When the Nintendo DS was first announced, it didn’t take long for game developers to think of interesting and unique ways to implement all of the portable’s features. The technology wasn’t new; touchscreens (and microphones) had been around for a while. But from a video game perspective, it felt like a new world of creative possibilities opened up. RPGs were no exception. One game that takes full advantage of the DS’ touchscreen is Avalon Code. It’s one of those games that sounds great on paper. Unfortunately, Marvelous Entertainment’s methods on ensuring that the touchscreen was fully utilized made it a tedious game that really isn’t worth the time unless you’ve exhausted all other RPG options.
Avalon Code’s story sets the stage for what could be a one-of-a-kind adventure. Before things kick off, you select to play as either Yumil or Tia. The two main characters share the same storyline, but they have different choices of who they get to romance. After making this decision, you experience an ominous dream in which the sky turns red and the land gets scorched. You wake up on a grassy hill and notice that certain aspects of this dream are starting to show in the real world. A flash of light puts a massive tome called the Book of Prophecy in your hands. Things get stranger when the fire spirit Rempo appears out of thin air. He explains to you that you’re tasked with creating the world from the ground up using this book. It’s a bizarre start to what could be an exciting journey. I mean, think about it: you take control of a mute protagonist to record data from one world and transpose it to the next. Sadly, it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds when you actually start playing.
The story is divided into chapters. In each chapter, you will gather information from townsfolk, explore different settings, make your way to a boss of sorts, and then move onto the next chapter. Along the way you’ll meet new characters and spirits. It’s familiar stuff so far. Avalon Code’s unique feature is using Code Scan. With the push of a button, you’ll smash the Book of Prophecy onto characters, plants, animals, enemies, rocks, and much more. In doing so, you get their codes; their fantasy genes. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to scan. In doing so, you’ll get a lot of different codes. These properties can alter the entire makeup of an object. For example, you can weaken enemies by giving them codes that drop their defense or move one of their stronger codes to something else such as the weapon you’re wielding. You can change the personality of the townsfolk by adjusting codes. You can even perform healing miracles. It’s a fascinating idea, to be sure. But, it’s unbearably tedious. The creators really wanted to make use of both screens. While the action and drama is unfolding on the top screen, the bottom screen is where you’ll be literally flipping through the pages of the Book of Prophecy to examine, rewrite, and edit everything you smacked with the book. The bottom line is that it takes way too much effort to do something to move things along, and then the game requires you to do it again and again. This process repeats until the game comes to an end.
Combat takes a backseat to the Code Scanning. If you’ve played a 3D action-RPG before, then you’ll be able to jump into Avalon Code without any trouble. You can equip two weapons (one for the X button and one for the Y button) to perform basic combos and use the shoulder buttons to dodge. Different weapons have different special attacks that can be activated after the weapons are wielded enough times. One feature that is fun at first but eventually becomes a passing thought is the Judgment Link. You can juggle enemies in the air by hitting them with the A button. The longer they’re airborne, the more rewards you get from them. You also get rewards by meeting certain conditions in the enemy infested areas. Finally, you can summon the spirits you meet to cast magic. Avalon Code’s combat is one of those situations where it’s fun and frenzied at first. It remains that way throughout the journey, but some more variety would have been welcome. And remember, you’re constantly having to pause combat so you can rewrite the codes of your enemies and surroundings to advance. In other words, there’s a lot of back and forth between using the buttons and taking out the stylus.
The graphics are typical 3D Nintendo DS levels of quality. There’s a lot of color and shine, but there’s a bit of jaggedness and roughness. They’re not bad; just products of the time when 3D on a portable was still a new idea. At least the variety is there, and the artwork detailing everything you log into the book is pretty. Snippets of voice acting help move the story forward. The MC is a silent protagonist but they’ll shout and yell during combat. It’s the usual stuff that works. I can’t even remember a thing about the music. It was playing when I was playing. Take that as you will.
A certain plot point in Avalon Code made me drop the game entirely. Said plot point was asking a lot for players to keep going to the end. Even before this incident, I was mentally over and physically tired of the game. From what I gathered, it would take about 30 to 40 hours to finish the entire game. Gamers that wish to see everything, and there’s a lot of “everything”, will be looking at (supposedly) hundreds upon hundreds of hours of game time. By this point, there’s a lot of action RPGs out there for Nintendo DS and portable systems that came after it. The premise of Avalon Code is appealing. However, that’s about as far as the fun goes. This is a game that I don’t recommend unless your patience is astronomical and you’ve ran out of things to play.
Overall, 5.5/10: Avalon Code gives you the ability to create a new world from the ground up. Doing so just requires too much busy work.