You know, I have always wanted to play a visual novel game that takes place in a medieval fantasy world. Then I get the chance to check out Aselia the Eternal, a game that focuses on this type of setting. My only experience with a visual novel game has been Tsukihime so far. While I have played the third and fourth Persona games, those only tend to have been influenced by the medium. Oh yeah, and I have played two of the Ace Attorney games, and Ar Tornelico as well (Both happen to also have influences from visual novels.). This officially marks my second experience with a visual novel game.
Will Aselia fulfill my love of the fantasy realm I yearn for, or will it end up being a generic title that should never see the light of day. Find out after the jump, as I take you into the mystical kingdom where Aselia resides.
Aselia the Eternal (PC)
Yuuto Takamine is one of the unluckiest guy in the world, considering that he ended up losing his own family. With the help of a miracle, his younger sister somehow survives the deadly ordeal. Then a strange occurrence happens as Yuuto and his sister get transported to a different world in which they are thrown into the middle of conflict. Unable to return, Yuuto must do what he can for the sake of his younger sister.
Alright, I am going to be honest with you people, the first few segments of Aselia felt kind of bland to me. This probably had to do with the people being presented feeling a bit typical, such as the tomboy girl that smacks people around, and the tough friend that looks out for you. Sure we have seen characters like these in other mediums before, except their personality ends up making them stand out better. You could say that it lacked a touch of comedic timing, or a dash of that good high school life personality that you can expect from titles that do it right. Take a look at Katawa Shoujo for example, the characters manage to give off a good first impression from the beginning of the game, thanks to the clever dialogues thrown in. Unfortunately, Aselia lacks that first impression charm that one should get from day one.
Things don't get much better when we end up in the new world. Long story short, you get an emotionless swordsman, a kind maid that does what she is told no matter what, and a cheerful loli, sounds like they are playing the character fetishes on this title. Oh wait, this game was originally an eroge title, except that they made an all-ages version of the game later on. Which is indeed an interesting move on JAST USA's behalf, seeing that they decided localize the all-ages version instead of the 18 and up version. Good thing Yuuto is holding up on a good part of this story, thanks to the predicaments that he has to face as an outsider of this world. Add a few undertones of racism, plus the concept of war, and you got yourself a reason that you might want to stick around for more. Mind you, I have only played up to chapter III, so the three characters I mentioned might develop more if you focus on one of their routes.
Don't get me started on the game's art style, which can be rated on various levels. When it comes to the main illustrations, most of the characters are well drawn for the style it is going for. However, when it comes to the character portraits shown during dialogue sequences, the art takes a huge plummet. All of the sudden the style changes, and most of the characters have proportional issues regarding the way their faces are drawn. Never have I come across a game that suffered from so many inconsistencies regarding the artwork. It almost feels like they hired multiple artist for this game, and then they forgot to share their design notes on each character.
To go with the fantasy setting that Aselia has to offer, the game actually has a good amount of combat based missions. These segments play out like a strategy RPG in which you have to manage not only your characters, but the areas that are part of your own territory. Battles are determined by the formation of your characters, along with what abilities you have equipped on to them. As long as your squads are together, you can switch the formation so that you can be ready for any kind of foe. This is perhaps one of Aselia's strongest aspects because of the depth found within its system. By the way, there is no grinding in this game, so make sure that you manage things properly during each battle. Luckily, you have the option to retry each mission if things go wrong. More importantly, you have this stat called mind, which is a very important factor for battles and story segments. So make sure you keep this stat in check as you play.
As for the localization, JAST USA did a fine job with the dialogue, since I didn't have any issues with how the writing was presented. For the record, the foreign language early in the game is part of the story, and not a localization error by JAST USA. The soundtrack however, gets a little repetitive seeing how there is not that much variety in the music. It may give off a fantasy feel, but it fails to capture the feeling one gets from a good soundtrack (That violinist needs to work on hitting those smooth notes.).
Even though Aselia falls a bit flat on most of the art and story, the combat system is pretty much the best part of the game. If you can stick with the first three chapters of the game, the story actually starts to pick up around the fourth chapter aka chapter III. When you finish the game, you get access to new story routes in the game, along with higher difficulty levels for those who want a challenge. Don't worry people, the higher difficulty also equals higher maximum levels for your characters. If you don't mind the inconsistent art, then Aselia the Eternal might be worth your time. Otherwise, there are plenty of better options for you to explore within the world of visual novels.
6.0 - Decent. Slightly above average, maybe a little niche. But you wouldn't recommend it to everybody.
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