Tri-Ace's upcoming Japanese role-playing game, Resonance of Fate, called End of Eternity in Japan, deviates from the traditional RPG formula by replacing long swords and magic spells with a copious number of bullets and customizable machine guns. We had an opportunity to meet with director Takayuki Suguro from Tri-Ace to go over the story and battle mechanics in greater detail. The last time we saw the game was in Japanese at the 2009 Tokyo Game Show, but this time our demo consisted of trying to wrap our heads around the battle mechanics and all the customization features.
The general premise of the story is that it is set in a future where Earth's environment has deteriorated to a point where life can no longer be sustained without the aid of machines. The humans have banded together to build an enormous tower called Basel, which essentially acts as your overworld. Instead of wandering through desolate wastelands or rolling plains, you'll be climbing this majestic skyscraper and exploring the intricate network that is found within. The layout is interesting in that the structure of each floor is composed of hexagons that are linked together. As you fight in-game, you'll collect hexagon pieces called energy hexes, which you'll place on the map like a puzzle piece to unlock new areas and discover new items. Unexplored turf is grayed out until you place these pieces on the map, and when you do, like magic, buildings will pop up for you to enter and explore.
Instead of leveling your characters as you would in a traditional RPG, in Resonance of Fate, it's all about your weapon and how it is customized. As you level, you can carry heavier, more-complicated weapons, with greater features like faster load times or a different scatter pattern. At first you might just be trigger-happy with a small handgun, but as you progress through the game and collect new parts, you can add some crazy attachments to machine guns that make them look impossible to carry, let alone shoot. In your customization menu, your weapon is placed on a grid, so as long as you have room on the grid, you can add pieces to it, as long as they fit and the parts match up. There are 10 different weapon types to experiment with and dozens of parts to collect.
Gameplay seemed a little confusing at first, because there are several elements to the fight, but it's fairly simple once you know all the rules and how it all works. You control a party of three and battles are a cross between turn-based and real time. After you aim at your target, the charging system--indicated by the reticle--determines how much damage you'll deal. By charging up your attack--which is faster if you're closer to your enemy--and taking more time to aim, you'll execute a more powerful attack. As you're building up your charge, you'll be vulnerable to enemies, so instead of standing there and firing, you can use one of your orange capsules displayed at the bottom of your screen to do a hero action attack. These orange capsules are limited and can be recharged only when you defeat an enemy, so you need to use them wisely if you want to survive. The hero attack lets you draw a line across the screen and lets you run and gun without taking any damage. By crossing paths with one of your teammates, you gain resonance points, which can be spent to perform a tri-attack with your entire party. This was a lot to digest at first, but it looks like the gameplay is a careful balance between managing your capsules and moving your characters around. You want to have them positioned in such a way that it would be easier to have them cross each other's path and form a triangle so that you can get in three attacks or more.
All characters as well as enemies have two health gauges to keep an eye on. The blue bar indicates your scratch damage, and the green is your direct damage. Scratch damage is temporary and heals over time, but you need to have someone deal scratch damage with a specific weapon before the second person can come in and finish off the enemy by dealing direct damage. The members of your party will take scratch damage initially, and as long as you have orange capsules left, they can heal. However, if you're out of capsules from executing a hero action, you'll start to take direct damage. This may seem like a lot of gauges to keep track of, but you'll also need to keep an eye out for enemies that have armor or other body parts that you can target, which will be highlighted by a green semicircle. In some cases, you'll need to get through their armor before dealing real damage, but in some instances you can sneak around back and attack them from behind to avoid the armor worn in front. In one example, a creature was hiding inside an oil drum, and we had to break its shield first before we could attack.
Despite all these things to keep track of, the battle looked like it flowed smoothly as we watched the characters take turns doing outrageous flips and firing away. The fancy footwork made battles a spectacle to watch, because it's all very stylish and well done. You can customize your character's clothing, hair, and eyes so that he or she can be up to date with the latest fashion trends in-game. We were shown a brief cutscene that highlighted the main protagonists of the game, Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne. You'll likely find their voices familiar too, because Nolan North and Scott Menville provide the voices for the two male leads. We didn't get a chance to explore too much of the world, but from what we've seen so far, it looks like it's going to be full of elaborate, well-choreographed battles.
Be sure to look for our full review when Resonance of Fate is released on March 16.