When the Nintendo DS and even the DS Lite came out, I confirmed them as excellent systems with excellent games; however, I was not a fan. I always found the DS to be too cumbersome to play compared to my favorite game system, the Game Boy Advanced SP. The first game to turn me on to the DS was the system’s second Castlevania game. Right about that time, an assload of great DS games were on the horizon — so naturally, my brother’s DS got broken and my other brother’s Lite disappeared. Nearly a year’s worth of games I want to play later, we finally found the DS Lite. My brother immediately bought 2 new games for it – Rhapsody and Rondo of Swords.
I have loved turn-based tactics games ever since I played Fire Emblem Rekka no Ken on my old GBA SP. However, I don’t play many video games in general, so my console games tend to collect dust. I was excited to have the latest handheld tactics release from Atlus (those crazy motherfuckers putting out Castle of Shikigami 3 and Boroque.)
Rondo of Swords will immediately throw off turn-based tactics veterans with it’s totally new battle system disguised under a familiar setup. The maps, sprites, attacks, character classes, and statistics are all standard fare torn straight from the screens of Fire Emblem. However, the battle system is something new entirely. Rather than using a character’s given movement range to approach the enemy, get beside it, and proceed to whomp it with a large pointy object, in this game the characters are to move on a path through the enemy sprites, attacking whoever they pass through. So if you can move six spaces forward, and there are enemies 2 and 3 blocks away, you can rush through and attack them both.
Terrain is an essential factor as movement is everything in this game. You always have to carefully consider the enemy’s movements as what they do can be frightening. See below where I’ve attempted to simulate a situation I encountered.
I thought that by having the two people in the back (there was a wall behind them) the enemy couldn’t run through the pack, as he would have had no ending space and therefor couldn’t attack. But what happened was…
-killing both assailed party members.
This system has proven to be a lot of fun so far as it really lays the pressure down and helps the rounds move much quicker (not that I don’t take as long to think about the moves). It will be rare to leave someone inactive through a turn. I still need to get used to some things, like being able to safely stand in the last block of an enemy’s movement range (since they can’t pass through you, which is also the right place to be when you attack next).
Besides the steep learning curve, there seems to be some really skewed difficulty in the levels I played. The first four levels were all easy, but then stage 5 comes along and kicks my ass several times (partly because I didn’t know that characters dying in the previous match would make their stats lower in the next round.) However, the sixth stage was then extremely easy again.
Story-wise, there is nothing to be excited about. The plot and characters are flat and cliche as hell, but it doesn’t get in the way because cutscenes are short, to the point, and pretty much just serve to push things along. I’m fine with that because handheld tactics is pick-up-and-play for me (I would always skip the long-ass Fire Emblem cutscenes.)
I definitely look forward to playing more Rondo of Swords, especially since I imagine I’ll be much better at this kind of game than I once was. Currently, I am about to restart my file, since reading a guide has taught me things I didn’t know, and that I have pretty much already managed to screw myself over lol. I anticipate the furious fun of hour-long stages being repeated until I can win without loosing any characters, and the beholding of my victory, smiling broad and whispering “KEIKAKU DOORI.”