I’ve always been rather fond of the RPGs. My first trek into the genre was with Final Fantasy VII back in 90s. Before that, most of my gaming consisted of little more than Sonic the Hedgehog, Alex Kidd, Doom, and pretty much everything else that was in direct contrast with an RPG. However, FF VII opened my eyes to a whole new media of storytelling and immersion, and since then, I’ve played any RPG that’s caught my attention. This gen alone has seen some stellar additions. Sadly, I cant say that Sephirothic Stories is one of them.
Sephirothic Stories feels more like a relic than anything else. The story is pretty forgettable at best. The game’s world is set in Shendoah, a place that’s protected by a world tree otherwise known as the Sephirothic tree. This tree has began to wane, and as such, the world’s inhabitants have been overcome by its murk. Murk that has since transformed them into a wide range of beasts and monsters, including that of the main character’s sister. With that in mind, and with the fate of the planet in your hands, off you pop on your adventure.
Despite how ridiculously outlandish it is, there’s very little depth to the plot. It doesn’t help matters that the cast of characters that support said plot are about as flat as a pancake. The reason I love RPGs is because they have the breathing space to immerse you in a wide range of different ways; their worlds, their characters, their lore, and so forth. Here, on the other hand, it all feels clumsy, rushed, and underdeveloped. There’s very little to like about its story and its cast, and as such, it stumbles out of the gate from the moment you play.
Things don’t fare any better in the gameplay department, but we’ll get to that shortly. Sephirothic Stories shoehorns you into its bland world through the use of a few cutscenes, and several, several text-based interactions. Make friends with this concept, folks, because you’ll get a daft explanation for pretty much each and everything that you do. Hell, need to pick up a box? The game stops to tell you what to do. Need to cross a tight passageway? The game stops to tell you what to do. These constant interruptions begin to frustrate.
What’s worse, they’re so simple (to the point of common sense) that there’s really no need for instruction at all. I wont hold that against the game as far as scoring is concerned, because aid is aid, but here, it just felt like the game was spoon-feeding a toddler. Nevertheless, your first few hours of play will be a slog. The usual RPG components are present and accounted for; turn-based combat, leveling up, gear acquisition, and so forth. That said, Sephirothic Stories doesn’t tread beyond the realm of basic expectations.
This is one RPG that truly feels light-years behind its peers. You’ll explore and chart a semi-open world, or to be more specific, several tight areas that sit on a world map. There’s battles to contend with, a lot of loot to be found, and new characters to engage with along the way. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a few distinct functions present that attempt to shake things up a bit, but, by and large, they rarely hit the mark. The carry-along garden, for one example, allows you to grow various seeds that will flourish into helpful one-use items.
These items can be spent to buff up your individual party members; more strength, increased health, and so on. There’s a limit to the amount that you can use at any given time, and indeed a cost should you want to expedite the growth process, but overall, it’s a serviceable system to sits well within the game’s framework. Just, don’t expect innovation, because you’re not going to get that here. Instead, at very best, you’re getting mechanics that are just there. Mechanics that you’ll likely have seen in any given run-of-the-mill RPG.
Back to the basics. Sephirothic Stories plays out as you would expect. You’ll traverse a range of distinct locations and battle against a variety of monsters, before pushing the plot forward and moving onto the next area. Whilst the areas are far from deep, they can be quite lengthy later on. Thankfully, a fast travel system is present that allows you to swiftly travel between environmental glyph (should you activate them) at will. I say thankfully because the core traversal is irritating, and doesn’t bond too well with the game’s design.
Movement is eight-directional, allowing for some fair movement room. However, most of the game’s areas are laid out in such a tight and restricted way, that you’ll regularly only need to move up, down, left, and right. This is especially irritating when you’re trying to interact with an object, and constantly fail to line up with it correctly. Whether it’s opening a chest, picking up a crate, or even trying to put down a crate in the right spot, it all remains fiddly and counter intuitive. There’s just no refinement on this front whatsoever.
That’s not to mention the useless jump function. When exploring the world, you’re free to swap out who you’re controlling at any time. Specific characters have abilities that are more useful than others, but the jump function remains the same throughout. Here, each character will leap into the air on the spot. You cant move and jump. You can only jump where you stand, and land where you jumped. This use seems to be exclusive to obtaining coins that are scattered around each area. It’s pointless, it’s unnecessary, and it’s annoying.
