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Journey to Kreisia (Android) artwork

Journey to Kreisia (Android) review

"It's decent, but with a bit of fine-tuning, could have been one of Kemco's better titles."

With Journey to Kreisia, Kemco attempts to break the fourth wall but forgets what it was doing partway through the effort. The result is a solid game that could have been a fair bit better. Exe-Create relies on many of the same tropes that virtually every one of its games feature as a backbone, heart, brain and other essential body parts, but it bucks one trend by having its hero be a youth from our world who is quite aware he's now inside a world reminiscent of the video games he regularly plays.

How did this happen? Well, Kreisia's world has a recurring problem: every ten years, a castle pops up somewhere. That castle houses a demonic overlord. As a result, monsters become more prolific and dangerous, which poses a threat to the world's population. Eventually, a priestess performs a ritual to summon a savior from another world, who collects companions and a particular magic sword, defeats the overlord and brings peace to the world… until another ten years pass, a new overlord appears and the entire scenario repeats itself.

Yusis, a generally apathetic youth who only seems to care about anime and video games, is the newest savior. Summoned to the world by the priestess Cynthia, he takes some time getting his bearings. Upon realizing he has arrived in a fantasy world not unlike those featured in the games he enjoys playing, he decides to roll with it. Besides, having everyone call you "Savior" is better than getting bossed around by your mom, isn't it? Within a couple hours, Yusis and Cynthia enlist the aid of soldier Laminah and a mysterious bard named Anemos and embark on an almost charmingly formulaic quest to get the magic sword (along with three orbs containing its true power) before setting off to tackle the overlord.

I use the word "charmingly" along with "formulaic" because Yusis spends a decent amount of time lamp-shading just how predictable things are, occasionally getting off some really good lines. Right after the would-be hero is summoned to Kreisia by Cynthia, the two find themselves forced to advance through a small forest to reach her village. When she tells Yusis the way out, he immediately takes a different path because he knows that in games like this, there always are treasure chests located at the end of dead-end passageways. Later, after it's disclosed that the overlord returns every 10 years, he quietly snarks that "magic" always is used as an attempt to explain away such plot holes.

Of course, I also used the word "almost" right before "charmingly." While JRPGs featuring normal people being transported to a fantasy world aren't particularly common, I have played a couple of them in the past. Writers tend to have fun with the concept for a little while, poking fun at tropes and generally exhibiting a sense of self-awareness, but eventually they forget about that stuff and the game winds up run-of-the-mill. Journey to Kreisia falls into the same trap. The closer Yusis and pals get to their clash with the overlord, the less often you'll find witty comments and moments that break the fourth wall. Yusis ceases to be a fish out of water and becomes a generic Exe-Create protagonist, willing to help anyone and everyone and possessing virtually no personality traits other than "paragon of goodness." This becomes particularly jarring late in the game when he discovers the ugly secret behind the never-ending cycle of overlords and saviors, but only experiences brief moments of anger and internal conflict before abruptly choosing to continue being a selfless hero (no matter the personal consequences).

Still, this is a pretty good game that served as a template for future Exe-Create successes. Released in early 2014, this was one of their earlier games released for Kemco. Its engine was later overhauled and enhanced for several games, such as those in their Asdivine series. And apparently, Exe-Create's developers liked certain aspects of the plot so much that they self-plagiarized and implemented them in future games. I know I was a bit miffed at how one mid-game plot element was blatantly lifted from Illusion of L'Phalcia…until I remembered that, while I might have played Illusion first, it actually had been released a good bit after Kreisia first arrived on the scene.

The game also benefits from having a larger cast of characters than the average Kemco release. Not only will you have to deal with the overlord and his lackeys, but a number of other adversaries get in Yusis' way. Members of a cult have plans to stop him from confronting the overlord, while a glory-hungry priestess is extremely jealous that Cynthia was the one to summon the savior. I've mentioned this before when writing about these games, but a decent number of characters does make the plot move along more smoothly. Your party will move against foes with names and actual motivations, rather than a seemingly never-ending series of random large monsters that exist for the sole purpose of providing boss fights. With a game that is happy to fall into the familiar pattern of "go to town, get sent to dungeon, visit next town, explore next dungeon, etc.", a decent cast of characters goes a long way towards making the plot more enjoyable. Now, if only all aspects of Kreisia were put together as proficiently...

The controls were sort of annoying, I must say. When playing a game on my tablet, I prefer to use the combination of touch controls and the virtual control pad. The pad and buttons give games more of a console feel, and I easily prefer using them to walk around dungeons and towns, rather than tapping the screen so my guy can move to that spot. Combat and menu-scanning becomes really easy, meanwhile, when I just need to tap the screen in the proper area to access menu items. Kreisia doesn't work that way, though. You can choose to use the pad and buttons OR pure touch controls, but not both. That limitation led to me having to use the control pad to painstakingly delve through menus, when a couple screen taps would have been far more convenient.

A couple of other issues could be explained as Exe-Create still fine-tuning its RPG formula. For example, Kreisia gives characters the ability to store boosts in order to use up to five randomly-selected spells or skills at once. It's a good idea in theory; however if the random selection gods are in your favor, this ability can break the game by allowing your party to overpower tough bosses in an instant. Add in the existence of items that automatically restore some or all of your boost gauge and, well, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that I cruised through the game's toughest battles with little difficulty.

Also, most of Exe-Create's games include some post-game challenges that, if completed, will allow players to view a happier ending. Kreisia is no exception. However, the "post-game" is simply set up to make the player go through the entire game again. A lot of dialogue can be skipped and there are a few additional cutscenes to further flesh out a character or two, but if you want to get the "true" ending, you'll essentially have to retrace all your steps through the land of Kreisia. No thanks. One thing I like most about Kemco games is their brevity. Taking that quality away by artificially lengthening a game in the laziest way imaginable is definitely not a good idea.

All of which makes Journey to Kreisia a tricky game to render judgment upon. It's an oft-engaging game that flows smoothly, to the extent where it felt like it took less than the 21 hours I clocked to beat it. I generally enjoyed the story, which moved quickly and had a decent-sized cast of characters. But some of the game's aspects showed the Exe-Create team was still learning the ropes. The engine is a bit primitive compared to what more recent offerings from the studio have provided, while a few technical aspects (such as controls) were clumsily implemented. All in all, it's a solid game that was fairly fun to play, but like most Kemco-published titles, it's also disposable. I saw no point in replaying it to get the true ending after going through it once, and instead chose to move on to something else. Some Kemco games are on the good side of average and others are on the bad side; this one rests right in the middle.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (October 18, 2017)

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

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