Summon Night: Twin Age


Review by · July 11, 2008

Flight-Plan’s Summon Night series has performed fairly well in Japan with its four main-series console titles and numerous handhelds gaidens and ports. In America, however, we only have three titles in the series at our disposal. Fortunately, the localization for these three titles were all handled by Atlus, a company known for their quality translations. The previous two Summon Night titles we received were the two “Swordcraft Story” games. These played similar to a “Tales” series installment, with random encounters leading to real-time battles. The third handheld game we’ve now received is “Twin Age” for the DS, and it plays unlike any other game in the series.

At first glance, Summon Night: Twin Age looks like a clone of the Square Enix-style RTS/RPG hybrid, made famous by Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings. But this is far from the truth. Despite the top-down perspective and stylus-heavy controls, Twin Age plays much more like a standard Action RPG.

When starting a new game, the player is initially presented with the option of playing as either a boy or a girl. This is standard for all Summon Night titles, as well as many other RPGs. The boy/girl pair are the two heroes of the story, and regardless who you choose as your main, you are able to control both of them (and only those two) in battle. The young lady is a human named Reiha, and her “brother” is actually her Summon Beast, Aldo. The two of them live on the peaceful island of Marbado alongside the only other sentient race in their world, the “Kascuza,” who are your typical anime-style half-animal furry-people-folk. The game opens with the brother-sister pair preparing for a “coming of age” ceremony, when out of nowhere the spirits on the island become restless, then violent, and eventually attacking the two children. Early investigation shows that these spirits are being angered by something happening on the mainland, where humans (including the “Summoners,” whom the Kascuza hate for their practice of “enslaving” summoned creatures) are assumed by the Kascuza as being the catalyst for the change. The coming of age ceremony is put on hold, as is another important ceremony for a young Kascuza who was about to be declared princess, and you–alongside your sibling and Kascuza friends–head for the mainland.

The setup may sound weak, and the “fantasy creatures caught up in a race war” plot may be overdone, but Flight-Plan gives this cliché plot the all-star treatment, weaving in various layers of moral ambiguity and character depth for a fairly large and diverse cast of characters. The dialogue is all well-written and (as usual) well-translated by Atlus. The story’s only weakness is that, from beginning to end credits, this game only takes about 10 hours to beat, so it is short. But, even with plenty of fast-paced gameplay, Flight-Plan packed in enough dialogue events to make this a worthwhile RPG for just about anybody. Your mileage may vary, but I truly enjoyed the plot to this game.

In Twin Age, the player can only control one character a time. And, that one character can only be Aldo or Reiha. You can always switch between the two characters on screen, but any other characters in your party are completely AI-controled (you can set some basic functionality for them in the menu of course, but they are independent for the most part). You can bring a third “teammate” with you, and you can also summon creatures to aid you in battle. The gameplay is fairly simple, and requires minimal button-pressing; the stylus is used exclusively for 95% of the game. You use the touch screen to move, attack, and even use abilities (thanks to two handy command palettes on the left and right of the screen, which you can minimize if you don’t want them to block that narrow strip of field vision). The abilities used in battle are all a part of the stylus gimmick, since spell/ability usage varies depending on type. It can be as simple as “touch the ally/enemy,” or more complicated things like “draw a line over the area of effect” or “quickly tap multiple enemies in succession for a chain attack.” These abilities are not only a lot of fun to use, they are the key to winning the game. Without them, the game is quite difficult; effective use, however, makes the game a cakewalk for veteran RPG nuts.

For the large part of the game, you explore dungeons, kill all the enemies, pick up all the loot, and fight a boss at the end. At this point, you complete a “chapter.” After every other chapter, you have the option to speak with one of your party members. You could choose to speak to the same person (presumably, Aldo or Reiha) every night for the whole game, but you can also talk to other characters. This has always been the case with Summon Night titles, and it’s nice to see this tradition continue on the DS. The meat of character development is found here, so die-hard Summon Night fans may want to play the game more than once to learn all there is to know about the different characters that join your party.

The graphics are surprisingly decent. The closest thing to “FMV” we get in this game is a pseudo-camera panning around some still, hand-drawn anime images. Even so, these character portraits are remarkably memorable; they serve their purpose well. In-game graphics are better than the aforementioned Square Enix counterpart, if only because the sprites and environments are more detailed and less pixelated. Kudos to Flight-Plan for showing up a high-budget company!

As for sound, here’s a surprise: voice acting. Not a whole lot, about the same amount as what was found in Star Ocean: The Second Story–three second voice clips used to emphasize a line of dialogue or to call the player’s attention in battle. I estimate there are over 500 voice clips recorded, all in English (sadly, the Japanese clips didn’t fit on the DS cartridge). As for performance, it’s hard to “sell” a character with less-than-a-sentence voice clips, so I’d say the work was decent, but nothing too special. The music, on the other hand…

For years, Flight-Plan had relied on Chiaki Fujita and Minako Adachi to score their games, particularly in the Summon Night series. However, when Dragon Shadow Spell was released, there was a new composer in town: Takashi Okamoto. For Summon Night: Twin Age, Okamoto takes the role of sound director/producer, but the actual composition was outsourced to “MIDI CLUB WEST,” a group of synth composers in Japan that knocked my socks off. When I heard the music for the opening sequence, I thought “if this is any indication of the game’s music, I am sure to be pleased.” It was, and I am. Sadly, like many handheld games, there was no official soundtrack release for Twin Age. The VGM importer in me cries for justice! Fortunately, there is a “sound test” menu in the game where you can listen to every single song (there are almost 50 of them, and they’re all decent). The style isn’t epic, orchestral, nor is it a hard rock guitar-heavy score. What we find here is a very light and friendly score, with influences from jazz, pop, island, and even some hip-hop. All in all, the music is great.

So here’s my recommendation: add this one to your DS collection. Even if you didn’t like games such as Heroes of Mana or FFXII: Revenant Wings, you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this. The only warning I’d give is, if you are turned off by the cutesy anime style (see the two “Swordcraft Story” games for GBA), you’ll want to stay far away. Overall, the game is a lot of fun, provides a bit of challenge (including some great post-endgame dungeons), and it includes some great dialogue, graphics, and sound. What’s not to like?

Overall Score 85
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Patrick Gann

Patrick Gann

Therapist by day and gamer by night, Patrick has been offering semi-coherent ramblings about game music to RPGFan since its beginnings. From symphonic arrangements to rock bands to old-school synth OSTs, Patrick keeps the VGM pumping in his home, to the amusement and/or annoyance of his large family of humans and guinea pigs.