Granted, the people of Bazel, the fictional world in which Resonance of Fate takes place, still have perfect hair and outfits from the trendier shops of Shibuya. It may still not jive with the American sensibilities of "reality," but it's certainly a far cry from tri-Ace's other current-gen efforts, Star Ocean and Infinite Undiscovery.
Resonance of Fate is being billed as a significant departure for tri-Ace. Its first non-Square Enix-published game comes with a brand new graphics engine, and a few new ideas to boot. The word "cliché" was uttered more than once during the presentation -- to describe exactly what the team is trying to avoid. Considering the studio's track record, we obviously had our doubts.
Battles do look unlike any RPG we've seen so far, more resembling a John Woo Hong Kong action flick than your typical summons-filled Final Fantasy fare. While the protagonists are equipped with handguns, the gameplay is entirely turn-based (read: don't expect Mass Effect here). The idea of a turn-based gun battle seems a little absurd (somehow more so than turn-based sword battles), but the fundamentals appear solid (The idea worked in Parasite Eve! -ed.) The grid-based layout of combat puts great emphasis on character positioning, while the two types of damage that can be inflicted keeps players aware of character's strengths and weaknesses.
For example, Zephyr is about speed: he can fire faster and more frequently than other party members. However, his attacks simply do scratch damage. While he can quickly dole out damage, enemies will be able to recover from these attacks. Vashyron, on the other hand, uses real bullets, causing permanent damage to foes. As battles progress, the heroes fill up an AP meter, which will unleash acrobatic special moves that can move the player and attack multiple enemies at once.
Obviously, there are other nuances in the battle system that simply can't be picked up from a minutes-long demonstration. While Resonance of Fate's gunfights look ridiculous, we have to admit they're also charming in a very Japanese way. The few instances of Engrish scattered throughout certainly added to the fun, but Sega seemed pretty adamant about "fixing" them (against our recommendations, of course).
While we could only see a little bit of Resonance of Fate's gameplay, Sega was surprisingly candid about the game's story. The giant tower pictured in the game's initial teasers provides the primary setting for the story. Bazel is supposedly the last refuge for humanity after Earth's decimation. The rich and powerful reside atop the massive structure, while gangs and slums fight in the lower levels. At the heart of Bazel is a mysterious machine that determines the life span the citizens of this vertical city. Our heroes must ultimately fight against their destinies, in a journey that reminds us a little of The Minority Report.
The plot certainly has a lot of potential, especially if tri-Ace manages to avoid the usual trappings of a JRPG and genuinely explores the mature themes central to the world they've created: the social disparity of classes and free will. Otherwise, the game's loss of giant anime breasts would all be for naught.