~ COSMIC FANTASY 4 CHAPTER 1 ~
I'm a huge Cosmic Fantasy fan. I'm fond of every game in the series except for this one, which is repugnant dreck. Nonetheless, I must concede that there are some positives to cite in its favor, namely...
...the characters. You can't go wrong with CF stalwarts Yuu and Saya, and there are a number of cool new good guys on the scene. A few of the villains (the ones who show up during the first half of the adventure) are witty, crafty, and funny.
Well... that's the good stuff. Here's the bad:
The digital-comic scenes. Starting a traditional-style RPG off with a stretch of comic-style play is an interesting concept. But watching Yuu blow off Saya to flirt with an idiot and talk to tech guys isn't much fun.
The story. There are very few cinemas, and the ones that're actually included are wasted on stupid stuff like a goofy cat's song-and-dance shtick. Other Cosmic Fantasy games are known for being dramatic, touching, and humorous, but this peculiar episode is largely devoid of such virtues.
The battle system. CF3 kept things quick and relatively simple, but 4-1 gives us "filling bars"-based nonsense. Combat proceedings feel very slow and tedious when you're using just one character, which you will be for a long while. Once you put together a competent band, the system begins to lend itself to fast, enjoyable play, but it still feels sloppy.
The dungeon design. The labyrinth-crawling stretches last longer than they really should, as Telenet decided to utilize annoying ploys like concealed pits and switches that reveal pathways all the way on the other side of their respective floors, not to mention that there are lots of irritating, multi-monster random battles (and I say this as someone who doesn't mind the encounter rates in the earlier episodes).
The length. The epic adventuring of CF2 is a distant memory. You'll be beating the tar out of CF4C1's weak final boss before you know it. Just imagine how short the game would be without the time-wasting dungeon nonsense and the frequent fighting. And I'm not going to let its status as a single chapter get it off the hook, as CF4C2 would fare well as a standalone effort.
Saya molestation. Now here's a brilliant idea. Let's have a salivating fire demon use its tentacles to tie up and sexually assault one of the sweetest and most endearing characters in the series. That'll please the fans. Remember CF2's amazing ending? It's hard to believe that the series went from that to this.
The music isn't bad, but it's completely forgettable, while the graphics are decent on the whole but occasionally get sliced up by gratuitous "SNES-type" effects. In fact, instead of doing things the CF way, this game seems to have been striving to be like other RPGs that were making names for themselves at the time of its release. It's too bad... but don't lose faith in the series here. Things start looking up again in Chapter 2.