"Game: Master of the Wind, arc III "
Game: Master of the Wind, arc III
Authors: Volrath and Artbane
The third arc of the acclaimed RPG Maker XP series Master of the Wind was released mid-2006 to great fanfare, accumulating praise ever since. As was to be expected, the third arc furthers the story presented in the two first installments of the series, and reaches new heights and daring and ingenuity in its amazing gameplay and gorgeous musical score.
When we last left our heroes Shroud and Stoic, the protagonists of Master of the Wind, they just had a run-in with hired hands, set on taking them out. Deciding to go on with their fight against Equipment King, the game’s equivalent of Wal-mart, or any RPG’s evil empire, Shroud and Stoic leave for the village of Pearlton to investigate a nearby academy, hoping to find out more about the connection between Equipment King and the mysterious cult known as “The Hand”. Before leaving, however, the heroes are joined by Finley, a recurring annoyance in the two first arcs. Finley, not as dense as one would think, has figured out the not-so-hard-to-figure-out truth about the secret identities of the heroes, thus permanently joining the team, and later adopting the hero name “Baron”. Having a third member finally balances the battle in the player’s favor, and after the second arc’s harder-than-usual battles, arc III is somewhat easier fighting-wise, especially since the authors have relented on the habit of overcrowding battles with monsters. The inclusion of a fourth character, near the end of the arc, finally lifts the weight of being the healer off of Shroud’s shoulder. However, as he remains the only character able to heal everyone at once, you might find yourself using your new healer as a holy attacker instead of what she originally was meant to do.
The mini-games of arc I and II are also back, and with an upgrade. The classics, such as pressing the correct arrow sequence to allow Stoic to break a wall, are back with an added twist, such as having to push two arrows at once. Mini-games now also sometimes require the use of the mouse whenever Finley needs to fire at objects from a distance. Finley’s minigames are somewhat simple at first, but eventually require the player to think about what to shoot in the screen, as well as having to use the keyboard to move around the screen. While these are fun, they can be somewhat disorienting to those who have been using a game controller, and not a keyboard, to play the game. Other mini-games and puzzles include having to fend off marine creatures by pressing the right keys on the keyboard, chasing an enemy on a horse (pressing arrows again, but the scene itself would have been great to look at, even without the game), changing a fireball’s path by adjusting panels and moving a block of ice through a slippery floor, which is a lot harder than it sounds. These new puzzles are more entertaining than the previous, but slightly less challenging than the text-based puzzles of the previous arcs. The only text-based puzzle of arc III requires an acceptable knowledge of the world’s (now called Solest) backstory. Thankfully, an NPC named Gabriella will reveal the answer should the player fail too many times, eliminating the frustration factor, but will, at the same time, deprive Cade of a great weapon
The cast of Master of the Wind continues to expand in this new arc, revealing new mysteries and personal aspects of the characters. By the ending, each and every of the main characters have reached true three-dimensional personalities, to the point where they’re even starting to be complex. Allusions of romance or hate are arising without being flatly told, which respects the first rule of storytelling “Show, don’t tell”. Villains, however, remain somewhat two dimensional, but that is explained by the fact they don’t have much screen time. The dark heavy tone of the game that felt awkward in the second arc, due to its transition from arc I’s lighter tone, has finally settled in, and feels like it belongs.
Arc III finally brings the main cast away from Port Arianna; first into a deep forest and an academy Cade infiltrates, where a lot of storytelling à la Xenosaga is done, and later in the far north, where Stoic and Auburn’s backstories are also revealed, this time a lot more faster, à la 16-bit Final Fantasy. The fact that a lot of these areas can only be visited once highlights the linearity of the game. Thankfully, the storytelling is pleasing enough to fit with the linear form.
Upon completing the game, the player will be able to select the followings from a list of choice: “Play Arc IV”, View credits” and “Watch secret ending”. As one would expect, you cannot actually play arc IV, and no one ever wants to view the credits. This leaves the only worthwhile option, the secret ending. Obtained by finding an old projector and a film reel, the player is treated to the silent-movie style story of the vampire Andau, who, unsurprisingly, makes a reappearance at the end of Arc III.
Regrettably, songs with lyrics do not return to arc III. While the mp3 music remain beautiful and memorable, especially because of the large file size of the game, it would have been nice to hear some more commercial music, if only to discover new bands. After a while however, the genre of the music from arcs to arcs begin to feel repetitive, some originality should be considered in the future.
Visually, the game’s mapping design remains similar to what it was in arc II: nice to look at, but not mind-blowing. However, the inclusion of little touches, such as a reflection of the characters in the ice of the frozen volcano, quickly redeems the mapping. New, admirably drawn battlers are also added to the mix, making the slow-paced battles pleasing to look at. However, with the increase of original art and original face sets, the old RPG Maker 2000 faces clash heavily with everything around them, now more than ever.
Now nearly halfway through the series, Master of the Wind remains one of rmxp.org’s best games, if not one of the best games released for RPG Maker XP. Will the series be able to keep its wits and originality through its entire course, or will it run of steam along the way? Stay tuned to find out!
In a nutshell…
The heavy tone has settled in by now, and is no longer awkward. Playable and non-playable characters that have enough screen time to do so become increasingly complex. It sometimes even plays like a mini-soap, and you might find yourself shipping for a particular couple eventually. The storyline develops, bringing new mysteries and answering old ones. However, it never stops being interesting. Personally, I would wish it to be a little grayer; for the time being, it’s all very black and white.
The mapping resembles arc II’s a lot, without any real sign of improvement. This doesn’t mean that it is not satisfactory, however. Little touches along the way bring up the overall quality of visuals. Original art is admirable, but those old faces have to go!
Even if the style of the music does not evolve from arcs to arcs, the score of Master of the Wind remain some of the most memorable pieces used in RPG Maker. Sounds and BGS are also used adequately, but, thankfully, never obscuring the music.
Battles are now slightly easier due to the arrival of new characters, but they never require intense button mashing. Mini-games and puzzles are more fun and ingenious than ever, and I wonder how the authors of the game will top what they have done in the future.
Final rating: 9/10
Community review by Doctor (July 31, 2008)
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