Orphen: Scion of Sorcery - Retroview

Woe to the one who stumbles upon this...

By: Paul Koehler

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 2
   Originality 5
   Plot 3
   Localization 3
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

5-15 hours


Orphen: Scion of Sorcery

   It's been said that the worlds of anime and console RPG's often go hand in hand. With the release of the Playstation 2 console in North America on October 26, 2000, game publisher Activision rushed the production of one of the console's first RPG's. Orphen: Scion of Sorcery may be a familiar sight to fans of the respective anime series or fans of the genre, and it may have been a cool thing to look at shortly after the console's release. Regardless, multiple elements of the game don't work well at all, and others are just plain annoying. Even after looking for some redeeming qualities in the game - few good things can be said about it.

   Orphen: Scion of Sorcery can be best described as a platform/adventure/RPG title. Stranded on the hostile and confusing environment of Chaos Island, the arrogant sorcerer Orphen and his ragtag band of companions wander through dungeons, towers, waterfalls, and caves to eventually return home. Most of the time the game is played in "Story Mode" through a semi-3rd person point of view with Orphen leading two other companions, but throughout the game (usually depending on plot scenes), other characters will take the lead as they use their abilities to clear a dungeon. Puzzle aficionados will be disappointed, as most of the puzzles serve as a nuisance at best.

   To the game's credit, exits are easy to find thanks to the game's built-in map feature. Switching perspective seems like an easy task at first, but often the camera's point-of-view moves way too fast. Also of note is the usage of items in the game - in most cases they are rarely needed. Items can be used to heal characters in the Story Mode, but they cannot be used in battles - whcih abide by a different set of rules.

Defensive Battle
That shield is your friend.  

   Battles in Orphen are infrequent, but they are a nice break from the often mundane dungeon exploring quests and plot scenes that make up the bulk of the game. During the battles Orphen and other characters get to make use of their arsenals of spells and weapons. Most of the battles are fought with a party of three, while some boss fights and other encounters are fought with a single character. Only one character can be controlled during the battle, but this is usually more than enough, as the player's character will do most of the damage in battle. Each character can assign three hotkey buttons for spells, physical attacks or reflective shields.

   Some battles will have random "healing elements" that can be targeted with a spell and when hit, they heal the entire party to full health. For those battles that lack healing elements, battles are a little more of a challenge in that they require the player to switch between attacking and defending with their reflective shield. It's a shame Orphen usually calls out the names of many of his attacks before casting them - few players can tolerate hearing "The Pinnacle of the Sun!" multiple times before hitting the mute button.

   What's worse is that Orphen's voice-actor is one of the better ones in the game, especially compared to his female apprentice, Cleo. Cleo's voice is arguably the low point of the game, and her performance is typical of horrible anime dubs. When a game encourages its players to mute the sound and listen to something else (or nothing), it falls under the category of Orphen. While it's hard to imagine the quality of the Japanese release was much better, the effort on localization is nil as well - as the game was rushed for an early release to become one of the PlayStation 2's mediocre launch titles in October 2000. Not much can be said for the music either - aside from the opening theme song, individual tracks served only as background music - no theme stood out throughout the entire game.

   Plot scenes are thrown in too many times, and for too long. Some boss battles are preceded by an unnecessarily long plot scene without the chance to save, often wasting up to ten minutes of gameplay. To the game's credit, the way the individual quests are set up is interesting. Orphen and his apprentices aid three travelers that were stranded on their shipwrecked vessel. After finishing a quest, players are granted the option to complete the game early with a bad ending or finish the remaining quests and defeat the final boss.

Thrilling?  Right...
I don't think so. Not by a long shot.  

   Aiding all three travelers unlocks the final sequence of the game, in which the mystery of Chaos Island is unravelled. While seeming like an interesting concept on the surface, many events happen leaving the player to wonder things like, "Where did that Egg come from?" or, "Who is this woman and why should I care?" This might have been alleviated if the the plot-scenes were thrown in less often, but this is not the case.

The packaging for Orphen brags about its "cinematic cut-scenes", and this comes as no surprise. The anime sequences are alright, especially the first few opening scenes - but they are placed infrequently throughout the game. During game-play, there are some decent lighting effects - and load time is non-existent. While more could have been done - as one of the first titles ever released for the PlayStation 2, it holds it own.

All the credit Orphen: Scion of Sorcery should deserve is as one of the first excuses for an RPG on the PlayStation 2, and fortunately for RPGamers, much better has come since the platform's release. During its first year of existence, the console did not have any standout RPG titles, but none have turned out quite as bad as Orphen. The game isn't difficult, and it isn't incredibly long either - all three quests and the final boss can be finished in less than 15 hours.

It's frightening to think of this as one of the first RPG's for the system. During the game, when Cleo yelled, "Orphen, you stink!" - for once that annoying girl made sense.

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