Hello all! Last week’s game was an example of perfect game design, and also it was Donkey Kong, so.

Today brings us to a JRPG that’s not Final Fantasy. Or even Tales, for that matter.

Resonance of Fate is a 2010 JRPG developed by tri-Ace, who also created the excellent Valkyrie Profile and Star Ocean series. Much like those games, Resonance isn’t as well known as most Square Enix titles; Final Fantasy games are events rather than just games. But for every huge RPG that comes out, there’s a handful of “smaller” titles that don’t quite make it into the mainstream consciousness. I say “smaller” in quotes because I don’t necessarily mean smaller in scope or ambition—I just mean they don’t make the impact that a Fallout or Elder Scrolls will.

That’s kind of a mixed bag for JRPG aficionados like myself—we get all these cool games, but we’re not likely to find sequels or other people to discuss the game with. Resonance of Fate is one such title; it’s (in my humble opinion) great, but is kind of ignored in the larger scope of things. You play as a team of mercenaries named Vashyron, Zephyr, and Leanne that live in a tower city called Basel and take jobs and then blah blah blah. It’s not an overly interesting plot, but it’s carried by the characters and steampunk environment—nothing about the setting is original, but that doesn’t make it bad. It’s just that the story doesn’t really do it for me; it starts to raise interesting themes, but it never really gets around to exploring them.

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Good thing the combat is so fun, then. Resonance famously uses guns unanimously instead of swords and other JRPG standards. You can move freely around in battle (encounters are random, of course), and shoot, so long as you have Action Points. There’s actually two kinds of damage you can deal: Normal Damage (self-explanatory) and Scratch Damage. Scratch Damage is dealt faster than Normal, but only with sub-machine guns, and it doesn’t count towards Normal Damage. Shooting a Scratch-Damaged enemy with a pistol, however, converts all Scratch Damage to Normal, which means smart players can cause tons of damage to enemies if they plan correctly.

You can also set your characters on a pre-determined path from one point to another, shooting enemies as you run or, more preferably, jump. Jumping during one of these runs sends your character soaring, and you can still fire on enemies this way, performing Hero Moves (essentially cool awesome movie-like stunts). This is where most of the fun comes from; you get to pull off a perfect plan of attack and look cool during it. Of course, abuse it too much and you run out of Bezels; you need those to not die. Bezels are used for both the powerful Hero Moves and for reviving you when you die, so you need to assess the situation in every battle—you can live without Bezels, but your party becomes frustratingly ineffective without them.

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And so the battle system becomes a hybrid of strategy and fun, and it’s one of the few JRPG’s out there that won’t make you groan with yet another random encounter. Though, admittedly, part of that is because the game doesn’t really do any other interesting stuff. But maybe that’s fine. After all, with a lot of games, the important thing is whether or not you had fun with it. I had fun with Resonance; it’s not a game that will affect you emotionally or change your life, but it’s a fun romp, and I’m happy I stumbled across it.

And that’s...that’s really what’s great about a game like this: just discovering an under-the-radar title that turns out to be great. It’s like you’ve found something everyone else missed—of course, not everyone missed it, but a game like Resonance isn’t something that’s talked about or fondly remembered, or...really anything. It’s just a game on a shelf; it’s really good, but it’s the kind of game passed over for what’s perceived as a superior title. I mean, if this and a more...established game are next to each other, the average person will likely spring for the latter. That’s totally fine! But it does mean that games like Resonance of Fate fall into relative obscurity.

Do yourself a favor: if you have extra money lying around and you see a game you’ve never heard of on the shelf for like ten bucks, look into it. Chances are you missed something cool, and you can fix that.

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Next week brings us to another less-than-famous-but-still-great JRPG. It’s on the Wii, and no, not that one.