After my friend had been hounding me to play this game for years I finally cleared out my backlog enough to have it next on my play list. Little did I know that unlike my other RPG franchises like FF and Tales, this is all one giant continuing saga of RPG games. And so I have officially been sucked into the Eiyuu Densetsu black hole. ＼(^o^)／
Our story takes place in the continent of Liberl in a small village of Rolent. Our heroine Estelle “not too” Bright wakes up one night to have her father come back from a mission only to bring her back a new step brother who she immediately kicks and tells him to get well soon. 😂 10 years pass and now Estelle and her step-bro Joshua are junior bracers, following in the footsteps of their father. Unfortunately dad gets roped into the villains side plot and goes MIA most of the game while Estelle and Joshua go around the world increasing their bracer rank to become official licensed bracers.
But then of course at the end of the first game, Joshua reveals that he was a victim of a village massacre and got roped into being a lab rat for the evil professor from an organization called Orborous. So now in the 2nd game, which is basically a continuation of the first, it’s up to Estelle to get her man back. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)✨
【Kanade】I think the narrative setup for the games works very well for the first game, but was out of place when it was repeated in the second game. In the first game you’re a n00b who not only needs to get your proper certifications first to even be allowed to do anything outside of your hometown, but also that you personally aren’t experienced enough to grasp what is going on in the world around you politically, militarily, etc. This also makes the “more questions than answers” setups that happen throughout the first game work out. What’s also clever here is that unlike Estelle (and the player), many of the more established or important characters ARE aware of what’s going on behind the scenes, so while these might be relevations to you, it’s not to them.
But in the second game, this setup makes it draaaaaaaaaaaag. We’ve got the story threads as the game begins about finding Joshua and investigating the evil professor and his organization. Instead we get chapter after chapter of “oh hey, time to dump all our busywork on the low (wo)man on the totem pole”. And then yes, doing each of those random tasks uncovers more about the villains, but it also becomes so proscribed that after one or two of these quests you instantly go “lemme guess, Ourborous is going to be behind this towns strange phenomena as well oh look they are!”
Now if they could’ve made this into one long game, I can imagine some of this being weaved a little bit more into the initial Bracer certification quests, then with maybe one or two more of them following the “end” of the first game before leading then into the roughly halfway point of the second game. Of course, this was clearly a business/production decision rather than a creative one, but the end result is still that it really throws off the pacing in the second game.
So as always I want to give my disclaimer of “I hate RPG grinds, I don’t have time for this, if I can synthetically remove that part of the game I will.” And so I had a friend help me out with giving me basically end game gear so I could roflstomp all the enemies but I leveled legitimately so the final dungeon and bosses actually were pretty challenging especially since I got tired of grinding random mobs in the field. The one thing I really hate about the game is the fact that you have to level up which requires you to grind BUT you cannot just keep grinding the same mobs. Eventually the monsters just stop giving you exp so you need to find either a harder place to grind or do bear-assesque fetch side quests. Since there’s never any quest markers due to it being an old game, doing side quests was a pain in my ass.
It took me a little bit to fully realize this, but I think that a big reason why the QOL in this game is much smoother than not just a lot of contemporary games we played, but even more recent ones is that this was a PC game rather than a console game. Because of that, you have elements like the UI being designed around having a mouse to click on things, rather than everything needing to be either a button hotkey or something that needs to be scrolled through. Or that there’s likely far more system resources available for things like on-screen prompts or stat screens that an earlier gen console would have to sacrifice. There’s a reason after all behind all those old FFXIV dev jokes about “PS3 limitations” being why we couldn’t have nice things.
The turbo mode was convenient, and I think honestly probably works better for this game than a fast travel system would. The added benefits here were in situations like “I need to backtrack out of this dungeon to change party members” or “I need to go to a specific place between two towns to fight a boss monster for a quest”. The only time when we truly wished we had a fast travel system was the one quest late in the second game where you have to repair everyone’s phones (but having fast travel there wouldn’t have made sense in terms of what was happening in the story at that point.)
The only side quests I did are ones I knew where the places/people were or because it had to do with Antoine the cat, my favorite NPC in the whole game. 🥺🥺🥺🥺 Or it had to do with that random lady and her cats lol. Regardless, without cats, I had no motivation to do side quests. And so when I began the 2nd game I just had myself and my whole party be level 99 with all the orbments and gear and not have to think about anything except fun side quests and the main story.
I personally like being a completionist (including grinding out as many non-absurd achievements as possible), but that’s probably just being compulsive when it come to see unchecked tasks. Meanwhile I don’t actually mind when a game has tons of missable stuff, just as long as it all feels “organic”. If I miss a quest because I didn’t talk to a person, sure whatever, that’s life. It’s why I generally don’t like quest giver icons, since it makes me feel like I’m being railroaded towards a to-do list rather than something that’s part of the world or how I’m playing the character. But when it’s something like “oh btw you can’t craft the best weapon in the game unless you explicitly did something totally counterintuitive 10 minutes into the game”, no that’s stupid. For the most part, the quests were like the former, but at the same time we did get frustrated enough by not realizing the time gating on a lot of the sidequests that we eventually stopped doing them because of how frustrated we got at our efforts being wasted after trying to turn them in after they’d already expired.
