Forever Kingdom Game Impressions
To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Agetech before the meeting we had with them on Thursday. The name "Armored Core" sounded familiar, but anything else they had produced up until this point was lost on me. How terribly misfortunate I would have been had I not had the chance to sit in on their presentation. If you are familiar with Forever Kingdom predecessor, Evergrace, please don't stop reading yet; hear me out. It was let known to us that Ever Grace was originally scheduled to be a Playstation release, not a PS2, and that was the reason for a great deal of its problems. Not having seen it, I trust Chia when he stated that it was rocky at best.
The opening video displayed a breathtaking sequence of FMV with an outstanding orchestral score to back it up. And while, sadly, there are no plans for an OST for this title, there have been talks of possibly downloadable music from From's website once the game goes public. This would be keen, methinks.
We had the extreme pleasure of actually conducting the interview with Ever Grace's lead programmer, who was very helpful in pointing out the behind-the-scenes hardwire on the game engine and a strong run down of why "this" will work while "that" will not.
Ever Grace II's gameplay is a 3D action/adventure/RPG, which definitely has a battle system with the likes I have never seen before. My absolute best description would be if you took the onscreen real time fighting from Secret of Mana and blended it with the highly addictive combo executions from Valkyrie Profile, you would have something that closely resembles Forever Kingdom. While you can't control each of your three characters with second or third joysticks, the battle play is simple enough to entice, and not confuse. Select which character you want to lead with, attack monster with their predefined action-execution button (noted either X, Circle, or Square for each character), follow up with an attack from another character, and repeat. The eye-candy displayed from landing a successful combo-attack lets you know all about who's the man.
The interactive environment resembles that of a 3-D Secret of Mana. People, houses, and monsters are all on screen and move about at their own volition. Well, until you thwack one with a big stick, of course.
The small piece of the game we were presented with involved attempting to open a magically sealed gate. To do so, you have to hunt the surrounding area, with the help of the mega-bitchen-map of which I'll discuss later, and find an item to break the seal. If I remember correctly, attaining said item meant locating a windmill, using your dexterity to jump on a raising/lowering bridge inside, navigate across a narrow platform, and opening a treasure chest.
Again, with the lack of English text and us all speaking not-Japanese, we had no idea what was really going on. And much to our mirth neither did the lead programmer. We all had a good chuckle about that as the media rep tried to translate the Japanese for us as the developer X'd past all the text, eager to get to the killing and spectacular eye-candy.
To what I believe to be every gamers happiness, the lead tech said that they have plans in place for using English voiceovers for the FMV sequences. It was also stated that if they weren't believable (think 70's-80's samurai movies), or if the translation team couldn't fit the words to match the characters mouths, they simply wouldn't have the characters speak. To me, this is integral. It shows that if the developers can't make something work the way it would be respected and well-received by the public, they'll work around it instead of either butchering the translation and taking away from the story, or just imposing the voiceovers with no regard for the synchronization of the characters. Mad props to the veracity of the developers for willfully taking the time to smooth out the game to this degree.
Ah, yes, I almost forgot. The map! Instead of the general overhead map, as found in most Final Fantasy games, your map is progressive, much like the map found in the PC game Nox. Given a small area, your map is small, but immediately shows you avenues of opportunity instead of just showing you a map with no obstructions. It's cool, it's handy, it's gonna save my ass when I get lost in dungeons.
And again, given the small amount of presentation (damn alpha versions!) there's not a whole lot I can give to you here. And yes, again I did not take pictures. I discussed this with Chia on the shuttle back to our hotel and we both decided it would have been a grand idea. We left it at that.