Although the RPG genre has finally started to hit its stride for the PlayStation 3, we’ve always been able to count on a continual influx of quality JRPGs on the PSP over the past few years. This is why whenever another looms on the horizon, the role-playing lover that still thrives within me needs to know more. The latest is from developers Kogado Software and Premium Agency and will be published by BlazBlue provider Aksys Games. It holds the strangely appealing name of Mimana Iyar Chronicles – sort of rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? – and old-school fans will really appreciate the top-down 3D adventure featuring classic 2D combat. This reminds me of a game like Star Ocean: The 2nd Story, where you would explore in a 3D world but upon entering a random encounter, the scene would shift to a battle where allies and foes would rush each other across the screen in semi-real-time. Okay, the fighting was in 3D, too (it’s in 2D in Chronicles), but you get the point.
In looking over a recent hands-on preview at IGN, it seems apparent that Mimana Iyar will play like so many traditional RPGs of the past: leveling up is a major priority, especially at the start, when even the weakest enemies can pose a significant challenge. Once in battle after triggering a random encounter, you can target any given foe by pressing Square with your chosen character, and then attack with the X button or choose a special attack with the d-pad. You can also adopt a defensive stance by holding Circle to block. The real-time feel of this style comes into play when you successfully time your combination strikes, which will result in the main character, Crais, adopting a golden color that guarantees critical hits. This “power” mode is known as “Just Attack” and you can’t just get it by mashing buttons. As for extra depth, you can attach elemental attributes to your weapons and you can also expect a decent magic mechanic that is bound to implement more strategy into every battle. It’s unlikely you’ll be overwhelmed, though; this seems like pretty standard stuff.
Obviously, while you are in direct control of one character, the AI will control your teammates. Therefore, you’ll want to establish a stratagem before combat begins by selecting specific orders for ally tactics. Although this one won’t be as technically advanced as a game like Dragon Age: Origins or White Knight Chronicles, if you’ve played either, you know all about AI tactics. You can give your characters multiple orders and the top order will always take priority; if the situation doesn’t call for that tactic, the ally will automatically move to whatever is next on the list. For tougher battles, you’ll likely want to prioritize healing, magic and powerful abilities, while you’ll want to be more conservative when facing off against weaker enemies. You even have the option of telling your characters which targets to choose, and you’re also able to select a starting position for your characters. A pre-battle grid will give you the opportunity to organize your team accordingly, which sounds like it’ll be a much-appreciated element.
Even so, despite any available depth, you will still need some real-time reactions in order to excel in combat. IGN talks about one small issue when it comes to hacking ‘n slashing; it has to do with a character’s recovery time after unleashing a combination attack. It seems that after going nuts with some strikes, you will leave yourself open for some computer strikes but there is another option: there’s a Cancel Skill option in your menu and if you access it, you can avoid that “cooldown” problem. Outside of this, the visuals aren’t as flashy as something by Square-Enix, perhaps, but for fans of this genre, they’ll do nicely. There’s guaranteed to be plenty of clichéd JRPG goodness in terms of certain characters, but we’re certainly hoping for a solid storyline to go along with what should be an intriguing combat system. Supposedly, Mimana Iyar Chronicles is set to launch next month here in the US; it’ll be available in Japan on February 26.
2/15/2010 Ben Dutka