Developer: KEMKO/Hit-Point
Price: $6.99
Version: 1.2.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Japanese role playing games were one of the genres fundamental to the expansion of the hobby in the early days of gaming consoles. Though some translations for North American audiences were known to be notoriously rough at times, these were some of the first experiences that players had, fully immersing themselves into a virtual universe. Fast forward thirty years later, and the familiar nostalgic appeal of these classic games still strike a chord with audiences across all platforms. Now, the new release DarkGate is attempting to tap into this same collective nerve.

Staring a kid by the name of Leo, DarkGate is the story of a special youth, selected to lead the charge against Dark Gates (portals) that keep unexpectedly popping up across the land, unleashing hoards of monsters in their wake. Each party follows the traditional dynamic of having four characters, who are normally of the player’s selection. Also, there are seventy different job classes that can be assigned to said party members. Once these job classes have been fully leveled up, they become accessible to all characters. It goes without saying that the depth in that system, along with the specialized weapons and skills that accompany it, should be more than enough to facilitate several playthroughs.

Most of the combat is automatically handled by the game engine. This frees up the player to effectively queue up and execute more advanced moves such as merging spells to maximize damage. Oddly enough, the first real challenge isn’t even the randomly encountered enemies lurking behind every corner, it is learning the menu interface. It doesn’t take too long to get a handle on, but some of the more deeply nested menu options will require a little hunting at least initially.

If players were to freeze frame a JRPG in the Super Nintendo era in their mind, that is precisely the visual presentation and overall vibe found in DarkGate. Repetitive character models, environmental palate swaps and regurgitated mission structures are all present and accounted for. Yet for some reason this doesn’t feel like a bad thing at all. Even the dialog localization has quirky oddities that may or may not have even been intentional, all in the name of nostalgia.

From the moment DarkGate begins, players will be transported back to an era long before such things as particle effects or extensive dialog trees existed. The game’s retro, yet modern sensibilities make it accessible for players of all ages and experience levels, while not alienating the grizzled veterans. Boot the game up and take a trip down memory lane. This is an adventure well worth embarking on.

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