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Aedis Eclipse is the sequel to Generation of Chaos, NIS America's first stab at the PSP platform. In Japan, Aedis Eclipse was released as a PSP port of the PS2 game "Generation of Chaos V." That said, it should be apparent that Idea Factory has had time to perfect what it is they're trying to do with their series.
But instead of just improving on the original formula, this title makes a few significant changes to the game's design that could leave series fans both puzzled and excited. Of course, for us Westerners, we don't know the series history as well, so all we can say is this: the game is much better than its predecessor.
In Aedis Eclipse, you play in a world called (wait for it...) Aedis. Aedis is a three tier world with a tower running through the center. At the top, we find the Divine World, home to both heaven and hell (and its residents, angels and hellions). This upper world is essentially a floating island in the sky, and it is here where we see the tower end. In the middle is the Surface World, sometimes simply referred to as Aedis. On this level, we find mountains, lakes, and all sorts of beautiful landscapes. We also find medieval-era kingdoms of both humans and mythical beasts. Then, there's the Lower World called Greckland. In most games, you would expect this place to be filled with demons; but remember, they're all up in the Divine World. The Lower World of Aedis is instead filled with advanced technology: people running around in cyber suits and using mechanical creations as weapons of war. When you begin the game, you are asked to choose one of these three scenarios. Each scenario will lead you to visiting all three tiers of Aedis, but your starting point determines whom you will control as your protagonist.
The Lower World, which seems to be the "main" scenario of the game (and also the easiest), puts you in charge of some high school kids. They're actually members of a military school, so they do know a thing or two about fighting. Your main character is Quinn, an enthusiastic samurai-in-training. His best friend, Gon, is the more reserved member of the bunch. Despite being thin and scrawny in appearance, he likes to wield a gigantic battle axe. The third member of the party is a snotty little rich girl named Keri; her family has profited off the success of the "cyber suit" invention, created by her grandfather. These three characters begin their adventure when they have to evacuate the school due to an attack from unknown enemy units, and Quinn is crazy enough to run towards the battle to "check it out" rather than escape.
On the Surface World, the stage is set by two kingdoms that were once allies, but suddenly turn against one another. In a preview scene, we find the two protagonists, Duo and Fiona, spending time together. They were just children during that time, and they are the children of the Kings of the two allied kingdoms. However, it is in this opening scene that the first battle breaks out between the two kingdoms and their friendship is torn. Ten years later, your scenario begins.
As for the Divine World, the kingdoms of heaven and hell have learned to quietly coexist with one another, though the angels' conceited attitude often makes the hellion faction envious and angry about their inferior lot of land and power. A Romeo and Juliet plot begins the scenario, as we learn the princess of heaven (Rose) and the prince of hell (Atropollus) are in love. Though they are not despised by their respective kingdoms for this relationship, things get complicated when the angels almost randomly decide to assassinate Atropollus' father, the king of hell. As the new king, Atropollus is unsure of what needs to be done, but his advisers coax him into starting a war against heaven, despite his personal wish to see peace between the two kingdoms. The kingdom of heaven holds a sacred treasure, one that the hellions believe will give them power. In a word: they seek the holy grail!
Behind the conflicts on each tier, there seems to be a twisted force guiding the whole thing. It doesn't take long for each world to learn the name "Mugen." This entity, whoever he/she/it is, seems to be bent on the destruction of Aedis in its entirety. Regardless of the scenario you choose, you will learn that the keys to bringing Mugen down exist on each of the three planes of Aedis. The funny thing about that is, unfortunately, each society believes the other two to be long dead. The Divine World has legends about the worlds below them, but they were told that all those people were killed off. So too with the other worlds and their respective foreign peoples. When our heroes traverse the tower and learn that, indeed, these other people do exist, things get even more complicated. Perhaps it's all a part of Mugen's plot?
Though the exposition freely uses traditional settings from countless other fantasy RPGs, the design of Aedis as a world is fairly unique, and it offers some things I myself have not seen in any other story, be it in a game, a book, or a film. Originality, a hard thing to achieve after a millenia of stories, is something I have to value highly. Major points are awarded in this regard.
Character development, though much better than in the previous Generation of Chaos game, is still somewhat lacking. It would be great if the game offered more optional story revelations, outside of the main plot, so we could see the characters interact in different settings. As a bonus feature for completing the game, there is a gallery where you can hear different characters give short monologues about their thoughts on the game's events, as well as other random stories about themselves and their associates. This helps in developing the characters, but it's awkward that I can only learn about them after completing the actual game.
The game is designed so that, if the player chooses, one can conquer all three scenarios. There are rewards for choosing to go through the game three times, and though there is plenty of repetition, seeing the game through the eyes of different characters adds a special touch that we don't find in other games, regardless of their linearity. Also, along the way, cameo appearances are made by three characters from Generation of Chaos IV (the game NIS America last brought to us), as well as two characters from games further past in the series. Because Aedis is a different world from that of the rest of the series, the explanation as to how they arrived in Aedis is a bit of a stretch... but ultimately, it works out.
