[su_highlight background=”#3b88ff” color=”#ffffff”]Platforms: PS3 | Developer: NIS | Publisher: NIS America | ESRB: T[/su_highlight]
The Awakened Fate Ultimatum is a very straightforward old school action jrpg/visual novel. Though it doesn’t bring in great new blood to the sub-genre it does execute its purpose well.
As Kamikaze you begin with a similar anime trope in which you are living your high school life and all of the sudden some strange being kills you. Another being, of lighter mindset resurrects you with a binding ritual of sorts and takes you to their world. In this case, Kamikaze is now God. As God it is your duty to fight on the side of the angels against the devils with help from a few noteworthy characters.
There’s nothing flashy going on here, story elements are told in a very old fashioned cardboard cutout form of visual novel. Obviously this is a tried and true form but given that its execution has advanced elsewhere, Ultimatum is noticeably behind in how it tells its story. The rare animations of things such as lips don’t sync up and more poses for the characters are certainly needed to give life to this otherwise ho hum story. Characters of little or no importance are drawn generically and backgrounds need inspiration.
Inside the fighting world things are just as simple and reminiscent of a Dreamcast title or two. You have a super-deformed version of yourself with a few basic animations walking the randomly generated block-based dungeons populated by enemies that are similarly unimpressive. The art presentation is quaint if nothing else. It isn’t bad by any means either, if you enjoy these kinds of old school adventures then there’s nothing here that’s genuinely ugly. The special effects are on target for this kind of production.
The gameplay is action/rpg lite. The dungeons are randomly generated and so feel just like those old days of then randomly generated dungeons were considered edgy but never really delivered anything worth keeping. Each square could give up something could or even hit a trap that causes illness. When encountering an enemy the combat is turn based, each time you do something they will be able to do something. So if you move to get to a better position they will be able to move or take a swing at you. Or you can hack away and hope for the best. You have hit points, and special points, and AC. AC depletes over time and can only be replenished with food, so save your apples. Special points are used on special moves which are earned through experience. In Paradox, you were stabbed by a devil and brought back by an angel so with the power of God you can transform into a devil form or an angel form for specific attacks. Obviously Angel Attacks work best against Devil monsters and vice versa. When you earn experience you will be able to choose whether to add to your arsenal of angelic goodies or devilish goodies. You’ll also get to make choices that will affect the outcome of the game.
Otherwise dungeons mean surviving from one end to the other, leveling up, gathering goodies, and making decisions until you are able to kick off the next story progression. Roaming, facing the proper direction, switching into the right mode, and thwacking and tossing spells will make you feel like ten or fifteen years haven’t passed in gaming.
One thing you can almost always count on with old schoolish Japanese RPGs is that the music will have its own special something, Ultimatum does not disappoint in this regard. With some very lofty orchestral pieces and catchy dungeon melodies that actually make it seem like the universe hangs in the balance, you can look forward to a soundtrack that is pleasing from front to back.
The Sound effects are adequate. The English voices are poison, stay away from them. Whether miscast, poorly implemented, absent, or just plain bad you don’t want to hear them. The Japanese isn’t perfectly done either but it’s much better in this case even if you like all your games in English. When I tried to tolerate the English for the review it just about killed the game for me. There are no real technical issues to mention here though.
The controls are nice and responsive, I was surprised that combat on a diagonal wasn’t riddled with issues but hey nice and smooth is the way to go. The interface is, once again, simple and accessible. When you have exp to burn there’s a place to select your wheel of Angel or Devil powers, which include not only moves but base stat increases for crafting the kind of character you want. They work like your usual skill trees though, you can’t just run rampant over what you want. You have to earn your way. Standard stuff.
Ultimatum’s story is nothing to write home about, as usual it edges on parodying itself on purpose, but that aspect doesn’t land too well with the gamer. Since it is told through outdated visual novel pieces and off screen antics as well as sub-par writing I have to say that it passes for mediocre. It’s one of those wacky Japanese stories but you’re left feeling awkward instead of, well, wacky. The game adds replayability by giving you a series of choices that guide the story.
If you enjoyed the previous entry, The Guided Fate Paradox, and want more of the same niche gameplay then Ultimatum is all yours. There’s no reason folks who like some old school ways can’t enjoy this, but the quality is lacking and it’s difficult to imagine pumping lots of time into this one for anybody who isn’t already a fan.