[Review] Record of Agarest War Zero
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360; Publisher: Aksys Games; Developer: Compile Heart; Players: 1; Released: June 14, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site
Over the years the tactical RPG formula has not changed much and with the release of Record of Agarest War: Zero, the statement still holds true. But Record of Agarest War: Zero is still a formidable game that has a solidly built battle system and interesting storyline. This game is a prequel to the original game aptly titled Record of Agarest War and the story begins 1,000 years before the original story line.
This time around, the forces of light and darkness are at war and a little known commander by the name of Siegfried is cast in the spotlight as he is imbued with special powers after a chance meeting with a mysterious girl named Mimel.
Gamers who have played the original title will be glad that not much has changed with the battle system and that the significant tweaks are mainly cosmetic. The voice acting is still superb; all of the voice acting, whether in-game or during cut scenes, is in Japanese. Still, the animated sequences progresses the story smoothly and, combined with the Japanese audio, brings an immersion and smoothness that many games fail to achieve due to the clunky nature of English dubbing.
As mentioned, Record of Agarest War: Zero doesn’t stray far from the typical tactical RPG formula and, to put it bluntly, it doesn’t need to. Record of Agarest War: Zero’s combat system is basically the same as it was in its predecessor. This is where the meat of the game lies. Most of the gameplay will be on the battlefield and battles are divided into two phases: the Move and Action Phases. At the beginning of the Move Phase, combatants gain AP (Action Points) equal to their AP score. The Action Phase begins after movement and is where all the damage is dealt.
Linked Attacks are a special characteristic in the Record of Agarest War series as it provides a unique action in the age old tactical RPG formula. By placing characters on specific squares, players can perform Linked Attacks, which allow two or more characters to combine their attacks against a single enemy. By linking your whole team together, they can combine their attacks and achieve overkills that will drop miscellaneous items. By focusing attacks on one enemy, players will be able to deplete an enemy’s break gauge, making that unit more vulnerable to damage. This tactic is especially valuable since battlefields in the game are compact, making it imperative to choose the right decisions in a fight as room for any sort of error is limited.
Another aspect of the game that is carried over from the original Record of Agarest War is that certain skills, when combined, form Extended Skills. The discovery of different combinations is fun and adds a different layer into the already robust gameplay. Extended Skills are fun to discover but can also be learned by reading manuals purchased from item shops. Extended Skills are worthwhile to obtain; they’re more powerful than normal skills, which will help against enemies and their break gauges.
The attractive and well-drawn animated sequences that drive the story also play an important role in the affection system of the game. As the game progresses, the protagonist will be able to increase the affection levels of any female character in the game. The dating-simulation feature of the game is quite fun and will have profound effects on future generations of the game. Through the use of the Affection System, Compile Heart has incorporated a system that allows for gamers to be involved in shaping future generations in the game, adding to the replay value and inviting players to try new combinations every time.
Record of Agarest War: Zero has not changed much from its predecessor and thankfully so. With Compile Heart building upon the already solid foundation of the original game, this game is much more refined and polished. From the multifaceted battle system to the more personalized affection system, Record of Agarest War: Zero is the best iteration of the series thus far. The dating-simulation aspect adds a dimension of immersion into the game, making this a unique tactical RPG that blends interactive immersion with solid gameplay.