Summon Night: Sword Craft Story - Reader Review  

Tote That Metal! Pound That Anvil!
by JuMeSyn

15-20 hours


Rating definitions 

   Atlus manages to localize quite a few titles that would not find their way to English-speakers otherwise. Many of the titles Atlus chooses to honor are worthy of notice, some are less so. Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is hardly a bad game, but neither is it particularly noteworthy. It seeks to deliver a little dungeon-crawling RPG and succeeds. Does it have unique features to separate it from all other dungeon-crawling titles? Certainly the answer is yes, but whether this is enough to make it worth seeking out depends totally upon the player.

   At least thanks to Atlus the localization is high-quality. Save for a few typos everything reads well, with plenty of minor humor and sometimes memorable text. Believe it when I say plenty of text, because there are times when the characters feel like talking back and forth to each other for quite awhile. The title begins with the player choosing either a male or female protagonist (respectively named Cleru and Pratty). Whichever is chosen, the basic story is this: s/he is entering the Craftlord Tournament that will select a new Craftlord in the city of Wystern. This will be accomplished via a story that won’t be new to anyone; a fighting tournament! One-on-one matches will produce a winner out of all the entrants. There is some additional material involving a military power seeking the high-quality weapons of Wystern in order to go on a conquering march, along with interactions among the characters to flesh things out a bit, but the basic storyline is hardly innovative.

Advertising in games reaches a new low, as 7-up tries to spread word for its new adult-oriented soda. Advertising in games reaches a new low, as 7-up tries to spread word for its new adult-oriented soda.

   In order to become a Craftlord, Pratty (I chose her first time through) has to become better at two things. One is fighting, the other is forging weapons (which is what a Craftlord does). Combat plays a big role in this, so I’ll deal with it first. Battles are random, but most assuredly not turn-based. They look similar to a Tales battle with a 2D view reminiscent of fighting games. They play even more closely to a fighting game than a Tales game does, also. Pratty will appear onscreen with up to four enemies, frequently with an enemy or two behind her, and start pounding the enemies while trying not to be hit herself. She can jump by pressing up and run by double tapping left or right.

   Of course, this is not a fighting game and some RPG elements are in play. Five different varieties of weapon may be equipped by Pratty, with three able to be simultaneously equipped (save in a tournament battle where only one weapon can be equipped). Swords have a three-strike attack that is fairly fast, spears are an excellent choice to pierce several enemies at once but cannot be used at the closest range, axes are slow but powerful and can stun enemies, knuckles are very fast and allow for great maneuverability in exchange for not dealing much damage with each hit, and drills are fairly speedy short-range piercing weapons. In addition to her HP meter Pratty’s weapon has a meter, which will go down as the weapon is used and when attacks are blocked. If the weapon meter reaches zero, the weapon breaks. In battles with human adversaries the reverse can be applied. Each weapon has a technique rating, which is increased by usage to a finite maximum. I am uncertain but strongly suspect improving the technique rating of a weapon in a given category carries over to improving usage of stronger weapons in that category.

   For magic, Pratty has a Guardian Beast. There are several variations on the Guardian Beast depending upon some questions asked early on, but in battle the Guardian Beast is the magic user. Pratty can set four different spells (more will be learned) for use in battle. It takes a moment to use magic, meaning that if an enemy is very close casting a spell will be difficult. Any given spell can be used a finite number of times – there is no MP. And a total of five spells may be used in each battle. After battle experience and money is awarded (though not much of the latter), with new spells for the Guardian Beast being learned by leveling.

Taken moments before this young man became an unfortunate victim of urban violence.  Film at 11. Taken moments before this young man became an unfortunate victim of urban violence. Film at 11.

   The Craftlord title must be earned through experience in the field of crafting. Pratty’s master Bron will teach her new techniques for making weapons, one at a time. To make a weapon materials must be gathered, either via purchase (at exorbitant prices) or by locating them within barrels and crates of dungeons. Barrels and crates can be smashed open, and upon exiting the dungeon will reappear. Constant gathering of material is necessary to forge newer and more powerful weapons. Bron will not teach new weapon-making techniques until the previous technique has been used. The other way of gaining new techniques is to break the weapon of a human opponent, though doing this will take time and can be dangerous.

   The actual synthesizing of the material used for weapons is frequently irritating. There are four major elemental types that go into making a weapon, and the awarding of materials in the dungeon is random. Thus it is very possible to be short of just one element needed for forging, requiring another trip into the dungeon with the hope of obtaining enough of the element to make the weapon. Elements also are not just awarded; they are within items that must be broken down into their components, and repeating this gets boring. Old weapons can also be broken down into half of the elements used in their forging. Buying items in a shop that can be broken down into elements is possible, but cannot be relied upon given the paucity of cash awarded after battles.

   Visually everything outside of battle fails to impress. The most noticeable thing I picked up is that the sprites are smaller than usual, and the lack of variety in dungeons (the major one looks the same through its entire 50-floor length, making the few others that pop up all the more welcome) also is unimpressive when the GBA can do better. In battle things look quite a bit better, with fluid animation and big sprites smacking each other around quite nicely. A LOT of palette-swapping is used considering how small the enemy list is, however.

   The aural component is fairly bland. Sound effects are adequate, since none of them got irritating. Music is perfectly generic fare that could have been played in better quality, since it sounds close to NES-level in its emitting. The tunes themselves are decent while playing but nothing memorable, and will be forgotten after playing. No voice acting is to be found here.

   The game isn’t very long, although attempting to fulfill a certain early quest’s mandate to make 10 of the same weapon and similar attempts to round out weapon technique lists will certainly make it seem longer. I finished in a tad over 20 hours, and without that damn fetch quest it would have been at least 90 minutes less. There is the temptation to play again as the other gendered character, along with discovering more weapon techniques. Also, upon completing the game the player is promptly thrust back into the world with the knowledge that more floors to the central dungeon have been discovered and practice to enhance his/her Craftlord abilities is necessary. I have not yet explored this a great deal, but it would seem to enhance replay prospects.

   As to challenge, it exists. Particularly in tournament battles the risk of having a broken weapon and losing that way is noteworthy. Items cannot be used in battle, though keeping the healing spell as part of the battle-ready list is a very wise idea. Overall the game is not terribly challenging, though I did lose a tournament battle when ill-prepared for the opponent.

   Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is a cute little dungeon-crawler. I had a fairly good idea what I was in for by playing it, and had a fair time with it. The dungeon isn’t difficult to navigate thanks to teleport pads and recovery points scattered within it, minimizing frustration. The quick save feature is very handy considering the system Swordcraft Story is on, although of course it cannot be used when a conversation is in progress. The game does what it intends and nothing more, which is vital to understand in weighing whether one would like it or not.

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