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Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. Review

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Developer: Neko Entertainment Publisher: The Game Factory
Release Date: June 24, 2008 Also On: None

Ever since the release of Final Fantasy VII, RPG games have been quite popular in America. Obviously, when a genre of game becomes popular, companies take notice and take action to make games within that genre, some of which are good, and others of which are not so good. Indeed, it was only a matter of time before even RPG games based on licenses began to be released. That is exactly what Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. is. Released by Game Factory, Fall of X.A.N.A. is their second Code Lyoko game for the DS. The first one was decidedly average. Did Game Factory do better with this one? Read on to find out.

Graphically, Fall of X.A.N.A. is not that impressive. Compared to its predecessor, it looks much the same. Granted, the environment of the Lyoko world in which the game takes place would not have changed, but the character models and everything are pretty much the same as they were in the first game, except in those few areas where they actually seem somehow worse. And if that is not bad enough, there are even glitches in the graphics at some points. Overall, this is not the best game graphically, although it is not atrociously bad either.

The sound in the game is nowhere near as bad as the graphics. The music is okay. It is not anything that is overly memorable, but it is not overly crappy either. The sound effects are definitely of the generic variety, but they are not bad. There is no voice acting in the game at all, and the cutscenes leave a lot to be desired as a result, but a lot of DS games lack voice acting, so that can not legitimately be a significant gripe. Overall, the sound in this game is decidedly average.

In terms of gameplay, Fall of X.A.N.A. is a turn-based RPG. It is not, however, a traditional turn-based RPG. Instead, the game employs some sort of real-time turn-based hybrid. Here is how it works. At the beginning of the battle, all four characters are available to have a command issued to them. Once you issue commands to them, they will do what you told them to do in the order the commands were given, and then there will be a waiting period for each of them before they can be given another command. All the time that they are waiting, or even the time that you spend choosing what to tell a character to do, the enemies will be attacking at even intervals.

The result is that you are punished if you take a long time to figure out what you want the characters to do. Speedy decisions are the name of the game here, which adds an interesting element to the turn-based style battle system, a system where usually you can think and plan as long as you feel the need to before each round of battle. I recognize that such a battle system is not unprecedented, but it is different from the norm nonetheless.

Making the battle system facilitate better is the fact that everything controls with stylus. Instead of having to waste time cycling through options with a D-pad, you can always just touch the option you want. When entering a command for a character, you can just touch the command. Likewise, when the command you enter is only set to affect one enemy or one ally, you simply touch an icon for which one you want it to affect. Sure, the option to move around in the environment with the D-pad might have been nice, but it will take very little time to get used to just holding the stylus in the direction from the characters that you want them to run in.

Regarding the core battle system, it is your typical four-option system, with two differences. First of all, there is no defend command for a character with low HP to lessen the damage he or she takes. Secondly, its absence results in a command structure with two categories of “spell equivalents”, called power and function. Powers are each character’s individual spells. With the exception of Aelita, the powers are more powerful attacks. Aelita has a couple useful spells that can be learned, but most of her stuff is useless for the normal battles you’ll encounter in the game.

Functions, on the other hand, are “spells” shared by the group that can be performed by any of them. Powerful attacks are here as well, but you also have hit point recovery and some other useful things to choose from as the game goes on. They are quite powerful compared to other things, but you have to have function points to use them. Function points can be restored through the use of items, by using a free function to restore function point energy, or, eventually, by equipping a certain plug-in on one of the four characters.

This leaves you with the four options for any character to attack with a weapon, use a power, use a function, or use an item. There is no defend command, nor is there the availability of a run command. If a character dies, then, the process of devirtualization will begin on that character, a process which involves a slower moving bar than the one that counts off time between turns. If that bar fills, the character is out for the rest of the battle, but will be revirtualized at the end of the battle with one hit point. Should you prefer to get your character back for the present battle, there is an item that can do that, or you can spend the function points to do so if you have them. Either option will bring the character back immediately with more hit points. Still, the game does not really punish you enough for letting one of your characters die.

