Alphadia is a game that I find myself finding reasons to apologize for. I’m not sure that this is altogether a good thing but you have to take into account that when Alphadia was launched onto the App store there wasn’t a whole lot of choice in RPGs out there to be enjoyed by the mobile phone or tablet gamer. As such it feels extremely dated now, but looking on it as an early title in the same way that we look at the repeated ports of Final Fantasy I and II by SquareEnix gives us a reason to forgive some of its rough edges. Regardless, Alphadia kick started a brand that is still seeing mobile releases to this day.

Alphadia was released onto the App store by Kemco. Now those words are usually enough to get most people backing away in horror, Kemco has flooded the App store with hundreds of RPGs that have been of a sub-par quality for this day and age over the past few years. Alphadia has the advantage of being one of the first released, and as such suffered less from the Kemco-overdose RPG players face on the mobile market today. Ultimately it is a rounded and relatively polished game, though a few things will stand out as being less than amazing.

Firstly the games plot is something of a mess, though as the story continues it does attempt to shoe-horn in depth at the last minute by adding character monologues and a few asides. Revolving around a world that has just come out of an Energi War that cost the planet dearly, with Energi being a mixture of magic and life force that the planet needs to sustain itself. An evil empire called Schwarzchild is plotting world domination and only a small band of heroes led by Ash and joined by his best friend, small town love interest, a mysterious child, a princess and her knight escort. Together they will combat this threat and attempt to avoid a second Energi Crisis. All of this is dumped on you within the first half hour of play time in information dumps that are grammatically correct but badly written on the part of the translation team. After that point the game revolves around ‘go here to do this’ missions that take you on a whirlwind tour of the world map. Honestly the story is meaningless, though it does end with a satisfying conclusion and a setup for a sequel in one foul swoop, it serves to keep the player heading out to new locations and delve into dungeons more than it does to emote a reaction.

Graphically however the game is quite good for an early iPhone release. The characters are large 2D sprites and they contain a lot of detail, don’t clip on the scenery and move smoothly. Whilst the walking animation never ends, even when standing still (a pet peeve of mine) and water looks uninspired, it’s a fairly pretty game that reuses its limited background graphics in a number of interesting ways. Battle graphics and menu icons are excellent, and character portraits are illustrated nicely. Overall there’s nothing to really complain about here and it does serve to show that classic RPGs can turn very little in terms of assets into a whole lot of world building.

Sound and Music are a mixed bag. There’s nothing wrong with the soundtrack to the game but you will forget it the minute you close the game and none of them will stick with you. Sound Effects are a little tinny, but they doe manage to sum up the different elemental and physical types of attack that are on offer, even if one fire sound gets used for most if not all fire attacks, etc. The sound is solid if short on variety but it all helps to keep the file size of the game as small as possible on your device which is a nice touch.

The games title screen shows off all the characters nicely and lets us have a good look at the illustrations for each of them.

Gameplay is standard JRPG fair, although there are a few additions to bring this a level above the basic. There’s a world wide scavenger hunt for items that you collect and pass along as you go town to town by way of a mini-game or sub-quest of sorts. The game uses a handy mission based structure that you can check at any time to know where you are and what to do next and features plenty of opportunity to heal or save (which are a must for mobile games where you could become easily distracted and come back with no idea what you were doing or why). Characters all have an elemental type which works as standard for a JRPG, but can buy rings that you can charge with a second element and equip to add versatility. Obviously the natural thing to do here is select light and make everyone a backup healer, but a little tinkering allowed me to discover a Wind elemental passive skill that has characters attack twice every time they physically attack a monster, which soon makes mincemeat of most non-boss battles.

On the subject of battles, soon after discovering the auto-fight button you’ll find it stays on for most of the game. This speeds up many fights considerably and I found it added rather than taking away from the games charm. Its easy to slip out of auto battle to apply a heal or use a spell or special move (characters have both and they level up independently of each other). Boss battles required by full attention but for fights where I would just be hammering the attack button over and over again to plough through and grind this was a great addition. The skills and spells were exactly what I expected them to be and did what I expected them to do, matching nicely to character backgrounds.

Battles look pretty good and monsters are imaginative in their design.

Battles look pretty good and monsters are imaginative in their design.

A word should be said about the dungeons however, they fall into two kinds. Short and overtly long. Some are nicely laid out and relatively inventive for what this game is, though others (and I reference in particular a journey through a series of underground caves to reach the Empire’s capital city) go on forever and are all too easy to get lost in. Mazes in dungeons are fine but huge and hard to navigate areas are not the carefully constructed labyrinths I enjoy. Luckily the games virtual pad works quite nicely and doesn’t make walking around harder than it should be.

Overall this game is exactly what you expect. It’s a good example of an old-school JRPG with no thrills attached. I’d rather play this than replay Final Fantasy I again, thought possibly its on a similar level to Final Fantasy II, which incorporated an actual plot and had the daring to try something a little different. There’s nothing WRONG with Alphadia, in fact its a fun time if your playing casually. Just don’t make it the game you’ve cleared a day to play through or you will come out the other side of it disappointed. The game was made by Kotobuki Solution Co. Ltd. and is reasonably priced for its length, Kemco regularly has sales that drop the prices further so be sure to give it a look if you see it going cheap. Similarly don’t try to pick up Alphadia 2 without playing this game first, as it continues on directly from where this game leaves off.

Score 3

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