Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception ended with a bang. After the death of Oshtor, Haku took his dead comrade’s mask and vowed to restore Mikado to its former glory. The only one who knows of this false identity is Oshtor’s despondent sister, Nekone. Like its predecessor, Mask of Truth has a fantastic story with equally fantastic characters. But, since it is still a story-driven game, much of the tale ends up becoming difficult to get through since they pile it on so much. By the time it ends, you’ll feel like you’ve been through an emotional roller coaster that had a tendency to last longer than necessary and take frequent stops. Really, they could have divided the series into three parts. But, it’s still an exciting ride.
As mentioned, Mask of Truth picks up after the end of Mask of Deception. Kuon, feeling depressed and guilty for the death of Haku, has left for Tuskur. The rest of the gang is still reeling from Haku’s passing. Nekone and “Oshtor” now need to make sure that Yamato doesn’t fall into the wrong hands as Princess Anju recovers from her assassination attempt. This time, villains will emerge from every direction. The truth about Haku’s past will play a major role in the future of Yamato. As expected, the story is solid. It will take a good 50 hours to get through the entire thing. This may seem like a lot, and it is. In fact, after one arc ended, I feel like Aqua Plus could have stopped with Mask of Truth and developed a third and final entry. Still, those that manage to get through all of it will be well rewarded.
When you aren’t battling in Mask of Truth, game play takes a hands off approach. Most of the time you’ll be reading text, but you can pause the game at any time to open a menu. Here, you can check out the glossary to learn more about the world of Utawarerumono. You can also save your game, adjust the settings, or begin a Free Battle. Saving at any time is a nice feature because there will be long stretches before the game takes you to a story-related battle. There are over twenty battles that Haku and his companions will participate in. Prior to entering the battlefield, you can equip your characters with various tomes to grant them passive abilities. You can also distribute Bonus Points to increase their base stats. New to Mask of Truth are puzzle inspired character battles and tag-team battles. After selecting which units you wish to have participate in the battle, it will finally begin.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth battles take place on a grid that will feel familiar to anyone that has played a strategy RPG. The turn order of the participants is displayed on the left of the screen. When one of your characters gets a turn, you can move your character and select one of their actions. Instead of a standard attack, your characters use skills called Action Chains. These can be used to attack an enemy or heal an ally. As characters gain experience points and level up, their Action Chains will increase in power and they’ll learn additional parts of the chain. Similar to games like The Legend of Dragoon or Super Mario RPG, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth’s battles require player input to gain in a boost in effectiveness. There are two types of maneuvers that require your timing. The first is when a large circle decreases in size to cover a smaller one. When the two sizes match, pressing the X button will boost the Action Chain. The other type involves holding the X button as a white line fills a ring. When it reaches the top of the ring, pressing the X button will boost the chain. Both types require a bit of practice, but end up becoming second nature after a few tries. Characters will slowly gain Zeal as they perform actions. When their Zeal reaches 100, they will be able to act multiple times and/or unleash an impressive and deadly Final Strike. New to Mask of Truth are the impressive and dramatic Co-op Final Strikes. They require some effort to set up, but they’re worth the damage and the presentation.
Each character learns unique Action Chains, as well unique passive abilities that effect them and those around them. I always have a difficult time figuring out who to use in my party because I enjoy each character. Another great aspect about the battles is that you can retry them at any time if things aren’t going well. You can also rewind turns if you want to try a different approach for victory. At the end of the battle, characters that participated gain extra experience points and additional BP for distribution. Battles, while scarce and simple, are perfect devices for moving the story forward.
In terms of presentation, Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth is a masterpiece. The entire game is voiced in Japanese and features a wonderful collection of music that fits well with the oriental setting. The highly detailed backgrounds used during the story events serve as a strong foundation for the gorgeous character art. In battle, characters are represented by chibi-styled 3D models. They look basic, but watching them swiftly move in battle as they execute their Action Chains makes up for it. The game feels right at home on the Vita.
By the time the game ends, you can be looking at anywhere between 50 hours. There are some challenging trophies to attempt to earn, as well a New Game Plus option. It takes some time get these end game rewards, and at times, the struggle to get through more story will feel like a chore. But, those that enjoyed the first game will absolutely enjoy this one. It wraps up the world of Utawarerumono in a fantastic way that can only come from the folks at Aqua Plus.
Overall, 7.5/10: Experience a tale that hits you in all the right and wrong places. Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth concludes the fantastic story that began in Mask of Deception.