My experience with this game can be pretty aptly summed up as “pleasantly surprised”. The game’s official description implies it to be a tedious 2edgy4me thing about how God is evil and high school students need to use the power of SATAN to beat him!!! What I actually found was a surprisingly well-done story about mental illness and self-actualization. The tone of the overall plot is still extremely tongue-in-cheek, but when real issues come up it addresses them with astounding sensitivity and depth. The characters initially appear to be one-dimensional archetypes, but they are eventually revealed to come from places of deep pain and trauma, and their loyalty to one another is truly genuine and inspiring.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangame! The game interprets the opening of the worlds in the season 5 finale as creating a hodge-podge dimension of characters and locations from other works, resulting in a massive crossover world. Unfortunately, I am culturally illiterate and Buffy was the only one I was familiar with. The opening involves a hotshot demon hunter dude trying to protect her from demons only to get oneshotted while she beats them herself, which amused me and was delightfully in keeping with canon. Unfortunately, Buffy gets outclassed by everyone else pretty quickly. I can understand the necessity of flattening the power levels for an RPG cast, and it’s stated that the purgatory world is giving people additional magic powers, but it’s still rather annoying that Buffy isn’t that special gameplay-wise. At first I thought she was meant to have a unique weapon type that was superior in some way… except there’s another party member who can use more weapon types than her including her specialty weapon, and her specialty weapon kinda sucks anyway, having a lot of skills with random targeting and high health costs.
Despite that, I did find the Buffy characters to be very in-character, and Buffy has the same degree of proactiveness I liked about her from canon. Cordelia also shows up and is basically the best party member, which is awesome.
A grungy soft sci-fi post-apocalyptic RPG! That’s… really the best description I can give of this, as the particulars of the plot and setting aren’t anything particularly noteworthy. The story is a bit cliched and has a lot of weird animesque characters and twists, but I overall found it to be really enjoyable even if it wasn’t anything spectacular. The most notable thing about this game is that it bucks a lot of RPG Maker trends in terms of presentation and gameplay. Exploration is done in sidescrolling platformer-like maps, and cutscenes are shown through comic-like panels. I found both of these things to be really original and well-done — exploration was sleek and straightforward without being simplistic, and there are in fact many fun puzzles to be had. The cutscene style was also really well-executed and made scenes feel much more vivid and dynamic than I’m used to in RPG Maker games. The gameplay, too, is honestly one of the best and most elegant RPG battle systems I’ve ever seen. It has a lot of rough patches (an engine goof apparently led to enemy defense being completely useless, completely wrecking the balance of weak speedsters vs. big hitters) but also provides a lot of fresh new ideas and produced some really snappy, enjoyable battles.
It’s also a great example of how to make a self-contained story while also providing an enticing sequel hook. As so often happens the promised sequel went up in smoke, but unlike SOME GAMES I don’t mind, because the main conflict and mysteries are adequately resolved and I don’t feel like I need to know the answers to the remaining threads for emotional satisfaction.
In general, I recommend this to aspiring game devs in particular — while it’s not the greatest at everything, it forwards a lot of clever and original ideas I’d love to see gain wider use.
(This is also a remake of an earlier game, just titled “Alter A.I.L.A.”, that contains the same characters and similar plot elements but is ultimately very different. If you liked Genesis and have time to spare I’d say it’s worth checking out for its alternate take on several characters, though I would say it’s a less enjoyable experience overall.)
Yin and yang, as always.
Inside: Chronology, Whispering Willows, FLY’N, The Night of the Rabbit, Millenium: A New Hope
And now for the less good stuff. RPG Maker sadly put up a very poor showing this year.
Inside: Crown Champion, Sojourner, TAURONOS, Forever Home.
Two games I picked up in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, remakes of two RPG Maker games I played years ago.
They were not very good.