Friday, June 16, 2017

GOD WARS Future Past (PS4)

NISA's, and Kadokawa Games' new strategy JRPG, "GOD WARS Future Past" blends the old Disgaea formula with a more straightforward story presentation. That story being one that takes the hero, and heroine of the tale being told on a journey through a land bound by old sacrificial traditions, and against the judgement of Japanese gods. At the beginning, through comic panels and anime sequences, we are clued into the narrative which has a particular shrine maiden named Tsukuyomi sacrificing her own youngest daughter (Sakuya) to the angered gods of Mt.Fuji in hopes that it will calm their imposing wrath, and restore peace to the native villages. Being distraught by losing her young daughter in the act Tsukuyomi breaks down, and eventually turns from her duty assigning Kitsune as the village overseer while eventually vanishing thirteen years after the fact with another of her daughters being held as a potential sacrifice to satiate the anger of the gods should their temper flare up again. This daughter (Kaguya), by fate, meets a concerned villager named Kintaro who promises to free her from her prison so that she can see the world, and the beautiful flowers that reside upon Mt.Fuji. In light of an uprising caused by village famine Kintaro seizes the opportunity alongside his bear-like companion Kuma, and frees Kaguya from her prison fulfilling his promise. It is at this point the two realize they have an uphill battle ahead of them, and that to find out the truth behind the gods' anger they will have to seek Kaguya's missing mother, Tsukuyomi. Along the way Kintaro, and Kaguya's friendship grows as they face off against insurmountable odds to defy the gods, and ultimately free their people from the oppression thereof.

Gameplay in "GOD WARS Future Past" looks oddly like something ripped from Square Enix's 'Final Fantasy Tactics', but plays almost exactly like the turn based battles found in the Disgaea series. The main difference this time around being the fact that the battles are more pivotal to plot advancement, and are less about doing things outside of that. Each battle advances the plot forward while helping to build upon character stats through the experience points earned. New to the combat system is a skill tree with which you can set, and upgrade a main, passive, and unique skill which will help you in battle. The skills in the main category basically amount to jobs, or classes as they would appear in a game like "Final Fantasy Tactics". Each job, which can evolve into more jobs of the same type through applied JP (Job Points), will afford you different skills accordingly. Say for example you choose the 'Priest' job. With it you'll learn healing, and buff skills that will be beneficial in sustaining your party in a tougher battle scenario. Maxing all the skills out in the 'Priest' skill tree will open up another tier of the job under another name with yet another skill tree with accompanying skills to upgrade. The 'Warrior' job, which abides by the same game logic, affords the equipped character more direct combat options. Both ranged, and melee centered. Needless to say there are numerous types of jobs with specific skill sets that each, and every character in your party can take on, and learn.

Assigned jobs, and the associated skills are all made available to the character that has them equipped. Regardless of whether they are main, sub, or unique they are all there for the character to benefit from in battle. Speaking of which the main, and sub jobs offer skills that can be selected in battle via the "Action" menu while the unique jobs, and the skills therein are more along the lines of passive buffs for the equipped character. Paying attention to what skills do what is important in mastering the game's many battles.

Through map menu access you can apply job points (which are earned from skill use in battle) to the skill tree making each skill more powerful/effective up to 10 times. You can also switch up skills to better deal with certain battles if need be. Jobs, and skills aren't the only tools you'll be utilizing in battle though. Also new to the NISA battle setup is the focus on terrain. In battle elevated, and sloping terrain can be used as an advantage, or misused to a disadvantage. By this I mean where you are positioned in regards to high, low, and normal terrain will effect the damage output/affliction. Being above an enemy that is in front, and below you will give you the damage advantage. The opposite would apply if you were on the receiving end below an enemy that was positioned directly above you. It goes without saying that flat terrain offers equal advantage or disadvantage, according to circumstance. Along with terrain elevation comes the importance of the direction which your character is facing at the end of their turn. As with Disgaea you'll make your actions (Attack, Items, Movement), and then decide whether to defend or standby while facing in a certain direction. If you get attacked from the front you'll receive the least damage. From the side you'll receive medium damage, and from behind major damage. Since the terrain is limited to a singular sections with limited grid spaces you can effectively back into corners for a definite defensive advantage. Along with the defend option this will negate most damage if played right. This, and all the new features play into the game's heavy strategy focus.

