Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cosmic Fantasy

Laser Soft / Telenet

This is always the first game I recommend when people would like to get into Japanese RPGs but don't know the language and aren't sure where to start. The menus are easy to figure out; the quest is very straightforward (you go from to town to maze to town in strict, linear order; the world doesn't open up to you until you acquire a ship near the end of the adventure, but even then, it isn't difficult to figure out where to go); and you have to manage only two characters, Yuu and Saya (known as Cobra and Sayo, respectively, in US CF2). Other characters join your party, but they, uh, don't do anything.

Of course, CF's simplicity could be off-putting for those who have already experienced the intricate likes of the Tengai Makyous. Yuu's quest boils down to exploring dungeons and leveling up; there isn't much mystery or depth involved. If you don't mind the linearity of the adventure and the rudimentary gameplay, the only potentially irritating factor is the fact that after every battle you have to sit through approximately seven seconds of empty screen before play resumes. I got used to the delay after a while, but some folks may not be as tolerant of it.

As simple as the game is, there are plenty of positive things to note in its favor. As you'd expect from a CF episode, the story is a great blend of crazy humor...

...and quiet poignancy.

As you might also expect from a CF game, the soundtrack consists of only a few tunes. Most of them are chip numbers, but quite a few are very good (particularly the main maze track) and have an appealing old-school sound about them that veterans should enjoy. The in-game graphics are conspicuously primitive, but they certainly aren't revolting.

The cinemas don't even come close to matching the quality and theater of those in many later PCE RPGs, but they're nice in their own right and compare favorably with those in most other early CD games.

Skirmishes can be resolved quickly, and the encounter rate shouldn't prove irritating. For the most part, if you make sure to explore the labyrinths thoroughly, you'll earn enough experience that you won't even have to partake in perfunctory leveling-up exercises.

CF might not come off as an outstanding game when you break it down into its elements, but it does a lot of things pretty well, and it doesn't screw many things up. Tackling it will be a nice way to get your feet wet if you're thinking about getting into Japanese RPGs, and even those who are already pros should find it to be a quality addition to their adventure-game libraries.

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