Fortune Summoners: Deceptively cute, subtly deep

February 13, 2012

I’m not typically a fan of fighting games, because I’m always the worst person in the house at them (a difficult feat considering that four out of the six people in my house are under the age of two). The systems always feel over-complicated to me, and then somebody who has never played comes by and whoops me at it. Fortune Summoners manages to control like a fighting game without making me frustrated, because there is no second player. The enemy A.I. is good, but with time and practice you can figure out what you’re doing wrong and get past it.

You start the game with only the main character Arche in your party. She’s good with a sword. but not so good with magic. She’s got a number of sword maneuvers at her disposal, and that’s where the comparisons to a fighting game begin. Tapping attack gets you a medium-strength slash, pushing forward and attack get you a slow but powerful thrust, hitting down and back or forward gets you a cartwheel move to escape danger and as you progress further you unlock more and more moves.

You also gain two new party members over the course of the game. Even though the game is played in real time. each of your party members is around all the time. Fortune Summoners’ A.I. is not only competent, but also allows you to choose the play style best suited to you and it controls the other two characters better than I usually can. It wasn’t game-ending that I’m not great at managing the buff-centric character or Arche, because the game will control them for me and do a good job of it while I manage the offensive magic user and lob spells from the rear.

You’ll need all the help that Fortune Summoners is willing to give you, because underneath the cute veneer lives a very difficult game. Enemy attacks do a lot of damage, and while they do telegraph attacks you’ll get so caught up in getting hit over and over again by bats that it will take a while to realize it. When you do, though, you’ll feel like the best thing to happen to gaming heroes since Mario. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that your characters have weight. There’s a minor delay between deciding to jump and seeing it on screen, and while this sounds like it would hamper the gameplay it actually makes combat a more cerebral experience.

You can’t just hammer away at the keys and expect to win – you’ve got to know what the enemies are, how they fight, and what you can do to combat them. Lizsoft knows they’ve created a difficult game, however, and every screen you enter is checkpointed so you’re not punished for taking a few tries to learn a new enemy’s patterns. You can almost see the whiteboard note in a developer’s office reading “HARD BUT FAIR” in big, blocky letters.

Fortune Summoners isn’t for everybody (no hard game is), but if you liked Demon’s Souls, like a cute anime veneer, and want something challenging to play on PC, then this is right up your alley.

Pros: Deep combat system, great A.I. for both teammates and enemies
Cons: Steep learning curve

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.