Backtracking a bit ... Each battle starts off with you placing your party members in either the front, or back row. This is purely for formation purposes, but will not effect the outcome too much when you begin moving each character per turn. Aside from that the only other formation setup you get is in relation to the equipment you equip. Unique to this game are several equipment optimization options in the map menu that will allow you to equip characters for defensive, and offensive roles. Both in the back, and front row regards. By using the optimal auto-equip options you'll not only gain the optimal equipment setup, but also perks that pertain to close positioning to other characters while in battle. This includes added boosts to offensive, and defensive stats for the times you are adjacent to the other characters. Of course the adjacent characters also gain the buff as long as the character with the equipment setup is near them.

Other features important to making the most of each battle lies with the game's new looting system. As with the treasure chests of Disgaea you will find baskets of different rarity lying about the battlefield. Instead of attacking them without consequence though you'll need choose either the "Search" action menu option when facing the basket, or use a lock pick skill to open it safely. Some baskets will contain rare weapons or gear while others will harbor nasty damage inducing traps. Along with the baskets comes the ability to farm for items in grassy terrain. Certain characters with skills like Kintaro can search grid plots adorned with grass or bushes for items. This comes in handy when you are in need of items, especially the healing kind. Unlike the basket situation you'll need to have the character on the grassy square to use the skill which will farm for items.

When it comes to weapons, and equipment each character can benefit from only certain things. The available weapons include axes, clubs, swords, and bows among other things. The armor includes accessories, chest armor, hats, and one or two other items. All of the equipment can be found in different rarities making them more beneficial to the character that can equip them. When manually equipping said items the side stats listings will clue you in to which weapon is the best by showing up and down arrows assigned to red and blue colors, respectively. Red being higher in regards to stats, and blue being lower.

As far as map activity goes you will be traveling from point to point getting into battles, meeting characters of interest, and shopping at shops. Each point on the map includes an icon to clue you into what will be awaiting you there. The points marked on the map also include a panel description giving you a precursor to upcoming events. As with the story everything on the map is laid out in a fairly straightforward fashion meant to keep the focus more on the plot so that you don't get lost in grinding on the side. For those of you looking for those extra NISA goodies you can access the 'Picture Scroll' map menu option for access to the BGM soundtrack, and an informational encyclopedia with references to people, places, and things within the game.

The Presentation ...

GOD WARS Future Past has a traditional yet not so traditional Disgaea look to it. The battle maps are adorned with both structural, and environmental details fitting of the Japanese mythology it is based on. All of which is placed on a floating section of land that is further sectioned off for movement sake by an unseen grid. You'll find old Japanese buildings, cherry trees, and plenty of other pseudo-accurate Japanese items. The characters on the other hand are a little less Disgaea-like, and harbor a half-chibi appearance. Their heads are large, and their bodies not too small. The soundtrack which accompanies said artistic presentation sticks to a Japanese influence with instrumental tunes, and more modern Japanese music thrown into the mix. Also on the art side of things the game blends still comic book style story panels with anime animations that are not of the usual NISA design. Kadokawa's influence definitely shines through in more than one way throughout the game.

The Verdict ...

Having played part of the way into"GOD WARS Future Past" the game felt a little more story driven than previous NISA games. There wasn't much to do outside of advancing from location to location, and battling on the world map for the sake of finding out more about the main character Kaguya, and her predicament. I'm not complaining in saying that. I'm simply saying so to point out that this game takes the genre in a new direction, if slightly so. When it comes to versions of the game I imagine both play out very much the same. The only difference being that one is a mobile experience while the other is an at home one. The PS4 version that I played felt a lot like an interactive Studio Ghibli film with SRPG elements thrown in to enhance it. At heart it is a lighthearted adventure that has a message worth listening to. A message about following, leading, and making a profound difference in life. The added fact that said journey of discovery is enriched with Japanese lore makes it all the more intriguing to a gamer like me. A gamer who admires Japanese culture, and mythology will no doubt enjoy what this game has in store for them. I can personally get behind it myself, and as far as a recommendation goes the game gets my seal of approval without a second thought. Just keep in mind that it's a different sort of NISA game, and that you can enjoy it on the PS4 or PS Vita.


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