Review by Iyamtebist
Reviewed: 10/09/13 | Updated: 01/02/14
The Vessel Tilts Towards Destruction
Normally when I start out with these reviews, I try to lead in with a topic regarding gaming that vaguely connects with the game I am reviewing. With Hexyz Force though, the only topic I could lead into this game with is disappointment. Hexyz Force left me feeling disappointed not because of it receiving a high amount of praise from nearly everywhere I go. In fact, Hexyz Force is a rather obscure game that passed under the radar along with a lot of other JRPGs. I was not disappointed because it was from a developer whose games I always enjoyed. On the contrary this is the first game made by Sting that I have played. What left me disappointed with Hexyz Force was that a lot of people I know really liked the game, one of which was someone who has had difficulty getting into a lot of newer JRPGs.
I have heard Hexyz Force described as a JRPG that is traditional and by the book in just about every way. I could simply describe Hexyz Force as generic, cliched, uncreative tripe and call it day and it would probably be an accurate description to a lot of people. However, it is that same reason that I really wanted to like Hexyz Force. As a diehard fan of JRPGs, I find it incredibly annoying when people use meaningless buzzwords such as cliche and generic to describe JRPGs simply to mock them for being JRPGs as opposed to actually going into detail as to what they did not like. I especially find it irritating when others think that simply being able to cite the grand list of console role playing game cliches is legitimate criticism. While it is funny, the list itself is a misnomer in that most of what is listed are not actually cliches.
A cliche is something that has become trite or commonplace through overuse. The problem with the argument that so many people make is that they simply list commonly used tropes in the genre, most of which are fully capable of being used to create a well written story. I also am not one to believe that a JRPG has to have an amazing story to be worthwhile; I simply expect them to give me a reason to care what is going on. This can be done in multiple ways whether it is through likable characters, exciting events, a well developed atmosphere or even something as simple as a bit of humor. If I enjoy the game-play enough I will likely then look at the rest of the games aspects with a lot less scorn. I do not care how a game entertains me as long as it manages to do so, and unfortunately, Hexyz Force is a game that has failed to do so.
Is it ever not Lygerwasser time?
Before I start listing the ways in which this game failed to entertain me, I will start on a good note and list the things this game did right. What I can say that Hexyz Force easily nailed was the presentation. The graphics are very well done for a PSP game and give off a look similar to that of the remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV for the DS; only they look a lot sharper. What is also nice is that you have the ability to rotate the camera which is a neat effect that allows you to see more of the games world than if the camera was at a fixed angle.
The localization done by Atlus is also really great as usual. In fact, it is quite impressive how Atlus manages to repeatedly get quality voice actors for such low selling and little known games. Supposedly they reuse a lot of the same voice actors for their games but it is still impressive regardless. As is also typical of Stings games, they have really good looking anime cutscenes that really help enhance the atmosphere of the game when they occur. The musical score is also fantastic in both its quality and the sheer quantity of different battle themes the game has.
Creation, Destruction, You are still screwed either way.
The presentation is where my praise for Hexyz Force ends. As I have stated previously, I could just write Hexyz Force off as being cliche and generic, but doing so would go against my own beliefs. As far as I am concerned, any type of plot, not matter how overused, can still be very entertaining if done right. In fact, if these commonly criticized tropes were so bad in the first place, then people would not have fallen in love with the classics like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. It is simply hypocritical to say that it is perfectly fine for those games yet say that it is a flaw with modern JRPGs. That being said, the reason why Hexyz Force fails in terms of storytelling is not because it is a traditional JRPG, the reason is simply that it does not execute those tropes well.
One thing you will notice when you start up Hexyz Force is that you are given the choice to play the story from the perspective of two different characters; Levant and Cecilia. While both paths do have the same overarching goal, it is the way that these paths play out that is different. Cecilias path is most notable for being an absolute slog. It starts out when our main character Cecilia, a really lazy and non formal cleric, is revealed to be the reincarnation of Palfina, the legendary maiden of the staff whom was one of the three heroes that defeated the god of destruction Delgaia when the planet was first created. This power awakens during a time of crisis when her home town is attacked and she needs it to fend off the monsters. Despite the fact that Cecilia is completely confused and really does not want to be the chosen one, the head cleric Elda does not care and says she has to go anyway.
A major issue I had with Cecilias path is the character of Cecilia herself. Not only does she fit the bill of a hugely incompetent main protagonist, but for a majority of the game, she just does not care. It technically makes sense seeing as how someone would not want to go out and save the world in real life, but realism is not always a good thing. Her incessant whining gets old really fast and she does not come to terms with it until late in the game. Now if there were other interesting characters and events occurring this would not be too hard to overlook. The problem, however, is that Cecilias path is focused generally more on her growth as a character than that of the actual events. Considering that Cecilias personality is rather flat and two dimensional, this does not work out well. To be fair, Cecilias chapter is not entirely focused on her character, but the parts that do not focus on her character are equally poorly implemented.
The majority of Cecilias story is basically a macguffin fetch quest where the party needs to reach a set of monoliths before the enemy destroys them. Predictably, the enemy beats them to it and destroys the monoliths every single time, which defeats the point of trying to go after them in the first place. To add to this, any objective that does not involve the monoliths is something that is incredibly underdeveloped and is only relevant in Levants tale.
Speaking of which, Levants Tale is thankfully much more interesting. Levant is a high ranking member of the Knights of Rosenbaum and is at first working with the king, Axel, in order to make peace with the other races of the world and end the constant wars that have been going on. A large step that Axel takes towards this goal is to marry an elf girl named Natulle in order to unite the two races. Unfortunately things do not go according to plan when Natulle is assassinated and Axel becomes a warmongering tyrant who tries to have Levant executed for saving the lives of elven civilians during an attack. Thankfully Levant is rescued by both a close female friend of his Irene, and Griek, a member of the same resistance force his country is at war with.
