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Summon Night: Twin Age
Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Flight-Plan
Genre: Action RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 06/03/08
Japan 08/30/07
Official Website: English Site



Scorecard
Graphics: 70%
Sound: 65%
Gameplay: 80%
Control: 90%
Story: 65%
Overall: 76%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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Evil Nausicaä bugs, no!!!
 
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Simple tutorial screens are available for almost every ability in the game.
 
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The sailing shop, "Dolphin Song," always at your service!
 
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Someone's gonna die...
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Ashton Liu
Summon Night: Twin Age
07/11/08
Ashton Liu

Back when Atlus was the only niche company in town, they had near total dominance of the niche gamer market. Nowadays, however, Atlus is no longer the only niche localization company in town. While their localizations are still top of the line and are head and shoulders above what other companies put out, their selection of niche games to localize have nearly run dry. While in the past, the niche gaming market was a goldmine that Atlus seemed to have exclusive rights to, today the market has been overrun by "me too" companies that cater to the same market, leading Atlus to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel with games such as Deep Labyrinth, Operation Darkness, and, in this case, Summon Night: Twin Age.

Not to say that Summon Night: Twin Age is a terrible game, merely that it seems rather odd that Atlus has chosen to localize the more mindless hack-and-slash entries of a series that gained popularity for and defined itself by strategic and slow paced gameplay in Japan. Nevertheless, Summon Night: Twin Age is a walk through familiar territory for most RPG enthusiasts, though depending on your tastes, this visit to a more orthodox RPG experience may not be altogether unmerited.

The story revolves around two main characters, Aldo and Reiha. Both are barely adults who are living in a remote island with a community of demi-beasts, away from human society. The game begins on a typical day for the two protagonists: gathering berries and talking about nothing at all when suddenly the spirits–a mystical force that controls the flow of nature. Aldo and Reiha gather some demi-beast friends and set off to human civilization in order to get to the bottom of these happenings. Along the way the game delves into the segregation of humans and demi-beasts and the issue of racism and discrimination, but these issues are handled with your typical non-offensive jRPG tone and never really accumulates much depth. Perhaps I've grown less inclined to pay attention to standard jRPG stories, or Summon: Night Twin Age's story really was just that boring, but whatever the case, Twin Age's storyline never really captured my interest, and instead I spent most of the story scenes madly pushing the A button to skip through the dialogue.

Atlus, widely known as having some of the greatest localizations in the industry, seems to have lost their luster with this game. The voicework is above average, at best; some characters are competently voiced, while others grated my nerves more than I thought an Atlus game possible–if I have to hear Reiha say "BOOOOOOOO!" one more time, I'm going to tear out my cochlea. The localization itself is rather barebones, and only amounts to being purely serviceable for the game's storyline–the characters are each one dimensional archetypes with nearly no development whatsoever, and the lack of any memorable dialogue prevents the game's storyline from standing out at all. At the end of certain chapters, the player can select a character to talk to, but these conversations also lack any compelling narrative or development. Atlus, I know you can do better than this.

Twin Age's graphics are well done, though nothing entirely special, either. The sprites are colorful and well animated, the backgrounds and environments are vibrant and varied, and the character portraits–done by one of my personal favorite game artists, Sunaho Tobe–are detailed and numerous. The problem comes when the camera zooms in on the sprites and profiles for certain attacks and abilities, and they become horribly pixelated. I don't think it's too much to ask that if they're going to show a close up of the characters, they should at least take the time to create specific graphics for that purpose. The music is rather unremarkable, none of which really stood out, and none of which remained in my mind after I had turned the game off.

The gameplay is ultimately Summon Night: Twin Age's biggest draw. The player can take control of either Aldo or Reiha, and can switch between them at any time as long as they are both on screen. Both characters have their own specific specialties: Aldo has access to a bevy of weapons, each having specific abilities and attacks associated with them, and Reiha has a myriad of powerful magic spells at her fingertips. The difference in play style and seamless transition between character switching means players can switch from Aldo to Reiha and back again at their convenience to adapt to different situations. Out of the huge cast of characters, only one may accompany Aldo and Reiha into dungeons, though the player may only set the general actions of this third character–it's completely AI controlled, which is unfortunate because the AI in this game is unbelievably bad. While in normal battles it doesn't show too much because enemies die in a few hits, in boss fights this flaw becomes incredibly glaring as your AI companions will stand there and take multiple hits, and attack the enemy recklessly instead of healing themselves when they are near death. Thankfully, any defeated characters come back if the player waits long enough, but having to fight a boss alone because your compatriots were too stupid to heal is a terrible experience.

Being a title called Summon Night, one would assume there's summoning in this game. Throughout the game the player can obtain items called flasks, which can be used on the world map in order to create an item which can be used in dungeons to conjure enemies that have already been defeated to fight at Aldo and Reiha's side. These disposable allies will attack enemies until their HP runs out, which, sadly, is incredibly fast. They don't have half the longevity of even the wimpiest of your allies, and this summoning system seems like more of an afterthought–it would've made much more sense if the player was allowed to bring more than just one ally out of a cast of six into a dungeon.

Battle plays out in a way similar to that of Final Fantasy XII. Tapping the stylus on an enemy will lead the controlled character to begin autoattacking the enemy until it's defeated. Aldo and Reiha each have a palette along either side of the touch screen where the player can assign up to twelve abilities for use during combat. While fighting, the player taps the attacks assigned to each block and then uses the appropriate stylus motion to execute the attack. While one attack may require a mere tapping of an enemy to target it, another may demand slashing the stylus across the screen multiple times to initiate the ability. These command palettes are large enough so that they are easily accessible, but small enough that they don't block the player's view from anything important.

Accompanying this entertaining battle system is an extensive skill tree system. Aldo and Reiha each have their own unique set of abilities, and the player can choose what to specialize in as they level. Aldo has abilities that enhance his proficiency with weapons and allow him to deal more physical damage, while Reiha has multiple elemental spells as well as healing and support skills. No matter what the choices, the game will never punish the player for moving toward a certain path or choosing specific abilities.

What is odd is that Atlus, in localizing the game, decided to give players a generous amount of skill points and a large cache of items right when the game begins. At first I thought my game had been glitched, but upon restarting my game, I discovered that Atlus decided to add proverbial 'training wheels' to the game. This essentially makes the beginning parts of the game a cakewalk, as players will cut a bloody swath of destruction with a large collection of attacks and copious amounts of healing items. Admittedly, these additions make no true difference by the end of the game, and serve to make the game's learning curve less steep for those not familiar with these mechanics. After the main storyline is finished, multiple extra dungeons can be accessed, which is a treat for those who enjoy the gameplay. A New Game+ feature can also be found when starting a new game after beating the game once, so those who want another go at the story can experience it again with all their levels, items, and abilities intact.

While Summon Night: Twin Age does not push the envelopes in any area, it has a certain charm to it that can't be denied. Maybe it's the colorful graphics and characters designs, or the entertaining gameplay, but whatever the reason, I can't bring myself to dislike it. If you have a propensity for mature, more serious storylines, innovative gameplay, and deep character development, look elsewhere. On the other hand, if you don't mind a certain level of pretentiousness and a more by-the-numbers approach to gameplay, you could do much worse than this game. While certainly not one of Atlus' better attempts, it can't be disputed that Summon Night: Twin Age is a game with a lot of heart, and it's hard to hold that against it.



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