PS2 Reviews

Tsugunai: Atonement Review

Tsugunai is the story of a young mercenary named Leise, who has inadvertently angered the God of Light by removing the mystical Treasure Orb from its sacred pedestal. As punishment, the God of Light forever separates his soul from his body until he atones for his sins by helping the people of Walondia. However, without a physical body of his own, the only way to change the fates of the people is to possess them. Ultimately, Leise must confront the evil power responsible for the darkness that has befallen Walondia. Will he find redemption in time or will his soul be lost forever?

There was a time in the not too recent past when it was hard to find a good RPG for the PS2. By the time a couple of good ones were announced the whole mania surrounding Final Fantasy X set in, and it was hard for a small, solid RPG to get noticed. In the past few months we’ve seen Drakan, Forever Kingdom, Shadow Hearts, Wizardry, and others try to carve a niche for themselves as contenders for the RPG crown, but so far they’ve been met with limited success. That’s unfortunate, because a small gem like Tsugunai is going to get lost in the shuffle, and it’s not a bad game.

Blade to Rest

As with most games that are competing with FFX, Tsugunai had to show that it had the graphic worth to even sit at the table, and it does. The crisp, detailed characters are larger versions of the sprites in Summoner – they look sharp, they move fluidly, and they don’t sport the seaming and collision problems (for the most part) that some earlier PS2 RPG’s did. The special effects on spell and power-ups is spectacular, and the backgrounds aren’t bad, although they run a little dark. The lineup o enemies can be awesome – the first time you fight the Balrog you’ll be impressed – and the variety of enemies is both classic and fanciful, from manticores to kobolds to golem. Unfortunately, a bulk of the game is not spent fighting monsters but rather fulfilling quests, and the magic of slaying fearsome beasts soon wears thin.

The sounds don’t do a bad job of keeping the game moving. A haunting, eerie score drifts through the game, enchanting and subtle, but it is undercut with some humor and lots of dramatic tension. When fighting, the music drifts up to a heroic march, and when you’re in town, the score settles down to a nice background drone. Unfortunately, the music has to be the workhorse because there’s no voice acting, which the game could have desperately used to break up the monotony. Supplementing the score are a to of sound effects, all of which are well done, but again, the monsters don’t really differ in their approach, much like the NPC’s in the game, and that would have helped the sound rating out.

A Talky Walkie

Another aspect of RPG’s that have changed dramatically are the controls and the alternate fighting effects. Shadowhearts used a concentric ring that needed correct timing and precise button-pressing, and Forever Kingdom used a combo system that implemented the same. Tsugunai uses a guard system that lets you guard against attacks in four different ways – standard, back step, Strage guard (which builds up a meter for a more powerful attack), and counter. These guards have to be timed correctly, but when used right make the battles more interesting. When not combating, the game is an exercise in tedium. The majority of the game is spent fulfilling quests, and although some require fighting, most are just courier runs for information. What slows the game down even more is that the screen load time between each area of the town is slow and meddlesome – you’re just itching to slash some monsters after only a half an hour of questing.

In the end, Tsugunai is a good looking game with a couple of flaws that you can easily overcome. It’s not the deepest game, nor is it lengthy by any means, but it is fun, despite the long periods of walking and talking. You won’t regret playing Tsugunai, and it moves faster and has more action than Wizardry, but is less cumbersome and complex than Summoner, resting squarely in the middle. It also sports a great story that doesn’t get too involved in itself. What more could you want from an RPG?

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