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Ragnarok Odyssey

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Game Arts
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ RPG/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Man, Japanese gamers sure love them some Monster Hunter. I'm not sure I can blame them; after all, I really liked Monster Hunter Tri. However, I'm a self-proclaimed "ADD gamer." I'm always on the lookout for a fresh experience, and I'm cursed with the perpetual notion that anything that falls short just isn't worth my time. I can't help it: retreads bore me. This is why I was skeptical of Ragnarok Odyssey. Sure, it looks better than every Monster Hunter game out there, but does it address the serious gameplay issues that Capcom's long-running series has repeatedly refused to consider? Well, Ragnarok Odyssey plays better than Monster Hunter, but the core formula is in dire need of restructuring.

Ragnarok Odyssey is stunning, especially in the cutscenes. Sure, anime-looking heroes and heroines battling colossal monstrosities is nothing new to video games, but its reticence to move beyond predictability is made easier to bear. Ragnarok Odyssey is almost a celebration of color itself. Menus are clean, slick, and almost completely lacking in opacity; when you play Ragnarok Odyssey, you are never removed from the world. The rest of the visual design is classic Japanese action fare. Some of the ideas for weapons and monsters are bit predictable, but the Vita's OLED screen makes it pop nonetheless.

Ragnarok Odyssey breaks no new ground on sound design. If you really like the way Monster Hunter sounds (from monster cries to soundtrack), you'll really like the way Ragnarok Odyssey sounds. If you're not a fan of Monster Hunter's sound design, you won't be a fan of Ragnarok Odyssey's. Don't be put off by all the comparisons: after all, we all know which market this game is targeting. So those who are on the fence should know that this game is stylistically up to snuff.


Gameplay:

Storytelling is often pushed far into the periphery in games like Ragnarok Odyssey, and for good reason. Gamers don't always need a reason to sate their thirst for hunting and collecting; tell them to collect a number of wolf pelts and most of them will be unable to resist the call of more materials with which to make better equipment. So it is with Ragnarok Odyssey.

Ragnarok Odyssey sticks to a tried and true formula. You are a rising star in a fantasy world; your skills as a monster slayer are high in demand. It's your job to take quests, complete said quests, and reap the bounty of the land as you see fit. In doing so, you will gain the means to craft improved equipment and become even stronger. This is one of those games that will have you telling yourself "just one more" well past midnight.

So what's the problem? Well, not much if that's all you want out of a game like this. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long at all for the joy of exploring this world to be slowly but surely replaced with an unshakeable feeling of déjà vu. Eventually, the whole game just devolves into a dull (albeit colorful) affair. For all the personality this game has, you'll still approach the quest desk with nothing on your mind except "now what?" That's not what I look for in a game, and I suspect the same is true for many others.


Difficulty:

Ragnarok Odyssey is pretty truthful when it rates the difficulty of its quests. Provided you don't go exploring each and every nook and cranny (and you shouldn't, because there's usually nothing to find), you'll never be tested by the generous time clock, which has no reason for being in games like this anyway -- and yes, that includes Monster Hunter.

Navigation is a breeze. Areas are not convoluted in the slightest, and maps do a good job of letting you know where you've been and where you still need to go. There's rarely all that much diversion in the level design anyway, so there should be no worries as far as that goes. Combat is a bit more complicated. It's admittedly less potentially frustrating than that of Monster Hunter, but that's not really saying much. However, the enhanced mobility definitely helps ease some of the pain.


Game Mechanics:

Let's start where games of this sort always start: customization. Ragnarok Odyssey gives you a nice array of options with which to build your character, but it doesn't go deep enough to feel as personal as most other role-playing games. I was disappointed to see that my co-op buddy looked almost identical. But really, a game's worth is more about what's underneath the hood.

Ragnarok Odyssey's combat is equal parts strategy and button-mashing madness. Positioning and awareness (your weapon class and enemy type) are more important than simply making contact. This is most true in the game's many boss battles, as the game becomes less about building a combo and more about staying out of the way. Many of these battles are ones of attrition, but winning is oh so satisfying.

One of my key gripes with Monster Hunter deals with the inextricable ties between the animation work and the gameplay. In that game, every button press requires a great deal of foresight and calculation. Attacking invariably leaves you vulnerable, and missing your mark often has dire consequences. Ragnarok Odyssey is a faster game, and it's all the better for it. It's really amazing how a bit more mobility goes a long way in improving the gameplay. Less is left at the mercy of the animation cycles, leaving more of the potential blame squarely on your own shoulders.

Monster Hunter has been content to rehash time and time again, though Tri was a winner. Still, the formula is stale enough that it shouldn't have taken too much effort to revitalize the subgenre. Ragnarok Odyssey is merely content to perpetuate the status quo. It sure is pretty, but only diehard fans will get the most out of it.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

iPad Hidden Runaway Microsoft Xbox 360 Call of Duty: Black Ops II

 
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