Astonishia Story's claim to a footnote in history is that it was among the first South Korean developed RPG's when released for the PC back in 1994. However, the first much of the wider world would have seen of it was in 2006 when it was ported in slightly enhanced form to the PSP.
Emerging in the twilight of an era of great 2D RPG releases that saw Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger appear around the same time, Astonishia Story seems even older than its years when placed in such heady company. On the surface, it makes for a convincing copy cat for awhile, with attractive visuals and a solid game engine, but extended play reveals that the real meat and potatoes of the role-playing experience are decidedly absent.
It mimics the RPG blueprint quite faithfully, but beyond the basics there's no imagination or substance. Despite the rather optimistic name, Astonishia Story's narrative and characters are about as cliché-ridden as you could ever hope to come across in a game. You have the token dashing knight Lloyd Von Roiental out to retrieve a stolen staff and save the world. He meets the feisty but largely-ornamental love interest Ylenne who, through a series of awkward and unconvincing meetings, joins him on his quest. Add to this the sure-to-be-killed-off elderly mage, an underappreciated dwarf, a baddie-turned-goodie and an elf whose sole purpose is to fill the previously missing blonde quota, and you're all set for a story you've already heard a hundred times before.
Lack of originality isn't the story's real blight however, more that it isn't told with any conviction or creativity. There's almost zero character development, and due to a poor English translation, attempts at humour and emotion are clumsy at best. Unfortunately, generic dialogue permeates pretty much every character you care to speak with as well, and the vast majority of them aren't worth your time of day.
It's a shame, as it renders what is a serviceable game engine as somewhat wasted. Though nothing special by modern standards, the grid-based battle system is nice, adding just a hint of a tactical element to the levelling-up process without getting too heavy. The various caves and dungeons aren't as derivative as you might imagine with a fair bit of scenic detail distinguishing each area, and they don't outstay their welcome either.
The ability to save anywhere is useful for on-the-go gaming, whilst attractive presentation and simple but responsive controls mean it's an ideal fit for the PSP. The graphics are distinctly retro, but in a good way; the visuals appear tidy and enhanced to look pin-sharp, whilst the bright and pretty villages are awash with little touches that bring them to life. Birds scatter when you approach, and fly overhead; flowers sway in the wind, flags flutter in the breeze and what's more, every single sprite in the game is an individual - there are no duplicates, which is very rare. The same can be applied to the sound; it isn't high-tech but the 16-bit tunes are pleasant, with the changes of pace and melody providing a nice backing to the action.
Unfortunately just as it seems like things are getting going, the credits roll. At just fifteen hours in length, there's only around a quarter of the playing time that the high-end RPG's generally offer. This is of course detrimental to the depth of the experience; apart from the lack of character development (there simply isn't time for that), there are virtually no side-quests to speak of, just a few additional cut-scenes here and there. After a relatively promising start, it suddenly feels like it is in a rush to finish - perhaps a legacy of time and budget constraints. World Map sections seem increasingly condensed, and are padded out with foes, allowing for maximum combat and minimal exploration, whilst the immobile final boss is a let-down as they can be beaten by skipping turns and waiting for their magic to run out. Even then, the ending flashes by with barely a farewell from your crew of party members, and there's a hasty, by-the-numbers closure to the affairs of the mains characters whom you haven't had a chance to care much about. At £7.99 on the PSN it's hardly extortionately priced, but put in perspective, it doesn't seem like such a fine investment, as RPG epics Final Fantasy's VII, VIII or IX can be bought for the same price.
The PSP seems an ideal home for old-school RPG's, something that is clear even in a title as routine as this, and it's perhaps something of a surprise the system hasn't seen more of an influx in such titles. The idea is right and it plays okay, but time has not been kind to Astonishia Story, and 21st Century RPG fans have come to expect greater longevity and much better scripting as standard.
I picked this game up on the cheap just after xmas. I am a huge fan of rpg's and was expecting something along the lines of the old mega drive games shining force. This was not the case!
You play as a young knight called lloyd who is the hero of the story and you aim is to recover a royal treasure that has been stolen.
The storyline is extremly dull dont expext to be kept plain for that reason. The graphics are extremly basic and you will find your self constantly squinting to see if you have missed anything.
The basic game play is ok but after an hour i had to put it down really starting to send me to sleep. I can play some rpgs for hours but this was not one of them. The battles are very repetitive and you will not find much variety in the mosters.
The towns ar boring with very little to do. You can apparently get characters to join you but all the ones i have got so far leave again so you will waste time if you build them up, and if you dont then you will probably die. If you are into a game along this format and have a wii then download shining force 2 a far superior game.