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Alphadia (Android) artwork

Alphadia (Android) review

"Officially opening the Kemco Khallenge with the sort of game that makes one question why they're doing so."

I'd like to say that this review marks the very beginning of an epic endeavor that shall forever be known as the "Kemco Khallenge", but I unknowingly set to work on the stupid project earlier this year when I churned out my opinions on Grinsia, after it was ported to the 3DS as a downloadable title. There's nothing like killing the vibe before it even gets off the ground. With 40-plus mobile Kemco RPGs already available and counting, though, at least it's not like I'm lacking for options. With luck, the endeavor's unfortunate beginnings will be forgotten by the time I'm a couple dozen games into it!

Over the past few years, Kemco has enlisted a quartet of smaller studios to develop RPG titles for various mobile phone platforms. The results tend to be short games, delivering 10 to 30 hours of adventuring, and they are inspired by any number of classic games from the 8- and 16-bit eras, with a few of their more recent efforts showing sufficient ambition to perhaps elevate them to the lofty status of a poor man's Wild Arms. Over the past couple years, it seems like there's a new title virtually every month. The publisher holds to that schedule because the games' affordability ($3-5, usually) and brevity make them big sellers, no matter how badly they glut the market.

Alphadia could be considered the starting point for Kemco and its divine quest to become the king of mobile role-playing. The game, originally released in Japan in 2007, was one of the first titles to arrive on American Android devices in early 2011. It's designed by Exe-Create, which many consider to be the best of the companies working under the Kemco umbrella. In Japan, there already are five Alphadia games and two more under the Alphadia Genesis moniker. Despite that apparent popularity, though, the time I spent playing it reminds me of the first paragraph in this review, when I hoped that I'll be able to forget my review project's unfortunate beginnings.

Before I get all negative, though, I must admit there is a certain level of competence on display here. While marred a bit by overly formal and wordy dialogue (a result of the translation from Japanese to English, perhaps), the storytelling is decent and occasionally delivers some good plot twists, including an ending which was far more depressing than I expected. A number of the dungeons are tricky to navigate, plus you can accept side quests from townspeople. There also is a lengthy side quest culminating in an optional boss that, from what I've read, is far more difficult than anything else in the game. All those things are building blocks that hopefully will be put to use in better games at some point down the road.

Unfortunately, Alphadia might well be the most mindlessly easy RPG I've ever played, a glaring flaw that sticks with it from the very beginning until the final battles of the main quest. The last phase of the final boss was the only battle in this game that required any strategy and prompted concerns that I might not actually win. For virtually everything else, I could simply hit the "auto" button and watch the enemies die. Every great once in a while during the final couple dungeons, I'd have to heal a character who was running low on health, but that was rare. Every time a party member gains a level, all health and magic are regenerated, plus there are locations in most dungeons--often right before bosses--where the same service is offered free of charge. While the optional challenges might be more difficult, by the time I got to the point where you're allowed to even attempt them, I'd lost interest in doing anything other than sprinting to the final boss and putting an end to both his life and my time with the game.

The lack of challenge is a massive flaw that bleeds into the game's every facet. When you're regularly mowing down enemies with no risk to your well-being, that tedium calls attention to other shortcomings such as the limited character customization options. Each of your party members has one of six elemental affinities, and will regularly gain spells as they go up levels. By equipping rings imbued with another element, you can then allow them to gain a few different spells. That is it for "variety" -- one option to enhance your party members that I all but ignored.

The tricky dungeons that I cited earlier as a strong point are also a weakness in some cases, as well. As a guy who grew up on old-school RPGs, I would ordinarily view convoluted mazes as a positive. Dungeons in the old days offered massive challenges and required multiple visits if I wanted to clear them, thus serving as the backbone of an RPG. But when there's no difficulty to speak of, things don't work out quite that way. Instead, dungeons mean tedious slogs through confusing layouts that are interrupted every few seconds by a confrontation with weak monsters. It doesn't help that Exe-Create's go-to "trick" in Alphadia is the invisible pit that drops you to the previous floor, forcing you to retrace your steps. Finding such hazards in one dungeon is tolerable, but here they crop up on three separate occasions. That's overkill, since their only purpose is to artificially lengthen the amount of time it takes you to navigate an area. There is no mini-map in dungeons, either, so you won't have any help finding your way through.

Alphadia isn't broken, and its touch-sensitive control scheme is generally effective, plus the plot is somewhat interesting. That's not enough to earn the title a recommendation, though, even with its $4 price tag. Lacking challenge and a battle system that rarely requires real player input combine to taint virtually every facet of the game, leaving to an end result that will be difficult for any but the most hardcore RPG addicts to appreciate.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (September 12, 2015)

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

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