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Biggest Letdown - Stranger of Sword City

Biggest Letdown

Second Place

Third Place

Stranger of Sword City flaunts its non-casual status in the player's face. It's fine to be a retro-styled dungeon crawler, but SOSC is something that glorifies the punishing aspects of the genre that kept it from getting many fans for years. At first its labyrinths are interesting to explore, but by the fifteenth time of traipsing around them in pursuit of drops from enemies their charms have long evaporated.

This is the type of game that cheerfully kills off characters permanently if the enemies are too strong, and that buries its interesting aspects in layers of tedium and pain. It might have been a nice idea to make all stronger equipment only obtainable by ambushing enemies and hoping they drop something good, but it takes the usual process of shopping and just increases the time required fifty-fold. Sure there are classes that can be changed, but don't expect anything resembling user-friendliness in the process. Someone thought it was a good idea to make every single item that is obtained in a dungeon be identified when leaving the place one at a time, a mechanic that becomes intolerable long before the game is even halfway done.

There are plenty of dungeon crawlers out there now, and many of them don't take joy in making players waste time and be painfully killed off through circumstances that aren't challenging in a fun way. Give one of them a try instead of this.

We've all watched the videos and seen the compiled lists posted online that count down the best RPGs of all time. It's no accident that many of these lists agree on certain titles that simply must be in every RPGamer's library. Among these games, Squaresoft's Chrono Trigger holds a soft spot in the hearts of many. It's little surprise, then, that Tokyo RPG Factory's I Am Setsuna had quite the shoes to fill. All the signs seemed to point to it being a momentous game. Show floor buzz at E3, especially, was very encouraging, with many being excited by its many nods, down to the reminiscent battle system, to Chrono Trigger. I Am Setsuna seemed poised to conquer the RPG world. And then we played it.

What had promised to be an emotional story backed up by somber visuals very much lacked that all-important punch. The combat system, a selling point for many casual observers, did satisfy with its combination attacks that let characters attack together in unique, powerful ways. However, this too was bogged down by too many tough-to-master and inconsequential options and nuances, and simply wasn't quite enough to elevate the other parts of the game that were simply lacking.

On paper, one would think that combining the RPG juggernaut that is Final Fantasy with the standard bearer of the Japanese action farming genre Monster Hunter would be a recipe for an amazing game. Unfortunately, this unholy union falls flat on its face in Final Fantasy Explorers. The game more resembles Square's earlier foray into action games such as Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time than Monster Hunter, with the only vestiges of the latter being the constant need to farm for materials and skills. The skill system is rather interesting, using random procs to create new forms and effects to the series staple spells. However, everything from the job system to the equipment to the missions to the locations are bland and uninspired. If you were looking for a fantasy-themed Monster Hunter-style game, look elsewhere, as Final Fantasy Explorers is nothing but a letdown.

by Mike Moehnke, Pascal Tekaia, Shannon Harle

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