Kemco has gotten something of a reputation for publishing games from teams that rehash the same engines over and over again with a new skin, shared resources and little to no advancement of their genre. Tears Revolude is then something of an oddity for them, featuring an all new system and graphical engine built from the ground up.
There’s a surprisingly large variation in quality within Kemco’s catalog that can produce simple, enjoyable and harmless games such as ‘Alphadia’ or turn around and drop steaming piles of waste such as ‘Alphadia 2’ or ‘Fantasy Chronicle’ on an unsuspecting public. As such every new release is approached with caution and it’s rare that any new release is considered an immediate purchase in the current environment of mobile gaming. There are so many talented creations to find and classics to replay that Kemco’s niche is starting to dissapear on them, forcing them to consider making some changes to their tried and tested formula. A short while ago they tried their hand at a tactical title, now we visit the dungeon crawl. Both requiring unique new engines to run them.
Graphically Tears Revolude is attractive if slightly uninspired in a design sense. Menus are extremely well presented for touched based controls and easy to operate with a thumb or finger on the move, but are largely made up of semi-transparent blue boxes that we’ve seen in every other title ever made. Character designs are also quite dull, taking in the typical angst ridden teenager, cute young kid, older sister figure and amnesiac girl among others, If you’ve ever encountered any anime you’ll see the tropes immediately. Towns and conversations use 2D art assets, of which there arn’t too many and which are recycled throughout the game, that are crisp and well drawn but also lack imagination. Gameplay segments fare much better, using a 3D engine to render dungeons from a top-down perspective with a crisp 2D sprite of the lead character to guide around them. These dungeons can be freely rotated in 90 degree turns to see every facet of their layout and look quite nice, varying up skins between locations. The game also uses a small box which can be turned on and off at will, showing a first person view of the dungeon. It’s an odd inclusion and feels like a hangover from a potential period spent developing this title for the DS market, where it would have inhabited the top screen. Monster designs are excellent, crisp and brilliantly drawn/animated, although reskins are frequent later into the game.
Sound design varies depending on how much you enjoy Japanese voicework. If you enjoy hearing the tone and character of each individual spoken aloud with or without a knowledge of the language it’s a good experience. There are some slight discrepancies to be found between the inflection spoken aloud in Japanese and how some scenes are translated. One character is much more flirty than her translation puts across, implying her character underwent localisation changes to reach the west. You can choose to not install these when the game is first booted up to save space however, which is a nice option to have if you’re running low. Music is also treated much like an anime, with opening and closing themes that contain vocal performances as standout moments, but generally forgettable background and combat tunes in-game. Sound effects are standard and also forgettable, although some spells lack a weight to their effects in their early levels that makes them sound particularly feeble.
Story is sadly something of a weak spot for the title. There’s nothing that’s wrong with it, but it just feels a little too cliched, especially in the light of so many anime themes and character types being used and the fact that the games key theme (the amnesiac girl) was explored so well in ‘Tales of Graces’. Sion is a young treasure hunter and mercenary who has something of an obsession with the works of deceased artisan ‘Orwell’, and along with his adoptive big sister and partner Michelle, he delves into a local cave network. There the pair encounter not only monsters but a teenage girl named Liara who has no memory of who she is or where she came from. This sparks a journey to discover the truth about her, wrapping in themes of what it means to be human and the usual fight to save the world. There’s also a rebellion to join and an oppressive military organisation to contend with. As I said, all good elements but nothing new or original.
Gameplay sees all of the staples a good game needs put into place early on. Dungeon exploration is as simple as touching and holding the direction you want to move in on-screen, with the character sprite spinning on the spot fluidly and gliding effortlessly in that direction. Puzzle elements and boxes containing treasure are opened with a tap as soon as you’re in range of them, which is denoted with a speech bubble appearing overhead. The dungeon can be rotated by pressing a bottom in the top right hand corner of the screen, which pauses play and allows you to spin the dungeon to your hearts content, also enabling you to turn the first person viewpoint displaid in a little box on screen on and off with a tap. The menu is in the opposite corner of the screen and allows for you to easily peel through the options, although at times moving down longer lists of items can be a chore. Characters can equip armour and special items, with the total number of these special items being increased through spending in-game currency in town, later including rare items as well as payment. Weapons can also be levelled in a similar fashion but can also be transmuted into four variants that leave the all-round version behind in favour of specializing a particular use, for example damage, speed, spellcasting, etc. Equipping special items adds a number of stat bonuses and special effects. Some items can regenerate health over time in combat whilst others allow you to steal items when you attack or deal counter attacks. All of these stack and add considerable flexibility to your builds. Spells/skills are unique between characters and also level up with use, dealing more damage and hitting more opponents. These can be turned up and down using a simple sliding meter that appears on screen before casting, which is worth paying attention to as the MP cost of these attacks rises with their potency. The implementation of these skills is particularly good and stands out as an example of how it can be perfectly executed as you always know how much damage, the cost and how many uses till the next level. A special meter sits at the bottom of the combat screen, this fills as you deal or take damage (but not when casting spells!) and has four levels of charge. At the first level each character can potentially unleash their special attack and deplete the meter, but for each additional level a second, third and fourth character can join in on the one attack, stacking the benefits of their special move onto the one action. Specials require a touch-screen input and the more shapes you join up before the meter empties the more powerful your attack can be. Monsters are all vulnerable to status effects, including bosses, but they last only a short while. Otherwise combat is a standard first-person turn based system with attack, defend, flee and items all available as usual. It’s a simple but robust system, but be warned the game is very easy on all but the ‘Hard’ setting, only gaining in challenge later in the game’s final act. Towns are entirely menu driven and do allow for some fetch-quests to be completed for NPCs to distract from the main events, whilst the world map adds locations as the story allows. Dungeons do feature puzzles of varying kinds, but they never stray past ‘moderately’ difficult. The game uses a premium currency in addition to its purchase cost, but it can be earned through grinding or as a reward for achieving game center trophies, of which there are many. These are completely unnecessary to complete or enjoy the game but do allow you to unlock cheat items and two additional dungeons with harder puzzles and monsters. I unlocked both of these through points found in normal play without ever grinding for them. In total the game runs for roughly 10-15 hours depending on how you grind or the difficulty level you choose. There is an auto-battle option available but unlike other ‘click to win’ implementations of this system the feature chooses targets from left to right, meaning that it’s not always attacking your primary target and sometimes you’ll want to take the reigns yourself instead to minimize damage. Some enemies have instant-death spells and bosses require a real player to defeat, though dead characters revive after every battle so there’s a gentle learning curve.
Overall Tears Revolude is a good game, not a classic but a well made and enjoyable adventure. Kemco and World Wide Software have done a lot worse and if they’d managed to add a more compelling story to the mix it would stand up as one of the company’s best. Occasionally the game feels like a first person dungeon crawl that backed down on the difficulty by including an overhead view and a map feature to prevent players from getting lost, there’s obviously been effort included to have first person elements to the gameplay. If you’re looking for a game that functions as a pleasant distraction for a weekend between more substantial RPGs then I’d recommend this title.