Napple Tale: Arsia in Dreamland - Reader Retroview  

Tangerine Dream
by JuMeSyn

16-20 hours


Rating definitions 

   Of all the games to remain stranded in Japan forever, how did one drawing inspiration from Alice in Wonderland make the cut? Lewis Carroll’s opium-riddled story cries out to be placed back into its original language of English, and being in Japanese makes following the connections a lot harder than it should be. Admittedly I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland, though I’m thinking strongly about doing it now. Napple Tale is rather fun without the plot being a big factor though.

   Napple Tale begins with a girl named Alissia being sucked into a (dream world, alternate dimension, psychedelic illusion…) where she is the chosen one to help Napple Town out of its problems (also picking up the name ‘Pochi’). This is done by taking Cherry Street, Ocean Blue, Rouge Leaf and Silver Light streets into the different areas outside of Napple Town and recapturing the six Petals. Accompanying Pochi on her travels is Stray Napp, a goblin-looking fellow who nevertheless supplies information constantly.

Does the circus always attract fiendish manifestations of evil?  Are your children in danger?  Are the peanuts actually laced with anthrax?  More at 11! Does the circus always attract fiendish manifestations of evil? Are your children in danger? Are the peanuts actually laced with anthrax? More at 11!

   The problem with analyzing the story deeply is my lack of good Japanese knowledge combined with a lack of Alice in Wonderland knowledge. Sure there’s a rabbit with a timepiece that is a boss, a big caterpillar that may or may not be smoking (hard to tell when he’s a boss also), a woman named Alice who figures prominently, a bunch of Heart suit cards to fight, and quite a bit of other material… but fitting it all together is something I can’t yet do. Better go read the book, I suppose. All in all it’s a fair story, with the only caveat being dialogue passages that go on for a long time. In an action RPG this kills the pace.

   In Napple Town the game looks strikingly like Skies of Arcadia, which fits considering they were both on Dreamcast. Napple Town is full 3D. In the actual field areas that Napple Town serves as a hub to reach (examples of the field areas include Red & Gold and Fjordland) the perspective is 2.5 D. There is the ability to move around a bit, but within a limited area. This is fortunate considering the player’s inability to control the camera. Usually the camera is positioned well, but in certain areas it likes to pan out too much, making jumps harder than necessary.

   Pochi is able to execute a double jump and has a staff which serves to smack enemies and objects. Other abilities are covered through her Paffet collection (more about them later). Enemies all die in one hit in Napple Tale. Interestingly, most of them upon being struck go flying in the direction Pochi was facing, and before gravity overtakes them the enemies can strike other enemies or out-of-reach switches and chests. A few projectile-spewing enemies can have their projectiles made into weapons by Pochi also. Some chests can only be opened if first struck by something. The environments don’t feature anything terribly innovative in the action RPG realm but are easy to navigate.

He’s friendly, sure, but that never stops the Ghostbusters from coming to town. He’s friendly, sure, but that never stops the Ghostbusters from coming to town.

   Talking with people is easy, navigating menus is easy. Interaction gets taken down a point thanks to the frequent parts at which running around looking for the right stimulus to open a new area is necessary. Changing Paffets is also somewhat cumbersome, as the limit of 5 means constantly shuffling them around to get the right ones kept. Control on the field is tight, but the camera’s love of panning out when there are several levels of height to navigate means Pochi’s figure is distressingly small at times.

   The Paffets and how to obtain them comprise the most unique feature of Napple Tale. A Paffet is either a familiar that tags around with Pochi, aiding at the player’s command with field actions, or an ornament/fixture of some variety that occasionally serves a direct purpose but is more useful for simple decoration of Napple Town. Paffets are obtained first via grabbing ingredients. Ingredients are garnered via items – everything Pochi nabs on the field. The items must be remixed; the player will examine an item under a 360-degree scope with three different filters, grabbing the items available. Once an item has been remixed all identical items can be remixed without the scope henceforth. Items are then combined into Paffets in a different machine, with the player either using recipes that have been found or trying to guess the ingredients. Guessing is a quick way to use up items, however, because there are scores of different ingredients and four of them must be used for each combination. The effects of Paffet familiars are a varied lot, but all of them are limited – enemies sometimes leave an item to restore one use of a Paffet. Using a Paffet to its maximum means it will have to be created again.

   Graphically Napple Tale resembles a slightly lower-fidelity Skies of Arcadia in town. Out in the field it looks good without being superlative. Nice use of colors, every area looks distinct from the other ones and all enemies can be identified with a glance (though the distant camera makes that harder at times).

   Aurally is where Napple Tale shines. Yoko Kanno has composed the score, and while it is different from any other game I have ever played that just accentuates its quality. About 20 Italian musicians pop up on the credits list, with another 15 or so Japanese musicians credited later on – with but one synthesizer credit. Lovers of live instruments, flock to the soundtrack! Every field area and every boss has a unique piece, which is quite pleasant. The only voice acting appears to be Alissia acting as narrator, and she does a reasonable job.

   Finding all of the hidden material is the incentive for replay here. There is a room where cards of enemies, NPC’s, Paffets, and areas can be collected. The room is also where a music test can be performed. Collecting all of this will require industriousness on the player’s part. Collecting all of the Paffets in and of itself will require a time commitment beyond finishing the game, which could require as little as 14 hours to someone able to rush through. Challenge is certainly not a reason to play Napple Tale, given that any injury Pochi suffers merely takes half a heart away. She can have up to 12 hearts, meaning a total of 24 hits toward the end of the game. Even falls require little backtracking and take but half a heart away, while bosses pose little challenge even if they are fun to fight.

   Napple Tale’s single strongest aspect may be its soundtrack, but that does not detract from it being a quality action RPG, if one that can be infuriating at times thanks to the need to chat repeatedly with denizens of Napple Town in order to get anything new accessible. It plays well and has some interesting features, along with being reasonably long by action RPG standards. Having the game in Japanese, however, hurts the end appeal. Alice in Wonderland references are a lot harder to pick up through a language barrier. I enjoyed Napple Tale, but would have enjoyed it a lot more in English. How a quality Dreamcast title tailor-made for an English localization missed out on English release is baffling.

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