JRPGs are one of the strangest genres out there; it’s a big part of why I love them, I think. They often make no attempt whatsoever at a narrative with the slightest connection to reality, and they’re entirely unapologetic in their dedication to the story they’ve decided to go with. So it is with Alpha Kimori: Part One, which opens with a very brief scene setting the stage for the coming adventure. Fifty years prior, Earth was attacked by aliens. In response, God – in the form of a spaceship (yes, really) and seven ‘angels’ (read: giant mechs called Robotic Intelligent Cybernetic Armor, or RICAs) then transports the chosen few of humanity to a new world called Kimori, where the humans do the natural human thing and split into two warring factions; the peaceful Jinrians who wish to preserve the new world as their permanent home and promised land, and the warlike Bidarians, who seek to ravage the natural resources of Kimori – notably items called Ki Crystals – to build a powerful enough force to reclaim Earth.
The player is cast in the role of Rick, a young Bidarian warrior who’s not so sure about being a warrior thanks to an encounter with a Jinrian girl in his youth. Gameplay is pretty simple and familiar for anyone who have played any RPGs, with area maps, world map, and the like being just about as you’d expect. Combat is turn-based, with the player selecting the action for each party member at the beginning of any given turn. As elite Ki Crystal-imbued Bidarian warriors called Kimori, our heroes have access to Ki powers, which function essentially like magic in many RPGs, and can be used for offense, defense, or healing. The story opens as Rick is preparing to take his graduation exam from the Bidari Academy and become a full-fledged Kimori soldier. A few side missions along the way help expand some of the backstory, as well as giving players the opportunity to gather enough XP and levels to really begin their journey.
The graphics, sound, and general ‘feel’ of the game evoke classics from 16-bit era, and do so passably well. There’s not a lot here that’s terribly impressive, but they fit the theme and are, for the most part, well done. While some strangely timed loop points in the music do take away from the flow, the music itself is fitting with the retro style and isn’t so terrible as to be a real turn-off. The controls are a bit strange, but the option to use click-to-go mouse controls for movement is an interesting enough feature, though I did most of my playthrough using a gamepad. When passing through areas where enemies are present, they’re visible rather than the traditional random encounters method, so you can (mostly) fight as many or as few battles as you’d like. I took my time passing through to make sure I was getting enough experience, but found the ability to pass relatively quickly through lower-level areas without constantly fighting underpowered enemies rather nice. I say ‘relatively quickly’ because movement itself is pretty slow – this is a game that could really benefit from a run button, but I know that’s not exactly a common feature in the genre.
I didn’t get too deep into the story just yet, as I’ve only had a few hours to explore the world, but it’s clear that Alpha Kimori intends to present a struggle of morality and war, with both sides of the planetary conflict being flawed in their approach. The internal battle within Rick is at the forefront from very early on, and is used to set up a lot of the plot as the young hero fights against his nature and his upbringing and seeks to find a way to please his parents and superiors without compromising his own feelings on the way of the world. I’m interested to see where the story takes this, and what kinds of larger moral issues will arise as Rick fumbles his way through life and love; if you’re curious about it, Sherman3D has a demo for each of the first two episodes on the official website, as well as links for purchasing each chapter. Chapter one is also available via Steam for $9.99 – a $5 savings off of the BMT Micro-hosted purchasing options listed on the game’s site.