A lot of Xbox owners often claim that they get the short end of the stick when it comes to Japanese RPGs, what with Final Fantasy XVI being penned as a PlayStation 5 title and Nintendo fans getting games like Xenoblade Chronicles. Still, Xbox owners did eventually get Kingdom Hearts and soon Dragon Quest, and all while a steady stream of indie Japanese RPGs arrived on the digital storefront to provide plenty of choices. Admittedly, these choices are usually less than stellar, with most of the release cycle dominated by the legendary KEMCO.
Here at TheXboxHub we (well, it’s usually just our one KEMCO man really) take pride in reviewing almost all of these titles, and to be honest most of them try to achieve beyond just the bare minimum; some of these, dare we say, are actually even decent. The same, however, just can’t be said for Tears of Avia by CooCooSqueaky Games. It is a surprisingly underwhelming release considering the otherwise solid track record of publisher PQube.
Most indie JRPG releases scrape by, doing the bare minimum; some manage to border on decent, but Tears of Avia largely underachieves even when attempting to do the absolute minimum. From the outset the production feels unfinished, and the uninspired character designs feel like they come out of a manga tutorial book (for beginners no less). There is some semblance of a theme and setting here, but it all feels like a mix-and-match of every fantasy stereotype and trope imaginable, thrown into a storyline that feels like the Groundhog Day of JRPG storytelling. It’s all so familiar that it’s difficult to really care.
There’s a case of generic characters when you get underway; each hero offering their respective campaign in an intertwined tale (not that it is ambitious). Once you pick a hero the game throws you into a tactical strategy RPG experience with little in the way of world-building or any real presentation of substance. There is some semblance of production values here, as at least it looked like they budged just enough for limited Japanese voice acting.
As a tactical strategy RPG there is some semblance of a functional game in Tears of Avia, but the combat system and the progression of battles offer very little engagement. Even navigating the battle menu using the Xbox controller can feel quite cumbersome. There are far better options on Xbox, even in strategy RPGs – in fact you are better off playing one of the Shining Force games in a Mega Drive collection if you’re after something with genuine strategic depth.
Visually, the game looks incomplete and dated – it just doesn’t offer or present anything to hold a player’s attention. The character models are weak and even the map design feels like a template placeholder that could have used far more development time. That’s the gist of it really: Tears of Avia feels like something which had only just begun development before someone decided to call it a day and release it.
Tears of Avia is largely built and paced around its battles, where the town segments are pointlessly dry and the story segments match, so much so that players will beg for these sequences to skim by. The combat segments are really the only portions of the game which feel like they went through some development time, as the rest of the gameplay portions come across like they were just slapped on to add superficial filler.
Tears of Avia on Xbox One is the very definition of an underachiever. It feels unfinished in almost every regard, and the combat is functional at best but offers nothing compelling in terms of gameplay variety or depth. There is a tactical turn-based RPG at the core, but nothing about it is designed to reel a player in or make them want to stick around. Tears of Avia will bring players tears of boredom even in its best moments. For publisher PQube, they’ve almost always been on the mark with their titles, but this time it feels like they got a little lazy with their quality curation.