Title: Idola: Phantasy Star Saga
Release Date: September 17, 2020
Reviewed On: iOS
Publisher: Boltrend Games
Growing up, the only RPGs I only ever really cared about were Final Fantasy and Pokemon. Occasionally, friends would tell me about an RPG named Phantasy Star, but I was too hyped about the next Nintendo exclusive to care. Now, the series has come to mobile devices with Idola: Phantasy Star Saga, and I have no excuses not to play it. However, I can’t say it’s tempted me to play the main series, even with some of its more unique elements.
Even if the name has Idol in it, this isn’t a Love Live game; instead, Idola: Phantasy Star Saga follows the story of Uly, a sailor who finds himself in the middle of an Idola attack, think mythical monster summons, but they’re based on the Zodiac signs. The Aries Knights, a mercenary group that hires people of both Law and Chaos, save and recruit Uly to their organization. They travel the world keeping rogue Idolas under control and help those who need it. In standard gacha RPG affairs, the story isn’t anything special.
There doesn’t seem to be many heavy stakes to make the narrative gripping aside from the occasional “Law” character who ends up being evil. Still, I did get a kick out of learning more about the characters through side stories, such as why they are of the Law or Chaos orders. Visually, the 2D art of each character looks great. They’ve kept a nice mixture of the fantasy and space aesthetic that I’ve seen of other Phantasy Star titles. In battle, characters take on these odd ragdoll-like movements. It definitely looks strange, but I can’t say that I hated it.
Idola: Phantasy Star Saga has some interesting gameplay elements to help flesh out the standard RPG experience. Instead of 4 or 5 characters brought onto the field, the team is separated into Law and Chaos teams. Story-wise, they can not fight alongside each other as it repels moral identities, causing their abilities not to work. So characters can only be paired alongside their order, except “neutral” characters like Uly.
Law and Choas teams can be switched out using a Reverse Rush attack, causing the team on the sidelines to jump in and attack all opponents. There were times where I felt my Law team wasn’t as useful as my Chaos team, simply because I had an attack buffer on my Chaos group. To be honest, I rerolled about 20 times before I obtained a proper character on my Law and Chaos teams. It was more so a problem in other modes than the first few chapters of the story, but I’ll get to that later.
Each character has a basic attack and two abilities. After selecting your abilities, the battle begins—pretty standard stuff. An elemental meter fills up under each character, which is used to execute a character’s Ultimate Attack. There are weapon and soul “symbols” that you can equip. To further switch up the gameplay, Theses soul symbols have certain requirements that need to be met to equip.
For example, you might have a card that can boost your water-based characters’ elemental water value if one of your characters is at less than 75% HP. Many soul symbols have different variations, so it’s best to go through each one and make sure to find ones that fit your team and various situations. You can also collect little pets called “IdolaMags” to give your teams additional stat buffs and added damage when you switch teams out.
There’s more than enough content here to sink as much time as you want into the adventure that revolves around story missions, side-quests, constant event missions, and even PVP. One of the more unique features is found in the raid system. Raids involve fighting Idolas. The catch is, these Idolas are actually created with a fusion of 4 Law and 4 Order characters from other players. The Idolas that come out of it are dependant upon who the lead character is in the party.
So, in turn, that means you can actually create your own Idola with your party for people to fight against you in raids. You don’t take control of the Idola, but players earn rewards depending on how many players are driven off while the AI takes care of fighting, which even works offline. The only time you actually take control of Idola is during certain boss fights in the story mode, which are fun in their own right.
PVP is a basic 8v8 RPG battle with the fighting elements I mentioned earlier—nothing surprisingly unique about it. As always, you need to hope you get some of the stronger units and level them quickly if you want to make a dent in the rankings. Pull rates of certain characters weren’t the worst.
For every reroll and normal roll I got after I was satisfied with my initial party, I was able to get quite a few useful characters that could still put up a fight against the likes of Rosalinde’s tankiness and damage output. At best, you’ll need some support, whether a buffer, debuffer, or healer, at least one tank who has a protect ability to come rushing in front of oncoming attacks and 2 heavy DPS characters (like Stella).
Idola: Phantasy Star Saga could have been great, but its more promising early content slowly turns into a standard waifu collector RPG within the first few hours. There’s a unique raid system woven in with the Idola themes that make for some fun moments of gameplay, but everything else feels almost too familiar. I wish the developer did more with the Phantasy Star brand instead of simply reusing mechanics that we’ve seen before. It may still be worth it in the end, though, because the gacha drop rates for 5-star characters seem to be really high, or I’ve been insanely lucky.
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