Version Reviewed: 1.0
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Zenonia 2 has been a long time in coming...almost exactly a year, actually. The original game was one of the very first real RPGs on the App Store, and naturally, everyone (myself included) loved it. Sure, it had its flaws...but it was still a landmark title for the iPhone.
In the past year, however, the App Store has evolved considerably. New contenders like Inotia 2, Sword of Fargoal, and Across Age have jumped into the RPG sphere, and Zenonia 2 faces competition that the original game just didn't have. Zenonia 2 is a solid update to its predecessor, featuring many improvements: multiple, distinct characters; a touch-optimized interface; asynchronous PVP; and a slew of other updates. But it doesn't bring anything earth-shattering to the table. If you liked the first game or traditional RPGs in general, you'll love Zenonia 2; it's an excellent game for the platform. The only problem? It's not nearly as much of a standout as it once was. Zenonia 2 is well worth your five bucks, but so are plenty of other RPGs.
Since Zenonia 2 is such a complex game, I'm going to break this review down into categories. (Skip ahead to the end for an overview!)
RPGs and sprawling, epic stories go hand in hand, and the quality of the plot often plays a huge role in the quality of an RPG as a whole. In the first game, you played a boy named Regret who was tasked with saving the kingdom and sealing up an extremely powerful demon; though the story featured funny dialogue and a few good points, it was nothing amazing. Zenonia 2 follows the first game's storyline, albeit quite a few years later. This time you can play as four separate characters, each with their own background and personality. Regardless of who you play, the four will join together on a quest to search for the four gems, which will strengthen the monster's weakening seals and hopefully restore the heroes' lost memories as well. (The leaves of the "tree of life" stole everyone's memories years previously...and no, I don't quite know what that's about yet.)
From what I've seen so far, the story is a bit better than the original Zenonia's. Interactions between the four party members are interesting, and having multiple viewpoints enhances your perspective. Their motivations are believable enough, and the writing is solid. Though I've encountered a few typos and grammar errors and you can tell that it was written by non-native English speakers, most of the words flow smoothly and naturally; the trademark humor of the original is also present.
Overall? The story isn't excellent, but it's definitely good.
Zenonia is a traditional RPG in the truest sense. You'll find many old standbys: questing, levelling up, skill trees, battles, and so on. Some more hardcore elements are also present. Items wear down and eventually break; you'll have to eat to keep your strength up; carrying too much stuff will slow you down. Whether or not you enjoy these aspects depends on personal preference...personally, I think that having to carry around repair hammers is just one more time-consuming task, but others like it for the extra layer it provides.
Character customization has been taken to another level in this sequel. Not only can you do the usual skill and stat point distribution, but you also have your choice of four playable characters...meaning that playing as a shooter versus a mage versus a warrior feels very different, as they're actually different people! Equipping different weapons and armor also directly affects your outward appearance, which is a nice (if purely superficial) touch.
Most of the game consists of fulfilling quests, though you can just go out into a combat area and grind if you so chose. You'll always have a main story quest, but you can also take on numerous side quests; these are logged in the Quests pane of the menu.
Combat is real-time; when you're not in town, enemies roam the map, and you can attack them at will. (The more aggressive ones might attack you first, though...be careful!)
Controls and Interface
Zenonia 2's controls aren't quite perfect, but they're certainly good. As usual, you'll need to get a feel for the virtual D-pad, but after that, moving is easy and mostly pain-free. Zenonia 2 also features an auto-target system for combat; hitting the all-purpose action button will cause you to attack nearby enemies, even if you're facing the wrong way. Sometimes this doesn't work as well as I'd like, but it's still good enough, considering. You can also store certain active abilities in the quick slots to the right of the screen.
Zenonia 2's interface is a mixed bag. You can finally tap on menu items, and the whole game feels like it fits much more naturally on the iPhone despite being a mobile phone port. An all-new mini-map is also an extremely welcome feature. However, some of the menu decisions feel a little bit awkward. For example, gone is the ability to compare an item to what you've got equipped without selecting both, remembering their stats, and comparing them in your head. It's a bizarre omission, and an annoying one.
Graphics and Audio
Though the artwork looks blurry, I think it's an intentional effect. The cute, cartoony style is still here, and definitely shows the game's Asian roots. Don't judge the screenshots too harshly; the sprites look better when in motion, though the character portraits could be sharper. As for the audio, it's good. Not orchestral, but good.
The inclusion of asynchronous PvP seems like a great idea on the surface, but in practice, it isn't true PvP. Because the computer controls your opponent, the whole challenge inherent in fighting someone else is severely lessened, and the matchup system isn't quite perfect. I don't know if this is because of a relatively small player pool or something else.
For being a sequel, Zenonia 2 doesn't bring a ton of new stuff to the table. Still, that's OK...because it just builds on something that was great to begin with and adds tons to it. The final product is a polished, lengthy RPG that boasts fun real-time combat, a deep stat- and skill-based customization system, and a sprawling storyline. I like many of the new updates, and it's easy to get lost in the world of Zenonia 2. Certainly, it's a better game than the first one. A few quirks (the not-so-great PvP, scattered typos, weird interface changes, etc) keep it from perfection, but...well, I'm still in love with this game. If you liked the first—or even if you haven't played it, but are a fan of RPGs in general—I can't recommend the sequel enough.