TGS 2008: Marvelous Unveils Impressive RPG Lineup
10.11.08 - 12:10 AM

For RPG fans, not many booths have as many intriguing titles on the horizon as Marvelous Entertainment's massive display in hall four. With six role-playing games in development and most of them playable at the show, I spent a good hour and half just getting a taste of where the Odin Sphere publisher is taking us next.

Easily the most anticipated title of the lot, Vanillaware's Muramasa: The Demon Blade had a wait time of over an hour on day two even with the severely reduced attendance of a press day. I snuck in during the early morning and got a solid fifteen minutes of game time. The game did not disappoint.

On the Wii, Muramasa: The Demon Blade is sharper and more colorful than Odin Sphere. The combat is also faster and more technical, though not terribly difficult from what I played. The TGS demo did not include any character upgrading or leveling thus it felt purely like an action game. You can switch swords on the fly and chain regular attacks with a variety of gorgeous special moves. Odin Sphere fans will likely prefer the classic controller set-up to the Wii remote, as it allows for more precise control. Simply put, the game is a blast, and the boss battles are epic and fun. Thankfully the game comes out in 2008 in Japan, while my friends in the west will have to wait until an unspecified time in 2009.

Arc Rise Fantasia for Nintendo Wii was one of the most surprisingly good games I sampled during the entire convention. The graphics and music are adequate, but that is not what will grab you. It is the combat that sets this game apart from so many other RPG titles out there. By allocating AP points among team members, you have the freedom to focus on one or more characters at a time, creating awesome single-character combos and team special attacks with fantastic effects. Magic and special attacks are very pretty, and the use of distance and position to complicate attack combos and defense adds depth to the traditional turn-based experience. The release date is still not set, though it will come out some time in 2009 in Japan and North America with no confirmed European release.

The last Wii title from Marvelous that I got to enjoy was Rune Factory Frontier I will admit up front, I am not familiar with the Harvest Moon series and really cannot say what has been added or changed. It is not very impressive graphically, but the controls are fairly intuitive and the sword combat with animal companions aiding you is jolly good fun with the Wii remote. Rune Factory Frontier comes out on November 27th in Japan with no announced release date for North America or Europe.

Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga had a video presentation. The displays showed some intense action scenes and a good variety of monsters. The characters and monsters were, unfortunately, none too impressive, as they looked like early sixth-generation models without much detail. The game will not be released until next year in Japan, so there may be some changes before we see it in the western world.

Little King’s Story was not playable, in spite of its nearly finished development. This Wii title combines life/god simulation, traditional role-playing, and real time strategy. As a young boy named Corobo with a magic crown, your task is to grow your kingdom and make your subjects love you as you deal with the complexities of governance and relations with other kingdoms. The press kit information confirmed the game's November release date in Japan and first quarter 2009 release in North America.

For the Nintendo DS, Several demo stations were set up for the soon to be released in Japan title Avalon Code. Developed by Matrix, the team that brought you Final Fantasy IV DS, Avalon Code has similarly decent graphics with its own unique style. The game plays like an action RPG with elements of adventure games, and battles occurring in real time. My character Yumil, the male protagonist, had a few different sword combos he could use based on button inputs. The stylus' use was not very clear from the demo; supposedly it is used to control an important story item known as the Book of Prophecies which can be used to alter in-game elements, such as boss weaknesses. There is also a love simulation component that allows you to pair off with certain characters based on the gender of the protagonist you choose. It looks promising. Avalon Code comes out on November 1st in Japan, and February 2009 in the United States.

With the two public days of TGS 2008 underway, Marvelous' exhibition remains one of the most crowded thanks to its wealth of unique RPG offerings. Stay tuned to RPGFan as we follow each game's development and news.

James Quentin Clark