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Lucid Awakening (PC) artwork

Lucid Awakening (PC) review

"Game: Lucid Awakening "

Game: Lucid Awakening

Author: Sillypieman

Reviewer: The Doctor

When you consider the astounding number of projects created everyday by this community, one cannot help but to wonder why the Completed Projects thread is so bare.
It takes a lot of motivation and dedication to bring a project to fruition; motivation and dedication that, it seems, some people lack. But even so, today we take a look at one of those projects that have come to completion, and done so with gameplay time exceeding the eight hours.

Lucid Awakening can seem impressive at first glance, with its pretty, albeit irrelevant, title screen and shameless boasting by the author in the game’s thread, under “features”. In addition, how many games can claim to be finished without being a contest entry? However, it lacks strong appeal in the first few hours, and as you can actually see the author’s skill increasing throughout the game, it will take a while for players to warm up to it, time which requires patience most members of this community don’t have. That being said, the game is not without charm the RPG classics such as Breath of Fire or Legend of the Seven Stars have (NOT the super Mario game, that’s in a totally different league).

As soon as the title comes up, most player will instantly remember the music, although heavily remixed, as being Chrono Cross’ “Girl who Stole the Stars”. This sets the genre for the rest of the games’ musical score, taken almost exclusively from the Breath of Fire series and various Final Fantasies. Most of the tunes have been remixed enough to keep them from being blatant rip-offs, although the author does seem to have some problems with being unable to capture the mood of particular scenes with the music. One example that comes to mind is near the middle, when an NPC explains some rubber science while Chrono Cross’ tear jerking “Lost Pieces” (it was either that or “People Seized with Destiny”) plays in the background. The game does contain some original music (or taken from games I am not familiar with); I found the final dungeon’s tune particularly enjoyable.

In the endless struggle between quality and size, the author of Lucid Awakening decided to stand with size; all music come in the form of midis, which WILL make you grit teeth once or twice, but at least keeps the game’s size under fifteen megabytes.

She's gonna grab one of those birds and eat it for lunch. Seriously. Ok, not really.

Moving on from the title and on to the game itself, the plot opens with Elise Rashein lamenting the loss of her lover (although the game oddly fails to explicitly label them as such), something that will not be touched again for a while. The first obvious distinguishing feature is the use of a “widescreen” effect during scenes; basically two black bars up and down the screen. A very simple visual effect that is yet effective; it helps to separate the story from the usual gameplay.

The focus then shifts to the real protagonist, the lancer Damian (who somehow equips swords instead of spears), his friend Aidan and brother Zeke. The three set out to explore a cave from their childhood, and accidentally stumble upon a portal to another world. Damian wakes up alone in a mysterious new world, like so many RPG heroes before him, and almost immediately receives help from the local royalty. The story is left mysterious for a good twenty minutes, until Damian travels to the base of a group called the Dreamers, meets the scholar Zaron, and has forty pages of storytelling shoved down his throat.

The premise of Lucid Awakening revolves around the notion that “dreams” are in fact a soul’s travel to an “other world”. When a person has “lucid dreaming” their souls form a shell for them to travel the other world. The worlds were once one, but, borrowing from Final Fantasy V, were split in two, with a dark world called Intermundus in the middle, with various portals were scattered in the two worlds to allow physical travel. One such portal was found by Damian and his friends. The developing plot eventually fails to build up on the premise, focusing more on a quest to travel the dream world to lure out the Big Bad and defeat him once and for all, but we’ll come back to that later.

Yeah, seriously, WHY?

After being updated on the situation, Damian sets out to find his friend and brother, accompanied by unfulfilled crush Ariana and powerful cardboard cut-out mage Zeth.

As the trio travel to exotic locations such as the sky city of Chiron, the players are greeted with their first real dungeons. Most of the dungeons for the first part of the game consist of traditional Point A-Point B travels, with the usual bumps into the, visible on the map, thank God, monsters.

Battles in this game are, and, if you bother to fight every other battle, will remain, incredibly easy, requiring little but constant mash of the action key to come out victorious, at least until the mage Zeth obtains some stronger spells, which will allow to end battles in a single turn. While retaining the visual aspect of the default battle system, the game actually uses a Real Time Action Battle system set in “wait” mode, which means that the battle stops when you bring up the item or skills menu. Once or twice, you’ll run into a boss that actually puts up a challenge, but with Damian’s abilities to buff up status in a jiffy, you won’t have any trouble dealing damage in the four digits and make short work of them. If you’re a button masher, this game is for you.

Damian may be smaller, but he's still as big as house. All fear the giant lancer!

