It’s a strange time for Japanese RPG makers at the moment. Either everyone’s waiting for Final Fantasy XIII
to come along, or interest in the genre has dissipated on a global level. Enter Tri-Ace’s new project with SEGA, Resonance of Fate
. It has been specifically developed to appeal to a Western audience and, boy, can you see it the moment are first faced with its impressive gun-slinging, steam punk universe.
During SEGA’s Summer Sizzler event, I was treated to a special demo of the game, courtesy of Localisation Producer Jun Yoshino, Tri-Ace’s Director Takayuki Suguro and SEGA Japan Producer Mitsuhiro Shimano. Suguro-san explained that the studio was very keen to create a game that allowed it to take a fresh approach to RPGs without limiting the team's talents to Japanese-style environments. That said, so as not to alienate the home audience, Resonance of Fate
contains many game-play features that keep to the classic JRPG structure.
You control a pack of three neo-Wild West style mercenaries: Zephyr, Reanbell and leader Vashyron. You accept jobs from upper class bods who’d rather not get their hands dirty. The World Map – and indeed the game itself – is set in a huge mechanical city, where your class determines the level of your residence.
The aristocracy looks down upon the peasants, who are forced to live in squalor in the lower floors of a spindly tower. Yet the city is run like clockwork thanks to a machine controlling the world’s entire life support and environmental systems.
I’d be guessing this is the crux of the story, where it all gets philosophical and starts reading like a grungy version of Star Trek
. I say, 'guessing' because Jun Yoshino wasn’t willing to divulge any more plot details beyond the fact that only the aristocracy knows about this machine and its control of the world.
After showing off a few local areas that Vashyron and company would be regularly visiting in the game – such as a rather rusty headquarters and the Abel City Guild building to take optional quests – I was shown the World Map in all its 2D honeycomb glory.
Before you can explore any newly discovered town or dungeon in 3D you have to unlock that specific area, represented by clear (locked) hexagons on the World Map. Defeating enemies or collecting items via regular (but rare) drops will earn you hexagons arranged into ‘pieces’ that can be slotted into the World Map to unlock that area. Jun tells us that it’s a bit like Tetris
in that you have to really think about which pieces to use in which areas.
For any area that you haven’t unlocked yet (represented by an exclamation mark), you can wander in the 2D World Map to encourage random battles. The corner of the screen displays a flowing period of time, meaning different enemies and situations may happen at certain points of the day. When you’re locked into battle with a bunch of bad guys, your three gunslingers are lined up in a row, waiting for your command.