The PlayStation 2 may be on its way out, but the system has no shortage of JRPGs to keep players entertained as the system’s lifecycle draws to a close. Eternal Poison, which was originally released as Poison Pink earlier this year in Japan, is best described as an RPG with attitude. This title has a style all its own and features smart-yet-traditional gameplay and a killer narrative.
The story revolves around the mythic demon land of Besek, which has recently appeared in the land of Valdia. Besek not only has symbolic significance as a bad omen, but Besek’s demons have been attacking people and have kidnapped the princess of Valadia. The story is told through several different perspectives, and you can select different characters to play through the entire story. Although core story elements remain the same for each character, it is interesting to see the different motivations for each character, and see how their individual actions contribute to the story as a whole.
The story is definitely one of the best aspects of this title, and the multi-faceted story is reminiscent of RPG classics like Suikoden 3. Although the core elements of the story in each character’s journey remain the same, each time through seems to yield quite a few surprises. Although you’ll have to create a new game file with each character and start from the beginning, the new story elements for each character are definitely worth the repeat playthroughs.
One aspect of this title that definitely makes it stand out is its visual style. The characters in Eternal Poison have a very pungent gothic style complete with heavy makeup, fancy clothes, and a certain melancholy demeanor. While games like The World Ends With You have briefly touched on gothic culture, this title really revels in it. Everything, from the characters to the beasts, looks like it was ripped from an alternate version of “Alice in Wonderland,” and the game’s world is very easy to get swept up in.
The battle system in Eternal Poison is fairly standard as far as RPGs go, but it has a few unique tweaks that make it a little more memorable. As you might expect, the attack system is strictly turn-based, and each character will have a set of physical and special attacks they can use during each turn. The twist with the mechanic comes in the form of an overkill system, which is triggered when you hit an enemy with a power that exceeds the enemy’s remaining HP. When you initiate the “overkill,” you are then able to bind the enemy and can either summon these monsters in a future battle or grind them up in a giant monster cauldron and extract their abilities. While the latter is a tad gruesome, it fits the game’s overall aesthetic, and works well as an interesting way to level up.
Although the battle system in this title is not groundbreaking, it is a great vehicle for telling the game’s stellar story. It is important to note that if you are looking for a title that has a deep or evolving battle system, this title definitely isn’t for you. As you progress in the game, the battle system doesn’t really change, and there aren’t many customization options beyond choosing party formations and equipping different weapons. With Eternal Poison, it is all about nuanced storytelling, and if that is something that appeals to you as an RPG fan, then you’ll hit the jackpot with this title. But if not, then you may want to keep looking.
In addition to the battle sequences, there are a few entertaining mini-games that you can play to unlock new stages and items. One of the first that you will encounter is a peg-board style game that challenges you to solve patterned puzzles similar to what you would see in an IQ-testing book. Although this mini-game isn’t that exciting, it is a nice departure from battle grinding, and provides a nice challenge.
The graphics in this title are surprisingly good for a title on an aging system. Cutscenes are animated very well, and character models are close to current-gen quality. However, in-game graphics and environments are nondescript, and you can expect to see a lot of repetitive elements throughout the battle stages. Still, this title stands head and shoulders above most other PlayStation 2 titles and looks very good overall.
Sound in this title is fairly good, with some great voiceovers and nice background music to go with it. The voiceover is entirely in English, and, unfortunately, there is no option to switch to the original Japanese. However, the voiceover is still very good, and stars like Johnny Yong Bosch (best known for his work as Nero in Devil May Cry 4 and as Ichigo in the Bleach series) do an excellent job lending their voices to this title. The music in Eternal Poison is also very good and features some nice thematic tunes for each level. Although it is interesting to note that despite the games very dark and gothic appearance, the music is quite upbeat.
Controls are fairly standard as far as menu-based RPGs are concerned. Controls only consist of using the D-pad to navigate command menus and move around and using the X button to confirm menu selections. There are no advanced controls, and if you have ever played a turn-based RPG, you’ll be able to jump right into this title quite easily.
Overall, I have to say that Eternal Poison has to be one of the most entertaining RPGs I have played all year. Although it sticks firmly to genre conventions in terms of general gameplay mechanics, the overkill system is interesting enough and adds a new (albeit simple) dimension to the battle system. However, Eternal Poison’s real strength comes from its multi-faceted story, and you might be surprised how quickly you can be drawn into this title. If you’ve got a PlayStation 2 that’s begging for some action, Eternal Poison will fit the bill nicely. While it won’t appeal to everyone, it will definitely satisfy those looking for a solid RPG with a great story to tell.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Graphics are extremely good on the PS2. Character models are quite detailed, and animations are amazing. 4.1 Control
Traditional menu-based control scheme works very well and feels instantly comfortable for RPG veterans. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Voiceovers are very good, and the game’s score is nicely varied. 3.9 Play Value
The different character storylines will definitely keep you coming back to this one, although the repetitive battle system does encourage long breaks. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.