I wanted to know what happens in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG after the first major boss fight in chapter four. I wanted to know why a major character appeared in a dungeon connected to another character, even though the game never mentioned before that moment that the two knew each other. I wanted an experience that actually rewarded successful combos in attack minigames. It would have been nice if the game told me prior to one in-game puzzle that pressing a certain button would allow Alex to carry things. Unfortunately, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG didn’t give me any of the things I wanted from it.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG wants to look like games from the Mother series. It has a bright, colorful, and contemporary setting. Characters are often goofy, consisting of wobbly emojis, samurai rats, and men who look like sheep. The UI is reminiscent of the iconic RPG, and characters have goofy flavor text when they perform actions. However, it lacks the same heart and charm as the Nintendo game, even while trying hard to mimic the experience. But then, this is a minor failing, compared to the many other problems present in the game.
The biggest issue in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is its battle system. Like the Mario & Luigi series, it has turn-based combat with minigames. Unlike Mario & Luigi, these minigames don’t offer a boost if you manage to get the timing right. You have to perfectly perform them to deal any damage. This is terrible. The indicators are often too small to hit accurately or can be obscured, which is especially a problem with getting Claudio’s and The Essentia 2000’s attacks right. Some only give you two or three seconds to see what the next input should be, like Michael’s. The degree to which you succeed is supposed to have an effect on how strong the attack is, but I often didn’t see that big of a difference. There were times when getting a 6-hit combo or 9-hit combo with Chondra didn’t have any impact on the amount of damage dealt. The running away minigame would sometimes toss enemies out randomly that were impossible to dodge. Combine this with foes that have far more health than you and characters that I never saw do more than 15 damage, and every turn-based battle against ordinary enemies can end up being a 5-15 minute affair.
While YIIK: A Postmodern RPG‘s battle system already seemed unforgiving and tedious, it was made worse with what seemed like lag and stuttering in these in-battle minigames. I guess a standard PlayStation 4 isn’t as capable as you would expect anymore, because sometimes a defensive minigame would start with the indicator 1/5th of the way from the top or an attack minigame’s cursor movement would experience a hiccup. Since every action requires accurate and successful inputs to accomplish anything, this dragged out an already excruciating process.
It is this battle system that kept me from beating YIIK: A Postmodern RPG. I was playing ahead of launch since the end of December 2018. By the time I ended chapter three, all of my characters were at level 15. Admittedly, I did run from three battles the Mountain Town’s cave, because things were excruciatingly slow and punishing, but I had no trouble getting through the third chapter and beat its boss without any issue. Chapter four began with Alex getting to know Claudio and Chondra better, so he could use their van to investigate some suspicious areas. There were no battle opportunities there and, since the van would allow me to immediately travel to the place where I had seen a suspicious van in the previous chapter, I did not encounter any other fights before the first boss of chapter four.
The first chapter four boss annihilated me. As I mentioned, my party members were all at level 15. The boss was at level 23. The first round of the fight, without fail, the boss would get to launch two attacks in a row. These could be devastating, and avoiding them meant perfectly completing some of those problematic minigames I mentioned earlier. I attempted it five times before asking one of the people involved in making the game for help, because each time two characters would fall and the rest would barely even knick the boss before succumbing to its attacks. The enemies on the world map outside of that area were all around level 14 and 15. What was the solution? When I checked, I was advised to level grind to about level 17 or 18. Most battles at that point consisted of about four enemies. Since I had a full party of four characters, a battle could take at least 10 minutes. That could pass 15 if enemies called Divine Spirits were present, as these have a healing skill that heals all enemies in their party, including themselves, for 8-18 health. I hit the wall and couldn’t bring myself to spend a couple of hours just taking part in these battles so I might maybe be strong enough to complete a battle against a damage sponge that had already infuriated me.
Healing is an issue too. As I mentioned earlier, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is a game that relies on low stats. This means characters will have single digit health when the game begins. The problem is, health and PP healing items and skills offer recovery based on percentages. 15% of 10 isn’t going to do much for you in a game where the enemies you are facing could do an average of 2-4 points of damage early on. Even if you get an item that recovers over 50%, that won’t do much once you start entering battles with three or more foes. Also, the only 100% restoration item I saw in the game was a product that none of the stores I encountered were selling, which was very disappointing.
But the real disrespect comes from the errors and problems that made it through to the final build of the game. Let’s start with Alex. In general, I am not a fan of him. I don’t like his attitude and personal choices. (Two of the options to begin romantic relationships with other characters have him picking an option to "kiss" someone after they talk about a traumatic experience in their life, which feels predatory.) But the real reason I hate him is because I played 26 hours of this game and, throughout the duration of it, he routinely managed to only do between 1-3 damage to any enemy. This would happen even after successfully getting a 9-hit combo in his minigame. (I was told a patch would be released at launch to address this issue.) Other characters have issue with damage output as well, but Alex’s problem was inexcusable.
While the issue I experienced with Alex was infuriating and meant that I only kept him around to perform Panda Barrier and block all party damage for between one and two turns, it didn’t actively break the game. YIIK: A Postmodern RPG has issues that would require me to completely quit, restart, and hope I had stopped by an in-game phone to save recently. It was as though I was bug testing, rather than reviewing the game.
The first major problem happened outside of Flag Town in the game’s third chapter. There is a fast food restaurant in the field that, if you interact with it, brings up a menu of items you can buy. The problem is, when I entered its "parking lot" area, a random battle occurred. YIIK: A Postmodern RPG then showed the shop interface while in the midst of a random battle. Since the game has those mandatory minigames to attack, defend, or escape a battle and all rely on visual cues, it was impossible to fight my way out or run. I had to exit the game.
The second major problem happened in the last dungeon in the third chapter. You go into a specific person’s Mind Dungeon. One room in there has a water fountain, the only place you can heal for free. Okay. Fine. Except after I visited a room on the far right, which was originally blocked by a manifestation of certain character’s father, something in YIIK: A Postmodern RPG broke. When I went back into the water fountain room, it was like I was both in there and back in the previous living room area. The first time, I was able to exit that "room" without a problem. When I went back in to see if it would happen again (it did), I found I couldn’t get out and had to close the game and restart to escape the issue.
Even when things work, the game can fail to explain things in a way that make sense. Puzzles can be deliberately obtuse. Here’s how to solve one offender, as it involves a mechanic never used in the game prior to that point. In the third chapter’s final dungeon, there will be a room with three red buttons, a ramp, a door to nowhere, and two monster battles. The first thing you have to do is use Panda on either the far left or far right button. Then, Alex has to stand on the other button and use Dali the cat to hit the third button. This causes another room with another ramp to drop in this area’s empty space. If you haven’t done so already, go into the main hall and place Panda in the path of the skateboarding girl to get her skateboard as a tool. Head back to this purple room. Fight the monsters. Go to the door at the far end. A ladder will fall out. Now, here is the important part. Use the triangle button to pick up the ladder. Even though going near it prompts an exclamation point that normally means you are supposed to use X to interact with something, use triangle. (This was the first and only time I had to use this mechanic during my time with YIIK: A Postmodern RPG.) Carry it to the blank wall. Climb up and drop Panda between two of the three white lines, remembering which lane you chose. Go back near that door to nowhere. Use the skateboard in the same lane Panda is in. Congratulations! You did it!
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is a tedious and broken game. It is the sort where you have to save often, because it could break or leave you in a bad situation. The battles you start facing by the end of its second chapter make the ones in the beginning seem brief, short, and almost pleasant. The balance is entirely off, and I am unsure if it is possible to fix it.
YIIK: A Postmodern RPG is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.