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Ragnarok

Score: 76%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Gravity-I LTD.
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 3
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Ragnarok is the DS adaptation of the popular (and rather aged) MMORPG Ragnarok Online. The game is replicated almost pixel for pixel, with some exceptions in the world maps and towns. This graphical style includes 3D backgrounds with 2D sprites for enemies and characters. It's not a huge feat, considering the simplicity of this style, but it's still nice to see that the cute and colorful feel of the game wasn't altered or lost. There's something lovable about detailed, sprite-based graphics that you just can't get in 3D.

As you'll notice throughout this review, it seems the developers chose to be very faithful to the spirit of the original game, which is not always the best thing in the world. For example, you've got no choice in your character's appearance. Granted, the original game didn't start you off with a whole bunch of customization options either. You could choose your hair style and color, that's about it. Still, it's the first of many very close ties to the original game that you'll notice.

The music is also almost identical to the original game. It's a mix of electronic and techno style sound in most areas, with soft, soothing beats in the city areas, and slightly more sinister sounds in dungeons. As for the sound effects, they're decidedly cute to match their cute graphics - no huge roars from big monsters or ground-shaking explosions, if you're looking for that kind of thing.


Gameplay:

Ragnarok had a pretty simple system to follow from its original game. There was a whole lot of going into dungeons and grinding on monsters. Of course, there was also that "massively multiplayer" thing going on, which the DS can't really emulate. But for the most part, the feel of the game is identical, save for an added storyline.

Yes, this game has you playing through the story of a young novice adventurer. His motivations are simple: become a great adventurer and make his deceased mother proud. He also wants to start a party, level up, and start a guild to serve the same goals. If you get where this is going, basically your main character wants to get to the endgame of Ragnarok Online to make his mother proud. Cute, but also very convenient.

The writing in the game is very simple, and accessible. That's not to say it's not enjoyable, it's just that there's no flowery language, no big speeches. You might say it follows the spirit of the online game in this sense. The characters in this game are more apt to talk about how something "sucks" rather than brood for paragraphs.

Though you can't customize your main character's appearance, you can choose any job class and higher job path you like. You start out with the classic Novice class. From there, you can choose from the base classes of Swordsman, Magician, Archer, Thief, Acolyte, Merchant and Taekwon Kid. Higher level classes like Sage, Rogue, and the Bard/Dancer class aren't available, but the DS does get the exclusive Dark Knight and Shaman classes. Stat distribution is just as mysterious as the online game, but most classes are pretty easy to figure out. Your Mage needs intelligence, your Swordsman benefits from strength. Still, an online guide may be in order for creating the best character in higher level classes since the manual and the game fail to fully describe what each statistic means to each class. Then again, you level and gain money a lot faster than in the online counterpart, so it may not be a month between levels, and it's not such an important, character-crippling decision when you spend points.

The game consists of a bit of story, broken up by quests. The quests don't depart far from their online inspiration. You need to go collect a bunch of jellopy, then you need to bring them to a guy. The guy is probably going to tell you to go to another guy, who lives on the other side of a dangerous map full of monsters. It's generally designed to force you to level, so you can move on to the next collecting quest.

For the majority of the game, you'll command a party that includes your main character and 2 others. Later in the game, you'll be able to recruit different characters in your guild, but you'll always have that 3 character limit. There is a multiplayer option where you can play with up to 2 more people, as long as everyone has a copy of the game. Only here can you change your appearance, which helps break up the monotony of 3 red-haired guys running around. Don't worry much about missing out on this part of the game, as there is only one area in the game where you can play multiplayer.


Difficulty:

The difficulty in a game like Ragnarok usually lies in how much time you want to spend leveling your character. It seems that the leveling in this game has been compressed, so thankfully that's not a problem.

Expect to do a lot of grinding, but not the ridiculous amount required in the online game. Those nasty experience penalties for dying are also gone. Also, since your party's characters fight for themselves, the only thing you have to think about is the preset behavior. Complicated skill trees for each class have been simplified as well. Overall, there's not much to worry about in comparison to Ragnarok Online.


Game Mechanics:

Again, Ragnarok didn't have to stretch very far to make a good translation on the DS. Point-and-click was the name of the game in the online version, and it's no different here. So to attack an enemy, you click it. To use a special skill or item, click its icon in the menu, then click the target. The simple system is also a drawback, as it suffers the same problems as the online version. Try to click on a tiny enemy among the crowded sprites of your party, and it can be quite a click-fest - not in an amusing way.

Some things are made easier than their online counterparts at least. For example, the archer will automatically step back a bit to get into a good position as opposed to having to constantly adjust your position every time you attack. There's also no "learning to sit." Actually, there's no need to sit at all, so those familiar with the online game need not worry about having to leave the DS on for a ridiculously long time while your character regains health. There are these cool things called "inns" where you can regain full health for a small fee.

Ragnarok doesn't depart far from its inspiration, and that's not really a bad thing. Of course, it's missing on the social aspect of a truly online game, which is a big part. There are no free kisses on the street, no mages setting random people on fire, but then again, there isn't a horribly broken online economy to worry about either. Ragnarok succeeds at being a simple, cute, and slightly addictive game. It's a break for those who are used to the challenges of online play, but then there's really no one to share it with.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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