App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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I used to love JRPGs, but now they just seem like such a chore. I think some of this might have to do with how the genre has evolved over the years, but it's probably more indicative of how difficult it is to dive into a sprawling adventure when your gaming and entertainment options are nearly limitless and your time is increasingly precious. The Greater Good is a rare game in that it captures what was so great and endearing about JRPGs while managing to feel fresh, modern, and eminently playable.
The Greater Good is a game set in a world where magic and machines are at odds with one another. You play as Flint, a soldier in King Kro's pro-machine army with a mysterious past that he can't quite recall. When it comes to light that Flint has a rare talent for magic, he is cast out and left for dead. This kicks off an adventure that leads Flint all across a vast, fantasy world on a quest to discover his mysterious past and resolve the struggle between magic and machines once and for all.
If you're at all familiar with 90s era RPGs, The Greater Good's setup should sound entirely familiar to you, and that's on purpose. This game is a love letter to games like Final Fantasy VII. This means you can expect to gather a party of quirky-but-loveable companions, fight all sorts of enemies in "active time battles," find gear to customize your party to your liking, and even unlock an airship to open up the world as you go on your somewhat goofy (but also endearing) journey.
It's incredible how well The Greater Good is able to capture my nostalgia, especially considering how different it looks from the games that inspire it. As a 2D side-scroller with platforming mechanics, you'd think The Greater Good might lack the depth of exploration that more conventional RPGs have, but it's quite the opposite. The flat world of The Greater Good is so packed and layered with secret pathways, hidden chests, and side quests that you'll inevitably stumble across a few even if you aren't really looking.
Across the game's story, you'll find yourself going through about a half-dozen environments, all of which contain their own bustling towns and wildlands full of unique enemies. The combat in The Greater Good is exactly what you'd expect from a 1990s RPG, which is to say you command a party of up to three heroes who all have preset stats and abilities, though you can fine-tune them through equippable "rings" that can grant special stat boosts, elemental affinities, or unique resistances.
A greater whole
In keeping with its throwback roots, The Greater Good relies on dedicated save points for maintaining your progress. The game also has some quirks to its inventory system, such that party members who leave your control temporarily take their gear with them and shop owners can't see some of your equipped items unless you unequip them. These are not particularly welcome or convenient features, but they are easy enough to look past given the the rest of the game's polish, style, and charm.
Despite using all of these antiquated systems, The Greater Good gets its modern feel from its pacing. You can get through The Greater Good's main story in about 12 hours, and during that time there is no need to grind or backtrack anywhere. There is opportunity to do lots of that in the end game, and there are satisfying rewards for making return trips to places or power-leveling to take on some really tough side-quests. It's hard to overstate how fine The Greater Good's tuning is. There's never a dull moment, but at the same time your path forward is always clear and achieveable.
The bottom line
The Greater Good is one of the best RPGs I've played on a mobile device. It serves up heaps of nostalgia while still feeling modern and editorial. Some of its older systems definitely show their age, but that's all part of its charm. Definitely go pick this game up, especially if you're looking for a fresh take on classic JRPG conventions.