Here's a review of a game I finished last weekend within 48 hours of obtaining it. I was that hooked, and it was that good. Let's talk about Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4.
If you're interested in hearing about Rain-Slick 3 or other games of that nature, I've written reviews for all four of Zeboyd's RPGs, a few of them multiple times (really). Check the Zeboyd tag at the end of this post to scope those out. I'll wait. Back? OK, let's talk about Rain-Slick 4.
Rain-Slick 4 starts right where Rain-Slick 3 left off; avoiding spoilers, there is one God remaining on the Windowsill (each Rain-Slick game ends with victory over a dark God of sorts) and said God has remade the world to its whims - the world is now a fiery Underhell, with a variety of climes and settlements, but all of them twisted and hostile. Our heroes from Rain-Slick 3 are scattered: Gabriel with the misunderstood Dr. Blood, Moira with the newly-fully-animate skeleton Jim, and Tycho alone, with location unknown. For the first 80% of Rain-Slick 4 your parties are separated: Gabriel and Moira lead the two teams, working together to defeat the new God of Underhell.
Let's talk about combat first. Rain-Slick 4 brings back the Grandia-esque action meter from Rain-Slick 3, and it still works great. Interrupts and meter manipulation is still a significant portion of gameplay that gets more important at higher difficulties. That's all swell. What's new is how you use characters. Moira, Gabriel, et al. are mortals of a different world, and their attacks are completely ineffectual against the residents of Underhell. Thus, using an item called a Monstorb, the heroes ally with monsters of Underhell and command them in battle. This sounds like Pokemon, but really it's more like Shin Megami Tensei - each party controls up to four monsters at once, and you can switch them in and out of battle using certain items.
Now, you find new monsters to join your team at a pretty brisk clip, and by the endgame I had perhaps twenty. My four favorites were two of the starting four monsters (Mr. Beaks and Philosofly), one monster found less than an hour into Rain-Slick 4 (Vendorr), and then one secret cameo monster found right at the end of the game. These monsters touch upon Penny Arcade mythos (Deep Crow hatchlings, pink Fruit Fuckers, Leviathan from Rain-Slick 3) , video game references (the Philosofly is a magic butterfly whose moveset consists almost entirely of Persona references), and out-and-out jokes (a giant vending machine named Vendorr, whose powers enhance your selection of items). It's a great balance of useable characters and entertaining overall.
Your human characters (Gabe, Dr. Blood, Jim, Moira, and a fifth that joins later) don't enter combat, but serve as "trainers" to the monsters. Monsters equip trainers like weapons or accessories, and each Trainer gives each monster a new moveset (largely adapted from Rain-Slick 3 for all but Dr. Blood and the new character) and a particular level-up bonus. Tycho does work with your party occasionally, but not as a trainer. He's an NPC with important work to do. I'll avoid spoilers.
So you have the same great combat from Rain-Slick 3, only with crazy monster recruitment and trainer alignment. That's all swell. But the major improvement from RS3 to RS4 is in its world. Rain-Slick 3 had a world map reminiscent of Super Mario World. There are set paths and hubs to specific destinations, which are self-contained areas. In dungeons it resembled a 16-bit RPG, but the world map seemed.... constrained. In Rain-Slick 4 there's a more traditional world map, with much greater detail and freedom of movement than that of its predecessor. Rain-Slick 4's world map is gorgeous, with bold reds and blacks for the cartoony Underhell (its residents dream of making it to regular Hell) mixed in with mountains and canyons dividing walking paths, and a few areas of different ecosystems - a desert, a jungle, a giant tree, an industrialized area, etc. It works, and has a lot of personality. World map is a major highlight.
RS4 is fairly linear as you switch between parties and try to bring down the fourth Dark God, but once you obtain an airship the map opens up and all of the hidden nooks and crannies are there to be explored. Looking at an endgame monster list, it appears that I missed out on at least two recruitable allies - bottom line, the post-game treasure hunt is pretty well-put-together. Good times.
Visually, Rain-Slick 4 looks beautiful. Its environments are lively, its colors are bold, and its sprites and maps look like a zoomed-in Final Fantasy VI, probably with greater environmental detail. Bill Stiernberg, Zeboyd's artist, has done his finest work. Regarding audio, Zeboyd struck gold when they hired HyperDuck Studios. The soundtrack is stellar and I will be buying it as soon as they release it officially. Favorite tracks were Desert, Airship, Tycho, and Battle 1.
So, this review sounds extremely positive, but gimme a break. I love Zeboyd's games, and I think this is the best Zeboyd game. It's the longest, at around 10 or 11 hours, has the most variety in combat, and those Zeboyd signatures are all there: funny dialog, entertaining twists on RPG traditionalism, and retro RPG visuals. I'm an RPG fanatic who enjoys modern gaming, but holds a huge amount of nostalgia for RPGs of the 90s. I am Zeboyd's target audience. And I fucking loved playing On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4.
Games Beaten: 2013 Edition
1. Persona 4
2. Pokemon White Version 2
4. Persona 4 Arena
5. Persona 3 FES: The Journey (NG+)
6. Hexyz Force
7. Persona 4 (NG+)
9. Tales of Vesperia
11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
12. Final Fantasy VI Advance
13. Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4
What's that? I skipped two GOT 'IM reviews? Yup. I really wanted to crank this Rain-Slick 4 review out, so I skipped Skyrim and FF VI Advance. Hopefully those two both hit the blog soon. Until next time, gents (you ladies don't need to wait until next time).