Zenonia 2: Old School on the Go

RPGs have come a long way. The first RPG I ever played was the original Final Fantasy for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Compare that experience to the latest iteration of Final Fantasy (13 for those who are keeping score), and they are hardly recognizable. Zenonia 2 for the iPhone and iPod Touch harkens back to the old school of RPG design, and while there are certainly some rough spots I’d like to see worked out, it is a fun, play-and-go experience.

The story opens up with a  short cutscene explaining something about a demonic power trying to break loose, and everyone losing their memory, something something something, and then bam! You’re in the game. Thankfully this game keeps things simple: move the character with the digital D-pad, attack by pressing a large button. Occasionally I had problems with the d-pad, and my character would move in directions I wasn’t intending, but for the most part, this game controls fairly well on the iPhone (better than Grand Theft Auto in my opinion). These controls can be adjusted in size and moved about the screen (thankfully). In fact, almost everything can be adjusted to fit your needs: on top of the d-pad and the attack button, you can position your hot slots (where you can assign items and abilities) wherever you like.

Speaking of abilities, the game does a pretty good job keeping things varied. I tried all the characters, but my favorite was the magician. His range attacks do fairly good damage, but his spells are fairly powerful. I did run into a few instances where it appears my spells should have done damage but nothing was registered on the enemies. Another issue I had with the spells is that the amount of SP (stamina points, which diminish from using abilities) required to use an ability actually increases the more ability points you put into a skill. While the damage increases as well, it seems to me that the damage should increase and the SP-consumption should decrease as your character becomes more proficient.

Combat moves quickly, which I appreciate in a mobile game. Enemies respawn fairly quickly, so if you want to grind on the go, this is certainly possible. And you are certainly going to do a lot of grinding, because when I say this game is old school, I mean it. For example, when I got far enough to fight the first boss, I was level 17 and he was level 23. Suffice to say, I lasted all but 15 minutes on my first try. As the naïve little adventurer that I was, I thought that I got owned merely because of my bad battle tactics (apparently it’s not smart to charge at an ice dragon, flailing a magic wand about). I tried hit-and-run tactics, but the boss just regenerated. That was when I realized that this was the not-so-subtle way of the game telling me that I was too low of a level. I got to level 21, and I beat that dragon down.

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Mobile Review: Zenonia 2

If the app store is lacking anything clearly it would be Legend of Zelda. That’s obviously not going to change, and so enters Zenonia 2. At first glance, fans of Super Nintendo era RPG fans will instantly be drawn to the visuals of Zenonia. They are definitely styled as an homage to the 16-bit era.

Zenonia also stays true to the “Zelda” form by being an action rpg. For the most part you attack by tapping like a mad man. You learn more attacks and spells as you progress but essentially you just strategically tap the attack button. However, all the comparisons to Zelda can stop there.

Zenonia is a full-on RPG experience disguised as a mobile game. You start the game by choosing from one of four character classes. I chose paladin, but there is also the shooter, magician and warrior each with their set of moves and abilities to be learned along the way. This game uses the ability tree mechanic as you level up and it’s a pretty huge tree which means tons of skills to learn. I can’t imagine anyone being able to reach all the skill and abilities in the tree in one play through. Just doesn’t seem possible and that’s a good thing; more reason to keep coming back.

Even though there are four classes, early on it’s essentially a choice between primary melee attacks or primary long-range attacks. Depending on your choice that can change and sort of even out later on, if you choose to level up that way.

The music in the game is pretty impressive. It’s all very sweeping and grand and very reminiscent of Final Fantasy from the 16-bit era. It’s pretty refreshing to hear such an emphasis on music on a platform where most music is just a throw away.

Read on to find out about the story, the controls and the multiplayer.

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There is a recent trend in first person shooters to include role-playing game elements. Once upon a time, the two genres were polar opposites: one was about brutal, raw action, pitting two teams against each other, while the other was the princess of videogames, the refined, elegant gameplay and storytelling.

I was a fan of both genres back in the day. I remember the first time I played Chrono Trigger and Duke Nukem. Both were entertaining in their own rights, but I found myself drifting naturally towards Chrono Trigger. The story in that game, while not the greatest, was a lot like reading a novel. The characters were interesting and they changed. That was the biggest deal.

In comparison, Duke Nukem was a bloody mess. It was face-paced, and all you did was shoot with increasingly crazy weapons. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun in its own right. But it felt like to me it was lacking something: why was I killing everything I saw? Yes, there was a flimsy pretense, but no rationale really, not in comparison to something like an RPG.

Now, the two genres are closer than ever. Opposites have attracted, and like the Odd Couple, two genres once at the polar ends of the videogame spectrum have been united. But is this a good thing?

Yes and no.

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Mass Effect 2: A Breakup Letter

Dear Mass Effect 2,

Mass Effect 2. Dearest, Mass Effect 2. Whatever will I do with you? We’ve had our good times and bad, but you’ve made some decisions that have left me scratching my head. You’ve changed ever since your early years as Mass Effect 1, and while I’m still the same old Shepherd, you’re not the same game I fell in love with. This is going to be hard to hear, especially since it seems you have millions upon millions of admirers and–dare I say?—fanboys, but sometimes the hardest things to hear are the most important.

First, I’d like to say that you still sport that superb storytelling that first drew me to you. Actually, in this area you’ve improved across the board. Recruiting team members, gaining their trust, and simply getting to know each person—each one flawed, fleshed out, and masterfully written—was a treat. The voice acting has been ratcheted up to another level; Martin Sheen is Shepherd’s boss in this go around, and every time I heard his voice, I imagined him sitting behind his desk in the West Wing. I’d go to the ends of the universe and back for President Bartlet, and in fact I did.

Meet President Bartl--err, the Illusive Man

But here’s the thing: your universe feels empty, beloved Mass Effect 2. When I returned to the Citadel, the whole scale and grandeur I had felt when I first walked through the Presidium and Wards was completely lost. I remember back in our old days, when you were still Mass Effect 1, we would romp about planets, and even if they were empty, at least we were romping. Sure, the vehicle controls sometimes sucked, but it sure beat the hell out of sending probes to scour a planet for minerals. Finding minerals might be the most boring thing I’ve done in a video game for a long time. The inclusion of hacking mini games is certainly an improvement over the old you, but still, don’t ever make me scan planets, ever again. My play through lasted 35 hours. That’s a pretty big chunk of time, but at the same time, I’d say at least 5 of those hours were spent gathering resources.

Pretty, but you won't be seeing this much

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