You can find a surprising number of solid Japanese RPGs (JRPGs) on mobile. Granted, many of those are ports (the Final Fantasy series, the Dragon Quest games, Ys Chronicles 1, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger), but they’ve achieved “classic” status since their heyday, and therefore come recommended.
Mobile gaming’s healthy JRPG scene is good news for fans of the genre, but it’s not good news for an “almost, but not quite!” game like Kobojo’s Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey. While this gorgeous RPG offers some of the best graphics you’ll see on mobile, and while its battle system provides you with a good fight, bugs, crashes, and navigation problems clip its wings.
Zodiac stars Cael, a young soldier who lives in the colorful and imaginative world of Orcanon. Four different races live side-by-side and are amiable enough to each other, but the uneasy peace is shattered when the lizard-people pull a nefarious act (It’s always the lizard-people, isn’t it? Sigh …). This sets off a chain of events that Cael must try to stanch before the world comes to a blistering, smoldering end.
Orcanon is a pretty neat world to explore. I found myself enamored with the imagination behind each race’s design (even those filthy lizards). I’m also very okay with the fact you navigate the game from the back of a “Flyon,” a flying sabre-toothed tiger. Small things like that help make an RPG feel a lot more epic.
Unfortunately, Zodiac’s problems keep it from quite reaching “epic” status. First and foremost are bugs and glitches. I had some issues with the game crashing here and there — which wouldn’t be the end of the world, except Zodiac is weirdly finicky about only letting you save at designated points, and those points are quite spread out.
Worse (and admittedly kind of a funny) is an issue that prevents text from showing up during story scenes. I was treated to a series of blank text boxes during an important story point (well, I’m assuming it was important). This happened more than once.
Difficult navigation is another problem. Most of the areas you fly through are maze-like in nature, and contain portals that teleport you into battles against foes. Thing is, these areas contain very same-y looking backgrounds, making it hard to find your way around using landmarks. And landmarks would be nice, since Zodiac lacks any sort of a mapping feature.
It’s sad to have to dump on Zodiac’s problems, because its battle system is interesting. You execute attacks, buffs, and debuffs by dragging the appropriate icon over onto enemies. In many cases, attacks and buffs / debuffs go together: Cael, for instance, has a weak attack that ups his defense, and it’s a good idea to utilize it when visual cues indicate enemies plan to hit hard on their next turn.
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey has other treats, like weapon upgrades, item crafting, and a job-change system. It’s simply a question of whether you want to slog through the game’s mazes and bugs in order to get that far.
You could admittedly do far worse: There’s a lot to like about the game, including its imagination, its bright colors, and its battle system. It’s just not a title that stands with the best JRPGs on mobile. But this is a single entry in a planned series, and sequels often bring big improvements. We’ll see where we are when Cael’s fight enters its next phase.