Saturday, June 01, 2013

Crimson Shroud

Crimson Shroud for the 3DS eShop

Designed by Yasumi  Matsuno of the Ogre Battle series & Final Fantasy Tactics fame and initially released in Level 5's anthology collection Guild 01 before making it to eshop in Europe and North America as a stand-alone download, Crimson Shroud is delightfully fun retro experience.  The game is table-top RPG, with an unseen game-master guiding the game’s players along a game board.  As an eshop title, the game isn't particularly long, but one can think of the game’s narrative as a weekend Dungeons & Dragon session with some friends.  The narrative isn’t meant to be dragged out, but is a short and simple story about a band of heroes in search of the truth behind an ancient relic called the Crimson Shroud.

For some people who are fans of RPGs as a video-game genre, the old classic table-top RPG can be something foreign, perhaps even quaint.  Matsuno’s Crimson Shroud in this sense is unashamedly retro in it use of the dice.  Everything from the effectiveness of the mage’s magic to the power of the front-line attack is determined by the die.  In doing so, the game unveils a common mechanic in many RPGs we’ve come to love since the NES days.  In almost every RPG, the random number generator plays a critical role in determining hits and misses, damage variances and critical damage probabilities. Yet in the shift from tabletop to video gaming, the trend was to hide these calculations behind the game’s visuals and attack and defend sequences.   Crimson Shroud deconstructs the RPG genre to its constituent parts by showing players how the results are arrived at with the dice roll standing in for the random number generator.  

Characters are represented as figurines on a game board
Eschewing the increasingly incomprehensible gear upgrade systems in many JRPGs, Crimson Shroud offers the ability to earn equipment and gear through random enemy battles and treasure chests with an endless supply of weapons and armor that can be upgraded by simply combining weapons of the same type together to create new and more powerful versions of the item in +1, +2 , +3 versions and so on.   As an added incentive to replay the game, upgraded gear are allowed to be carried over into a New Game+ after the game has been beaten for the first time, allowing players to experience a more difficult version of the game.

There are little touches littered throughout the game that adds a sense of whimsy and realism.  To roll the dice for example, players must use the 3DS analog slide pad to roll the dice around around imitating the motion of the hands before a dice roll.  All the units are portrayed not as fully animated avatars, but as figurines on a game board that topple over when they are killed.   While this may seem like a visual downgrade, the game uses the 3DS' 3D to great effect to craft a minimalist but seemingly real virtual game board.  The 3D depth of the games visuals gives the  figurines and the game board a sense of volume, as if the player is holding a window with the 3DS and looking in.

Launched in December 2012, the game’s surprising performance atop the Nintendo 3DS eshop charts as one of the consistently top ten most downloaded titles  is a testament that old-school doesn't necessarily mean boring or archaic.

Highly Recommended. 

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