Reviewed: April 12, 2006
Released: March 21, 2006
One thingís for sure; the DS needs more high quality role-playing games. Konami isnít new to the portable games market. Heck; theyíve published 44 Game Boy Advance games. Itís true that the majority of those were action/adventure titles and only two were RPGís. Those being two Shaman King games (Shaman King: Legacy of The Spirits Ė Sprinting Wolf and Soaring Hawk).
It only was a matter of time before Konami tried its hand again at an RPG on a Nintendo handheld and this time the game is called Taoís Adventure: Cures of the Demon Seal. This adventure has you taking on the role of Tao, who is a young student trying to master the Magical Arts. One day, a demon seal from a distant monster tower cracked and set loose tons of violent ancient monsters.
Tao lives in the Town of Bente Island where an immensely powerful monster has cursed the townspeople (including Taoís family) which has turned them all to stone. It is up to Tao (you) to master the art of magic, repair the damaged demon seal, eliminate the curse, and save your family.
Doing all of this isnít easy and Tao must find the egg of the ancient monster (Straitser) that has cursed his family. Once he obtains this egg he must deliver it to the village elders who can break the townís curse. However, if he doesnít return by the next full moon, the curse can never be broken and the town and Toaís family are doomed forever.
You begin by going through the motions of the story and eventually learning the basics of how to use magic (air spelling). This isnít as easy as simply selecting the spell, pressing a button, and enjoying the cool animation. Instead, you must draw (using your stylus) symbols on the touch screen (your character draws them in the air). The interesting thing is that you must remember the symbol, which is neat, but can prove to be frustrating.
Some people might think it was implemented solely to make you use the touch screen and that itís gimmicky, but I kind of like the whole idea of physically casting your spells. To be honest, it gets old, but it is still a neat concept and Konami is the first one to do it.
Using the touch screen is a major factor in the game not only because of the way you must cast your spells, but also because the game is designed for you to play it with only the stylus pen. Sure you can use the D pad to move around if you donít like using the pen, but once you get used to it, itís actually better than using the D pad. One really frustrating thing for those of you who decide to use the D pad is that you must take one hand off and use your stylus to touch small and unresponsive buttons on the screen in order to talk to anyone. You donít have to if you donít mind mucking up your screen with fingerprints, but Iím way too anal retentive to do that, thus the controls forced me against my will to use only the stylus.
Drawing the symbols to cast your spells in a tiny box can and will get old very fast. The game allows for a small window of error and repeating spells over and over is frustrating. Overall my opinion of the spell drawing system is more negative than I originally had thought. Itís cool at first, but after a few casts it wears on you. It ends up making this average dungeon crawler more tedious and time consuming than it needed to be. I can see the spell drawing system implemented into a DS RPG again, but not like it is here. Instead Iíd like it to be used infrequently for casting big spells.
This is a dungeon crawler and most of the game takes place in (you guessed it) dungeons which are laid out like simple mazes. Like youíd guess, the enemies get more difficult the deeper you get into the tower and eventually youíll run across a boss.
What youíll notice as you progress through the game is that the battles feel like a cross between turn-based and real-time fighting. For starters, you each take turns attacking like a turn-based game, but you can run around freely when you arenít fighting similar to an action RPG. What I mean is that you can run up and start attacking an enemy before it turns into turn-based combat. Itís an interesting combination that manages to make the whole combat pacing feel sluggish.
Combat isnít always lonely because you can collect monsters to fight along side you. To do this youíll need to find a monster egg and take it back to town. There youíll have to get it appraised and return it to the tower to hatch it. They fight with you and stay out of your way most of the time, but you donít have direct control over them.
As you battle against and with these monsters you (and your pets) will gain experience and level up. If you would prefer, you can do training in the coliseum much like the Pokeímon games. You can even trade monsters with your friends. Sure itís a knock off, but it's bound to happen over and over again.
Saving is a royal pain in the butt and I canít believe some game developers have never created a game where you can save at anytime or at the very least, quickly. You wonít be able to save quickly in this game; instead youíll have to shut your DS until you can play it again unless you happen to be at a town inn. Town inns are the only locations which you can save and there is no quick beam back to town like in Dragon Quest VIII. Itís bad enough when consol games donít make saving convenient, but this is a game for the portable/handheld DS system which cries for quick saving.
Taoís Adventure reminds me of N64 graphics. They look pretty good even though the camera angle is in a stationary isometric angle. Everything appears to be pre-rendered 3D which is a nice change from most of the 2D games coming out on the DS. It becomes apparent at some points that the DS might not be powerful enough to handle everything and it hiccups (rarely). One cool thing is that the Taoís cape blows in the wind and there are several other neat animations youíll notice. The levels, monsters, and characters are actually detailed pretty heavily and enjoyable to look at.
There are over 40 different spell effects in the game and they all are unique and entertaining to watch. Most of them have very short animations, but they are all worth taking a look at.
This is the loudest DS game yet. If you max out the volume it will hurt your ears, which is a good thing if you already have hearing loss. The background music feels very second generation and lacks a lot of creativity, but at the same time manages to work pretty effectively. It will remind you of almost every other mundane role-playing game youíve played before, but the music fits the game well.
Sound effects are average and effective, but limited. Youíll wish there was more variety and voice acting as well. The DS has the capabilities to do voice acting on a limited basis and it should be done more often to create a more immersive experience and character development.
The game features over thirty hours of gameplay, but most of your time will be spent performing the overly used spells to defeat enemies. I suspect the game would have taken considerably less time to beat had that system not been implemented. The pacing of the game is bad as well and youíll dislike the slow battles.
Sure, the game has value and there are plenty of things to keep you busy, especially if you include the Pokeímon-like collecting, trading and battling monsters thing. Itís all a matter of if you are able to stomach the games slow and repetitive gameplay.
Taoís Adventure has a lot of unrecognized potential and hopefully there will be a game soon that will capitalize on this gameís innovations. It overuses the air-spells (where you manually cast your own), but manages to maintain an interesting story, decent gameplay, sound, and graphics.
The game is pretty average and Iíd personally hold out for something better if youíre in the RPG market.