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April 15, 2002
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 Overall Score: *75*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

Forever Kingdom [Sony PlayStation 2] 

by Agetec  Reviewed by: Mike Messersmith  


ScreenshotOverview

Join up with Darius, his childhood friend Ruyan, and Faeana, an amnesiac woman with great magical powers on a quest to free themselves from a curse that binds their souls together as one while also trying to stop the insane wizard Darsul from destroying their homeland. Forever Kingdom is yet another action/adventure/RPG style game that has a sort of a yin-yang balance about it—while a nice play in many ways, it falls short in others but it all kind of balances out in the end.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Forever Kingdom plays pretty much like almost any other action/adventure/RPG game these days. It takes place in a fully 3D environment. You control a party of three adventurers that have been put under a curse that binds their souls together. They may have been inseparable before, but now everything they feel is simultaneously felt among all three. The worst part of the curse is that if one gets hurt, all three take damage so even though there are three of you, it's still almost like you're by yourself because if one of you dies, you all die. Fortunately, most of the time your partners will take a cue from you and start attacking if they see you need some help. Likewise the AI of your friends is decent enough to know to try and block attacks but not smart enough to figure out that they get in your way a lot.

Aside from bumping into your friends often, the control feels good and isn't too complicated. It mainly consists of a single attack button, a single guard button, general movement, switching characters, centering the camera (or looking around from the controlled character's point of view), and three "Palmira Action" (special attack) buttons—one for each character. While you can only fully control one character at a time in your party, you can use the Palmira Actions of any character at any time provided you have enough Palmira Points to execute one. In addition, you can use well-timed combinations of these attacks to pull off incredible amounts of damage. While this helps clear out your enemies and looks cool, you can also get Palmira crystals that allow you to upgrade your equipment. Each character has individual strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Faeana moves faster, but isn't as strong as the other two in battle. I found that I ended up using Darius the most, as he seems to be the strongest fighter although not much slower moving than the other two characters. You'll find that regardless of which character you like to lead with best, you'll need to switch between them to pass certain situations and puzzles.

The bulk of the game is real-time battle and exploring although a good chunk of time is involved in reading clues, solving cryptic puzzles, and manipulating camera angles. I found the puzzles to be easy to medium to solve. Meanwhile, expect to fight lots of creatures while trying to figure them out and be sure you learn to guard as most enemies pack quite a wallop if they hit you when you aren't ready. Some hit so hard that they will kill you with a single hit! Unfortunately the game is trying to be cinematic in its viewpoints—the camera is frequently at a bad angle and in some cases it's downright impossible to see what's going on. I ran into a few battles where something completely blocked the camera and I couldn't see what I was doing no matter how I tried to manipulate the camera. As you reach certain points in the game you'll be presented with cut-scenes that move the story along.

ScreenshotLike any good RPG there are plenty of items that will help increase the entertainment value of Forever Kingdom. Various weapons, armor, and items will cross your path through your journey. Some items have certain elemental attributes such as Fire, Ice, Earth, and Lightning that can help or hinder your battles. Use ice against fire and you'll do some serious damage, but ice against ice may actually heal your enemy. Since most items have some type of attribute, you'll find yourself needing to watch which weapons and items you use where. Unfortunately it's often difficult to figure out what attributes your enemies have so you'll just have to experiment. One nice feature of all of this change is that when you equip yourself with different armor, helms, etc. you see your character actually wear these items. In addition, you can have the shopkeeper, who looks like a hippie elephant, critique your outfit and if he approves you may be eligible for some benefits not otherwise attainable. The shopkeeper will also let you enter the Coliseum which allows you to earn lots of extra money and Palmira Crystals if you can stay alive long enough. You can also have the shopkeeper use your Palmira Crystals to upgrade your equipment while visiting the shop. The rest of the items are the standard type of things you'd expect to find—health potions, poison cures, money (which is in the form of what appear to be flowers), etc. Most items can be found either in the shop or by killing enemies or by opening treasure chests. The treasure chests are similar to slot machines in that sometimes you'll get some type of goodies, but many times you'll get nothing at all. Unlike a slot machine, you don't have to pay to open these treasure chests, but you also run the risk of an explosion going off in your face or something even worse such as a little devil creature poisoning you. As the game progressed I found opening a chest really became quite the gamble.

Also, there appears to be some sort of bonus game, which is accessible from the main menu before you start a game. I was never able to play this game or even figure out how to get into it. The game gives a message explaining how to get in but it didn't make sense to me. Is it maybe another cryptic puzzle or is it just poor English? Either could be the case as both exist in the game. Ok, maybe I'm being a little "school-marmy" but I did notice several misspelled words throughout the game's story text.

Multiplayer support

This is a single player only game. Actually, it's too bad that a second or third person can't join in and control one of the other two characters in your party. That would've been a nice touch that could have enhanced the game greatly.

Graphics

Pretty nice, but pretty standard for a PS2 game these days. The environments are varied—you'll explore quaint little villages, misty caves, mountainous river canyons, and foreboding palaces as well as many other locations. On the plus side, none of these locations are too dark to see the action even when darkness or fog falls upon you. There are some nice effects with explosions and Palmira Actions, but I was most impressed with the reflections in the water. You're eyes won't bug out playing this game, but you won't be disappointed in this department either.

ScreenshotAudio

Unfortunately you probably will be disappointed in this department. The sound effects are probably the best portion of the audio as a whole. They aren't spectacular, but they aren't bad either - pretty much what you'd expect for this style of game. The voices seem to be hit and miss in terms of how the people sound for their current situation. For instance, there are parts where the characters are in danger, yet they sound almost cheery - it's kind of unnerving. By far, the worst part is the music. There isn't much variation throughout the course of the game and probably the best way to describe it is to compare it to a moaning and wailing sound on a broken record. Yuck!

Documentation

While I never expect a manual for a game of this genre to tell me how to do everything, I do hope that during the course of the game certain things will be explained. While there is a help screen within the game, it's kind of hard to understand. Also, there are many attributes that each character possesses and some just aren't explained very well (i.e. What on earth is the "SG" attribute?). I think the game assumes that you know your way around an RPG. There is also a brief tutorial in the game, but it only goes over using Palmira Actions and nothing else. After playing the game a while and reading the manual a second time, both made more sense.

Originality/Cool Features

The idea of being bound by a soul curse is an interesting story concept and makes you really try to watch out for all three characters in your party. Likewise, the ability to switch between each character at will and find the best items to equip him or her with to exploit their strengths adds an interesting thinking element to the gameplay also. Also, depending on which items you equip, Forever Kingdom turns fashion show when you have the shopkeeper critique your lovely ensemble. If he approves, you can get some extras not otherwise available (but I never saw these, guess that pot for a helmet just isn't chic enough).

Bottom Line

In a nutshell—not a great game but not horrible either. While the graphics are nice, the music is quite draining to continually listen to. While the control is decent, the frequent bad camera angles often hinder your actions. Being able to switch characters is a plus, but it seems they also get in your way a lot, especially in a heated battle. In essence, it seems for every good point to the game there's also a negative counterpoint in the same category. If you're an action/adventure RPG fan then you'll find some redeeming quality to this game and may enjoy it. I probably wouldn't recommend this game to anyone else however, which is why I give it a score of 75.

Review Posted On February 12, 2002.

 
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