Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery
From a quite good anime to a quite bad game.
Orphen and his two friends, Cleo and Magnus, depart to the city of Arvanrama with the hope of easily earning some money. During the trip through the ocean, the ship where the three boys are travelling is attacked by some monstrous creatures. The three succeed to survive a shipwreck and they find themselves on Chaos Island, together with other three survivors: Selphy, a dancer, Zeus, a mercenary, and Sea, a musician. Orphen, Cleo and Magnus start their voyage through the island where very soon they'll find the traces of a crystal with magic powers. Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery is the first game for Ps2 distributed by Activision. Seeing other companies'success with RPGs and the incrementing passion in Western countries for Japanese products, Activision decided to launch an RPG based on the adventures of Orphen, a character from a popular anime series. In this anime, Orphen is a boy endowed with the powers of a wizard who travels the world looking for adventures together with his two friends, Cleo and Magnus; all is seasoned with the classical, overused Japanese cartoonish humour. Together with Summoner, Eternal Ring and Evergrace, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is one of the first RPGs released for Ps2.
Leaving aside the unoriginal plot, Orphen is different from many classical RPGs we're used to. Unlike Final Fantasy, Orphen inherits more than an element from the Platform genre. During the explorations the characters can walk, race and jump obstacles. However, the interaction between the characters and the environments is really limited even if there are a few moments, that you can count on the fingers of your hand, in which you'll have to use your characters' abilities in order to proceed in the game. There are also several puzzles in the game but they are all so simple that you'll pass them without even noticing. Activision's developers really lacks in imagination if they have not been able to create at least one, I say one, intriguing riddle. If you are used to RPGs like Vagrant Story for PsOne that involve the use of abilities and intelligence it's better for you to completely forget Orphen.
Orphen, Cleo, Magnus, Sephy, Zeus and Sea are the 6 playable characters of the game. Each of them has his weapons, movements and his story. But don't think this make Orphen a very deep game. Counting all the weapons, shields, magic attacks and special movements, there are only thirty moves divided up amongst the characters. After you will have defeated a monster of a certain importance you will receive one of these abilities. The other items that you'll find in the game are completely useless. Sometimes you could need one or two of them, but if you have played other RPGs, Orphen will surely disappoint you. If you consider that during the battles you are not enabled to use any of your objects, the difference with games like Final Fantasy IX becomes overwhelming for the poor Orphen.
The battle system, however, is good and original. You use only the main character during the battles while the other fighters will occasionally help you even though you'll not control their actions. The nice idea in this battle system is that each of the 4 main buttons (X,circle, triangle and square) correspond to a weapon or to a magic attack that you have selected before the clash. If you have a shield you can use it with one of these buttons. In Orphen you'll have to perform the right action at the right time; in fact you cannot strike your enemies while, for example, you're using your shield. Moreover the more you will hold a button, the more powerful will be your hit. This hybrid mechanism of RPG elements (the loading of your hits is a sort of active time bar) and of elements typical of action games (the four buttons joint with four different actions replace the classical menu system of RPGs) could seem a bit difficult to those who have never played Orphen, but the truth is that you'll never get killed in a clash in this game. In fact if you are going to be defeated by your enemies you can always press the start button, select change equipment, and then cancel to restart the battle with your characters' HP restored. The vibrating function of the Dual Shock controller is supported in an excellent way in Orphen, while the analogical levettes are only used to walk or run.
Although Orphen: Scion Of Sorcery introduces something new in the battle system, it doesn't shine for its gameplay. There are few objects and few weapons to find, few spells to learn, no intriguing puzzles to keep your mind alive; moreover, the characters' interaction with environmental elements is really missing here . Considering the care used for graphics and sounds in Orphen, this lack of depth really disappointed me.