If the role-playing output of Square-Enix, Atlus is akin to blockbuster theatrical films, then Kemco’s titles are the direct-to-video offerings of the interactive world. You don’t pick up one expecting dazzling CG-fueled cinematics, technical innovation, or even a revolutionary plotline. Instead, the publisher’s prolific output of JRPGs plays close to the tenets of the genre, offering satiating stories and familiar combat mechanics- albeit for an affordable price.
These design decisions are prevalent thoughout Alphadia Genesis, a title which began life as an iOS app that was localized last March, before being ported to Android, Wii U, and now PC. As Kemco’s inaugural Steam-based game, Alphadia exhibits a number of virtues. Unlike many modern role-playing games, the title shirks the typical long-winded prologue, prodding players into the game’s first dungeon in a matter of minutes, not hours. And while Alphadia Genesis’ dialog habitually display workmanlike quality, it’s difficult not to care for some of its characters.
Sentiment is first summoned when players are introduced to Enah, a subservient clone awakened from cryogenic slumber by the game’s protagonist, Fray. Although antagonism drives a number of a conflicts, it’s Enah’s perpetual self-sacrificing nature that is the emotional apex of the game. Soon after waking the congenial doe-eyed character, she joins the adventuring party in battle. When she’s injured, Fray has to remind her to speak up and not endure her pain silently, representing an inevitable tug at the player’s heartstrings. Unsurprisingly, the game is best when it tosses out existential musings, wondering if all beings, both natural and man-made deserve the same type of freedoms.
Although Alphadia’s other characters aren’t rendered as tenderly as Enah, there are some effective, if conventional dynamics at play. Lead character Fray is the typical altruistic hero, and his sister is the purported fragile prodigy who needs to be looked after. While the set-up is a bit tropey, there is a stirring compassion exhibited between the two characters. Elsewhere, the reveal of Alphadia Genesis’ antagonists is supposed to come as a surprise, but like the majority of the game’s narrative, will be telegraphed by anyone who has played even a few ‘90s-era RPGs.
Fortunately, most of Alphadia Genesis’ conversational breaks are brief, allowing for dungeon skulking, sub-quest errands, and the augmentation of party members to interest gamers. Largely, the game’s labyrinthine chambers are linear, offering the occasional fork between forward progress and an alcove contributing treasure. The upside is that’s hard to get lost, and random combat encounters are fast and infrequent, eschewing distraction. That said, a keen eye is needed as the title often announces secret passageways via small cracks in the walls, while concealed AGP points are exposed by a translucent shimmer.
Combat is turn-based, allowing players to confront creatures with the customary arsenal of normal attacks, and well as more devastating strikes powered by each party member’s supply of EP. Agreeably, there’s a number of ways to approach most encounters, between modifying the formation of two rows of characters, or min/maxing elemental qualities. For those who would rather race through encounters, Alphadia Genesis offers an auto-battle button, as well as the ability to adjust the occurrence of healing, skill use, and attack rates. Coupled with an “easy” mode, the game scales admirably, offering an experience that spans from visual novel to one that obliges a minor tactical involvement. Agreeably, Alphadia never becomes too challenging, politely warning of imminent boss battles and even offering fallen parties the ability to retry a mislaid confrontation. Another concession: the game articulates how effective skills are on battle screens, reducing the need for experimentation.
Much like the game’s dungeons, there’s not too much room for exploration in character development. Stats progress without the need for grinding, helping to maintain the momentum of the game. The one concession toward autonomy occurs with the title’s “Energi” system. Here, new abilities are learned as characters progress, but equipping rings with specific elemental attributes can nudge a skillset in a different direction. Similarly, unearthed AGP points can be used to purchase perks that further aim party members in combat, extended rare good that do things like double assist attack damage or restrain the effect of enemy skills.
Aesthetically, Alphadia Genesis is entrenched in JRPG history, culling from different generations of hardware platforms. Overworld exploration, towns and dungeons recall the bitmapped titlesets of the SNES-era, albeit in a higher resolution. Revealing developer’s EXE Create ambitions for 3D, combat is comprised of polygonal characters rendered on austere backdrops. With a low poly count, limited animation, and restrained animations, these figures resemble the protagonists in a PS1 game. Much better are the game’s portraits used during exchanges of dialog. While they don’t offer a multiplicity of expressions, each personality is caringly drawn, giving the game’s glimpse of each character. Musically, Alphadia attempts to ape the type of refrains that propelled Nobuo Uematsu into the limelight. As such, players can expect plaintive piano melodies contrasted against buoyant battle themes. Japanese language voice-over is a nice amenity, even if it’s limited to small portion of the game’s conversational exchanges.
Running on Unity, the game scales swimmingly, operating on a Windows 8 tablet and modest netbook with nary a deviation from its targeted framerate of thirty frames-per-second. Considering the Android iteration gave controller support for Nvidia Shield owners, it’s a bit disappointing that PC owners don’t receive a comparable option. Fortunately, both keyboard and mouse input methods prove to be functional.
Although Alphadia Genesis isn’t a requisite role-playing experience, the game is a cosseting charmer poised to please genre fans. While the game takes few risks, it also commits a limited number of transgressions, offering an experience that rooted in the familiar. Like some of Hollywood’s better direct-to-video releases, a bit of homogeneity can be forgivable, especially given the developer’s aspiration to push their games into the third dimension.
Alphadia Genesis was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, also on iOS, Android, Wii U
Developer: EXE Create
Release date: January 12th, 2015
Price: $14.99 via Steam