Summon Night: Twin Age

June 27, 2008

Summon Night: Twin Age is a fun action-RPG that borrows elements from its Gameboy Advance counterparts and at the same time does a few new things of its own. While the first two games focused on becoming the Craftlord, what is essentially a heroic smithy, Twin Age takes a divergent path. It focuses upon a young girl named Reiha and her summoned beast-boy Aldo. The world they live in is wrought with strife, as there is an ongoing conflict between the humans and the demi-human race, the Kascuza. The Kascuza were exiled to a small island called Jarazi, and even though some animosity between the two races remain, the conflict has somewhat settled down. As for Aldo and Reiha, it’s close to their coming-of-age ritual, but they discover that the spirits on Jarazi have begun to act erratically. It’s up to them and friends they meet along the way to discover the source of the spirits’ behavior.

Twin Age is a bit of a departure from the first two GBA titles. The plot is oddly compelling, mostly since it’s driven by a cast of colorful and interesting characters, as well as the fact that the game play itself is vastly different. The first two played out like a traditional RPG with dungeon crawling and random battles that were more akin to a side scrolling beat-em-up type of game. Twin Age throws away the notion of random battles in favor of real-time battles controlled entirely by the touch screen.

When the game first starts, the player is given the chance to select whether they want to play the game from Aldo or Reiha’s perspective. It is possible to freely switch between the characters during battles, and the plot of the game remains largely the same. The narrative of the story merely shifts onto the character of choice and reflects their thoughts and opinions of the situation at hand.

Combat is handled in real time with character movement and attack/skill execution manipulated with the touch screen. A lot of what goes on in battle is fairly straightforward; the menu is used to assign skills to the skill palette, which allows for quick execution of skills and fast use of items, and speeds up the pace of battles. The skill menu also allows acquiring of new skills for use in battles. Skills are learned through leveling up from battles and then spending SP to learn and level up skills. Each skill has a maximum level of seven, and learning different skills allows both Reiha and Aldo to traverse their respective skill trees in different orders.

In addition to Aldo and Reiha, the player gains access to other AI party members such as Nassau, Aldo and Reiha’s axe-wielding friend, and Ayn, the young girl aspiring to be a Spirit Priestess of the Kascuza, close to the beginning of the game. Skills can’t be assigned to the AI party member, nor can they be directly controlled. Their levels are assigned as equal to that of the player’s main character, and they typically come with a handful of healing items at the start of each dungeon. Each AI party member has their own governing element as well as weapon specialization, such as Nassau having a few wind-element abilities and bearing an axe, and Ayn using mainly water-based skills and using a staff to cast spells.

The action is broken up with story sequences and dialog interspersed within the dungeons, as well as at the beginning and end of each chapter. Typically at the end of each chapter, the player is allowed to select a partner character to have a conversation with. How this conversation plays out is affected by the player’s choice of main character and the partner selected to converse with. They help to affect the relationship between the player’s selected character and the partner and increase the partner’s support rank, which increases their skill and usefulness in battle.

Despite the drastic changes from the previous games, Twin Age has a very polished look and there is a lot of fun to be had. The graphics are bold and colorful and the game’s score is quite enjoyable. Fans of Shinichiro Otsuka’s character designs from the previous games might be a little surprised to see that Twin Age’s character designs were handled by Sunaho Tobe, the artist responsible for the character designs in Riviera: The Promised Land. The only complaints are that the AI characters can be a little foolhardy; it’s not possible to freely customize their AI much more than use items/don’t use items, use skills/don’t use skills, use normal attacks/don’t use normal attacks, which takes away a little of bit the strategy. Also, at around chapter 5, the game difficulty sharply spikes, particularly during boss battles, so be prepared to do a little bit of grinding. For those who enjoyed the gameplay in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Summon Night: Twin Age should have a pretty good appeal.

Score: 4/5

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