Kartia - Review

Creative combat

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 5
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 9
   Plot 8
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

20-40 hours



   Years before tactical RPGs became a common sight, a little known title by the name of Kartia took the genre in a strange new direction. Featuring extremely unique mechanics, two intertwining storylines, and character designs by Yoshitaka Amano, its fans are few, but devoted.

   Everything about the game, from magic to equipment to even the plot revolves around Kartia. Simply put, Kartia are magical cards bearing runes which can be combined and used to summon anything into existence, be it food, fire, or even monsters. In game terms, three things can be made from Kartia, spells, equipment, and phantoms, all using the same system. As the game proceeds, three resources are found. Texts, the runes that comprise Kartia, Grammar texts, recipes for Kartia combinations, and the raw materials Kartia are created from, Silk, Mithril, and World Tree. Some Texts require more powerful materials than others with Silk being the simplest. Any one text alone can be used for simple creations, for example Fire alone casts a simple fire spell, Sword alone a basic sword and so forth, plus multiple texts and be combined to create more complex spells and items. While this system may seem confusing at first to some, grammar texts give simple formulas allowing for basic spells, equipment, and phantoms to be created easily, leaving complex creations to the more daring. In the simplest of terms, Kartia can be played like any other game except for the fact that spells and equipment draw upon the same pool of resources.

Story selection
Gau or Celes?  

   Combat in Kartia is for the most part like any other game of it's kind. Both sides take turns moving all their units and attacking. After being attacked, all units will automatically counterattack. However, in Kartia, the damage a character can do depends not only on their level and equipment, but also their HP. In other words, if a character is down to 50 percent of their maximum HP, their attacks and counterattacks will only do half as much damage. This makes first strikes far more important than in other games. Additionally, while in most games, combat ends with the death of the main character, the death of any character in Kartia ends the game immediately.

   The exception to this is phantoms. Phantoms are monsters that can be created with Kartia than can serve as expendable troops. Like human characters, they can use equipment, and even go up levels. However, they can be summoned forth at any time, and their death does not end the game. There are three classes of phantoms, effective against each other in a paper-rock-scissors fashion. In fact, when selecting a phantom, a small icon of a hand is shown next to it's name to remind the player which are best against which.

Cutesy or Realistic Name
For Big Fire!  

   On a final combative note, while in most games spells have no effect other than healing or damaging, occasionally with elemental weaknesses factoring in, Kartia adds a new element to the mix. Whenever a spell is cast, it has a noticeable effect on the surrounding terrain. Fire spells scorch the land, burn down trees, and melt ice. Earth spells raise or lower the terrain, impeding movement and granting the caster tactical superiority. Ice based spells can freeze rivers making them easier to cross. Not only do such environmental effects enhance the gameplay, but using magic excessively will eventually change a pastoral field to a visually impressive scorched crater.

   While most of Kartia's emphasis is on the combat, it backs this up with a very sound plot. During the complex story, the small organization your characters comprise is always divided into two groups, each group playing a different role in the struggle against a large conspiracy. Alone, either of these plot lines is a solid story, but after playing the game through twice, once with each group, one can see how the events in one story effect the other, creating a more complex and involving experience. As interesting as the story is however, as with most tactical RPGs, it is confined to static cut scenes between battles over which the player has no control.

Mmm... cannon fodder
Healing Phantoms  

   Whenever a character speaks during one of said cut scenes, the text is accompanied by a large detailed portrait of their face draw by famed character Yoshitaka Amano. Aside from these however, the graphics are not particularly impressive. Similarly, while the musical score is fairly solid, there is very little variety. Together, these give a fairly drab packaging to such an interesting game.

   All in all, Kartia is a very unique title which is easily overlooked. However, between the extremely unique mechanics, and excellent plot, it's well worth tracking down. Even after finishing the game, there are a fair number of two player scenarios to keep players entertained long after.

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