Review: Infinite Undiscovery

Nathan Grayson | 25 Sep 2008 16:51
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"The game is a tale that records the growth of a hero, who, burdened with a battle-filled journey, is faced with the harsh reality that... He must ultimately make a decision on what it is that must be accomplished."
--tri-Ace director Hiroshi Ogawa on Infinite Undiscovery's plot

"Hah, sounds more like every JRPG ever!"
--Auto-programmed snarky gamer response to Ogawa's plot summary

Obviously, Ogawa's kiddie pool-deep explanation of his team's latest variation on the monomyth was purposefully vague, for fear of "teh spoilars," but sift through his words and you'll strike a hard truth: That description really does lend itself well to just about every JRPG ever crafted, and it's not a good thing. Infinite Undiscovery, like the majority of its spell-slinging, attack-name-announcing compatriots, lives encased in a concrete JRPG mold - its few interesting features obscured by déjà vu's impenetrable walls.

Infinite Undiscovery's overall structure is a bagged-instead-of-boxed-cereal "homage" to every JRPG you've ever played. From the forest where skipping down the wrong path puts you back at square one, to the ten year-old twins who destroy any sense of danger your party might be in since you can't rightly off a child in the uncanny valley era, the game's plot plays out like a Rick Astley-voiced ode to a plethora of your favorite JRPGs from years past.

I'm only half-kidding about the Rick Astley thing. Infinite Undiscovery's voice acting, lip sync, and script are downright embarrassing. If a character spits out a coherent phrase and manages to keep his/her yap open for roughly half of the phrase's duration, it's probably time to break out the confetti. And even once you're finally desensitized to the cast's total mastery of ventriloquism, you'll never stop chuckling at their incredibly awkward speeches. It's no stretch to say that when two characters engage in a conversation, it seems like they're actually carrying on two separate conversations - each with no one in particular.

It's a shame, too, because the game's characters, clichéd archetypes though they may be, are, on some occasions, genuinely entertaining. The main character, the flautist Capell, is an especially hilarious take on the reluctant hero - not too whiny, and not afraid to poke and pry at semantics when a cute girl promises him "Anything."

In stark contrast to the story, IU's battle system is ambitious to a fault. Every time your eyelids start drooping due to a sense of complacent understanding, it thwacks you awake with a new element or concept. While I applaud tri-Ace for birthing such an interesting Frankenstein monster of equal parts Final Fantasy XII and Dynasty Warriors, not everything works as it should.

In all combat situations, you only have direct control over Capell, while three other A.I. party members display their pugilistic prowess at their own discretion. Sure, you can give them orders to focus on single enemies, conserve MP, and things of the like, but for the most part, they do what they want. Unfortunately, this system gets a little unwieldy when you factor healing into the equation. See, in order to munch on a healing herb yourself, you have to open the menu screen. In any other game of IU's ilk, this would be fine, but IU is all real-time, all the time; even when menus overrun the screen, the action doesn't pause. Thus, it's in your best interest to grind your finger into the Y button until your generally-preoccupied party members toss a spell your way. When it works, this method of healing is fairly convenient. But when it doesn't, the Game Over screen's soothing, somber music won't stand a chance when its sound-waves clash with those of your embittered -- and usually justified - calls for your deity of choice to rain down Wii-motes on your television.

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