Torneko: The Last Hope - Review
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A tried and true combination lives on

By Mikel Tidwell

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 8
   Music / Sound 8
   Originality 4
   Plot 6
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 9
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Hard
   Time to Complete 25 hours
Torneko: The Last Hope

    I have to admit one thing before you read this review. I grew up with these types of games. Back in Junior High School, it was a nightly dose of Rogue. Going into High School, hack and all its variants was all the rage about the almost empty computer lab. As I went into college, Nethack became almost an obsession. Konami was the first company to release a game that I thought would be as good as the original text games. Mixing in tempting elements that could have almost been dating, if it hadn't been so obvious and cliché, Azure Dreams was the first random dungeon game I had a chance to play in some time.

    Enix has recently released Torneko: The Last Hope, a game that attempts to keep what made the old games popular intact, while including enough of a story for those that don't usually like these types of games to perhaps give it another look. The style is the same as the major games of this type. The view is overhead with detailed sprites living in a two-dimensional world. While much detail was spent on the monsters, the sprites in the town are a bit choppy, but they get the job done.

Sliding on Ice
A variety of terrain  

    The story isn't spelled out right away. Instead Torneko must find out the story in pieces, as successfully completing a magic dungeon is the way new parts are uncovered. While the story is pretty basic, the dialogue has a few amusing lines here and there, as the villagers are basically helpless. Most of the time, the next place to go will be clearly spelled out by almost anyone Torneko talks to.

    In the previous title Toruneko no Daibouken, not released in North America, Torneko also explored magic dungeons. Torneko brought back the Joy Chest, which the people of the village thought would halt the creation the magic dungeons. However, this does not prove to be the case as new dungeons start appearing all over the place. A strange old man seems to be lurking around, simply overpowering the monsters found inside these dungeons. Even the King himself may have to investigate these matters if they aren't contained soon. Most of the villagers can't brave the new dungeons alone, so it's up to Torneko to try and solve this new mystery.

Choose carefully  

    Wandering the dungeons is pretty simple. When a monster approaches, Torneko can either move towards the monster, wait for the monster to come closer, or flee in the opposite direction. The only purpose of fleeing would be to perhaps gain some HP before either the monster caught up with Torneko, or another monster appeared from the other direction. Typically fleeing only ended up with being surrounded sooner or later. Since the entire game is turn based, taking the time to think about the options is not penalized, as long as no action is actually made. Since the monsters move at the same time as you do, planning ahead to get the first strike is a key to survival. Torneko needs to sell valuable items in town in order to be able to pay to expand his abilities for the later and more challenging dungeons.

    As with most random dungeon exploration, there are randomly placed items, which makes the chances of completing the dungeon sometimes based more on luck than on skill. Reaching the tenth floor with a decent weapon and some magic spells won't do you any good if you don't have any food to eat when Torneko gets hungry. Since you can only carry 20 items during a quest, choosing what's important to keep with what will earn a good selling price is a hard balance. Different types of items will be in each dungeon, and especially early on, there will be a dominant type of item that will be found. This makes it easier later when you may need a certain scroll and say, the fourth dungeon was full of them.

    Don't become discouraged if you can't pass the dungeon on the first try. There were many unexpected things as I traveled deeper; to be honest, I lost more times than I won. Since Torneko doesn't actually die in the game, the penalty for failing to complete a dungeon is the loss of a good portion of the gold collected, and any items in possession when Torneko fell. This will include any items brought in from the outside, so charging in with your best weapons will only make more work to regain what was lost. Typically I would leave my best equipment in the safe until I was sure I knew what to expect, though it didn't always work out that way.

Slash that critter
Attacking with a blade  

    Moving around dungeons can be a little tricky. First off, it is best not to use the analog sticks on the PlayStation controller. Since Torneko can only move eight directions, and one space at a time, the analog offers no assistance in controlling, and sometimes the slight variance could move diagonal when it was meant to be straight. Also, when using the plus pad, it's better to stick with up, down, left, and right. While the diagonal directions are possible, don't use them for anything critical like avoiding a trap or a monster, because it's more likely Torneko will simply move in one of the two directions pressed, instead of diagonal as intended. There is a speed button for traversing long corridors, though it's not recommended for inside rooms, as monsters can gang up inside rooms. The later dungeons have unlit passages except for the area around Torneko, so zipping through them is a nice option. The ability to equip both a sword, and arrows (the bow is assumed) is also a nice feature so you don't have to change weapons, giving the monsters a free turn.

    While wandering the many dungeons, it should be mentioned that each dungeon has its own musical selection. While the music is nothing remarkable, it passes the time nicely, and usually matches the dungeon type remarkably well. The one thing that is rather eerie is that there is no noticeable sounds during the game besides the slashing or bashing of Torneko's weapon, and the retaliation of the monsters. Considering the monsters are everywhere, one would think they would make some noise moving around. Perhaps using sound as another way to detect approaching enemies could be used in a sequel.

    Torneko: The Last Hope is by no means an expansive game with an intense plot and all the other things people normally think about today's RPGs. However, if you're looking for a simple game that is good fun, then Torneko is a good game to pick up. It's easy to learn, and will keep you entertained for hours. For those who have had experience with the other games of the random dungeon style, Torneko: The Last Hope keeps the tried and true method of dungeon exploration at its finest.

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