Alphadia Genesis (the first two hours)

Disclaimer: the code for this Wii U game was obtained for free, from a source that had obtained it for free from the developer.

Dark times for the gaming industry.  From my relatively neutral position on Nintendo Island, it looks like this: the major pillars of gaming (EA, Activision, UbiSoft) rule the world of retail gaming with an iron fist, greedily gobbling up gold, crushing colour and creativity, and hypnotising the hoi polloi with the homogenised, the humdrum, and the hateful.  Probably burning their villages as well.

Hope for the gaming world comes from the downloadable space, where a bunch of fresh-faced youths don arms and take the fight to the evil empires.  Some come from the villages that were burned down (Braid, Guacamelee!); some have turned traitor from the empires themselves (Child of Light). 

Alphadia Genesis, then, would be the blatantly suspicious party member who is obviously a mole for the empires, and turns their coat at the beginning of Act 2, to the surprise and despair of the gullible spiky-haired party leader.  Who would be, I dunno, Shovel Knight or somesuch.

Why is this?  Because it stinks of, if not the hateful, certainly the homogenised and the humdrum.  Oh, and on Wii U, it's thrice the price of the Android version, so the greed is there as well.

 That's all right, Aurra - I can't even care.

That's all right, Aurra - I can't even care.

AG (not to be confused with silver, Assemblies of God, or the Dune books' calendar system) presents itself as a love letter to JRPGs of times gone by, such as Final Fantasies I-VI, Chrono Trigger, or even Bravely Default.  Trouble is, it's just not as good as these classics; and a not-very-good JRPG that might have plugged a gap in the SNES release schedule isn't going to cut it in this day and age.

For example, Final Fantasy VI wowed with its characters and their subplots, while Chrono Trigger eschewed character development for a mind-bending four-dimensional story of epic proportions.

AG tries to go the whole "deep philosophical" route by introducing seemingly mindless clones and having them persecuted by society.  So far, it seems mostly like an excuse to have an almost silent girl swearing absolute obedience to the main character, like a non-obscene anime version of Fifty Shades.

The rest of the cast fits the stereotypes too: benevolent leader, man manipulating the clones for his own ends, magic-casting love interest, manic science girl.  I can't decide whether I loathe the main character, who adheres to the "naïve personality-free hero" trope with almost admirable determination, or his tediously awful "love-rival", more.

The gameplay itself is standard top-down JRPG fare.  Talk to people in a town, go out and fight battles, find dungeon, open chests, beat boss.  Rinse, repeat.  The battles are only remarkable for their jarring graphical switch, from sprites to PS1-era polygons with the most stilted animation this side of the Pokémon anime.  Otherwise, it's attack, special move, team mate move, magic, yawn, sleep, die.

 Look!  A dragon!  That's new and different, right?

Look!  A dragon!  That's new and different, right?

If it's seeming like I'm not trying very hard, then that's remarkably apropos.  The game can't even be bothered to play its own jingle on starting up, using the default Wii U one. 

Then it makes technical blunders that games of the era it's trying to emulate would be ashamed of.  There's the way the map moves around the character, with no attempt to make it seem like the other way around.  There's the way that, whenever you do anything story-relevant, the "Quest Added!" music plays over whichever of the three overworld songs happens to be playing at the time, clashing horribly.  And the story event doesn't even appear in your quest menu.

AG does add a couple of new things to the standard JRPG template, though, so let's give Kemco a patronising round of applause for that.  The screen fading through yellow to red as the character nears a random battle is helpful, if only to avoid heart attacks when the screen loudly shatters apart for the transition. 

The "zoom in and out" functionality is less helpful.  You're meant to look for items and passageways with it, but on a decent-sized TV, you'll never need to use it to play "hunt the pixel".  The game would have done better to use that button as a run button.

These are the only things the game can be said to add to the genre, and neither is major.  On the whole, it's less an homage to the SNES era, and more a lazy rip-off that attempts to exploit people's love for retro gaming to get away with laziness. 

And because I'm not a professional reviewer, I can be lazy too.  I only played a bit over two hours, having to more or less force myself to pick up the controller every time.  Not enough time to award a score, then.  (If you're looking for one, here's a Nintendo Life review that I stole these images from, although it seems quite kind to me.)

As for a straight "buy it or not?", well - let's just say that, when this empire mole is finally fought at the end of act 3, possibly for the second time, and Mr. Spiky-Hair agonises over shovelling his brains in despite him fully deserving it, it'll be not a moment too soon.  If you must open this dud treasure chest, do so on Android for a third of the price.

 The innuendo practically writes itself.

The innuendo practically writes itself.