I’m going to say that the balancing and pacing are some of the best I’ve seen.

Then we have the battle system itself. It’s good, really good. Sure, it may seem like it’s a standard turn-based affair, similar to “Final Fantasy” but you’ll realize that’s wrong once you start playing. Up top, you have a meter which tells you turn order and how close everyone is to getting their turn. Then, once someone has selected an action, there is another meter that shows how close that action is to being completed (similar to “Grandia”). You can interrupt actions and knock enemies out of them if timed correctly. This is very crucial to winning tougher fights.

A battle so outlandish, all arguments have been rendered invalid.

A battle so outlandish, all arguments have been rendered invalid.

MP, used for magic and skills, is gradually gained as you fight. So you’re constantly left thinking, “Ah, should I use this cheaper move now or save up for something more powerful down the road?” These kinds of decisions happen a lot, because enemies get more and more powerful as each turn passes by. If you play too defensively, you’re going to die. Battles have to be won as quickly as possible, otherwise you’ll reach a point where you’re simply unable to keep up with the onslaught.

Finding a balance between offense, defense, and support is key to winning battles. And don’t think you don’t need to learn, because the game is difficult. Even on Normal, I found myself losing a lot more than I did in “Rain-Slick 3”. They really upped the difficulty this time around but it never felt like it cheap or unfair. Now, I didn’t even bother delving into Veteran or Insane, but I imagine their names are not just for show. There is a suitable challenge to be had here.

Hell, even if decided to start a game on Insane, it wouldn’t matter how many times I died because the game would just let me keep trying, anyways. It just has a heart that big. You can save anywhere and immediately retry battles with no punishment for losing them or fear of losing progress.

Zeboyd has created a fully-realized JRPG that has an explorable world map filled with secrets, a strategic and fun battle system without tedious resource management, no random encounters, no grinding, and it clocks in at around 12 hours. While that may seem unusually small for an RPG (especially a JRPG), It’s 12 hours of meaningful gameplay. It isn’t a 60-hour game with 20 hours of actual gameplay, 20 hours of grinding, and another 20 doing fetch quest bullshit for padding.

The quicktime events and DLC can wait, kids. You go outside and explore.

The quicktime events and DLC can wait, kids. You go outside and explore.

It’s like Zeboyd took every annoyance from the games they love, fixed them for contemporary gaming, then wrapped it up in a 16-bit package. It manages to feel modern and retro at the same time and I love that combination.

There are a few issues that mar an otherwise remarkable game. The menu screen for checking monster status and equipment takes too long to navigate. It’s the exact same one found in “Rain Slick 3” but now that you have 20 or so monsters, in addition to your trainers, it makes perusing it take too long. It could’ve used some cleaning up.

Sometimes it’s not entirely clear what a piece of equipment does. For a game that is full of modern design elements, I’m not sure why this relic from the past was left in. I had so many accessories where I was left wondering just what the hell they did. Even more frustrating is when you pick the item up and you’re given a more detailed description of its function than when you’re viewing in your inventory.

The shop design needs an overhaul as well. It only shows you one monster at a time and… eh, it’s just weird, trust me. It’s more difficult to use than it should be. Not super-intuitive or quick to use. Though I do appreciate the ability to instantly equip items you buy. RPGs don’t always include that.

And my biggest issue with the game is that I miss the more chaotic insanity of battles from the third game. The games feature spells and attacks that will add extra effects to the turn-meter, like summoning extra creatures to attack or health regeneration. The problem is that the fourth game just features a lot less of those types of skills. In the third game, I absolutely loved having two summoned creatures out, various effects going, and an impending apocalyptic spell that would rain fire, ice, lightning, and locusts on my foes. Once you had all that stuff set up, battles felt truly epic and I feel like that sense of grandeur is slightly lost here.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you need to think more carefully about your battle strategy now, especially since this is a harder game, but I do miss how next-level-bananas the fights could become.

Really though, those are fairly small flaws in the grand scheme of things. At this point, I’m nitpicking.

I can’t wrap up the review without mentioning the game’s humor. Jerry Holkin’s writing is hilarious, though I do think “Rain-Slick 3” was funnier. Also, the monster designs and descriptions consistently make me chuckle. That’s another thing this game does very well, it has a ton of different creatures to fight and they’re all incredibly unique. Very rarely will you ever see a the same monster in more than three separate battles. You won’t be fighting hundreds of multicolored slimes in this game, no sir.

While the world itself may evoke a sense of familiarity with Zeboyd’s other games, since it takes place in a world filled largely with demons which is similar to both “Breath of Death VII” and “Cthulhu Saves the World”, it’s stuffed with enough unique quirkiness that it will feel new. There is no backtracking, unless you absolutely want to for some reason, and each area feels new and unique as you come across them.

Really, this whole game just makes me wish I owned it on a cartridge where I could shelve it with the rest of my games. It’s easily the best JRPG I’ve played in a long time and it’s not even made by Japanese people. My god… what is the world coming to?!

I sincerely think this is one of the most stellar examples of the genre on the indie scene today. Seriously, if you like RPGs, you need to buy this game. Hell, you need to buy “Rain-Slick” 3, play that, then buy 4 if you haven’t already. They’re an amazing value for the quality of games you’re getting.

I don’t know how Zeboyd is making any money off this but it’s clear they put a lot of love and care into these games, and the best games always come from people who actually give a shit about what they’re doing.