Anachronox is a solid addition to the genre and makes up for some rough spots with a welcome sense of humor and a lot of personality.
Japanese role-playing games are a staple of console gaming. But aside from some lackluster ports, they've been almost nonexistent on the PC. Developer Ion Storm is attempting to redress this imbalance with Anachronox, a Final Fantasy-inspired game designed specifically for the PC. It manages to stay true to its console roots while modifying the formula in a few key areas, not the least of which is the addition of plot and dialogue not translated from Japanese. Though these changes are too subtle to bridge the gap between people who enjoy this type of linear adventure-RPG hybrid and those who don't, Anachronox is a solid addition to the genre and makes up for some rough spots with a welcome sense of humor and a lot of personality.
However, there is one major caveat: The game gets off to a slow start. Though the convention in this genre is to keep you on rails for a while before opening up, Anachronox is a little ridiculous in this respect. The first five or six hours involve lots and lots of running mindless errands without much in the way of combat, puzzle solving, or anything else that could be considered good gameplay to break up the monotony. You'll generally be asked to walk somewhere, get something, or talk to somebody, and walk back. In most cases, this involves two or three transitions between areas. Worse yet, in between the loading times from area to area, you'll have to ride on elevators, which means watching an unavoidable animation of you riding the elevator--a tactic seemingly designed for no other purpose than to annoy you. The whole thing is like watching a five-hour cutscene powered by you tapping the left mouse button.
The beginning part introduces you to the main character, Sylvester "Sly" Boots, a down-on-his-luck private detective living in a futuristic city built on a mysterious, giant alien artifact. As usual with private detectives, he owes money all over town to the wrong kinds of people. His attempt to get a job and pay back his debts eventually leads him off of Anachronox on a quest to save the universe. Though it all sounds pretty standard, there's a lot of cleverness in the dialogue and plot details. Anachronox joins the short list of games such as Giants: Citizen Kabuto and Grim Fandango that manage to successfully convey an actual sense of humor--not "funny for a game" funny, but legitimately funny.
This humor helps mitigate the uneventful first five hours of gameplay. But the best way to get through it is simply to keep reminding yourself that it's going to get better, because the following 25 hours really do pick up; the fighting becomes more varied, more complex, and more frequent, and both the strict linearity and the traditional errand puzzles become better disguised.
The combat system lies somewhere between the high watermark set by the Grandia series and the relative simplicity of something like the one used in Skies of Arcadia. Fights occur in real time with each character requiring a varying recovery period between each combat action. The biggest tactical addition to the system is the inclusion of movement. Characters can move between set points on a grid overlaid across the battlefield. This allows for a real difference between melee and ranged weaponry, as characters armed only with close-in weapons must maneuver themselves next to opponents, and from this position they may block the line of sight of characters farther away. Though it's a simple feature, it helps break the attack-heal routine inherent in a lot of fighting systems in these sorts of games.
Just clicked the download button on GOG, heard of this game for the first time through the site, and haven't read a single bad thing about the game so far! I love the classics, graphics are trully overrated.
@NeilCardiff I downloaded it 6 days ago. Love it. And I own and love Deus Ex (GOG) and Half-Life (Steam). And Unreal Tounament GOTY (GOG) is the holy grail of multiplayer arena FPSes.
@nate1222 Just downloaded it now. There are some truly great older games out there if you aren't all bent out of shape and can cope without the latest graphics. These spoilt kids who moan about their eyes bleeding if a game is over 12 months old will never let themselves play classics like Deus Ex, System Shock and Half Life.