One of the Lesser Known Xbox RPG's
The game is definitely beautiful, and I'm not just talking about Ailish. Sudeki is packed with vivid colors and unique architecture in just about every area of the game. The characters are also quite unique in an obviously anime-inspired way. The textures of their armor and the real-time shadows/lighting is very well done. The camera is a little hitchy, but the framerate is solid even with many spell effects going off and numerous baddies exploding into pools of blood. Speaking of which, it's nice to see a gory RPG. Obviously they weren't scared of getting an M rating. Overall it's a beautiful game, just not quite mindblowing.
This is probably the best area of the game. Sudeki is an RPG, but it's not turn-based (Final Fantasy), and it's not hack-n-slash (Dark Alliance). Then what is it? Well, it pulls from many types of genres, but in the end it's something new. Like hack-n-slashers, there's still lots of barrell breaking and constantly upgrading your equipment, but the actual combat is way more intuitive than just mashing.
Your party consists of 2 fighters and 2 ranged attackers. Tal and Buki are the fighters, and combat takes place in real time using an innovative combo system. You can button mash all you want, but if you want to be effective you'll time your combos with the help of a small display in the bottom left corner of the screen. You combos consist of 3 button presses using mainly X and A. Inputting different combinations of X and A in the 3 slots determines what kind of attacks you will perform. The other two characters, Ailish and Elco, use their magic and guns respectively in first person mode. Yeah, when you switch to one of them, which is easily done at any time much like KotOR, you go into first person view and start blasting away. You only control one character at once, but you can set up your team to act certain ways individually (aggressive/support/retreat). Everything is put together in a way that is really quite unique and a welcome attempt at mixing things up in the RPG genre.
Now that I've praised the hell out of the gameplay, let me trash it as well. The combat is great, but everything else is bland. The game throws in these puzzle elements that aren't really puzzles. Each character has unique skills. Tal can push/pull big objects, Ailish can see things that no one else can, Buki can climb walls, and Elco can use a rocketpack to fly across gaps. That's great and all, but they may as well put a giant sign in front of each puzzle that says "USE [INSERT CHAR NAME HERE]". It's just so obvious that it's not even challenging or fun. And Ailish's skill is pointless because anything that is "invisible" glows with gold dust. So any character you're using can see it. Either way, the combat is refreshing and even though the adventure aspect of the gameplay is weak, the innovative fighting makes up for most of it.
Every NPC you run into has voice-overs, which is nice, but they don't really have anything useful to say most of the time. Climax seems to have gone with a hodge-podge of European accents for their world, which is at least better than the generic British slang. The voice-overs lean toward the side of hokey, but are decent for the most part. The real shining element of the sound is the original score put together for the game's soundtrack. Much like the way the opening score of Halo simply made you feel like you were about to embark on an epic masterpiece, so does the music in Sudeki.
This is where the game takes a turn for the worse. For an RPG, the game is disappointing by finishing in under 20 hours. The reason for this can partially be attributed to the simplistic puzzles and linear adventure. You basically follow a path killing the baddies that spawn until you get to a doorway and then do it all over again. The characters are unique, yes, but there are no alternate paths for any of them. Early in development there were more than 4 characters, but they all got cut in order to finally ship the game. This leaves Sudeki with low replay value.
On its surface, Sudeki is a game that I should love. It's an RPG; it's anime-inspired; and above all it's innovative. Yet somehow it's just not fun. The combat is great, and unleashing the Spirit Attacks to level a dozen baddies in an explosion of blood is definitely fun, but there's not a lot of it. Most of your time is spent simply following a set path and talking to people along the road. The story itself is decent, yet stereotypical after you get past the whole opening cutscene that explains the history of the world. With games such as Fable, KotOR II, and Jade Empire on the horizon, I can't really recommend Sudeki to the average gamer. But if you're really into RPG's (and all you have is an Xbox), there's enough here to warrant a purchase. It should at least hold you over until Fable hits stores in about 7 weeks.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***