Retro styled games seem to be a trend that doesn’t go away, for better or worse. I love games that take influence from retro games like Mario on NES, Owlboy is a standout for me. Owlboy gets the blend of old school styling and fast, responsive controls and gameplay. Looking back, the games of old, for the most part had pretty bad stories compared to more recent games such as Uncharted and Horizon Zero Dawn. The benefit of retro styled games is the blend of nostalgic looks and modern stories. Asdivine Hearts has the story down, albeit a very safe story. The controls however… the movement is very floaty to say the least. You would think from this day and age, we would be past the games where movement is locked to the 8 directions; up, down, left, right and diagonal. It may be a personal preference but for me, movement is the most important part of a game. How easy is it to traverse this world? Is it fun to get from A to B? Unfortunately, Asdivine Hearts is not.
Zack is your standard RPG protagonist. He doesn’t seem to have any flaws and seems to be the person, everybody else in the party falls in love with. Even the goddess possessed cat, isn’t able to resist Zack as the game progresses. The game attempts to misdirect the player into thinking that the Light that possesses the cat, dubbed Felix, is male. But the game is riddled with goddess of light statues, the twist isn’t really much of a twist. The 3 other characters in your party are all, your standard classic women tropes from, the childhood friend who hides her embarrassment with violence, to the warrior who secretly loves all things cute, but feels saying this would make her seem weak. The cat-goddess acts both like a self-centred goddess and a silly cat, which is pretty much just like a normal cat… Aside from the few surprises, the story isn’t really much to talk about. It is a perfectly fine story, hits all the right beats that most other games set like this hit. But fails to try anything out of the fantasy RPG mould.
Most retro games claim to be inspired by Chrono Trigger or Zelda, but this game gives me a very Lunar: Silver Star Story feel. Talking cats, anime story beats and a pretty simple turn based battle system are just the beginning. I won’t go too hard on the controls and sound, since this is a mobile port but a somehow this seems to fall below SNES standards aswell. Luckily the controls are overshadowed by the peaceful and engaging story. The world Asdivine, is a peaceful fantasy land with 1 kingdom, created by 2 gods, one of Light and the other of, you guessed it, Darkness. They lived in harmony up until 1 year before the events of the game start, when the goddess of light got kicked out of heaven. The imbalance caused the monsters to become more vicious. This is felt throughout the game with the NPCs being uneased by the thought of venturing past the towns. The goddess of light finds herself possessing the body of a cat owned by the protagonist, Zack. It is quite a comical beat in the game when you realise she was meant to take your body, but the cat jumped in the way. And with the rotating roster of friends, you embark on a mission to save the world from the god of darkness. The game takes its time before giving you much momentum in the story. Most of the early game consist of you bouncing between towns and dungeons, fetching quests. The game is so predictable that each town offers equipment exactly 20 strength higher than the town before. No exceptions.
Combat is a simple turn based system where character speed stats let you strike first. Again, nothing to crazy. It doesn’t require any skill either. Use the spells that are the costliest, assuming they are most powerful since the game doesn’t tell you much in the way of damage output. Difficulty can be changed in the options menu, but the games way of increasing difficulty is by giving monsters higher stats. This does make the game more challenging since this gives the monsters more abilities that can severely injure, or even kill characters in one hit. Bosses become very scary since the higher difficulty provides them the ability to, in some cases, wipe your whole team before you have a chance to strike.
The graphics are what you would expect from a game made with RPGmaker. The world is surprisingly large, but unfortunately fails to fill it with anything meaningful. It is technically open-world, but towns only appear as the plot demands it, so exploration seems pointless. Sprites are reused so frequently that is becomes quite funny. No door animations provide a few laughs. Will the door vanish? Or will it explode of its hinges? A questionable sprite they feel needed to be in the game was the sprite used for hitting the cat. Without any sound prompts to show you this is comedic in any way, the player is just forced to picture a grown man kicking a cat across the room. The main characters have very nice, hi-res anime pictures to go along with the dialogue. The sound design again, is your standard RPG maker chip-tune sound design. The short and heavily repeated tunes are enjoyable at first, but become very annoying the more they are repeated. Music changes to fit the mood which is a nice touch, but with the very abrupt change, it takes you out of the moment.
All that being said, for what it is trying to be, Asdivine Hearts does it very well. It feels like I was playing a game that came out in the boom of this type of game, which is some ways is quite fun, but in this day and age I could see this being a turn off to most gamers. If you enjoy games that have a very indie feel, this is right down your alley. It is a relaxing experience where you can finish the game in around twenty hours and once the story picks up, it is quite compelling.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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