February 10th, 2013
I played this game for 10 hours before giving up. I’m sure it gets better, but who has the time to wade through so much filler? Here are my thoughts:
- A significant portion of Second Evolution‘s gameplay involves reading through protracted talking sequences. The occasionally-voiced anime archetypes blather excessively about nothing and are far too polite for their own good. There’s just no punch to the writing and no conflict to keep the story moving forwards.
- Battles take place in a circular arena where the player can move around enemies to dodge their attacks and target their weak points. The 2D sprites and digital controls weaken the spatial dynamic by making it harder to align and judge the relative position of the two parties.
- The battles run in real-time. The player has several party members, but can only control one at a time while the others follow their pre-set AI behaviours. At any time, the player can switch between party members so as to manually attack, use items, or cast spells. This allows them to micromanage the battles. Since there’s minimal interplay between the different party members (for example, stacking attacks) and party members and enemies, this mechanic is only useful for tending to the AI-controlled characters when they’re low on HP or MP.
- The enemies don’t coordinate their attacks or use their numbers to close in on the player and make use of the spatial dynamic.
- Because the battles lack dynamics and interplay, there’s very little to keep the player engaged. I won most fights by just pressing the attack button a few times and watching the action unfold automatically.
- Similar to the PSone Final Fantasy games, the overworld is rendered in 3D, while the towns and dungeons are pre-rendered images of 3D environments. The awkward angles of the 2D stills, coupled with the sprite avatar and digital controls, sometimes make it tricky to navigate these areas.
- The 2D landscapes are littered with treasure chests that reward exploration. Over time, the player amounts a small bounty of seemingly useless trinkets. A money-for-skills system allows the player to forge these items into something useful. The whole process is bogged down in needless abstraction that’s best remedied with a visit to GameFAQs.
If anyone’s interested in this series, there’s a fan-translation of the original SNES game (which was later remade for the PSP in the same vein as Second Evolution).