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16 July 2009

The Dark Spire [DS]

Plot Synopsis: 7/10
A tower has arisen near the town. Rumor has it that within the tower resides a former aide to the king, who has stolen a treasure that was very dear to the king. Many adventurers have tried to climb to the top of the tower to reclaim the treasure, to no avail. As the player, you are tasked with creating a team of four characters to make another attempt at the tower.
Fairly unoriginal, as far as RPGs and dungeon-crawlers go, but some of the side-quests make things pretty interesting. I'll give the story a 7 out of 10, mainly for the side quests.

Game Play: 9/10
The game play is pretty straight-forward. You start by creating your party. You choose every detail from the characters' names and races to their classes and stats. A true old-school RPG. Strangely, though, Atlus did not opt to allow players to choose the characters' genders, but oh, well. Once you create your characters, there's a bit of training, then you're sent off on your own, at which point, you stock up, in town, then head for the tower. Once inside, you make your way around, mapping out each floor and fighting the monsters that dwell within the tower as you go. You generally have to complete certain tasks before you can proceed to the next floor, but once that is done, it doesn't need to be done again the next time you visit the tower. At any time, you may choose to vacate the tower and return to town to heal up and replenish your stock of helpful items, or buy newer, better equipment. Fighting the monsters within the tower will give you experience points that you may use to level up your character class, improve a character's stats, or learn skills that may become necessary later.
I'll give the game play a 9 out of 10. Everything about it is old tried-and-true dungeon-crawler RPG fare. I just wish that, since the game was developed and released for the Nintendo DS, that the developers made a little more use of the touch screen.

Graphics: 8/10
There are two sets of graphics for this game, that you may switch back and forth between. The first is a white-lines and text on black background style from the earliest days of polygon-based video game graphics. Personally, I find it a bit tough to play the game using this set-up on such a small screen, but it's a nice throwback to the early days of gaming. The other graphics are more current, and actually look like whatever you're supposed to be looking at. The visual style is very dark, with a lot of shadows. While, it looks fine after you've have a little time to get used to it, it can be tough, on occasion, to make out what you're supposed to be seeing. Unfortunately, I can't tell if that was deliberate or not, on the part of the developer.
I'll give the graphics and 8 out of 10. While I never use the older-style graphics set, I like that Atlus included it. If the other graphics set was a little... i don't know... less dark, i guess, i'd probably score it higher.

Audio: 7/10
While I can't find anything technically wrong with the music, I do have to admit that the music annoys the hell out of me. But again, on the rare occasions that I try playing WITHOUT the volume turned all the way down, I can't find anything technically wrong with it. The volume of the music and the sound effects tend to be pretty evenly matched, so that neither one drowns out or overpowers the other.
I'll give the audio a 7 out of 10, because it's technically fine, but annoys me to no end.

Overall Score: 7.75/10
This game is an old-school RPG, and nothing more. There's nothing wrong with it, per se. However, in this day and age, with games that have cinema scenes that last for several minutes at a time, and have all kinds of plot twists and big, drawn-out fight scenes, a basic dungeon-crawler RPG like this, while good, tends to fall a little flat.

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