Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden is the third entry of Square Enix’s Voice of Cards series, released less than a year after the previous title, The Forsaken Maiden. It is a JRPG that feels like a tabletop RPG (TTRPG) due to its usage of cards for the entire game. As one may expect from a Yoko Taro work, the story is hauntingly beautiful, and occasionally upsetting. It is nothing as sad as NieR Automata or unsettling as Drakengard, thankfully. Its short length definitely left me wanting more, which is in stark contrast to how I wanted things to stop in the two aforementioned games.
Despite The Beasts of Burden’s uniquely minimalist aesthetic when it comes to the world’s environment, I never felt bored. This is due to the narration throughout. Yui Ishikawa is a fantastic game master with a soothing cadence. The game also employs certain tactics to make it feel like a real TTRPG. For example, Ishikawa sometimes says a line twice, as if she stuttered and had to repeat herself. I do not know if these were on a script, or are genuine bloopers. But it gives the game an organic RPG feel that is so different from other games that it remained charming throughout.
The Beasts of Burden does feel rather sluggish at times. This is because each step you take has two animations. Firstly, your piece has to move from card to card. Secondly, cards around you need to flip in order to reveal the map. There is also a slight lag when you access or exit the menu, as well as when you open up your collection. While each delay only lasts a second, it really starts to accumulate. This can make playing Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden…well, a minor burden. The lag may be because I played it on the Nintendo Switch. But I’m sure other platforms experience the same issue in regards to map animations.
Incidentally, while the game warns that “weird things” may happen when you play the game at a faster speed, I never encountered any problems. When I played on normal speed, I still experienced all the minor lag issues I mentioned earlier. In fact, I changed the game speed because I got impatient. So I recommend playing the game at the highest speed setting, since the Switch can definitely handle it.
Now, let’s talk briefly about what the game is about. The plot of Voice of Cards: The Beasts of Burden centers on Al’e. She is a subterran girl who serves as a guard for her underground village. On her birthday, monsters attack and a mysterious boy named L’gol rescues her. After some mishaps, the two set off together to search for the stars. This is a more difficult journey than it sounds because they live in a land where the sun never sets. Despite such an engaging and poetic set-up, most of the story focuses on the conflict between humans and monsters. And if you are a veteran of Yoko Taro games, you can likely predict a lot of the twists in such a narrative.
The Beasts of Burden feels like an entry-level Yoko Taro game that you would use to introduce him to your friends. It is short and easy, though still challenging enough that you have to keep your wits about you. The characters are all surprisingly sweet despite their pasts and circumstances. They were great motivators. Even when I started to get bored, I pushed on because I wanted to see L’gol be cute. Some of the flipside stories leave a bad aftertaste in your mouth. But overall, the plot of the game is surprisingly “hopeful.” It’s a great game for new players to see if Yoko Taro’s unique worldview suits them.