Crimson Shroud [3DS eShop]

Over the past couple of weeks, Level-5 have been releasing a series of pretty interesting games on the 3DS eShop. Each game is designed by a well-known Japanese designer, and this past week’s release is Crimson Shroud, created by Yasumi Matsuno (Ogre Battle, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy 12, Vagrant Story.)

As a JRPG fan, I was really looking forward to this game; now that it’s out, I’m happy to say it’s actually quite good.

Crimson Shroud is structured very much like a campaign in a table-top roleplaying game, or maybe one of the Fighting Fantasy books. It’s text-heavy, with much of the narrative told from the second-person perspective as a game master might. Rather than having fully animated character models, the characters in your party (and the enemies you fight) are represented by lead figurines, which rock back and forth when they’re hit and topple over when defeated. This is about as much animation as you get in the game – this is a bit disappointing at first, but I think it’s forgivable.

The combat itself is turn-based and heavily dice-based. While a lot of the routine (to-hit) rolls are hidden, rolling to avoid an ambush or dissipate fog of war is performed by rolling dice on the lower screen of the 3DS. While it’s a bit gimmicky, it’s also kind of fun, and has some interesting gameplay ramifications. By fulfilling certain conditions during combat, you earn free dice (d4’s up to d20’s) that you can use to modify almost any outcome in the game. If your to-hit is too low, you can toss in a d6 to improve the odds. This system introduces a nice touch of resource management into an otherwise solid turn-based combat system.

There’s a lot of loot and skills to find, and the equipment improvement system seems to give you a lot of options. While I haven’t finished it yet, my understanding is that it’s a short game (6-8 hours) with some decent replay value.

I’ve enjoyed the story so far, too. The characters, tone, and setting are very reminiscent of Vagrant Story, so that’s a big point in my favor. But I think the world that’s presented is interesting, and I think the writing has been pretty good, whatever that’s worth. (Crimson Shroud was localized by Alexander Smith, who localized Vagrant Story, as well.)

At any rate, it’s only $8 on the eShop, and I thought it might appeal to some of the posters here; I’d be interested to know what everyone else thinks of it.

Level 5? Awesome
Yasumi Matsuno? Awesome
Campaign in a table-to roleplaying game? Awesome
Dice based? Awesome
Reminiscent of Vagrant Story? Awesome
3DS? Cool, I only ever played Ghost Recon on it
Text heavy JRPG? Screeeeeeeech
3DS eShop? WHAM

And we crashed. I refuse to buy games from an Nintendo Online store until they pull their head out of their asses, even for just $8.

Too bad. Anytime you throw in text heavy and jrpg in the same sentence I get nervous but I would have loved to try this.

That’s a pity, because I snagged it off the eShop and it’s really damn solid so far. :) Very pleasant surprise, and I second the Vagrant Story-ish atmosphere of the dialogue and setting.

The virtual dice-rolling is surprisingly fun. :)

However, the utter lack of documentation means that when I’m trying to figure out what effect different equipment will have, I wind up just going “well this one looks to make more numbers bigger, so…?”

I picked up this and the other Guild01 games this weekend. I guess I have to create a separate thread for Liberation Maiden.

The writing in this is very strange. As you noted it’s second person, like a tabletop adventure, but it also feels…sort of overly self-serious? I guess it evokes a kind of amateurish fantasy storytelling style.

There’s a lot of interesting ideas in here, but I find the interface presents a lot of obstacles. For instance, it took me several minutes to figure out how to equip new equipment, since it’s on the “stats” screen, but there appears to be a “view” and “equip” modes, that toggle back and forth somewhat randomly. Sometimes, I tap an item and it only lets me view it, sometimes it brings up a menu of alternate items to equip. And the whole interface feels like that. Another example: I couldn’t figure out where to drop the dice when I wanted to add them to my attack. And as you note, there are a lot of equipment numbers, but there’s very little indication what they mean.

But there are some interesting ideas in there. In combat, you get dice by building up “chains” of attacks using different elements with some limitations (can’t put this element next to that one, can’t use the same element twice in a chain). Chains gives you bonus dice.

After every battle, each character has a rotating ability that you have to re-select from a random pool of skills. So, you need to choose an ability that matches the character’s role, and fills gaps in the other abilities they have. And since each skill has an element type, you also can use that to manage your ability to make chains. Lots of interesting little choices.

The dice gimmick is kind of cute, but I’m not totally sold on it. Because you’re never guaranteed to have any number of dice going into an encounter, I feel like they might not have the ability to tune the encounters for the kind of “use the dice properly or you’ll lose” difficult choices that I might prefer. Also, at the end of combat, you have a certain number of “loot points”, with better loot costing more points. You can trade dice for loot points, which is a cool tradeoff, but I kind of feel like it just means the dice become optional bonuses, and not part of the combat core.

Maybe later encounters require dice to even hit the enemy, so you really have to manage your chains and stay alive while building up dice to then launch an attack. That would be neat, but so far they’re very optional (admittedly only about an hour in, 5 battles or so).

Oh man, I read that Guild01 wiki entry you linked, and am really hoping they bring Omasse’s Rental Weapon Shop over to North America. Sounds like a blast.

While I would definitely give it a shot, I wouldn’t expect it to. The guest designer listed is a Japanese comedian, so I’m guessing there’s a whole lot of the content that is just puns and obscure jokes. Those don’t translate well, and they often don’t even try.