Kingdom of Paradise PSP Review
I wouldn't exactly call the handheld action/role-playing market "dire" by any means. After all, the Game Boy Advance has a few RPG's to its credit that easily fit into that mold, and the Nintendo DS is obviously gathering some adventures all its own. But then you have the PSP, and previously, the only place you could really turn for your role-playing needs was Sony's own Untold Legends. However, things have changed a bit, thanks to Climax and the introduction of Sony's latest beast, Kingdom of Paradise. It provides the PSP with a solid if slightly flawed adventure that should suit fans just fine.
The game focuses on a young hero named Shinbu who finds himself on a quest that will take him across the land, one that will have him team up with a fellow martial arts student and face sinister forces that may or may not be responsible for the death of his loved ones. Not to worry, as the quest simply isn't just about seeking revenge, but rather unifying the lands in this digital world and finding a sense of peace. Or something like that, you probably just want to get to the action.
Paradise does run on basics at times. The story doesn't exactly flow with grace but at least it doesn't fall into sloppiness either with any "what the?" moments, aside from some clumsy dialogue. I'm still trying to figure out how a setting such as this would prompt one of the characters to use the term "bitch", but I suppose it had to come somewhere. The dialogue needed to find some kind of better pattern, but at least it's executed by a very able voice cast, all wonderfully cast and filling their roles.
The graphics also seem to have their ups and downs. On the up side, the animation is very fluid on all the characters, and some of the spells are terrific to watch as they evolve on screen. However, the fixed camera system can lead to a bit of frustration when you're trying to do something as simple as navigating from one end to the other. You usually have to relate to the gauge in the corner that gives you an idea of where you're going instead of just naturally looking around. Too bad, I would've loved to have seen a bit more beauty than what was offered here, which wallows in colors and grand detail. That's Climax for you.
Where Paradise will obviously welcome you is with its gameplay. Throughout the game, you'll pick up bugel scrolls and kenpu forms, in which slots open up and allow you to literally form your own ideal combo. Executing it may not be imaginative, but, really, you can put together some wicked moves and become something to reckon with. Combining with this already deep system is the ability to use chi, a magical upgrade system that allows you to upgrade skills based on natural elements into all-powerful attacks. Get these two balanced enough and, no matter the opponent, you'll mow them down like grass.
There is blocking that comes into play (something I was surprised to find- my initial review didn't see the function), but you'll rarely need it as the chi can grow tremendously and wipe out waves of enemies. It becomes a tad confusing during a boss battle when you're trying to use them both together in a combination, but the gameplay somehow manages to continue flowing through with little problems.
As far as extras, this game actually impresses in volume. Players can actually trade kenpu forms with other friends and take them on in two player versus battles to see who rules in terms of customized combos. There's also the ability to download new weapons, bugel scrolls, and kenpu forms, once you manage to get connected to the net. If you can manage to get over the game's slight lapses, it'll reward you with these items, as well as the quest itself, which is long and rewarding. We're talking 12+ hours at least.
Kingdom of Paradise isn't exactly my idea of paradise. It has a few nagging issues that keep the welcome mat from being all wide open on the front doorstep, namely the lack of the block option or the ability to see the worlds around you. However, it is a rewarding adventure with an enriched battle system, mixed with upgradeable chi and adhoc/infrastructure support. Check it out and see if it's your idea of paradise.
An oversight by the editor reviewing this title regarding the blocking system led to an edit of this review. The review score has been changed to reflect this oversight.
What's Hot: A cool combo system, a great voice cast, and tons of extras keep this one going.
What's Not: The camera system can be a bit tricky, and some gameplay falls flat.