The Japanese role playing game genre has waned in popularity since the mid-2000, or perhaps even earlier. The 90′s saw a ton of them coming in for various systems, the most well-known ones being released for the first PlayStation. Many gamers still reminisce about those games, including the ever-present influence of Final Fantasy VII with Aerith getting skewered from above by Sephiroth (don’t tell us that it’s still a spoiler). If you still want to play a new JRPG today, but you have no console or don’t want to play Final Fantasy games beyond the PS2, then here’s Agarest.
Agarest: Generations of War was developed by Idea Factory and published by various companies in different regions. This game is also known as Record of Agarest War, and it seems that it had enough fans to have it come to the PC with this version. It was first released for the PlayStation 3 back in 2007, then the Xbox 360 got the same around a year later. Now it’s on the PC, ported by Laughing Jackal. If you’re into medieval warfare and have played classics like Fire Emblem, Front Mission, and so on, then you’ll like the turn-based tactical gameplay featured in this game, although it’s more in the scale of the usual turn-based systems shown in most JRPGs. But it’s also about the conflict between nations and reflects a major part of human history, when war meant glory and everyone wanted to be a hero.
You play as a hero on a quest to save his country from a tyrannical force that is carving a path through the lands it passes through with extreme prejudice. To fight against such villainy, you must become stronger by gaining experience through battles with monsters and other enemies. Around you is a world filled with interesting characters, all drawn in the polarizing anime style. Dialogues are presented in the style of other JRPGs and visual novels, while combat is shown in an isometric perspective. In-game interface should be quite familiar for those who have played JRPGs before, and there are brief tooltips to explain what selections are for in case you aren’t too sure.
This game has parts that play like dating sims, wherein you can woo other characters like in a visual novel. Some may think that this seems out of place, but that’s far from the truth. There’s another old JRPG with dating sim gameplay elements called Thousand Arms, released by Atlus back in 1998 for the PlayStation. Besides, there are plenty of other games these days where you can romance other characters, like games from Bioware such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age, and even Skyrim which lets you marry NPCs. In its defense, it helps players have an even deeper immersion into the story and the in-game world.
Agarest’s strength and weakness boils down to the same thing, which is the long and slow gameplay and story. Some may think that perhaps the story is way too long for its own good, which isn’t really that intricately detailed but makes up for it with its structure. It’s a lot like Square Enix’s The Last Remnant, although that one is even longer. There is a certain period of time that singleplayer games can hold on the player’s interest before it becomes too boring to play any further. Perhaps it even tries too hard to be Suikoden II with its story though in that it seems to take itself too seriously, but that’s what happens when depth is prioritized in a game. Other JRPGs had been pretty long as well, like the Suikoden games and Final Fantasy games, so it seems that epic length is part of the genre.
As for the battle system, it was designed to be slow and deliberate, so it’s definitely not for everyone. This does turn off a lot of gamers who are more into quick gratification than complete immersion with their games. Agarest requires a bit of patience in order to complete, but that’s one thing that JRPG fans have lots of anyway since they care most about the journey and not just the destination. Perhaps that’s the thing about JRPGs in that they’re nothing without their stories and the player’s willingness to follow them.
For those who have not played this game yet in its previous iterations, then this may be the version just for you. Take note that it’s only for those who are into this genre, or maybe for those who are curious. If you like long games, then this should be well worth your money.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10