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Submitted by Jon Wilcox on August 24 2004 - 12:09

TVG takes a look at the long-awaited Xbox (via Dreamcast, R.I.P.) RPG…

A long time ago, an RPG by the name of â??Symphony of Lightâ? was being developed for the Sega Dreamcast. Through the obvious upheaval that followed the collapse of Segaâ??s final console, development of the game continued, but attention was turned towards a version for the Xbox instead. The title eventually changed to â??Sudekiâ?, and this is where the story of the gameâ??s tempestuous development ends, five years after it had been given the green lightâ?¦but does the final game meet expectations?

Sudeki begins with a lengthy monologue that explains the history and mythology of the world, or more correctly the worlds of Sudeki. The world had been torn apart and split into the worlds of Haskilia and Akloria, the light and the dark seemingly polarized across both landsâ?¦You start off playing Tal, one of the Haskilians, whoâ??s initial quest is to clear the path between two towns (Illumina and New Brightwater) of enemy hordes, so that the Princess of Illumina can travel in safety. Although a quick run-through of the combat system is introduced at the beginning of Sudeki, the quest allows you to become fully accustomed to the combat system.

Throughout the storyline, youâ??ll unearth other quests that push the narrative along, and some that act as separate side-quests. Progress through the first part of the game, but when the four characters find themselves in the Ream of Shadows, progress slows down as you face some really tough enemies that even the Spirit Skills fail to destroy on the first attempt.

First of all, Sudeki looks great. It captures the fantastical feel needed to support the story, and the vibrant colours of Illumina and New Brightwater contrast really well to the earthy grainy look of Shadani-Mo, and the bleakness of the Shadow Realm. The main characters have their own visual style, which reflects their status in the Sudeki world well. Complimenting the look of the game, are the sounds and music that accompany you. Overall, the locations have their own ambient music, and when you find yourself in combat, the beat picks up into suitable fighting themes.

As you play through the game, youâ??ll get to play three other characters â?“ the Princess of Illumina called Ailish, Buki from the township of Shadani-Mo, and Illumina inventor, Elco. In fact, later on in the game, youâ??ll have to switch control between all of them in order to surviveâ?¦Two of the characters (Tal and Buki) are melee fighters, and as you progress through Sudeki youâ??ll be able to upgrade their weapons. The two other playable characters (Ailish and Elco) have ranged attacks. Both have a choice of two weapons with differing offensive strengths. All of the characters have special skills that relinquish some of the power from their Special Skills Meter. For instance, both Buki and Ailish have the power to replenish a percentage of lost Health Points onto the playable characters. This comes in handy during the later parts of the game when you find yourself in the Realm of Shadowsâ?¦

To navigate around the world of Sudeki, you are provided with a circular â??compassâ?? that points in the general direction you need to travel in. This may have diehard RPG fans running for the hills, but it does help, and the arrow doesnâ??t always appear on the compass. In the centre of the compass is a small section of the map that shows you the direction that youâ??re looking in, and the positions of the enemies (if there are any). Youâ??ll also find books dotted around the various locations that enable you to save your progressâ?¦

The characters have at least one powerful special skill that devastates the surrounding enemies, but they arenâ??t the most powerful moves that the group of four can do. Part of the mythology surrounding Sudeki explores the group of four that helped push back the forces of darkness centuries before. The God of Light, Tetsu, appears during the game to give each of the characters their Spirit Strike Skills that are derived from the skills that the ancient group of four had. These skills are truly deadly, and are much needed during the later stages of the game when you have to fight a number of very powerful beings. In order to use the Spirit Strike Skills though, you have to be able to build up your Spirit Strike Skills bar by defeating enemies as you go along. Donâ??t worry though, because youâ??ll have plenty of opportunity to build the bar up on your journey.

The melee characters of Tal and Buki have the ability to launch a number of combo attacks, each of which offers varying degrees of damage to the enemy forces. The combat system for the melee fighters is something that we feel brings on the development of combat in the RPG genre. Rather than a turn-based system, the developers of Sudeki have developed a system that relies on timing to create combos. We feel that the system makes the whole idea of combat flow a lot easier in Sudeki, and makes it feel more like an action-adventure game than a traditional RPG. The melee combat system becomes more engaging and strengthens the immersion, rather than the turn-based combat systems that can pull you out of the game. When you control the characters with ranged attacks youâ??ll be moved into a first-person-shooter view. Now we will admit that when we first heard about the switch to the FPS style, we werenâ??t too sure as to whether this would work, but in a strange wayâ?¦.it does. Also when you switch to the â??Quick Menuâ??, the action continues, but is dramatically slowed down as you decide whether to use a Healing Ointment or use a Spirit Strike Skillâ?¦

One of the key criticisms that we have with the game is when you are in combat with more than one playable character. When, for instance, you control both Tal and Ailish, you can switch fairly easily between the two throughout the fight and destroy the dark forces. The problem lies when you have all four characters in combat together. In theory, you should be able to select various AI settings on each of the characters, so that when you switch from one to another, the character that you have just left control of will follow the commands that you set. In practice, youâ??ll probably find that when you arenâ??t controlling them, the other three characters will end up dieing fairly rapidly. The AI choices are limited to just three: attacking, defending, or retreating and youâ??ll find yourself quickly switching from one character to another, desperately trying to keep them alive as the attack go on. This really is one of the few flaws that the game has.

Itâ??s true to say that itâ??s not the most complex RPG ever invented, and that aside from some aspects of the combat system, Sudeki isnâ??t the most original. However, it looks great, sounds great, and its fun to play.

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  • Graphics: 81%
     
  • Sound: 79%
     
  • Gameplay: 75%
     
  • Originality: 81%
     
  • Longevity: 77%
     
Overall Score: 7/10
The US Reviews of Sudeki have not been particularly kind, and that is something that we can’t really understand. True enough the game as its faults, but on the whole, Sudeki is a good game with some great ideas. There have been complaints from some quarters that the battle controls are clunky…we have to disagree. Whilst the AI of the team isn’t great, the actual battle controls and ideas, such as the combo rhythms that you have to build up, really add to usually slow turn-based battles of other RPGs. The switch to first-person view for the longer ranged weapons works better than we’d expected, and the battles run pretty smoothly – quite unlike the standard fare. The storyline is strong, and the introduction to Sudeki really gives you a strong background into the mythology.<br />
Whilst the finished product may not live up to the hype that surrounded it, the game is strong, and acts very nicely as an introduction in the genre of RPGs. If you are a veteran of the genre, then check out Sudeki just to get a feel for the new ideas that the developers have added to the game.<br />

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