A Great DS Game to Start the Summer
Late in the GameBoy Advance’s lifecycle, Atlus released a pretty innovative RPG called Summon Night. A follow-up was in the works and both games were well-received by critics, but sadly they didn’t really get the attention they deserved. Now, Atlus is giving the series a second chance on the DS with Summon Night: Twin Age, and for the most part it’s a good game and worthy of being a sequel to the two GBA originals.
The game gets off to a simple start, introducing two characters — Aldo and Reiha — who’ve lived like brother and sister on the tropical island of Jarazi. But one day, the nature spirits with whom Aldo and Reiha commune get out of whack, and so it’s up to the quasi-siblings to figure out what’s going on and put an end to the problem. It’s very typical RPG fare in terms of story, and its occasional twists and turns aren’t hard to see coming. It’s worth noting that, while the story itself is a bit underwhelming, the character development and dialogue are both surprisingly good.
As you begin the game, you’re given the choice to play as either Aldo or Reiha. While the game is basically the same regardless of who you choose, you are given some different dialogue and some events are shown differently with each character. It’s a nice touch. In their effort to restore the nature spirits to harmony, Aldo and Reiha essentially embark on a quest that takes the role of a dungeon crawler. Even if you’re not a big fan of the genre (I myself have never particularly liked them), you’ll still find something to appreciate in Twin Age.
Much of Twin Age’s charm lies in its simplicity — it certainly is easy to pick up and play, and as a result it’s not difficult to get yourself engrossed in this game. This game occurs entirely in real time — a significant departure from the turn-based battles of the two GBA predecessors — and control is fantastic. Simply tap an area on the map to send your character there. Both Aldo and Reiha are present in the dungeons, regardless of whom you choose to play; in addition, you can also choose a non-playable ally (one of six) to take along with you. Each ally is unique in their abilities, so the friend you choose to take into battle could have a big effect on how you fare in the dungeon.
Combat is simple, but also quite fun and significantly different for Aldo and Reiha. Aldo specializes in melee attacks, while Reiha is better with magic and ranged attacks. Simple taps and slashes take care of the basic combat commands for both characters (for example, simple magic attacks for Reiha or sword slashes for Aldo). But there is also a variety of other skills each character can learn along the way. The command palette does a fantastic job of keeping these all in order. Different skills your character can perform have an icon on the left or right side of the screen; simply tap the icon, and then a target, and you’ll unleash the skill. The palette is also used for switching weapons on the fly or using items. It’s a great, intuitive system and is very much preferable to navigating multiple menus just to use a simple attack (I’m looking at you, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon). The command palette is entirely customizable, so you can pick and choose the skills that best suit your playing style.
The skill tree system of the game is where much of the title’s depth comes from, and it really is a lot of fun. Depending on which skills you choose to use and how you level up, more skills will be opened up to you. There are several increasing levels of skills, and the higher level a skill is, the more powerful it will be. Further adding to the customization of the game is the return of the weapon-forging system that was so popular in the first two Summon Night games. Dropped items from enemies often are materials which can be used to forge weapons. Not only is this a lot cheaper than buying them from shops, but you can also forge them with different items to create elemental weapons or equipment that has specific effects. It’s a very deep, rewarding system and it has a lot to offer those who are willing to spend a little time with it.
All these customizable options add a good deal of strategy to the game, not only in terms of equipping your characters, but also on the battlefield. Using the most basic attacks all the time isn’t going to get you very far, so you’ve got to be pretty smart about which skills to use and how to use them. You can also manage what your allies do, and instructing them properly is important for victory. That said, this game is pretty easy, so even though you’re encouraged to play creatively and be smart with your tactics, I suppose you never really have to. But what fun is that, right?
Despite possessing a pretty fun gameplay system, Summon Night: Twin Age does have a few little hiccups along the way. For starters, there’s the fact that battles can get really hectic. This is a good thing in many respects, but what’s annoying is oftentimes it’s hard to target the right person. For example, with support spells, it’s easy to accidentally hit a monster instead of your ally — needless to say, this can be pretty annoying. The same goes for attack spells: it’s really frustrating to hit your ally instead of a monster just because everyone was so bunched up. Another problem is that of the A.I. — specifically, your allies’ A.I. It tends to be poor a lot of times; rather than helping out with the battle, they’ll go curl up in a corner and get beat up by monsters. The A.I. navigation also isn’t great, and it’s not uncommon to see your allies or monsters get stuck trying to go around a corner. Still, these are relatively minor problems in comparison with the really fun gameplay Twin Age has to offer.
Graphically, Twin Age looks fine. It’s nothing groundbreaking for the system, but the visuals do look nice. The character models are neat, though conversations take place in 2D. Enemies look nice, as do your own characters (boss battles may very well be the visual high-point of this game; they’re really big and look very cool). The same goes for the music; it’s nothing all that memorable, but it’s kind of catchy (if repetitive). Either way, the game certainly doesn’t suffer because of the quality of its visuals and sounds.
After many of the dungeon hacks we’ve seen on the DS, I was pleasantly surprised with Summon Night: Twin Age. If you like the original games, you should definitely check this one out (although it’s worth noting the plot of this game is not directly connected to that of the originals). Moreover, if you’re looking for a fun, rewarding (albeit familiar) game, then Twin Age is one to check out. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it sure is fun.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
Nothing all that special, but the fun-looking 2D visuals give the game a certain charm. 4.2 Control
Touch control is sharp, intuitive, and responsive. It’s hard to go back to playing more traditional dungeon crawlers after experiencing Twin Age. 3.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects and game tunes are, sadly, all too forgettable — but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. 4.5
A 20 hour adventure with branching paths, side quests, and a deep battle system. What’s not to like?
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.