There was a lovely continent populated by beautiful trees. The continent's peoples had always felt that much of their good fortune was due to these trees. Life was good. The people were happy, the trees were well watered, and a benign government ruled them all. But greedy peopled felled the government and split the continent into four factions. Two of these factions, comprised of the citizens of Morea and those from Stoltan, fight bitterly. It is against this canvas of war Forever Kingdom is painted.
Three young Stoltans venture from their city, each with their own agenda, each bound to the other by a strange curse. Darius is the resident badass swordsman, his brother-like friend Ruyan is a sensitive lad who claims to despise violence, but deals more than his fair share during the game. Joining the two sword brothers is the teenage girl Faena whose green hair hints at a continent wide Kleenex shortage. Your job, should you chose to accept it, is to assume the role of each of these three characters as they search for the cure to the curse that binds them, revenge on the citizens of Morea, and a box of Kleenex.
The adventuring is in trio-time. That is, unlike Shadow Hearts, all three characters are present and accounted for at all times. I've always liked that. It's hard to make that leap of imagination when a party of characters sprout from the chest of one spike-headed warrior.
Only one of the three characters does the gamer's bidding. The other two are controlled by the electrons ravishing the PS2's neural network. When monsters are met, you fight with the character you currently control and let the PS2 chips fight with what they have. Switching off in adventure mode, however, is simple. Thus, you may direct whomever you wish whenever you want. Old English adverb aside, the directing can get frantic at best, toss-the-controller-at-the-screen frustrating at worst.
The curse has bound Darius, Ruyah, and Faena's souls. When one takes damage, they all take damage. If a monster attacks an AI controlled character it behooves you to put that character under your control. Switching under combat pressure is a bit of a challenge.. Pile on a strange chaining engine that allows you to chain normal, and super normal attacks--called Palmira attacks--in order to wreak extra damage on the enemy. Of course, you have to time the attacks correctly, and each character has a unique button to press in order to activate their Palmira attack, and that attack cannot activate until the Action Point Gauge fills, and you have to keep an eye on the monster, and watch the Action Point Gauge, and dodge attacks, and it happens in real-time. Is it just me, or it this a difficult combat system to master?
Killing monsters grants a form of experience and that experience may be used to upgrade the character's equipment. The characters don't level up, but the equipment upgrades serve the same purpose. New armor, headgear, or whatever, is grafted onto the character's appearance, making upgrades not only necessary to completing the quest, but visually satisfying.
Rare is the game where the graphics either stun or appall, and Forever Kingdom is not that rare game. Although a bit detail challenged, the graphics are nonetheless acceptable. Better than acceptable is the voice acting. I've long wondered why PS2 games don't make better use of the console's enhanced audio suite. Hearing the characters speak beats the heck out of reading through several lines of "..." and "?!".
Not a bad effort on From Software's part. No doubt the combat is tough to master, and the graphics won't make Squaresoft's artists lose any sleep, but Forever Kingdom has an unquantifiable charm that makes it an enjoyable diversion during these cold winter evenings.
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