While looking for his friends, Damian will get jerked around a lot at first; the game featuring an indecent amount of backtracking, although I was personally pleased to see a game finally making use of previously explored locations. Before the hero finally reunites with his friend Aidan, the plot will thicken significantly, with the introduction of the Dark King Sereth, the mysterious demon Silas and the friendly imp Glow. The plans of the Dark King are revealed perhaps too soon, leaving little room for plot development for the second half of the game. Once Damian found his friends, he learns that Sereth has opened all of the gates to the other world and flooded the world with demons. And, guess what, it’s YOUR job to go and close every last one of them. Why is it your job? I won’t spoil the story for you, but, as you guessed it, you’re more or less “chosen”. Speaking of which, a lot of the development until here has left a lot up to “fate”, with every other guide you see telling you to simply be on your way and that fate will arrange everything. The fact that they are right threatens the player’s suspension of disbelief, unless you can convince yourself that some benevolent God (and not the author) is arranging everything behind the scenes.

You’ll be joined by other characters along the way to form the standard complete party of eight. As the game allows the player to use only four, the others will become completely useless very soon as they do not receive experience. By then, it is obvious that the plot focuses heavily on Damian to the detriment of the other characters; later on, some get absolutely no screen time. At least, you'll be able to see the evolution of Damian's character as he remembers his past life, and grow attached to him. When the other characters finally do get some exposure, the cut scenes are straight to the point, missing some comic opportunities; no laughs out loud in this game (the common NPCs, in particular, are the dullest I’ve seen in a long time).

How do these get power?

Once you’ve obtained the ship, you are free to sail the world in search of the Gates to close them up. This kind of freedom would lend itself well to introducing a number of sidequests, but not even a peep from them is heard. Besides, you’re not as free as you would think at first, with the path you must walk predetermined, and locations you are not meant to go yet closed off one way or another. The author’s skills in term of map design have obviously increased by this point, with dungeons being significantly more maze-like, complete with the odd puzzle here or there; the Pyramid you encounter later was particularly well-designed, if not a little bland to the eye. The maze style found in the dungeons are more of the “I am SO lost” kind, rather than the “Ok, now that I have this, I have to backtrack there” kind found in games such as Zelda or Alundra.

Closing off one gate after the other, Damian will finally be reunited with his long lost love Elise, and will eventually try to do the honourable thing by telling every other member of the party to leave before reaching the final dungeon, despite being significantly weaker than most of them. Thankfully, they won’t listen to him and will join him to fight the final boss anyway.

I'm not even sure what the author was going for there

The final part of the game, obviously inspired from Final Fantasy III (the Japanese one), reveals its own lot of surprises, but only the one involving Damian’s brother is actually shocking and amusing (I mean, I was actually surprisingly pleased).

Throughout the game, the graphical source is the Run Time Package. Except for the first castle which is hideously and sometimes nonsensically mapped, the rest of the game shows competence; sometimes originality. There are some maps where there is an abundance of unnatural “square tiles”, which just ruins the rest. When it comes to the other Big Three (Characthers, Battlers, Animations), one only sees the epitome of standard. In cut scenes, the author knows enough to make the sprites move to keep things dynamic, and uses backgrounds and animations adequately; except twice where the panorama cuts off awkwardly.

Once the final boss bites the dust, after the mandatory second form phase, we are greeted to a touching, albeit very short, ending. For eight hours of gameplay, it seems unrewarding to get only two minutes of ending.

The doctor’s diagnostic:

Getting an extra 0.5 points just for being complete, the scenario is not exactly as deep and mysterious as the thread advertises it to be. It’s by no means bad, and some plot points are interesting and manages to grab some emotional investment. However, it fails to correctly build on its premise, making some plot elements useless.

Most of the game’s art is default RTP. Maps are designed competently, if you can get over the square bits.

AUDIO: 4.5/10
I’m a sucker for classics such a Breath of Fire, but I found Chrono Cross’ tunes still too recent in my mind to see them somewhere else. Sometimes, the music did not fit the mood of the scene. To complete the picture, the low quality of the midis will sometimes make your ears bleed.

GAMEPLAY: 5.5/10
Not exactly impressive in terms of originality, but it’s still enough to be a solid RPG classic such as Breath of Fire. Battles are far too easy, but will please the button mashers. While fake, the feeling of freedom the game provides is a welcome change from the choking linearity of some other games.

OVERALL: 6/10 (Extra 0.5 for being complete)


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Community review by Doctor (July 31, 2008)

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Felix_Arabia posted July 31, 2008:

The formatting looks like shit for the reviews with pictures.
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EmP posted August 01, 2008:

Worry not: I am on it.

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