With the rise of mobile as a platform, a retro RPG now needs several elements to make it stand out from the pack.
Challenging battles, eye-catching artwork, and evocative music are all - sadly - givens in this competitive space.
Thus, a quality RPG needs a strong story with equally strong characters to convince players that it's worth their time and money.
Unfortunately, there's everything but a captivating story and strong characters in Kemco's Journey to Kreisisa. It's polished enough to keep you playing, sure, but the rough translation and one-dimensional characters make it all feel a bit hollow.The credible journey
Events in Journey to Kreisia kick off when a young fawn-haired priestess engages in a special rite to summon a saviour to her world.
The evil Overlord, who has a nasty habit of resurrecting himself every ten years, is just about ready to threaten her world again. Its people (being dab hands at saviour summoning and overlord overthrowing) decide to once again roll up their sleeves and repeat their usual strategy.
... just like the NPCs in the original Final Fantasy did when they were dealing with their own time loop troubles.
Anyway, this rite results in the naïve-but-good-natured priestess summoning a feckless everyman named Yusis to her world.
Yusis is meant to be a character with which many of Journey to Kreisia's players can identify. You see, he's a lazy high school otaku who really likes video games. Alas, the way he's presented is somewhere between offensive and boring.
As in, he can't go more than three text boxes without reminding you, the player, that he's a gamer. Just like you are.
Once Yusis arrives on the scene, the expected quest to stop the Overlord begins and Journey to Kreisia hits its stride.
Turn-based battles are the order of the game. And while Kemco doesn't employ the more action-friendly Active Time Battle system here, it does implement an innovative system. To wit, you acquire new weapon skills by repeatedly making use of a particular piece of equipment.
It's hardly a masterstroke of RPG mechanics, but it does encourage you to think about your gear choices a bit.
By the numbers
Overall, the best word to describe Journey to Kreisia is 'safe'. Kemco never takes any major risks in terms of mechanics or story here, and the resulting game feels remarkably familiar - if a bit bland - as a result.
One of the biggest out-and-out issues I have with Journey to Kreisia, however, is its dialogue.
Everything the characters say is technically correct, but it doesn't seem fluid, organic, or natural. Every turn of phrase is hopelessly cumbersome and reads like a direct translation of overly polite Japanese.
This turns text-heavy sections of Journey to Kreisia into tests of one's patience and ultimately makes the characters and plot very hard to care about.
Still, Journey to Kreisia is a rather beautiful game. The sprites are all well detailed, the character art is particularly noteworthy, and the catchy Overworld theme has been stuck in my head for the better part of a week.
Yes, these are all marks of a Pocket Gamer Award-winning game. Ultimately, though, Journey to Kreisia's slow pacing and rocky text make it difficult for me to recommend this to all but the most devout of the JRPG faithful.
There were times when I genuinely enjoyed my experience in Journey to Kreisia, and I'm sure there are others who will feel the same way. It's not an RPG, though, that many will remember in a few years' time.