Author’s Note: This review was originally published on October 1st, 2010. Like other reviews of the time, it uses “witty” taglines to designate each section.
Timing is everything. This tried and true statement applies to a variety of situations and the video game world is no exception. Resonance of Fate is a game that falls into this category for multiple reasons. An overall enjoyable game, Resonance of Fate could have been extraordinary if not for a few major issues.
Resonance of Fate takes place in the world of Basel, a massive, industrial tower built to let the Earthlings have a second chance at life. Divided into various stories, Basel’s rulers are called Cardinals and live on the highest tiers. On the most bottom levels are the poorest of the slum lords. In the middle we have our heroes of this rather muddled story. First, there’s Vashyron, a retired soldier who now works as a guild mercenary. Next, we have Zephyr, a youth Vashyron saved one year ago from an incident that involved Zephyr’s very sanity. Finally, there’s the adorable Leanne. A girl who tried to take her own life last Christmas, Zephyr saved her at the last moment before she fell to her demise. These three heroes work various odd jobs in Basel; getting by one mission at a time.
While the world of Basel was interesting and the cast of characters you control were fun, players learn nothing about anything. Resonance of Fate had a wonderful, technologically inspired steampunk setting. The variety of characters looked interesting on the surface, but you learned nothing about them. Once the credits rolled, you will be left wondering what the hell happened. RPGs are known for stories that draw you in and the lack of a coherent one in Resonance of Fate turned out to be it’s biggest downfall.
Basel lacked a plot, but at least it looked nice. The steampunk world had wonderful looking environments full of gears, cranks, and gizmos. Hi-res characters came to life in Basel, as well. The facial features, body language, and realistic proportions showed off the power of the PS3 beautifully. This was especially true during the well-made story sequences. However, the best part of these came with the clothes. Resonance of Fate had a massive collection of fully customizable clothing, perfect for the fashionistas in all of us. The outfit possibilities were endless and you could change outfits at your home base. While clothes lacked any benefit in battle performance, it was still one of the two most addicting features in Resonance of Fate. The other addicting feature? The battle system!
Guns a Blazing.
Known for their battle engines, Tri-Ace developed an exciting, complicated, and timing-sensitive one for Resonance of Fate. On the world map, encounters were random. In dungeons, encounters were fixed. No matter which way the encounter began, you get treated to a system that appears overly complex at first, but soon becomes second nature. In fact, by the end of the game, battles became tedious and repetitive. I’ll try to keep this wordy but important section of the review as easy to understand as possible.
Characters can move freely throughout the battle field. When you move, the enemy moves. A stamina meter indicates how much you can act. When a target is in sight, you can hit the X button to bring up a reticle surrounded by a circular gauge. One rotation of the gauge allows you to attack, but you can build up more than one rotation (which also increases the chance of your character using one of their skills) as long as you have the stamina for it. No matter how many rotations, hitting the X button again will cause the character attack. That’s the basics of attacking, but it gets much more complicated.
There are two types of damage and three types of weapons in Resonance of Fate. Scratch damage is caused by machineguns and direct damage is caused by handguns and grenade-type weapons. Since direct damage does miniscule damage, you need to lay in the scratch damage first and then follow with an attack that does direct damage. At the start of the game you have one handgun, one machinegun, one grenade-box, one first aid kit which contains all of your healing items, and one attachment case which lets you equip certain types of ammo with special properties. As you progress, you will find more guns, but the other items remain the same. My set up by the end of the game was to have one person wield two machineguns, one person have a handgun and the grenades, and the last person to have the first aid kit and a handgun.
The more your characters use a weapon, the more proficient they get with it. This is what ultimately determines their levels. Therefore, balancing the party with each of the three weapon types is very important. A level ten Vashyron could be a level four with the throw weapons, a level five with the handgun, and a level one with the machinegun. Four plus five plus one equals ten. Gaining a level means an increase in HP and the potential to learn new skills. Levels are important because higher HP means less chance of a game over, but the most important feature comes with utilizing the Hero Gauge.
The Hero Gauge consists of Bezels. For one Bezel, you can perform a Hero Action. These allow your character to run from one point to another while charging up the attack gauge much quicker than usual. This allows you to build up a substantial amount of power, let loose an attack, and deal significant more direct or scratch damage to the foe. If you press the Square button during a Hero Action, your character will jump. Jump attacks allow you to hit all parts of the foe instead of just one. Most enemies consist of pieces and parts that add protection to their main energy bar. The jump attacks help get rid of these. On the other hand, the normal Hero Action will let your bullets concentrate on one part of the foe. This is an instant when timing is important. You need to time your jumps and your Hero Actions properly. This is mainly because the Hero Gauge also acts as your main source of life.
Enemies deal scratch damage to your party. When enough scratch damage has been dealt to one of your members, they’ll get knocked to the air and a good chunk of the Hero Gauge will get taken down. To recover your lost Bezels, you need to run around the battle field and collect the broken fragments of them. If you run out of Bezels, your team enters critical condition and receives direct damage instead of scratch damage. Needless to say, strategy plays a very important role with the Hero Gauge. For every enemy you defeat and for every part of an enemy you blow off, one Bezel gets restored. If utilized properly, you can constantly refill the Hero Gauge by picking off enemies.
Truth be told, I could go on. I could talk about Resonance Points, Trinity Attacks, properly using the obstacles and explosive drums in the battle field, the way status effects can change a battle, and other features. However, I’m sure I confused you enough already. In a nut shell, battles go like this: your machinegun user uses a Hero Action to deal as much scratch damage to as many foes as possible. A handgun user performs another Hero Action to deal direct damage to the foes and, hopefully, restore the lost Bezels. Finally, the last character goes and picks off the remainders. Battles rely on luck, strategy, and timing. They can be repetitive, but they can also be rewarding. The game is challenging, but using all the features the battle system will allow you to emerge victorious. If push comes to shove, you can start a battle over from the start for a monetary fee.
To do battle, of course, you need to be properly prepared. Basel has a variety of shops to help your heroes in your quest. The item shop lets you buy basic healing items and accessories. The real fun begins at the tinkerer. With the vast amount of items you find, the tinkerer can create a variety of accessories, gun parts, grenades, and ammunition. Certain materials can be taken apart at the scrapper, as well. Gun customization was an especially fun feature. You can turn an ordinary handgun into a devastating piece of machinery with the right amount of customization. This will be especially important near the end of the game when enemies have extra high defense.
New Sakuraba Style.
Tri-Ace musician maestro Motoi Sakuraba returned to make an excellent soundtrack. Fans of his may or may not be pleasantly surprised when they hear how his music composition has changed for Resonance of Fate. To go along with the steampunk story, the music has more grit, heavy rock, and edge. Hints of his anime inspired style may spring up from time to time, but RoF has allowed him to create an entirely different type of OST. The voice acting can be either English or Japanese. Whichever language you go with, the acting was excellent. Catchy one-liners, victory sayings, and some well-written banter give Vashyron and his friends extra character.
Timing is of the Essence.
I wouldn’t consider RPG to be redefined with Resonance of Fate, but it was a fun game. Once players get the hang of the battle system, it becomes substantially more enjoyable. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, RoF has some timing issues. Most of them dealt with the battles, but the biggest issue was the release date. RoF was released in the USA only a couple of weeks after the highly anticipated FFXIII. Sega’s timing couldn’t have been worse! Still, the game was enjoyable after the initial chapters ended. The story, or lack thereof, needs a complete make-over and the battle tutorials should have been clearer. But, I had so much fun playing Resonance of Fate and I highly recommend it to RPG fans looking for something different.