Sequence's combination of rhythm action and role-playing-game spellcasting seems a strange combination, but it's a striking mix, rewarding you with an addictive battle system that's both fun and clever. And yet this ingenuity is squandered, surrounded on all sides by lacklustre RPG elements. The right elements are all there--a levelling system, spells, crafting--but the game is one-dimensional, sending you along a one-way path filled with endless grinding and characters so stereotypical it's a wonder how they exist outside of the 1950s. Without freedom of choice, you merely go through the motions, working towards a goal that you did not seek, nor care about, making Sequence more proof of concept than a complete experience.
Your one-way journey might be a little more enjoyable if there were an interesting story behind it, but sadly that's not the case. You play as Ky, a smart-aleck teenager who is so immensely unlikeable that you spend most of the game wanting to punch him in the face. He awakens imprisoned in a tower, with no recollection as to how he got there and only a series of sarcastic jibes to see him through. The reasons for your incarceration are explained in part by Naia, a similarly snarky teenager who guides you through the tower via an intercom. It turns out that Ky has been specially selected for testing and has to make his way up the seven levels of the tower battling monsters to gain his freedom.
Those battles are the saving grace of Sequence, employing a system that's a clever blend of two genres so familiar that it makes you wonder why nobody has done it before. The heart of the system is in its three tiles: one for defence, one for spellcasting, and one for gathering mana. Arrows scroll down each of those tiles, and as in Dance Dance Revolution, you have to press the corresponding direction on your keyboard or controller in time with the music. If you're on the defence tile, missing a command means you lose health, while you only gain mana on the mana tile for every correct command.
Cast a spell using the magic wheel in the centre of the screen, and you have to follow the magic tile; miss one of its commands, and you fail to cast the spell and forfeit any mana used in the attempt. All this happens in real time, so you have to flick between tiles constantly, which introduces an element of strategy. Knowing when to cast a spell, mount a defence, or gather mana is key to a successful battle. It can get incredibly frantic, particularly when fighting against higher-level monsters, but the system is so fluid it's always heaps of fun.
Behind each battle is a piece of music to play to, and unfortunately that's where things start to falter. While the tunes themselves are decent--a range of synth-filled electronica--there simply aren't enough of them. The same piece of music is used multiple times for different monsters, with the monotony exacerbated by the fact that there's a lot of grinding required to progress. On each stage of the tower, Naia gives you a recipe for a key that is required to move up a level. The parts for a key come from just three monsters that populate each stage. You're not guaranteed to get those parts when you defeat a monster, and so you're forced to repeat the same three battles, with the same pieces of music, over and over. It's even worse if you want to learn new spells or equip yourself with new armour, weapons, and accessories to increase your defensive or offensive stats. Those require parts too, often the same ones used to make the key, so you're back to battling the same three monsters again.
This wouldn't be so bad if there were different areas to explore, people to talk to, or side quests to complete, but you're ushered down a one-way path with no room for deviation. You're just given a list of items to gather and then told to battle monsters--which you select from a list--to move on. There's an attempt to break things up with a boss battle at the end of each level, but the bosses themselves are horrible stereotypes--a Mexican matador who speaks of nothing but tacos and fajitas being the worst offender. The characters at least look nice, with a comic-like style that's vibrant and interesting, even if they remain largely static throughout.
Sequence is a disappointment--a game with some good ideas that fails to build on its initially impressive showing. The rhythm battle system might be marvellous, but when it's deployed in service of an RPG that's so vacuous and so repetitive, any enjoyment is quickly replaced with boredom. It's immensely frustrating that such innovative ideas have been so recklessly squandered. This is a game to try for that singular wow moment, perhaps--just don't expect to stick with it for long.