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PSP  header logo

Astonishia Story

For: PSP

Can the security of the universe really be threatened by the theft of a walking stick?

Product: Astonishia Story | Developer: Sonnori Corporation | Publisher: Ubisoft | Format: PSP | Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Astonishia Story PSP, thumbnail 1
Role-playing games struggle to avoid cliché at the best of times. We're so used to following the story of a young orphan boy as he leaves his home village on a coming-of-age adventure – battling monsters, collecting items, upgrading armour and weapons bit by weary bit, and 'talking' to the world's inhabitants line by painstaking line – that these games can often play themselves.

Indeed, as you saunter through your quest to save the world from whichever wild-eyed ice queen/omniscient hot-lunged dragon/pulsing abducting alien/beardy pillaging warlord is currently threatening the lives of all the binary classed 'good' people around you, it's sometimes hard to distinguish one game from the next.

Of course, there are exceptions – those RPGs that stand out for cleverly bending the rules, demonstrating marvelous, witty dialogue and beautifully curved storylines punctuated with fight mechanics that dazzle and intrigue.

Astonishia Strory is an exception: easy to distinguish from the crowd. Not because it strays from or subverts any canyon-deep furrowed conventions however, but because it executes every tightly-clutched cliché so conspicuously poorly.

Our protagonist is Lloyd von Roiental, a 24-year-old knight charged with protecting and delivering a staff/sceptre/walking stick that holds immense power. He and his team are attacked en route by a group of goblins and, rather than staying with the caravan in which their treasured artefact is housed, they all choose to chase after the group of antagonists, ensuring that the precious staff is stolen while their backs are turned.

It makes little sense, and players who subsequently hold out for the story to stiffen to a watertight conclusion will be sorely disappointed. While it might be possible to forgive the narrative its uglier moments with a generous eye – after all, this is a conversion of a 1994-built Korean game – the translation from the original language is disastrous. Characters are inappropriately named (for example, 'Man 2' and 'Soldier 1') , jokes fall flat through misused words, and the character building and story arc becomes if not totally impenetrable then certainly irrelevant through the confusion it stirs.

And things don't improve in that other key area of the role-playing game: the battle mechanic.

Astonishia Story's fights (they occur every few seconds as you traverse smaller areas of the world or can be manually picked in the wider view) are played out on a grid much like in the Game Boy's brilliant Advance Wars. Unfortunately, the gameplay here lacks any of that title's imagination and accessible form and function. You simply manoeuvre your team across the grid turn by turn, moving towards enemies to attack and away to defend. The enemy AI is always set to offensive, so you'll invariably be charged, and the environments in which the fights take place have no bearing on play (for instance, attacking an enemy from behind has no positive effect).

Adding to this poor showing is the way experience points are handled. The points you earn from defeating enemies in order to level up your characters are unfairly weighted towards those team members that are strong, since more experience points are given the more damage is dealt. You therefore quickly see the brawnier members of your team race away in their usefulness to you as they power up quickly, while the weaker healers or new additions to the team remain feeble, becoming ever more redundant as the game progresses.

Then there are the loading times that poke you at every turn, further highlighting these faults and exacerbating your annoyance. While it's acceptable to flit to a load screen before a battle, loading before each and every stock attack simply isn't.

To round off what is already a broken and shallow package, the game concludes abruptly, end credits punctuating what seems like a subplot deviation rather than a final, spectacular denouement. As a result, the sum of these parts results in a weak, tired and tiring game, trampled down by a shoddy translation, and the fact it's arriving a full 12 years after its inception when all the competition has long moved on.

If you're yet to play an RPG on your PSP then plump for Breath of Fire 3 or Tales of Eternia instead – both of these games offer a much better introduction to the genre. Astonishia Strory is a land best left unvisited.

Astonishia Story is on sale now – click here to buy.
Astonishia Story
Reviewer photo
Simon Parkin | 9 July 2006
A basic and stale RPG that sows few seeds of flair and inventiveness over its vast and tiresome expanse
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