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Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) artwork

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) review

"An unfortunate conjuring..."

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) image

Go big or go home. Perhaps you've seen this slogan floating around of late. I've never been a fan of it, honestly. Something about it smacks of water tower-sized fountain sodas and ridiculously bulky pickup trucks that can be easily mistaken for cruise liners. Yet lately I've caught myself muttering those five words under my breath, particularly when playing certain video games. You see, I'm tired of involving myself with lengthy, middling titles that are best described as "not terrible." Sometimes I think there's no bigger waste of my precious free time than 30+ hours spent charging through a campaign that's only halfhearted in its execution. Such was my experience with Lizsoft's one and only product, Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone.

Games like Fortune Summoners are difficult to give up on because they're either intermittently enjoyable or they present an ever-present element or device that resonates with you. In my case, an attachment formed because the game served as a throwback to vintage 2D adventure and/or role-playing titles such as Battle of Olympus and Ys III: Wanderers from Ys. From the moment I exited the game's first town and stepped into its deadly wilderness, nostalgia arrested me. I leapt over chasms, swiped my sword with reckless abandon, and slew a handful of slimes. Any mechanical issues I encountered went by unnoticed because nothing else matters when the freakin' 90s appear right before you. I didn't care about the impending frustration that the depths of my subconscious doubtlessly detected, because the game's familiarity was that soothing.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) image

It didn't hurt that the plot also introduced a core trio of somewhat likeable characters, consisting of the protagonist Arche, her healer sidekick Sana, and a spoiled rich girl named Stella. Though the game's story never reaches epic proportions, I was at least lightly amused at its breezy tales of camaraderie and determination. I especially enjoyed witnessing Stella's evolution from a despicable snob to a respectable warrior, particularly after she opens up to common rabble such as Arche.

The only problem is that Fortune Summoners's storyline seldom crosses the line separating "tolerable" and "delightful," and never makes it to "magnificent." I suspect that the culprit in this case is a lack of imagination, as there are a fair number of ho-hum points in the campaign. These typically manifest as asinine quests that feel like nothing more than padding. For instance, there's an entire chapter that revolves around securing candy for a school field trip. Although the candy might seem like a carefully placed MacGuffin meant to eventually lead up to a more exciting adventure, such is not the case. Instead, Arche and her pals travel to a distant city, chat with several NPCs, then return home to hit the hay. You might think that I'm just pointing out an outlier, but consider this: the first four chapters of the campaign consist of returning to the same dungeon in an effort to fetch an item. If that's not a sign of a dearth of creativity, I don't know what is. It's times like this that make you long a mission to rescue a one-dimensional princess from a stock evil sorcerer.

All the same, there's nothing about the narrative that might strike you as horrible. Plain, maybe, but it's not so offensive as to inspire you to permanently "shelf" the title.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) image

Then the sidescrolling elements you may have adored early on turn against you. The first few chapters provide simple enough challenges and pathetic battles, so you don't immediately notice how awkward the game's control response is. Soon enough, though, you run afoul of a multitude of winged foes and a variety of platforming scenarios. That's when you notice that Arche's vertical movement is a tad floaty. This makes common actions, such as precise midair slices against enormous bees or bounds over simple pitfalls, needlessly tricky.

Not long after going sword-to-stinger with the aforementioned flying arthropods, you begin to encounter more complicated platforming events, particularly those involving ledges that crumble as you make contact with them or miniscule bits of earth to land on. Thankfully, gauging your leap such that your feet connect with the floor isn't all that difficult. However, remaining on a platform is, because Fortune Summoners's physics tend to be on the slippery side. Shifting directions while in mid-run or coming down off a jump usually results in a fair amount of skidding, which often causes you to plummet into pits or collide with adversaries. Thankfully, falling off the screen doesn't immediately kill you.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone (PC) image

Just when I thought Fortune Summoners couldn't manage even a slight recover, though, something wonderful happened: I became slightly acclimated to the play control. Though I still had my issues, I was able to hold my own, both in combat and while exploring. Just the same, I have to question why Lizsoft settled on such awkward control response in lieu of tighter movements.

With frustrating platforming, a mediocre storyline, and so-so combat, Fortune Summoners's success at this point hinges on its dungeon designs. Unfortunately, the game once again fails to completely deliver. On the plus side, its dungeon layouts are fairly elaborate without ever becoming overly convoluted. Most of them provide you with side avenues to explore, allowing you to pocket some loot, locate save points, and nab specialty items called Marks of Heroism, which raise your level cap by a single point (the starting cap is level three). Beyond that, though, there's nothing exceptional about the game's collection of dungeons. Each one contains few unique hazards, tiresome push-block puzzles, and no distinct theme. In other words, what we have here is......wait for it.....a lack of creativity. Boy, this seems familiar...

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone is not a despicable title. Most of its offenses are benign, and its one major sin--that of the wonky control response--becomes a non-issue after you acquaint yourself with the game's mechanics. If anything destroys the experience, it's the game's inability to "go big." Rather than crafting an RPG with a ripping good yarn, memorable dungeons, tight control response, and some wild scenarios, Lizsoft squanders its solid cast on a banal and often frustrating journey, highlighted only by brief occasions of quality content. Rather than embarking on this 2D remembrance of 8- and 16-bit escapades, you're better off blowing the dust out of your copy of Faxanadu or Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link and firing that up. Why undertake a campaign that fails to go big when plenty titles from years before have already done so?


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (November 27, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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