I’m not going to lie, I’ve been mauling over this review. I originally had a set plan for it but honestly that went in a bad direction. As a gamer, I enjoyed this game but as a reviewer, I am conflicted with the fact that I may or may not recommend this game depending on what type of gamer you consider yourself. I am personally a person who tests out all things besides sports (nothing against sports). The reason for this is that I feel sports titles require far more dedication I am willing to give to the genre in order to spot any new intricacies from the previous title. It requires delicate attention and only someone who has the enthusiasm to stick with each new iteration would ever do a genre like that justice. This is pretty much how I am with everything else. Played to many games in my lifetime to admit and currently own a good number of current gen titles in which to compare these releases with. Anyways, before I get off track, time to proceed with the review of this game.
Record of Agarest War Zero, a prequel to the game that came out in 2009, is a dying breed. Its a strategic RPG in a world where everything is taken at a more action-oriented pace. Its interesting, but not to the point where I’d say its new. We’ve all been here before if you ever played a classic RPG. You gather a team with seemingly common interest to go save the world. If its one thing that grinds my gears more than most things is the problem of things becoming way to cliched. I have to say, this game, is a cliche. Also, down is the length of the story. The previous game spent the entirety of 5 Generations to get the story across but in all honesty, it could have been done in less. I guess its more of a moot point depending on the quality I suppose. Maybe its also that I went through this game on Extra mode which reduced the number of battle points (THANK GOD).
The quality of the story, its decent. Its not like the first one, something about the first just seemed bigger. Maybe because it was the first game. Also missing is what made my trip through Agarest 1 more enjoyable, the entirety of the 3rd Generation. Actually, that may be the thing that bothers me the most. Each generation has a different character with different personalities. Some party members also stuck through all generations or arrived later and were still relative to the plot. Agarest Zero, being two generations seem to focus less on that of its main characters. It just feels like it lacks character and the nagging feeling like you’ve been here before because you can draw blatant similarities between the starting cast of this game to those of the first.
Actually, let me change that. This game is less about the main characters and more about the villains. Its a decent change but the story also only executes in two parts. Actually, the first part of the game just doesn’t feels like it matters. You spend a good majority playing fetch boy to get items to create a weapon, which is proceeded by you releasing the big god smith guy, Hass Calinou. Afterwards you proceed to the next half and trying to stop the taking over of the world. Its pretty cut-and-dry.
One of the things however that you will find better are the menus. After Idea Factory’s work on titles like Cross Edge, I guess they realized they needed a more user-friendly menu system. Its all mostly the same standard affair with checking party equipment, stats, setting battle formation, etc. They expanded on the gallery a bit as well as allowing you to use images as backgrounds for the menu. Even so, it still feels a bit lacking. The quest system is also a tad generic. Obtain this many of these items, kill this many enemies, create this many items, enhance this many times, etc. Its everything you would have expect if your expectations were still back in the PS2 era of RPGs which honestly, a lot of peoples expectations are still stuck in last gen from my observation. The game is honestly a time period to late when it comes to menus and lets not forget this is still a step up from the previous title.
Battle is done similar to the previous game, not many real changes. You can now see the effects of combination skills used in fights as well highlighting other members of the party to see their extend area on the field. I forgot to mention, battles are done turn-based style like Final Fantasy Tactics. The one thing that separates this from that is the focus on linking characters together by “extend areas” to perform combination skills. Its something different and its your only real method of putting up any serious damage and the benefits are worth keeping them linked.
As you can see there are some improvements but overall not by much. The game is definitely better overall than its predecessor but that brings me to something else. If you never had the chance to play the first game or wanted to, it may or may not be beneficial to do so. I can see how an argument over this could go and there’s an answer for this. If you aren’t concerned for achievements or trophies than don’t pick it up. Reason why is that the story is included with Agarest Zero but there are some hurdles to pass to access it. They aren’t particularly demanding but I leave you to decide.
There are two methods to gain the ability to play through the story of the first game. You can either import a clear save from Agarest 1 (which is what I did) and play on Extra Mode or you can go through Agarest Zero once and unlock Extra mode that way. Its entirely up to you however levels do not character over on a New Game. All you money, items, skills, etc do so you may actually be at an advantage here considering that Extra Mode is basically Hard Mode. Its really up to you but you can save yourself some money by not getting the first. My recommendation honestly is that once you unlock Extra Mode, no matter which way, head to your consoles online store and buy the Forbidden Tome DLC packs. There should be three and these allow you to user those Agarest 1 characters by going to the Alchemist’s Guild.
Overall, I think that pretty much wraps this up. Would I suggest giving this game a try? If you like JRPGs and have an SRPG itch that I seem to have frequently, then sure. It has its quirks but honestly speaking, so do most games. Nothing is perfect but there really aren’t many options. You have this and Disgaea, take your pick. This one is just a tad more serious in story and not as much about fan-service. It still has its fair share but the story is definitely worth reading if you have to pick one of the two. I still wouldn’t disqualify the competition though.
This review is based on the PS3 version on Extra Mode (save imported from first game) of the game which have nearly identical content to that of the 360 version. The differences are mostly that of items gained during points in the story. Negligible differences overall.