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Developer:
Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: March 21, 2006

by Felipe Faria Lemos




While Tao’s Adventure manages to set the stage to an apparently interesting and fun turn-based RPG, many flaws in the game mechanics and awkward control system prevent it from being a game that stands out. The Nintendo DS is a system that welcomes innovation with its touch-control interface and dual screens, but unfortunately Konami seemingly ignored those features.


The story in Tao’s Adventure is neither great nor terrible. It is just very bland, and simply doesn’t do anything for the game. The story certainly won’t make it prominent amidst all the other great titles being released on the DS. Tao is obviously the main character in the game, and is a descendant of the legendary air-spellers. This group of magicians lives in Bente Island, secluded from the rest of the world, practicing their art in peace. Meanwhile, in Mondominio, a city that thrives in the commerce of monster eggs, a bolt of lightning has damaged an ancient structure known as the Monster Tower. This damage destroyed the seal that contained the monsters within the tower, and soon the released beasts were attacking people and spreading terror. Tao is brought into the story when his peaceful island falls victim to the attacks of the fierce monsters, and almost all people on the island are turned into stone by a curse. Being the only one nimble enough, and recently educated in the arts of air-casting spells, Tao is sent to Mondominio to find the egg of the demon monster that cast the spell, and with it revert its effect.


The art in Tao’s Adventure is also generic when compared to other RPGs currently on the market. Almost everything seen in the game has been done before somewhere else. The 3D graphics engine works well, and it does have a decent frame rate, but it lacks details and sharp textures. The animation is a bit choppy at moments, and the soundtrack and effects hardly match the action on-screen. Character design is decent, with some interesting features. In the game’s dialogs, there are hand-drawn pictures of the characters, with several different facial expressions for different emotions. While the hand-drawn pictures can be good, the same can’t be said about the 3D models of the characters, which are quite blocky and poorly detailed. Some camera angles in the game are appealing, moving along the character and shifting dynamically, but they are scarce.


Unfortunately, the areas where the game suffers the most are gameplay and mechanics. There are some mechanics and systems that are well below the average quality of a DS game and it's simply difficult to understand why it was even created. Located in the bottom screen is a menu that takes up the whole screen, with a large circle divided into 8 parts, each depicting a direction in a virtual d-pad. Tapping once in a direction will make Tao move in that direction, and if tapped twice, Tao will run that particular way. This works exactly like using the provided hardware d-pad. Actually, in my opinion, the physical d-pad works much better than the circle, which takes up a huge space in the bottom screen and is nearly useless.


Every action in the game is a chore to complete. If an item is found, you have to touch a small text font with the words “Pick up” to acquire the object, if you want to talk to someone you have to select the also small “Talk.” The buttons simply are not used here. Every action is done through the touch screen, which requires interacting with many tiny buttons, small text font, and minuscule scroll bars.


The turn-based action seems weird on-screen. The monster tower is divided into grids (although not obviously visible), in what seem like boards connected to each other. Here, when you confront an enemy, every move you make counts as a turn (except facing a different direction) and the enemy will move at the same time as you. This feels and looks weird, especially if you run with your character(s). Another point that should be made is how your companions in the quest dully follow you around, and will only engage in battle on their own if they happen to face the monster during the turns.


The monsters found in the tower are a big part of the game, and with the exception of a few, they can join Tao in his adventure as “familiars.” To do so, Tao has to find an egg in the monster tower, hatch it, and use an item called a monster collar. These monsters can gain experience by fighting in the monster tower or in the coliseum (where you can battle another player or the computer), and as they level up, they learn new abilities and may change their appearance (Pokemon, anyone?).


In short, Tao’s Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal is a below-average game, even though it is from Konami. On the positive side, the graphics, although not the sharpest, do their job, and there is a good variety of side quests and characters to interact with. On the negative, value is low, the monsters look silly, dialogs are uninteresting, plot is nothing out of the ordinary, and sound is abysmal. Consider renting before buying, because it will probably not even satisfy the kids.


Final Grade: 55%


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