A world, Verge, split into two by the war of gods long past – one half experiencing only day and the other only night. On both sides, trouble is brewing and two sets of heroes embark on a journey that will deal with the gods and the Hexyz, people who have inherited gods’ powers. At the start of the game, you get the opportunity to choose between Cecilia from the world of light or Levant from the world of dark. Cecilia’s story focuses more on character development as she travels the world, whereas Levant’s story is more heavily focused on plot, as a conspiracy involving love, politics, and magic forces him from his kingdom.
Hexyz Force is a fantasy RPG unique in the manner in which it tells its story. Of course, its characters are very well-developed, and its overall arching plot complicated. More like something from a well-written fantasy novel than what we’re accustomed to seeing in a video game, but what makes the story memorable is the decision by Sting to present one half of the story first, and then the other. The stories aren’t told from two sides of opposing forces or anything – they compound upon each other. You see the main event in one character’s point of view and then the continuation in another’s. Or you meet one character in one route, and you deal with him or learn of his past in the other. It provides for an interesting twist because the events mesh together very well, and it’s also interesting that not always is one’s “nemesis” dealt with in that person’s path.
The game system is just as complicated as the story ends up being. Battles play out in turns, with a list of who’s going next in a corner of the screen. Bottom right are the HP and RP gauges, and along the left is the battle menu. Instead of a regular attack, you get to choose between techniques you unlock, decided by the weapons you use, using FP gained from battle (kind of like how you gain EXP), each of which cost a set amount of RP. You can also use the Force Gauge to execute a special attack, which is character-specific.
Still following? There are also different types of weapons – ones that are the Ragnafacts, weapons made by the gods whose usage depends on your RP, and artificial sacred artifacts that disappear after a set number of uses. Every character also has an element – red, blue, white – which overpower each other in a rock-paper-scissor manner. On top of that the order in which these elements are used (i.e., the order in which characters attack, more or less) determines attack power-ups. For example, blue overpowers red, so using a blue-type attack after a red one lengthens the chain in the top right corner and makes the next attack 115% instead of 100% (this is just an arbitrary example, so don’t count on the numbers being right). There are also several elemental attributes that your attacks can be.
Yeah, if you wanted a complicated battle system, Hexyz Force may be the game for you.
Bitterness at the fairly lacking tutorials in this game (the entirety of the battle system was described on three pages that you flip through once in the game) aside, it wasn’t as hard as it seemed to get accustomed to all of the nitty-gritty details. Some of the facts I learned by necessity through the game, whereas others were actually fairly unimportant, such as elemental attacks. I’m sure somewhere down the line some monster was weak to a certain element, but I still managed to kill him anyways.
Other systems in the game include item creation, which is pretty complex to use correctly even though it’s your only reliable way to get strong equipment. The loot that you find on fields everywhere and after almost every battle is common enough. It’s the fact that there’s such a variety that makes getting the items you want so difficult. I was tempted to ignore this aspect of the game, but towards the end of my first route, I realized that I had to create some new armor or else I was in for a rough beating.
I played the Dark route (Levant’s) first. What really impressed me was the thought put into the plot, such that some events happened off-screen, but were really important to your current side of the story. Then in the next route, which you play after you finished Levant’s current route, you see the same event happen, as well as interactions that answer so many questions from the other route. To fully understand the events in the game, it is necessary to play both routes, although I suggest playing the Dark first. I found that while more happened in the Light route, it seems that almost everything originated in the Dark route, especially with the villains. Gameplay-wise, however, it doesn’t matter which order you play the routes in. The events are the same, with a few minor changes in what items you receive in certain places.
Now, to end with one thing I liked and one thing I didn’t. I really liked the “fast-forward switch,” as I call it. With a tap of the R button, everything in the game moved faster, battles or dialogue. It’s a handy tool to use if you accidentally died (which may happen more often than you’d like) and have to skip forward through some events to get back to where you were or if you just felt like the people were talking way too much. In battle, it’s kind of like the Auto function in the newer Persona games, except you still get to choose the orders instead of having everything automatically be physical attacks.
What I didn’t like actually had to do with this whole plot-thing I’ve been praising so wonderfully for the rest of this article. There are two to three endings available at the end of the game, depending on whether you’ve finished a route before, and this is decided by actions made through the game. However, I found it very difficult to get the “Tod of Destruction” ending because every action I chose, even when I was trying to be as nasty as possible, steered me towards the “God of Creation” ending. It was kind of grating, trying to work towards an ending when I couldn’t figure out what determined what or how. The “Judgment” screen was nice enough to show “Quest Points” and “Battle Points” that factor into either the good or evil side, but there is no explanation anywhere about how this is determined.
Despite all the trouble learning the complicated battle system, I really liked Hexyz Force. I admit this game won’t be for everyone, especially those looking to lay back and to dispense attacks with thinking or those looking for great graphics. But, people who love a good conspiracy plot laced with magic and gods will enjoy this game plenty. Gather, fantasy nerds!