Kartia - Review

Greatest Rock-Paper-Scissors Game, Ever

By: Red Raven

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 7
   Plot 9
   Localization 7
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

20 hours x2



   As a frequent player of tactical RPGs, one starts to expect certain negative staples of the genre to reappear often. Tactical RPGs often feature a bad or non-existent plot, poor character interaction, complicated elemental affinities, lots of useless statistics, and a frequently unintelligible translation. Kartia not only has none of those, but also more importantly, succeeds in overcoming all of them.

   While other strategy games were thinking "bigger, clunkier, more confusing", Kartia actually stripped down tactical battle gameplay to its very core: the simple game of Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS). Battles take place on rather large isometric grids, that feature surprisingly highly deformable terrain. Need to cross a river? Simply cast an ice spell on it, and walk across. Need to reach a guard tower? Simply cast one of the many earthquake spells until you raise the terrain up to your liking. It is a fantastic change of pace to be able to actually manipulate the environment with your magic spells.

   Anyway, the battles take place between several human characters and frequently large amounts of Phantoms, your pawns in the battle so to speak. Phantoms come in three flavors, Common, Doll, and Shadow, conveniently corresponding to RPS rules. Over the course of the game you get more powerful Phantoms to play with, but the major factor is their RPS status. Each character in the battle also has only 100 hit points, yes, including the last boss. Equipment is pretty simplified as well, as you can only equip a sword, spear, or ax. Sword is best at level ground, spear best attack from below, ax from above. One twist in gameplay is that you must keep the human characters alive. Once you get the hang of the system, the battles all boil down to resource management (Kartia cards, used to create Phantoms, weapons, spells, are in limited supply) and simple strategy.

Eat my...uh...four beaming-electric-guys-of-death!
Eat my...uh...four beaming-electric-guys-of-death!  

   What are, thankfully, not simple are the two separate storylines. You choose at the beginning whether you want to follow Toxa or Lacryma, and they split up and only come together in the middle and end. What goes on in the meantime is probably the best example of great character interaction in a RPG, ever. Each individual member is vocal in their own goals and follow their own agendas, but best of all, they are truly dynamic. The characters change over the course of the adventure, come to grips with their past and their present, and it is all done is a very believable manner, much better than any current RPG I can think of. The beautiful character portraits done by Amano himself supplement this great interaction nicely.

Kefka and Leo make cameo appearances throughout the game.
Kefka and Leo make cameo appearances throughout the game.  

   Graphics in the game, however, are not quite so beautiful; they are really rather simple considering the age of the Playstation. Nothing is repulsive, but there is no eye-candy in this game. Music is essentially the same, nothing too annoying yet nothing sweeping either. Both audio and visual sections are just enough to please through the 40 hours you need to finish both scenarios. It is very likely that you will want to play this game through at least once more, to go through the second storyline, at the very least.

   Kartia, while completely linear (think Front Mission 3 linear), is a giant paradigm shift away from typical tactical RPGs. While it still falls short the grandeur of Final Fantasy Tactics, it should not be compared in that manner anyway; they handle the genre much too differently. Kartia cuts down on the unnecessarily complex battle system constantly present in this genre, and supplements that change with a greater emphasis on simple fun and great character interaction. If you are an Atlus fan, or just wanting a fun tactical RPG to tide you over for a while, then Kartia is definitely for you.


Notice it says, 'read', not play...
Notice it says, 'read', not play...  

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