resonance of fate (1)

Genre: JRPG
Year: 2010
Developed by: Tri-Ace
Published by: Sega
Platforms: PS3, XBOX 360, PC, Playstation 4
Feeling Like: John Woo meets Final Fantasy

I mean, that’s exactly it, isn’t it? It’s a John Woo action movie and it’s a Japanese Role Playing Game. It is filled with bizarre characters, but also an apocalyptic setting you truly want to explore. It has a charming soundtrack and a literal world building mechanic and costumes galore. You’ll be flying through the air shooting enemies with your pistols and automatic weapons every minute in combat. The overall package is polished, but the writing is ridden with cliches and philoso-talk. It’s one of the strangest, most frustrating games I’ve ever played. I still don’t know what the hell happened. But I played something that I’ve never seen before, and will never forget. And that counts for a lot.

resonance of fate (2)
Unsurprisingly, the load screen for battles include guns and bullet holes

Once again, Tri-Ace created something without a road map. You certainly can’t accuse them of plagiarism. Much like in Infinite Undiscovery, the what and where are unique. Humanity can no longer live on the surface, and the entire population is contained in a giant tower, and I mean giant. The camera pans out once in a while to show you how big and it’s impossible not to gain an appreciation for the design, despite the muted color choice. The tower is incredibly advanced and has artificial forests and caves, but is also falling apart. Nobody knows why, and nobody seems to know anything about the cataclysmic event that caused humanity’s peril in the first place.

resonance of fate (5)
Well I’ll be as high as that Ivory Tower that you’re livin’ in!

The world map is something else. Instead of just walking around, like a sucker, you have to use various hex pallets to unlock new areas, dungeons and treasures. It’s a mini puzzle, accompanied by some truly relaxing music. I could listen to this for hours. This one too. All of a sudden, progressing through the story doesn’t seem like such a pressing priority. Collecting new hexes and ensuring you don’t paint yourself into a corner was oddly therapeutic.

At the time, I thought the graphics were terrific. The starting city of Ebel is one of my favorite home bases. Your apartment feels cozy, and I always felt a smidgen of familiar relief when each chapter would start off here. However, looking back on it, the character models are very much situated in the uncanny valley. Their doll-like faces and goofy animations didn’t age particularly well.

resonance of fate (6)
Street signs? Indoors? *Laughs* Whatever!

Zephyr, Leanne, and Vashyron are the trio of heroes that I really enjoyed playing, against all odds. They’re not particularly well developed, and the plot doesn’t give you much to work with until halfway in. But there’s still something that is appealing with their relationship…aside from the standard creepy fan service. The less you know about the costume choices, the better.  You form a mercenary group that takes on jobs for the population of Basel and eventually, of course, you learn the devious workings of the Pope who plans on destroying humanity or something? Cut me some slack, I beat Resonance of Fate on March 6, 2011 – nearly eight years ago, and if you feel sorry for me for knowing the exact dates that I beat obscure Japanese gun RPGS, then you might as well close this window right now.

resonance of fate (4)
Like I said. Creepy faces.

Aside from the melodrama, and the mixed quality of voice acting, another factor in Resonance of Fate’s trademark quirkiness is the combat system. I hope you’re ready to research and learn, because this thing is complicated.

How complicated?

I never got it. Even at the end of the game, after dozens of hours, I was still confused as to why an attack didn’t land, or how the enemy one-shot killed me, or why I had to run and fly in a line every single time I wanted to attack. Adept players will use cover, customize their guns to impossible heights and use combination attacks to bring baddies to justice. I, on the other hand, mostly just sprayed and prayed. There’s two types of damage, scratch and actual and I couldn’t tell you much more than that.

It’s so crazy to hear your gun meter charge up insanely fast and see a tiny girl fly through the air with double machine guns blasting away at some evil robot zombie, but that’s commonplace in Resonance of Fate. If you can put in the time, there’s fun to be had.

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Everything about the combat system is zany. You can’t just point and shoot.

Button mashing is out of the question. The game’s final dungeon is a gauntlet of punishment; to say it’s cruel and unfair would be accurate and fair. But I still had to go on. There was a certain “je ne sais quoi” about the whole thing. Was it the camaraderie between the main three characters? Was it the delightful main town theme? Was it the satisfaction of doing a Max Payne style leap and shoot on EVERY SINGLE ATTACK? Was it the drive to discover the past?

I can’t believe I didn’t quit on this game earlier. The frustrations were many: the unnecessary slapstick, the lost-in-translation humor, the overly explained monologues and the flashback cutscenes that confused instead of clarified to name a few.

Yet there were equally as many cool bits. Collecting gear to customize your gun was a enjoyable mini-game in itself. Blasting enemies was satisfying, when it worked for me. The setting was unique. I wanted to run around Ebel City all day. The peaceful tunes on the World Map brought on a pleasant ennui. The skill of the composer is on full display.

Plus, how many John Woo Final Fantasies have YOU seen? I gotta give it to Tri-Ace; it’s always a rough ride, but it’s also always a new ride.

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