Welcome to the hundred and fourteenth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column: iPhone Edition!
It's good to be back. For awhile, I didn't think I would be able to post this column. I've had a string of bad luck with my computer lately. First, my hard drive died, and I had to get it repaired at the Apple Store. Then, I lost all the data I had backed up on my external hard drive. Finally, to top things off, my wireless router broke on me too. So as a result, the news in this column might not be the most up-to-date, but it is still full of interesting stories. First off, we have some hands-on impressions of the iPhone RPG Across Age, followed by a couple of interesting stories, and last but not least, I renamed the Quickies to Quick Hits for no other reason than I thought it sounded cooler.
Ok, that's enough. Let's get to the News!
Before I go on to review Across Age for Apple's iDevices, I thought I'd share with all of you my impressions of the game. Across Age is an action-RPG that has received a fair amount of attention on the App Store for its close resemblance to traditional action-rpgs similar to The Legend of Mana¬†series or The Legend of Zelda. Those are some pretty lofty comparisons, but for the most part, the game delivers an enjoyable, retro experience.
The game takes place in a world suffering under the hands of an evil magician who is making entire towns disappear without a trace. In order to stop the magican, a young knight named Ales is dispatched by the kingdom to find a Grand Mage named Ceska. Ceska may be able to set things right in the world through the use of a powerful time traveling spell called Across Age. Unfortunately, Ceska can't even manage to cast a base level spell. So what else does a young hero do in a situation like this? He teams up with Ceska in order to help her powers grow and to make things right in the world along the way. The story is fairly basic and to the point, but Ales and Ceska are likable enough to keep you marginally interested in what's going on as you make your way through the story.
Of course, the real draw of Across Age is that the game looks and feels like a traditional, 16-bit RPG. You control Ales and Ceska as a pair on the field, similar to Mario & Luigi games. Just like in the Mario & Luigi RPGs, you are constantly switching between the two characters to fight enemies and to solve puzzles. Ales is a close-range, melee fighter who attacks by walking directly into enemies, preferably at a diagonal angle in order to avoid enemy counterattacks. Ceska, on the other hand, is a long-range magic user. The combat is fairly straight forward, but it does get more interesting as Ceska learns more abilities. I also mentioned the Legend of Zelda earlier and just like in that series, much of your time in the game is spent figuring out puzzles and trying to reach the next chest full of loot. For example, Ales has the ability to pick up Ceska and throw her to unreachable locations that my contain a chest or a switch to continue on to the next area.
Thankfully, several recent updates to the game have made it far more enjoyable than when it was first released. For example, whenever you die too many times in a single area, you respwan with full health. The D-pad also feels much better than it did before, but control still feels a bit loose and it may still be difficult to get the angle you need to perform actions. Stylistically, the game stays true to Super Nintendo or Genesis 16-bit RPGs with bright, colorful sprites and backgrounds. According to the developers, FDG Entertainment, the game is about 15-20 hours long, which should satisfy any RPG fan looking for a fun, light, yet lengthy quest. This is definitely a game worth checking out. Although, if $6.99 is more than what you are willing to spend on an iPhone game, at the very least, keep an eye on it and wait for either a sale or a price drop. Basically, play the game eventually.
At the Mobile World Congress, Steve Balmer announced that the Windows Phone 7 series will ship with Xbox Live support. This means that from your phone you can now: build your Gamerscore by collecting achievements, look at Xbox LIVE leaderboards, see your Xbox Live Avatar, access Spotlight feeds, add Xbox Live friends to your friends list, and even play turn-based multiplayer games. The official press release also states:
"Windows Phone 7 Series was built from the ground up with entertainment in mind, and its unique design allowed us to bring some of the best gaming and community features of Xbox LIVE to the Windows mobile platform. It has always been our vision to expand the Xbox LIVE service to connect people to their games, entertainment and friends wherever they go, and the launch of Windows Phone 7 Series is an important step toward that goal."
This has been a long time coming. Microsoft first talked about Xbox Live Mobile several years ago during E3, and it's now finally becoming a reality. Unfortunately, Xbox Live Mobile is going to be treated more as a bullet point for Windows 7 Mobile than as a software platform. I would love to see Xbox Live Mobile expanded to Android phones and to the Apple App Store so that anyone, anywhere, can access their Xbox Live accounts to play with friends, check their Gamerscore, etc. In all honesty, as interesting as this sounds, I can't see myself using this unless Microsoft decides to release a Zune with the same functionality as an iPhone/iPod Touch. Until then, I'm going to go play some more Across Age
and Plants vs. Zombies
on my iPod Touch.
It looks like this is the first Currents Column to feature an iPhone game preview. I'm still not sure what treatment we'll give to full-on iPhone game reviews, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it. Hopefully, I won't have any computers breaking or exploding on me, so you can expect a Currents Column much sooner than this time. So have fun and keep your nose clean.
See you all soon!
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