The Geek Refuge

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

---==Kingdom of Paradise==---

Kingdom of Paradise. Ever hear of this game? Me either, until someone praised it on an internet forum that I frequent. I was jonesing for some portable RPG action, so I decided to give it a try. When I went to purchase the game, I was struck by how ugly the box art was. Granted, snazzy covers do not a great game make; by the same token, a God-awful cheesy front cover does not always mean that the game inside sucks. On the contrary, there just might be a gem inside that crappy-looking game case you pass by every time you visit the local game store. Thus was the case with our game of interest today, Kingdom of Paradise.

The theme of the game is derived from Eastern mythology, and although it is not very accurate historically, the story is rather interesting. In the land of Ouka, there are five clans: the Seiryu and Suzaku (who comprise the Righteous group), the Byakko and Genbu (who make the Ruthless group), and the Kirin, who choose to eschew these labels. The Kirin lords have decided to steal each clan's sacred sword, so that they might control the entire land. Our hero, Shinbu, will try to unite the Righteous and Ruthless against the Kirin.

The concept of blending martial arts action with an RPG sounds intriguing, and in practice, it turns out to be just that. You collect Kenpu tiles, which are basically pieces of a scroll that give you an attack move. You place these tiles into a pre-ordained order onto a Bugei Scroll, and it is in this way that you begin to build your Bruce Lee resume of butt-kicking. While most of the scrolls confine you to the order of tiles that they dictate, there are five freestyle scrolls that allow you to design your own attack combinations. It is here that the fun begins. When you obtain your first freestyle scroll, it only allows you to place two tiles in it; depending on which ones you choose though, those two can be far more powerful than any of the other scrolls you have. (Try this combination: Kirin Form 10, then Genbu Form 21. If you have these two tiles linked together, you can do decent damage to your opponents, then dart away out of the carnage without taking much damage yourself. It’s like buttah.)

There are no Final Fantasy-like CG scenes in the game, as most cut scenes use the in-game graphics. This is actually quite nice, since it helps to preserve the continuity of the story. Voice-overs are used for the majority of the game, and I think the voices are pretty on-point. No weird quasi-retarded Dragonball Z stuff here (Thank the good Lord).

The combat is where I really fell in love with this title. Enemies appear out of nowhere, sometimes 8-10 at a time, and I always looked forward to the next fight. Imagine, if you will, the following cornucopia of gaming elements: Dynasty Warriors hacking-and-slashing, upgradeable magic with great effects, constant leveling of your scrolls, magic, skills, and stats, and loot collection from every foe you slay. This jumble of gaming utopia works incredibly well together. The best part of that there are plenty of battles to fight, so you will have an abundance of opportunities to experiment with scroll combos, upgrade your skills, and satiate your rampant blood thirst. (What, is that just me? It can’t be, judging from the sales of games like GTA!)

Is there a downside to this game? Sure, every game has at least one pitfall. Here, I would have to say that KoP's weakness is it's difficulty. Once you upgrade your freestyle scrolls enough, and discover a really good combo, battle loses some of it's challenge. And then, at other times, boss battles are ridiculously tough. But again, once you nail down your strategy, it becomes somewhat of a cake walk. Not that it ever loses it's appeal. but still it can get a tad monotonous at times. At least those easy battles are still thirty-six craploads worth of fun!

But, at the end of the day, it is the little things about Kingdom of Paradise that really hooked me. The menus are intuitive and good-looking, and you can save at any time you want. When you are watching a cut scene, you can skip to the next line of the conversation with a click, without skipping the entire scene. The scenes themselves are short and to the point, so you aren’t looking at another Xenosaga snoozer here. Another great point in the game is the scenery; the vibrant colors and multi-layered environments are a feast for the eyes.

I really can’t say enough good things about this game. It is fun and enjoyable, deep but yet not overly complicated, and designed just as an RPG should be for a portable system. I think you can grab a used copy for around $25, and it is more than worth it. I highly recommend this game to any action fans, RPG fans, and martial arts fans. Good times. Come to think of it, I think I’ll go play it now…..tremble before me, puny Kirin lords, for your death is upon you!

9.5 out of 10


Blogger Ross said...

Sounds good, and yes, I always thought that box art was quite awful. I was browsing the game section with my brother and we thought it was hilariously bad...

However, if the games good, then it doesent really matter as much. However, I'm always on the look out for bad box art for my shamefully bad boxart of the moment posts...

5:47 PM  
Blogger Ender said...

Well, this one would qualify. Looks gay as hell....on the plus side though, the cover is reversible, and it is very beautiful on the other side. You should check it out the next time you can. And, if you are a PSP-owner, do yourself a favor and grab this one. Really, really worth it.

8:56 PM  
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12:05 PM  

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