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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Sony PSP games
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Kingdom of Paradise

Reviewed November 2005 by Corbie Dillard

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Climax
Release Date: November, 2005
ESRB Rating: "T" for Teen
Genre: RPG
Price: $39.99

With the release of Kingdom of Paradise, Sony is finally bringing the full 3-D RPG experience to the PSP. Coupling this 3-D presentation with an intricate battle system and a large amount of action-oriented gameplay, Sony's created an interesting oriental-style twist on the RPG genre. But with a slightly short 15 hour quest, not to mention a sometimes confusing combat system, will Kingdom of Paradise be enough to satisfy action RPG fan's appetites or will it end up being more frustrating than fun?

Story

After being kicked out of his Seiryu clan for breaking their laws, Shinbu begins earning a living as a bodyguard for travelers near his village. On the way back from one of his escorts, Shinbu comes in contact with a young girl named Sui Lin, a disciple of the Seiryu clan, who is being chased by Kirin soldiers. Sui Lin tells Shinbu of the Kirin attack and the slaughter of all of the Seiryu disciples. Now as the last remaining Seiryu disciples, you and Sui Lin must set out on an adventure to find the Seiryu Sword that was taken by the Kirin army and revive the Seiryu Clan.

Gameplay

At first glance, Kingdom of Paradise may appear to be nothing more than a simple hack and slash-style RPG, but once you dig deeper into the gameplay, you'll see how intricate the battle system truly is. Throughout the game you'll acquire items called Bugei Scrolls. These scrolls are the basis for creating the customizable sword attack combos that you'll be using in the games' combat system. On each scroll you'll find a given number of empty slots. As you defeat enemies in battle you'll acquire another type of item called a Kunpu Form. Each Kunpu Form is basically a different sword swinging technique. By placing these Kunpu forms into the empty slots on your Bugei Scrolls, you can create an almost infinite number of different sword attack combos for use in battle. Another attack at your disposal involves the "Chi" system of magic. As you acquire more powerful forms of Chi you can use these magic attacks to inflict devastating damage on your foes. You have 5 different forms of Chi to choose from and it's up to you to find out which form of Chi works best on which enemy in the game as some enemies are more vulnerable to certain forms of Chi than others.

As in most RPGs, you'll spend the majority of your time traveling from place to place in the game, doing battles along the way. You always have a small map on display to give you an idea of where you're currently located in the game, but the game will sometimes leave you wondering what to do next, which may cause some players a little undue frustration at times. While setting up the combat system is a little difficult until you get a grip on it, doing battle with enemies is pretty straightforward and painless. Once you've gone through and set up your sword combos, the game is then turned into an action style RPG where you carry out your attacks in real time using a two-button attack system. One button is used to cycle through your sword attack combos while the other button is used to charge up and unleash your powerful Chi attack. This system works well, and adds a nice action feel to the game, but once you acquire some of the more powerful Chi attacks, you can pretty much use it repeatedly to defeat most enemies in the game with ease. This tends to make the game a bit too easy, but does make dealing with the many random enemy encounters much less tedious for gamers who want to focus more on the storyline portion of the adventure.

Multiplayer

Using the PSP's wireless function, two players can link up and do battle in a Bugei Exhibition against one another using their own customized Bugei Scrolls. This is a good opportunity to show off the skills you've developed during your quest. Players can also exchange Kunpu Forms they've located in the game with one another as well as make use of the download mode in which players can go online with their PSP and download new Kunpu Forms as well as other unique items to use in the game. While many of these features may seem superficial, the downloadable content does add some fresh material to the game, and is a nice feature to have access to for those with a wireless connection.

Graphics

Kingdom of Paradise is a pretty game, no doubt about it. The game makes use a well executed 3-D graphics engine which shines (literally) through some nifty lighting effects. You will notice that many areas in the game to gradually become lighter the further away from them you get, giving the impression of the sunlight fading these areas out. The 3-D characters in the game also look quite impressive, and are further proof of the PSP's 3-D capabilities. The entire world where the game takes place in has a lush, green atmosphere that looks terrific on the small screen. Everything in the game scrolls smoothly and rotates around as if you're playing the game on an actual console system. Even the facial expressions on the characters' faces look terrific and add a nice element of emotion to the game's presentation. The game might not have some of the flash found on many of the current generation console RPGs, but it is a definite step in the right direction and goes a long way in proving that the PSP is capable of producing a console-quality RPG without having to sacrifice much in the way of quality.

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Sound

The soundtrack in Kingdom of Paradise never strays far from the oriental theme the game is built around, and while the music is generally pleasant to listen to, it never seems to break any new ground as far as originality. In fact, many of the tracks sound so similar that it sometimes feels as if the game just plays one extremely long song throughout the game. The quest does feature many instances of voice acting, which is a nice touch for a portable RPG, and the sound effects during battle are also extremely well done. While more variety in the musical tracks would have been nice, the game's music and sound effects are more than adequate.

Conclusion

If you're searching for a unique RPG experience for the PSP, Kingdom of Paradise might be just what you're looking for. Those expecting a simple hack and slash adventure that's easy to pick up and get into might find themselves a bit turned off by the overly-complicated battle system, but those willing to put in the time of setting up all of the sword combos will find themselves well rewarded with a user-friendly way of executing these beautiful sword attacks in battle. The main quest in Kingdom of Paradise is a bit on the short side at just under 15 hours, but in truth, it's just about the right amount of time you'll want to spend on a handheld gaming console anyway. It's nice to see a fully 3-D RPG successfully pulled off on the PSP, but it also shows that there's still room for improvement.

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

While it's nice to finally see a fully 3-D RPG production on the PSP, the game could have used a bit more variety in the different areas throughout the game. The character models in the game are very well done, and it was nice to see the facial expressions used to help convey the emotion of the game's storyline. A definite step in the right direction and hopefully more developers will go with this 3-D direction in future RPG releases as it's nice to see this style of visuals on the PSP.

Sound

The music is well done, but nothing that's not been done before. The musical styling is about what you'd expect from a quest unfolding in an oriental setting. It's nice to have some voice work in a PSP RPG for a change, but the best part of the sound work in Kingdom of Paradise was the sword attack sound effects by far.

Fun Meter

There's no denying the stiff learning curve of Kingdom of Paradise's attack setup. Once you've come to grips with it and actually get into the RPG itself you'll find that the game presents you with a decent 15 hour quest that has some interesting twists and turns. The game just feels like it's missing something, and never feels as big as the settings around you would lead you to believe it is.

Addictivity

Given the short length of the quest, it's obvious that gamers who find Kingdom of Paradise suited to their RPG tastes will come back to the game for another play through, but the quest just isn't engaging enough to rate the game very high as far as re-playability goes. A good enough action RPG for the PSP, but nothing terribly groundbreaking in itself.

Total Score= 3.5 Dragons, 70%



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