Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen Hands-On Impressions from E3 2019
I only just recently finally finished Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and played through Utwarerumono: Mask of Truth, and not having done so before our Game of the Year 2017 podcast might just be one of my biggest regrets. If you haven't played those two titles, I'd tell you to play them right away - but they do depend quite heavily on references to this game, that (at the time of our original reviews) seemed like it had little chance at being localized, and so watching the anime adaptation seemed to be the next best option. That was before Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen, of course. Now that we do know we'll be getting this remake localized, it makes it just a little bit harder to suggest that players get into the series right now with it on the horizon.
If you're not familiar with Utwarerumono - it's a Tactical RPG, but it might be better to call it a Visual Novel with Tactical RPG battles punctuating key parts of the story. For the most part, the focus of the game is that narrative. Dialogue, world-building, the budding and waning relationships between characters, and more specifically the political tensions of the surrounding world. The countries that inhabit this world, and the cultures that they embody. The story is definitely the main reason to play Utwarerumono, although the combat itself is no slouch, especially once you reach later battles in the story and the Dream Arena.
The main draw of Prelude to the Fallen as a remake is that it brings the original release up to par both technically and mechanically, with Utawarerumono: Mask of Truth. Instead of just using sprites, characters are all 3D models in battle and are fully animated as one would expect. You've got all of your skills, Final Strikes, and every mechanic you'd have grown accustomed to using in battle in Mask of Truth. Of course, this all doesn't mean much of anything to anyone not already familiar with the original mid-2000s PC release. Really it's just not a downgrade, which should be more than enough for players either starting the series with this one, or players looking to go back to it after having played Haku's story in Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth.
Probably one of the most interesting things about Prelude to the Fallen's Early 2020 release (which NIS America actually confirmed to me is the "official" release window) has to be the release platforms. Not only is the title releasing on PlayStation 4 as one would expect, but even the PlayStation Vita release will be coming over to our shores, albeit in a digital-only state. I asked NIS America why they opted to bring that version over when they've skipped Vita versions of titles in the past, most recently with Labyrinth of Refrain, and I was told that these platform decisions are made on a case by case basis, and they just thought it made sense for Utawarerumono. Similarly, it was mentioned that skipping Labyrinth of Refrain boiled down to it being a slightly different SKU than the PlayStation 4 release that they ported to Switch and PC, making it harder to consolidate the releases and ultimately making it more effort than would've been worth pursuing.
During our time with the game, we got the chance to check out the game in full 3D and tackle the first battle in the game. We saw Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth's active battle system translated to the first game's framework, and although nothing was translated we did manage to hear some of the Japanese voice acting and admire the CGs. The story, while untranslated, was - as expected - the same as the original release and its anime adaptation. Until we see the translation, there really isn't much more to say other than the translation is in progress.
Ultimately our session with the game was very short. I could see it was in development, though they were still months away from being able to show the translation. Nonetheless - progress is progress, and I continue to await seeing the game's eventual release. Hopefully, we'll be able to see more of the title during next year's press event, when it should be ready to show off in English, assuming everything goes to plan.