Saturday, November 3, 2012

Susa-no-Oh Densetsu

Hudson Soft / Kadokawa shoten / Dynamic

Susa-no-Oh Densetsu doesn't do things in typical HuCard-RPG fashion, a fact it makes clear by kicking off with a very violent, very bizarre succession of images.

However, the promise of the opening sequence might be forgotten as soon as one begins play and lays eyes on the overworld, where everything seems to assume a microscopic stature. But take a few steps and watch as monster sprites begin peeking out from the seas and forests. Battles here aren't random; instead, they commence when one of those sprites manages to collide with your avatar. Pull off a few nifty maneuvers to avoid immediate contact and you may end up making a mad dash across the field with a gaggle of pursuers hot on your trail.

You'll be caught eventually, but don't let it get you down, as the fights are the best part of the affair. Each rumble sees a variety of creatures--some very large, some very odd--surround your warrior, who brandishes weapons as disparate as axes and rocket launchers. Indeed, you'll need to make good strategic use of both your long- and short-range weaponry, not to mention your mystical powers, to survive the game's monster-laden mazes.

Those mazes don't even bother to switch out of the up-close perspective utilized for scrums, so mid-labyrinth combat ensues the very instant you happen upon an adversary.

Backing the fighting and reconnoitering is a fantastic score that composer Takahito Abe himself cites as his best work.

But while the music is unquestionably wonderful, and the affair on the whole is compelling, Susa-no-Oh struggles for a good long while to make its mark. It treads along in "solid if unmemorable" territory as its plot, while not quite a cookie-cutter tale, lacks the sort of captivating moments that would help elevate the production to the tier where the greatest RPGs reside. Indeed, the game just seems to embarrass itself when it strives to create drama by presenting bosses and dungeon entrances in "cinematic" fashion.

Only when Susa-no-Oh forsakes its attempts at fanciness and focuses on doing what it does best--presenting fun, rewarding combat scenes--does it finally manage to assert itself as a title worth remembering. The all-out brawls that take place towards the end of the adventure are sure to leave lasting impressions on those who survive them.

Unfortunately, it's not a given that everyone who plays the game will get to experience those late-game showdowns. Susa-no-Oh is not a good first choice for people who would like to delve into the PCE-RPG library but are unable to read Japanese. Lots of helpful information can be garnered here, but some essential, well-concealed items will remain undiscovered unless the player has luck on his side.

Regardless, being that the card can be had for under five bucks, purchasing it is hardly a massive gamble. The excellent music and enjoyable battles make it quite likely that most players who make headway in it will ultimately consider it a winner.

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