Ragnarok Odyssey, Ogarhythm Hands Ons
XSEED has kept busy this spring. Working with Japanese developers Acquire (Way of the Samurai) and GameArts (Grandia, Lunar), the independent publisher revealed two distinctly diverse PS Vita titles for the North American market, Ragnarok Odyssey and Orgarhythm.
During a game event in which the publisher showed three other games, Ys Origin, Way of the Samurai, and The Last Story, XSEED provided access to Ragnarok Odyssey, an action RPG loosely set in Norse mythology, and the unusual Orgarhthym, a real-time strategy based on rhythmic, touch-screen combat. Yes, the unusually suggestive title is equally matched with unusual gameplay.
Developer: Acquire /Publisher: XSEED / Platform: PS Vita / Release Date: Summer 2012
It doesn’t look like much at first, but Orgarhythm is a little gem that’s difficult to understand from screenshots alone. It places you on an isometric field of war with a central commander surrounded by his three color-coded squads (blue, red, yellow). The goal is to defeat the enemy armies, and the button-free input method blends Patapon rhythmic beats with PS Vita touch screen controls.
Your team automatically trundles up the field to meet its opponent while a loose, warm techno beat plays in the background. To send enemies into battle, you must determine their color first. The rock-paper-scissors approach to the enemy means that blue beats red, red beats yellow, and yellow beats blue. If a red enemy approaches, you tap the commander in the center of the screen to the beat. That pulls up an on-screen command menu showing the three colors. Pick the right one, and another set of icons appears, this one for weapons—melee, arrows, and catapults. Melee is quick, arrows are medium-paced, and catapults are powerful, but slow to fire. Pick one and then your squad runs into battle.
That’s all it takes to launch combat.
The camera, however, continues methodically moving forward, which means there is more strategy to this deceptively simple Vita title. After sending one squad into battle, the other squads must be told to move forward or they fall behind, and points and power are deducted. By picking a team and drawing a line on screen with your finger, the squad will scramble to that point.
Again, seems easy, right? When the enemy teams pile up, you must quickly recognize enemies, pick colors and weapons, and continually move your players onward—all to the musical beat.
The rhythm part isn’t required to win, but by successfully tapping the commands in time with the music, you advance levels, which in turn increase the size of each color-coded squad and adds new abilities and even spells with which to fight.
Developer: GameArts / Publisher: XSEED / Platform: PS Vita / Release Date: Summer 2012
Ragnarok Odyssey is a much more recognizable affair, although it too has its eccentricities. In development by GameArts, this third-person action RPG gives Vita gamers the chance to create and customize their own characters—with more than 20,000 possible combinations—and then select from six different job classes before running into battle.
Based on the Ragnarok Online universe, Odyssey tells its own original story. Since anyone can remember, the kingdom of Rune Midgard has lived peacefully but isolated on one side of the Thousand Year Mountains, a range so tall no creature can pass over it. But one day a massive earthquake, or something resembling an earthquake, crushes the mountains into dust and rubble, revealing a teeming army of giants living underneath. The giants attack Midgard and all of humankind must defend itself or become the newest addition to the Ragnarok extinction list.
A light application of Norse mythology—cities named after Nordic towns and giants with Norse names—form the basis of the story, but you, however, find yourself in a very Japanese RPG filled with lush backgrounds and bunnies with hearts for ears, mushroom foes, and pink mochis to slaughter. Our fighter turned out to be a green-haired, female assassin with red pants and gold armor with medium-length swords that looked like arm extensions. Norse mythology, indeed.
Being an assassin means she was nimble, quick to attack, but not terribly strong. Additional classes include the Hammersmith, a slower warrior with massively strong attacks, a Sword Warrior (not as slow as the Hammersmith, and, of course, wielding a sword), a mage, cleric, and a hunter, an archer.
Against the smaller giants (and by that, we mean cute mochis floating around green pastures), our assassin was unmerciful. Single mochis weren’t really ever going to challenge anybody, but against a tumbling horde of evil pink mochis? Well, that’s when the action got interesting. Our warrior was able to deal quick, clean, real-time attacks with the ability to chain combos and launch aerial assaults. It was quite fun to see ragdoll enemies smacked across the screen.
Ragnarok uses traditional face buttons for most of its actions, while using the right side of the PS Vita touchscreen to select items and potions to heal up or cast spells. GameArts action RPG also supports a cooperative option for up to four players via ad hoc. The game difficulty level ramps up to adjust for the three additional players.