Though not for casual players, Zenonia is as lovingly crafted as the best 16-bit console role-playing games.
- Deep, intricate, console-style RPG gameplay
- Great animation
- Sense of humor
- Highly replayable adventure.
- Requires repetitive "grinding" battles to advance
- Music is nothing but short audio loops.
Though it isn't perfect, Zenonia knows its audience and treats it to an adventure of epic proportions. This game blows the iPhone's other action role-playing games away with obsessively detailed gameplay and a monumentally huge gameworld that will keep many exploring for weeks on end.
All is not well in the land of Zenonia. The forces of light, led by the Holy Knights, are locked in conflict with the dark side, represented by the Dragon Clan. And the game's mysterious young hero, Regret, is stuck in the middle.
Without spoiling anything, Zenonia's story visits many classic RPG themes. The countryside's infested with monsters; the magic seals that keep chaos at bay are weakening; and Regret isn't even sure who he is, let alone if he's fighting for the forces of light or dark.
It's stuff you may have seen in other games, but it's artfully written and there's a nice touch of humor behind it. There's a lot of dialogue in this game, to be sure, but it doesn't feel like a chore to read it. The characters banter and swear at each other. They seem aware of how goofy some of the plot twists are and occasionally even joke about being stuck in a game, which means that unlike other RPGs, Zenonia avoids the trap of taking itself too seriously.
You also have some control over where the story goes. The game is peppered with moral choices that steer Regret toward light or dark sides. These affect your selection of quests throughout the course of the game, which adds replay value as well.
Zenonia's story is woven around a solid core of exploration, item collection, and combat. Superficially, Zenonia plays a lot like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past--you walk around a landscape from on overhead perspective, whacking enemies with your weapon. The game's virtual D pad works fairly well for movement.
But Zenonia combines this basic gameplay with much more complex RPG mechanics. For instance, you have your choice of three character classes, which each has its own items and skills. You have a full inventory and can equip multiple pieces of armor and magic talismans. There's a full skill tree to work through, which adds special attacks and passive abilities to your character. You can upgrade your magic items by combining them and run up to five quests at once. Some quests are available only at certain times of day. Basically, Zenonia has the feature set of a full PC or console action RPG.
This insane level of depth is great for those who want to really get lost in a game, but it may turn off more casual players. In fact, some of it just seems like overkill--it's a pain to keep your equipment in good repair, and you even have to eat from time to time to keep up your strength. Detail is one thing, but some of these requirements seem a little too strict.
Plus, not everyone will have the patience to deal with the high level of difficulty. Like many Korean RPGs, Zenonia requires a good deal of grinding. You'll run into several points where you simply won't be strong enough to beat a boss or make it through a certain area. That means you'll have to pull back and run through some side quests until you've leveled up enough to punch through an area. Luckily, you can save the game at any time (and it saves automatically on call interrupt), so you can hop in and out whenever it's convenient.
Zenonia's anime-style graphics are vibrant, colorful, and full of artistic flourishes. The animation deserves special praise. Characters display emotion bubbles during dialogue that add weight to the conversation, and motion-line effects during combat sell the action. The music's a mostly forgettable collection of short loops, but at least there are a lot of them.
At the moment, the App Store is tilted heavily toward casual, throwaway games that are good for a few minutes of entertainment here and there. Zenonia is the exact opposite. This is a real video game that demands serious levels of time and attention. For those eager to make that kind of commitment, Zenonia will offer you weeks--if not months--of exploration, combat, and story.
This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner SlideToPlay.com.