOM OF PARADISE

RPG enthusiasts have been waiting for a PSP exactly like this. by Daemia

January 10, 2006 - An action RPG that is actually action-packed. Kingdom of Paradise is so engrossing and plays out so naturally that you will forget that you're playing an RPG. It's got a complex battle system that will take some time to master but it's so much more fun than your average turn-based combat system.

Kingdom of Paradise includes most of the RPG elements that you've come to expect such as traveling, exploring, collecting, gaining experience, leveling-up and conversing with NPCs. KOP also includes real-time sword fighting and devastating magical attacks. There are lots of sword-fighting combinations to discover and experiment with that continually keep the gameplay fresh. By collecting sword sheets in the form of scrolls and adding Kenpu to them you can acquire new moves and combine them for a wide range of attacks. The entire adventure is long but not tedious. You can expect to extract some 20 hours of gameplay from KOP.

Steeped in ancient Chinese and Japanese mythology, the storyline, when stripped to basics, is as about as generic as they come but the presentation can't be overlooked. By combining the mythologies of two different cultures the developers have a lot of raw material to work. Even though that may cause educated mythologists to shudder, most of us in North America won't know the different and we wouldn't even know if things are based on authentic mythology or just made up for the game. There are a lot of details to grasp at the beginning of the story but fortunately we don't have to keep track of all of it. The point is that we are thrust into an enchanted Oriental kingdom with a main character called Shinbu that engages lot of enemies with his sword and magical attacks in support of a noble cause. Pure textbook.

Shinbu was once a member of the Eastern Seiryu clan of the continent of Ohka. Shinbu was banished when he performed the forbidden act of gazing at an ancient monument that bestowed him with magical Chi powers. During his banishment, his learns his clan has been slaughtered by the warring continent of Sema which is also attacking and destroying what's left of Ohka. Being the good guy that he is, Shinbu returns to Ohka to combat the enemy and preserve his clan's legacy. Endowed with the mighty powers of the Chi, Shinbu is a one-man army.

There is so much focus on the combat system that you'll forget that you're playing a RPG. Leveling is limited to three main areas: Mind, body and technique. These areas are leveled-up automatically so you don't even have to be aware of them. There is no customizing although you do have the option of purchasing new swords, although I was able to get through the game nicely just by upgrading my main sword.

Shinbu has two main attacks. One is with his sword and the other is with his Chi. The Chi attacks are basically magical spells that encompass four elementals: Wood; water; fire, and earth. By finding an enemy's elemental weakness, such as using water against fire, you can unleash devastating attacks. These attacks are very powerful and can overshadow the sword skills. This is one way that beginners can proceed through the game until they get the hang of the sword-wielding style of combat which is where you'll experience the most fun.

Sword fighting is not just a button-mashing, hack-and-slash affair. There are a lot of different moves you can perform with the sword other than just slicing and dicing, which is still a lot of fun regardless. You can block attacks, throw your sword and impale enemies, call your sword back to you and even juggle enemies into the air and continue to swipe at them while they are vulnerable - all of this with one press of a button. Other moves will have your character jumping, twisting, turning and swirling with an acrobatic display that is not only awe-inspiring to watch but deadly effective against foes.

Sword moves are dictated by a scroll called a Bugei. These scrolls are rare. You will start out with one and find more hidden throughout the game. But these moves have to be activated as each of the slots are empty and require Kenpu to bring them to life. Kenpu is similar to experience points. You will acquire them from defeated enemies and the successful completion of side quests.

By the time you get halfway through the game you should have a good command of your combat skills and have acquired at least a half-dozen or so sword moves. While your character performs his Martial Arts ballet, you are preparing to strike with pinpoint accuracy. The controls are responsive and attacks are well placed and timed. Aiming accuracy and the collision detection system are nearly flawless. When you connect, the enemy will feel it. You can take on multiple enemies with nothing but your sword techniques but when things get a little overwhelming you can just power-up a Chi attack and do some massive damage.

The enemy can be really tough and if you're caught off guard can seriously hurt you. When you're under attack from multiple enemies some may be launching ranged attacks against you. You do have the power to reverse some of these attacks and send them back but when all else fails you can always run away to a relatively safe location and regain your composure.

As in virtually all RPGs you will wander around from village to village conversing with the other characters. Here you can temper your sword which is another way of upgrading it. You can take on side quests to obtain more Kenpu and items for your inventory. There is tons of dialog in this game and it's all delivered with professional panache. As entertaining as some of it is you'll find yourself sifting through it for clues for directions to your next destination. These conversations are filled with names, locations and plot developments but so little of it pertains to your immediate situation that I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it can get really boring after a while. Most of the time I couldn't tell you what's going on in the story and I don't even care since it doesn't really help me with the gamplay. The map isn't of much help either. It tells you where you've been not it's not so useful when it comes to telling you where you should be going.

For such a big game KOP is remarkably good looking. Some of the backgrounds and textures are recycled but they are reassembled to look like new locations. Outdoor environments are spacious with hills, valleys and mountains in the distance. The characters display smooth, fluid animations even when there are several enemies onscreen. The camera is automated and while there are a few times when it obscures your view it really does a great job of taking care of this task for you.

Using the Wi-Fi mode you can battle another player in a one-on-one mode. It's limited in that you can only use one scroll and you can't use any Chi attacks. It's good practice but unless both players are evenly matched it's not much more than a novelty. You can trade moves with friends. Online you can download various scrolls and Kenpu as well as new content but the code is in Japanese and can't be inputted into this version. We'll have to wait and see if that's going to be remedied. But even if it isn't what is available here should not be overlooked. This is definitely one of the best RPGs I've played this year.

Features:

  • Create your own martial arts style by combining more than 150 skills, yielding countless combinations.
  • Easy to control with simple one-button operation, unleashing deadly sword actions.
  • Download new shields, skills and a sword via Infrastructure Mode to develop your swordsmanship skills.
  • Show off and exchange your skills with wireless connectivity using AdHoc mode.
  • Expand your arsenal of moves by finding and collecting various skills as you progress

By Daemia
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Kingdom Of Paradise (PSP)
4.8
Graphics
Huge environments with nicely detailed backgrounds. The character animations are very quick, smooth and fluid.
4.8
Control
The combat system is a bit of a learning curve but it's better than letting the CPU do all your fighting for you.
4.4
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is period specific. No metal guitar or cheesy hip hop beats. The voices and sound effects are great.
4.0
Play Value
The online and wireless modes are very limited but you might want to relive the entire adventure in another month or two.
4.5
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Climax
Pub: SCEI
Release: Dec 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Daemia

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best