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Illusion of L'Phalcia (Android) artwork

Illusion of L'Phalcia (Android) review

"A Kemco review minus most of the bitter self-hating sarcasm! What is the world coming to?"

And now for something completely different, watch as I write about a Kemco game without most of my usual grumbling about recycled assets and brief campaigns. Don't get me wrong; I could still fill this review for Exe-Create's Illusion of L'Phalcia with complaints over the palette-swapped enemies, its handful of frequently reused dungeon templates and so forth. The thing is, the good definitely outweighs the bad. I had legitimate fun playing this one, rather than feeling like an RPG addict who was getting his fix from an experience that wasn't even particularly enjoyable.

To find something about L'Phalcia to truly bash (besides how tired I already am of typing its unusual name), I'd have to write about the post-game activities. The setup is similar to the one you see in other Exe-Create projects: you beat the game, watch the ending and credits and then are instructed to fight the final boss again, at which point you get the option to access additional activities that eventually reveal a new final boss and a different ending. In other games from the developer, the new content entails additional dungeons. It's a decent way to add some additional value to a game that otherwise is fairly short.

That's not the case in L'Phalcia, though. Other than a few extra side quests, all you can look forward to is revisiting dungeons you've already cleared, potentially fighting a new boss, then visiting another familiar location to fight the new final boss (who is merely a palette swap of the original one). The lackluster content makes me wonder if the folks at Exe-Create were ready to move onto their next project, but first were obligated to make a token effort to uphold their established endgame tradition.

Up until that point, though, things were quite satisfactory. I blame the characters for much of that. They have actual personality now, at least compared to what I've seen in previous Exe-Create games. Elsewhere, the main hero has tended to be the most generic "nice guy" in existence, the sort of bro who happily stays up all night just in case someone on the team needs to talk about their feelings. A dude who will, at the drop of a hat, go on lengthy monologues about the power of friendship. Even guys who seem that they should break that mold, such as Fanatic Earth's wise-cracking flirt Zech, fall into that trap with surprising regularity.

Which brings us to Ryser. In L'Phalcia's world, there allegedly exists a mystical sword capable of granting any wish its wielder possesses. Ryser and a sentient leopard named Cougar are treasure hunters who have spent a lot of time gathering information that will point them toward six pieces of a map that, once assembled, will reveal the location of this sword. Their wishes? Ryser wants unlimited money, while Cougar wants to eat all of the best meals ever concocted. Ladies and gentlemen, meet your heroes!

As the game begins, Ryser possesses a single piece of the map. He quickly meets a girl who possesses another one. There's a slight problem, though: Tiana, a runaway princess who only just barely attempts to hide her secret identity, has a vague but heartfelt desire to bring happiness to the people of her kingdom, whom she feels are being oppressed by her father. Our heroes' dreams of personal gain clash with her altruistic desire, and she has the assistance of a personal bodyguard named Ferio. This creates an impasse when she and Ryser immediately start bickering about who most deserves to possess the map fragments. An uneasy truce is finally made, and the foursome set out to find the remaining pieces. They soon receive additional assistance from Caldina, a soldier from another kingdom with a wish of her own.

The protagonists don't break a lot of new ground, but they rank among the best in Kemco's never-ending library of RPGs. Ryser is a decent guy at heart, but somewhat greedy and short-tempered around other people (especially when they're constantly harassing him about his motivations in life). Tiana is sheltered, naive and looks at everything in black and white terms. Ryser sneaks into abandoned temples and other ruins to find treasure. Therefore, he's a scummy thief in her eyes. That perception sets up frequent arguments, much to the chagrin of the other party members. As you play, you find out that Ferio has far more to him than just his almost disturbing dedication to the princess he guards. Then there is the main villain, who winds up being less a true evil overlord and more a normal person who tragedy has driven to insanity. The depth of the principle cast represents a real improvement compared to the usual Kemco fare. Sure, Ryser eventually is revealed to be a kinder, gentler soul than he first seems, but he never completely loses the traits that defined him in the early going. I found that refreshing.

Improvements were also present in the game's engine, which previously was used for Alphadia Genesis. There are a few more monster designs now, so while there still is a lot of palette swapping, the issue wasn't quite as obvious as in older titles. And while the towns, dungeons and world are still viewed from a two-dimensional overhead perspective, battles take place in a 3D arena. This time, your characters also run through animations when attacking enemies, so you aren't just watching a guy wave his sword to magically cause damage on the other side of the battlefield.

Perhaps more importantly, a few subtle changes made battling more fun (a crucial enhancement in a genre where you tend to run around large dungeons while getting drawn into battle every few steps). When it comes to battle skills and spells, Exe-Create has this bad habit of trying to get too cute. Spell damage is often influenced by factors such as current HP (and whether the total is an even or odd number), or how high the 10s digit of your MP balance is at the moment. In L'Phalcia, there only are a few skills and spells which work that way. Most of them are more conventional. Also, the game's difficulty curve seems more consistent on the normal setting than what I recall from Alphadia Genesis. I didn't notice any dramatic spikes until I reached the post-game content.

The game's optional bosses are also noteworthy. Scattered around the world are several visible enemies you can spot on the map. Interact with one and the game will tell you its level and allow you to choose whether you wish to fight it or not. By defeating such foes, you gain some of this game's IAP currency and (especially once you defeat the more powerful opponents) also great equipment. Sure, some of that gear suffers from undesirable side effects common to Exe-Create games, such as the potential to kill its wielder every turn, but the stuff that's good is really good and that probably explains why I didn't notice any unreasonable difficulty spikes as I worked my way through the campaign.

My biggest complaint about the game is that it doesn't have enough time to properly capitalize on the concept of heroes hunting for rare and valuable treasure in long-abandoned places. The dungeons presented here are typical Exe-Create fare, after all. There's nothing wrong with that, other than one instance where a mountain cave offers an excruciatingly long and linear slog, but somehow the simple layouts don't quite fit the "treasure hunter" vibe. This is the sort of setting where I'd expect trap-filled mazes, where I'd anticipate having to solve puzzles to find secret passages that lead to well-guarded pieces of map. After all, the existence of that mystical sword is little more than a rumor most people don't believe, so it should be difficult to find anything that proves otherwise.

Instead, this is just a typical JRPG with typical JRPG dungeons. Two pieces of the map are in the hands of party members right from the beginning, and a third is even found lying out in the open, on the main path through a cave that connects two regions of the game's world! It's not a major issue, but when I find so many of these "top secret" artifacts resting in plain sight, I start to suspect that Exe-Create simply plugged L'Phalcia's intriguing plot into their preferred formula, rather than tinkering to make the execution match the concept. Your guys talk a lot about exploring tricky dungeons littered with traps, but other than a couple easy puzzles that tend to revolve around hitting switches, that sort of stuff isn't on display except in cutscenes (where Ryser pulls off moves you never get the chance to personally perform).

I'm not going to act like Illusion of L'Phalcia breaks any ground or represents an unheralded "must buy" genre offering. But for a low price, it's perfectly good disposable entertainment. The characters are more interesting than I expect from a Kemco title, and the game also feels more polished. As one of those RPGs addicts who gets his fix from such games, I have to say it's refreshing to find that I've legitimately enjoyed playing a Kemco game for once.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 22, 2017)

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

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