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Jikandia: The Timeless Land

"Overall, Jikandia: The Timeless Land is a rather disappointing game that pales in comparison to similar titles..."

There has always been a small niche in the overall RPG genre for more quirky titles; the ones that poke fun at the many conventions and motifs that have appeared throughout the long history of RPGs. Dungeon crawling, assembling of party members, collecting of items... these are all parts of the RPG formula, and therefore fodder for parody RPGs that cater to longtime fans. This may sound like an idea that makes for a rather boring experience, but it has been a success for titles like 3D Dot Game Heroes and Half Minute Hero, usually through the implementation of a unique quirk such as Half Minute Hero's emphasis on time, which rushes the traditional RPG formula to squeeze an adventure into just a few moments.

Jikandia: The Timeless Land attempts a similar approach, working RPG parody and witty dialogue into an action RPG with a twist: the player may choose to take anywhere from three to thirty minutes in a dungeon and the level will adjust accordingly. Thus, theoretically, players get whatever kind of experience they desire, whether it be three minute rush or a thirty minute crawl. Unfortunately, the uniqueness of this mechanic is about all Jikandia has going for it, as it is bland in almost all other aspects, and the gameplay gets tiresome so quickly that you will likely find yourself using the three minute setting far more often than anything longer.

The story of Jikandia begins like many JRPGs old and new: you and your classmates are travelling to school when you are all whisked away to another realm. This realm is Jikandia, and you have been called there to help with the problems that a shady character called the "King of Time" has caused – time has begun to flow where it never has before (hence "the timeless land"). Your party is immediately thrown into exploring various dungeons to gather clues as to how to cure Jikandia of its new problem and fight back against a variety of monsters that have sprouted up since the disruption in time. While the core story is not overly interesting, the majority of the dialogue takes place as you are traversing the various dungeons. There are many brief "events" to witness; a few lines of dialogue between your party members that contain the majority of the witty comments that make Jikandia part of the niche of parody RPGs. The humor is not all successful, but veteran RPG fans will likely get at least a chuckle or two out of some of the conversations between the characters and their comments on the dungeons and monsters.

Gameplay is the area where Jikandia really suffers. The game is nominally an action RPG, but it plays more like a platformer than anything else. The dungeons are sequences of floors, and the player must lead his character and party (they follow directly behind you) to each floor's exit to move on to the next floor. Of course, there are various monsters roaming the levels and treasure chests strewn across the floor. Displayed at the top of the screen is a large timer showing the amount of time before the dungeon ends, which can span anywhere from three minutes to thirty minutes depending on what was chosen at the beginning of the stage. Once the time gets low enough, the next exit will lead to a boss fight which must be cleared before the timer reaches zero in order to finish the stage. The only way to fail in a given dungeon is to run out of time. The characters have a life bar which depletes as they get hit by enemies, but they instantly respawn after death, taking only a penalty in time. Each dungeon floor also presents a challenge to the player such as defeating all of the enemies on the floor or completing it in a certain time, and fulfilling that challenge rewards the player with more points at the end of the level. There are events in the dungeon itself that can be triggered, and they cause more enemies to spawn, more treasure to appear, or have various other strange effects. The entire game contains only a handful of differently themed dungeons (including an underwater stage and a casino stage), so it is not exceptionally long, even if one sets the timer to 30 minutes for every stage.

Outside of dungeons, the player can customize his or her party by selecting two members from the pool of all those available and equipping the main character with various weapons. Different weapons have different modes of attack, as do party members, from simple sword swings to punching with giant boxing gloves to shooting out balls of lightning. All of this makes for a fairly mediocre hack and slash-like platforming experience when traversing dungeons, mashing the attack button to cut through enemies and bosses. Players can also customize their characters via the Quartz system, items placed in up to 12 slots that boost various stats, none of which significantly change the gameplay. In addition to this, there is a bestiary and an item encyclopedia to fill for hardcore completionists who plan on playing through the game multiple times. There is also ad-hoc multiplayer featuring an arena mode of sorts, but I knew nobody else with the game, so I was not able to test it out.

The controls in Jikandia: The Timeless Land are extremely simple and easy to pick up. Movement through the dungeons is controlled primarily through the D-pad, and jumping and attacking control as one might expect. For attacks, the player may choose to have all three members of the party attack at once or attack with just one member by pressing a designated button for that party member. There is also a charge attack that can be performed by holding the attack button, but overall the controls are barely more complicated than those found in a platformer such as Mega Man. Characters navigate the main hub town for the adventure by walking around and talking to various citizens and shopkeepers, whereas entering dungeons and "customizing" the party is done through menus.

The sounds of Jikandia are as unremarkable as the rest of the game. The music is reasonable but lackluster RPG fare with some ambient tunes thrown in. There are certainly no tunes that are catchy enough that players will be humming them after they put the game down. The same can be said of the sound effects. All of it is fairly standard sword slashing and treasure looting sounds, and as all of the dialogue is in text, there is no voice acting to be commented on.

Jikandia succeeds a bit more in the graphical department as the graphics have a certain sharpness to them despite maintaining a mimicry of old 8-bit and 16-bit titles. The character designs for party members are unique, and the colors and enemy designs are interesting and vibrant enough to be worthy of praise, especially compared to the rest of the game. Even if the gameplay does not correspond much with the feel of old-school JRPGs, the graphical style certainly does so, and while managing not to be completely pixilated.

Overall, Jikandia: The Timeless Land is a rather disappointing game that pales in comparison to similar titles like Half Minute Hero. While it does maintain the sense of humor and parody that keeps this niche subgenre of RPGs afloat, its time adjusting gimmick is not enough to overcome its extremely repetitive and lackluster gameplay. There are few RPG elements to speak, of and players will find they spend most of their time jumping around in dungeons to find the next exit as if they were playing an old platformer. Many elements of the game, from the sound to the story, come off as bland. Given the plethora of better RPGs, I cannot recommend this game highly, even in such a niche subdivision of RPGs.


© 2011 Idea Factory, Aksys Games. All rights reserved.




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