RPG fans are sick of saving ungrateful worlds. Every other week there's some despotic warlord who needs deposing, a corrupt wizard who needs destroying, or an ultimate evil that needs little more than a solid 1000-year sealing away. So it's not surprising that RPG fans drowning in a sea of uninspired, uninteresting RPGs enjoyed Square's offbeat action-RPG, Brave Fencer Musashi. Sure, BFM had quests to win and townspeople to rescue, but just as much time was spent dancing against Topo, collecting action figures of the game's heroes and villains (more valuable unopened, of course), and avoiding the homoerotic advances of Scribe Shanky. As the spiritual successor to BFM, Threads of Fate (formerly Dewprism) has a lot to live up to. But fear not, Fencer faithful: Threads of Fate is more eccentric - and more wonderful - than you could ever want it to be.
Threads of Fate's story is revealed through two adventurers: Rue and Mint. Rue is an enigmatic, taciturn youth who slays enemies with his enchanted weapon, the "arc edge." Once Rue has dispatched a foe, he can magically assume its form and powers for a brief period. Mint is a treasure seeking, power hungry princess who will crush anything and anyone in her path to regain her usurped throne. And she's cute, too! At the start of the game, you choose to play as one of the two characters - but even though you play solely as that character throughout the game, both stories frequently intertwine.
The gameplay differs depending on your chosen character. As a physical fighter, Rue relies on his ax, but the value of his special technique cannot be understated. Rue can temporarily take the form of any enemy he's defeated, replicating its shape, fighting techniques, and special attacks to a T. Choosing the correct "shape" to bypass an obstacle is an exercise in creative thinking: Your available skill set is as large as your hit list. Mint, however, plays entirely differently. She drop-kicks and ring-slaps opponents with her set of dual hand hoops, sashaying around the levels like a berserk Chinese gymnast. When she's not dealing out her circular smackdown, she's casting spells from her several varieties of elemental magic.
Graphically, the game is simple yet striking; the colorful and vibrant design plays to the PlayStation's strengths. Simple, well-textured models populate real-time 3D environments with nary a polygon seam in sight. What the game lacks in FMV sequences and prerendered backgrounds it makes up for with distinctive, well-designed visual flair. Aurally, the game delivers perky if forgettable tunes that match the environments closely.
But Threads of Fate's greatest strength lies in the unquantifiable realm of "character." Rue may not say much, but he has a secret or two up his sleeve. Mint is a backstabbing, self-centered, greedy little princess who always gets her way - and you'll love her for it. You won't forget many of the supporting characters, either - like Rod, the egotistical duelist who hot-rods in his hydrofoil, the "pulsar-inferno typhoon omega" (which Mint nicknames "pinto"); Primadoll, the naïve yet outspoken Pinocchio boy; or Fancy Mel, a helpful adventurer clad in a bunny hat and poufy dress. Each outrageous character is brought to life via the humorous dialogue, which instantly creates a distinct and memorable cast. Square's strong localization streak continues with Threads of Fate - the English dialogue is witty and humorous, and each character speaks with a distinctive tone. The unique character designs and dialogue overshadow the throwaway plot, making the game a surreal and completely enjoyable experience.
Threads of Fate's one glaring fault is its length: It's too damn short. Expert RPG fans will likely blow straight through the title without a single setback, at a time of about 12 hours per quest. Fortunately, the two characters' drastically different gameplay (and slightly tweaked level layouts) means that most will enjoy playing through the game at least twice, and the game's endearing nature and jubilant tone make it one few will regret buying. Players looking to add an excellent action-RPG to their PlayStation library should check out Threads of Fate - a not too serious action-RPG that's seriously fun.