Zenonia is a fantastic RPG that brings a lot to the table. But can you handle all of it?
Any old school gamer who sees or plays Zenonia will think of one game: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the SNES. This is a good thing. Zenonia plays a lot like mid-gen Zelda games with pot-breaking, huge dungeons, boss battles, and most importantly, colorful and clean sprite graphics. That’s about as far as I can go with a comparison though. Zenonia is not a “light” RPG like Zelda games, and many others.
Zenonia is a true RPG in every sense of the word. Deep leveling/stat system? Check. Hundreds of weapons, armor items, magic items, etc? Check. Stat-based real-time combat? Check.
Zenonia takes the charm of the simpler Zelda game, and slides in advanced RPG elements that will delight some, and frustrate others. Personally, I am not a big RPG fan, but I loved Zenonia! There are both active and passive abilities to upgrade, as well as the normal skill stats. You can assign active abilities to one of four slots that you can activate by simply tapping.
The game has a descent (but predictable) story line that takes you on a journey of self discovery and adventure through several different areas of Zenonia. I have to hand it to the writers, as the conversations with NPCs are often quite hilarious. The main character, Regret, is quite aware he’s in a video game, and has some pretty classic lines. Despite the game being translated to English from Korean, I only noticed one or two mistakes, and the jokes come over very well.
From snow mountain peaks to rippling hot deserts, you travel from town to town while slaying monsters. Although the action is hack and slash, like other similar RPGS, your hits are stat based. If you boost your attack and accuracy stats, you will hit harder and more often. If you focus on magic, your physical attacks may miss more, while your magic attacks will be deadly. As you progress, you can level up special attacks that really come in handy during battle. Although the action generally revolves around mashing one button, the battle system looks cool, and works well when used with spells.
There are three character to classes to choose from, each with it’s own weapons, armor, and skill trees: Warrior, Assassin, and Paladin. I played through the entire game as a warrior, and watched my brother play through with an assassin. There are fairly different play styles with each. The assassin moved much faster, and had a lot of weaker and faster attacks. The warrior
obviously focused on slower, stronger attacks. The class you choose doesn’t really affect the story, but the decisions you make do.
There is a fairly subtle good vs bad decision process in Zenonia. Based on choices you make, the game missions and play will change. The game doesn’t give you black and white decisions (“choose this for bad, and this for good”), but the forks in the road seem fairly obvious. This gives for a reason to go back and replay the game once you beat it the first time. It took me about 25 hours to play through the game once. That’s a ton of play time for any game, much less one on the iPhone!
Gamevil added in some little quirks that really make gameplay much more enjoyable. For instance, when attacking, your character will automatically face the enemy, even if you were facing the wrong way originally. Also, when you run into walls or objects, if you keep going forward Regret will automatically move around them. Little things like this make the game easier to play on an iPhone, and show that the developer was really thinking a lot about controls.
One of the complaints that I’m sure newcomers to RPGs will have relates to the degrading of weapons/armor over time, the grinding required for the dungeons, and the “eating” required for SP boosting. To be fair, about half the dungeons are fine on the first try, but a couple of them totally kicked my ass. From my point of view, this is fine, as it forces you to practice and
explore more, but some people may find it too tedius. There are hidden chests and things like that to discover in the various areas so it’s not completely just to level up. There is a nice item that boosts your xp gaining for 48 hours, and I highly recommend you purchase and use this whenever you hit up a dungeon.
I’ve heard complaints about equipment degradation being annoying. Frankly, that’s part of a lot of great RPGs, and is only a problem if you’re someone who doesn’t pay attention to game dialogue, as Zenonia explains pretty clearly how to take care of this. There is a blacksmith in every town to repair items, as well as portable hammers to repair stuff on the fly. There is also an item you can buy that keeps your equipment from degrading for 72 hours. As for constantly having to eat to keep your SP up? This felt kind of unnecessary. Maybe it’s a normal thing for Korean RPGs?
The only place Zenonia really falls short is in describing all the items and little quirks of the equipment system. It also assumes that you’re going to talk to everyone, and enter all the buildings (which you should do). There’s a lot of exposition, but some things aren’t quite explained well. One of these is combining magic items with weapons. I went the entire game without finding an “enchantment”, and to this day am still a bit confused about how this works. There are also items that work better with each other (equipping “joy sword” with “joy orb”), but the stat bonus for doing this (if there is one) doesn’t seem to be very evident.
Zenonia looks awesome and plays well. The graphics are bright and crisp, and the animation
and special effects are quite cool. The landscapes are very well designed, with some cool weather effects as an added touch. My only complaint is the excessive re-use of a few sprites to make different monsters and characters. For instance, at the beginning of the game you are sent on a mission to kill crabs at a lake. Later in the game, you are sent on a mission to kill scorpions, which are the exact same crab sprite, just colored black. This was quite annoying, and cheapened the epicness of the game. Granted, there is still a decent variety of enemies.
The sound of Zenonia was also good. The classic anime slashing sounds, and the Link-like “HAH!” when you land a hit are pretty great. The music is also good, but as with 98% of iPhone games, the same 4 or 5 songs were overused. There’s basically a town song, a between-town song, and a dungeon song, with a couple short extras for cutscenes. It’s not horrible, but the song loops are fairly short.
One final word on this fantastic game. It has a very very good save system. So good, that it doesn’t let you “cheat” by dying and then reloading your last save. I really liked this, as the OCD in me wants to play every game perfectly. Knowing that whatever happens, just happens, allowed me to really enjoy the experience. Just be sure to have plenty of “Origin of Lives” in your inventory, or you will either spend a lot of money, or take a hit to your stats when reviving.
Oh, and a final final word. Zenonia loads freakin fast throughout the game. Very impressive stuff.
Presentation & Graphics
Wonderfully colorful and clean sprite graphics, with no less quality than the master of sprite RPG games, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Very slick magic/attack effects as well. Menus are surprisingly untuitive for the amount of data that needs to be shown, and the UI is fantastic. Re-using sprites and renaming them to different monsters is flat out lame, and cheapens the experience a bit.
Good sound effects. Music is good but way too repetetive. Nothing all that memorable.
Assisted D-pad controls work extremely well, and feel very natural. I would have liked to see more touch integration with the menus, but navigating with the D-pad works well enough. The game itself is incredibly deep and rewarding. Combat is satisfying, especially with all the cool effects for special moves. The number of items and equipment, along with some gameplay quirks like degrading armor and eating food, could be a bit mouch for novice players.
The first game on the iPhone to prove you don’t need online capabilities to get a 5 star gamelife rating! 25+ hours for one run through is a ton of gameplay. You can then go back and play one of the remaining 2 classes, each with completely new abilities. On top of that, you can play as good or evil for a different game experience!
Game Rating – EDITOR’S CHOICE
Zenonia is one of the few true adventure RPGs on the iPhone. If you are an RPG fan, what are you waiting for!? Get this game. It’s work far more than it’s $5.99 price tag. If you’re on the fence about RPG games… it’s just 6 bucks people! In all seriousness, Zenonia is tons of fun, and will provide 20-30 hours of gameplay for just one run-through – which is pretty insane for an iPhone game. It’s a modern day 16-bit classic, and makes me excited for future games from Gamevil.