Monday, February 25, 2008

Izuna: The Unemployed Ninja

I was interested in this game because of its old-school flavor, but having never played a roguelike, I didn't really know what I was in for.

The game system, while being familiar to people who have played other roguelikes, may be confusing to others who are use to a traditional, turn-based combat system. There are no cut scenes or battle menus, just hacking and slashing away, the A button becomming the mouse button for those familiar with the Diablo series.

Rather than going into explanations of the talismans, weapons and items, it would be best to explain how I got use to the system. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how to use talismans effectively by attaching them to your weapons and gauntlets. I broke a lot of items as I couldn't figure out how to attach talismans without overpowering the piece you were attaching them to.

Oh, and I died. A lot.

In retrospect, I probably should have read the manual.

The game's only combat is in the dungeon and each level is randomly generated. If you die, you loose all of the items, weapons and money that you are carrying on you. Bummer.

So for the first few tries, I went into the dungeon, got wiped, started over and got wiped and started over again. This went on for some time. Finally, I started to understand the talismans and how they worked (kind of like spells, armor and weapon upgrades all in one). I started to understand how to actually get out of the dungeons (using a talisman you can only find in the dungeon, not buy at first) and what it takes to survive.

There's a very steep learning curve at work here. At least for me, although general consensus is that the first dungeon is the hardest.

In truth, I totally agree. It took me a bunch of replays to beat the first dungeon, but after falling back on my grinding experience, I leveled up considerably and easily overpowered the boss at the end of it.

The next four dungeons fell in quick succession and I kind of got bored with the whole system as I had it down pat with some pretty devestating weapons. I also have more money than I know what to do with, even thought I buy healing orbs and Kikan talismans (warping out of dungeon spells) every time I get back to town.

What Izuna does right is a small, but effective number of things. Izuna herself, is a really fresh character for this type of game. She's irreverant, funny, saucy and not your typical heroine. The localization is done right, with Japanese jokes and mannerisms all left in. There are a few funny characters and some good personalites, especially the gods who you encounter throughout the game. They are most definately your typical period-piece RPG fare - serious and blue-blooded. However, when they have to deal with Izuna, she'll throw them off with her goofy comments and brash, teenage nature which adds a fun twist to what would have been otherwise boring converations in-game.

Right now, I am on the second to the last dungeon and I'm encouraged to finish it, not because of the great game play, but so that I can move onto other titles, although I am interested in the final boss battles. If I were to rate it, I would say Izuna is a good 7 out of 10 overall, but just not my cup of tea.

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