Summon Night: Twin Age - Reader Review  

Double Jeopardy
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
Less than 20 Hours
+ Cute and entertaining cast
+ Effective use of DS hardware
+ Nice aesthetics
+ Respectable allied AI
- Really hectic action
- Environments and interactions grow repetitive
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   Summon Night games have always been about a cute cast of characters blathering on for long periods before taking action. Summon Night: Twin Age certainly fulfills this aspect of the series, but the series' move to DS has allowed the creators to do some things differently while keeping the game recognizably tied to its predecessors. Not everything in Summon Night: Twin Age is a success, but the game as a whole is entertaining enough to warrant spending some time with.

   Taking control of the boy Aldo and the girl Reiha, the player will venture forth into numerous areas crawling with enemies. Battle is engaged in real-time, with only the Start button pausing the action. Provided the other character is onscreen, a quick tap of the stylus onto a little facial icon will switch the currently-controlled character. Aldo is melee-oriented, using either swords, spears or axes. Reiha is magic-oriented and shoots projectiles from her rod at enemies. Basic attacking is taken care of via the stylus and touch-screen, where touching a destination sends the controlled character there and touching an enemy initiates an attack. In an odd touch, Reiha's projectiles dissipate after barely a screen's distance, which makes sniping attacks nearly impossible. Before much time has passed in the game additional characters will join the team, eventually numbering a cast larger than some traditional RPGs. One of these additional characters may be onscreen at any time with Aldo and Reiha, though the current choice cannot be altered except on the world map. There are a few vague guidelines the player can give the current companion, but mostly one depends upon the (not-bad) AI to act intelligently. The player can also try to recreate monsters for use in battle - this is not terribly helpful thanks to the inability to command these monsters at all and their tendency to die quickly, but I mention it for comprehensiveness.

   Magic attacks and skills make the melee all the wilder. Whenever a character is casting a spell, she/he will be invulnerable until the cast is complete (this applies to spellcasting enemies also). The player selects one of up to twelve spells for the character being controlled to have displayed on the sides of the touch screen, taps the corresponding icon for the spell, and then taps its target. In the heat of combat this can get confusing thanks to the similarity some spell icons have, and there is an annoying tendency to have a spell cancel out if its target is destroyed by someone the player is not controlling. Aldo's spells I never had a problem with, but several of Reiha's require a line to be drawn on the screen that will promptly be subsumed by an environmental hazard. This spell type required repeated attempts at casting on multiple occasions for me, and none other did, making me believe that it is an issue with the game and not my touch screen. The final spells learned in the game, also, are so magnificent that they must be given cinematics to accompany their casting every time. These cinematics do not take more than 20 seconds to complete, but in an action-RPG such lengthy breaks in the action are very disorienting.

Channeling the spirit of Michael Jackson from the 80 Channeling the spirit of Michael Jackson from the 80's, Aldo moonwalks over his foes.

   Enemies give experience upon death, and frequently drop items which will magically be sucked onto the player-controlled character when anywhere nearby. Experience will eventually translate into a level-up with attendant statistic increases - the two main characters each have an individual experience level, while the rest of the cast is pegged to the level of the character chosen by the player at the beginning. Money is dropped sometimes by enemies, more often from breakable objects and chests. It is here that a tenet of the Swordcraft Story titles returns, in the form of materials that are located in breakable objects and littered from enemy corpses. Provided the materials are possessed, forging new equipment costs much less than outright buying it from the shop. Money is not easy to collect great quantities of but thanks to this circumvention it is never a great problem. Equipment can also be infused with scrolls that impart abilities beyond the normal attack (wind-elemental, for example). This mechanic becomes a problem when the player is confronted with the sheer number of breakable objects on every field however, each of which must be individually touched to be destroyed.

   Skills and spells are attained via Skill points that are awarded through the death of enemies. Exactly how many are awarded for which enemies is never revealed, but enough will usually be on hand to increase what the player wants. Skill increases are made annoying thanks to their being pegged to character levels (if the character has not reached the required level, too bad) and their being accessible only from the world map. All of Reiha's skills can be used at any time, but many of Aldo's are dependent upon the weapon he is currently wielding. Axe skills are useless if he has a spear equipped, for instance.

   Inventory management can be a pain thanks to its reliance upon the same interface that spells do. There are twelve slots for things to be accessed on the field at any one time. The player can break these twelve things up between items and skills, and a slight shortcut can be enabled by the other character having a separate list of twelve things to access. Items cannot be used if they are not placed into this function, and neither can spells. Later Skills enable SP replenishment, thus negating the need for some items, but until that point is reached the player will be flipping the in-battle menus around frequently. As a sidebar, boss battles deactivate the ability to reassign functions to the active menu.

This screen will become very familiar as the game passes... This screen will become very familiar as the game passes...

   Summon Night: Twin Age possesses a story that is perfectly adequate for the purpose of providing instigation to run around and kill things. The Spirits which support the land's varied peoples are being possessed by darkness, and the source of this darkness must be found and uprooted. Along the way Reiha being human and Aldo being a Summon Beast she called from his own world seven years before will become prominent, as it seems humans are not terribly popular with the Kascuza people among whom they have since lived. Atlus's translation is fine, the major problem in the story lies in the lengthy conversations the characters have regarding points that do not deserve the deliberation.

   Most of the visuals are good without being outstanding for the DS. The later spells come with big animations presumably to show off Flight Plan's sprite artistry, which they do. The biggest negative I can assign the visuals would be the massive recycling of monster sprites, which occurs constantly through the game. I grant that the presence of twenty sprites concurrently onscreen featured no slowdown however, and the visual score must be accorded kudos for this. As to the audio, this is the best Summon Night soundtrack I have heard. Admittedly the two Swordcraft Story games do not set the musical bar terribly high but the compositions here are quite catchy. Atlus's voice acting is mostly limited to battle exclamations and blurted things in conversations, but is rather good as well.

   There are plenty of small side quests during the game, but the main story will probably take about 15 hours to complete. After completing the story some story-free areas open up if the player wishes to extend the playing time, and the option of playing again as the other main character does exist. As to challenge: if one of the main characters is still standing, the other main character and the computer-controlled ally will eventually revive at full health if the player can just survive that long. The hardest part of the game is around the 33% point, though the later areas do feature lots of enemies trying to gang up simultaneously onscreen. Player skill at avoiding enemies for a lengthy time will aid immensely in obtaining victory should simple brute force fail.

   The numerous issues listed above certainly affects enjoyment of Twin Age, but even with them the game manages to be enjoyable. Combat is enjoyable for extended sessions despite its issues, and the cast is charming despite their tendencies to blather on for long stretches. This game is a long way from perfect, and any RPGamer greatly concerned with the issues detailed prior would do well to use caution. Summon Night: Twin Age manages to be fun for long stretches even so.

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