Resonance of Fate‘s launch was hardly illustrious.
Sega’s decision to release it, not as a competitor, but merely as a limited alternative to Final Fantasy XIII, didn’t exude much confidence in publisher and consumer, alike. Two years on, and the internet is rife with complaints about Final Fantasy XIII; its wildfire notoriety will forever preserve the game as an industry talking point.
That really shouldn’t be the case, because Resonance of Fate is one of the best J-RPGs, this generation. Where else are you going to find a mix of strategy, John Woo-style gun ballet, and Nolan North playing Nolan North, all in one game?
Everything about RoF rails against the usual conventions, from story to combat. It’s a title made by some restless spirits, catering for a like-minded audience.
Whilst the plot is obtuse and holistic, it follows the episodic narrative of an anime; sharing more in common with Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo, than your usual “save the universe” fare. The focus on characters and stand-alone adventures do give way to the bigger picture, but even then, the results are an understated affair.
Background information literally relies on some interesting mise-en-scene, e.g. the clockwork world of Basel is an overbearing representation of time. It’s another character with its own story to tell; one that is observed through the daily lives of its protagonists – a trio of “hunters” – Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne. From the outset, they’re cogs in the machine, their story is one out of hundreds.
Basel has its own hierarchy, one formed by the worship of a unseen computer; Cardinals give the orders from high above the clouds, the hunters do their dirty work, and everyone else gets worse off, the further you venture down.
Vashyron, and his companions, live a life of risk and reward. On the middle tier of life, they have to pull off some dangerous odd-jobs to pay the bills. An ideal place to be for an RPG involving dual-wielding handguns and giant monsters, because plot aside, RoF‘s battles are the real selling point.
It requires your full attention, at every turn.
Level grinding is replaced by weapon customisation, inflicting damage is more than a simple case of attacking, and auto-battles are non-existent through tactical awareness. One lapse in concentration is all it takes for anybody to get the drop on you. Still, once you’ve mastered the basics, combat is immensely satisfying as your trio run rings (nay, triangles) around your enemies, pulling off some insane stunts in the process.
Fights entail large arenas, where you have to send each character in a direction of your choosing. Activating their Hero Moves, turns them into invincible, acrobatic killers. The catch, of course, is that by using these moves, you drain your Hero Gauge, and if you run out, the group lose their abilities.
To keep your Hero Gauge topped up, you have to chip away at weak points or break off pieces of armor. Easier said than done, but handguns don’t cut it without the assistance of machine guns, and this is where the tactical dimension of Scratch Damage comes into play.
In Layman’s terms, you have to injure your enemies, before delivering the final blow.
To keep this up, you have to make the characters cross paths, and create triangles for Tri-Attacks. The more triangles you make, the more laps of damage you can inflict. Yet, it’s not a case of watching an glorified auto-attack. You still have to jump over obstacles, bounce enemies around, and generally stay on the ball.
Even explaining it, here and now, induces a headache. It would be easier to show you a training video, whilst everyone else took five for lunch. Unsurprisingly, that was Sega’s PR mentality, too.
Hey, even if gets too much, you can always just spend your hard earned cash on new clothes.
Once you dress Leanne up in the Portland Hipster/Zooey Deschanel look, complete with a noir-ish shoulder holster, many hours will be lost to the outfit menus. It’s a novel way of bonding with the characters, too; with the looks carrying over to cutscenes. At least, that’s the excuse.
Resonance of Fate is a true overlooked gem, and luckily, we don’t have to mourn its loss, like so many others.
Whatever your views on the digital domain, it does breath new life into titles that missed the spotlight. So, it’s quite warming to find Resonance of Fate as a recent addition to Xbox Live’s Games On Demand. Tri–Ace’s alluring experiment deserves more than to live in the shadow of Square-Enix’s launch counterpart. Seeing RoF get a second wind, no matter how minor, serves to remind us that there are games out there willing to fight against what is expected of them.
It certainly lives up to the title, even if that wasn’t the original intention.