Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

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This is likely my last review for a few. I will be without a computer for a week-ish as it ships out to my new home. You know what that means… endlessly playing my 3DS while I wait to return to the internet! But yeah, I wouldn’t get my hopes up over a post for two weeks or something. A week without a computer and a week to play the next game. All that said, let’s get into this game.

This game was an accident for me. I had actually bought the sequel on sale without knowing that it was a sequel. I had a few guesses, namely that New Game gave me a laundry list of options and I’m like “Hmm… there’s an import button there to import an old save. This must be a sequel”. So I sought out the sequel, it was free so no harm, no foul. Then I played it.

This is a visual novel and tactical turn-based strategy game. I had originally hoped that it would focus more on the strategy game but as I played it, I realized that the battles were kind of a waste. They seemed only to artificially increase the playtime. In that same vein, they feel necessary due to the way that the story is written. It opens like a Star Wars movie.

The galaxy is on the brink of war. The Neutral Rim is slowly being taken over by the evil Empire PACT. The Solar Alliance wishes to remain neutral, but that can only be maintained for so long. War will break out, and planets will be massacred… (dun dun dun)

You play Kayto Shields which might be the dumbest name I’ve ever seen in a visual novel. Though another character is named Kryska Stares so… it’s a close battle. You were given the command of a ship called the Sunrider (roll credits). On the day of her field test, you are attacked and your field test has to be cut short as you run away from superior firepower. But before you go, you get to see Alderaan Cera blown up by their Death Star Legion’s powerful laser. After that, you can choose to fly the flag of your old military OR become a pirate. If you choose anything other than become a pirate, you probably hate fun. The rest of the game we follow Captain Shields and his quest to take revenge for his planet.

There’s also an ancient civilization that used to rule the galaxy. Everyone knows about them because they still exist today in a drastically weakened state. But the game makes this mistake and I hate when this mistake is made because I can very rarely find a good way to justify it. The mistake is in ancient civilizations having more powerful technology than ours today. Let me be clear, this is not inherently bad. There are people living on Indonesian islands today, which, should they ever join the civilized world and look through history, they’ll see that the United States completed an atomic bomb capable of leveling cities in 1945. The current year is 2016. Why is 2016 technology less advanced than 1945 technology? The key difference is the location. We’re comparing the technology of two different civilizations. Sunrider doesn’t do that. What you have is a civilization that used to rule the galaxy, they had an internal conflict, that got resolved somehow, and in that resolution all of this super fancy technology got lost. It just boggles my mind because I can’t come up with too much in the way of plausible justifications. And like in Valkyria Chronicle, I wonder to myself if it would not be more interesting to play in that war, rather than the one today. But who am I kidding, you and I both know that it’s just sequel bait. We’ll get that ancient technology in the next game (probably).

Also, terrible villains. Colonel Pork Chop was tasked with capturing the a high value target that happens to be on your ship. Pork Chop gets an entire fleet to surround you, there’s no way out. There’s a bounty on your head, so they tell their men to fire on you. When Pork Chop realizes that the target is on your ship, they tell their men to stop firing. Pork Chop’s men secure the target, bringing the target over to their ships, then VACATES THE AREA. WHY DID PORK CHOPS NOT BLOW YOU UP NOW THAT THE TARGET WAS NO LONGER ON YOUR SHIP? Christ, sometimes I wish that I could be the villain. We would get so much villain stuff done because I don’t make these retarded mistakes. By leaving you alive, Pork Chops practically assures a rescue mission attempt. Terrible villains.

I called it a visual novel because it plays out like one, and because I’m pretty sure that was the intent. The very first words you are greeted with as you turn on the game are ‘Love in Space’. Which sounds totally dumb yet endearing at the same time. However do not be fooled into thinking you get to pick your waifu. There are no waifus. The game does the thing where you dance around whether or not you’ll get a waifu like it’s going for the harem ending. Harem endings are very rarely done right because it’s really difficult to make everyone happy, both in game and out of it. So I distinctly hope that there is a canon ending, and it’s not terribly difficult to guess where it’s going but I don’t know for sure.

I’m not entirely sure your decisions change much of anything in the battles. I ran decisions back a few times and the only thing that seems to change is the text, not the result. For instance, when I was given a soldier from the Alliance, they were doing sketchy business on my ship. So I chose “Send them to the brig”. But battle broke out right after that decision. I reloaded my save, went back, chose “Trust them” or something and the battle still broke out! And I was able to use the soldier in both battles.

Can we talk about battles now? Let’s talk about battles now. Normally I take pride in being moderately competent in games. I always run on the default difficulty or one above the default difficulty because the chances of me playing a game twice are very slim. But this game made me turn down the difficulty. Holy smokes Batman, the battles are just way to hard! Maybe it’s because the battles aren’t well-tutorialized or something. You’re told that energy weapons are less effective against shields and kinetic weapons go straight through them. Simple enough. Energy weapons have longer range. I don’t see why they should if we’re in space, but go on. Kinetic weapons have horrible accuracy but higher damage. Okay. So that means I should use energy weapons until I close the gap and switch the kinetic weapons? Seems simple enough. ONLY THE GAME SPAM SPAWNS ENEMIES WITH SHIELDS AND THE SHIELDS STACK SO YOU DO NO DAMAGE.

Due to the shield stacking mechanic, it seems that the game wants to push you to keep your units close together. I’ve played a lot of Super Robot Wars, so I’m not used to that. I’m used to units that can go out and destroy everything and dodge everything (using proper pilot skills). So this was definitely a jarring change which may explain why I did so poorly. You do have a unit that can shut down shields and I eventually upgraded it to be able to shut down two shields per turn, but that only helps so much when you’re running against stacking three shields or more on top of each other. And then it becomes a real PITA when the enemies get units that can shut down YOUR shields and YOUR energy generation.

It feels like you’re punished way too harshly if you don’t know the proper way to upgrade your units from the get-go. Once I got a handle on things the normal difficulty was still too hard for me but I managed to bump it up a bit. The combat energy consumption and movements only makes sense for a hexagon map though. So good on the developers for a job well-done there.

My biggest complaint about the game isn’t the combat so much as it is the animations. They feel really clunky in transitioning from map to battle animation and back to map. Every now and again the game would also register my click on something that I did not click resulting in me using attacks that I did not mean to use. I tested this out and it seems like clicking near the borders of the hexagons does this which I guess is due to rectangular bounds for click regions.

Overall, the game was free so I can’t say that it wasn’t worth the money, only the time. And I feel bad because I really got involved with the story towards the end (even though I predicted the ending in some manner or another). The game comes with two routes ‘First Contact’ and ‘Mask of Arcadius’ but Mark of Arcadius seems to be the second half of the game. I didn’t play any battles but I had read all of the text before and the battle was that which I remember doing. After a few battles I stopped because I didn’t want to play the game twice. I don’t know if the rest of the battles are the same, and I’m not going to check. My guess is that if you select ‘First Contact’ you play through both scenarios, not just one. Is it worth it? Sure. I really got involved with the story towards the end, which is great because I have the sequel and am now hyped-ish to play it upon my return to the internet. But that’ll be a review for another day. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius

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