So I’m in GameStop the other day, and one of the employees there asks me if I’ve heard of Eternal Poison for the PS2. He knows I’m into RPGs and the like; otherwise, I’m relatively certain he wouldn’t have bothered to mention it. After all, it’s not going to be a major blockbuster and will only appeal to the hardcore RPG/strategy enthusiasts. However, I went home and began to look up some information on the latest Atlus effort (developed by Flight-Plan), and as it turns out, we could be looking at yet another insanely deep and intricate title for the niche fans. Granted, the title is a tad confusing – maybe it’s a translation thing – but we’re intrigued by the info we found, and if things go well, we’ll want to squeeze it in when it releases next week. Yeah, Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 are bound to be the centers of attention this month, but there are plenty of loyal Atlus followers out there who love franchises like Disgaea, and for them, Eternal Poison could be just the ticket.
From what we know, there are two main characters in the game: Thage and Raki, who must continue to battle the Majin (also known as demons) throughout the course of their adventure. Now, the battle system provides a bit of a twist; it’s a hybrid combination of strategy and turn-based RPG elements. When you enter combat, you will be brought to a separate screen where you’ll move your units across a traditional turn-based grid, which is most reminiscent of a Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics. Exactly how we encounter these battles, though, remains a little uncertain… Anyway, as you might expect, you can move one character and execute one action per turn, which is pretty standard stuff, although the action should be a tad more dynamic. For example, if you decide to utilize a special attack of some kind, the view switches from the isometric all-encompassing camera angle to an up-close-and-personal battle animation. Now, IGN tells us that during their hands-on time with the game, these animations took an absurdly long time to load, but you can turn them off if you wish.
As another addition to a tried-and-true turn-based strategy formula, Flight-Plan allows you to capture a Majin if you’re savvy enough. Basically, if you knock the enemy’s hit points down to a certain point, you will push it past its Overkill limit and the foe will be placed in a “bound state.” Once you have the creature in this position, you can use your next turn to capture it. Obviously, you should be able to use your freshly captured creatures in battle, much like you could do in the original FFT with the Invite Mediator skill. On the other hand – and this is classic Atlus – you can also sacrifice any captured Majin to power up a permanent human character, which reminds us of the capturing, breeding, and training of demons in the Shin Megami Tensei series. And lastly, here’s another twist to the gameplay style you may know so well: typically, when you decide to pass on a unit’s turn, that’s it. But in Eternal Poison, you can have allies command another character to move/act with a special command. In other words, Raki can choose to wait, but Thage can order her to move later on during his turn. Possibilities abound!
At the start of the game, you will be able to select one of three possible storylines to play through, which takes us back to the days of Saga Frontier, where there were seven different characters, each with a different storyline. We’re not sure how the three stories overlap – or if they overlap at all – but just having the option is a definite bonus. We imagine the plot itself should be relatively intriguing; the kingdom of Valdia has to ward off the attack of the demon world, Besek, and your help is needed. Of course, there’s always a damsel in distress (the princess of Valdia), and you will likely have to battle all sorts of nasty demon hordes on your quest to save her highness. We do have more questions in regards to the gameplay, though, because we’re wondering how many allies and foes will be on the field at once, and whether or not combination attacks are possible. There must be an ulterior motive to giving a character the option to command another unit to attack, right? Imagine holding off and gearing up for a massive assault, which would only add to the overall strategy factor.
Eternal Poison should prove that the PS2 isn’t quite dead yet, and it most definitely proves that certain Japanese publishers are still very active in last-gen development. A game like this doesn’t require flashy graphics or a glitzy, glamorous presentation; all it needs is deep and compelling gameplay, and that’s exactly what we should get. Strategy/RPGs are perfect for passing the time on nasty winter days, and those days are fast approaching…
11/6/2008 Ben Dutka