Summoner - Retroview

PlayStation 2's first RPG

By: Antonio Andres

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 3
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 8
   Plot 8
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 1
   Visuals 6
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

20-45 Hours



   Since its birth in October of 2000, Playstation 2 has become the leader of console RPG's, much like its predecessor. But the grass was not always green for the RPGamer. For a long time you can count the amount of RPG's for this beloved system with one hand. One of those was Summoner. To be fair to the game and the person reading this review, I will attempt to write this review as I would have in November of 2000 when I beat it, as the game would be considered garbage compared to newer games like Final Fantasy X and Suikoden III. (Note: the rating reflects the game would it be released winter 2002.)

   Summoner puts you in the driving seat of Joseph, a farmer with the ability to summon monsters. Soon enough, your teacher Yago says you are to fulfill this prophecy by collecting four summoning rings. With Flece, Rosalind, and Jekhar rounding out the cast, you are off to explore Medeva and fulfill the prophecy.

   To the creator's credit, Summoner's strongest defense is its originality. Not since has a game been so original in its story and use of twists and turns. The more you play, the more the story sucks you in. However, Summoner would have made a great novel. It makes an average game.

I am Joseph, the farmer?
I am Joseph, the farmer?  

   The guys at Volition should have opted for the more traditional Turn-based fighting system instead of this horrible Real-time fighting system. In a nutshell, you only really control 1 out of the 5 characters in any given moment, the fifth character being a summoned monster. Anyone you don't control does the job you assign them via AI Scripts, i.e. Melee, Healer, etc. The character you control can do chain attacks, which is one attack after the other with the D-pad, while the enemy is stuck taking damage. This is how you hack and slash your way to the end. The boss fights, however, offer some escape from the tedious. Each boss needs a separate strategy to defeat it and a certain way to fight it. This is where the fighting gets interesting. Too bad none of the bosses offer much of a challenge.

   The game's menus are very well put together and very easy to follow. It is also very easy to tell who is talking and choosing responses to questions and what not. Overall, the game is very user friendly and very hard to get confused or overwhelmed. The control scheme is also easy to learn and easy to get used to. The fighting, however, is pretty tough but once you get used to the Dual Shock 2, you will just breeze through the battles.

   First off, the battle sounds are great. Swords clashing and thunder in the background really add to the fighting experience. The sound everywhere else just seems awkward and inappropriate. The music is average, while the voice acting is downright hard to listen to. Actually, the strange thing is only the voice acting for the main characters and bad guys is really bad, while the extras, especially the Hierophant, have excellent voice acting. Weird, huh?

Summoning ROCKS!!
Summoning ROCKS!!  

   While the game is fun to play, many are unlikely to play it again. It is really the second time through that the game's flaws really stick out like a sore thumb. My suggestion is do everything the first time around, it will be hard to play the game a second time.

The games graphics are awesome, ground-breaking, and absolutely jaw-dropping… for a first-generation Playstation game. While it is the first PS2 RPG, it does look extremely outdated compared to other launch titles like TimeSplitters and Evergrace. The character models are detail-less and static, while the backgrounds look great but not as good as they should. The magic animations, especially the summoning animations, however, ROCK!!! They are all just so pretty and look so cool. This is especially obvious when you first summon the dragons. Trust me, your jaw will drop.

The game isn't overly difficult although you might get lost or be clueless on what to do next without a player's guide. The fighting will just get tedious and seem never ending. Apart from that, the bosses aren't that hard to beat and even the last boss can be beaten without much effort.

Inside some catacombs.
Inside some catacombs.  

The game in retrospect isn't very long. You can squeeze at least 20 hours of it playing through. This game, however, has so many side quests it's amazing. Getting through all of them will give you a good 45 hours of total game time. This really isn't that hard since all the side quests are interesting and fun to do.

In the end, despite its flaws, this is a solid first entry, and a much better game than Evergrace and Eternal Ring, and worthy of a purchase for any RPG gamer looking for an above average, novel like story. For anyone else, I suggest a rental before deciding buying this game. Not a bad first RPG at all, but it just seems like it never reaches its promised potential. That's all.

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