Reviewers who would pick up Orphen: Scion of Sorcery now are biased and cannot be trusted. This game is underrated.
Despite what you may have heard, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery is a solid RPG and was exceptional, especially for when it was released nearly a decade ago. This was one of my first PlayStation 2 experiences when the system and game were cutting edge; new.
To begin, I will include a short synopsis of the story. The main three protagonists for the game's original story are taken from the Sorcerous Stabber Orphen novel/anime/manga series: sorcerer Orphen, apprentice Majik (or Magnus), and tag-along Cleo. Orphen loans money to Volcan, but the group soon finds itself on a ship headed for the mysterious Chaos Island instead (by fate, perhaps). The ship is attacked by beasts and as Orphen, you select one of several story-line paths to take from there in which you unravel the mysteries of Chaos Island and try to escape it.
Each story-line path reveals new characters and motives, interesting contradictions to what you may have learned already, and plot twists that you will not expect, making each fun, new, and in no way repetitious. To complete the game, you will take them each path in a matter of time. Most will misunderstand this as having to play the same game several times, but each is a completely different experience and feels like owning several shorter individual games that spiral out and connect in the end.
The main characters, while slightly distorted from the true character-portrayals of the anime still provide for both comedic and intense moments throughout the game.
This is a Role Playing Game from the year 2000, some elements are obviously included. First of all: yes, there are treasure chests. You may be wondering why I said this, but I have read a review of this game in which it was asked why this game has treasure chests, inferring that chests and gaining items is a bad thing. It isn't. It is a key element to many RPGs and isn't a bad part of gameplay in this particular one. In fact, some items that you may have thought were included for no reason have their place in the game. (Particularly I remember loving my inventory of bug repellent and attractors that I previously hadn't used while doing Mar's labyrinth-style puzzle)
Normally, you control Orphen and take him through many puzzles and mazes that require a bit of thinking and which can provide for a great challenge. There are two types of combat included. When in a maze or puzzle, enemies can appear as nuisances to lower your general health the same way that spike pits and other obstacles can hurt you. You can take these out with single sword-slashes or fire-ball type projectiles to clear your path.
The second form of combat are the actual fiend and boss battles. You can customize and assign abilities to the X O Square and Triangle buttons for the characters to use when out of battle.
These include many spells and weapons.
Spells are broken down into three main types: Elemental, Projectile, and Protective., while weapons are for physical attacks. You gain new abilities by defeating bosses. Elemental strengths and weaknesses and even the terrain you're fighting on can decide the outcome of a battle. So there is strategy to playing the battles as well.
Each boss fight is unique. Whether you are battling a giant crap, falling from an endlessly long tower as you fight, grappling a dragon, or maybe even fight yourself (my favorite boss is doppleganger) there is no complete repetition there. The last boss can be a challenge and defeating it is very satisfying.
The voice acting is decent if you understand that this is based off 1990s anime. (Orphen being played Quinton Flynn is the best.) The characters have been made to be more stereotypical anime characters in the voice realm which is why you may think Cleo is annoying. But then again, she is supposed to be annoying so the actress is dead on. There are some repetitious sounds, but this is common for an RPG in which you battle a lot. In particular, you will hear the names of the spells that you spam over and over. If this gets tiring, use one of the many other spells at your disposal. The soundtrack is also good and sets a tone for the game. Again, this may not be the uncompressed sound of Metal Gear Solid 4, but for one a first-gen PlayStation 2 game this sound rocked! The opening sequence's song is fun and energetic and what I'd expect out of a game.
The character models, monsters, and backgrounds are gritty and nice to look at. The water looks really good in particular. One thing to note is the horrible lip synching, which doesn't ruin the game, but can be an eyesore in certain scenes. Other times, the characters speak without any moving of the mouth or facial expressions. Animation is repeated for particular feelings and actions. Yes, Orphen will facepalm more than once and he will brace himself as he glances left to right in a "What the hell is going on?!" mood on several occasions too. Again, I don't think this is a game breaker. Every now and then in the story line, you will come across short animated clips which look and sound beautiful. The animation in these is very fluid. Any fan of the anime will notice a difference between the video quality of the anime and the quality in the game's cutscenes, its for the better except for some silly 3d special magic effects.
Upsides: An unique epic story and an immerse new blend of puzzles and RPG combat for when it was released. Gameplay is creative and customizable. Some visuals and sounds are great. The challenge is decent too unlike many current RPGs. Not a short game either.
Characters aren't portrayed exactly true to the anime, but close enough. Lip synching is off, don't worry too much about that. May confuse people who don't pay attention to the game and the story. Graphics were great for the time, but not so great now. The game doesn't read on my PS3
Check out this game again if you tossed it aside or simply labeled it without playing the game in its entirety. For a an RPG made in the late 90s that isn't the normal Final Fantasy style gameplay, its a lot of fun. I never understood why the game was hardly given a chance.