|Platforms||PS4 (Reviewed), PC|
|Release Date||10/17/2018 (PC); 10/18/2018 (PS4)|
Resonance of Fate originally came out for the seventh generation of consoles in 2010. I was aware of it back then, but had not heard much acclaim for it, and never had a chance to play it. So when I discovered that it had been remastered for the current generation—again without acclaim as far as I’d heard—I decided to go for it. As it turns out, there are reasons why Resonance of Fate 4K/HD Edition is uncelebrated.
Alcohol/Drugs: A character drinks constantly to drown his grief. One character offers another pills.
Language: D***, b*****d, h***, and a** are all used frequently.
Violence: The combat is highly stylized, using primarily guns and grenades. There is no blood or gore, however. A few characters are shot during cutscenes, without blood. A character dies when a quartz crystal containing his life shatters.
Sexual Content: Vashyron is a womanizer. In one cutscene, Vashyron and Zephyr are watching an adult film, and there is a moment when their TV screen shows a woman’s bare back. Off-screen, Zephyr walks in on Leanne taking a bath, and afterward Vashyron jokes about the situation. At one point, Vashyron attempts to look up a female statue’s skirt. In one mission, Vashyron makes jokes about them being an escort service, with Leanne being their most popular escort. The noblewoman Barbarella derives sexual pleasure from eating certain foods. The laws of gravity also don’t apply to her chest.
Spiritual Content: Religion and faith play a major role in the story. All three protagonists are atheists. A seemingly young girl is said to be a creation of the true God. Zenith, a giant machine said to be the determiner of life and death, is called a mockery of God. At one point, Vashyron tells someone, “when your god survived his execution…,” raising the question of whether a misunderstood form of Christianity is part of this world, or whether Resonance of Fate 4K/HD features a fictional religion with Christian parallels.
The game raises tough questions about the nature of suffering and death in relation to God. For example, one character says, “Why do some live while others die?”
Every human’s life is linked to their own quartz crystal. If it breaks, that person dies. Zenith is believed to have an influence over when a person’s crystal breaks, and it’s implied that nothing can kill a person if their crystal is intact. Meanwhile, the antagonists are attempting to create their own religion by learning how to manipulate Zenith.
Other Negative Themes: Several of the characters are fatalistic and question why they’re alive.
Positive Themes: To a certain extent, characters exhibit the principles in John 15:13. A character knows they will die soon, but they keep hope regardless.
This game is rated T for Teen
Resonance of Fate 4K/HD Edition takes a different approach to the genre than the norm. Rather than a sprawling open world to explore and cities to visit, you get a faraway look at a limited world map, with an icon showing where you are rather than character models. The map is comprised of hexagons, and the first time you go to a new area, you must lay down energy hexes to restore power to four hexagons. Each energy hex is a cluster of four hexagons, each one with a different pattern. Restoring power to the map allows you to travel that path. At times, you’ll find treasures and uncover new cities.
There are several locations that you aren’t able to unlock until later in the story. The game justifies this by requiring certain colored energy hexes. The colored energy hexes come in several colors, such as red, purple, and yellow. They’re rare to find, but you typically get exactly what you need as part of the story.
Exploration is subpar. When you uncover a new location, it’s almost invariably tiny. There are mostly small bars and towns, and occasionally you’ll get to visit a noble’s manor. The bars and manors are all one small room, with one or two people to talk to, though they typically only have one line. Ebel City, where your base is located, is the largest place to explore: three sections. There are a couple more towns with one or two areas.
One town you’ll find, Forsaken, is ridiculously tiny. The background shows that there’s more to the city, but all you get to explore is one small strip of road. There’s talk of some mysterious event wiping out the townspeople, but you can’t dive deeper into the city to feel the gravity of such an event. It’s anticlimactic, and I can only wonder why they added it at all.
As is common with the genre, the soundtrack is very good. It’s epic at times, and slow and atmospheric at others. It isn’t the best JRPG soundtrack, but it’s far from the worst. It’s easily one of the best parts of the game.
The voice acting, on the other hand, is mediocre overall. However, there are two notable exceptions: Nolan North as Vashyron, and Kirk Thornton as a minor character named Juris. Their acting is the best in the game; their deliveries make up for an otherwise lackluster script. There are other talented actors as well, but they don’t stand out as much as these two.
The characters themselves are just okay. They’re not bad, per se, they’re just doomed to eternal obscurity. There’s nothing particularly special about them to make them worth remembering. Zephyr is constantly mopey, to an irritating degree. Vashyron is fun, when he’s not acting like a lech. Leanne is the only notable one, given how she bravely faces the challenges and hardships of her circumstances.
The combat system is by far my biggest complaint. Normally, I can forgive a bad combat system if the rest of the game makes up for it, but this one is too much. In theory, it seems okay. It’s unique and interesting, it’s complex enough for there to be a learning curve, but simple enough to be a gentle curve. Its implementation, however, is poor.
There are two kinds of damage: direct and scratch. Zephyr’s machine guns deal scratch damage, while Vashyron and Leanne’s handguns and grenades deal direct damage. Direct damage doesn’t do much on its own, and scratch damage doesn’t kill the enemy. But the amount of scratch damage you inflict is how much direct damage the enemy will take on the next handgun user’s turn, as long as they act fast enough. The scratch damage wears off if you wait too long to attack again. If Zephyr deals the enemy’s entire HP bar’s worth of scratch damage, then Leanne comes and hits with direct damage, she’ll wipe the opponent out. The only feasible strategy, then, is hitting with scratch damage, then following up with direct. Each attack must be charged as well, and the closer you are to the targeted enemy, the faster it charges.
