Inside the realm of Japanese role-playing games, the pressure to create something innovative and ultimately successful is ever present. While Tri-Ace Studio’s upcoming title Resonance of Fate for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 has yet to tick the successful box, the mix of real-time and turn-based gameplay and the absence of magic and swords in this JRPG is helping to keep things interesting. We sat down with a hands-off demo from Tri-Ace director Takayuki Suguro and Sega producer Mitsuhiro Shimano to get a better insight into what makes Resonance of Fate stand out from the rest.
Resonance of Fate’s story is about a futuristic Earth, where poisonous gases have permeated the atmosphere, forcing people to build a giant air purifier tower known as Basel. A city develops around the Basel tower, with a strong class hierarchy taking charge of society--the upper classes live in luxury apartments at the top of Basel while the lower classes reside in camps and districts built around the base of the tower. Unbeknownst to its residents, Basel has a mind of its own, and soon enough the giant machine begins to rule lives and control destinies.
The game’s three main characters are part of the middle class, working as mercenaries and completing missions and tasks for the ruling class. You will take control of the three characters in mission-based gameplay that will involve unlocking more areas of the Basel tower to reach the top, and you'll battle a mix of enemies and bosses along the way.
According to Suguro and Shimano, Resonance of Fate stands out from other JRPGs because of the decision to use guns rather than traditional magic and swords, something that the developers were unsure of at first.
“We wanted to step away from traditional RPGs and go with something that will make sense given the game’s gritty context and setting in a world ruled by machines,” Suguro said. “Traditional swords and magic in RPGs is becoming very banal. We wanted something different with acrobatic actions and camera angles.
“The other main difference between our game and other RPGs is the tempo. We know that Western gamers don’t really like the slow nature of the command and turn-based battle systems, so we tried to create something different with the incorporation of real-time elements. We wanted to make a hybrid between an RPG and an action game.”
The real-time elements are so prominent that Resonance of Fate is in fact being marketed as a real-time game. The tri-attack battle system in the game incorporates a mixture of real-time and turn-based elements in the gameplay--you will control each of the three characters in turn in order to defeat an enemy. Each character must traverse a fixed course (denoted by a blue line onscreen), which is set by you. The objective is to make this trajectory as long as possible within the limitations of the screen in order to give the character enough time to hit the enemy as many times as possible before reaching the end of the trajectory. It is also necessary to interject character trajectories to build up something called “Resonance attacks,” which will see all three characters attacking the enemy at the same time. Once a character’s turn is over, the enemy will make its move, followed by your second character, and so on.
During attacks, characters can continually switch weapons and use a charging system by pressing the attack button at the right time in correspondence to an onscreen meter, which will increase damage. Once an enemy is defeated, new areas of the map will be unlocked, and you will gain access to in-game currency and new parts to be used in the game’s extensive weapon customization menu.
“We think the battle system in Resonance of Fate is a lot easier than traditional RPGs,“ Suguro said. “We wanted to give players more room for exploration and strategic thinking in battles by giving them an easy system to master, which will allow for more creativity if the game is played through a second or third time.”
To keep the tempo of the battles quick, the developers severely reduced the length of the battle animations, which means you will not have to wait a long time before jumping back into it.
The game’s real-time element also comes through in the animated cutscenes, which all play out in real time. This means that things like the time of day and the characters’ clothes and appearance (which can all be customized) are reflected in the visually stunning mini movies.
The game also includes three features designed to heighten its replay value: a battle retry option that lets you restart any battle if you are defeated, a quick-save feature that lets you save the game at any point, and a new game plus feature that allows you to replay the game from start to finish using the same items you did in the last play-through.
“These features are there because we wanted players to think about the combat strategy they employ in battles and try out different things,” Suguro said. “We also wanted to give hardcore gamers the option of replaying through the game without the need to go back and acquire everything they need all over again. That way it’s more fun and challenging and gives players more time for exploration.”
While the game is still in its final stages of development, Suguro and Shimano are confident that Resonance of Fate will appeal to the Western market as much as it does to the Japanese market.
“We were careful to remove some of the things in the game that we know Western players don’t like, like the lack of tempo during battles. We hope and believe that everyone will like it. It’s very different, from its battle system down to the visuals. It was a leap of faith for us and we hope it pays off.”