Arkista's Ring review
Zelda has green hair now?
A while back, I mentioned that I tend to enjoy Zelda imitators more than I do Zelda games themselves. It's not like I'm trying to be a hipster or anything; I just happen to derive more pleasure from the likes of Startropics and Darksiders than the likes of Ocarina Of Time and Twilight Princess. But let's set up some sort of standard here, folks – Arkista's Ring is pretty damn mediocre! On the surface, it seems like a fun enough game that'll keep your attention for an hour or so, but when you play it, it's like a nebulous black hole from which no life can escape.
Christine is out on a quest to retrieve Arkista's Ring from an evil ninja gang simply known as Shogun, who had plunged the world into darkness. In order to do this, Christine will need to go through some fields, some underground passages, a harbor and a courtyard that all so happen to be laid out in a grid-like fashion. In other words, you'll move around on a grid, with one step taking up one invisible square. But all she comes equipped with is a bow and an infinite supply of arrows. Thankfully, she can find various items by killing monsters by firing an arrow at their weak spot for massive damage, including armor. Yep, she's also without armor. You'd think she would be more like the ninjas she's up against by using her body to jump around and kill her adversaries quickly. Alas, she just didn't have any armor; she has to harvest a chestplate, shield, gauntlets, a helmet and a cape from dead monsters.
What a beautiful day to be killing scorpions.
Each level consists of killing every monster on the field. At least, I'd be saying that if monsters weren't constantly regenerating! Now, if it was a precursor to arena shooters ala Serious Sam, then I'd be all for that, but actually, you could kill all of the regenerating monsters all you want and still be on the level. Nope, you need to keep track of what original monsters you've killed and search far and wide for that one you might have missed in hopes of getting a key to appear once that monster is dead. Okay, sounds fine and dandy, right? Well, not when you're so focused on killing monsters that try to overwhelm you with sheer numbers that you forget what you didn't kill, thus making it feel like the key appears after killing a random enemy! After a while, it becomes rather tiring because the most they can do is either ram into you or shoot at you. The only redeeming factor in all of this... is that at least the levels are short in stature – about two or three screen sizes long and one screen wide.
That's not even mentioning the difficulty spike towards the end when you get into the Shogun fortress. While the ninjas have the same strategy of using the touch of death on you, they're faster, they take more hits, they dish out more damage, and most of them can jump over and across walls! The second to last level is quite possibly the hardest level that this game has to offer, mainly because it's packed to the rafters with ninjas! I mean yeah, you're nearly at the final boss, of course there needs to be a final stand, but because of how the game operates, this is a lot harder than it has any right to be... what I forgot to mention was that Christine doesn't just turn around; when you hit the opposite direction that you're facing, you not only turn around, but you also take a step in that direction, which can screw you when you have enemies on your ass.
In fact, the only way that this level can feel even remotely balanced is with the use of items. The best ones are the music box and the staff – the former lulls the ninjas to sleep while the latter lets you shoot fireballs that go through walls, which is a godsend when you consider that these indoors-y areas mostly have you going through tight passages and yet, you need to kill something across from you before it gets to you and drains your health. You can acquire other items like a staff that injures/kills everything on the screen, a staff that kills every spectral being (like ghosts, for instances) on the screen, and potions that restore your health, so there's at least there's some means of defense against enemies if your arrows aren't quite doing it.
NO PIT, THAT'S THE GREAT GODDESS PALUTENA YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL!
The graphics aren't bad – they're pleasing enough to the eyes, but nothing stands out as particularly good. I suppose it was nice of them to have some black spots in the grassy fields so that it's not just a green screen with some trees and footpaths. In fact, it was nice of them to give details to the objects and ground so that it doesn't look too bland while not giving the sprites too much so that they can stand out. At the same time, nothing really pops up as impressive. Everything looks like the overworld of a JRPG and the colors themselves are somewhat boring, sticking with mostly safe dark-ish tones. It... kind of makes you want to fall asleep.
The soundtrack is pleasant enough. There are only three songs in the entire game and technically, none of them are all that impressive. There isn't much of a melody that stands out as particularly good or anything. Really, where it shines is how catchy it is. The songs are short and have simple melodies, but they're easy to remember and, besides the Shogun level track, they're quite relaxing, which goes with the fact that the enemies seem to be casually strolling in your general direction without much if any urgency. The Shogun track isn't like the other two – it's faster and encourages urgency. Even then, their catchiness doesn't even come close to that of, say, that one song from Super Mario Brothers. Some effort is necessary in recalling the songs from this game, but at least there's still some memorability.
Arkista's Ring receives a 5/10, mainly for being so dull. It's got some good ideas and a lot of potential to be a fun little dungeon crawler, but nothing about this game stands out as particularly good or anything. It's just... there. It functions well enough, but it's a chore to play through. It looks pleasing enough, but nothing stands out. It sounds nice, but nothing about it really stands out and says “hey I'm awesome”. Instead, it's perfectly content with being an average game with maybe a cult following at best. Also given that you need to beat this game four times in a row in order to get the ending, it shows that there was more effort in simply getting a game out, rather than getting a good game out that everybody can enjoy.
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