I have friends who enjoy the grind, and you know what, more power to them. But for me, I just want to see the story and enjoy the cut scenes (can you tell I’m a visual novel player? 😂) So therefore, caring about battle system is my least favorite part of any rpg. In fact to date the only rpg whose battle system I’ve truly thought was fun and engaging, was Scarlet Nexus. The other thing I really disliked about the battle system is it was a grid style turn based system. FF games were turn based so I was used to that, but this game had the annoyance of “oh no, the enemies are not close enough to you, therefore you have to waste a turn just “moving” your character to make sure you hit them all with your aoe”. (ノ# ﾟдﾟ)ﾉ ┫:･’∵:．┻┻:･’．:∵ Ain’t nobody got time for that. So needless to say, if you are on the same mindset, I suggest googling up a new game plus save or editing the values or whatnot to give yourself all the end dungeon gear and level 99 from the start, equip the Cloak orbment (encounters off) and just enjoy the cut scenes like I did.
Okay so meanwhile I actually liked the combat for the most part. Then again, that’s because I am a boy who likes when games have tactical combat rather than a girl that only likes otome games. My main gripe is that it felt like buffs had too prominent a place in the battle system. In general, I am very anti-buff/debuff in my battle systems because they’re rarely a meaningful choice. What I mean by this is that generally they’re either less useful than simply attacking (either because the effect is too minor, fights are trivial enough that they don’t appreciably them up, and/or because any actually hard enemies end up being immune to them), or that they’re effective enough that you will always keep them up at all times, removing any kind of meaningful choice about using them. So even though we were cheating, I could tell while playing this just how powerful buffs like haste or immunity were (or how overpowered Kevin’s abilities would be if we were playing the game legitimately).
I must say, this was an absolute pleasure. The fact that Estelle is an amazing heroine, and the localization team went a step up to make the translations on the creative side made the game a lot more fun. Of course I patched in Japanese voices so I could tell where they got overly creative, but still it made the game fun for me. I have so many screencaps of funny translations I’d probably go over my blog space quota if I posted them all here. 😂
Aside from our amazing heroine, we had great side characters like Schera who loved to drink, Olivier voiced by Koyasu (need I say more?) and of course you had some funny bad guys like the Capua family and the other bracer guild people. As I mentioned above, cannot forget the best NPC – ANTOINE THE CAT. 😹😹😹 I honestly would have loved to do more side quests with the characters if I knew about any interesting ones but the annoyance of not knowing what quest is what or where to find the NPCs took the wind out of me. If it wasn’t for someone in my stream, I might have missed the cute kitty quest on the airship too (´;ω;`). Also, I loved all the unique chest messages, I honestly opened chests because of them.
The games felt like they were less about the story itself and more about characters, worldbuilding, and vibes. Since you are (refreshingly) not The Chosen One but rather just a simple derpwaifu it actually broadens the scope more than I initially would’ve assumed. Instead the setups are about you working together with the Bracer guild, or at the request of the queen or the military to then sort out a problem over in a different region it gives you a bigger feel for how this is a quite expansive world and that you need to actually lean on the characters around you because everything in it doesn’t revolve around you.
Yes I am going to have a category for shipping. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)✨ Is there shipping in this game? OH fuck yea there is. 💪The main couple in the game is Joshua and Estelle of course and the story focuses heavily around their relationship because after all, in the 2nd game Estelle is going to get her man back and everyone kinda tags along. There’s of course side relationships and I’m HIGH KEY shipping Olivier and Schera because their drinking CG a riot and their scenes together are cute (even if Schera denies it huehue). They seal the deal at the end of the game with Joshua and Estelle and I’m as satisfied as I was in Tales of Arise so I am hoping there’s more of this in the other Kiseki games I play (*´д`*).
So overall, despite the battle system and some old-game-problems I still enjoyed the game for the story and characters. Just like with Tales of the Abyss, I suffered through some maze dungeons (they’re not mazes, they’re actually linear and it’s just that you get confused and forget how to walk in a straight line) just to see a cute cut scene of Joshua and Estelle. 😂 While I am taking a break from the Kiseki series for now (due to all the new games coming out this and next month) I will definitely get back to it once there’s a steam sale on the other games. Apparently Ao no Kiseki still hasn’t been officially released in English (only in Korean/Chinese/bootleg PSP patch) so if I end up getting to it before it is, I’ll just play it in Japanese. For those who missed my streams feel free to check out my highlights collection and of course I leave you with my 1 hour long howling at Joshua x Estelle:
Anyway, all in all a pretty fun game, despite “mazes” (lol) and combat (lol). It would’ve been even better if this was one really big game with the padding trimmed off and a better balance between cutscenes and interactive elements (we were constantly making “several cutscenes will now play in sequence” jokes throughout the game) and a little bit smoother questing. But hey in the end it’s still a JPRG that even the grognards at RPG Codex can recommend!