|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|
|Official Site:||Japanese Site|
The follow-up to the first Swordcraft Story, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 was released in Japan one year after its predecessor, though the span between the two games' US release was only a few months. One may imagine that the game is "dated," but it's surprising to learn just how great a game can be even when it's two years old.
The second Swordcraft "Story" takes place in a town completely removed from the first, with a completely different setting and premise. Indeed, there is no mention of Craftlords or Wystern. Despite the new location and characters, the basic premise is almost entirely the same: start with a character choice (male or female), and learn that said character is the child of a famous Craftknight who saved the village (or perhaps the whole world) from impending doom by sealing off a wicked summon creature. The similarities continue, as the protagonist (again, gender of your choice) chooses one of four possible summon creatures to be his/her Guardian Beast.
Obviously, with all of the possible combinations of protagonist and sidekick (the number is eight, for those of you who failed all those wordy math problems), a lot of dialogue had to have been written. Some things stick out like a sore thumb; for instance, whether male or female, many female NPCs ask for a chance to kiss you. Nonetheless, a large amount of dialogue was written to keep things fresh for any number of playthroughs, and I congratulate Atlus on taking the time to localize such a small game despite its large script. Indeed, the conversations in Swordcraft Story 2 are twice as long and in-depth as that of the first. There's a lot of reading to do, so if you were looking forward to a simple action-RPG, turn back (to the first game in this side-series, preferably).
The cast of NPCs are as fun and diverse as they were in the first game. There is the sibling pair Ryouga and Lynn, who act calm but whose origins are a mystery; there's your adopted family, father Blaire, brother Orin, and sister Tatiana; there's a giant beast named Borgrim and a ghost girl named Nina who sticks with him; plus, there are plenty of other NPCs, some annoying villains, and cameos from other Summon Night games (including the real Summon Night 2 for PlayStation). But most important are the main characters. If you choose male, your name is Edgar, and if female, you are Aera. The four possible summon creatures are Loki, the Oni Child; Arno, the Half-Beast; Dinah, the Devil Girl (with an angelic split personality); and EXeLD, the Mechanoid Soldier. All four are wonderful supporters with humorous dialogue to keep the conversations fresh.
So, as I wrote earlier, your father (Graham) sealed off a big evil summon creature in a temple within the village. As is standard procedure, he died in the process. Unfortunately, some folks are plotting to resurrect the beast (named Goura) and use its power to wreak havoc on the world. Now it's up to you, Edgar/Aera, to keep the world safe. No surprises there!
The game's plot and character development are fairly linear, and while the game is longer than its predecessor, characters' motives are fairly simple; much less complex than in the first game, even if you are served a healthy heaping of betrayal from some of your comrades in this one. The game's story earns a decent 83%, pretty good for a handheld.
Like the game before it, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 runs on random encounters that go action-RPG like a "Tales" game. The improvements over the original are subtle but significant, particularly in combat. The "five spells per battle" rule has been bumped up to six, a slot has been added for weapon skills (a whole new concept), and your character is capable of doing a Super Saiyan-like transformation now and then to take care of ugly situations. To make things more challenging, however, a weapon's durability is now a "permanent" gauge like HP, wherein it isn't recharged after a battle. New recovery items exist to regain DP (for weapons), and broken weapons may also be repaired back at your home's forge.
Outside of combat, there are lots of little eccentricities that set this game apart from the first. Weapon synthesis (and upgrading) are almost entirely different from the first game. Instead of elemental properties, specific items are used to forge specific weapons. And though the five standard weapons are the same (sword, axe, spear, glove, drill), you are unable to make a weapon of this nature without a "shapestone" for that specific type. To get higher powered weapons, the general procedure is to disassemble an old weapon (regaining only the shapestone) and starting over with a better synthesis item. Quantities are limited, and it's not at all easy to get your hands on great weaponry. I generally felt like my foes were one step ahead of me in combat, rather than the other way around.
Within the scope of the main plot's arc, puzzle-solving isn't a major problem. The game could have used a few more of those handy teleportation devices around the map, which is spread out to all sorts of different locations (instead of the one, big dungeon crawl that we saw in the first Swordcraft Story). Other than this minor grievance, going through the game wasn't a big challenge. The encounter rate was reasonable, and for those who think it's too high, items exist that decrease the encounter rate. Most of my "Game Over" screens came from unexpectedly difficult boss battles, particularly in the last two or three hours of the game.
Speaking of game length, this one took me closer to 20 hours, compared to the original game which took a little over 10 hours. After finishing the game, there are plenty more bonus dungeons and high quality weaponry to find, and there are also plenty of subquests to finish up (many of them beginning alongside the game's main storyline). A completed game also allows for a New Game Plus (carrying over some weapons, items, money, etc.) or a bonus boss rush where you can play as yourself or as the training enemy "Rampage Rabbit." The bonuses are mostly for kicks and replay value, but they're worthy of your attention nonetheless.
The gameplay may differ from the first in enough ways to keep it fresh, but not in any way that I could alter the score for better or worse. This sequel's gameplay gets an 88%.
It's hard to boast about control in a handheld game, but I did it with the first game. However, I had one big problem with this one: you are much less agile in battle. Running and jumping, for some reason, seemed laggy and sometimes downright non-responsive. Along with that, certain weapons were changed such that their diversity and function with the control scheme was diminished. It was a big letdown for me.
But, compared to all the other RPGs (particularly action-RPGs) on the GBA, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 still excels in ways I struggle to describe. Consequently, I'm handing out a 90% for Control.
Easily the best 2D GBA game in the graphics department, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2 trumped all its competition in 2004, and I daresay it's still doing so in late 2006. That may be because developers moved on to bigger and better things (like the DS), but I was shocked at the high quality graphical work put into this little cartridge. The game sports a flashy introduction, beautiful hand-drawn characters, lovely environments with relatively detailed sprites, spectacular battle animation, and a few other visual surprises to keep players interested.
I have no complaints, and I am unable to think of any way the game could have improved upon its own visuals. They are clearly more refined than the first Swordcraft Story, which also had some decent graphics. Nice work, Flight-Plan! Graphics gets a 90%.
The same sound team as before, including Minako Adachi, shows up to score the sequel. Unfortunately, at least half of the soundtrack is ported directly from the first game. The new songs that were added are alright, but I much preferred the soundtrack to Swordcraft Story 1.
What did impress me was the decent amount of in-battle voice acting. The voices came through so clearly for a handheld, I have to say that I was impressed. Nice work, Atlus, for the decent recording and the English voice acting!
Decent music, great voice acting, all on a handheld game? Not too bad: 80%.
After really getting into the first Swordcraft Story, I admit that this game was nothing like what I expected it to be. It's not a direct sequel in terms of story, and it's not a simple dungeon crawler either. Instead, it's a sort of wayward, roundabout RPG that gets the job done well. Personally, I still prefer the first game to this one, but objectively, Swordcraft Story 2 makes serious strides to improve on the first, and I cannot overlook that. As such, I'm awarding the handheld RPG an 86%. We can only hope that Atlus will see some value in this series and bring more games from Flight-Plan to the US.