Record of Agarest War Zero Playtest: More Than Fanservice

By Jenni . July 5, 2011 . 10:40am

Many a Japanese game enthusiast knows about the Agarest Wars series and how Idea Factory and Aksys make light of and use the fanservice elements from the series to draw attention to the strategic RPG. While Record of Agarest War Zero does have fanservice, it’s also a rather dramatic and occasionally comedic game that will require you to think ahead when taking part in battles to ensure you not only succeed, but get the most out of each one. There’s more to the game than just the occasional scantily-clad woman.

 

If Record of Agarest War Zero is your first Agarest War game, don’t worry. You won’t be left out. It’s a prequel with an original story. All the people of Kraltarla are trying to save their world from darkness, Larva and wars the gods started. Sieghart is initially a commander who, with Eugene and Friedelinde, was supposed to defend a small town. While chasing dark enemies away, he comes upon a young girl named Mimelle who is being attacked by a Larva.

 

Sieghart attempts to save her, but ends up beaten and dying. She uses her powers to save him, but unintentionally uses too much of her power. She ends up an amnesiac and without the powers the Armies of Light were relying on to help win the war. Since she’s developed an attachment to Sieghart, and it seems he now wields the power she originally had, the two are paired together to work to find a way to tip the odds in Kraltarla’s favor and save the world from darkness.

 

Record of Agarest War Zero‘s game bits are split into two parts. The story is a rather straightforward visual novel with dating-sim elements. You’ll see the animated character portraits (which do that eerie breathing/blinking/subtle movement thing) while they talk, and you can have the text autoplay, skip, fast forward or even check a backlog if you missed part of the conversation. You’ll occasionally be able to help Sieghart, and later Leonis, make choices which will then affect how the female characters feel about him. These choices can also influence whether or not you end up with the true ending.

 

The bulk of gameplay is made up of strategic RPG battles. You pick six characters to go into battle. Battle is then split into phases. First is a movement phase, where you choose characters’ positions. Each character has an extended area sphere of influence, where parts of the grid around him or her allow other characters to step into them so they can unleash chained attacks during the action phase. Movement also determines how much AP (action points) are used. After everyone moves, or doesn’t move, the action phase begins.

 

When the action phase begins, the line of character portraits on the top of the screen dictates who can act and when. Faster characters move quicker, as usual, but how many AP points characters have left and whether or not characters moved during the movement phase also have an effect on when characters act. If characters are in the right positions, you can have all six hurl themselves at a single opponent, dealing as much damage as possible and possibly even combining attacks to execute more complicated moves. While the general goal is to defeat all enemies standing in each battle, it’s even better to try and overkill all enemies standing so you’re guaranteed items to use for crafting.

 


Idea Factory strategic RPGs are known for having a fairly high difficulty threshold, not just because they’re actually difficult, but because they can also be quite complicated. This, in turn, can turn a lot of people off on them. Record of Agarest War Zero isn’t like that. Yes, it shares much in common with other IF RPGs. There are overkills, you can chain together characters’ skills for massive combos, there’s a true ending that can only be seen if you make certain choices and do specific things and there are also titles to earn and equipment to forge. The difference is that everything still involves quite the intricate processes, but Idea Factory did a much better job of explaining how things work. You can check to see what skill combos are possible before starting a chain combo, for example. You can turn tutorials on and off, if you want explanations of new concepts before a battle. They’re little changes and additions, but they make such a big difference when it comes to enjoying and being successful in the game.

 

There’s another boon for Record of Agarest War Zero players who are still having trouble, despite the improved tutorials and simplified gameplay, battle and crafting systems. There’s the cavalcade of free DLC. Since the game was released, Aksys has been releasing free and paid DLC on the PlayStation Store. I haven’t sampled any of the paid items, but the free items give free points to further strengthen characters, incredible equipment, valuable crafting materials, extra money and resources and extra dungeons. It’s fantastic. The only possible downside is you can end up earning trophies instantly just for downloading and installing this DLC.

 

Speaking of Aksys, they’ve done a phenomenal job with the translation and localization process. The script is just great. It’s very well written and even though the overall tone of the whole "saving the world" thing is quite dramatic and serious, they still managed to add in some lighthearted moments and ensure each character’s personality successfully shines through with each line. Even when I go back and replay Record of Agarest War Zero, since I’ve blown my chance at earning the true ending now, I’m not planning to skip over the visual novel story segments because the game is well written.

 

Another issue that comes up with a game like Record of Agarest War Zero is the fanservice. It is there, but it isn’t overbearing. You’ll spend more time in ordinary conversations with characters and much more time battling than you will oogling scantily-clad women. (Unless you decided to turn on the option where female characters’ outfits change depending on how much they like you, in which case the ordinary conversations’ fanservice moments greatly increases.) I haven’t played the original Record of Agarest War, but I’d say I’ve seen more here than I did in Hyperdimension Neptunia. (Though Hyperdimension Neptunia did have more innuendo written into the script.) If you avoid games that involve fanservice but are still interested in Agarest War, it’s pretty easy to skip over any scenes you don’t want to see.

