Sully: A Very Serious RPG is already messing with you right from the start. You see, Sully isn’t even the main character. He’s just one of the array of sea life that you can have join your party and…well, it’s a silly game. Relentlessly so, but it also shows some real graphical chops and a solid battle system. The story may be goofy, but the mechanics and artwork that form the backbone of the game aren’t.
I only got to do one mission during the PAX East preview, but it was a doozy; an emotional roller coaster ride of such deep pathos that I was shaken to my core. This was no dull tale of orphans fighting an oppressive regime or of grizzled men trying to bury a dark past, but rather I was placed on the front lines of a war. The hostilities had been boiling for some time, spilling over just as I was leaving a small shop on the beach. I bore witness to the majestic crab army, resplendent in their leather jackets and pompadour haircuts, marching on the glistening force of the Jellies. I would soon join in this bloodbath, setting the stage for the grim events that might follow the demo. Maybe.
The Jellies quivered as they made their way onto the screen, looking incredible in their animations. Considerable work has gone into the enemy design during the battles, giving them a sense of motion and movement. Static pictures are commonly used in a lot of RPGs, and there are just as many that move when they attack in those games, but these creatures just seemed very alive while standing still. The creatures move around and shift in their stance while waiting to attack, or at least appear to due to the art direction.
They also just look really, really good. The game doesn’t seem all that impressive from the world maps, but that’s because the big press for artwork has gone into the battle system. Beyond moving around, they just have a lot of nice shading and details all over them. Attacks and motions are butter smooth, showing as many frames of animation as an old Disney animated feature. I enjoy a good retro-looking RPG from time to time, but it’s still nice to see a turn-based RPG throwing some graphical muscle around. The still shots really don’t do the game justice. This is something that needs to be seen in motion to be believed.
Also, the seafood. There is an option within the menus simply called seafood, and Ben McGraw, the developer, was grinning before I even asked him about it. I was told that it was a system similar to that of Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals‘s animal helper system. You can get various forms of sea life to join you in fights and help you out, hence where Sully comes in. Considering my love of collecting party members I think this could be a neat feature and I really want to know more about it.
Other than that it seemed like a simple RPG, one with magic and attacks and everything as nature intended. Your health and magic are all restored at the end of every battle though, something that’s popular these days, but it can result in a game where each and every fight is one where you can lose. Games like Breath of Death VII have used it to keep the game from getting stale while you fight reams of enemies, changing the game from one of attrition to one where a single fight can bring about your end. I find the latter one lets developers be much crueler with their attacks as you’re always at full power at the start of a fight, so it makes for some truly interesting boss battles. I only got to see a handful of fights over my demo, a couple where I was supposed to win and one that I clearly wasn’t, so I can’t say for sure how effectively this system will be used.
From what I’ve seen of the artwork, it looks like a lot of work has been put into the game and I’d be surprised if that didn’t transfer over to the battle system. Even if I hated the fights in the game I’d still want to play it, though, if only to see where the game is going to go after the bizarre battle with the crabs and jellies. Given that you can also fight the devil (affectionately referred to as Stan) by walking up to him right beside the shop he owns, I can only imagine what other insane stuff would be in store for me. Between this and Boot Hill Heroes, this may be the year I start loving RPGs again.