Resonance of Fate

No Fate But What They Break

Resonance of Fate is the absolute definition of gameplay winning out over everythig else -- including other parts of the gameplay. Confused? Good, you're in the right mindset for this game.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: May 1, 2010
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Games should be accessible -- that's kind of the whole idea -- but Resonance of Fate, either by design or because of a complete lack of proper explanation (I'll go with the latter) is woefully inept in actually explaining how the hell you're supposed to play it. You can be attacked on the way to your own goddamn tutorial to explain the basics of the game.

If that doesn't jive with you, our dear reader, that's probably because it shouldn't. There's honestly no excuse for how clumsily the basic fundamental elements of this game are explained. As a result, it's not unfair to say that it'll take you hours to properly digest and comprehend what this game is trying to do, which is meld the acrobatic gunplay of a John Woo movie with the trappings of a traditional save-the-world JRPG. If I'm being honest here, it wasn't until I was fighting the final boss that I grasped the basics of one of the most fundamental parts of the game, a running triple attack. That was sixty-three hours after I'd started the adventure.

It was also after starting and stopping the game at least twice as I tried to wrap my head around the most basic of mechanics: the combat system. The fact that I never really understood it all until the end of the game isn't the fault of Japanese developer tri-Ace (at least not completely), but rather because of the game's tutorial style. Still images can be flipped through in an attempt to divine what the hell the game is trying to teach you, but these static screens are sometimes oddly worded in just such a way that you never quite get what they're trying to say. Case in point: to do one of the game's smackdowns, you have to first charge at an enemy, firing to get them aloft, then you yourself leap into the air and fire down on them to register the smackdown, but by the description, it seems only the enemy has to be in the air. It's just a simple case of semantics, but my befuddlement wasn't an isolated incident in the least.

Throw in ultra-crowded parts of the screen were button prompts actually overlay important tutorial text and you can tell the localization effort for at least the controls was slapdash at best. It's a shame, too, because the rest of the game seems keenly tweaked to fit foreign audiences. That scene from the game that made it onto the web a few months ago (you know the one, with the huge bouncing boobs and the dancing?) actually makes some sense now, and absolutely fits the character within the context of the rest of the game whereas it seemed like an extremely odd break from the tone of things originally.

That tone is one of the biggest reasons for Resonance of Fate's almost mysterious appeal. For all the bitching about the game's oft-confusing and muddled mechanics, by the time you've spent a few hours with things learning the ins and outs (often by trial and error despite the tutorials in the Arena where you can grind for dozens of hours if you wish), the characters have had their chance to wiggle their way beneath all that guarded cynicism that creeps up with the game just seems obtusely bent on making you learn it rather than bringing you along for the ride. The result? You actually start to care about the protagonists despite clipped, extremely short (especially by JRPG standards) cutscenes that quickly move you into the meat of the game.

Again, that may seem like an odd combination. How can a game that seems to almost actively scoff at the idea of running you through the basics and spends precious little time actually introducing the characters be so engaging even as you're still struggling to put everything together? It's fair to say the first half of the game is really just the gears (literally and figuratively) starting to slowly click up to speed in this clockwork steampunk realm, and even once you have an idea of what's going on (sort of), things never seem to build to the apex of a traditional JRPG story arc.
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