In the grand scheme of things, it seems to have been a while since the last KEMCO retro-styled JRPG, but in case you were on tenterhooks, the wait is finally over. Alphadia Genesis is a port of a Steam title that was released way back in 2015, which was itself a port of a mobile game, so maybe “new” is not the word we’re looking for here. Still, I love a JRPG, and so set off with a light heart and a whistle on my lips into the world of Lagoon to see what was what.
The story of Alphadia Genesis involves Frey, a member of the Guild that we have seen in other games, his sister Aurra and a clone they find, that they call Enah. Now, the whole premise of the game is that clones were built to be used in war, and in the Energi War that followed devastation was caused on such a scale that the kingdoms of Archleign (where Frey et al come from) and the Kingdom of Ghalzabine (where another two playable characters, Corone and Walter, reside) were forced to make peace, lest the world be destroyed. As you can imagine, this may not have sat as well with some factions as others. The last playable character, Grande, is a big muscly man you meet along the way, and doesn’t side with either kingdom. After this war, clones were not allowed to be used as weapons any more, most returning to simple lives as companions or servants. However, a rich man has been killed in a nearby city, possibly by a shadowy group that may have learned how to hard reset clones, allowing them to be reprogrammed and turned against their former masters. Obviously, this is not a good thing, and before a wave of anti-clone sentiment can sweep the land, our heroes have to investigate the murder and get to the bottom of what happened. As you’d expect, there are twists and turns aplenty, and with tensions inside the team as well as in society rising, the pressure is on to sort the mess once and for all.
Alphadia Genesis manages to be both really old skool and also have a little bit of cutting edge charm (for 2015) about it. The vast majority of the game is spent in a 2D world, with the usual KEMCO quality sprites wandering about the place, exploring. Finding secret passages, investigating switches and so on – it’s pretty much KEMCO business as usual. However, there are two little twists that help separate this game from its stablemates. Firstly, the main characters are actually voiced. Now, it isn’t all the time, and it’s only in Japanese, but the effect of hearing the characters talk to each other does actually help you to care about what happens to them. Well, except for Walter. But enough said about him the better.
The second big departure from the mould of KEMCO is in the way the battles are played out, in a kind of 3D arena. Alphadia Genesis moves to an isometric viewpoint, with the characters and enemies transforming into 3D sprites, with decent battle animation. The enemies are however all pretty much the same as we’ve seen before in these games – knights, soldiers and slimes, while the bosses look suitably menacing whenever you encounter them. The music is stirring too, especially in battle. Still, winning fights gains EXP, as you’d expect, and with lots of magic to learn, depending on which of three types of rings the characters are equipped with, this comes in handy. These rings deal with Fire, Water or Light, and come in three strengths, allowing you to learn magic spells for each element up to level 25, 50 and 75 respectively. Add these rings to the various new weapons and bits of armour that can be purchased in each town and you can see there is a lot of depth to go at.
The gameplay is pretty much as you’d expect though, despite the new perspective in battle. It all plays out as a turn-based JRPG, with each character able to attack, use magic, use skills or utilise items with each turn. The more you fight, the more levels you gain, and the better the skills you have at your disposal, with these then used to help you defeat stronger enemies and so on and so forth. You know, as in every RPG ever.
But it is here where one of my first issues with Alphadia Genesis occurs. It is just like every other KEMCO game ever created, and there is very little about it that feels new. The same hilarious misunderstandings about who fancies who? Check! The same unfunny laboured jokes about how men and women can’t ever just be companions? Check! It really does feel like most of the KEMCO games I’ve played before, that’s for sure.
Another issue I have is with the levelling up system. You see, the amount of time you have to spend to level your guys up is almost too long. No, scratch that, it is too long, with levels taking 3000 EXP to increase. When you consider each fight rewards around 100 EXP, you can see that grinding will need to take hold; grinding is very boring indeed. With the insane difficulty spikes that the game throws at you, the whole process is daunting and just not very much fun. As an example, in an area called the Nessi Trench I had breezed through the whole dungeon until the last boss, who proceeded to one shot my main character in the first turn as the rest of the team collapsed like a house of cards. I had to go away, grind an extra five levels above where I was before just so I could even stand an attack, let alone take him down. And when you then add in the usual KEMCO traits of difficulty walking in a diagonal line and fitting through small gaps, as well as getting hung up on corners, you can see that Alphadia Genesis is not one of their better offerings.
In fact Alphadia Genesis on Xbox One is a game of two halves, and I don’t just mean the 2D/3D interface. One the one hand, the story is good, and does have certain echoes in the events that are playing out in the world today – you will want to see it to its conclusion. On the other hand, the grind is very real, and while the first time you use a skill that you’ve earned brings about some novelty, the rest of the time it’s very much just “some RPG”. A lack of new ideas and new enemies make things a chore to play, even more so when you consider the amount of fights you need to take part in to level up. There are much better JRPGs available, and even better KEMCO JRPGs out there to play, and I’d recommend you check those out over Alphadia Genesis.