|Release: June 12, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Becky Cunningham
Sting is not one of the best-known Japanese developers in North America, but Atlus has been publishing a steady stream of Sting games like Yggdra Union and Knights in the Nightmare on handhelds here. Sting is known for making tactical RPGs with unusual gameplay twists, and its next title to be released here appears to be continuing along those lines. Titled Gungnir, this tactical RPG for the PSP will be available as a UMD or as a downloadable title on the PlayStation network, thus able to be played on the Vita.
Despite the cute anime characters that populate Gungnir's world, the game tackles serious issues such as racial oppression. It's meant to be a darker and more serious kind of title than we usually see from Japan, a fact that might appeal to gamers looking for more mature offerings. In fact, the general look and feel of the game is a bit reminiscent of the first Final Fantasy Tactics game, also known for its serious and tragic storyline.
Gungnir's main character, Julio, is one of the Leonica people, who are considered cursed and are oppressed by the Daltania who rule the Gargandia Empire. Julio has decided to bite back, joining a group of freedom fighters called Esperanza, which means "hope" in Spanish. Esperanza, despite aid from Daltania sympathizers to the Leonica cause, is badly outgunned by the Empire. During a crisis point in the conflict in which Julio faces grave danger, he suddenly comes into possession of a powerful demonic spear called Gungnir. Deciding to use the spear to seize victory, Julio may become a hero of the people, but also risks becoming a feared tyrant.
Backing up Julio is a large cast of story-related characters. Notable amongst them are two young Daltania, Alyssa and Ragnus. Alyssa is a shy young woman who is rescued from slavery by Julio's unit early in the game. She has a possible noble background, but she doesn't like to talk about it. Alyssa serves as the game's main female character. Ragnus, on the other hand, is a childhood friend of Julio's. Although he's Daltania, he grew up amongst the Leonica. Ragnus' adoptive father was murdered by Imperial soldiers, and now Ragnus fights with Esperanza with revenge on his mind. Along with storyline characters like these, players can recruit up to ten generic characters, including monsters.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward and linear, purposefully lacking side activities in order to focus closely on the storyline and battle system. Other than story scenes and battle scenes, there will be little to do other than equip and train up characters. There will be numerous decision-making points in the game's storyline, though, and there will be multiple endings dictated by the player's choices.
The game's battle system is turn-based, with troops arrayed on battlegrounds in an isometric view. The tactical twist in this system is that every action a troop member takes will take up time, and players will have tools that can help manipulate the order in which troops attack. This sounds like a more involved version of the turn order mechanic found in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, another game that should be familiar to PSP-owning JRPG fans.
Along with manipulating ally and enemy turn order, players will be able to array troops in order to execute coordinated attacks between allies. Once Gungnir comes into play, Julio will be able to use the spear to summon demons who will affect the entire battlefield. It will even be possible for the player to push enemies off the battlefield, removing them from battle—though the player's troops can be pushed off the battlefield as well. Newcomers to tactical games will be happy to know that there's an Easy Mode meant to assist players who are struggling with the game's combat system.
Quality tactical games are few and far between, so fans of the genre will certainly want to check out Gungnir. With an intense branching storyline and a tactical battle system that becomes more complex as the game goes on, Gungnir might be of particular interest to fans of the original Final Fantasy Tactics. Keep an eye out for this title on June 12.
Date: April 26, 2012