Astonishia Story is a Korean RPG that was released on the PC in the 1990s and was revived on Sony's PSP in 2005. Surprisingly, this game also made the jump from Asia to the US. Unfortunately, it was not met with praise from gamers and critics. Despite this, Sonnori has seen fit to create a sequel for the PSP that takes better advantage of the hardware, as well as corrects and improves on the much maligned gameplay elements of the first game. On March 21, 2008, a brief Korean demo for the PSP was made available for download and RPGFan had a chance to sit down with it.
The demo consists of a single dungeon with regular battles and ends with a boss battle. The party in the demo consists of a swordsman, a mage, a martial artist, and a busty female elf. Your avatar moves at a nice clip during dungeon exploration and the default speed is running. In this dungeon were blue ogre-like enemies that must be touched to initate battles, which take place on separate battle screens. If an ogre spots you, an exclamation point will appear above its head and it will chase you at blinding speed. If an ogre bumps into you first, the enemy party gets a massive preemptive strike where every foe does extensive damage on your party. It is therefore in your best interest to sneak around and touch it from behind so your party gets a nice preemptive strike.
Battles are traditional turn-based battles with turn order displayed on the top of the screen. All the basic RPG commands are there such as attack, defend, use item, use skill, and escape. When escape is selected, a wheel akin to a roulette wheel pops up and if you time a button press right, escape will be successful. Battles are quite difficult in the demo because though your party members have about 400 HP apiece, enemies can often do 400 or more HP worth of damage. It is hoped that the difficulty balance will be tweaked for the final product.
Despite the majority of text, including the dialogue and instructions, being in Korean, the game was quite easy to pick up and play. Battle menus use large icons, as well as some stylized English text, so there was no confusion as to what each battle command did. When accessing the main menu, there was quite a bit of English text, aiding in the ergonomic menu navigation. There was even a Quest log in the menu describing your objective, which is a great feature that more RPGs should incorporate. Each character appeared to be of a distinct class with his or her own equipment and learnable skills.
The music heard was the kind of orchestral fare heard often in modern RPGs. The instrumentation, consisting mostly of classical strings and no modern instrumentation, sounds as it should even though the PSP's small speakers. The one cutscene with dialogue featured no voice acting. Whether or not the game is completely devoid of voice acting remains to be seen. Sound effects are standard RPG sound effects, but they ring out with great clarity.
The 2D graphics consist of sprites atop isometric environments. The high resolution environments look smooth with their hand drawn look and employ a color palette that is easy on the eyes. The high resolution sprites are nicely sized, though in-battle sprites are slightly larger and more detailed than their out-of-battle counterparts. During battles, character sprites are chock full of animations including death sequences where they drop their weapons and fall dramatically. Enemy sprites just fade out when vanquished. During cutscenes, large, well-drawn portraits of the characters accompany the dialogue. Sprites are drawn with a more anime style and portraits have slightly more realistic designs.
Details regarding the game's story are quite scarce, but screenshots shown after the demo's Game Over screen show magical fantasy realms, princesses, elves, wizards, sword wielding teenagers, and various other trappings that fantasy RPG fans should be sure to enjoy.
A firm release date for the game has not been set yet, but Sonnori plans to release it to the Asian market later this year. There is no word yet on a US release. Whether or not gamers will be willing to take another chance on an Astonishia Story game remains to be seen, even though this demo of Astonishia Story 2: Fate to Unhorse One showed a vast improvement over its PSP predecessor.