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Alphadia Genesis (Android) artwork

Alphadia Genesis (Android) review

"Kemco: Consistently on the verge of making good games, but just falling short."

One of the main strengths of Kemco's mobile RPGs is their brevity. The publisher has four teams at work on new titles in order to maintain steady output, but even so, the developers must face strict deadlines. Much as in a NES-era Dragon Warrior game, you can expect to see a lot of palette-swapped foes while exploring a series of caves and towers that all blend together after a while.

That effect is more pronounced than usual in Alphadia Genesis, which was developed by the Exe-Create team. The game uses a whole new engine that reminds me of the PlayStation classic, Wild Arms. Exploration employs the top-down perspective typical of Kemco's past efforts, but combat takes place in a three-dimensional arena. Production values were unmatched among Kemco's teams at the time, and the story is also more robust. The main campaign alone took me more than 30 hours to complete, with another few hours' worth of post-game challenges waiting after that. There's even (really bad) Japanese voice acting available. At least you can't say Exe-Create didn't go all out to make the game stand out from the pack!

On the surface, that's really cool. Instead of paying a few dollars for a 10-20 hour experience, I got a longer tale with more places to see, as well as a meaty plot. But for the last 10 (or more) hours, I just wanted the ride to end. I was fighting the same monsters in every dungeon, many of those dungeons were interchangeable and the writers started really stretching to keep the plot going. A lot of those issues are Kemco staples, but they usually aren't so distracting because the publisher's games are so short. If this were a 20-hour game, I might have really liked it and may even have considered it the team's best effort that I've yet played. The unnecessary padding is a shame, since otherwise Alphadia Genesis addressed virtually every flaw I noted in my review of the original Alphadia.

That older game was painfully easy. Most enemies offered only token resistance. Alphadia Genesis, however, has two difficulty levels (Easy and Normal). Players can switch between them at any time. The game is initially a cinch no matter which one you choose, but it rapidly grows more difficult on the higher setting. No longer could I rely on auto-battle. I frequently had to use spells, battle skills and items. By the end of the game, bosses posed a major challenge, since they had a ton of life and some real offensive capabilities that kept me on my heels. Full disclosure: I even dropped the difficulty to Easy while in the final dungeon, since one particular boss took delight in spamming a party-wide attack for massive damage, leaving me too incapacitated to do much of anything before the next onslaught came.

The original Alphadia had only one challenging aspect: dungeon navigation. Its labyrinths were loaded with invisible pits and one-way drops to lower floors. In Alphadia Genesis, things have improved. Dungeons start out simple, but gradually grow more complex as the game progresses. Even the largest ones aren't needlessly convoluted, though, so I never got lost. My only real complaint was that the final dungeon was obscenely long, but Exe-Create did a good job with its designs overall. There also are enough side passages and hidden corridors to prevent things from feeling overly linear.

As I mentioned, the plot is more engaging than the one offered in the original Alphadia, at least until the final hours. Characters still insist on commenting on virtually every single thing that happens, in an apparent attempt at gradual character development, but the premise is fun. Years ago, peace followed a long war. Humans and clones lived side-by-side. But now, clones have murdered some humans. This is worrisome, given that clones are designed specifically to be peaceful. The king of one of the world's two main nations forms an investigative team with the second nation, consisting of two members from each realm.

Your main man is Frain, a typical "nice guy" hero who has gained respect for his abilities in solving missions for a local guild. His preteen sister, Aurra, might look and act like your typical bratty child, but she also is apparently one of the world's foremost scientific minds because in JRPGs, little kids have skills. The other nation supplies Corone and Walter, a pair of emissaries who have competed with Frain in various tournaments. Corone previously cruised to a win over Frain, earning his admiration. On the other hand, Walter fell to him and, well, wasn't so gracious in defeat. Since he is an arrogant knight, losing to a mere guild member was apparently the single greatest blow his honor has ever suffered. That sets the stage for him to be a massive jerk, and the unwilling focus of the story's comic relief.

The foursome is quickly joined by Enah, a clone who is a recurring character in all of the Alphadia games. Once you clear a few dungeons, you also gain the services of the boisterous Grande, who has a vested interest in solving the mystery because one of his adopted children, Gale, had a hand in things. At first, the investigation points to some petty criminals who accidentally found a way to circumvent clones' programming, but the situation rapidly escalates. Soon, you're dealing with a potential clone uprising.

That means a lot of fighting, naturally. And while the game's combat system isn't particularly complex, it's still enjoyable. Each character learns numerous spells and battle skills, and can discover even more of them by equipping elemental rings. Characters also access unique special attacks, so you'll have plenty of options as you devise your battle strategy. I was partial to a certain water-based spell because, though it didn't deal the most damage, it did restore spell points and that meant I never had to worry about running low. There's a lot of give-and-take along those lines. A number of weapons you find seem great at first, but may trigger a nasty side effect. Several spells, meanwhile, find their potency impacted by factors such as the 10s digit of your current MP.

Unfortunately, everything starts to feel overly cumbersome by the time the game's plot has shifted from "solving a crime" to "saving the world." Not only must you navigate multiple dungeons to try and stop the main villain from powering a series of generators, but the writers resorted to inane plot twists to get you there. One of the baddie's allies develops a crush on a party member, and he decides the best way to impress her is to arrive on the scene the instant one dungeon has been cleared so that he can tell everyone which dungeon to raid next. Those subsequent locations were larger and more complex than the early-game ones, but that just highlights the design's repetitive nature. When I'm fighting at least one version of the birds known as "Lickers" in every single dungeon, it gets old fast.

With some trimming, Alphadia Genesis could have been legitimately good. I really enjoyed the first 15 hours, but eventually I lowered the difficulty setting just so I could reach the end without wasting time leveling up to overpower the final bosses. I've heard a lot of positive things about Exe-Create since I started playing Kemco games, and I can see the team's potential on display here, but the game is ultimately too rough around the edges to earn more than my halfhearted recommendation.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (May 31, 2016)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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