Orphen: Scion of Sorcery Review
When you think of RPGs, two words come to mind, "Final Fantasy". Every time somebody mentions the word RPG the first thing that pops into your mind would have to be "Final Fantasy". The franchise is the largest selling RPG franchise in the world. The first few Final Fantasies were bound on the NES, the next up until VI arrived on Super NES, and the next four (Tactics included) would set the standard in terms of sales, visuals, story line and everything else that an RPG would have to offer, creating the most fiercest competition on this side of the moon. With the release of the Playstation 2, many people want to know what kind of RPGs are in store for them. We all know that Final Fantasy X and XI will be arriving sometime next year, but what about something new, something that we have never heard of, and something that's very promising. THQ's Summoner could be it, but we aren't talking about that now, are we? And then there is Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, a game that is based on the anime of the same name and stars a young hero named Orphen. With Activision's might behind the title, I was expecting something good as soon as I heard about the wonderers project. With Activision's success on Tony Hawk, Spider-Man and tons of other games, I knew that they wouldn't start failing me on the PS2, or would they?
So far we've been getting a lot of incredibly good looking PS2 titles, and it doesn't seem to stop with Orphen. This game may be anime based, but the visual presentation sure doesn't feel like it. The whole game is created in many huge 3D worlds, consisting of great look texture models and some of the best looking character detail seen thus far in a game. The game looks only partially anti-aliased, it may sound weird but it's true. Some of the textures and models in the game are either smooth or jagged. The flickering isn't present either, which is really nice, but the game hides its draw-in with a fog like effect, which doesn't really cut it for me. Other than that one lackluster aspect, the graphics in Orphen are excellent, the bodies are constructed of great looking polygons and it shows. You will notice how smooth the outlining of the bodies are as soon as you boot up the game, the faces also have a good deal of detail in them, but too bad they don't move when the characters speak. There are certainly no seams between any body part, which is something that has commonly plagued 3D adventure games in the past, but not anymore. Orphen uses a mix of real-time and anime sequences to unfold the plot, real-time being used about 85% of the time. Since the visuals are so damn fine, I really couldn't care if the game has no CG sequences, I really enjoy looking at the awesome detail that is packed in Orphen's visuals.
Orphen isn't your typical turn-based RPG game, it is in-fact an Action/Adventure/RPG, and here's why. The battle engine is a mix of real-time and turn-based action. You've got four commands to choose from, Square is your block option, Triangle will summon a fire element, Circle will summon a lightning command, and X will make Orphen use his light sabre. Holding the buttons will charge up all of the moves so that the force of them is greater, and don't forget after every boss battle you will get a new summon element that can replace an older one by being equipped. The game starts out with Orphen, Cleo and Magnus in their home town, until Volcan and Dortin interfere the three's conversation and for that they get a good taste of Orphen sorcery. But since they've received a dose of Orphen's powers almost daily, they quickly get up and tell Orphen that there is a merchant city called Arvanrama, Dortin says that there is tons of money as this island and so Orphen agrees to hop on the next ship to the city. Along the way to the city, the ship hits a little bump in the road and a large monster invades, this will be your first boss battle. After the havoc ends, Cleo and Magnus seem to be lost and Orphen needs to find them. Walking around and stepping outside the ship Orphen finds Magnus with a girl named Sephy, but Cleo is nowhere to be found. After the boat stops, Orphen, Magnus and Sephy will step out on shore, and find themselves stranded on an island called Choas Island. Here is where your quest for Cleo begins, you will walk through many different areas, with traps and other obstacles that need to be avoided. All of the environments have treasure chests that thankfully don't need any special keys to open.
Orphen: Scion of Sorcery has absolutely no text dialogue and features nothing but real-time cut scenes with very good voice acting. The battles at times play out randomly without any notification, but there are also when you don't switch dimensions and just fight in full real-time, using Orphen's sabre. The battle engine is complicated at first and requires some time to get used to, but it is without a doubt the most innovative of any engine out there. Orphen has got six different characters to choose from all of which are playable and have their own story. The six characters include Orphen, Cleo, Magnus, Selphy, Mar and Zeus, the Orphen, Magnus and Selphy story is probably the most common, that is if you choose to accept Selphy as a party member on the ship. All of the atmospheres are superbly and really showcase what the PS2 can do, too bad that there isn't as much interaction with the environments as I would have liked there to be. Orphen includes over 50 action-packed event encounters such as bosses and there are 30 spells to cast. Orphen is a bit short and you may bring out around 15 hours of gameplay out of it, but that isn't so bad. The adventure is quite amusing despite what you may have heard from other critics, I liked the personality of the characters even if the story isn't the best one out there.
RPGs rarely have voice acting sequences in them, but Orphen isn't like all of the RPGs out there. The game features voice acting that is acceptably timed, with excellent audio quality. At times the voice acting timing is on time, but on rare occasions the responses are off. A good soundtrack is important in an RPG, and Orphen doesn't stumble in this category, the tracks are lively and accompany the atmosphere well, it may not be Chrono Cross or Final Fantasy IX, but the tunes are pretty good. Overall, good voice acting, nice selection of voice actors and a very enjoyable soundtrack.
Orphen's action genre comes in with the ability of jumping and attacking enemies, and the adventure comes in from the 3rd person view of the game, with the access to control your camera view through the use of the L1 and R1 buttons. Controlling your on screen characters is very easy and it will take you very little time to get used to the flow of the game. The analog sticks only support two different ways of motion; walking and running, which is a bit of a let down since this game has adventure elements in it. The Dual Shock is great though, a good solid hit is delivered to the controller, you'll be pleased with it. There are really no major complaints about the control, I would have enjoyed better analog precision, but you can't always get what you want.
Despite what you may have heard from a few other critics, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is quite an enjoyable game with an amusing plot, that will keep most simplistic gamers going. If you enjoyed a game like Alundra 2 or even Mega Man Legends, then there's a chance that you may be fond of Orphen, if you aren't so sure, rent the game and give it a try. Orphen has a lot of great features, the visuals are very impressive and very pleasing to look at, the gameplay may not be for everyone but I really enjoyed it, and the voice acting really adds a lot to the game. Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is Activision's first Playstation 2 game and is a quite good one as well, they're second game will be Sky Odysey which should be released pretty soon.
11/1/2000 Arnold Katayev