I Want Mimoney Back
Blame the recent spate of console JRPGs as of late. As bad as some of them have been, they've still managed to do something new, whether by way of innovative battle systems, system-defining visual presentation or even developed a new way to interact online. No, they aren't perfect by any means, but they have strived to help reshape things.
Hell, it's not even something limited to just the PS3; look at Dissidia: Final Fantasy as a showcase for how to turn an RPG into a fighting game, or Crisis Core[/i] for breathing new life into a game over a decade old. Granted, those are big-budget games, but even ports like [game=488]Ys or old-school revivals like Half-Minute Hero show there's still room to innovate on the PSP. Mimana Iyar Chronicle does none of that. It is a cut-and-dried peek back to what games used to be -- and why they're infinitely better now.
Fogeys like me will often claim that games "back then" were better because they had a solid foundation; fancy visuals or epic soundtracks couldn't deflect from the fact that if games were lacking on a fundamental basis they simply weren't fun. I can't think of a better way to judge Mimana simply because it doesn't have any of those distractions -- even in the small areas of advancement like a battle system.
Those battles (random encounters that happen with such regularity that you'll end up wading through the silent, look-alike dungeons rather than exploring them unless you walk slowly) are sort of a beat-em-up with hit points and magic. The 2D perspective carries with it the same quirks that a Final Fight or Streets of Rage would; imprecise attacks, enemies that can hit you (or you them) when you're not quite on the same plane, and mindless combos that mete out damage with agonizingly slow results.
Sure, you can block, or pull up a pause menu to manually issue magic orders for the rest of your party (you only control leading man Crais otherwise), or even get an up to four-strike super attack combo with a properly timed X Button press, but all these actions take time and feel clunky. Even running away isn't a simple affair; you have to wait for a countdown clock that burns according to how difficult enemies are, meaning tougher battles that you randomly encounter take longer to get away from than pipsqueaks. That's a little backwards when the game's difficulty starts out high (and no retries after a game over, you have to load your last save), sags in the middle and then becomes hair-pullingly frustrating toward the end.
If the story or characters were interesting, it might be at least tolerable, but Crais is an asshole. He regularly cuts down his female companions (some of whom are almost as cynical and uppity as he is) even while trying to get romantic with others. It's such a bizarre combination that the intended levity that comes from heavy innuendo and borderline creepy comments ends up seeming at odds with the rest of the game's archaic nature.
Aksys, it should be noted, at least tried to give the game some flavor, and their localization is solid if not at times actually amusing, but the source material and the game it's wrapped around feels so stilted and forgettable that even having a decent voice cast and a wealth of spoken lines can't really make it feel any more sufferable.
Throw in drab, maze-like environments without a map, excessive use of colored -- even garish -- lighting and music that does little to stay memorable beyond the repetitive battle themes and you really don't have much here to go to for the game's defense. There's simply too little in the way of interesting tidbits to keep anyone nibbling at what the game's trying to do -- which apparently is start a massive multi-chapter epic. If this is meant to be how Mimana Iyar Chronicle begins, I'm honestly not the least bit interested in seeing what happens next, and neither should you -- especially at $40.