Kemco has brought us some very good JRPG ports in 2018 and to end or start the year with a flourish, they now bring Asdivine Hearts II, the sequel of the Asdivine series from the Japanese studio Exe Create. In this new title, you will guide our heroes on a journey to protect the world in an epic mission, set two years after their last adventure. As a result of the clash between deities in the previous game, something changed in the parallel world of Archelio: Winter is about to freeze the entire planet. Join Zack, Stella and friends in a quest alongside the Light and Shadow deities to save the world from calamity!
What is Good?
- Visuals: Asdivine Hearts II is a delight for your eyes! With beautiful and colored sprites in avery well-detailed world, Exe Create brings the best of the 16-bit era with a revamp of the actual generation of consoles. The static images that represent your characters in menus and during dialogs are also very well-designed (although I wish they had more different expressions). The visuals for magic and skills in battles is also top-notch!
- Sound: My, my… what a great soundtrack! Your adventure will be accompanied by touching melodies right from the start screen of the game. They help to construct the fantasy atmosphere for the game, building up the tension for boss battles and important moments for the story. The sound effects are there,but with a minor impact. But I promise you will remember of them when using your most powerful spells and techniques during battles.
- Gameplay: The gameplay is like many classic RPGs: you walk in a big map with your characters interacting with NPCs and the scenario, fighting against monsters and enemies in random encounters while in wild areas, except when in pre-determined events and boss battles.
- The battle system: In most of the RPGs, the battlesystem is a hit-or-miss: or you like it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you will have to cope with it throughout the game, or drop the game and never look back at it. In its core, Asdivine Hearts II is a turn-based RPG game, with characters (duo’s, but we will get there) and enemies taking turns one after the other (according to their speed) like shown on the “time bar” at th ebottom of the screen. You control up to six characters (five characters plus a tamed monster) organized in duos. Each character of a duo takes actions one after another (the character in back position, the support, acting before the character in front position,the main). Main characters can attack, use skills or spells or defend, while supports can, you guessed it… support the action of the main, increasing the damage or reducing the cost of a magic or ability, use their own magic or abilities, defend and use items. An interesting system that requires some thinking!
- Unleashing your fury: If you opt for both characters casting a spell in the same turn, there’s a chance of combining these spells in a more powerful one called unison. To do so, you must first select a spell with a star on it with your main character and then look for a “?” in the list of spells of the second character. By selecting it, you will unleash a special magic that can do a huge amount of damage to enemies (and have very cool visual effects!). After you first use it, the name of the technic and its effect will become visible when selecting it. Another combined attack your characters can do is based on the trust bar, the one that’s right above the time bar. When fully complete, characters in the main position can unleash their ultimate trust attacks, very powerful techniques with different effects at the cost of the trust. Later in the game, you will get access to microbursts, not-so-powerful but still very useful techniques that consume 10% of the bar.
- Jewel system: Your characters gain access to magic,statics abilities and status modifiers using a puzzle system where you fit as many jewels as possible. As you have limited space, you must place them according to your strategy, what makes it very deep and interesting.
- Companions: Some other jewels you gain access during your journey contain the essence of monsters. You can use them to get access to their abilities or release them to fight by your side as a pet, the sixth character of your troop.You can change your companions inside the menu between battles and send them to accomplish tasks in exchange for guild coins that can be used in special stores to buy items and equipment. There’s also an arena to test the strength of Stella as a monster tamer (Pokémon, anyone?), where you fight alongside one of your companions in battles of crescent difficulty.
- Characters: The characters of Asdivine Hearts II are of the kind you immediately feel attached on. And there’s an ongoing romance story with Zack, the protagonist, and her female companions, who are all about to fall in love for him. Of course, you’ll have your favorite and will do whatever it takes for her to stay with the main character by the end of the story, always directing your choices to improve the trust between them. Remember the higher the trust level between them, greater their ability to deal with obstacles during your gameplay like breaking boulders or grossing gaps. Love always finds a way!
- The story goes on: Even though it carries an ‘II’ in the title, you can jump right into this title not worrying about the story of the first one. Right at the beginning of the game, there’s a journal you can use to read everything that happened in the first game. That’s strange, in my opinion, since the developer gives you a summary for the first game and doesn’t instigate you to play it. As I haven’t played the first title before reviewing this one, I opted to play it without reading this journal (I covered my eyes while pressing the advance button until the end of it and nailed a rare item) to play the first one later. But I’m doing so because a really liked the title. Otherwise, I would simply ignore it.
- Review me: One (odd) thing that caught my attention when I first launched the game is the presence of a Review button right on the start screen. Yes, a link for the Xbox store for you to review the game. A little odd, in my opinion, but as it doesn’t interfere in your gameplay, let’s not add or subtract points because of it.
What is Bad?
- Visuals let-downs: Though the visuals of the game are impressive, sometimes you’ll notice some lack of imagination in the visuals. Especially inside houses, castles and other buildings, which all look the same. But that’s not the worst part: the repetition of enemies is really disappointing! I have yet to find them all, but it feels like the 150 different enemies, you have only 10 truly different models, each one with variations of color, hair or what weapon they’re holding, to make them count as a new enemy. Seriously! For instance, the first one is a blue model, the second is a grey, the third is a green with whips, the fourth is pink with hearts, the fifth are with flames on its base… you got the idea. I understand that most RPGs repeat some enemies from time to time. But Asdivine Hearts II takes this repetition to the extreme: you enter a dungeon and encounter the first slime described above. When you leave it and g oback to the world map, you find the second one. And as you enter the nex tdungeon, there’s the third type waiting for you … uuughsss.
Asdivine Hearts II [Score: 82/100]
With impressive old school visuals, great music and an overall beautiful presentation, Asdivine Hearts II is mandatory for each JRPG fan out there! If not for its captivating characters, lovely art style, interesting story or a good sense of humor, I’m sure its solid gameplay will be enough to pinch you. Are you an old-school RPG player or a fan of classics like Final Fantasy or Lunar series? C’mon, jump in. There’s a lot of these old-school love in this title.