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Infinite Undiscovery is the latest JRPG for the increasingly popular RPG machine XBox 360. With tri-Ace developing and Square Enix giving a helping hand, people have some high expectations for their first next-gen title. Are these expectations met, or is it just a lazy side project until tri-Ace releases Star Ocean: The Last Hope?
The story starts in a prison where Capell, a flute player, has been imprisoned because the culprits believe him to be the famous knight Sigmund. Sigmund is the "liberator" who can destroy the chains entangling the moon which causes the monsters to appear and natural disasters to occur. Capell is then broken out of jail by a girl named Aya, who has also mistaken him for Sigmund (a follower of his). After they go through the dark forest outside of the prison, they get saved by Sigmund himself. Sigmund and Capell both look at each other and realize they look exactly alike, but don't know why exactly. Sigmund tells Capell he is in charge of an army that vows to unchain the moon enslaved by the "Order of the Chain" and their leader the Dreadknight. Is it fate that these seemingly twin men meet under these circumstances?
While the story in Infinite Undiscovery is rather cliche in nature, it is still enjoyable because of its likeable cast of characters and offbeat humor that tri-Ace also put in Radiata Stories. Unlike Radiata Stories though, there are genuine moments from the characters giving it more of a mature feel than the whimsical approach in Radiata. The story won't blow you away, but like all other tri-Ace games, it's enough to keep you playing until the end. Just make sure to stick with it after the very disappointing start that other reviewers have already pointed out or you will likely put the game down after an hour and never come back.
Infinite Undiscovery's gameplay is very similar to that of tri-Ace's previous titles (mainly Radiata Stories and Star Ocean) in that it's real time. Unlike those games though, the game is presented in a free roam style rather than switching to another screen when a battle is initiated. It's more akin to Phantasy Star Online, only with plenty of more options to choose from. You can press "A" to do a light attack or "B" for a heavy attack and mixing the two will create different combos and generate different types of combo finishers. These combo finishers vary depending on how many times you link the light attack with the heavy attack. Just pressing light attack once and then the heavy attack will give you "Crescendo Spike," a special move where Capell does an upward swing lifting the opponent into the air. There are other moves as well, and they all depend on how many light attacks you get in before you do a heavy attack. There are special moves that Capell learns when leveling up as well that cost MP to use, but are incredibly powerful. You can set these to either the light or heavy attack button, and holding down whatever button you picked initiates the attack. Since you only have 2 different types of attacks, you can only have 2 different abilities equipped at one time. Choosing them will most likely end up being whichever ability is the newest, since they are always more powerful than the last. The final combat move is a parry attack by pressing "LT" that leaves the enemy stunned for a short period of time allowing you to wail at them with attacks.
One gameplay aspect that seems to derive more from western RPGs is the sheathing and unsheathing of Capell's sword. In order to open treasure chests and doors you have to sheath your sword, which is rather tedius. You can't just press a button when you get up to them because apparently the developers couldn't make a button not attack when standing in front of them. This gameplay aspect adds absolutely nothing to the experience, and only takes away from it.
Throughout Infinite Undiscovery's linear quest you are only allowed to control Capell, while all the other characters are controlled by the AI. The player does still have some control over them however, by using the "connect" system. When Capell is linked to another character you can choose which abilities you want them to use with a click of a button. Just like Capell, you can set every characters' special abilities to whatever you'd like. You can also request healing from the other party members by pressing the "Y" button, and it is incredibly useful so that you don't have to mess around with menus during battle. This is because the game never pauses, even when you are fiddling around with menus, keeping you on your toes at all times. Being able to request healing means you aren't taken away from the action, which is a very good thing. The AI is also very good at picking out which character to heal at the right time, and will use items if needed. You can set which items you do and don't want them to use, giving you plenty of options on how you want the AI to behave.
The AI controlled party members in Infinite Undiscovery are actually much better at handling things themselves than in other action RPGs with similar play styles (like the Tales series). They never do something incredibly stupid, and you can set their strategy to fit each situation on the fly (the strategies affect the whole party at once and are predesigned).
