You know, one of the reasons the role-playing genre often struggles on the sales charts when facing stiff competition from the action/adventure category is due to the genre’s inherent inaccessibility. It’s not necessarily the complexity of the controls, which is rarely an obstacle, but it’s more about the intricacy of the in-depth character advancement and/or item creation systems. Many have wanted to try RPGs in the past but they're usually concerned about this depth that isn’t familiar; hence, they often pass on the chance to immerse themselves in a unique category of gaming. This is why we need titles like Adventures to Go, which may be best described as a family-friendly approach to role-playing; an “RPG-Light,” if you will. Developed by Global A Entertainment and set to release this fall on the PSP, this is the game teens may want to play if they wish to acquaint themselves with standard role-playing concepts. Provided we have a solid foundation for the gameplay and an engaging storyline, this is the kind of introductory title that could lead to a lifelong love affair with RPGs.
You will step into the shoes of Finn, who simply wishes to earn some coin and become a success. There will only be one town that serves as the central hub for your adventure – perhaps it’s best to consider the original Diablo in this respect – and the town map is old-fashioned 2D. “Adventures to Go” is actually a spot where mercenaries pick up gigs, and according to a brief E3 hands-on session by IGN, we’ll also be able to create our own quests so as to achieve certain objectives. Essentially, you will wander around and gather hints and objectives by talking to the townspeople; if someone wants a particular item, you head to the Adventures guild to set up a quest that might yield that desired item. The interesting twist to this is that you’re allowed to choose the terrains and even the enemies you wish to tackle in your quest; you pay more to fight the tough opponents, but of course, it’s a risk. If you fail the quest, you’ve lost your investment and the person who needs the item in question goes wanting. But if you think you’re strong enough, taking the risk can yield big dividends…
When you head out, you’ll enjoy a 3D backdrop and you will encounter random battles, which is a long-standing tradition in the RPG genre. The battle screen and exploration map aren’t all that different; in fact, when entering battle, the camera simply zooms into the action and encloses a small combat grid (ala Final Fantasy Tactics). At this point, the turn-based battle will begin and in order to perform any given action, you will expend Action Points (AP). This is familiar territory for fans of the genre, but for the uninitiated, it’s something very new and it will introduce them to fresh ideas like strategy and timing. Those who are in the know realize you have to allocate your AP wisely, lest you run out before the battle is complete. And of course, there’s more to think about than merely moving your character and attacking; one must also consider other actions, like performing special skills and abilities, or using magic and items. Most everything uses AP, and it’d be interesting if Finn and other party mates can come together to perform combination moves (like in the recent Disgaea titles). We’ll have to wait and see about that.
Adventures to Go isn’t really designed for the hardcore, but it may be perfect for those who have never played an RPG and would like to broaden their horizons. If they get really into it, the good news is that the game could yield up to 60 hours of gameplay. If they don’t take to the idea, then at least they can say they gave it a try and don’t have to hide behind the, “meh, looks too complicated” excuse when someone asks if they’ve ever tried RPGs before. And who knows? Maybe it’ll really hook you and you’ll embark on a mission to locate as many RPGs and strategy/RPGs as you can find; if that happens, here’s some advice: check handhelds and the PS2 first. The pickings are relatively slim on the new consoles thus far, although there are several nice options and many more are coming down the pike. It’s just that games like this can be difficult to find these days, and it almost seems a few years late…if they wanted to make a little family-friendly RPG, they probably should’ve done it back in the PS1 days. Then maybe we would’ve had more fans.
6/29/2009 Ben Dutka