A cute little RPG that will probably steal your heart.

Whenever I play an RPG, I tend to play as a thief. I like sneaking around and taking out my enemies from behind, as well as picking the lock on the backdoor in order to bypass armed guards standing at the main entrance. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, since Nexon has released MapleStory Thief Edition for the iPhone, a new action-RPG that is based on the popular MMORPG MapleStory, unplayed by me until now.

My lack of familiarity with the source material was irrelevant, as this is a single-player game with an original plot that explains things pretty easily for someone new to the franchise. Players wear the shoes of a young man who -despite the fact that he’s completely inept at it- is convinced he’ll become the greatest thief in the world. Under the tutelage of his master (as well as undertaking random missions from various townsfolk), he starts working towards this goal. It’s a cute little plot, but it’s difficult to become engrossed in it due to the “go here, fetch this/kill that” nature that most of the quests seem to have.

 Thief Edition

As you level up, your hero gains new abilities, such as specialized attacks or boosts to his statistics; exactly what abilities you choose are up to you, but if you funnel enough experience into a certain skill you’ll achieve a “Master” ranking. You’ll also have to upgrade your equipment pretty regularly, though the various outfits that become available all have quirky looks that are pretty cute, and you’re likely to come up with an appearance that is uniquely suited to your tastes.

The gameplay is generally solid enough to be enjoyable. You have a directional pad on your left and a series of buttons on your right that handle actions like attacking, jumping, restoring health/mana, and a couple of quick-action moves. Your thief motors along in a side-scrolling manner, taking out enemies as they run back and forth across the screen. After about thirty seconds or so, your enemies will respawn and you can kill them again for more experience points.

The feel of the larger MapleStory MMO seems to have been pretty successfully ported to the iPhone, thanks in large part to the inclusion of a simple interface, cartoon-like graphics, and goofy humor. Even the character customization via silly outfits is still in place. Finally, this is a pretty massive game that will take up a lot of your time if you really get into it: the current level cap is 99, and it’ll take quite a while to get up to that point.

 Thief Edition

While the game is good, it’s not exactly perfect. There are a lot of small buttons that don’t work perfectly on the iPhone’s screen because of size issues. After growing frustrated with the inability to sometimes hit buttons during hectic combat moments, I switched over to playing the game on my iPad; when I enlarged the game on the iPad’s screen, the buttons were a lot easier to work with, and there was little noticeable loss of quality to the graphics.

Another problem is that the platforming aspects are pretty stiff, which is a bit problematic since this is a huge portion of gameplay. It’s often difficult to land on a smaller platform, and leaping onto ladders/pipes/ropes in order to climb up to a higher area requires a very precise jump in order to make contact.

Finally, it seems like the game won’t automatically save your character. The first time I played, I did some level grinding for an hour or so, then quit the game. When I came back, I found out that my progress hadn’t been saved and I had to start over from the beginning. I can only imagine how frustrating something like this would be to someone who did some significant advancement and then met the same fate. Once I started saving my games manually, I didn’t encounter any further issues.

Overall, I enjoyed MapleStory Thief Edition more than I expected to. It’s not the deepest RPG, but it’s cute and extremely easy to get into. There are some elements that definitely need to be improved or fixed before it can be labelled “great”, but it’s still a fun title with a lot of good things going for it.