KEMCO is back at it again, this time with a direct sequel to a previous entry. Asdivine Hearts II takes place two years after the original. For the gamers who haven’t played the first Asdivine: don’t worry about it. There is a very brief summary of the first game’s events. It’s a little skimpy on the details, but you’ll get the gist of it. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter anyways because the story of Asdivine Hearts II does not require any knowledge of the previous, although you may feel a little confused at first about some of the character references.
After not seeing each other for two years, Zack and co reunite at the behest of their former traveling companion Felix: the Deity of Light. Stella is now an official monster trainer while purple-haired Uriel is now a renowned author/chainsaw enthusiast. Felix (still in her cat form) requests their assistance in helping her investigate a serious weather problem in another parallel world called Archelio. After explaining how Archelio is freezing over and becoming buried in an unnatural snowfall, the crew cross over via a portal created by Felix. Unfortunately, Felix fails to mention the side effects of the portal and the party loses all their fancy weapons and high levels, leaving you to start the game from level 1. You have to love the lengths developers will sometimes go to to explain why your characters have to start off fresh in the sequel. Anyways, the group meets up with Nadia, the Deity of Shadow and the final companion to join you on your trip. Luckily for you, she has a bag full of starter equipment for the group.
It soon comes to the group’s attention that the inhabitants of Archelio are praying to a deity they never heard of before. After encountering a powerful and mysterious man that looks exactly like the statues of the unknown deity, they decide to transform the statues back to likenesses of the Light & Shadow deities so that the harnessed powers of faith come back to them and hopefully they can set the world right. While the plot is interesting enough, the characters and dialogue between them is where the game stumbles. Zack is the only male member of the group and his harem of traveling companions spend at least half their conversations trying to win him over and it gets stale real fast. To top it off, Zack is a trope-heavy character you’ll often find in Japanese games/anime. He is completely oblivious to all the advances and awkward situations that arise from his all-female entourage. Other oddities worth noting are Nadia’s fur-fetish for Felix and a masochistically-inclined fairy who constantly tries to get the members of the party to stomp on it. While the characters are likable, basing most interactions around things like these drags down the overall quality of the writing.
At least they tried to tie the character relations into some of Asdivine’s mechanics, though somewhat unsuccessfully. Each companion has a trust meter and a special ability tied to it. These allow special actions, like Stella being able to cross gaps in the map with her whip or allowing Felix to squeeze through small gaps in the wall in order to get to some treasure chests. The idea is that there are three stages of trust and that to be able to do the action required you must pass the trust requirement. However, a character’s trust level is displayed via a meter with a number that doesn’t actually indicate what level of trust they are currently sitting at. During my journey, I very rarely passed any of the skill checks required, frustrating the hell out of me and making me believe that the system wasn’t even working. It was only until the post-game content that I was able to actually succeed more often.
Asdivine also contains multiple character-specific endings. Which one you obtain depends on which companion has the highest trust level with Zack. Throughout the game, there are scripted instances where Zack will have the time to engage in multiple-choice style conversations with everyone. Picking the right line of dialogue will earn you trust with that person, while in the worst-case scenario you can lose trust. You have plenty of warning as to when these will take place, so you can always save and restart if you mess up. The only other way to gain trust is to give gift items, which are very rare and hard to come by.
The battles are much like the ATB (active time battle) style turn-based fights found in Fernz Gate, the last KEMCO title I reviewed. You have six members paired up in teams of two. The character in the sub position can use items and magic, or they can opt to support the main team member’s action, which has a few benefits. Since Stella is a monster trainer, you can take one “buddy” into battle with you. These monsters have different abilities and attributes so it’s good to practice with a variety of combinations. More buddies can be found in the form of jewels. Each jewel contains a specific buddy. If you already have the buddy, you can either equip the jewel to be able to use its specific ability or use it to instantly grant the buddy five levels. And speaking of jewels, Asdivine introduces an interesting take on character customization. Aside from the usual armor and weapon load-outs, each character has a grid that can be filled with Tetris-like jewels that provides various bonuses. Usually, the more powerful a jewel is the more space it takes up. To take full advantage of the system, you’re going to have to cram in as many as you can maneuver. I thought this was a nice alternative to having accessories to equip.
While I have no complaints about the way Asdivine Hearts II looks, I do take issue with the all too common frame stuttering problems that it suffers from. It is an issue I often notice with EXE-CREATE titles. I’m not sure why this is, but I figured they would have it down pat by now. The music is a bit off as well. Not specifically the quality of the music, but in how limited it feels. There are about ten tracks. Weeping Girl is a beautiful one; easily the most somber. Warrior’s Blade is a high tempo track used in the battles. There will be times where the characters will be in the midst of a sad moment and then suddenly, the music will shift and BAM! Here comes the out of place rock track. It’s very jarring and detrimental to the mood the game is trying to set. All these quirks aside, I did enjoy the game. I sunk around twenty hours into it, which was enough to beat the game plus all the substories and post-game content. Asdivine Hearts II is worth the price if you need a retro JRPG fix, but there are better KEMCO titles out there.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Store page can be found here
Final Score: 6.5/10
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