by Professor Layton
reviewed on NDS
A new IP
Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest are two of the big Japanese RPG powerhouse franchises, both coming from the well-known publisher Square Enix. It seems as though other Japanese developers are having a more difficult time of getting their games to shine. ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat is a joint effort between Mistwalker and Nintendo and may yet turn into a new franchise. Although the game did not have long enough legs to reach one million in sales, it did manage to surpass the one hundred thousand mark. Considering that this is a new Japanese IP, that is quite an impressive feat.
As with many import games, I was a little skeptical about what I was getting into. I am all for new ideas being implemented into games but for some reason I was a little on-edge about ASH. After I started playing I realized that this was unfounded, or at least largely so.
ASH tells a story of a young princess by the name of Aisya who embarks on an adventure to reclaim the bracelet of the Kingdom of Millinear. An ancient fiend sacked her precious kingdom and only the bracelet can restore here beloved land. To enrich the story, beautifully rendered FMV sequences are used in great abundance.
ASH is a turn-based RPG that takes place on a grid. Obstacles such as rock walls and item-baskets are scattered all over the map. The latter can be opened by one of your characters for loot and riches. Battles are turn-based with antagonists appearing on the top screen and protagonists on the bottom. Battle animations are smooth, sharp, and quick. Like Fire Emblem, if a key character is defeated during a battle phase and isnít revived before the phase ends, that character is gone for good. This adds a strong strategy element to the game, serving die-hard RPG fans who want all of their characters to make it through the game.
The amount of damage a character deals depends greatly upon his location in relation to the character receiving the attack. Physical attackers need to be as close as possible to their enemies, while Mages are better at dealing damage from a distance. Remember though, the closer you are to an opponent, the higher the chance that they will counter with a just as strong attack. As Isaac Newton once said, for every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. In this scenario, you have to think about what you do before you do it or it may come back and result in game over.
Skills and spells are learned in a very traditional way: as your characters gain experience, they level up. Once reaching a certain level, new skills and spells can be learned. Of course, since the majority of the game is in Japanese, most people wonít even realize their character has acquired a new move.
The developers limit players to selecting a maximum of three characters. This is not much considering that your three heroes are sometimes up against a sheer unlimited number of enemies. Bundle that with the fact that the enemies are usually just as tough as your own party and you can see that things can get pretty brutal. If you absolutely hate failing, you better have a firm grip on your DS. We donít want you to go pitching it at someone in frustration.
Another doubtful game mechanic is that you start every fight with all your characters in the combat zone. What if your lead fighter is hurt and you donít want him in to fight this round? Tough. No matter how close the character is to dying, he will still be dragged into combat. And if it comes to the point where he is knocked out, there is no bringing him back to life unless you have either a special item or if another character has the ability to do so.
The controls arenít exactly what I would call ground-breaking. I love the idea of using a stylus to play a game, but in this game, I donít. Everything is done by using the stylus which doesnít necessarily have to be bad but pretty much every action requires the player to double tab.
Beautiful yet unimpressive
ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat is one of the most beautiful games ever to grace the DS. Oddly enough, it is also one of the most unimpressive. The in-game animations are far from smooth and characters move around the screen in a particularly choppy fashion. There is a lot of detail in both the game world and its characters but beyond that, thereís not much here to write home about.
From a sound perspective, ASH is above adequate. The inclusion of voice acting is definitely a plus but since it is presented in Japanese, most importers could care less. The background music is decent, as are the sound effects.
With the game being ESRB rated earlier this year, there is hope that ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat will make it to western shores. Though it may not be perfect, the game is definitely a nice diversion from the standard. It may have some flaws, but the pros definitely overcome the cons.
No Pros and Cons at this time