My review of Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna is up.
It's almost time for the big reveal and the second half of the game to start! That's what I told myself as I continued on my merry way to Land's End in Ikenie to Yuki no Setsuna. After pushing through the cave, we finally make our way to Land's End, and...we can't reach it. It's far off on an island and the surrounding land is gone, there's no way to reach it. Kuon is especially shocked - she's been hinting this whole time that she's been here many times before, and it shouldn't be like this. While muttering that this shouldn't be possible, Kuon collapses and disappears into thin air. Julion goes berserk, seemingly still under partial control from the monstrous aura from before, and attacks the party and then herself before limping off and insisting nobody follows her so that they don't get hurt. Don't go Kuon, I don't want to have to change my party up!
Well, we're in a bit of a bind now, aren't we? Kuon and Julion are gone, we can't reach Land's End, and nobody knows what's going on. For now, the party heads back looking for clues on other ways of reaching Land's End, and gets pointed in the direction of the pilot of the ship whose core we destroyed earlier in the game, the one with the speech tic. He's up near some ruins looking for a new magic source that he thinks might allow him to make an airship. The ruins are sealed by a crest that looks similar to Julion's ancient kingdom's...after dropping by her town and talking to the locals, we confirm that the entrance will only unlock to someone of royal blood, and set off looking for Julion.
Not so fast, though! First, Julion's town is in big trouble from monster attacks, and we volunteer to help protect the town in her place. When things are getting out of control and we're getting overwhelmed, suddenly Kuon shows up to save the day. A boss fight ensues, the first one that gave me some problems. Switching out Setsuna for Yomi temporarily and some playing around with debuffs had the big guy taken care of, though. The party asks Kuon what the deal is with the whole 'suddenly disappearing into thin air' thing, but she says that she can't tell them right now. Setsuna trusts her and insists everyone else does too, so we just let it slide and set off to go find Julion.
Good timing, Julion's second-in-command and some of his knights return with news. Julion is succumbing to monster blood - that day she disappeared into the snow to rescue one of her knights, in order to survive she drank monster blood, which grants a lot of power in exchange for slowly losing your sanity and eventually turning into a monster completely, which is why she's been a bit crazy ever since she came back a year ago. The medicine we got her earlier just suppressed things a bit, they didn't cure it. In order to cure her for real, Setsuna goes to learn a new healing spell from the previous failed sacrifice who is now the village elder in that mountainside hamlet. 1 on 1 between Setsuna and the village elder, just stand still and have Setsuna heal herself while she gets blasted with lightning over and over to 'prove herself' and bring out the magic. Fine, fine. We finish that, cure Julion for good this time, and plunge into an ancient ruin left by her kingdom.
Inside the ruin, a voice tests Julion many times with questions about how a king/queen should rule their kingdom. I had Julion give all the goody two shoes answers about treating their citizens properly, being merciful but just, and all that good stuff. Eventually we reach the innermost room where a guardian challenges Julion to prove herself in combat before handing over the airship. Airship time! Now we can get to Land's End no problem! But that would be a bit of a waste of an airship, wouldn't it? I explore all over the islands we couldn't ever reach before and find some towns and settlements I couldn't get to before, and stop by the game's first village to say hi just because I can. There are some changed lines but so far not a whole lot to do.
There was one place, though - developer village, now with pixelated graphics! Yeah, it's a cheap way to elicit nostalgia, but why not? All the NPCs here are people who worked on the game, and you can adjust some game settings here (for example, if you're getting too strong you can raise monster strength so that you can still get the special drops that only drop if you get a 'just kill', killing an enemy at almost exactly their remaining HP). There's also a nice sword for Endo to pick up here.
After some fun exploring with the airship though, it's time to continue with the story and finally arrive at Land's End. Waiting for us inside the castle is...okay, stop. If you've played Chrono Trigger, just stop and take a look at this screenshot. Are you getting the idea yet? Too bad sickle dude isn't half as neat as Magus, but here he is anyway, muttering about how he's a manifestation of his master's anger and resentment, darkness blah blah. Time for the Magus Castle fight, complete with him using a spell named Dark Matter. We kill him and as he's disappearing, he mutters about how he was created for the sole purpose of killing the sacrifice, which makes Kuon sympathize with him since she was apparently also created for one purpose...which she still won't tell us about yet.
Okay, maybe I lied. In the very next room after we take the portal out of Magus' castle, er, Land's End's castle, she starts spilling the beans about everything. A long time ago, humans started messing with the rules of nature to prevent themselves from losing their magic abilities. One out of control experiment ended up bringing ruin to the entire world, with them only barely able to contain it. This eternal darkness is sealed here, and every so often a sacrifice makes the journey here and offers her life and magic energy to help maintain the barrier keeper's energy.
