Developer – Xuse [Honjouzou]
Translator – JAST USA
Length – >50 Hours
[This review assumes you have played Aselia the Eternal (Eien no Aselia) or read my review for it]
Last week I reviewed Aselia the Eternal, which I frequently refer to as the first visual novel I ever played. It was fantastic fun and the wait for Seinarukana’s translation has been a long one, but it’s finally here and I can happily say it’s worth picking up if you were a fan of the original. With more world-hopping antics than ever before, Seinarukana is a worthy, if slightly disappointing, successor to Aselia even though it fails to surpass it for a number of reasons.
Nozomu Setoki is your average, everyday visual novel protagonist guy. He gets woken up by his childhood friend, goes to school and is fought over by girls while being completely oblivious to their feelings. He also holds the dormant power of a God within him, and that is what draws the Lightbringers to Earth. In the ensuing battle Nozomu’s school and everyone in it are transported to another world, leaving the students stranded in unfamiliar territory. But this is just one world of many. In order to save the Time Tree from destruction, enslavement or worse, Nozomu will be forced to cross dimensions wielding the very power that threatens to steal his soul.
Seinarukana can be fairly easily split up into three or so parts. The introduction is a little drawn out and dull but followed by a fast-paced and exciting middle portion, before the story wraps up by overstaying its welcome with an unnecessarily long conclusion. There are several antagonists throughout the course of the tale with new ones pouring forth from the woodwork each time the previous baddie is defeated, and each successive foe becomes less interesting than the last because they have no real backing to make the reader see them as an enemy. I mean, certainly, you probably do need to beat that guy who’s about to take over the universe, but it’s not as personal as the one you just beat that kidnapped your mother and tortured her (no spoilers in there, don’t worry), right? The ending itself was also underwhelming, leaving a number of plot threads completely unexplored and featuring the least relevant boss yet.
The cast makes for another unfortunate low point, mostly due to its size. Aselia had a lot of characters, sure, but the line between main and side was distinct, meaning that the people you cared about got a satisfactory amount of screen time. When I tell you that Seinarukana features at least 15 ostensibly “main” characters, you might begin to see a problem. Every single scene visibly struggles to give each character their own five seconds in the spotlight and the production as a whole suffers from this. While I understood each character well enough, they never managed to break out of their established stereotype.
The news isn’t all bad, though. As I said earlier, the middle portion of the story is fantastic and easily held my attention for an extended period of time. It featured antagonists that were really easy to hate and I was as eager to find out what was going to happen as I was in some of Aselia’s better chapters. The characters are all likeable despite how shallow they might be and at the very least the star of your chosen route gets a fair amount of attention. Furthermore, while I do stick by my complaints, the story never becomes mind-numbingly dull; there are simply times where it could have been better.
I’m a fan of Aselia’s combat system. Managing a small number of troops across a tactical map while trying not to over-extend yourself by biting off more than you can chew in one go is fun, and managing each individual battle by arranging your characters to take advantage of their strengths is also fun. The system is easy to learn, though Seinarukana makes a couple of changes that aren’t necessarily for the best. To begin with, the entire premise of the story relates to visiting different worlds, so you can say goodbye to the great feeling of gradually conquering your enemy’s entire continent. Admittedly, that’s not really something that could have been helped. One of the changes that significantly impacted on my enjoyment, however, was the difference in how skills are gained. Rather than learning new things as your characters level up, you find them seemingly at random from enemies you beat. Aselia featured a race against time for levelling up your key members before enemy fighters could counter them, whereas Seinarukana gives the player next to no power at all over the new skills they pick up. To top it off, huge periods of time went with nothing being learned at all, and the vast majority of the skills were next to useless, which was a shame because new skills are enjoyable; they allow you to change the way you handle different situations and keep things interesting.
Battles now also last multiple rounds in which you are not able to change the skills you are using (though you can move characters into the different slots of attacker, defender and support at will), which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There are also more frequent bosses which, while being a good idea in theory, require you to have picked up very particular skills early on and will ruin your day if you don’t have them. Later on you end up fighting the same bosses repeatedly and, let’s be honest, when you’ve already soundly beaten someone they cease to be threatening at all. By roughly mid-way through the game you’ll have been given characters that can beat bosses (including the last one) and minions all by themselves with no trouble whatsoever, which was the final nail in the coffin of the gameplay for me, especially considering how difficult Aselia’s Big Bad was to even survive three rounds against. That all said, though, magic and physical damage are now considered separate which makes for an interesting new combat dynamic. And to wrap things up, buildings are even more useless than they were in Aselia (if that’s even possible) and the process of moving units is slightly more frustrating.
Seinarukana features a noticeable improvement from Aselia when it comes to its production values, with art that is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor’s. While it still seems a little aged I don’t have the same complaints about inconsistent quality this time around. There are some great musical tracks that pop up (that seem remarkably similar to some I remember from Final Fantasy VII…), though I have to admit that most of the BGM was fairly forgettable.
Summary – While Seinarukana unfortunately represents a step backwards for its series, it still delivers a great deal of fun with its gameplay and story. Too many forgettable antagonists and a bloated cast combined with nonsensical gameplay changes bring the entire production down a notch from where the original Aselia the Eternal sits. For fans, however, Seinarukana still holds enough of what made its predecessor great to be worth playing and I found myself enjoying enough of the experience to recommend it.
Score: 7.5/10 – Enjoyable