Proof that the JRPG is still alive and kicking
Few game genres have undergone as much change and experimentation as the Japanese RPG (JRPG). Sometimes, those inflicted changes turn out to be popular. Other times, you get Final Fantasy XIII. As a result, these past couple of decades have been lonely ones for those of us who grew up with (and still love) the likes of Dragon Warrior, old-school Final Fantasy, and Suikoden.
Thankfully, there are still plenty of independent game studios willing to give us our fix of tile-based movement and magic-slinging heroes with crazy hair. Undefeated by Aldorlea Games is a particularly solid and enjoyable effort, though it has a bug or two that might throw a wrench into your plans to save the world.
The three main heroes of Undefeated, Marcus, Bastien, and Fela, are new conscripts in a world that’s troubled by an ever-expanding Wasteland. While the authorities have always managed to keep the Wasteland under control, lately its monstrous plants and animals have been creeping down from the poisoned lands. After a chance encounter with a mutant wolf, the three friends are swept into a plan to figure out why the Wasteland is creeping over healthy territory – and stop the takeover, if possible.
Undefeated is a traditional JRPG through and through. You travel across an overworld map that occasionally gives way to sub-maps of forests and dungeons. You visit towns. You take on side quests for folks. You meet enemies (which can be rendered visible on the sub-maps, giving you a chance to avoid random encounters) and take turns beating the snot out of them by issuing commands via menus. Depending on what you like from your RPGs, Undefeated may be exactly what you want.
In fact, Undefeated celebrates (and pokes fun at) its traditional mechanics. The game explains why random treasure chests show up in forests, why you can find money in dead logs, why magic-users wear thick cloaks, and so on. Undefeated‘s world is intriguing to work through, and its characters are fun to interact with.
There are a couple of notable nicks in Undefeated‘s sword, however. Though it’s a minor issue, the game’s character portraits almost look as if they were done off a template, and are all curiously cross-eyed, to boot. The enemy artwork looks good, however, and the soundtrack is fantastic.
More serious is the issue of potentially game-breaking bugs. I ran into one near the Wasteland gates: Guards cleared a path for me to go talk to a member of the military, but instead of proceeding, I exited the area and returned to the world map. When I went back to the gates, I found them blocked again, and I couldn’t proceed.
Luckily, I hadn’t saved, so I just had to re-load my file. Aldorlea Games already appears to be addressing bugs as they pop up, so in time the worst of them should be stamped out. In the meantime, it’s not the worst idea to make sure you have a few save files on hand.
Undefeated is a basic, straightforward JRPG, but it knows exactly what it is and revels in its label. The care and polish applied to the experience (aside from the occasional bugs, like the aforementioned) makes it satisfying to work through. If you’re hungry for a decent retro JRPG experience, the Wasteland has something in store for you.