 

This makes Record of Agarest War Zero a more substantial game than it started out being. While there are only two generations here compared to the five that appeared in the original Record of Agarest War and you’ll have fewer party members to choose from, it didn’t bother me in the least. The story is great and you’ll spend plenty of time battling, exploring and spending vacation points in town to build up relationships between Sieghart and the female characters.

 

Food for Thought

1. Always make sure to check to see if you earned any titles after each hour or two of play time. You could end up earning some good equipment or extra cash.

 

2. I liked the first generation characters best. Especially Eugene. Eugene was hilarious.

 

3. There’s no English voice acting. It’s no big deal though, as the Japanese voice acting is phenomenal.

 

4. Don’t worry about any entry barriers if you’ve never played an Agarest War game before. This was my first encounter with the series and this prequel is so well set up that you won’t miss out at all.

 

5. Play it on an HDTV if you can. The character sprites look much better in high definition.

 

6. I liked that you could check and see how Leonis would turn out with the first three marriage candidates with the oracles, to help determine which direction you want to go with for the next generation. I went with Friedelinde, since it meant Leonis’ strength and vitality states would both be S rank.

 

7. The Free Intention system is nice, since it makes it seem like you can do more in towns and when roaming around than you usually do in Idea Factory games.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maria-Garcia/100002337521506 Maria Garcia

    im really enjoying the game.I hope they will bring agarest 2 too

    • epy

      Indeed. Seeing as Amazon is constantly restocking I would like to think this game is doing well which would improve the chances of seeing Agarest War 2. 

      It is always great to see niche games doing well.

    • Ladius

      Yeah, Agarest 2 looks lovely with its redesigned sprites and battle system :) I really hoping Zero is doing well for Aksys.

  • http://chronotwist.deviantart.com/ JustThisOne

    Cool to see that it isn’t all fanservice, which was kind of what I was expecting. If there really is a cool story behind all this, then I just might pick it up.

  • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

    Ohhh, as a Agarest Wars player, i cant seriously wait to check this one out.

    I have one, no, two question tho. (this is still a 100% buy for me xD anyway)

    - Are there maps where you can walk around, get chest, and what i didnt liked before, get random battles->where you cant even run if you want to run?, i loved the random battles and walk around, but the fact i couldnt run made me feel kinda scared because on the 4th battle things could get out of hand, and you need to heal, or you are about to fight a hard boss with not much hp T_T. That was my main con with agarest wars.

    -Also, how does the dialogue/battles relation went throught the game, didnt you felt at one point that you had made too many battles with nothing of story? 

    Anyhows, ill be sure to buy this soon :D

    • EusisLandale

      The exploration areas have been changed to be more like the world map. You move from node to node, with a few battles between. Some nodes open up more routes, some have items, some do both. You do heal after the battles in these areas just as you would the world map.

      The battle:story ratio is quite a bit better this time around.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Nope, it isn’t like Blazing Souls Accelate where you can roam the battle map after clearing it. (I never bothered trying to return to a cleared node that wasn’t a town after beating it though.) There are lots of points on each map though, and you have to clear general battles to reach event nodes and major battle nodes.

      I thought there was a pretty good balance between dialogue and battles. You will spend more time battling, but it isn’t overbearing.

      • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

        Oh, then it’s like agarest wars, where everything is a big world map, and you go from point to point, but there are no these “quest” called nodes where you enter in like “exploration” mode and you walk around finding chest, the exit to get to another part of the world map with the random battles, seems like they removed this then.

        • EusisLandale

          The quest nodes on the world map are still around. They just lead to smaller maps done in the style of the world map, just overhead views of the forests, caves, & dungeons. You still have to work your way through them once to get to other parts of the world. It’s just no more “random” battles. I say that in quotes, because they weren’t really random in 1 either, you got into fights a set number of steps on a screen, the count resetting if you moved to a new screen. It was entirely possible to go through quest areas with little to no fighting if you planned your movement out and abused the step resets

          • http://thrust-the-sky.deviantart.com/ WildArms

            Cool, thanks for the info xD, now i want the game even more

  • runesong

    I’m also thoroughly enjoying this.  Currently on gen 2.  This series is definitely not for everyone, but people who played the first one would be foolish not to pick this up.

    Also, Tetora FTW!

  • Crimson_Cloud

    Ah, one of the few games where you can actually have an elf as your waifu. I played the previous one and it was awesome, and no doubt this one is even better. My ps3 Limited Edition copy arrived last week. Still haven’t played it as I didn’t buy the console yet. Heh, I’m collecting games and getting system to play it on later, lol.

