Imagine you’re a little kid and your parents promise you a DSLite for Christmas. Then imagine getting one of those Tiger Electronic handheld toys instead of the DSLite come Christmas morning. That’s what Inuyasha: Secret of the Divine Jewel feels like. The secret isn’t the divine jewel, it’s the disappointing fact that you don’t get to play as any of the main characters from the anime. Do you feel let down? Me too.
Instead of playing as Inuyasha or Kagome, you play as Janis, an American girl who is forced to move to Japan with her parents. She befriends Kagome and one day while looking for Kagome, goes down a mysterious well and finds herself in feudal Japan and that is how the game starts. From the get-go, my impression is that the game is catered to a younger audience. No, it’s not the cute super-deformed characters or the catchy music that tipped me off. It’s because the game over-explains almost everything. Younger gamers may find this a welcome feature because they might not catch things the first time around, but it gets a bit condescending for older gamers.
As noted before, the characters are extremely cute in a super-deformed-chibi kind of way. Overall, the visuals are decent and what you would expect from an anime-based game. Towns are vibrant and crisp and fighting cut-scenes are exaggerated. The music is equally as pleasing, goes well with the feudal Japan setting, and actually reminds me of the anime. While the colors are vibrant, sometimes I think some screens are a little too vibrant. I have a hard time staring at the bottom screen with the red tiling background for long periods of time because the way the background tiles and the brightness of the screen gives me a headache. It also doesn’t help when there’s text to be read off of there.
Luckily, there isn’t too much text to go through and most of the time seems to be spent exploring the world. What does exploring the world entail? Lots and lots of random fights. For a game tailoring to a younger audience, the frequency of random battles is surprising. I honestly can’t walk more than five steps without getting into a random fight. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the fights didn’t take so much time. When first entering fighting mode, the game is split between two screens. On the bottom screen is the player-controlled team and on the top screen is the enemy team. In a typical turn-based manner, when it is a character’s turn, the player has to pick what action to take (attack, special, items, runaway, defend, etc.). When an action is taken, the bottom screen switches with the top screen and the player can pick which enemy to attack with the selected character. After that, the screen changes once again and the bottom screen shows an animation of the characters’ brawl. Repeat that for every attack for each character on each team and you get a lot of scene switches and a lot of time spent on random fights.
I’m confused about the motive of the game designers of this game. The chibi-artwork and dialog seems to be catered toward children, but I don’t think a younger gamer would have the patience to wade through so many random encounters. If the designers made the game to cater to fans of the series, why make them play as an unknown character instead of as Kagome or Inuyasha? I’m not that far into the game, but maybe these questions will be revealed when the secret of the divine jewel is revealed.