There are flaws, sure ... but since when did a few flaws stop you from playing a great game?

User Rating: 10 | Summoner PS2
On the surface, Summoner can be a clunky game. I'll tell you straight: there are several problems with this game, and not all of them are easily overlooked. Yet I still give it a 10. Want to know why? Then read on intrepid reader, for I'll dispense the answer herein.

The story follows the typical loser farmer as he goes from zero to hero (or god, as it were). Cliched, yes, but allow me to go on. The main character is Joseph, and he is about as clueless as they come. He is also a summoner afraid to use his power because, in an attempt to save his home village from invaders, the demon he summoned inadvertently destroyed the whole town too. Now living in another farming village, the story picks up with an invasion threat from Orenia, with Orenians seeking to kill the 'summoner of prophecy'.

Joseph joins with Flece, a thief; Rosalind, a mage; and a Medevan soldier (grunt) by the name of Jekhar. Jekhar is funny when he gets upset. Anyway, moving on.

After getting these unlikely heroes together, the game's goal becomes the retrieval of the four demon summoning stones, which, in turn, leads to the goal of turning into a god. Unfortunately for Joseph, it isn't that simple. There is betrayal, the fact that his hand gets burnt to a cinder, as do the rings, and then the rather comical discovery that there was a problem with the translation of the word 'Sahudani' - it is actually 'Sahugani', meaning there is eight rings total. Thus the second half of the game becomes acquiring the four dragon rings, then reforging the four destroyed demon rings. And there was my favourite bit in the middle too, where you play solo as Flece, breaking Joseph out of jail.

I found a few things really amazing about this game, which helped draw me in to the world of Medeva and Orenia. The first of these was the voice acting. Superb choices for each character - from the angry King of Medeva, to the whiny voice of Jekhar, to the smooth-talking thief Flece ... it almost makes you not care that all the characters look like the walking dead. Especially Joseph. There're so many things wrong with his face I wouldn't know where to start.

Other amazingly good things this game got smack-on-perfect includes the music. Such an epic, fantasy, otherworldly soundtrack ... it rivals that of Final Fantasy. Any installment, mind you. I still listen to mine to this day. In some ways it is comparable to its own sequel, Summoner 2. That's how good the music is. Still further into the wholesome goodness of this game is the narrative that breaks each subquest and new area. There's nothing quite as enjoyable as a wise old man voice telling it how it is, giving brief backgrounds or histories to each new area as you enter them. These, and the incredible artwork screens that accompany them.

But the flaws really do need mentioning. I might not car, but this review would hardly paint an accurate picture if I left them out.

Firstly, the graphics are so sub-par you might expect this game to work on a PS1. Blocky, lots of corners, sharp edges, and distant objects are rather unsightly to watch as they come into view. I've already mentioned Joseph's face, but I'll say it again for emphasis. He is one ugly fella.

Second, the characters are terribly unbalanced. For a farmer boy, Joseph has an amazing knack for mastering every skill in the game. I'm not complaining here, but it is a bit far-fetched. Similarly, other characters have so many useless skills you'll do well to consult a walkthrough to pick out the best ones.

Third, combos suck. Honestly, don't bother with chaining attacks. It gets harder and harder, and there's no noticeable reward.

Fourth: Flece is the best character, hands down. Don't ask me why it was done, but she has all the damage and tactics to see you finish this game in less than six hours. How? Simply trip the enemy, then walk up behind them for a back-stab. The game should have been called "Thief Princess" for all Joseph is worth. I wonder: would his dumbness carry over when he becomes a god? I'd be scared of a dumb god.

There are other issues too, like poor equipment pools for some characters, the fact that all swords are as useless as cheese compared to hammers, and there aren't nearly enough useful mini-quests. There isn't much character interaction either - movies or otherwise. Even Jekhar, who starts off hating Joseph, wants to be his friend after half the game is done, with no clear reason why.

But there are the summons, which are generally good all-round additional characters that you can use. Not only are they useful, they provide a bit of brightness and colour in an otherwise drab and unremarkable palette.

Overall though, if you can get past these flaws (and others, perhaps), then you're likely to have a whale of a time. If you like levelling up, using spells, vanquishing demons and controlling oddball characters, and an adjustable third-person perspective, then by all means, dive right in!