I very much enjoyed EasyGameStation’s Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale, mostly due to the wonderful localization job done by Carpe Fulgur. I booted it up for the first time half expecting to be done with it within less than an hour — most games involving supposed “shop management” and the like these days are in fact social games and therefore pretty much devoid of any meaningful thought whatsoever.Recettear, though, was different — by blending the loot-whoring dungeon crawler with a simple business sim and some lovable characters, EasyGameStation and Carpe Fulgur managed to create easily one of the most memorable games of last year for me.
So it was with some anticipation that I heard the team was hard at work on localizing another EasyGameStation title — Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters. From what I’d heard of it, it sounded like a more conventional action RPG than Recettear, but I was confident that Carpe Fulgur’s translation would prove super-effective once more.
The game came out the other day so I grabbed a copy — it was cheap, and I’m happy to take a risk on something from a developer I trust, particularly for a low price. I’ve been playing it for a few hours now, and while it’s quite a different experience fromRecettear, the similarities are pleasing — you can still heal yourself by eating egg on toast, for example, and a lot of the “miscellaneous treasure” items are the same. The monsters are almost identical, too, and protagonist Elise looks somewhat like what Recette would probably look like if she were a little older. And there’s a fairy involved again, too.
What’s been a pleasant surprise about Chantelise, though, is how unconventional it is. Despite looking to all intents and purposes like a fairly generic action JRPG, there’s some inventive ideas in there.
For starters, there’s no grinding for experience points, levelling up and that sort of thing. Powering up Elise is done entirely through purchasing items and/or completing parts of the story. This negates the need for tedious grinding, as money seems reasonably easy to come by.
Then there’s the magic system. Rather than simply learning an arsenal of spells and then using magic points to cast them, Elise’s sister Chante (who has been turned into a fairy) handles magic. If Elise collects magic gems dropped by monsters, Chante can then use these to cast spells — each colour causes a different effect. Multiple gems can be used at once, too, with different combinations yielding different effects. The twist is that Chante will only cast a spell using the last gem you picked up, meaning that there’s an element of almost puzzle game-like strategy to picking up loot from the floor as you need to ensure you have a helpful arsenal of spells on hand to use.
The game structure is peculiar but effective, too. Split into various areas which are then subdivided into stages, Chante and Elise must batter their way through all the monsters in a stage to unlock the path to the next. The final stage in an area features a boss fight. Getting KOed along the way sends the heroic duo back to town, and re-entering the area requires them to start again — only this time they can charge straight through stages that have already been completed to quickly get back to where they were. This makes getting KOed mildly inconvenient, but not inordinately frustrating.
Alongside the basic game structure, every stage also has a secret treasure chest to find, too. Requirements for revealing this range from killing special enemies to destroying parts of the scenery, and the game keeps track of which areas you’ve found the secrets in and which you haven’t. Interestingly, you don’t have to run the whole gauntlet of stages if you’re just going for a treasure chest — you can play individual stages in a time attack mode if you’re just treasure hunting, but you have to follow the linear “story mode” path if you want to progress through the, well, story. Obviously.
In practice, the game is more of an action game with an upgradeable character than an RPG. The first few stages are deceptively easy but by the time you’re into the second dungeon you’ll find yourself having to thoroughly understand what Chante and Elise are capable of if you hope to succeed. Hordes of enemies — some of whom can only be defeated in a specific manner — attack the pair and it becomes rather more important to think tactically rather than charge in mashing the Attack button.
Chantelise likely isn’t going to appeal to everyone. Its animé visuals look like pretty much every budget JRPG ever. There’s a lot of repetition involved, particularly if you keep dying. The tutorial is rudimentary at best, leaving you to discover the vast majority of how the game works for yourself. The music’s a bit annoying. And theZelda-style BLING! BLING! BLING! BLING! noise when you’re low on health will drive you nuts (pro-tip: don’t get low health). But I happen to love all these things (even the annoying music and BLING! BLING! BLING!) so I’m looking forward to what promises to be a reasonably lengthy adventure with plenty of hack and slash action and the same wonderful localization that set Recettear apart as one of my favourite games of last year.
Carpe Fulgur have great things ahead of them — they’re already working on two new titles, one of which is secret. Discovery of games like Recettear and now Chantelise — both blissfully Achievement, Online Pass and DLC-free — is why I’m very glad I’m now doing most of my gaming on PC.