Now, as for the characters and their unique abilities, this is a vital part of the gameplay. You’ll regularly need to swap out characters to rely on their traits. You may see a tightrope that bridges one area to the next, in which you’ll need to swap out your playable character for a lighter one, or, you may come across a small hole that only the smallest party member can squeeze through. These sorts of elements are present throughout, but that’s about as deep and as meaningful as it gets, and really feels little more than padding and filler.
You’ll always see your enemies in the environment, giving you the choice to bypass them or take them head-on. Though, there’s very little luck that you’ll have in skipping them by due to the constant aforementioned bottle-necking. Several times did I try to bypass a foe due to being low on health, only to struggle to line myself up well enough to do so. It seemed like more effort than the avoidance was worth, and more often than not, I only ended up touching the enemy and sparking a battle nonetheless. Combat is serviceable at least.
When you touch an enemy, you’ll be thrown into the average turn-based affair. Your party and your enemy’s party will take turns dishing out attacks until one party remains victorious. Here, you can utilize a range of attacks; melee, and magical. The further you level up, the more abilities you’ll be able to take into battle, but none of them (save Fusion) really feel exciting or gratifying. Fusion is a technique that sees your whole party dishing out mass attacks for mass damage, and enemies rarely stand a chance against this heavy onslaught.
To initiate Fusion, you’ll need to build up a gauge that fills for each and every in-battle attack and action that you utilize. The progress of the gauge does carry over, meaning that you’ll be able to fight standard enemies and save your Fusion for the boss encounters. Outside of that, there’s little to write home about. Most of the game’s battle functions are generic at best, and consist of additions you’ll have witnessed several times before. This might appeal to those that prefer simplicity over depth, but that’s as far as I can stretch it.
Shops and merchants make an appearance too, selling wares, and progressively better gear and weaponry at increasing prices throughout. This collectively amounts to the usual; increased damage output per-better weapon, accessories that house resistant traits, and one-use items that replenish HP, MP, and cure ailments. Like I said, it’s all fairly standard stuff, and it rarely attempts to go beyond that spectrum. One neat feature is the ability to set formations and party behavior, which is handy for tactical bouts and strategic fights.
You’re also able to improve your gear later on, but again, it’s all relatively basic. Nevertheless, the crux of combat is as you would imagine it to be; hit them, take hits, utilize your wares, and rinse and repeat until one party is left standing. The game’s difficulty is pretty lenient early on, but there is a fairly tough spike later on in the game. I found myself breezing through the game until I met said spike, and from there on out, I felt well and truly out of my depth, leading to a lot of unnecessary grinding as a result. It’s quite jarring overall.
The game’s many currencies don’t make a lot of sense, and if anything, only serve to encourage the purchase of MTs, which isn’t ideal in a game that costs more than it’s worth as it is. From start to finish, you’ll visit several world locations, speak to NPCs, and then head off to tackle trap-filled dungeons. There’s a sizable variation of environments to take to, but even the more open locations still feel a bit strict as far as freedom is concerned. There’s some light puzzle elements present too, but the answers are usually painfully obvious.
It doesn’t help matters that the game looks and sounds horrific. Sephirothic Stories is a very ugly game that reuses its bland assets far too much. Each and every location is about as interesting as watching paint dry, with a complete lack of detail and refinement across the board. The whole thing has that OG Xbox feel to it, and even then I feel like I’m being too generous. I can say the same about the game’s audio, in which it does little to relay any form of decent quality, oftentimes accompanied by a soundtrack that’s far from decent.
When all is said and done, Sephirothic Stories isn’t a good game. There’s just far too many issues present for me to comfortably recommend it, held together by a core structure that just doesn’t sit with the times. There’s no shortage of content to soak up, with heaps of quests, side quests, and optional content to dive into, but this all means very little in the face of its drawbacks. If you’re in the market for a new RPG, you can get much, much better than this. That said, if you enjoy KEMCO’s content, you’re really getting more of the same.
Sephirothic Stories is an outdated RPG, and a poorly developed one at that. The gameplay itself is far too basic, with very little innovation in place to give it any distinction or character throughout. I can say the same about its low-quality visual and audio design, which is further hindered by its constant asset recycling. Overall, and at best, this is nothing more than a substandard adventure that’s crammed with needless microtransactions.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.