At first glance, Lizsoft’s Fortune Summoners appears simple. It’s a 2D side-scrolling adventure, with the usual fare of dungeon spelunking and monster slaying. The controls are keyboard only; no mouse, even in menus. The main characters are three young girls accompanied by a magical floating rabbit-like spirit. However, underneath everything that is commonplace lies a fairly difficult game that challenged me the whole way through.
Arche, Sana, and Stella are the three stars of Fortune Summoners. Arche is a cheerful swordsman (swordsgirl?), naïve to the point of obliviousness. Sana is quiet and shy water mage, but very dedicated to her friends. Stella is a rich fire mage who is prickly to everyone and has no friends. All three are classmates in the Minasa-Ratis magic school.
Elemental Stones control magic in the world of Fortune Summoners and is as common as bread. Sana has a water-based Elemental Stone. Stella has a fire-based one. Arche has … nothing, and, unfortunately, because of this she can’t participate in class. Eventually, she does find one, but all it does is spit out a magical bunny; it won’t make magic like she needs it to until all three Wind Crests are assembled.
Thus, the three new friends embark on a journey to find the Wind Crests and to unravel the mystery behind Arche’s new wind-based Elemental Stone.
In Fortune Summoners, you take control of a one character at a time. You can switch between your companions with the press of a button. Each character has a distinct fighting style that heavily affects gameplay. I really like how easy it is to switch between the characters if you need to micromanage a battle according to the situation. The commands you can use to control your party can also be accessed at a touch, and you can even heal quickly with a single button.
Each character has her own style of fighting. Arche, because she has no magic, relies solely on physical attacks. Her sword’s range is very short and thus you’ll need a lot of patience and strategy just to get her close enough to strike the enemy. Guarding is essential and sometimes the only way to defeat your average slimeball.
Sana, with her water spell, focuses on status effect and healing spells. Her attack shoots out in a straight line, and her spells are strong. The spells are designed such that they’re fairly easy to dodge, though.
On the other hand, Stella has offensive fire spells such as creating fire walls to block off the enemy – thus giving you more time to cast another spell – and homing spells. Her attacks bounce back and forth like a yo-yo in front of her. She’s my favorite character to use. Different situations call for different strategies. If I’m facing fast-moving enemies, like Kobolds or Cocorats (squirrel-fox creatures) and I have a party of Arche and Stella, then I would take control of Arche to have her guard and act as a shield so that Stella can pull off a spell and roast everyone in one shot. If the enemies are flying, swooping ones like bats or moth-bees, then I’d take control of Stella and cast a fire wall and watch the monsters burn as they tried to charge me.
That being said, the AI in this game is amazing, both for your characters and for the enemies. Arche, when controlled by the computer, is even better than me at exterminating the nasty critters! In fact, if you use the quick heal button, you will automatically use the best item for the situation (this even applies for curing effects like poison).
On the other hand, the monsters are very smart. They always follow certain patterns (for example, the Cocorat hops up to you with a flying jump kick before kicking at you like a kangaroo, and once its health is down, it runs away and starts hurling acorns at you), but they will dodge, and they will block your attacks. They will get behind you if they can. This, combined with the severe limitations each character has, makes Fortune Summoners a challenging game despite the cutesy art.
In addition to fighting styles, each girl also differs in how they can use their abilities outside of battle.
Stella can burn down vines and brambles blocking your way, as well as light torches. Sana can walk underwater without losing health (but since she can hardly fight on her own, beware of underwater enemies and be prepared to run!). Arche is the only one who can push crates and various vehicles around. All of these abilities are used liberally through the dungeons and sometimes, you’ll have to backtrack to old dungeons with a previously missing party member if you want to fully explore areas.
The dungeons are veritable mazes. This may not sound like anything surprising, but recent years of gaming have accustomed me to the idea of a map when a dungeon is this complicated – doors upon doors upon corridors upon corridors. No such thing exists in Fortune Summoners. I have had to backtrack to explore every possible route more times in this game than I have in almost every other RPG I’ve played. On top of that, puzzles require you to run back and forth between a switch and the door it controls, and sometimes you’ll find yourself running through the same dungeon ten times to heal yourself or to advance the storyline. Luckily, Arche and co. run pretty quickly for girls with such short legs, and almost every encounter is avoidable. Backtracking isn’t as painful as it could have been, but it is very prevalent.
For a game that requires so heavily on timing and active battling, though, the controls could have been more sensitive. I’ve found myself frustrated many a time because Arche would not turn when I wanted her to. It took quite a bit to get used to, and even then, it caused many an irritating death that could have easily been avoided.
I wasn’t particularly fond of the fact that you always have to draw her sword for her to attack, as opposed to it being automatic, either. The mechanic seems to be there to prevent you from investigating chests and items with enemies around; however, the point seems moot when you can press a different button for her examine these objects with your sword out anyways. The tutorials aren’t very good and you’ll have to look through the menus and the included manual yourself to figure out the finer details of using abilities and magic. They’re there, but require some digging.
The same goes for advancing the game. What you have to do next isn’t always very clear. Other than these flaws, though, I was very impressed by the amount of adjusting and strategy required to play as the different girls and by the dungeon designs in Fortune Summoners. I enjoyed trying to figure out different ways for the girls to work together as they trek through night impossible labyrinths. The game isn’t very long, but is a tough one, wrought with challenges the whole way.
Food for thought:
1.) I really like the graphics. Simple, but detailed. The art, not so much, but I’m willing to overlook it.
2.) The enemies are very good at dodging. So good, in fact, that I like to play jump rope them with them using Stella’s yoyo-style fireball. They never come any closer. They just jump, and jump,with jump and … perfectly in time with your attack.
3.) Items in this game are … cheap, cheap, cheap. Except for weapons. They want you to fight and earn your right to use those.
4.) There are four difficulty levels that you can change at any time. I’m playing at Normal. I shudder at the thought of Hard difficulty.
5.) There are several bonuses you can unlock as with go through the game. The ones I’ve unlocked by the sixth chapter include 1-vs.-1 battles an AI, and automated gameplay, where you watch the computer control all your characters and run through a random map. This latter would probably be handy in trying to figure out the best way to defeat new enemies since the AI is so good.