When most professional developers attempt to make a 3D game that uses 2D assets, it usually ends as an unpolished mess that loses its charm quickly and isn’t generally fun to play. EasyGameStation, the developers of the recently-localized Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, manages to blend both dimensions splendidly to bring us the world of Chantelise, a love letter to both lovers of 2D sprites and tough action games.
The game’s premise is simple: two sisters, Chante and Elise, venture into a forest in the dead of night, only for Chante to be cursed and transformed into a fairy. The two then travel to a village founded among some ruins, on the rumor that a witch lived there. The story evolves into something bigger, but the narrative is witty and keeps things clear along the way. The visuals are 2D eyecandy, with smooth 60 FPS sprite animations in colorful, vibrant 3D landscapes.
Chantelise’s gameplay is fairly simple, with hack-and-slash combat being the dominant method of attacking enemies. Elise has a basic 3-hit combo attack with her sword, while Chante can charge up magic via gem stones dropped by enemies. You can combine gemstones for stronger magic spells, though you’re initially limited to just two at a time. In addition, stats are not handled by levels; instead, stats are gained or removed with whatever equipment Chante has on. These can also bestow extra abilities like faster running, a focused attack or air dashes.
The game itself is divided into separate ruins and location, each having a separate theme (fire area, windy valley, and underwater ruins). Each area has their own thematic boss, dwarfing every common enemy in both size and strength. There’s also a hidden treasure chest in every individual area, often requiring some clever puzzle solving and tricky platforming to uncover them. They’re worth the reward though, as most of them contain bonus equipment not available any other way.
Chantelise can be quite harsh at times, due to how stats are determined by equipment. You can only use two pieces of armor to start with, which leads to Elise being left vulnerable in whatever stat the player decides not to raise. Without the appropriate protection, enemies will do an absurd amount of damage. There is no way to heal inside dungeons outside of instant-use healing items that are randomly dropped by enemies, as you cannot bring healing items with you. This is somewhat softened by the game allowing you to keep everything you’ve obtained on death, so one can retry stages as many times as they feel like and continue to raise their max HP or buy new equipment.
One can reasonably expect 15-20 hours out of Chantelise on a regular playthrough, but those looking for extras can expect to stay hooked a little longer. In addition to the main story and all of its hidden treasure, the game has two extra dungeons to go through, as well as an extensive fishing side-quest that lets you trade in fish caught (even in the lava area!) for even more unique items. The work EasyGameStation put into the game is bigger than some of the big studios and publishers’ efforts this generation, and it clearly shows on the final product. Chantelise is an extremely fun little title, and we can only hope that Carpe Fulgur continues their collaboration with EGS to bring more of their games to American shores.