Kuon knows all this because...surprise! She's an existence created by the keeper herself, the Judge of Time. A woman who looks just like a palette-swapped Kuon introduces herself and explains. We have a choice - Setsuna can either offer her life and magic to help sustain the seal, or we can try and defeat the darkness itself and stop this for good. Well, there's an obvious choice, of course we'll stop it for good! The Judge of Time and Kuon are really surprised by the answer, though. As the Judge of Time, she has been rewinding time over and over, countless times for Setsuna's journey, believing Setsuna's mother that Setsuna was special and would be different from the others. Every time before this one, our party has arrived here and decided to offer Setsuna's life, this is the first time we took up the other option. Kuon has memories of every single one of these journeys together since she's a manifestation of the Judge of Time, but everyone else has their memories mostly erased when time is turned back. Kuon says that all the other times were mostly identical and everyone acted mostly the same, but the three big differences that showed up this time were Endo (he never showed up at all in the previous time loops), the sickle man's appearance, and the land around Land's End disappearing. Clearly something is happening and they're running out of time, but of course she won't let us go on without first testing our might in a boss battle.
Before the Judge of Time fades, she lets us know that she gave the last of her power to someone...suddenly sickle dude appears. She felt bad for him and brought him back to life, he was crying when he died, emotions transferred from whoever his master was, and she thinks he can be of use to us in the final battle. He's not the talkative type, when we ask for his name he says he doesn't have one and we can call him whatever we like - the game's default name for him is Fides, so we name him that. Well gee, I'd really like to use him, but we're right before the end boss, you know? Good news, a portal back outside gets dropped and a bunch of character sidequests open up. I did some of them, they provide a bit more (desperately needed) character development for each party member, including pretty much the only development our edgelord Fides here is going to get. I'm not gonna go through all of them here, but they're nice enough sidequests and some involve much more difficult battles than the game has offered so far. The HP raising food comes is essential to not get one-shotted in a lot of the battles if you don't want to grind (and I don't).
Whenever you're done sidequesting, the end boss is waiting one room away from where Fides joined. Our eternal darkness' origin was a man with high magical ability who offered himself as a test subject to try and prevent mankind from losing their magic, and ended up being driven to insanity through torturous and endless ruthless experiment performed on him. The boss has four sub-bosses that you can beat first, each sub-boss you kill will weaken the main boss and take away some of its abilities, although you can get a trophy if you take on the end boss with all four sub-bosses alive. I'm not up for the grind though, so I defeated the sub-bosses and then took on the last boss. After we beat him, everyone starts celebrating...but suddenly a shadowy figure appears from its corpse and disappears. Kuon stops the celebrating - bad news, the guy sent himself back in time and is going to undo everything we accomplished from the past.
We can't chase after him anymore, so it's all over. Or is it? A light that only Endo and Setsuna can see is hovering on the ground, and using its power of their memories, the two of them can be sent back to chase after him in the past. Yomi, Keel, Julion and Fides give their remaining magic to Endo and Setsuna, and Kuon uses hers to help send the two of them back. We land back at the port near Setsuna's village in the past, and eventually find our way to the same monument where Endo and Setsuna first met. After putting the poor guy who has been consumed by hate and pain out of his misery, Setsuna takes his essence in and kneels in front of the grave like she did in the game's opening, and tells Endo to kill her, ending her life and the eternal darkness, and fulfilling her role as the sacrifice. The last prompt in the game is the same as one of the first ones in what I thought was a very nice touch, having you choose whether to swing or not to swing at Setsuna just like at the start, before it fades up to credit roll.
Okay, well actually no matter what you choose, the only difference is the sound of the sword swinging or not, it's implied that Setsuna dies either way. That was kind of disappointing. After the credits we see Endo walking through the snow alone, and the spirit of Setsuna looking on after him under the iconic tree on the game's cover. The End.
So, I liked the final scene here, but overall this game was a bit of a mess. Where was the twist? Where was the twist? It was too straightforward! It's like you got to Magus' castle in Chrono Trigger and then the game just ended. Dump sickle man in your party and then there's only one more non-sidequest battle to go before it's over! I guess it's a budget title, so there's no helping it. The game clocks in around 20 hours, up to 25-30 if you do the end game sidequests. The battle system was enjoyable enough with the setsuna system timed hits and effects, I liked some of the characters (Kuon is cute, cute!), the atmosphere was nice...but a bit too much snow. Yeah I know, snow is in the game's title, but trudging through nothing but snow does get tiring after a while. If someone asked for a three word review, I guess it would be "It was okay". I'll put my full thoughts up in the full review.
What next? Well, Summon Night 6 comes out tomorrow, but I don't know if I want to play it, it seems like it's pandering mostly to people who have played all the previous games with the endless, endless character cameos (and I've only played SN3 so I wouldn't get most of them). Yuusha Shisu is a pass for me, I tried the demo and just couldn't get into it, read more about it too and nothing really popped out to me. Etrian Odyssey 5 was finally announced, it'll be my first game in the EO series, I'm looking forward to it...when it releases in half a year. Well, there's always Star Ocean 5 at the end of the month. I'm sure I'll figure something out.
Random JRPG blogging about the games I'm currently playing.