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Astonishia Story PSP

Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Sonnori Corporation
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Astonishia Story, an introduction.

It's often been said that a console that has a good supply of RPGs will always sell well. With that in mind it's been rather disappointing that the PSP has had very few RPGs thus far. The Nintendo DS may also be lacking in RPGs but with the excellent Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, Final Fantasy and Pokemon games on the way as well as many GBA RPG games that can be played on the system, it's certainly the more appealing handheld for RPG fans at the moment. Needless to say then the PSP needs quality RPGs. So far we've had Tales of Eternia  (which we haven't reviewed) and PoPoLoCrois (which we have) but neither game has been hailed as a truly memorable RPG. Here we have Astonishia Story, the latest PSP RPG to be released.

What's the game about?

In Astonishia Story you'll play Sir Lloyd Roiental, a knight,  who at the beginning of the game is about to attend a staff transfer ceremony.  Lloyd has to supervise the transfer of the Cainan's staff, otherwise known as the Wand of Kinan,  (an ancient relic) to a distant town but as you might expect it all goes wrong when Lloyd and his party are ambushed, with most of the party being killed, and the staff is stolen. Naturally then the aim is to get the staff back but to do this Lloyd is going to need the help of some powerful allies. To further throw a spanner into the works, Lloyd also discovers that others are suffering as a result of the evil machinations of an elven queen.

What's good about the game?

Astonishia Story is about as accessible as an RPG can be. In fact if you have yet to play an RPG (and there probably are some gamers out there that haven't despite their enormous popularity) then this would be a very gentle introduction to the genre. The game uses a turn-based battle system that's simplicity itself. When travelling around on the map, between towns, you'll see various creatures walking around and making contact with any of those will trigger a battle.  The battles involve you moving your characters within their green movement zone and carrying out normal and magic attacks etc. It's all straightforward stuff and even a complete RPG beginner will take only a few moments to have a firm grasp of what's going on. At the end of a battle, experience is dished out and the character that performed the best will get some additional bonus experience points, which is a good idea. You're always left in no doubt where you need to go next and the story always seems to progress without any complications. It's also worth mentioning that you can save anywhere too, which is ideal for a handheld game.

What's not so good about the game?

The main problem with Astonishia Story is that the very reasons that make the game accessible to those who have never played an RPG before also make it disappointing to seasoned fans of the genre. The game gives you little control over character development and you're pretty much stuck with predetermined characters. Having a story that's linear may be great for those who aren't used to the elaborate nature of most RPG storylines but if you've played games from the main RPG series, you'll find the story in Astonishia Story rather lightweight and unsatisfying. You'll miss the multitude of side quests  that are usually present in RPGs (only a few side quests are available). The game will seem far too linear and it's quite short as well with it barely being possible to get even 20 hours play out of the game.

How does it look?

I daresay many reviews for Astonishia Story will complain about the lack of 3D graphics and remark that the 2D visuals on display here are dated. It's true the top down 2D visuals on offer here are reminiscent of some of the SNES RPG games but they have an undeniable charm that's difficult to complain about. Personally I'd rather have a classic RPG look such as this than bland 3D visuals which quite a few PSP games seemed to be plagued with.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers aren't going to have any problems with Astonishia Story. The dialogue in the game is text only, which means you won't miss out on a thing in terms of the story and dialogue. Conversations are shown in blue dialogue boxes and you'll need to press the X button to move the dialogue forward which means you'll be able to read the text at your own pace. The dialogue boxes have a character portrait next to them so you can always see who is talking.

Final thoughts.

It's all too easy to look at Astonishia Story and conclude that it's a disappointing RPG. The game's very short for an RPG. For an RPG it's extremely linear and the story certainly isn't going to be regarded as anything memorable. Still the game does have its positives and it's certainly an RPG that newcomers to the genre will have no trouble in picking up and playing, which has to be a positive. In essence then Astonishia Story is a good RPG but for seasoned RPG gamers it may be too light on details and not exactly an RPG that's going to last you for a few months.

Overall Game Rating: 7.2/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Astonishia Story is a short (by RPG standards) and accessible RPG that would make an ideal introduction to the genre for newcomers. Those expecting a meaty and lengthy RPG will be disappointed though.