    Without spoiling anything, can someone answer a question who got the limited edition? On character data guide, on page 42, all the girls that appear on it are romancable, right?  

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

       You can’t have an elf as your wife for the first generation, sadly.

      • Ladius

        If I may ask, how long was the game? I remember the first Agarest taking more than 50 hours to complete.

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          I haven’t completed the second generation yet, but I want to say the first generation took me around 20 hours to complete. 

          • andref

            Also quite glad there was only 2 generations this time I couldn’t handle playing hard mode and having to sit through five generations with the last game. Couldn’t finish it but having a blast with Zero

        • EusisLandale

          It depends on how much of the conditional events and hidden dungeon routes you unlock really. If you miss most of the stuff that can be missed, expect the game to take 20-30 hours.
          If you’re doing good about getting events and hidden routes, expect 40+ hours. 50+ hours if you count in the Digest Mode of the first game, as almost everything but story was cut away from the game in that mode, so you’ll have 6-7 fights a generation there.

      • Crimson_Cloud

        Thank you so much for the reply. Yeah it’s quite a shame, but I guess they are left for the second generation, maybe. And thanks for the small review/impressions, it’s good to know that the game is well written and nicely translated. 

  • solbalmung

    Well I just got a playstation 3 and waiting for my friend who live abroad to send me both Valkyria Chronicle and this!
    But that “Have you SEE here” in the first screenie is a bit >_<; !!!

  • http://twitter.com/Triplicitrine Triplicity/3LeafIvy

    As someone who’s always been interested in picking up the Agarest War series but hasn’t gotten around to it, this is a great article that covers both sides of the coin. “Yes, there is fanservice, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a good, in-depth game in here.” Looking forward to trying it out sometime…
    Good job.

  • Ladius

    Great playtest, Jenni! :D I have already bought Agarest Zero, but sadly I don’t think I will be able to play it before mid-August :(

  • http://twitter.com/Shikuem Laura

    I have one question:
    -The PS3 version is the same that the Xbox360 version? In japan IF released first Agares War Zero for the PS3 and later Agarest War Zero: Dawn of War for XBOX 360. The XBOX 360 version included extra content that it wasn’t in the PS3 (More costumes, CG, etc.).

    • HistorysGreatestMonster

      Both versions localized versions are based on Dawn of War.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Morandi/100000837836996 Daniel Morandi

    I prefer second generation story because it’s more serious, at least you have the plot twist and the real enemy revealed while in the first generation It was going to a place and another just for the artifacts. Even so, I agree about Eugene, he was the most funny character in the first generation and the secon one too (being an old man and having a son give him credit in this phase too)

    I wasn’t expecting a fairy in my party and the most hilarous girl for me is Shernini, it’s the first time I see a carnivorous Elf xD she even carry a chicken (decimal) as a pet but sometime she just want to eat it, she is better elf that some random pink chick >_>

  • Souji Tendou

    1. The requirement for True Ending is stupid as usual (the game doesn’t even gives you hint about it). You’ll NEED a guide to get it.

    1. You CAN play Record of Agarest (1) Digest Version AFTER you beat the game, start a New Game+ and choose Extra Mode. When you’re on the World Map after a few early battles, there will be a Quest Dungeon named “Door of Destiny”, enter it and then you can play Record of Agarest (1) Digest Version. Why Digest Version? Because you can’t choose the bride (the game chose for you) and there are also few differences compared to the original version. But look at the bright side, you can bring your Agarest Zero to Agarest (1) Digest characters (talks about overpowered characters lol) and vice versa.

    2. Terribly isn’t the proper word, or so I heard. I mean sure, “terribly sorry” sounds right but “terribly fond”, “terribly excited”, “terribly pretty”, “terribly good”?! Well, English isn’t my first language so, please forgive me if I’m wrong. :p

    • EusisLandale

      The only requirement to the true ending that seems to be out of nowhere is the part with Niel. The other, relationship levels based, requirement is fairly intuitive, though I suppose that may just be that I played the first. Even then, it’s vaguely referred to in dialog from Routier and Sayane pretty early on.

      Terribly is also informally used to mean extremely, very, and other words along those lines. Given the character, it’d make less sense if Eugene said any of that rather than terribly.

    • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

      “Terrible” or “terribly” is usually used with a negative connotation, yes, but it can also be used to mean “extreme” or “great”. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terribly In the examples you gave, it is essentially standing in for “very”; very sorry, very fond, very pretty, etc.

  • http://www.aksysgames.com Belisarius

    Glad to hear you liked it. :3
    I also really enjoyed Eugene. He had all the flamboyant humor of Winfield (and Thoma!) from the first game, but with an emotional connection to the other characters that Winfield lacked. 

  • PrinceHeir

    cool ^^

    might buy it once the price has come down however. too many games to buy O_O

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