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Developer:
Flight Plan
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: GBA
Release Date: July 26, 2006

by Aaron Slater




Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is a game that will probably slip under the radars of most gamers, but the first part in this series of GBA action-RPGs from Atlus is more than worthy of your time. While not an epic by any means, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story offers a fun and engaging battle system, a myriad of weapons to synthesize, and more than enough humor to compensate for being a simple, by the books, save the world affair.


Summon Night: Swordcraft Story puts the player in the role of a young apprentice Craftknight, who has entered himself in a competition to become a Craftlord. Craftlords are the governing body of the island of Wystern, and besides having the ability to create powerful weapons, they control the goings on about the island. The main character, who can be male or female, is the child of a Craftlord who died three years before, and the competition is being held amongst all the apprentices to find a successor. The main character gets paired up with one of four guardian beasts who will assist him or her on his quest. A guardian beast is a monster that assists in battles by being able to use magic and support attacks to help the player. With one of the four unique Guardian Beasts in tow, the player character sets off to ascend the ranks of the competition. However, there is much more at stake than meets the eye in this competition, as earthquakes begin to shake the island of Wystern, rivalry between the two guilds of apprentices begins to climb, and unforeseen forces begin weighing heavily upon the competition. Soon the player must embark not only to become the next Craftlord, but also to save those he cares about.


While the story may seem a little generic, and admittedly it is, there is more than enough charm to make it feel original. Humor runs rampant in this game, with the banter between the player and the guardian beast, sexual undertones, and some rather ludicrous quests. The game does not take itself too seriously, and it is just as well. The humor keeps things fresh, makes some of the more lengthy banter and story segments entertaining as opposed to banal, and helps to develop some of the cookie-cutter characters. Also helping to emphasize and develop the characters are the late-night walks the player can take. The game is divided up into a series of days with set objectives, and at the end of each day the player can choose which character to go on a walk with that night. This leads to some dialogue that helps to flesh out some of the characters and make them more genuine.


The story may be generic, but the game play is quite fresh and entertaining. In order to compete in the competition to become a Craftlord, the player must forge new weapons in order to compete with the next combatant. Axes, swords, drills, spears, and knuckles create the five different classes of weapons that the player will create throughout the course of the game. Each of the five different classes handles differently and has their own strengths and weaknesses. Using the right weapon against the right combatant in the competition can be beneficial and even change the tide of battle.


However, not every combatant needs to be defeated by draining his or her health, by defending or attacking a combatant while they are defending, the durability of their weapon can be depleted. If the durability is completely depleted, their weapon breaks and they lose the match. While this can be helpful when fighting some of the tougher entrants, and it does have its advantages, the player must also watch the durability of their own weapon so that it does not break during the match, resulting in their loss.


The game does not entirely consist of battling in the competition, though. In order to forge weapons, the player must acquire techniques for different weapons. Techniques are basically recipes for the weapons, giving the amount of each material necessary to make them. In order to gain the appropriate materials, the player must harvest them from the massive dungeon that lies in the center of the island of Wystern. Much of the game will be spent scouring the dungeon, fighting the many different enemies, and gathering items which can be turned into materials for forging better weapons. Fortunately, the dungeon-crawling sections rarely become tedious, as they are broken up by story segments which can lead to other dungeons, tournament bouts, or even some of the myriad of side quests throughout the game which can allow the player to gain new, powerful techniques or items.


Battles are yet another area where the game excels. Battles are 2-D, side-scrolling affairs akin to Tales of Phantasia. They are action oriented, and all move in real time, with the player directly controlling the character as they slash, thrust, pummel, drill, and just plain demolish their enemies. The player can equip three different weapons at a time and switch between the three at any time during battle. The player can also set five items or spells that their Guardian Beast knows to bring into battle to be used as necessary. The lack of menus and the ability to quickly use spells, items, or switch between weapons allows battles to be fast paced and generally fun to play. As battles are won, experience is acquired and the player and guardian beast will level up. As the player character levels up, his or her statistics will increase, and the player will be allowed to distribute bonus statistic points to further customize their character. As the Guardian Beast advances in levels, the potency of their magic will be augmented, and they will acquire new spells and attacks. While leveling up and character customization is rather bland, the battles themselves are always action packed and fun to take part in.


Graphically, Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is nice but nothing spectacular. The player will spend the vast majority of the game wandering through the large dungeon in the center of the town, or completing side quests throughout Wystern. In that respect, the same buildings and architecture will be seen over and over again, and the design of the dungeon, although interesting, lacks variation. When the player does get to leave Wystern to see the other environments, they all look nice and offer decent variation, but nothing in the game is jaw dropping or too original. In battle, the spell effects and sprites are all nicely designed and well animated, with some of the bosses being tremendous in size and having very interesting attack animations, but once again are nothing to marvel at in the later years of the Game Boy Advance. This could be due to the fact that this game is over three years old, but even given that, the graphics in this game are pretty standard at best.


Aurally the game is rather basic, as well. The same tracks will be heard over and over again throughout the game, and while they don’t get boring or grating, they seriously lack originality. The sound effects in the game fit, but do little more than that. Admittedly, this is an older game and a handheld title, but that being said, absolutely nothing about the soundtrack or the sound effects stands out or excels. The music is forgettable at best, and overall the audio is just on par.


Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is not the greatest RPG on the Game Boy Advance by any means. Its story is trite, the characters are generally archetypes, the graphics are dated and the audio is bland. Yet, even with all of those faults, the general charm of the translation, the fast-paced battle system, and the deep weapon creation system both compensate for the faults and help to make the game worthwhile. Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is lighthearted fun, and offers a great deal of enjoyment, making it more than worthy of anyone’s time.


Final Grade: 75%




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