STAFF REVIEW of Asdivine Hearts (Xbox One)

Monday, July 30, 2018.
by Brent Roberts

Asdivine Hearts Box art Being regarded in gaming years as a dinosaur, I grew up on consoles now talked about in mythical tales. I was also introduced to a game called Final Fantasy, early in my gaming career, and it sparked a love for RPG games that hasn't wavered. I was captivated by the story mixed with action and what seemed to pass as hours were in reality days. It goes without saying that these types of older RPG games hold a tremendous significance to me. Developoer KEMCO has recently decided to release a game called Asdivine Hearts for the low cost of $14.99, and I'm excited to see if Asdivine Hearts can tick all the right boxes that come with great RPG experiences.

The first box of course in this list has to involve the story. What is the point of investing hours upon hours of your life, only to end up hating what you are playing? While the story isn't the quality of some of those older RPG games of when I started to game, it is quite entertaining. The crux of the narrative is that there are essences of both light and shadow, and over the years the influence of the shadow deity has grown stronger, to the point where it unbalances the power between light and shadow, casting the light down to the world Asdivine. Now, the quest before you ultimately is balancing the powers before all the world is cast into darkness for eternity, and to accomplish this, you'll need a party.

You have your main three characters: a male, a female and a cat. Yes, a cat. As you progress, you'll gather two more party members. Each member has their own weapon and attack preference (physical attack vs. magic), and while the characters in your party do have their own unique mannerisms and behavioral traits, the story can seem rather predictable at times. While that doesn't necessarily make it bad, the overall progression of the story itself seems to be mismanaged. This is not a deal breaker as the story is still very enjoyable.

Next up in our checklist, we have gameplay. Now, back in the day, the lands were vast, the mountains were tall and sprites were short. The same methodology is applied to Asdivine Hearts in spades. You will venture across a map that is, unfortunately, relatively small by comparison to other games it competes against; however, there is almost a direct nostalgic feel by walking through the overworld.

You can bring up the map using the 'X' button, and various points of interest, such as caves and towns, will be highlighted for you. You'll be able to see your destination as there will be a flashing square on the map where you need to go. Instantly I was taken back so many memories as the design elements of the overworld look almost identical to what I've experienced all those years ago.

There is however, a few issues that I have with the gameplay of Asdivine Hearts. Yes, this is a turn based classic RPG experience; however, the controls feel hyper sensitive, so any movement you make with your character is dramatically over accentuated. This means simple things like walking around an Inn, or even just a room, are incredibly frustrating. While the walking in the overworld isn't bad, when you start including things like chairs, tables, pottery, and many other things, you can really feel a hindrance. While there are issues with the movement, that's not the only thing I have a problem with.

When your party is full of characters (which will happen relatively close to the beginning), you'll be able to unlock certain "formations" for your party to form when in battle. These formations allow your party to have various bonuses and drawbacks based on how you decide to align them within the 3x3 grid. The issue I have here is that while you are provided a small list of formations in the beginning, you learn more as you progress, but the benefits and drawbacks make only a few worthwhile, and the rest of them seem rather pointless, especially since you can't change them in a battle when you would need it the most.

To make sure your group is fit for battle, you'll want to press the 'Y' button to bring up the menu. Here you can select from a wide variety of options. The equip menu allows you to switch and select different weaponry and armor for each of your members. There's also an item menu where you can access any and all consumables that you may have found in your journey. There is also a very, very important menu, and it's imperative that you become familiar with it. It's called the Jewel menu, which houses your Rubix, where you can insert the jewels you find. Let me explain why the latter is so important.

the Rubix is part of the gameplay that you will have to manage. This is essentially the key to unlocking various skills and spells for your characters, and it also offers a wealth of upgrading that will lead you to farm for gems like crazy. The Rubix is another grid styled square; however, this square gets populated by various gems you pick up along the way and/or purchase. These gems have with them not only traits, but shapes as well, and it's up to you to decide what you want, but also how to arrange all of the shapes so they fit the Rubix. Originally the Rubix starts off as a small one but can grow to a massive 5x5 setup. The beauty of this is that anyone can learn any magic that fits into the Rubix.

For example, there was a female character in my party that knew some light magic (so that would grow naturally for her as I progressed through the game), I inserted a shadow magic jewel into her Rubix and now she is learning both light and shadow spells. Leveling them up only requires one thing, and that's for you to fight and finish side quests. Each battle earns you XP and SP, and the amounts are applied to your gems, and each new level grants you a new learned skill. The more you progress the longer it takes to unlock everything, but by the time you hit level 50 you should be good to go.

Gems can also be synthesized to create new, more powerful and potent forms of gems, but the synthesis system is very convoluted and not well developed, so may I suggest save first, do your synthesis until you understand it, then reload your previous save and do it correctly. Otherwise you may wind up wasting valuable gems.

Without question, this Rubix system is the very heart of the game itself, but in order to find these legendary items, you will have to farm so many enemies that KEMCO should give you a straw hat and a tractor with purchase of the game. This is because while there is gold in the game, which you can use to buy items such as weapons and aids, and there is another form of currency that is rarer, as it's only found in the arena as prizes, as well as random boulders that will appear in random battles found with cavernous areas. You could say that when encountering a boulder, you will want to make it a primary focus of your team. You may have to dispatch an enemy in front of it, but whatever you do, do not kill all the enemies before breaking the boulder or you will not get the opportunity to gather this rare currency. Oh, remember you read just a few lines ago about how much you'll be farming, yes? Well if you want to purchase the final Rubix which is the big 5x5 beast, it will cost you 100 of this rare currency, and when you get between 1-3+ coins per boulder, you may be better off in the arena grinding away?

As your party grows and progresses, so do the relationships found within your party. While you are made to feel that there are impacts that are made with your actions, you don't necessarily have any sort of impact until you get to what the game calls "free time", and it's here that you can interact with your fellow party members and try to raise your favor level with them. The game even allows you to give gifts that you may come across on your travels, and each gift will grant a favor boost for a time period. I do wish there were more importance and focus given to the interaction value with the other members of your party, but there is not.

Another box that is on the list for great RPG's are the graphics. Yes, I know this game isn't rendered with all the latest in 3D modeling and hyper realism, but it's not supposed to be. Instead of fully rendered realistic characters, you are taken back to the days of the 16-bit glory. Vibrant colors and dynamic designs permeate every graphical facet of this game, and the nostalgia factor wraps the game in a tremendous retro bow. Sticking with the whole retro vibe, what surprised me even more is how Asdivine Hearts utilizes a classic synth soundtrack and sound effects. It literally is like looking at a glimpse of the past, and if you listen closely, you may even hear a remixed version of a legendary RPG tune from the past.

Even though Asdivine Hearts does have some flaws, it goes without a shadow of a doubt that it delivers a classic nostalgic RPG experience that is severely lacking in today's world. When we get so caught up in getting games that are bigger and better than the ones before it, we lose ourselves to what joys and wonderful experiences were found in games that didn't push the envelope. Asdivine Hearts delivers one of the best nostalgic experiences you can find on the Xbox platform today, and it is only priced at $14.99 on the Xbox Store. I'll say this, if you're a fan of the classic RPG games of the 80's and 90's, then Asdivine Hearts is an absolute must have for your library. It goes without saying that this game manages to tick all the right boxes to make a classic RPG experience.

Had the story been a tad larger and more involved, the gameplay not as twitchy, and easier gem management, it would have been almost perfect.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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