The fourth game in the Generation of Chaos (Shinten Makai) series was the first to cross the Pacific and reach those of us in the US. This series, along with the “Spectral” series, makes up the majority of the games developed by Idea Factory. Thanks to the tireless efforts of NIS America, this is the first (and certainly not last) Idea Factory game seen in the US.
However, we aren’t getting the original package. Generation of Chaos IV was originally released for PlayStation 2. The PSP port of the game was entitled “GoC IV Another Side,” and though it included some new features, it also came with a lot of technical bugs. Perhaps in an effort to help Sony stock up the PSP’s library, NIS America chose to release the portable version rather than the original. Does it still pass as a decent game? Let’s take a look.
Generation of Chaos is a strategy RPG, but of its own sort. On the field, we see a turn-based, grid-based game that nearly resembles a board game. In battle, however, it’s real-time action with basic commands and skills for a general and his/her troops. This has been the basic gameplay style throughout the series. The particular details of each game in the series vary from here.
You begin by choosing one of two different scenarios, and from this point, you have access to a small section of the world. This section is displayed as a board game setup, and is the “field” through which you can move your troops, upgrade towns, construct new roads, etc. This board expands as you complete each “chapter,” which generally means annihilating an opposing army (or whatever other objective the game has you do).
The commanders, be they generic or particular characters, have two ways of performing special attacks. One is done by using SP, which is displayed in numeric form (most characters have a mere six SP to spend). The SP is replenished by spending a turn in a town or other fortified areas. Other abilities are used through the support bar. This bar is filled as you and your troops give and take damage, and it can be filled up to three times. All support-based abilities use up one bar, and they are generally stronger moves than what can be spent with SP. Other than these special abilities and basic commands (such as “attack” or “wait”), battles take place automatically; you are not in control of any character as the battle progresses.
All in all it sounds like some good, decent, strategic fun right? Wrong. I found it humorous that each turn you take requires a month of “in-game” time, because that’s about what it felt like in real life. The load times are inexcusable. Even worse is the slow down. For the first ten hours I played the game, I just assumed that my troops were supposed to move as slow as they did. But then, in one instance, I entered a battle without any troops, and the enemy only had a few troops. With only a few characters on screen, the battle ran very quickly, the sort of pace I had always expected the game to be (and, based on spiritual predecessor “Dragon Force,” this is what I was accustomed to seeing). Seriously, the majority of the game’s battles ran at one third the speed they were supposed to. Why Idea Factory (and later, NIS America) didn’t notice this and either fix it or scrap the project is completely beyond me. It was simply unacceptable.
If you’re willing to play a game that runs slower than the early-year PlayStation titles, then you’ll find a decent strategy RPG behind all the slow gameplay. But for all of you non-ascetics, those of you who don’t want to develop the virtue of patience by playing a defective game, you’ll want to steer clear. Gameplay gets a 50%.
The control interface for Generation of Chaos works fairly well, but considering the vast amount of menu navigation and selection required, I was surprised by some of the inconsistencies in button assignment. For example, when adding and subtracting (in a shop or in adding bonus points to a character), the R button was used. However, the obvious choice of using L to take away and R to add was neglected. In its place was the instruction to “hold SELECT and press R” to take away. Does this make any sense? No.
This is one of a good half-dozen cases where I found button assignment to be awkward. Also, I have a natural disdain for the PSP’s “analog” controls, and would prefer to use the directional pad at all times. This was not possible, as one worked to navigate particular squares on the board, and the other was used to quickly pan the camera around the board.
Control barely passes with a 70%.
Like all the other 2D sprite-based games out there, we have a few different things to judge graphically. These include character artwork, anime cut scenes, in-game animation and effects, and field design. Among these, the character artwork usually pulls out on top. This is again the case in Generation of Chaos, and for two reasons. Not only are the typical cookie-cutter anime characters replaced with more dark and interesting characters, but there is also such a large cast of characters that one cannot help but be overwhelmed by the amount of work that went into the character design (even if some are duplicates from previous games).
The opening FMV is only one of many cut scenes throughout the game. The others, of course, are much shorter. These other FMVs are played when major characters use special attacks in battle. They’re nothing spectacular; just character portraits panning across different backgrounds with the character yelling something about the ability they’re about to perform. However, it was a nice added touch, and I definitely appreciated it.
