With Resonance of Fate, Sega is hoping to drag the JRPG kicking and screaming, back into the hands of modern gamers. But it's not a game that's going to come quietly. Not at all - Resonance of Fate is going to fight for your love and your appreciation, and you're going to have to be a patent and understanding partner if you hope to feel the same way about it in return.
This game is a unique beast, and any preconceptions you may already have about the genre should be quickly put out of your mind - there is no game out there quite like this. Whether this is a good or bad thing will depend heavily on your own personal tastes... and a healthy dose of patience.
The world of Resonance of Fate is dying, and humanity has constructed the giant tower Basel, the only place for them to live in peace and safety. But humanity, being the naive species that it is, has continued to abuse the world so much that even the tower itself is falling into disrepair. A group known as the Cardinal has exploited this situation for its own benefit, controlling the populace, with the poorest people living at the bottom of the tower, and richest living at the top.
Your brave team of heroes this time around are a group of "Hunters", willing hired guns who take on jobs (sometimes of a morally dubious nature) for money. Vashyron, Zephyr, Leanne make up your standard anime archetypes - the older and wise leader, the young and rash teenage boy, and the token bright female character.
The story that these characters get wrapped up is slow to reveal itself, but it's not without its charming idiosyncrasies or moments of surprise. It won't win any awards for originality, but it's far from the worst story ever seen in the genre, and steam-punk fans will be completely at home here.
The giant tower in which the game's story is set has broken down and fallen apart over the years, conveniently meaning that large parts of the tower are completely inaccessible to the player at the outset of the game.
New areas can be opened up by collecting "energy" hexes - mostly through combat - and different bonuses provide your party of characters with difference bonuses when different coloured hexes are placed on the board. Access to story driven areas being panels smartly blocked off until you obtain the necessary energy hexes for these areas by progressing through the story.
What truly stands out in Resonance of Fate though, is the game's completely unique battle system. Although initially daunting and confusing, it comes together very tightly once you've had time to digest all the lingo, ideas and strategies involved in winning battles. Just don't expect that to come quickly.
Characters are not bogged down by pages of different spells and attack Instead, the game is all about guns (and grenades). The game runs on a pseudo turn-based / real time system, and this is definitely not one the kind of RPG where you can casually saunter through every fight with the same attacks, over and over.
Moving your characters around the battlefield and choosing the right weapons for the right situation is paramount to victory in any battle. Machine gun weapons cause "scratch damage", high damage attacks that do not kill the opponent. Pistols do "direct damage" - hitting with permanently removes the scratch damage from the enemy's health bar on top of the direct damage they do.
Suffice to say, the system gets more complicated as you progress, with planning and strategy and planning becoming increasingly important as you get deeper into the game. Resonance of Fate is definitely not a game for people who simply want to walk through their RPGs at a leisurely pace. Even after you get a hand on the mechanics, Resonance of Fate is, simply put, a very hard game.
The game's difficulty will make or break your appreciation of it. Although the retry system is fairly forgiving, the game becomes increasingly harder to make progress in without committed time spent grinding and customising your characters. If you don't, your characters will simply end up hitting a brick wall of difficulty that is impossible to surmount.
At the end of the day, Resonance of Fate is an RPG designed not only for hardcore JRPG fans, but for hardcore gamers, period. It's mechanics are entirely its own, it can be extremely confusing unless you invest serious time into learning its subtleties, and it requires heavy grinding and character customisation if you ever hope to see the ending.
If these are the kind of elements that you appreciate in your gaming experience, Resonance of Fate is not a game that will disappoint. If they are not, stay well clear - this is a game that will appreciate you only as much as you do it.