Alphadia Genesis Review
RPG fans that follow the mobile game market probably know the name 'Kemco' well. The company is an absolute RPG making machine, with about forty-three titles released on iOS and Android devices in the last four years, and more on the way this year. It's an impressive feat, but also one that earns the company a bad name. Kemco's RPGs are often seen as cookie cutter and bland, with flat characters and often poorly translated text.
Of course, given the consistently low prices of these mobile games, it appears that enough people are willing to give Kemco RPGs a try, and now publishers have taken it upon themselves to bring some of these RPGs to more dedicated gaming platforms.
It started with Mystic Chronicles, a digital only title released to the PSP and Vita in the Summer of 2013. The game got an updated translation, and in-app transactions were altered slightly to work within the confines of the system, but it was mostly a port of the mobile title through and through. Since then, we've also received Grinsia for the 3DS, and Natsume announced that they are bringing End of Serenity to consoles during E3.
So now, we have Alphadia Genesis, a Kemco RPG that manages to stand out from the masses due to using some spiffy, new 3D graphics during battle. The game was recently ported to the Wii U and Steam, the former having a distinct lack of RPGs and the latter having a huge audience getting their feet wet with the JRPG genre for the first time. Despite it being in the right place at the right time, though, Alphadia Genesis is far from worth your time and attention, with a plethora of flaws that are sure to annoy any gamer.
Alphadia Genesis starts you off in the shoes of Fray, a renowned and respected member of the Guild. After winning what appears to be a country wide tournament, he is asked by the King to investigate an unusual murder: A wealthy man was killed by his clones, artificially created lifeforms that look very much like humans, but are subservient to them and cannot disobey their masters.
With a little background on how clones were used in the devastating Energi War from fifteen years past as weapons of mass destruction, and the residual fear and distrust of clones while they are being integrated into a peaceful society, Frey and his clone researcher sister Aurra embark on a journey to learn the truth behind this murder, eventually becoming entangled in a plot that affects the entire world.
The plot has the potential to be something interesting, especially with the whole clone arc, but unfortunately most of it falls flat. The world is pretty boring, especially when the older characters tend to go on about the far more interesting happenings during the Energi Wars themselves.
Little is actually explained about clones themselves other than some of the basics, so it can be frustrating to the player who really wanted to learn more about what clones are and what they do after the war, especially when it's alluded to that they have free will, but go nowhere with that thread. Even when the main story gets going, little of it feels interesting, though the main antagonist does try to excite with some legitimately diabolical acts.
What really puts the nail in the coffin of Alphadia Genesis's story, though, are the characters. As one might expect, each of the characters fall into stereotypical tropes: For example, Frey is the nice guy, always willing to help out, while Aurra is the child prodigy/genius. This isn't always a bad thing, and at first the title uses the tropes well enough, but Kemco eventually tries to apply character growth to the party members and fails miserably.
Avoiding spoilers, a few of the party members have sudden personality shifts that don't mesh with the person at all, and one other party member managed to have the stereotypical character growth for his personality in the most stereotypical way possible, making the whole scene a bit of a bore.
Finally, there is one character that receives absolutely no growth at all, despite a rather traumatic event happening to him during the course of the story, which was... just odd. Alphadia Genesis could have redeemed itself a bit in the writing department had there been interesting characters, but unfortunately they are just poorly written.
Beyond that, Alphadia Genesis is a stock standard RPG. You transverse a world map and work through increasingly complex dungeons, engage in optional sidequests and fight in traditional turn based battles. The game last between 20-25 hours for the normal ending, with a couple extra hours required for the true end, so it isn't a particularly long adventure compared to the average modern RPG.
There isn't much to say about most of the gameplay, but it's worth going into the battle system a bit. Other than the obvious graphical upgrade, there is also an Energi system in place that affects how characters learn magic. Each party member has an affinity to one of the three elements: Fire, Water, and Light. That basically means that they'll always be gaining levels in this element, learning the various spells and gaining stat boosts that pertain to that element.
Additionally, members can equip one Energi Ring, which is a ring imbued with an element. The rings are of varying quality, only allowing characters to reach a certain level in the secondary element before an upgrade is required. Also, if that person unequips the Energi Ring, they will no longer be able to use the element they were leveling up, barring a few exceptions.
By learning two different elemental spells, characters earn a wider arsenal of skills to use against the enemy. Additionally, they can learn hybrid spells that are obtained when two elements reach a certain level on the same person. For example, someone who is leveling both Fire and Water will eventually learn Poison All, which is an upgrade to a Water spell that cannot be obtained otherwise.
It's an interesting way to promote characters by changing their skill sets up, but without any knowledge of what skills will actually be learned, it's a bit of a gamble, especially if current element set-ups are really working right now.
Overall, the Energi system is nice enough, but it's fairly basic and not enough of it is explained in game for players to really know what to do with it. All of my knowledge came from experimenting with the system, and by the time I learned enough about Energi Rings to effectively use them, I had effectively stunted one of my character's skill growths. It's not particularly difficult to catch up, but it was still an annoyance that could have been avoided with a better explanation of the system.
Finally, there is the problem with the encounter rate. The encounter rate is frustratingly high. This isn't much of a problem at first, as dungeons are short and auto-battling is effective enough, but later on in the game, even normal enemies become a bit of a threat, requiring skills and Energi to dispatch quickly. As such, battles become slogs that you can't auto-battle through, or else it's pretty likely a character may die in the process.
Worse yet, the token 'keep monsters away' item is hidden behind a faux in-game app store, where you earn a limited number of currency by exploring each area well and finding sparkles hidden in trees or walls. The fact that I spent most of the currency I found on that item, as opposed to stat raisers and awesome equipment, is a testament to how absurdly annoying battles got in the late game.
Alphadia Genesis does have a couple redeeming factors. The music is pretty good, and the (Japanese only) voice acting is relatively solid when it comes up. The main party sprites look nice, and I personally enjoyed the PS1-esque graphics during battle. But, none of these are reasons to play the game, only nice little tidbits to make the quest a little less dull.
If you're really dying for a JRPG for Steam or the Wii U, hold on a bit longer. Steam has more and more JRPGs coming out everyday, and the Wii U will eventually catch up with Xenoblade Chronicles X and the Virtual Console. There's no reason to spend money on this subpar experience.