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Baroque
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Sting
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Wii Optical Disc
Release: US 04/08/08
Japan 03/13/08



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I bet these warp portals will come in handy...
 
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Um, I'm very scared
 
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This seems simple enough. What's the catch?
 
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That's one hot weapons list.
John P. Hussey
First Look Preview
03/11/08
John P. Hussey

While Nintendo has traditionally stayed away from mature themes of the occult, Baroque seems to be a dramatic departure for their next generation Wii system (I realize that the game is also releasing on the PlayStation 2 console, but for the purpose of this preview, I will be referring to the Wii version only). Set in a post-apocalyptic time period, the main character of Baroque awakens unsure of who he is, what his name is, and how he got where he is. Through his bout with amnesia, the hero learns of the war between the remaining people and the Meta-Beings.

According to the Atlus website, people cling to the idea of Baroques (which are a certain type of fantasy) in order to maintain their sanity and survive. Similar to the manner in which humanity needed to accept the concept of The Matrix in the famous film trilogy, it appears that individuals who have accepted but have not been consumed by their Baroques remain in human form. If they become overly obsessed with their fantasy, they transform into Meta-Beings. These Meta-Beings, which manifest themselves in certain archetypical ways such as being devils, become the enemy your character seeks to destroy.

The game’s mission seems simple enough: go to the Neuro Tower, heal your personal sins and then heal the world. However, the way in which this is executed is what is fascinating about this title. At first glance, the game appears to a typical third person Action-RPG dungeon hack, in which the character climbs the tower ultimately defeating the game. Upon closer examination, however, there are some unique facets to the hack itself.

First, similar to both Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals’ ancient cave, and more recently in Atlus' own Persona 3, the tower's configuration changes every time you enter. Instead of knowing where each treasure chest and passageway is, you'll need to rely on a different exploration technique each time. The developers have eased the difficulty a little bit with an automap feature, which should help players find their way. As characters reach deeper into the tower, there is an ability to warp deeper into the tower, again drawing a parallel with Persona 3.

While in the tower, players can procure weapons and items that can only be used on that trip through the tower, unless the protagonist locates a Consciousness orb. These orbs allow the player to use the items on return trips to the tower. The weapon and item set seems to be consistent with other Atlus' published titles, including the Digital Devil Saga and Persona series. The weapons are made up primarily of guns and swords and you can restore life by doing things such as eating hearts. This is definitely not something Nintendo would have allowed on one of their earlier generation consoles.

In addition to the fascinating approach to the dungeon hack, Baroque separates itself from the crowd with its unique storytelling and reincarnation system. Instead of a purely linear narrative, the game claims to adjust how the story is told based on how your character interacts and dies. Yes, dies. In fact, the only way the player can learn all of the fascinating details that surround the world of Baroque, a player must die in certain situations in order to unravel the mystery. This type of narrative trope may be enough for Baroque to draw in a dynamic cult audience.

There does not appear to be any specific Wii remote controls to this game, but I'm happy to report that the game runs in both progressive scan and a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. From looking at the screenshots, it does not appear as though the game has a dynamic graphical interface, but Atlus is known for taking chances with a story and making a truly original experience. Baroque for Wii releases in Japan on March 13th, and comes stateside April 8th. Stay tuned to RPGFan in the coming weeks for a full review.



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