In-game animation and effects, typically the “other” abilities that can be performed, look pretty good. It’s a shame that these scenes cannot be skipped since they serve merely to take up more time in an already slow-paced game. But, for what it’s worth, the spells and abilities look good, though they are generic in nature.
Then, of course, the 2D sprites are fairly dated. They don’t have much expression; they are the super-deformed sprites you’ve come to expect from Idea Factory and their like-minded peers: Gust, Flight Plan, etc. In fact, if I were to rate the different companies on their ability to make their sprites “life-like,” Idea Factory would fall lower than the other companies mentioned, at least with this title.
I liked the way the world map was designed, and the way the field expanded throughout the game. For being a game focused on chaos, it was a lot more colorful and much less “dark” than I would have guessed.
The decent artwork and a few other redeeming features keep the game’s graphics from receiving a failing grade. And, again, the mediocre graphics do not warrant such long load times! The verdict is in, with a 70%.
Kenichi Kikawa’s music is good, but lacking in variety. The blandness begins to stand out after playing the game for a few hours. I enjoyed the J-pop opening piece a lot; it fit well with the game’s mood and style.
The voice acting is surprisingly good. Both English and Japanese are available (now the NIS America standard), and both are great. The problem is that there isn’t much of it. The two main scenarios offer a fair amount of voice acting, but the extra scenarios do not offer much voice acting during the cut scenes. The quantity is the real issue here, because the quality wasn’t bad at all.
A final point: the sound’s balance is awful. In the options menu, you can adjust sound effects, voice acting, and music as you see fit. However, even with these set to your liking, there seems to be some inconsistency as to when these customized settings do or do not process. I am not referring to movies, because the “movie” audio is set as its own audio balance. There were other times that sound effects came out too loud, or the dialogue was too soft.
Were it not for the volume balance issues, this score could have made the 80s range. As is, I’m going to have to give the sound a score of 75%.
Main plot in a nutshell: gods try to destroy their creation with the power of dragons. Unfortunately for them, they lost. The gods are defeated, and the dragons are sealed off by humans so that they are never used again.
Greed and power rear their ugly heads when an empire tries to conquer the whole world. A few of the higher-ups plan to unleash the power of the sealed dragons to help them in their zealous quest.
From the start, you can play as a member of the empire or the king of a small human kingdom. As the story progresses, regardless of your opening campaign setup, you personally have the choice to be for or against the empire. As the game nears its end, the true motives of the sinister villain are revealed. No surprises.
NIS America did a decent job with the translation of the script. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the player to appreciate all the work that went into it, since one play through the game gives you a mere quarter of all the event dialogue, if that. There was one thing that bothered me to no end: a villain named “Toodles.” Now, they pronounce it correctly, as it was in Japanese: “Toh-da-less.” But they never bothered changing the spelling to a proper form, so you look at it and say to yourself, “Toodles? Really?!”
Character development is at an all time low. I would have loved to learn more about the characters, but even the protagonist you choose for your scenario is given only a small bit of exposition. The fact that I had to play over thirty hours of slow-paced gaming to learn only a little bit about a small portion of characters ought to frustrate you as much as it did me. It’s too much work for too little pay.
I wasn’t expecting much from the plot to Generation of Chaos, but my low expectations needed to be lowered. Lowered to about, say, a 45%.
One of my favorite characters in Generation of Chaos had a “catch phrase” she used while performing her strongest attack. She said, quite convincingly, “there are no judges that await you: only the executioner!” The delivery to it was great. However, the subsequent load time after the announcement of the attack reminded me of one poignant fact: I would be the one judging this game.
But, like Gena’s opponents, this game doesn’t need a judge. It needs an executioner. I’m not sure what it was that drove me to complete the game, but in retrospect, I know that it wasn’t worth the time spent. It could have been a game worth playing, and hence worth telling you about. But the bugs in the system were enough to kill the experience for me. I wish I had been able to play the PlayStation 2 version.
Behind all the lag is an okay game… not great, but okay. I’m giving it a 55%, knowing the score would be much higher had it played properly. Unless you’re training yourself to become good at waiting, maybe in some sort of sick anger management therapy that teaches you to endure traffic lights, the load times and in-game slow down will be enough to keep you from playing this game.