August 10, 2011
The wonderful folks over at Carpe Fulgur gave the English speaking world Recettear last year and that was quite a hoot. The popularity behind the game was staggering as it took off so wildly that Recette’s phrase “Capitalism Ho!” became an internet meme for a short time. I would say the quality of Capre Fulgur’s translation work was on par to some of the major Japanese labels publishing games in North America. Now Capre Fulgur has released yet another RPG, Chantelise, to the masses.
The basic story is that two sisters, Chante and Lise, wander out carelessly on the night of the Blood Moon. A legend claims that the Blood Moon is a terrible omen, bu the two sisters disregard this cosmic event and go exploring a nearby forest. Shortly after entering the wilds, a witch appears cursing Lise and turning her into a faerie. Their memories hazy from the event, the two sister must journey to find the witch and the reverse her spell.
For those who have played Recettear, the art and a majority of the sprites will be very familiar (read: reused). It does establish the style that EasyGameStation has for their games, though there are some characters that are completely new and not in any way related to the Recettear universe. The game is presented in a 3D third-person perspective with a rotating camera that can be panned around. Although the game is in 3D, Chante and Lise are actually 2D sprites. I will admit that at first, I had mixed feelings about that, however I did get used to it as I got further into the game.
Chantelise is a 3D dungeon crawler, so expect to run through your dungeon of choice again and again just to finance gear upgrades and boost your HP meter to survive dungeons. For the casual gamer, this may be a bit tedious. Diehard RPG fans may not take too much issue with it as games of this ilk often require a little work before you may see success. I personally didn’t mind much, but I could sympathize with the casual player’s thought on the repetition.
As the player completes dungeons, more and more places in town open up while providing quests and new dungeons to explore. Shop keepers will also slowly add new items for purchase to help beef up your equipment of choice as well as better supplements to provide larger boosts in HP. There are also perks for beating a dungeon such as gaining more equipment slots, enabling the player to have more stat-boosting items on Chante. The perks and new gear are massively important as they compliment each other to make the dungeons easier to tackle. A minor annoyance is that Chante cannot keep healing items on her; they are random drops from enemies that are consumed on pick-up (the drop odds are not in the player’s favor).
The controls in Chantelise are pretty simple although there are some minor nuances compared to other 3D dungeon crawlers. You have an attack button, jump button, magic button, homing lock button, and pause/menu button. Chantelise also provides the option to customize controls and use a game pad should you want the nostalgia of playing a console 3D RPG from the PS2 era. The benefit of this is that, on top of being able to use one analog stick to adjust the camera, there can be a buttons assigned to rotate the camera left or right in addition to the analog view stick. As far as controls go in combat, I personally feel that using a game pad provides a much more solid experience compared to using the keyboard and mouse. Another reason is that one of the most important moves essential to survival, the jump dash (attack + jump), requires good timing to pull off.
Magic is powered by gems that are dropped from some dead enemies and Chante can store up to six at a time. The Magic button is used to cast spells corresponding to the gems you have stored and Chante can combine two of the same color for a boosted version of her spells. Some spells end up being better used if you have an enemy locked on while some end up providing defensive benefits for Chante instead. Movement is generally pretty standard, though it can be clumsy when Chante is trying to walk along a thin bridge or platform. Expect to plummet to your death from time to time as well.
The game also rewards the player for completely exploring places as well should you take the time to scope things out. Chantelise also provides a “Time Trial” mode where you can see if you can beat sections of a stage with the best time as well as if you can nab the treasure in that stage or not. For the completionist, there may be some fun value in this as they will be able to see if they have found every bit of treasure in all zones of a stage. There are five dungeons based on the story of the game and two bonus dungeons should the player want to challenge themselves. There is also a fishing mini-game which also allows for some collecting fun.
Overall, I feel that Chantelise is a great game even if it is a bit on the short side. The game does require some perseverance especially when venturing into dungeons and getting the hang of the jump dash. The lack of on-hand healing items and sketchy platforming on thin platforms can be slight downers, but those things can be forgiven. For those itching for challenges, the bonus dungeons, the time trials, and fishing mini-game will provide plenty of fun things to do for those who want to master the game. If you are hesitant on purchasing Chantelise, there is a demo available for free to try out. If you have been craving a retro-styled Japanese dungeon crawler, it’ll definitely fit the bill.
Chantelise is available on Steam and Direct2Drive for $9.99.
Out Of 5
The visuals aren't going to be the best out there and the 3D environments are a little rough, but they do set the perspective in place. The mix of sprites being put into a 3D space is an odd design choice but it works quite well. The artwork for the characters is nice and characteristic of EasyGameStation's style.
The music sets the mood for the dungeons pretty well, but it isn't very memorable. The sound effects for sword slashing and spells are pretty standard.
The ability to customize controls for both keyboard/mouse and gamepad are great. The game supports Xinput for official Xbox 360 controllers should you want to use one for Chantelise. The half point deduction is for the clumsy movement issues I had with some of the thin platforms.
The game play is engaging and fun, however it is selectively appealing due to the grind that is required to progress forward in the game.
The fun is from the great dialogue and story that was carefully translated and localized by Carpe Fulgur. The language track for spoken dialogue is Japanese and the translated text for the spoken tracks matches up quite well. The battles in the dungeon stages are fun and the magic can provides a great way to take down bosses. The additional challenges are a welcome thing to have for additional replay value.