I mentioned plug-ins before. They are basically items that you equip. Depending on what level your characters are at, they each will have a certain amount of points available for having plug-ins equipped on them. These have a variety of uses, whether it be to increase the attack or defense capabilities of one of your characters, allow for recharging of your various point levels for HP, powers, or functions, or a whole slew of other things. Depending on the usefulness, they do not all cost the same among of plug-in points to equip to a character, and as you progress in the game and find more of them, you will reach the point where you will have to prioritize which ones you want to use.

Sadly, these plug-ins are the only equipment to be dealt with in this game. Each character’s weapon type is set in stone from the beginning. As a character levels up, not only will he or she learn new powers, but he or she will also learn new physical attacks. This means that when you tell your character to attack, you will then have to tell them which attack to use. Even though some of the attacks will obviously make others obsolete, the obsolete ones will still appear on the list, meaning that you will have to be careful to choose the right one, which can be difficult since, as I mentioned before, you have to do things quickly because of the real-time element of the battle system. Still, the fact that most characters will often have a choice between attacks aimed at single enemies and attacks aimed at all enemies makes deciding which attack to use somewhat less monotonous.

Another flaw to this game is that it is way too linear for an RPG. You don’t have a world to explore with towns and dungeons and such things. Instead, the game is laid out on a level by level basis. The levels do have energy beams blocking routes that have to be deactivated by finding switches, which requires a lot of backtracking, but that does not add much to the game because of one other major flaw. The battles in this game are not random. At set locations in the levels, there will be groups of enemies. Once you beat them, they are gone forever, even if you get low on healing items and have to devirtualize to buy more. This results in a lot of time that you will spend just running around without any encounters.

As if that is not bad enough, there are very few different enemy types in this game. I would say there are not any more than twenty different enemy types in the entire game, maybe twenty-five if you count bosses. Granted, many of the enemy types have multiple levels of difficulty. For example, in the first level you will run into an enemy called Kankrelat. Depending on which level each one is, after its name will be a 1, 2, or 3. The higher number signifies the stronger enemy. Seriously, though, I am fine with the game having palette-swapped enemies, but even the original Final Fantasy for the NES had the decency to give each one its own separate name rather than numbering them. At least some of the enemy groups you run into can give you a run for your money if you are not careful, and you are not able to overlevel your way past anything because of the limited quantity of available encounters.

At least there is one thing good I can say about the game. It has a very diverse set of items considering how simplistic everything else is. There are items that restore HP, items that restore DP (the meter that tells you how many powers you can use), items to restore function points for using functions, as well as items to inflict various statuses or straight damage on your enemies and items to boost the stats of your allies, among others. You can get items by buying them when you are devirtualized and in the real world, or you can get them by finding them in pickups which are scattered quite liberally through the levels, or you can get them by defeating enemies. The money to buy items is also something you can find in pickups or by defeating enemies.

Okay, so the game itself is a very simplistic form of a turn-based RPG. At least it has an engaging story, right? Wrong! The story is contrived, repetitive, and predictable. Go to tower here to get to replica there to destroy its supercomputer pretty much sums up the plot for most of the levels in the game. The overarching plot revolves around some group called X.A.N.A., which I assume also represents the bad guys in the show on which this game is based, who try to cause mischief in the real world from some cyberworld called Lyoko. Your band of four heroes are trying to stop them for good. Yep, that is pretty much it.

Oh, and do not expect this game to take a long time to beat either. I clocked just over eleven hours on it before I beat it (yes, the game does keep track of how long you have played on a file), and I took the time to explore the levels to try to find as many good item pickups as I could. If you just make your way straight through and know where to go, the game would probably last significantly less time than that. For most games on the DS, that is a reasonable length, but RPGs are known for being lengthy, and lengthy this one is not. There is also little reason to play it a second time after you beat it as there are no multiple endings or anything like that.

What then is my conclusion? If you are a serious fan of RPGs, you will be distraught at how easy and simplistic this game is but may find entertainment value in it nonetheless. If, however, you are a newcomer to the RPG genre, this game can serve as a first lesson in the basics of how one works. Certainly, despite its flaws, the game is competent and entertaining, so if you are a fan of Code Lyoko you should consider giving it a try. If you are not a fan of the source material or the RPG genre, you can probably safely pass on this game.

Graphics: 5.5
Sound: 6.5
Gameplay: 6.5
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 6.3
Written by Martin Review Guide