reviews\ Jun 22, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Summon Night: Twin Age - NDS - Review

The Summon Night series has seen critical and commercial success in Japan for a while now, but has only recently been introduced in America. July of 2006 saw the American release of Summon Night: Swordcraft Story, an RPG for the Game Boy Advance which combined a deep weapon-crafting system with an action-oriented side-scrolling combat system, similar to Namco’s Tales Of series. October of that same year marked the US debut of Swordcraft Story 2, which featured a few improvements and another lengthy quest for fans to embark upon. Now, Atlus has brought us the most recent Summon Night installment, Twin Age for the Nintendo DS.

Twin Age takes place in the land of Clardona, where humans and the beast-like Kascuza live alongside the peaceful spirits of nature. On the island of Jarazi, a girl named Reiha and a young man named Aldo have been raised as brother and sister, although in reality Reiha is a powerful young Summoner and Aldo is a spirit given human form, a creature known as a Summon Beast. As the game begins, the Coming of Age ceremony for Reiha and Aldo is fast approaching when the spirits of nature begin acting violently for no apparent reason, leading to monster attacks and dangerous weather conditions. With most of the villages’ elders and mages out of action, Reiha and Aldo must step up to investigate the spirits’ behavior, which starts a journey that eventually will decide the fate of all Clardona. Much like the other Summon Night titles, the story is traditional anime fare, although the quality of the translation and writing are quite high for a game like this.

There’s plenty of dialogue in the game, but for the most part it’s well-written.

Twin Age controls exclusively with the touchscreen — everything from menus to combat to exploration is controlled with the stylus. The game is an action-RPG in the vein of the Mana series (Secret of Mana, Children of Mana), so like those games, most stages consist of large areas full of enemies and treasure, with the occasional town or boss fight to break things up. Moving and attacking is easy and intuitive; touching an area makes your character run there, while tapping an enemy focuses your aggression on them. Spells, items, and abilities are plentiful, but only ones set to your Command Palette (a customizable set of icons on either side of the screen) can be used during battle, so there’s some strategy involved in preparing for each combat encounter. Each ability or spell uses the touchscreen in different ways, almost like a little minigame; for instance, one sword attack allows you to slash a series of enemies by touching them, but you can’t tap the same enemy twice in a row or the attack will end. These abilities play out almost like a touch screen mini-game, but since they’re integrated into the battles with no transition, they add a quick, enjoyable diversion without disrupting the flow of the game. During battle you’ve also got the help of your AI party members, and while they’re not incredibly intelligent (don’t be surprised if they occasionally get hung up on walls, or ignore enemies standing right next to them), they’re helpful more often than not, healing you just when you need it and busting out skills to decimate the enemy forces. Overall, combat in the game is fun and engaging, and drives the game along just as much as the story.

Battles can get hectic, but everything’s intuitive enough that you’ll be tearing through enemy groups in no time.

There’s plenty to do outside of combat, too. Leveling up grants you skill points, which can be spent on a skill tree very reminiscent of hack-and-slash games like Diablo or Champions of Norrath, where you can buy new abilities or level up the ones you already know. Aside from experience and skill points, battles grant you items, but these go far beyond the simple healing items you might find in your average RPG. The Summon Night games are known for their high level of customization, and Twin Age is no different. Items can be mixed in shops to produce better items, or even different items altogether. Weapons, too, can be improved with items, and new custom weapons can be forged with the right ingredients. Items can also be used to create summonable monster companions, who fight alongside you in combat. Players who make smart use of their time and supplies outside of battle are rewarded with an easier time in combat, so it really pays to learn these item, weapon, and monster creation systems. Besides, as fun as combat in this game is, it’s that much more satisfying when you decimate the enemy ranks with weapons of your own creation, or with those very same creatures fighting on your side.

The skill tree has plenty of skills and abilities to invest points into, letting you customize each character.

The Summon Night games on GBA looked great, and Twin Age doesn’t disappoint. Beautiful 2D characters and enemies animate smoothly, and plenty of flashy effects keep combat visually interesting. The 2D environments are impressively detailed, and even feature some animation to make the world feel dynamic and alive. Twin Age’s music is your standard fantasy/anime fare, but it’s not bad, just kind of generic. There’s also a fair amount of voice work present for a DS game, but the quality varies from great to terrible, and the voice clips that play during battle repeat a little too often.

While the series might not have the legacy in America that it’s got in Japan, Twin Age is another fun, deep installment in the Summon Night series. DS owners looking for a quality action-RPG to get them through the slow summer months should look no further. With a decent story, engaging combat, plenty of customization options, and a lengthy quest, this is an excellent addition to the DS’s RPG library, and a worthy addition to any genre fan’s collection.

Review Scoring Details for Summon Night: Twin Age

Gameplay: 8.4
Combat is simple to get into, but plenty of options for dishing out damage keep things fresh. Anyone who can enjoy a good dungeon crawler will find plenty to like here.

Graphics: 8.2
The game’s visuals are cute and flashy, with a nice anime style and large character and enemy sprites. Animation is smooth, and there are tons of visual effects, making combat an impressive 2D display.

Sound: 6.8
The music isn’t bad, just kind of generic and forgettable. Voice clips are a welcome addition, though the quality varies greatly — some sound great, and others will get on your nerves, especially the ones that accompany frequently-used combat abilities.

Difficulty: Medium
Things start out pretty simple, with easy enemies, plentiful healing supplies, and helpful AI partners. As the game goes on, enemies definitely get tougher, but your companions keep things from getting out of hand difficult.

Concept: 7.8
This type of gameplay has been done before, but Twin Age makes the style its own with deep customization options and an engaging quest. The different touch-screen abilities are a welcomed addition as well, and set a trend I’d like to see other DS games follow.

Overall: 8.3
Summon Night: Twin Age is a fun, deep, and lengthy action-RPG that’s perfectly suited to the DS. The myriad customization options keep things fresh and add replay value, and the story impresses with its writing and presentation. This game definitely deserves a spot in any RPG fan’s DS library.


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