Summon Night: Swordcraft Story - Staff Review  

More Than It Seems
by Mikel Tidwell

20 hours


Rating definitions 

    At first glace, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is your typical dungeon crawler. There's one town, a large, multi-floor dungeon, and a simple reason to enter the dungeon over and over. The main hero runs into many females that adore him. There's even a heated rivalry with another boy. Stop me if you've heard this before.

    Actually, don't stop me, because that's why reviews are more than a glance. Delving into the game, there are many things that make Summon Night stand out from the crowd. First off, the gender of the hero is selectable at the start, so this isn't another cross between RPG and dating. Second, there are quite a few side quests that take our hero to explore other towns and places. With new scenery and new monsters, the plunge into the main labyrinth is broken up into manageable chunks.

    Most of all, the battle system is the main stand-out from the typical dungeon crawler. Instead of finding monsters and fighting them in the isometric view, there are random encounters with unseen enemies. Entering a battle, the game shifts to a side view, where the hero fights the monsters real time, not unlike the Tales series, except with only one character on the good side. With three weapons and four spells to choose from, even normal battles can be fairly interesting. Boss battles are challenging. Using the right weapon or spell at the right time makes all the difference.

Battle Taking on a dragon

    Why is our hero fighting? To become a Craftlord. The Craftlords are the leaders of Wystern, the City of Swords. The hero's father was one of these legendary people, but he passed away three years ago. In order to find his successor, a large tournament is held, and any of the apprenticing Craftknights are welcome to try and earn their spot in history. While there are many applicants, there are only two guilds of Craftknights: Silver and Gold. This means that each apprentice has to share the knowledge and resources of their Craftknight. It also means that every apprentice's weapons should be about the same skill level at the same time, making the weapon selection more important. There are five weapon classes: Sword, Spear, Axe, Knuckles, and Drill. Each class has different attacks available by using the directional pad along with the attack button. Certain attacks can knock back opponents, or lift them into the air. Some classes combo very easily, like swords and knuckles, while others are slow and powerful.

    In order to advance the story, a round in the tournament must be fought. To a point, it's open as to when this can happen. Once the match notice has been given to the hero, they may enter the match at any time, skipping any side quests. Completing quests will not only gain experience points and more materials for weapons, but new weapons to make as well. In the end though, the main technique required to build the weapon of the match is available at the time the notice arrives. The game can be played through very quickly because of this but would not be nearly as fulfilling.

    Unlike regular exploration, these tournament matches have special rules. In order to enter the match, the hero may only have a single weapon equipped. Weapons have a durability stat, and can break if used too much. This stat is for a single battle only, and replenishes at the start of a new battle. A weapon will take damage when attacking and defending. In a tournament match, it's possible to win by breaking the opponent's weapon. Even if they have HP left, if their weapon breaks, the battle is over. There were a couple people that had the advantage, but all was not lost because of this tactic.

Town Wystern is a floating city

    Another aspect that makes a difference in battle is the magic used by the hero's companion, or Guardian Beast. There are four different Guardian Beasts, each with their own spells. While the Guardian Beast continues to learn spells as it levels, only four may be selected for use in battle at one time. They can be changed anywhere outside of battle. However, the Beast is also the only way to use items in battle as well, using one of the four slots. The Beast is also only able to use spells and items five total times in a single battle. This count replenishes to five each fight, but the spells can only be used so many times as well, based on the level of the Guardian Beast. Fortunately, there's always a chance to refill HP and MP before any major boss battle, so the game doesn't degrade to solely hacking the monsters to bits with weapons alone. One serious drawback to using magic is that the hero cannot defend and select a spell at the same time. The best tactic is to back off a bit before casting the spell, as long as the spell doesn't need to be close to work.

    The graphics of Summon Night are quite nice. While the town of Wystern itself and the main labyrinth are a bit drab, the other towns and dungeons are quite vibrant. In battle, the hero and monsters are three dimensional. Battle effects are quite smooth and nice to look at. The use of emoticons to express the characters' feelings always brings a feeling of nostalgia.

    The music of the game is regrettably forgettable. After playing through, there wasn't a single point in the game where the music left an impression. Granted, it's on the Game Boy Advance, which has limited musical capability, but still it seems a bit disappointing.

    In the end, what looked like yet-another-crawler turned into a fast paced, story driven adventure with amusing dialogue. While the hero must still undertake a long journey through a single labyrinth, it's broken up frequently enough that it doesn't become tedious. There are no major branches in the story, but the quests can flesh out more of the storyline. As we near the end of the Game Boy Advance, it's easy to look past the games still to come, but to pass on Summon Night would be missing out on one of the better games released this summer.

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