If there is one thing for which Idea Factory deserves recognition, it is for their resistance to change. Nearly every successive (not successful) game that came from their studio has promised the same flaws and features as the last game, and is usually wrapped in a shiny, anime-heavy box. Yet, there are those that seem to click supremely well with IF. These folks are the niche of the niche, and I think I’m starting to get why the developers at IF continue to do what they do. Despite obvious frustration from most gamers, they have a small following and wish to continue to cater to them. Am I wrong? Well, maybe, but after playing Record of Agarest War Zero, I am starting to think that I might be on to something.
That introduction was a bit long-winded so to save your time, I will say that Agarest War Zero is a minor improvement from Record of Agarest War. Therefore, if you didn’t care for the first one you won’t care for Zero. However, those that did find some enjoyment will be pleased. Similar to Leonhardt’s story (but taking place many years before it), Record of Agarest War Zero starts off with young Sieghart fighting against the forces of darkness. During a fierce battle, he becomes mortally wounded by protecting an enigmatic, young girl. To save him from death, the girl grants Sieg her magical energies. Now, Sieg has a new quest to deal with. Not only must he restore this mysterious female’s magic, but he must use his new found power to put a stop to the forces of darkness.
Obviously, players of Record of Agarest War will pick up on the similarities from the start, but this new game in the series has a few differences. After Sieg gets saved (from death, not with Christ) the player can choose from a variety of classes, weapon options and traits that will shape Sieg’s arsenal of skills and equipment types. After that, it is standard Agarest fare. This means that Sieg gets to meet a variety of wonderfully scripted and developed characters that create a great dynamic. Also, three gorgeous women will throw themselves at Sieg and it’s up to you pick a wife at a certain point to determine your offspring. The thing about Agarest Zero that greatly differentiates itself from the first game is that there are only two generations. While the story of Agarest Zero is a bit short, it is packed full of extra content for those who have played the first one and have a transfer file, as well as for those who obtain the…wait for it…true ending. Yep, another true ending is needed to see it all.
To obtain the true ending, you’ll be doing similar tasks found in the first Agarest War. Chances are you already know what you’re about to read. The world map is a long, dotted path with orange orbs that represent a required battle. Finish the battle, and the spot turns blue. This means you can go back to it if you like. There are much less orange orbs this time. So, yay for that. As you move from battle to battle, you’ll find towns and dungeons that have events that move the story. At times, you’ll be forced to make a decision which will influence how your maidens feel about you, as well influence the ending you get. Towns are the way they have always been. Item creation and its frustrations are back, along with shops, the adventure guild and other stops. Dungeons got a major makeover that will likely excite those wondering whether or not trying another Agarest game is worth it. Instead of the clunky, obnoxious romps they were in the Record of Agarest War, dungeons now appear just like the world map. Orange orbs connect you to various points where you will be able to uncover items and new paths to your final destination. Best of all is that you can hit the circle button to exit to the world map whenever you feel like it. This, by far, was the best improvement of all.
So, for the most part, exploration has remained unchanged. The same can be said about the battle system, in that Record of Agarest War Zero features the same grid-based battles that allow you to link to your teammates. Linking lets certain characters act before they normally would be able to do so. It’s critical to master this, because down the road enemies will take pleasure in linking with each other and ganging up on your characters. Actions are done using Action Points, with the more potent actions requiring more AP than others. EX Skills are executed with SP, which are accumulated as battle continue. Finishing a battle will earn you money, experience, EP to use at the blacksmith and PP to distribute to your character’s individual stats. Like I said, if you have played the first game than you are in for a similar experience with this one.
Have I made myself clear yet? Agarest War Zero is very similar, borderline identical to its predecessor. This even includes visual style and the music. The only difference this time is that the portraits are animated, so things like hair, clothes and breasteseseses move around. The sprites look the same, you’ll see a huge variety of weapons in battle, the special attacks are as over the top as ever, and there are a few movies thrown in during key events. Personally, I really like the style of Agarest War Zero. The same can be said for the music. Again, you will be treated to some kick-ass guitars in battle and some easy-going and melodic strings during the events. It works, as does the voice acting that is in Japanese only.
The moral of the review is that if you have played Record of Agarest War than you will be in for a very similar experience if you decide to play Record of Agarest War Zero. Since I liked Record of Agarest War enough, I found more enjoyment with Zero. If you buy the special edition, you’ll be treated to the game’s soundtrack, a deck of playing cards, a deck of the special cards that are similar to what you see in the beginning of the game, and a beautiful carrying box for both decks. The die-hard fans who wish to achieve every trophy will be in for a tough journey. However, those who do play on the hard difficulty level will have access to a special dungeon that breaks down the events of the first Agarest War game. To me, little things like that make the game worth playing. If anything, Record of Agarest War Zero is a nod to the fans of Idea Factory. Yes, this is an Idea Factory title, but somewhere in this crazy world, they have their fans and stayed true to their formula that created those fans in the first place. Am I a fan yet? Well, that’s to be determined. But, I do know that I enjoyed Record of Agarest War Zero. So, pick up Record of Agarest War Zero if you’re an IF fan and just can’t get enough of the Agarest world.