I have to say before diving into this review: I had never seriously considered playing a mobile game like Alphadia before. Why? Honestly, I didn’t know they existed. A fully fleshed out JRPG for my phone? My experience with mobile games went about as far as Angry Birds and Temple Run, just because I had never thought to really look for a more in-depth gaming experience. But when I heard about Kemco and their JRPG lineup, Alphadia caught my eye and I became curious. How would this game match up compared to console RPGs I’d played in the past?
Knowing that Alphadia was a JRPG, I had some expectations of it that I wasn’t sure a mobile game could fill: it needed an overarching story, characters with some personality, a fun battle system and a fleshed out world to travel. So how did Alphadia rate in each category?
Alphadia’s story starts off in the traditional RPG vein that we have all seen before: a young man from a small town finds his family and way of life threatened by a growing danger from the outside world. Our protagonist Ash sets out to find the root of this evil with his two adoptive siblings in tow, along with a mysterious girl and her protector that stumbled into town fleeing the encroaching evil force. The plot is largely political, focusing on the tensions between the country of Schwarzschild and… well, everyone else. Schwarzschild is an empire slowly engulfing the world by exploiting its system of magic called energi. Interestingly enough, energi is treated as a natural, scientific phenomenon throughout the game rather than a mystical one.
The plot makes a lot of twists and turns as it progresses, and many of these developments are interesting and are very personal to the cast, which makes them inherently interesting. The storytelling does suffer from some pacing issues though. Big reveals are sprung on the player suddenly with no buildup. They feel like shock-value plot twists that were thrown in just for the quick hit of drama- which is a shame, because some of these twists could have been really good if they were given enough time to develop more naturally.
The main characters are a fun group as a whole. We have Ash, the hero; Karim, his sensible older brother; Éclair, the perky younger sister; 1417, a girl with a robotic personality; Weid, a stern protector; and Shion, a gentle and kind girl with a royal air. Each one of their personalities is a little clichéd, but that didn’t really make me like them any less. It was really the fun, well-paced dialogue that kept me invested in these characters throughout the whole game.
The gameplay is exactly what you would expect to see from any classic JRPG on a console. You explore the land on foot initially before gaining a ship and then an airship later on. All encounters on the map and in dungeons are random. The battle system is turn-based and allows you to use four members of your party at a time.
Now, I have nothing against random encounters in a game. I think it can be a successful mechanic; just not the way Alphadia uses it.
From the start of the game, the random encounters are frequent and ridiculously easy. I set a timer in the first dungeon I encountered to see just how many battles I was getting into- I counted 5 battles in one minute of gameplay. This is five battles consisting of 3+ enemies, each one clocking in at about 12 seconds long. To be blunt- the battles are boring and over way too quickly.
This mechanic makes some sense when you consider that Alphadia was made and designed for devices that usually get very little continuous use for games. When we have our phones out for gaming, it’s usually in stolen bursts throughout the day- riding the bus or sitting in a waiting room. The quickfire random encounters would definitely make these 10-20 minute gaming sessions seem full and exciting. After all, if the battle rate stays constant that’s 50-100 battles in one sitting. But if you plan to sit down and play for extended periods, the fights quickly become tiring and exploring starts to feel like a chore, particularly when enemies don’t put up much of a fight. There’s just not enough of a challenge.
Thankfully, there’s an Auto button on the battle screen that will automatically fight your fights for you. Enemies do get more challenging later in the game as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself using anything but the Auto button until the last quarter of the game. Even then, I never once had to worry about losing a battle or paying for healing items. I don’t think I saw the game over screen even once.
Other than the constant stream of random battles, exploring the game wasn’t a bad experience. It took me a while to get used to the onscreen D-pad you use to get around (I’m used to touch screen games letting you point-and-drag), but once I had adapted to it there were no problems. There are also a lot of side quests that players can pick up as they play that will have them traveling all over the map and back and will add a little more of a challenge for dedicated players.
Another aspect of battle worth noting is that each character is set with a particular element of energi; fire, water, and so on. Characters level up and gain new skills automatically as you finish battles. If you want to use more than one element per party member during a fight, players have the option of using rings that can be set to a certain type of energi and equipped to different characters. So if you want some dark energi on hand just in case you meet a nasty enemy with a weakness to it, you can equip a ring infused with dark energi to a party member that uses wind energi to give them a leg up.
Where Alphadia really shines in its aesthetics. If you loved old-school RPGs in all their pixelated glory, you’ll love the look and feel of Alphadia. The aesthetic might be based on games of old, but the graphics are still polished and work well on a mobile screen. All of the main characters are also given a beautifully drawn anime-style headshot that features when they speak. I would have liked to see more detail go into each town and into the dungeons, but on the whole I was really impressed with how good this game looked. The music surprised me too. It wasn’t particularly unique, but every song is very appropriate for its intended use and sets the mood very well.
Now the end of Alphadia is the most unique thing about it. I won’t spoil anything, but the final plot twist was one of the most successful of them all for me (even though it definitely takes a much different tone from the rest of the game). I can see how it might lead into the game’s sequel, Alphadia 2 (http://www NULL.kemco NULL.jp/sp/games/ad2/en/index NULL.html). Far as replay value goes, there are some incentives for players who want to relive the adventure. The game gives players the options of doubling their gold won in battle and the ability to turn the random encounter off completely- a godsend for anyone who wanted to explore more their first play through and were deterred by the large amount of random encounters.
As a mobile title, I was pleasantly surprised by how much substance it has. It definitely blew my expectations of an Android game out of the water. As a JRPG, I’d say the game was average. The characters fall short of being really memorable and some of the gameplay issues kept me from really enjoying the game to its fullest. Despite that, I would readily suggest this game to fans of old-school JRPGs, as it has all of the elements that would really appeal to hardcore fans of the genre.
Review copy supplied by author.
You can purchase Alphadia for Android (https://play NULL.google NULL.com/store/apps/details?id=kemco NULL.execreate NULL.alphadia&hl=en)or iOS (https://itunes NULL.apple NULL.com/app/id473645314?l=en&ls=1&mt=8).