The Bard's Tale (PS2) - Review  

Naughty or Nice?
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

15-25 Hours


Rating definitions 

   A princess has been locked up at the top of a massive tower, and she has searched all over the world for a chosen one that can set her free. At long last, she has found her champion in the form of a bard, but he's hardly what most would call a hero. This particular bard has only himself in mind and agrees to help save the princess after being promised a rather hefty reward. Thus begins The Bard's Tale, a comedy, and a parody of other RPGs.

   Unfortunately for The Bard, countless enemies will get between him and his reward. The Bard can learn several different styles of fighting, like flail combat or dual wielding, but most of his power comes from his magical songs. These songs can summon powerful allies that help him in various ways, such as fighting alongside him, healing him, or stunning foes. While they still manage to wander into a few too many traps, the AI is, overall, well above average. For a high price, it is also possible for him to call forth mighty summons that will either fully heal him and his companions or ravage nearby enemies. Sadly, despite all of these interesting additions, most battles end up consisting primarily of hack and slash, with the notable exception of boss fights.

If only all battles were this exciting If only all battles were this exciting

   Though there are three difficulties, the primary difference between them is in The Bard's starting strength. Unfortunately, this only marginally increases the challenge due to the fact that it's quite easy to max out several of The Bard's statistics on any difficulty level. Additionally, he can call one of his mighty summons for only a few magic stones whenever danger strikes, so the majority of the game is quite easy on any difficulty.

   While battles may be easy for the most part, a good interface helps too. Shortcuts are plentiful, and, once the player gets used to them, they make switching weapons and summoning a breeze. The only part of the interface that is really lacking is The Bard's habit of targeting the wrong enemy with the bow and arrow.

   The Bard's Tale is a remake of an older game by the same title. Due to the fact that it mirrors the basic setup of countless other RPGs, much of the game isn't very original. Where it makes up for this is in its humor. Dancing undead, arguing with the narrator, and numerous other jokes are surprisingly rare elsewhere and help the game stand out in the crowd.

Believe it or not, the dog is one of his most useful companions Believe it or not, the dog is one of his most useful companions

   Another part of the game hurt by mirroring other RPGs for the sake of parody is the storyline. Climbing several towers and fighting powerful guardians is nothing new, and this basic setup isn't built on very much at all. Of course, there are a few twists, such as the player's ability to choose if The Bard will force himself to be nice or let loose and be rude or even downright crude. While this has minimal impact on the story, certain extra rewards can be earned if a wise choice is made. It also makes a good setup for some jokes.

   As the story is very simplistic, it should come as little surprise that the game isn't particularly long, either. It will only take about fifteen hours for the average gamer to finish the main quest, though there are numerous side areas and quests that can tack on another ten.

   The background music, for the most part, gets old pretty quickly. There are some good songs here and there, complete with a bouncy ball so players can sing along, but they are few and far between. The sound quality, on the other hand, is quite good, and the voice acting of the major characters, especially on the part of The Bard, is excellent. He is very good at pulling off punchlines and coveying The Bard's emotion.

   The visuals are also good, though they don't really stand out in today's market. Many of the details go to waste due to the overhead camera that spends most of its timed zoomed out. There are a few movies, but most of them are nothing like the FMVs that its competitors have.

   All things considered, The Bard's Tale is a relatively average game. The gameplay is decent, though somewhat dry at times, and the storyline isn't anything special. Luckily, it makes those sacrifices in order to set up jokes and parody other games. Thus, the real reason to play the game is the comedy and excellent voice acting on the part of The Bard. While there are better games out there, The Bard's Tale is still a decent choice for those looking for a humorous parody of other RPGs.

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