What you can do each turn is limited by a sort of time gauge. Everything you do uses it, including charging an attack. It also runs out very quickly. If you’re too far away from an enemy, the timer will run out before you can finish charging, wasting the turn. An opponent’s attack can also interrupt you, so if you’ve almost got it charged when an enemy hits you, it resets the charge but not the timer. There isn’t always cover to prevent that, either.
The way to get around all of that is by using Hero Actions, which require the use of charges in the Hero Gauge. When doing a Hero Action, you decide where on the field the current character will run to in a straight line. Jumping allows you to avoid any obstacles in the path, and you can attack while in the air. How many Hero Actions you have are indicated by bezels, orange hexagons, at the bottom middle of the screen. And so long as there is at least one charge, all damage you take is counted as scratch damage.
Hero Actions are very theatrical. If you jump at the beginning, you will stay in the air until you reach the destination, flipping and spinning the whole way. Attacking in the air shows dramatic camera angles, and usually the character has some quip. It’s all rather fun at first, but after a while, it starts to get stale.
If you deal enough damage with a Hero Action, you’ll refill one of the empty bezels. However, if you can’t refill them and you run out, or if an enemy deals enough scratch damage to break the last one, you enter critical condition. Critical condition is essentially a death sentence, as enemies deal increased direct damage, while your attacks are significantly weaker. You’re slower as well. Escaping the battle doesn’t help, as you’ll start the next battle in critical condition. Worse still, if even one of your party members dies, it’s an automatic game over.
To further add salt to the wound, you get two choices with each game over: trying again in the same condition as before, or refilling the Hero Gauge and trying again. The catch is the first choice costs a lot of rubies, the in-game currency, and it’s a little difficult to maintain the funds to be able to purchase the supplies you need, as well as retry money. The second option, however, costs a ludicrous amount of money, and is impossible to afford for the first several chapters at least.
Experience point grinding is monotonous and useless. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit to leveling up, and the requirements to do so increase dramatically with every level. Instead of rewarding the player with EXP at the end of every battle, EXP is based on the amount of damage dealt. The higher the level, the more damage it requires to level up again.
Combat gets boring and repetitive after a while. Unluckily enough, it’s also one of the primary elements of the game. Probably eighty-five percent of what you do in the game involves fighting. The rest is walking through tiny, barren areas, and talking to a lot of the same NPCs.
Each chapter has a primary mission, as well as optional side missions. The side missions usually involve fighting a bunch of enemies in locations from previous chapters, retrieving some item, and bringing it to the person asking for it. Some of them are as difficult as previous primary missions. I avoided several altogether, because the reward wasn’t worth the frustration of the requirements.
Completing a story mission requires going to a designated place in the world map, and fighting a series of battles that get progressively harder. After each battle, you are allowed to move to the next area, where you fight again. Rinse and repeat until you reach the last section, where the chapter boss awaits. I lost about forty-five minutes of progress when I hit the chapter 1 boss. Attempt after attempt, I couldn’t seem to deal enough damage to refill any of the bezels, and as soon as I entered critical condition, he killed the nearest party member. If the battle mechanics were better, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Incidentally, I was at levels 7, 5, and 6, while he was at level 17. On the first chapter.
The end of one of the early story missions requires you to battle your way through several areas, then run the gauntlet again on the way back, with the added challenge of escorting a statue that always becomes the immediate target of every enemy. Additionally, each area is progressively harder, culminating in a battle with the boss from the previous chapter. The boss battles are difficult enough, but throwing in a statue with low HP is just stupid. I already view escort missions as an instant mark against a game, but here it’s even worse. The combat system is not at all conducive to that nonsense.
The graphics are underwhelming. For a game labeled as being 4K/HD, it’s awfully blurry. In fact, none of the graphics after the opening cutscene are all that great. Final Fantasy XIII—which came out on the last generation not two months after Resonance of Fate—still looks better on its original consoles than Resonance of Fate 4K/HD‘s upgrade on the current generation.
The story is primarily told in cutscenes. That causes the gameplay to have very little point from a narrative perspective. A little worldbuilding is done through the NPCs you can talk to, but it does nothing to help understand the story as it plays out in the cutscenes. That said, there seems to be a greater emphasis on the gameplay rather than the story.
On the topic of cutscenes, there are issues there, too. One problem is the pointless Barbarella mission. She adds nothing to the story, you see her in only one scene, and it just seems like she was there for fan service and nothing else. The entire chapter could have been cut without hurting the story much. Another problem is the translation issues, specifically the punctuation. The quotation marks are inconsistent, sometimes appearing more times than is logical. I didn’t notice any pattern for when it happens.
One of the most frustrating things is the story is decent. It wrestles with the hard questions of where God is in the midst of suffering, and why evil people live while good people die. I don’t think there has ever been a person of faith who hasn’t struggled with these questions at least once in their life. No answers are forthcoming in the story, but they don’t need to be. Characters raise the questions, and it’s up to the players to come to their own conclusions, or seek out the answers for themselves. It’s a much better approach than having the writer’s belief shoehorned into it.
Alas, because of an agonizing number of poor design decisions, the impact of the story is lost. It begins to feel like an afterthought, there only as an excuse to play through the missions that aren’t even enjoyable anyway. An egregious design sin indeed.
I hated playing this game. It started out with a lot of promise, but before long, it became repetitive and overly difficult. The combat system is one of the worst in any JRPG I’ve played, and I hope to never see one like it again. To make matters worse, the only redeeming qualities are the soundtrack, a couple of the actors, and the ability to customize the trio’s appearances. Big deal.
The Bottom Line
Bad design choices outweigh the good and cripple Resonance of Fate's potential.