Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 1 (GBA) 2006

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Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 1 (GBA) 2006

Postby PikaFiend » Mon May 11, 2015 10:38 am

Once more, a little note before we get stuck into it. As I said in my Riviera Review, I want to try to make this a once per week thing, so starting now, Monday will be the day I'm aiming for. Hopefully you'll all look forward to that, and here we go.

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is the 5th game in the Summon Night series of games that started in 2000 on the Playstation by Banpresto. It is the second of the spinoff titles, with the main series currently containing 5 games and the first of three to have ever been localized for North America. The others were its sequel and Summon Night: Twin Age for the Nintendo DS. The game takes place in the city of Wystern, which is built around a tower at its very core that houses both the various levels of the city, and a labyrinth that goes deep beneath sea level. While playing, you will take control of either Cleru or Pratty, depending on the gender you decide on and whether you rename them or not, an apprentice Craftknight at the Silver Guild as he or she joins the tournament to decide the next Craftlord of Iron.

Gameplay

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story has one of the more unique battle systems I've seen in an RPG, particularly one from the GBA or older. Inside the labyrinth and certain other locations, you will be thrown into random battles, like you'd expect of most RPGs. However, it has all of the elements of an action game once this takes over. Since you're directly controlling your character, you will be the one responsible for moving them about, all of the aiming (Which can be difficult because the AI's actually pretty good), and manually launching skills or using items, depending on your chosen button assignments. This battle system carries over to the tournament style fights against human opponents as well. However, unlike most monsters, it serves you better not to just smack away at them. The enemies in the tournament are fellow Craftknights. Defeating them is the aim for advancement, but there are two ways to do so. Sure, you could just beat them until they keel over, but wouldn't you like to have their unique weapons? If you're like me, the answer is yes. So it is in your best interest to let -them- smack away at -you-. Maintain your health and take some hits, blocking from time to time and eventually they'll lose by breaking their own weapons. Coincidentally, this course also gets you the crafting recipe for their weapon as a victory bonus. This brings me to the next part.

An absolutely key element of gameplay is crafting. The crafting system itself is easy to grasp and keep up with. Throughout the game you'll either find or earn various weapon recipes. These fall into 5 categories, all with their own advantages and disadvantages: Swords, Axes, Spears, Fists and Drills. Now, which ones work out best for you depends on a series of choices you have to make early game and their outcome, I'll cover that a little bit in another section. In order to craft something, you need two things: The recipe and the necessary ingredients. Some ingredients can be bought at one of the two shops in the game, one of which you have to travel to by boat, and some will be given to you by NPCs (Another way to get weapon recipes). Mostly though, you'll find yourself grinding in the labyrinth for them, which can be tedious for sure, but the rewards are worth it.

Other than combat and crafting, there are the various interactions with the other characters. First and foremost, there's talking to everyone you can find to get new recipes, or hints on how to get them from those people, items to be given away, extra little bits of story information and background and just learning your way around the place. But also, each night you are given the opportunity to take a break with one of a select few characters. This influences the ending you'll get, based on who you spend the most time with in this regard. Each ending is fairly adorable, changing slightly between the two genders you're able to play as, but none are unachievable for either Cleru or Pratty, so that shouldn't influence your gender decision.

Finally, that little bit I hinted at before. There is a short decision tree early in the game that decides who your partner will be for the remainder of the story. That is to say, which Summon Beast will work alongside you in crafting and battle. This can greatly influence how you play the game, as it changes which recipes you have by default, and which you'll be hunting for from NPCs around the city every day. It also changes which is the first character you'll be able to take your nightly break with, but most importantly, what your most powerful battle skills will be. Each Summon Beast has a unique personality and a different element from the rest. Again, all adorable, I'll leave it up to you to discover them.

Design

Once more, I am looking at a game that was well fleshed out and put together, in terms of visual appeal, mechanics and story. The game's setting is something of a steampunk one. The fashion and feel of the characters, while maintaining the absolutely adorable designs, still manage to give the feeling of the grit and dapper charm of being both knights and blacksmiths in a near modern city, that also happens to be magical. The game's world also feels and looks like you might expect. Most of it is build with cobblestone, there are plenty of steam and coal powered things. But it still manages to stay vibrant somehow, among all of the cold steel and stone. Whether it's just the contrast of the clear, blue water against Wystern's mostly metal and stone buildings, the snowy landscapes you'll eventually visit or what I can only describe as a hot springs maze later in the game, it doesn't just give you a solid, monochromatic experiences. Even inside the labyrinth, the rooms are well lit, the stones change now and then in colour and shape, there's water interspersed, and as you go deeper, more and more veins of a purple rocky substance to liven up the joint.

In terms of the actual combat and control mechanics, they're fairly smooth. It can be rough for you if, say, you're facing an enemy with good range while using Fist type weapons, but mostly, there aren't any major problems that other games don't also face on the GBA simply because of technological limitations. The fast pace of some battles may leave you scrambling to select correct spells in place of your normal attacks and the fact that getting hit interrupts your casting may pose problems from time to time, but they give you enough chance to get used to the system before throwing any true challenges at you.

Sound/Music

Well, Atlus brought us another title that has a surprising amount of voice acting for a GBA title, again. Not nearly as much as Riviera, but it's there. Aside from that, the music sets the tone. The setting of Wystern is mainly a calm one, so the overworld music inside the city reflects that, without sacrificing any of the feel of the hard work and sweat as the Craftknights and Craftlords toil away to keep the city safe and the economy bustling. And the same can be said for any setting you'll enter. The music really does work to the game's advantage, keeping pace with what's happening on your screen and in the story as you go through it. Making sure you know that the labyrinth is full of danger, that the mid-level of the tower is for the rich elite of the Gold Guild and the urgency when you've got a goal to accomplish and people to save. This is a thing I always loved about the GBA. Its games were always designed with a soundtrack that really worked for them. And this is probably a sentiment I'll repeat a lot in upcoming reviews, because it's hard to get around.

Overall/Summary

Even with the grind for ingredients and leveling up before big battles you might face in the story progression or the tournament, the game isn't long at all, making it perfect for a casual glance or a quick, "I'm going to stomp this game before the day's out.". Spanning 10 days in-game, all culminating with a night that gives you a perfect time to save and put it down for the day if you need to, it's really rather short when compared to a title like Golden Sun (Look forward to those games, they're on my list). But that's fine, because it's a rich, fun story that'll hopefully pull you in with its humour and likable characters, some of which soften over time and become better pals. Every game has its problems, of course. It can be a real pain to hit some of the flying enemies, and most of the bosses and other Craftknights will have better reach with their weapons than yours, but none of those problems should be game ruiners, as they don't pose enough of a threat to your advancement to be truly frustrating unless you're underleveled.

I'd once more highly recommend this game to anyone seeking a charming story, with plenty of character variety, a great spectrum of enemies to learn to tackle and variable (And very cute/funny) endings. Check it out if you're inspired to do so, let me know your thoughts.

Be sure to leave your comments, if you have any, on my reviews. Tell me how I might improve them or just your experience of reading them. And don't forget to, if you enjoyed this, look forward to next week, when I'll be covering the sequel to this game, which will probably be a much shorter review.
"Insanity is just a state of mind." ~ Capt. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce
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