With the recent release of Legend of Mana plus the release of Chrono Cross looming on the horizon, many might overlook Threads of Fate since it isn't a continuation of any Square franchise. While not one of the greatest RPGs by any means, it does bring enough to the table to be fun and enjoyable... twice through!
Threads of Fate (known as Dew Prism in Japan) is an action RPG with split scenarios. When starting a new game, Rue or Mint can be chosen as the controllable character. Both characters have distinct personalities and different objectives in the game.
Rue is a serious, strong-willed individual who is searching for a powerful relic to resurrect Claire, who was killed in a brutal attack. His polite nature and pure heart makes him the typical male hero found in many RPGs. He wields the arc edge, which somewhat resembles half a frying pan with a long handle and a sharp blade. Along with his fighting skills, he can collect monster coins, which allow him to transform into the five most recent enemies (excluding bosses) he's collected coins from. Once transformed, he can utilize each monster's special attacks.
Mint, on the other hand, is stubborn, selfish, and extremely bossy. She was the Princess of East Haven Kingdom until the high council named her younger sister Maya as princess and heir to the throne due to Mint's irresponsible attitude. Mint was infuriated and swore she would get a powerful relic, beat her sister, and achieve world domination! Mint fights with a pair of sharp rings and also uses magic.
The split scenario feature is one of the highlights in the game. For the first time, you finally get to experience two angles of roughly the same story. During each quest, one can observe the other character and may wonder what they're up to or why he/she acts the way they do. Then, during the other quest their full story is revealed.
Threads of Fate uses a standard HP/MP system with a few minor twists. There are no healing spells and the only way to heal HP is by staying at the inn, standing in special fields (usually found in dungeons), or picking up blue potions from defeated enemies. Magic can be replenished by using normal attacks, or by picking up orange potions. HP/MP are raised point-by-point rather than with distinct levels. HP is gained by taking damage and MP is gained by utilizing magic for Mint or special attacks with Rue's transformations. Strength and defense stats are raised by purchasing items in the shop, which are equipped automatically.
Dying is handled a little differently than it was in Brave Fencer Musashi. Instead of getting infinite chances in battle, each character must forfeit a Coin of Life to continue, choose the "Back to Town" option which sends you back to Carona, but strips half of your monster stash, or quit the game, which lets you start at a previous save. The coins come in four different varieties. A bronze coin refills 1/4 of MP, a silver coin refills 1/2 MP, a gold coin refills all MP, and a platinum coin refills all MP and adds 1 point to both the strength and defense of your character. Each coin refills all HP and adds one point to HP and MP each time you use them. This system might have worked, except coins can be easily obtained by making donations at the church. Also, most bosses won't take more than five tries so coins aren't in high demand.
Threads of Fate employs a slightly different variation of earning money. After fighting monsters in a dungeon, monsters can be exchanged for money in one of the two shops in Carona. Also, any other items (other than coins) can be sold for extra cash.
From the town of Carona, each character can travel to various locations once they are available through the use of a menu screen. This and the fact that Carona is the only town you will visit makes for a limited world to explore. Also, the town itself doesn't have much to it.
During both quests, Rue and Mint are sent off to find various items needed to get the relic. With the exception of one dungeon per character, they both travel to the same dungeons to get the same items. The only difference is the obvious changes in dialogue and the way each character tackles puzzles. Also, near the end of the game, both quests branch off a bit prior to the final area.
The standard formula for dungeons in Threads of Fate is killing enemies, solving puzzles, fighting a boss or two, and then finding an item. Unfortunately, there are few dungeons available for exploration and having to fight through similar areas in each quest makes for limited gameplay, especially for hard-core action fans.
Controlling your characters is a smooth and fairly responsive experience, but a few things get in the way. First of all, the camera is automatically adjusted except for a few rooms in town where it can be manually rotated. This makes for some rather bad camera angles in dungeons. The most notable example is heading out of the underground ruins. Platforms that are out of camera view must be jumped on to continue exploration.
When fighting, Threads of Fate automatically targets the enemy closest to you and directs the attack accordingly. This may help when slashing blindly in a hard-to-see area, but if enemies are crowding your character and you wish to dispatch them one by one, be prepared to turn in circles hitting each enemy once or twice.
As for the act of jumping, it's controlled well, except there is truly only one distance you can jump. This makes gameplay especially frustrating in Fancy Mel's mini-games where falling off a platform means you have to start all over.
Although small, Threads of Fate contains a rich, colorful world. It utilizes 3D backdrops and 3D characters, both of which have been noticeably improved from the graphics seen in Brave Fencer Musashi. The characters have an amazing amount of detail in their unique designs and display some of the smoothest animation I have ever seen on Playstation.
However, there are a few significant negative comments in regards to the graphical presentation. Perhaps it's unavoidable on the PlayStation, but watching characters with polygons that frequently flicker and sometimes break is really annoying. While the flawed polygons didn't ruin character interaction, the lack of any facial expressions did. When facial shots are shown during a sad moment and the character has a smile on his/her face, it nullifies the genuine emotion the character would otherwise be showing. I realize the PlayStation couldn't handle full facial movement, but they could've at least moved their mouths a bit.
The sound in this game is overall an average experience, with a few high and low points mixed in. The hack and slash sound effects most people expect from an action RPG are in place and used well. Also, sounds of water, creaking doors, and footsteps add to the realism of the game.
The music provides an inconsistent performance. There are some tracks in the game like the town theme, a few of the sad themes, and the final dungeon music that stood out as finely engineered pieces. However, others like the mini-game music and the underground ruins theme are obnoxious and very repetitive. Also, while I like the main theme for Threads of Fate, I think it was a poor choice to remix it so many times in different pieces.
Both quest lengths vary by how many attempts it takes before you beat bosses and how much leveling up one chooses to do. However, I found that once you learn the patterns of the bosses the first time through, the second will take you roughly half the time. After beating both quests you can replay both again, retaining all your stats from the previous journeys. Add all of this gameplay time up, and you just barely have a full-length RPG.
Despite the limited nature of a few significant aspects in Threads of Fate, it delivers two unique, well-translated stories with lovable (and despicable) characters. Fans who enjoyed Brave Fencer Musashi and those who want a linear action RPG this summer should look no further than Threads of Fate. Those who didn't enjoy BFM or never played it should rent the game first.