SRPGs sit unsurely between games of large-scale conquest and vanilla roleplaying. In one regard, they’re more personable; instead of dealing with a symbol of an abstraction of a representation of 1000 Napoleonic soldiers, you’re hand-picking every individual unit of your revolutionary platoon, like a Robin Hood-Danny Ocean crossbreed, only prettier. “Hey, there’s Captain Felt, and Bow-Lady, and Hat-Guy,” you might say.
But, in contrast, these games also avoid the deep character development and true sense of avatarhood common in RPGs, under the pretense of some Great Magical War and hey, we’re just Cogs In Some Sort of Machine That Fights Great Magical Wars, Eh? “What really motivates Hat-Guy, in the philosophical sense?” you might never say, ever.
These are two difficult lines to toe, and yet Rebirth of Fortune 2 (Fortune Chronicle Episode Four: Magical Revolution), in its clumsy, colorful, sub-sub-titled way, somehow manages to get it’s wee little piggies doing just that.
Like any cause worth fighting for, the aforementioned GMW in Rebirth is easier to get involved in than it is to understand. This is squad-based tactical exactly as you expect it to be. Before a battle, you form your team, choosing which units to field and what formation they’ll start in. Each unit has a cost associated with it, and you can’t go over the allotted points for your current rank. Rank up by winning battles, and you get more points to play with. Now you’re fielding stronger units, you champion you! Or, you’re just fielding a bunch more weaker units, you lateral-thinking jerk-champ, you!
Units can be leveled with war spoils gained from victories. You start the game with basic soldier and archer cannon fodder but stronger, more interesting combatants unlock once you’ve met leveling requirements for units that precede them. Improving and diversifying are one and the same. Troops are drawn from limitless pools based on unit type, so once you’ve unlocked the scout, for example, you can field as many as your rank will allow.
Rebirth of Fortune 2 shows a real understanding of the squad-based tactical RPG when it comes to its 25 odd (but really, some are odd) unit types. Sure, several are just stronger iterations of the same basic archetype, but each has their own stats to peruse and skills to unlock, and even if the scout is meant to be a “better” archer, the two still play differently enough that you’ll want to explore strategies with both.
Further still, Rebirth’s single player pits you against a cleverer, more well-equipped enemy than you might initially expect. Easy early rounds quickly give way to head-scratching, beard-stroking, finger-steepling engagements. For example, a flytrap-looking monster has a special ability which drags another unit towards it. “Ah, to force them into melee range,” I said, when my troops were on the receiving end, and before I saw this mother could also drag a unit from its side out of a lethal engagement, letting it live on to shell me with demon’s fire for several more turns. And, whew, the first time you see an enemy field one of your favorite units (only red, because EVIL), it smacks of betrayal. Sweet, sexy betrayal.
But those abilities. Most abilities are fueled by ether, some sort of magic crystal which the game’s plot is vaguely concerned with… I think. (Great Magical Wars!) Ether builds every turn of a battle, or with the use of certain other abilities. The ostensible problem, as it were, is that it rarely feels like you’re short on on this currency. True, you can’t leap out at the start of a fight with your specials blazing, but unless your strategy revolves around the consistent deployment of spells you’re not going to be doing much number crunching. I say “ostensible problem” because, fancy that, it’s actually kind of nice to just finish a match with an unrelenting hail of super moves. Numbers are for normies anyway. This game is so punk. (Note: this game is not punk.)
Of course, there are problems. Maps are varied, but those variations generally range from topological features like one or two(!!!) chokepoints or, if you’re lucky, an improbable hillside beach. The curve for unlocking units seems unreasonably steep, though this reviewer can’t say from experience whether grabbing those upper-tier units is a better a choice than just beefing up the scrubs you start with. And the fact that a for-pay title like Rebirth of Fortune 2 has a system for buying experience is just wrong. The constellation of all these negatives doesn’t form a good picture for Rebirth having a balanced multiplayer. Of course, this reviewer can’t reliably comment on that, either, considering that, for reasons unknown, I wasn’t even able to successfully connect to a multiplayer match.
Regardless, Rebirth of Fortune 2 excels at giving the player a sense of being the Fearless Leader. From planning to execution, you’re it, and the game doesn’t let you forget that. Is a squad full of healers the ideal way to play? Probably not. But Rebirth of Fortune 2 won’t outright punish you for doing it. It’s a game that respects your choices. Question is, when your favorite anime-eyed, technicolor hero-thief (the one you quietly assumed was your squad leader, even though Rebirth of Fortune 2 doesn’t have squad leaders) gets winged by a sniper and drops, dead, will you show the same respect to yourself?
This post originally contained an erroneous image from a different Dotomchi game. That was my fault, not Sean’s — I hadn’t liked one of the screenshots he had taken and I replaced it with one that I got from Dotomchi’s website because I’m a control freak. That went against our usual site policy of only using screenshots we take ourselves in reviews — and it was totally my bad. Sorry about that. — Owen