Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jewel Summoner (almost final) - PSP

The PSP has a fairly large number of RPGs, but very few ones designed originally for it (at least that have been released in the US). That's not to say that the ones the PSP has had are bad, but they often hark back to a simpler era in terms of gameplay and production values (graphics, cutscenes and speech).

This is one of those few original RPGs. Unfortunately, while it does seem to have better production values than most PSP RPGs, it's still probably a Playstation 1 quality RPG in that regard, just containing 5 hours of speech, and really doesn't take advantage of the PSP's hardware, with the exception of the built in clock.


You play as Vice, a young man whose mother was killed by a creature called an Abomination. He works as a monster hunter, trying to avenge his mother's death. He has this ability to summon forth a pet monster from a jewel to fight for him, which he uses to take on other monsters.

At least, that's what he does until one day he ends up losing his monster while trying to get more information on the monster he seeks while visiting the Academy of Jewel Summoners. In compensation, he is allowed to enter the Academy for training as a proper Jewel Summoner, along with a class of 4 other students.

While there, he picks 2 out of the 4 students to form a team with, and then he gets assigned various missions to do. Which tend to involve going to another town, then going to a dungeon of sorts, battling monsters, until you reach a boss.

Combat is pretty standard turn based, but with a few twists. The first is that it's very heavily dependant on the element the monster belongs to. This is not that new, but this has more elements, 8, than any other game I've seen. And using the right element against an opponent can cause his turn to be pushed back. You can also only use your monster so much - every thing he does in combat costs job points, of which he has a limited number. Once it hits zero, you have to swap him out. So combat actually is pretty fun, and requires some strategy.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of combat. So while it's fun, just having to do it so frequently in a dungeon can get a bit boring.

The dungeons are pretty linear, in that they only have one branch through them, but do have a lot of side passages which are eventually dead ends. There is no mapping in the game, so you basically have to memorize them. Certain parts of the dungeon require special abilities, which you learn as the game progresses, to access. Unfortunately, this is generally used to make you go through a dungeon a 2nd time, this time using that special ability to reach a place you couldn't get to before.


The graphics are pretty decent. The backgrounds are probably Playstation 2 level, but your characters and the monsters are closer to Playstation 2 level - fair amount of detail and things like hair and clothes move a little.

There really aren't 3D cutscenes, basically you get 2 pictures of characters talking, one on each side of the screen. The pictures are animated though, that is, their lips move and they blink. So the net result is pretty neat. Usually they talk in front of a static 2d backdrop, but sometimes 3d objects are put to good use.

I found the voice acting to be fairly good. Some of it is annoying, but it suited those characters (which were annoying).

Final Thoughts:

The trouble with this game is essentially twofold. First, the characters. Part of what defines an RPG like this is the story and the characters which make up a story. Unfortunately, out of your 4 team mates, only 1 is really truly a pleasant person, Lynn. The rest are annoying at best, horrible at worst. Two are basically mirror images - whiny brats. The only difference is really that one is female and talks about herself in the 3rd person. The fourth one is an old looking guy who is sleepy. And when he does actually talk, he'll put you to sleep.

So while the actual story is interesting, and the voice acting is decent, many times you'll be hitting the X button to move the dialogue because you just want them to shut up already.

Secondly, the game doesn't have a lot of depth. Sure, there are 110 monsters you can have, but really, only maybe 30 really different ones - most are simply variations. Like a Lion can become a Fire Lion, Blue Lion, Wind Lion, Ashen Lion, or Sacred Lion. While there aren't nearly as many dungeons as that, they too are reused a lot. You'll do one dungeon, then come back and do it again, only the 2nd time around you can access a few more areas of the dungeon.

The net result is a fairly short game. Maybe not as short as Astonishia Story, but you should be able to beat this in about 20 hours or so. There's some stuff to do after you win, and you can duel players via ad hoc wireless mode, but there's not a huge amount of gameplay here.