Unlike Cecillias path, there are actually some elements of good storytelling in Levants path. There are a lot of interesting elements brought up such racial tension between Levant and the other races as a result of the conflicts, and the fact that Levant is not necessarily liked by either side. Of course Levant eventually meets up with Cecillias group and the two start working together for a common cause but Levant and his crew just so happen to get all of the much more interesting plot events while Cecilia is left with all the boring ones. It is almost as if Sting decided to use all their best ideas on one story while they simply ran out of time and quickly scribbled something together in a few minutes for the other.
The Force is Weak in This One
The game-play of Hexyz Force is yet another aspect of the game that I take issue with. While fun game-play elements can still carry the rest of the game regardless of how bad the story is, the reverse is not true. I will say that while I was curious to see what happened in Levants Tale, the game play was just too dull for me to want to continue after the sheer torture that was Cecilias Tale. Perhaps I would feel differently if I played Levants Tale first, but even then I doubt I would have liked Cecilias even if I played it after Levant's tale.
Hexyz Force, despite being made by Sting who is known for some really complex games, is surprisingly simple. Battles are standard turn based fair and enemies show up on the over-world map meaning that you can ambush an enemy from behind to get a pre-emptive strike and vice versa. The problem with the battles in this game is quite simple, they are way too easy. Nearly every encounter you have can be dealt with in seconds and normal enemies never so much as even pose a threat. The only time a normal enemy will kill you is because you did not notice you were low on health. This will happen because it takes about six battles for enemies to deal significant damage to you, while you can wipe them out in a few turns due to the games obscenely overpowered multi-targeting abilities. Even most bosses can be beaten in just a few turns by simply spamming your most powerful attacks. With few exceptions, battles in Hexyz Force are so easy that you dont even need to heal during a lot of boss battles.
The ways that weapons work in Hexyz Force are also needlessly convoluted. Instead of any other RPG where you would simply buy and sell weapons and items, in Hexyz Force, you can only get a hold of weapons by either finding them randomly or fusing them. In order to fuse weapons you need to get a specific set of fusion materials needed for that specific item. Of course the only ones that anyone would bother to fuse the stronger pieces of equipment, and the only way one would go about that is randomly checking the menu to see if you obtained those materials.
The reason for this is that only way to obtain materials is to use the force scan, which will reveal the hidden locations for them. Force scans simply come down to stopping in your tracks, sitting through the force scan animation, and seeing if you uncovered anything. All that this addition does is needlessly annotate the process of collecting treasures. While I myself did not go after every treasure, others who did have said that one specific dungeon had so much that it could take up to four hours to fully raid the dungeon when using a map listing where all the drop points are. That is the problem with Hexyz Forces way of handling treasure; there is no way to know how you are supposed to find these. In a proper RPG, you would find these simply by exploring dungeons enough and figuring out the interesting ways the developers could slip one past you. In Hexyz Force however, finding treasures is simply guess work.
In the end though, it is not even worth going after these items because the game is already easy enough as it is. What is even more annoying is that these weapons you fuse have durability ratings, meaning that you could only use them a limited number of times which does nothing but over complicate things further. Even worse is that some of these weapons are basically one time use items, which you would normally have access to simply by selecting the item command in other RPGs, that you have to equip as a weapon and waste a valuable equipment slot. To be fair this is not the games not only form of equipment nor is it the main form. The main weapons for each character are called ragnafacts, which you are able to upgrade yourself by use of the FP you gain from battle, and thankfully do not have durability limits.
Something that is also worth mentioning is that the game has a mechanic where the final boss and ending will change based on certain circumstances. While changing the final boss and ending is an interesting concept, the process by which you do so is not very interesting in and of itself. Basically you are always going to get the creation ending if you play the game normally, and you need to go out of your way to get the destruction ending which is still pretty easy to access itself. In addition to the two endings you have access to initially, you also get access to the neutral ending while playing as the other character on a new game plus. However, this brings up yet another mind boggling addition that I cannot believe someone at Sting thought was a good idea to execute. For some ridiculous reason, someone thought it was a good idea to make the neutral ending a cliffhanger. What makes this particularly bad is that there is very little chance of Hexyz Force receiving a sequel, and considering that Stings games do not tend to do well commercially, they should have known better than to have an open ending for a game as obscure as this.
I cannot stress enough that Hexyz Force was a game I really wanted to enjoy. I myself have always gravitated towards the obscure and the most traditional JRPGs, and Hexyz Force seemed to be a game that would appeal to me. Sadly, I did not enjoy Hexyz Force. This was not because of shallow criticisms of JRPG tropes mind you. I simply did not like it because it really was not that good of a game. I will admit one thing for anyone reading this to keep in mind; I have not actually finished both paths. While I did start to slightly enjoy the game more once I started playing Levants path and did legitimately want to know what happens next, I just could not force myself to continue playing as I had already stopped having fun with the game and any motivation for me to continue was shot. Maybe things might have been better had I chose to take Levants path first, but even then that would mean that only twenty five percent is good if game-play and story each make up fifty percent of a game's overall quality.
As much as I wanted to like this game, I do not feel as though I can recommend this game to anyone based on my experience. However, when I am curious about something I tend to take some negative reviews with a grain of salt so I can only assume others will do so with mine. To those people I will say that there is plenty of content that the game has to offer and there is enough to warrant the fifteen dollars to download this game off the PlayStation Network if you can look past its flaws. That is a very big if though and I only say this based off the fact that I have seen others that have enjoyed it. Otherwise I cannot see myself recommending Hexyz Force for any reason.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Hexyz Force (US, 05/24/10)
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