Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Efera and Jiliora

Brain Grey

This one has been a favorite of mine for ages. I also love the Gude Crest anime (which features the two heroines), and if you're thinking about purchasing the game, I highly recommend that you acquire said anime as well. It'll fill you in on the basics of the plot, though the game changes a lot of things and actually tells a much longer and more intricate story.

This is an overhead-view action-RPG that allows two players to partake in the proceedings simultaneously and is quite reminiscent of Ys (more in perspective, pacing, and feel than in quality of presentation). You get to swing your sword here, but honestly, given the Ys-style pacing, I would've preferred bump-attacking. The hack-and-slash approach works well enough for the most part, but flocks of small aerial foes can be real hassles to deal with. You can learn techniques that'll grant you alternative methods of slaughtering (or simply evading) your enemies, but said enemies have magical tricks up their sleeves, and there are many environmental hazards to be aware of while battling. The gameplay can feel rough and tough at times.

E&J is very dark, both visually and atmospherically; the many grays and browns may really make you feel like you're on a trip through a bleak, dying world. The game is not only bizarre but also merciless thematically: two children lose their sibling, another youngster is crucified, a battlefield is littered with the bodies of dead knights, and evil cults perform odd rituals and murder/abduct your allies.

You can partake in the madness by butchering townspeople (for lots of experience points in some instances), but their friends will hound you and attempt to murder you in turn. If you're like me, you'll enjoy E&J's dark side; but others may find the game strange and ugly.

There's definitely a chance that the visuals will turn some players off immediately. Frankly, there's nothing pretty about the title. And the cinemas aren't typical PCE anime-style presentations; rather, they look sort of like scenes from a sidescrolling action game or, more precisely, a Loom/Beyond Shadowgate-esque adventure. Again, I like the distinct approach, but it certainly won't appeal to everyone.

The excellent red book material comprising the soundtrack should have mass appeal, however. One particularly sweet dungeon tune begins with a flutish melody that's quickly joined by a reverb-heavy bassline and eventually leads up to a wonderful sax solo. I wish there were a few more tunes, but there are enough.

There are also plenty of cool, impressive bosses. In terms of attack techniques, they beat the Ys bunch hands down.

I've played through this game many times, and I'm certainly not done with it yet. I love the story, the characters, the atmosphere, the music, and the bosses. But it clearly isn't for everyone, and I don't expect many other people to get as much enjoyment out of it as I have. There are sure to be players who decide to let Efera's world remain brown and dead. But for folks who aren't deterred by its visuals, E&J should make for an interesting experience and rate at least a "pretty good."

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