The really good news for gamers is that, despite having an adequate story, that's not nearly the most impressive aspect of the game. The story breaks some new ground using some old tools, which is exciting, but there isn't much of a climax for the game's ending. Aedis Eclipse has a decent story: decent enough to earn an 80%.
I'll keep this short and sweet. Everything looks good. The hand-drawn character art is great, and there is a ton of it (over 200 characters have portraits!). The sprites look a fair bit better than in the last game, and the design of the Aedis world is flawless. My only complaint is that I wish I could have seen more of this beautiful world. In-game environments or just more artwork would have been enough to satisfy me. It's like, they developed a game based on these great ideas, but they could have expanded on it a lot more in the visual department.
But let's not judge solely on their sins of omission. What we do find in this game is one of the better 2D anime games out there. And on a handheld? That just makes it even more impressive. The style is sleek and eye-catching; it's bound to please fans of old school 2D RPGs. It pleased me enough to give it slightly above a "B" level score: 82%.
With such nice graphical work, you may be wondering what most any informed reader ought to wonder: what about load times? What about lag? Here comes the greatest news of all... it's been reduced to virtually nothing! Okay, maybe not "nothing." There are still plenty of points where the game needs to stop and load, but they are at appropriate times, and they don't take too long. The atrocious loading problems we saw in Generation of Chaos and Spectral Souls are now solved in full. The load times aren't merely acceptable, they're actually impressive.
Now that the game is functional enough to really enjoy, let's talk about the changed features. You still have commanders that recruit a max of 30 troops; however, you cannot have 30 troops from the start, as you have to "rank up" to have more than the initial amount of 10 troops. Your commander's special abilities are performed almost exclusively by use of SP (the "support" bar no longer exists, and SP is regenerated partially by giving and taking damage). This streamlining for the sake of consistent ability usage was very helpful for character management. We see similar streamlining all across the game.
Another example is that the "board game" field is now no longer one giant board that you gain access to from chapter to chapter. Now, there are different areas on a world map (well, technically, different world maps for each tier of Aedis), and choosing a particular area sends you to that area's field. Each field has a unique setup that poses different strategic obstacles for you as the player. Also, instead of moving straight through the plot, you can re-enter old areas to level up your characters. This is something most players will need to do at least once, since the game is difficult, even exceedingly difficult at some points. Those who play the Divine World scenario will see what I mean.
Because of the complete lack of in-game slow down, battles are extremely fast-paced. You need to be paying attention in this fast-paced fight for survival. Also, there is a fair bit more involved to the strategy, particularly the initial setup. The formation you choose can greatly affect your stats for the battle, so knowing how you compare to your foe (and how many more foes you may be facing in the next turn) is imperative if you plan to survive. Also, separate commands can be given to your front row, back row, commander, partner, and summon. That's right, along with the max 30 troops, you can assign another commander as your "partner" in battle, and some characters can also summon other people as a unique ability. Things can certainly get interesting in these battles.
The challenge behind this strategy RPG may be frustrating for some, but I found it to be more fun than frustrating. At this point, Aedis Eclipse represents the pinnacle of its genre for the PSP. Gameplay earns a solid, well-deserved 85%.
I was slightly disappointed in the soundtrack for Aedis Eclipse. The same sound team is back from GoC IV, but the music was extremely bland this time around. The opening and ending themes, by some lame J-rock band, were a little too gritty for my taste. The opening song was entitled "Leave Me Alone," which makes it sound like it's going to be some Japanese attempt at crappy emo rock. No thank you.
In contrast, the voice acting was superb. Should you choose the Japanese audio track, you'll find some stellar performances, but the English voice actors do a great job too. Aedis Eclipse also contains a decent amount of verbalized dialogue throughout the game, which I also appreciated.
Okay music, impressive voice acting (especially for a low-budget handheld game), put it all together, 80%.
If the first Generation of Chaos wasn't considered a failure for its load times, its interface would have done it in. Awkward button setup and menu design prevented the game from being even remotely intuitive. All that changes in Aedis Eclipse.
Again, the word of the day is "streamlined." Idea Factory put their heads together to make this game flow smoothly, and the controls match this. All relevant information is displayed in such a way as to make any "unique" button commands known to the player. Zoom functions work a lot better, as do the many camera options during battle. The only improvement that I'd like to see is the ability to rotate the camera.
I had no problems picking up this game and figuring it out, and much of that is thanks to an excellent control scheme. I award it a 90%.
I thought long and hard about how to summarize this review, and this is what I decided to use as a conclusion. Aedis Eclipse isn't the game that will make you run out and buy a PSP; but, if you already own a PSP, and you're an RPG fan (particularly strategy RPGs), this game is essential to your collection. The other Idea Factory releases were underwhelming, mostly because of technical problems. This game not only fixes those problems, but goes the extra mile in being a really enjoyable game! In the grand scheme of things, there are many better games out there; but the PSP library has been weak, particularly with RPGs, so if you're looking for something that satisfies, this is definitely a good choice for you. I give Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos an 83% for its original world design, streamlined gameplay and control, and excellent localization.