Gungnir is the victim of several pitfalls that prevent it from standing out against big-time releases, but it’s definitely the perfect game to pick up at the tail-end of a handheld’s life.
Genres: Strategy RPG
Sting once again tries to innovate the strategy RPG by making battles more about micromanagement of time, versus the value of individual units. Other than your “Ace” character on the field who takes the lead, you can have up to five characters joining you in the thick of the fight against insurmountable odds. Each character doesn’t have a movement turn, but rather shares one turn through a time mechanic and the tactics gauge. The gauge fills up by taking control of marked points around a battlefield, so the higher the tactics gauge is, the more movement points, attack power, and special moves a character can take.
So, battles become a management of what is important in the long run, versus the short term. Moving a character and waiting a turn will allow you to act faster, while causing a huge hit on an enemy may drain the entire tactics gauge in one shot. Unlike other games in its ilk, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, being a bruiser and cannibalizing on one-two units at time will usually fail as a tactic. The system rewards tactical innovation, so is becomes a constant balancing act that will be refreshing for strategy fans due to the complexity of the system, but daunting for the casual players for that same reason.
Other aspects of battle are also manipulated through the tactics gauge. Scrambling, which is an extra move action, can have units take an extra move action before their turn ends, while casting attack spells also takes several turns before a spell is released, allowing you time to box in or remove casters before they do major damage. Other aspects of combat, from changing equipment at checkpoints, using cooperative attacks known as “beat” and “boost” on the battlefield, and even replacing weaker units with fresh troops from retreat points add more wrinkles into the tactical system. Oh, and you also have ring outs, although they are rare and only come into play if you really screw up tactically.
I am not one to complain about an innovative use of tactics, which is something of a hallmark of Sting as well at this point. Their edgy mix of bullet hell shooters and tactical role-playing in Knights in the Nightmare is proof of their pedigree. But despite the complex combat mechanics found in Gungnir, at times it becomes an exercise in tedium as to what the correct strategy really is. One example would be during a siege mission, where my small group was bombarded by a ballista weapon on top of a castle I had to overrun. Without the proper timing of both scrambling towards capture points on the field to boost the amount of turns I have, it was almost impossible to beat. Thankfully Gungnir is forgiving to failure, having you retry with all experience earned through combat intact if you lose, although this can become a cheap way of exploiting the game in the long run as well.
Gungnir also suffers from a rather poor menu system. The screen is filled with gauges, lines, health bars, and menus to pay attention to, and that is just during combat. Outside of combat things are bit neater, but it becomes a chore to categorize and prioritize your squad with good equipment and abilities. The equipment menu is a travesty to navigate, while changing, moving and removing equipment on characters becomes as time consuming as battles at times to deal with. With so much going on in menus to deal with, it becomes distracting to the task at hand at times.
In terms of graphics and sound, Gungnir is fairly good. The soft-pencil like illustrations that take the form of character portraits is a smooth contrast to the 3-D rendered world maps, allowing for a casual, aesthetic akin to Chrono Trigger. The animation is fairly vibrant, using gestures and speech bubbles to express different emotions, making the sprites dynamic instead of being static on the battlefield. The menus are brightly colored, and games twenty-six missions have varied terrain to offer some really good fighting scenarios. The games music is standard stock for Sting, orchestral scores for battles, event scenes, serious scenes, and there menu’s have enough pop to be noticeable and in some cases, catchy.
Gungnir is the victim of several pitfalls that prevent it from standing out against big-time releases, but it’s definitely the perfect game to pick up at the tail-end of a handhelds life. While many of its ideas are promising, the overall package is somewhat bloated by features, making the game at times a chore to slog through. With only twenty-six missions, for a tactical game it is on the short side, but there is easily 40+ hours of tactical goodness here to enjoy if you are looking for something new to try out. And if nothing else, an excuse to turn your PSP on one more time.
A review code was provided by the publisher for review. It was played for around 42 hours to completion on the PSP, with a new game plus mode unlocked.
From the makers of Knights in the Knightmare, comes a brand new SRPG.
Posted By Gabriel B. about 1 year ago
From the makers of Knights in the Knightmare, comes a brand new SRPG.
Lets face it, the Sony PSP is dead. It has kicked the bucket. It has cashed in its chips. If we buried it face down, its ass could be used as a bike rack. The Sony PSP has pretty much fallen off the map in the advent of its now “hipper” cousin, the PlayStation Vita, and it has disappeared with nothing more but a silent whimper.
But despite the death gurgles we hear from the system, it still lingers due to the few games trickling down for one last hurrah. One such game is Gungnir, the latest installment in Japanese developer’s Sting Department Heaven series, which includes PSP stalwarts Knights in the Nightmare and Yggdra Union, as well as the underrated ￼Gameboy Advance classic, Riviera: The Promised Land. A strategy RPG at its core, Gungnir is a great swan song for the PlayStation Portable, chock full of tactical goodness despite a boiler plate presentation.
|PROS||Innovative “tactics gauge” system. Adequate storyline and graphical style.|
|CONS||Story plays it by the book, Micromanagement may annoy some, Terrible game menus|
|WTF?!||42 Status Ailments. Keep track of them if you can.|
Gungnir stars Giulio, the plucky, teenage rebel of the Esperanza, a revolutionary faction lead by Giulio‘s half-brother Ragnus. Because of an incident fifteen years prior known as the Espada Massacre, Giulio and many like him, a racial group known as Leoncians, are treated as second-class citizens by the ruling empire. Of course, after rescuing a mysterious girl named Alyssa from slavery by the empire, Giulio and his allies are thrown right into the conflict, only to be saved by the magic of the heavens, and the mysterious power of the spear of Gungnir.
The overall plot is of the run of the mill variety, touching upon themes of racial discrimination, political illusions, and economic disparity. Gungnir is fairly mixed in this telling of this story though; while the hero characters follow several different ideals and beliefs, the villains are almost cartoonish in their hatred for “lesser” beings. But of course the empire is completely evil, while the heroes are a ragtag lot filled with different ideals that cause conflict within the group. It is a trope we see in many games, but it is one that really needs to be told right to stand out.
And is kind of disappointing in this way too. Let’s compare it to Yggdra Union for a moment, which followed a straightforward story about a princess fighting to reclaim her kingdom from a conquering empire. Gungnir is a complete parallel of this, conquering the kingdom for the downtrodden, but much of what made Yggdra Union complex, the morally ambiguous motivations, a large cast of unique characters, impressive plot-twists, is absent from Gungnir, which is more straightforward in its narrative. Both of these games had typical storylines seen in fiction, but Gungnir fails to stand out because of it plays the themes by the book, which in of itself is not a bad thing, but it something noticeable when playing other games in the series.
Thankfully, some hallmarks of Sting’s previous games still come through. The heaven of Asgard makes a return appearance, as does Sting’s mascot, the purple witch Pamela. Of course, knowing nothing about the Department Heaven series will not be adetriment to your experience of Gungnir or its storyline, as the four games in the series are loosely connected by the existence of Asgard as their heaven. But one thing that can be praised is the sheer amount of options during the game’s battle mode.