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Asdivine Menace (Android) artwork

Asdivine Menace (Android) review

"Liberated from the Kemco Khallenge, I've never felt so free in my life!"

When I started the Kemco Khallenge three years ago or so, it was one of those projects I knew I wasn't likely to complete. Even if the publisher's large and growing collection of JRPGs proved to be decent, there was only so far I could take my effort before burnout set in and prompted me to turn to other games in my backlog that might be more worthy of my time.

This review marks my 31st for a Kemco game (including 30 mobile titles and one 3DS port!), so I figure it's time to put the project on a sort of semi-hold. I might churn out one here and there, but I plan to stop making Kemco's output my constant priority. The only thing that really surprises me about this decision is the reasoning behind it: it's not because my sometimes same-y reviews have been destined to miss top placement in the site's Review of the Week competitions. It wasn't even because the general commentary I received for my work ranged from "You're still doing these?!?" to "Why are you still doing these?!?".

No, it's all about my latest Kemco Konquest: Asdivine Menace. Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a bad game. Hell, it was one of Kemco's better ones I've completed. There's one teeny-tiny problem, though: this game was a direct sequel to Asdivine Dios, and Kemco content producer Exe-Create seemed to think the best way to handle a direct sequel was to essentially release the same game. I mean, the plot is somewhat different, and some basic things have been tinkered with, but Menace feels so much like Dios that it almost seems more like the second half of a larger game than it does an original creation.

If I were the sort of lazy reviewer who looks at Kemco games as a way to pad my numbers at HonestGamers, I could simply post my review of Dios RIGHT HERE, tell you to read it and then run a brief bullet-point list of how the two games differ. But that's not me! So I'll instead open with a brief comparison of the two games' plots, to illustrate the Exe-Create creative process at work.

Dios opens with Izayoi, the deity of Asdivine, noting there are disturbances in his world. With the help of three spirits, he finds himself trailing a pair of mysterious beings who are looking to use the power of murk (matter created from the negative emotions inside humans) to destroy all that the deity has created. The quartet will have to overcome the misunderstanding-induced challenges of a potential ally before moving on to thwart the evildoers, who have deeper motives behind their actions than destruction for the sake of destruction.

Menace opens with Izayoi, still the deity of Asdivine, noting there are additional disturbances afoot. With the help of three different spirits, he finds himself on the trail of two different mysterious beings who are looking to use the power of murk to infect not just Asdivine, but also three connected worlds. This would destroy all that each planet's deity has created. The quartet will have to overcome the misunderstanding-induced challenges of a potential ally before moving on to thwart the evildoers, who have deeper motives behind their actions than destruction for the sake of destruction.

Man, how could I ever get tired of this company with such diverse plot elements on display in their games?!? And that isn't the end of it. Both games, as per the norm with Exe-Create creations, have post-game content players can complete in order to get the much happier "true" ending. And in both games, you'll tackle four tiny dungeons in order to obtain sufficient power to access the realm of the true final boss. Seriously, if you played Dios, there's really no reason to play Menace, other than getting the other half of the duology's story.

With all that said, though, if you were to play only one of these two games, I'd probably recommend going with Menace because it is the more ambitious of the two. While none of the game's four worlds are particularly large or complex, having multiple planets to travel between is at least a neat concept. The writers also scaled back their subpar "romantic" dialogue, so you don't have to spend your entire time with the game wondering why Izayoi is saddled with love-struck groupies as allies.

Unfortunately, this isn't as big a positive as it could be, since each of your allies is little more than a one-note caricature with that sole note being played constantly for what I assume to be comedy. Ratona is a kind, considerate spirit who also happens to be quite the klutz. Litany is stern and professional… except for how any remotely touching moment will leave her in tears, to say nothing of the way she's terrified of being in contact with Asdivine's cute-and-fluffy monster class. Noelle is little more than an amalgam of every annoying little kid trope imaginable, even though she's allegedly a spirit roughly 1000 years old. She gives everyone nicknames, her dialogue is written to have "cute" verbal tics and she's obsessed with food to the extent she'll even try to take bites out of party members. And since this is Exe-Create, you can count on an over-abundance of dialogue where everyone gets in generic, predictable lines with stunning regularly, making what should be a minor annoyance a lot worse.

However, the game's skill system did get a major improvement, and the method by which this happened is actually kind of beautiful in its simplicity. Most of this stuff works just like it did in Dios. You cast spells with magic points and eventually learn powerful Unison attacks, where two characters combine their spells to unleash the sort of super-powerful attack that's capable of wrecking virtually anything... including the most powerful bosses. As before, you have another kind of points used for physical skills which slowly get regenerated on a turn-by-turn basis, allowing you to use those attacks fairly often. So, what was the improvement? It's simple: now you get to level up those skills by regularly using them. This not only makes them inflict more damage, but eventually adds extra effects, such as lowering enemy parameters or bestowing status ailments. I'm easily amused, so this one little addition to the Dios formula pretty much carried me through things, regardless of how burnt out I was feeling about Exe-Create and Kemco in general during that time.

And let's face it: I can't possibly go much further without noting that "how burnt out I was feeling" is the most important phrase in this review. If you play 10 or so Kemco games, you've probably seen the vast majority of what their teams can accomplish. Push that total into the 30s and play all of those games over a relatively brief three-year period and you've got something in common with those H.P. Lovecraft characters who go off chasing forbidden knowledge, only to wind up an insanely gibbering mess. If this was the first Kemco game I'd played, you can bet I'd be excited about the potential my Khallenge had. Maybe the characters were overly-chatty and annoying, but there was a fun skill system, well-animated battle sprites for both characters and enemies and a respectable amount of polish for a cheap mobile RPG. You know, the sort of thing that might pale in comparison big-name releases, but feels a step more professional than a lot of the indie stuff I've seen.

But there's a big gap between your first Kemco game and your 31st. And during that time, I've played enough of Exe-Create's stuff to know exactly what I'm going to get nearly every single time out, to the degree than even a minor surprise is a major shock to my system. The minute I started Menace, I was struck by how it felt almost exactly the same as Dios and if not for its fun skill system, I likely never would have even finished it. On its own, this is a perfectly fine low-budget RPG that is at least capable of pushing the right buttons for those of us who've been playing countless numbers of these games over the course of decades. But when you look at it as half of a two-game series, or as one of many Exe-Create/Kemco games, a lot of cracks appear really quickly. Those cracks expose it as a generic offering by a team that seems content to regurgitate the same concepts and tropes over and over, while being either unwilling or unable to break new ground. That's a sentiment that could be applied to the Kemco Khallenge in general, making the combination of this review and the game it covers an appropriate epitaph.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 25, 2018)

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

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