There's a total of 18 playable characters by the end of Infinite Undiscovery and trying to micromanage all of them can be a pain. You have 5 equipments slots for each characters and trying to equip them all will take much more money in the game than you will have. You will only be able to upgrade a few characters each time, pretty much forcing you to pick the same team throughout the course of the game. Since tri-Ace avoided this problem in Radiata Stories, it's a shame that they have downgraded in that department.
As mentioned previously, Capell is a flute player, and this plays a part of the gameplay as well. You can play the flute by pressing the "X" button at any time. There's a variety of songs to play each with a different ability. The most commonly used is "percipere," which reveals secret areas not visible before, as well as hidden treasure chests. It also has another use later in the game pertaining to something much more important to the story.
One of the staples of their popular Star Ocean series did manage to find its way into Infinite Undiscovery: item creation. You can create items and equipment just like in those games, but the customization options are severely limited compared to the robust system in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Since you can't pause to create items while playing the game, most will likely forget to it's even there since it breaks up the pace of the gameplay and just isn't nearly as much fun as it was in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. Add in the fact that each character has only one type of item they can create along with a total of 18 playable characters and you can see the frustration with trying to make everything you want.
Infinite Undiscovery is no slouch in terms of difficulty. On the normal setting you can expect to get your face handed to you multiple times by certain boss fights. This would be fine if there were some save points before them instead of going through an entire dungeon and getting to the end and having to start over completely. This doesn't happen every time though, just a few. Every cutscene is skippable by pressing the back button, but it's never explained and isn't shown as an option when you pause the game so I ended up watching multiple cutscenes over because I didn't know you could skip them. RPG Developers need to start telling players if they are allowed to skip scenes when the game is paused (Xenosaga did this) because they are most of the time very lengthy and annoying to watch over again.
Even after all these missteps though, Infinite Undiscovery can be a ton of fun. The battle system is addictive, as is expected by a tri-Ace developed title. Much like Radiata Stories though, Infinite Undiscovery is rather short, clocking in at 20-30 hours depending on your skill level and willingness for searching out sidequests. The good thing is that you can go straight back into playing your beaten record and have access to everything the game has to offer.
The controls in Infinite Undiscovery work very well for the most part. The camera hardly gets in the way since you handle it yourself, but it can get stuck on objects here and there. The menus are decent, but nothing spectacular. The text is rather small and can be hard to read on a standard definition tv, so you have been warned. I never remember blaming anything on the controls, which means they were handled very well. Just nothing that innovates the wheel for action RPGs.
Infinite Undiscovery is a mixed bag when it comes to its graphical presentation. On one hand you have some very impressive character models with some great facial expressions, and on the other hand you have some really grainy and bland looking environments that could have used a little more spice. The battle animations do look rather spectacular though, which is probably why the framerate slows quite often. It's not a broken framerate by any means and never became an aggravation while I was playing, but some may be aggravated since it makes the battle system a little slower paced than usual. Overall though, the world tri-Ace has created looks decent, but it's certainly not a high budget fantasy realm we are used to seeing from Square Enix and company.
If there is one thing I am incredibly disappointed in, it's the lack of lip-synching present in Infinite Undiscovery. On the whole the voice acting is pretty good (especially the main characters), but their mouths don't move to the English voice track at all (sometimes, they don't even move at all period). Square Enix normally does a good job with lip synching, but it seems they took the lazy approach this time around, and it shows. The music, however, is far from disappointing. The soundtrack, composed by Motoi Sakuraba (Tales, Valkyrie Profile, and Star Ocean) is very good and presents the atmosphere of the game beautifully. Some of the music does get replayed a little too much (mainly the battle themes), but it's still a great effort and easily the best part of the presentation in Infinite Undiscovery.
If you've liked tri-Ace's previous titles and own an X360, this is an easy recommendation. If you haven't happened to like their previous works, Infinite Undiscovery isn't likely to change your mind. If you've never played a tri-Ace game before and like action RPGs though, give it a try. Infinite Undiscovery isn't the epic JRPG for the X360 we have been waiting for, but it's a great stop gap for the expected ones (Final Fantasy XIII and Star Ocean: The Last Hope) and certainly the most fun I have had in a JRPG on the X360 yet.