By Jenni . March 14, 2011 . 5:48pm
Aksys has been stepping up when it comes to bringing portable games to North America. One of their most intriguing new releases is a joyful little PSP game called Jikandia: The Timeless Land, that tasks players with exploring side scrolling stages and assaulting bosses in an effort to stop time.
Jikandia was your typical idyllic fairy tale land. People were happy and they were few troubles, largely because time didn’t exist there. Then the King of Time showed up. He made clocks turn again and dumped monsters in different areas of the world. Naturally, this resulted in all kinds of problems. For example, since time is flowing again, a volcano is now active. A spirit named Temtem decided to bring nine "heroes" to Jikandia to save the day… who all just happen to be students riding the train on their way to school.
The player steps into the shoes of Hall, a boy or girl who is one of the nine kidnapped students. You sort of become the de-facto leader of the troop and lead the quest to stop the King of Time and restore Jikandia. Along the way, you’ll discover one of your friends in eight of the 10 available stages.
Jikandia: The Timeless Land has a unique presentation. It’s a little hard to describe, but it almost looks like everything was fashioned from bits and pieces of cut-out paper. The soundtrack has a classic MIDI vibe, which helps bring on the nostalgia factor. If you enjoyed the look of games like Half-Minute Hero and ClaDun: This is an RPG, then you’ll love Jikandia‘s look. Which is only appropriate, because you’ve probably never played a game like Jikandia on your PSP. It’s a side-scrolling action game with RPG elements. Before you enter each stage, you determine how long you want to be in there. You can spend three minutes in a stage, but odds are you won’t encounter as many enemies or rare treasures. If you want more of a challenge and chance to uncover secrets, then you may want to spend up to 30 minutes in an area.
Stages in Jikandia are fairly straightforward platformer levels. Each floor will have a goal, represented in the bottom right, that you can try to fulfill to get more points. This could be as simple as to proceed to the next floor or to decimate enemies on the floor. Enemies and treasure chests will also be scattered around, and different colored chests will have better items.
What you’ll also see are timers coming off of chests, enemies and doors. This relates to the "Just in Timer" effect. If you open a chest right as the timer hits 0, you get a better item. You also get bonuses for defeating enemies the same way or entering a door when it hits 0. The door timer also changes. If the timer above it is white, then you can trigger the Just in Timer by going through when it hits 0. If it is red, then time is ticking down before Hall and his/her party will automatically be warped to the next floor.
Special effects also pop up on each floor. A warning may come up saying that slimes or some other monsters will show up in a certain number of seconds. That’s a warning danger is near, but floor effects can also be positive. A note could appear giving players a chance to press the R shoulder button within 45 second to grow herbs or turn all Just in Timers to 0. These notices always show up in the upper right corner, so you can easily see them.
Once the overall dungeon timer gets to around the two minute mark, you’ll see a notice warning that a real enemy is approaching. That means the next door you go through will lead to the boss. Bosses in Jikandia are huge, usually 3-4x larger than Hall. Fortunately, they’re also rather predictable. If you’ve spent 15 minutes in a stage, leave to change to fresh equipment and Magic Quartz, and re-enter, then you should have no trouble defeating them. If you beat a boss with time left over, you get to visit a special post-battle stage where you can raid some special treasure chests and fight some special enemies. It’s a neat little bonus.
The RPG elements come in when you prepare in the town to head into a dungeon. You can change Hall’s equipped weapon here, buy weapons, swap party members and set Magic Quartz. Each weapon has a different kind of attack and range. Your best bet with this is to see what kinds of weapons the party you choose to travel with use, and pick a weapon that compliments their skills. For example, Hako uses a homing dragon and Kanna throws axes, so you may want to equip a spear or magic rod if they’re in your party with you. The Magic Quartz dial is also quite handy, as you can equip special spheres with skills to make Hall or Hall’s party stronger when they venture in the dungeon. A PT Boost quartz will boost party members’ attack or a Life Boost will boost Hall’s hit points.
Jikandia’s really only has one fault and that’s the way text is displayed. Whenever characters talk, it appears in a miniscule box at the bottom of the screen that’s only big enough to hold a few words at a time. There’s no option to speed up text display, which means you’ll invariably press the X button to speed it up and accidentally pass through some text you would have wanted to read. Some of this text also randomly appears when you’re in the stages with certain characters in your party. Odds are, you’ll miss it in your rush to catch up with the timers for extra bonuses.
It’s a shame, because the script is quite clever and funny. Aksys did a wonderful job with the localization. I especially enjoyed Kanna’s tendency to call on gods like Cthulhu. The upside is there’s a Scenario Collection area in the town bar, where you can see each skit you’ve unlocked and read it later. It’s also worth pointing out that many of these skits have humorous titles as well, like "Deforestation for the win!" or "tl:dr." But the small text boxes return for this part as well, though the pace seems a bit easier to tolerate if you visit this spot to catch up with missed events.
Jikandia‘s hometown also has a few other little collection areas and special features to see. You can check an item collection that shows all of the consumable, magic quartz, weapon and assorted items you’ve seen so far in the game. You can even see if you’ve earned any medals for special achievements. Medals also net you rewards, so it’s worth your time to check in with the guy each time you’re in town. You can also access the multiplayer Jikandia Coliseum from the hometown, but you probably won’t stop by here unless you have friends with the game nearby for an ad-hoc multiplayer session.
Jikandia: The Timeless Land is an especially good on-the-go game, since you can set time limits before you start playing and instantly leave a dungeon at any point you’d like. All the extra little scenarios also provide incentive to return to replay. Granted, you’ll probably have to visit the town’s inn to actually read and see the skits, but still.
Food for Thought