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Aidyn Chronicles: First Mage

Score: 40%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: THQ
Developer: H2O Interactive
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Very few companies can really make games on the N64 look good, and unfortunately Aidyn Chronicles is not one of those games. While there is quite a lot of variety in the environments you adventure through, from caves to castles to sprawling forests, everything has even more of a blurry tinge to it than most N64 games. The expansion pack helps some, at least with the resolution, but the game still doesn't look much better with the pack. The various models in the game are also inadequate, sometimes laughably so. Animations are stilted at best and downright nonsensical at the worst. And the framerate never gets high enough to feel fluid.

But the worst part of all is the camera, which seems to enjoy acting like a first year film student. It swoops, it swings, it takes too damn long to get to where it's trying to go, and it zooms in randomly on people's stomachs while other people are talking. No, it doesn't make any sense, and when you can't progress the text because the camera is futzing around, it gets really irritating.

Sound is another shortcoming of Aidyn Chronicles. When there's music, it's pretty good, if simple--not that the N64 can do much more. But there are long stretches of the game where it doesn't bother to play anything, which can be eerily frustrating. It's bad enough that the world is so empty--to make it quiet too is downright frightening. The sound effects are only worse, with silly grunts and groans in the battles and overdone walking sounds. Since there's no room on the cart for speech in the game, it seems we're stuck with scrolling text and not enough stimulation for either the eyes or the ears.


And while Aidyn Chronicles tries--it really does--it never quite gets off the ground, and the game ends up being way too tedious to really get into unless you absolutely must play it through all the way. Even then, bugs and other irritations may drive you to distraction. Deep down there's a few neat ideas, but they're covered in so much cruft it's not really worth getting to them.

The story is actually quite solid, so I won't ruin it for you. It starts off as a simple 'rescue quest', as Alaron goes out into the woods to try and find a villager who has disappeared, and the king calls out pretty much everyone in existence to find Alaron. Of course, there is evil afoot, and soon enough the main character is poisoned and trying to find a cure. The story is actually quite intruiging, and may be enough to keep goading you on to play.

Like most RPGs, there are two major parts to the game. You wander around a gigantic world in full 3D, exploring, finding treasure, talking to NPCs, and in general interacting with the environment. When you get into a hostile encounter, the game kicks into a battle mode, where you control your characters separately and duke it out with the foes.

The exploratory mode is impressive in its scale--Aidyn Chronicles' world is undoubtedly one of the largest I've ever seen in a game like this. But everything feels so empty. There are houses with no one inside of them, hundreds of rooms of buildings that contain nothing but furniture (and sometimes not even that), and almost not enough hidden treasure to make it worth exploring. It's somewhat depressing, to be honest--it's obvious that H2O had some truly grand plans as to the level of immersivity of the game, but it just never gets there. There are some cool holdovers, however, such as the year-cycle of days and nights, complete with weather. This is the sort of thing games have been needing for a while.

The battle mode is another beast entirely. It uses a system very similar to that of Quest 64--a ring circles the current character, and they move within the ring and end their turn with attacking, casting a spell, using an item, or doing nothing. It's turn-based, a neat idea, and way, way too slow in execution. When the battles are one-on-one it's quite manageable, but when you get to the point where there are four on your side and just as many on the other, the battles take too much time to make it worth doing. The problem is that avoiding them is oftentimes impossible, due to the inability to see much of anything in the game until you're right on top of it. Argh.

There are some cool systems in the game--the experience model is nice, and the ability to train from masters at a reduced experience cost is a nice touch, reminiscent of computer RPGs. But when you have to spend hours wading through battles and exploring empty rooms, it's hard to get to the good bits.


There are some truly difficult battles in Aidyn Chronicles, especially if you do not level your characters up regularly. Make sure to make a backup save on your controller pak, because there's a good chance you could get stuck in an area without enough experience or items to survive. If you take the time and raise your skills and stats to good levels before going anywhere too dangerous, however, the game shouldn't be much of a problem. Remember that Alaron can cast anything, so he makes a good catch-all spellcaster. Other character's roles tend to be more specialized, so make sure you keep your party as balanced as possible in the skills they have.

Game Mechanics:

Controlling Alaron and his crew is simple enough, using the Analog Stick, but getting the game to do what you want is another manner. Camera control is nonexistent, and the menus take way too long to come up and scroll through. Indeed, there are bugs in the system as a whole, and I had a few things not appear in my journal when they should have, only to appear later when I did the same thing 'just goofing off'. The leveling and experience methods used are actually quite sweet, and something I'd like to see developed further. The battles would be cool if they weren't so damnably slow. And the empty world . . .

I had high hopes for Aidyn Chronicles, and while I wish it were possible to say that it met them . . . I cannot. With a plodding engine, an empty world, and a battle system that needs an order of magnitude speedup, Aidyn Chronicles just isn't enjoyable enough to spend time with unless you simply must play every RPG known to man. [Yeah, I'm sure that's more than just me.] However, the story is solid, and the characters, while somewhat generic, are interesting. Perhaps H2O can put out another, more impressive game in the series for a system that will let them do what they want in terms of scope and design? Until then, you'll have to look somewhere else for your quality N64 RPG fix.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Windows Myth III: The Wolf Age Nintendo 64 Ogre Battle 64

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated