Maple Story: Girl of Fate - Import Review  

Kaede Kenpo (Maple-fu)
by Michael Baker

Less than 20 Hours
+ Improved combat controls.
+ Strong central story.
- Less narrative complexity than predecessor
- No circle pad utility.
- Too many simple fetch-quests.
- Overly grindy medal requirements.
Click here for scoring definitions 

   One of the highlights of 2013's Tokyo Game Show (for me, at least) was the demo for Maple Story: Girl of Fate, the second single-player edition of Nexon's popular MMORPG. I enjoyed it so much that I tracked down a copy of the previous DS title to help pass the time as I waited for the new game to come to Japan. When I did finally get my hands on this one, it turned out to be both more and less than I'd expected from playing the demo and its predecessor.

   Girl of Fate has a strong, if fairly straightforward, story. The titular character is an orphan raised by the kung-fu Panda Tribe somewhere in the far reaches of Maple World. Years ago, her parents died when an evil spirit called the Paraghelst ran amok through the region, and even now its name is spoken with fear and anger. So when a similar spirit erupts from her forehead after a training mission, she sets off on a journey to figure out how to get rid of the darned thing. Along the way, she has to deal with extortionist octopirates, poisoned pyramids, rampaging centaurs, and an invasion of androids. It stays light-hearted and true to the online game's esthetic throughout, but never reaches the level of complexity to be found in its predecessor's four-part intertwining story structure. While it seems like Duke, the mechanic who acts as a combat partner for the second half of the game, could be a second protagonist with his own background storyline, this possibility never materializes.

   Combat has seen some significant improvements. The game has realized that the up button exists when it comes to attacking, and a new range of whacking is enabled in the process, aided by the heroine's predilection for long, pointy weaponry. Most every region has at least one sort of field hazard or useful tool to mess around with, and as usual there are many treasure chests that require good reflexes and a bit of imagination to access. Hacking and slashing across Maple World is generally a fun experience.

Kung-fu, Cindy Sue... Kung-fu, Cindy Sue...

   What's not quite so fun is the reintroduction of standard fetch-questing, both in side-quests and frequently the main quest as well. Hunting down X number of monsters for Y number of items works in an MMORPG, but for single player games it just gets annoying. What's worse from a storytelling standpoint is that this sort of quest takes the place of more innovative mission structures. It's not that Nexon doesn't know how to make a game without an emphasis on fetch-questing — the previous game is a good example — so this feels too much like a slide backwards.

How I wanna get close to you... How I wanna get close to you...

   Outside of the main character leveling, there are also stat-boosting medals to be won for meeting certain criteria. Some of these are fulfilled automatically as the story progresses, such as by finishing off the boss of each chapter, while others (like medals for money or item acquisition) progress grindingly throughout the game. There are medals which reward enduring status ailments a certain number of times, even in cases where said ailments only occur in specific zones or against certain rare enemies, and to get hit by them forty times over takes a lot of effort. Likewise, the medals which reward defeating monsters with specific techniques aren't generally worth the trouble, since the later stages may require killing a hundred or more enemies with attacks that eat up ninety percent of the heroine's MP in one go. Even the very nice stat boosts provided by some medals cannot mitigate the fact that they're an absolute bugger to get.

   MP cost tends to be a major issue throughout the game, in fact, as it is hard (or at least dull) to push forward with basic attacks alone. The cost of special techniques rises dramatically between power tiers, often for not much benefit when it comes to damage-dealing. The only thing keeping the heroine from becoming a blue-potion addict is the fact that her hit points and magic recover a little for every five seconds she's standing still. Of course, most boss battles don't give that much breathing room, but they're supposed to be challenging. A room full of random mooks is a different story.

   Graphics-wise, this game is as beautifully cartoonish as the series has ever been. All the locales are painted in vivid pixels full of minor details, and the character portraits are very much improved over the DS game's. The spritework for the heroine and major NPCs is detailed and varied, with many active poses and facial expressions that work well no matter how the player dresses her up. Major scenes are given animated sequences which match the game's esthetic much better than the DS game's CG scenes ever did.

You're my kung-fu girl!  You're my kung-fu girl! You're my kung-fu girl! You're my kung-fu girl!

   It's hard to say how much of this game's music comes directly from the MMORPG, though a safe bet would be "most of it." Certainly, it's fun and bouncy throughout, and worth keeping the sound up, but there aren't any standout tracks to be enjoyed. It's good and serviceable, as MMO music should be.

   This was not an easy game to score. While it is indisputably a better designed game than its predecessor in many technical aspects, there are some strangely backwards steps as well. There is no support for the circle control pad, for example, even though the previous title (as a DS game) suffers no such restriction. Girl of Fate also clocks in at fifteen hours, give or take, which makes it about one-third the length of Maple Story DS, and as mentioned before its narrative structure possesses one-quarter of the amount of story. Strangely enough, Girl of Fate is the better game while simultaneously being the lesser one. As a sophomore solo effort, it just simply isn't as original or as well constructed as it could, or even should, have been. It was fun, but it's not the Maple Story game I'll be replaying in the future.

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