You know you’re in store
for quite a game when it has a note about its creepy content written on the
disc. "For a really disturbing image…flip disc over."
I’ll let you think about
that one for a minute. If you’re still baffled, pick up any PS2 disc and do as
the game says.
Now that milk has been
shot from your nose, it’s time to learn about a tale of a wisecracking bard who
loves to make wisecracks. His tale is not entirely unlike that of his brothers
and sisters, the men and women who star in other RPGs. This story, however,
doesn’t follow the stereotypes that the genre has created – it makes fun of
The story is long but
very entertaining. Where else can you see a bunch of drunks break into song?
And rhyme, no less, and do it with a certain amount of hilarity. The voice
acting is some of the best I’ve heard in an RPG, carrying the game through the
entire time. Without good acting the story would have had to be done in text,
and while that used to be acceptable, there’s so much more that can be conveyed
in the spoken word.
I’ll play a semi-decent
RPG if it has a spectacular story, so I was thrilled to discover that I wouldn’t
have to suffer with The Bard’s Tale. I’d see it through because of the story,
but the gameplay, which consists of real-time action, is very entertaining.
Think of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. Now enlarge the characters and
environments. Add more gameplay options and a good graphics engine, and you’ve
got one of the best RPGs of the year.
When in combat, the Bard
has his trusty sword at his side, as well as a magical instrument. The
instrument sounds quirky and does at first not appear to be any more magical
than the instruments of other RPGs. Try out a song and you’ll just how magical
it really is. A rat pops out and runs into a bar!
Screams are heard.
People are freaked. Then the Bard comes in to "magically" save the day.
Unfortunately for the
Bard it isn’t that simple. His rat is a summon monster, which he can use and
control (to a degree) in battle. There’s another rat though, and this one must
be killed. When he runs downstairs to take it out, he does so successfully,
triggering a nice cut scene honoring his success. But then, oh no – behind you
The Bard, behind you!
Take that you evil being you!
Saying much more would
spoil the game’s greatest moments. Rest assured that the thing behind him is
something large and expected. The following cut scenes will make you burst into
laughter, there’s no question of that.
At the start of the game,
long before the first battle begins, players can increase their character’s
statistics in six different categories: Strength, Vitality, Luck, Dexterity,
Charisma, and Rhythm. These categories are self-explanatory, but since Rhythm
is a new one, I’ll tell you that it increases the Bard’s magical tune skill.
Adding to the number of Rhythm points enhances the strength and abilities of the
Most RPGs have a
one-size-fits-all difficulty setting. The Bard’s Tale gives you three: Easy,
Normal, and Olde School. As you can imagine, Olde School is the most difficult,
providing only four points of skill under each category (strength, vitality,
etc.). Easy, on the other hand, gives you eight. Regardless of the difficulty
you choose, 12 skill points are available and can be dispersed in any way you
Before the quest can
begin, players have one more option to choose: the Bard’s talent. His talents
are varied and in great abundance, but you only get one at first. The rest have
to be acquired through battling.
Your choices include: