Title: Record of Agarest War
Developer: Compile Heart
Release Date: March 9, 2023
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Aksys Games
We are driven by simple desires. For some, it’s to overcome any barrier, others to achieve a feat so incredible that no mortal could ever hope to surmount it. However, for gamers like myself, we know what the actual end game is; which anime girl to woo during a clandestine war between good and evil.
Record of Agarest War was initially released in North America in 2010 with the main draw of a generational narrative where player interaction with the heroines determines who they end up with and the stats of their future child. Ultimately, across several in-game generations, players will have a direct effect on a grand adventure while also being able to be with their personal best girl several times.
Record of Agarest War opens up with the first protagonist, Leonhardt, who is right in the middle of a war to protect his home country. It’s here that he falls before Melchior. However, as luck would have it, fate would have a divine being named Dyshana who revives the hero and gives him the strength to protect those close to him. This is also where he learns that this strength will carry onto future generations through Spirit Vessels, and by now, I’ve probably already lost you. Regardless, this structure gives each protagonist his ending, while the overarching narrative is about defeating the demon king, causing these conflicts in the background.
Sadly, as legendary as this all sounds, the structure doesn’t always hit the mark, as it’s hard to keep up with the goal while also dealing with the immediate threat of each generation. This would be acceptable in some cases, but the issues each generation faces aren’t that compelling. So instead, the evil characters do evil things, and the heroes react, with the former often throwing around the power of darkness so often that even Ansem from Kingdom Hearts would roll his eyes.
Despite this lack of cohesiveness between the two plots, there is something nice about seeing certain characters in the later parts of their life. This continuity is one of Record of Agarest War’s greatest strengths and can keep players engaged unless the longwinded battles ahead of them don’t wear them out first.
Record of Agarest War is not your typical SRPG, and you’ll likely fight against its nuanced systems in the beginning. However, the systems are introduced well as tutorials that walk you through what’s required of players during battles.
Players are transported to a grid during battles to form a party and place units. A great deal of strategy is needed for some of the more story-centric battles, but generally, most battles will be used for the many hours you’ll spend level grinding. Positioning and understanding unit skills are needed as each character has unique areas that allow them to connect to other units to chain together attacks.
As you can probably guess, this makes the battles exceptionally long, which are made longer because you have to go through a move phase and then an attack phase for each unit character. Luckily for Switch players, this version of the game has been optimized, so the loading into battles is extremely faster than its console counterparts.
Enemy AI is pretty aggressive, especially the casting types which move away from your units and attack from a distance. Every chance they had, they picked the one square to stand on that negates my characters’ range. As you could have guessed, this just extends the battle for another turn.
A better system would be for movement and attack to be one turn. Instead, this separation pads the overall experience to exhaust you. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted an auto-battle option more than in this game. Given that you’ll be facing off against grunt enemy types to gain experience, many of your strategies will be the same until you’re strong enough to take on more challenging encounters.
Luckily, there are difficulty options that mitigate level grinding that is mainly only needed on higher difficulties. That said, playing the game on the highest difficulty is required for the best ending. Although the battles are still long, playing on Normal or even Easy will get you to your waifus much quicker.
Timing is also considered since you’ll need to progress the narrative to a specific point to unlock scenes. This means you’ll need to balance how often you can focus on level grinding while also focusing on getting to a particular area of the overworld map to complete a mission. On the other, you can say this system creates replay value.
The world map is created by dots as you progress through your adventure. Event scenes are shown, as well as towns, which make the entire world feel connected. It’s really fun to see just how far you’ve progressed as you fill out the map, but it’s also a reminder of the hours upon hours of battles you had to go through to get there. Whatever, though, this is for my waifus, so I press on.
This Switch version is likely the best way to experience this game. Thanks to portability, you can play it before bed while progressing your relationship with your chosen bride and grinding a few levels. The performance was stable throughout most battles, but loading times varied for some of the more involved encounters, which usually contained a large volume of enemy units.
Character illustrations are fantastic with that signature Compile Heart design that makes every character stand out. Further, the battlefield sprites are decent, but the skill animations overstay their welcome after watching them repeatedly. Thankfully, there’s a way to turn those off.
I should say that this version of the game is similar to the Steam release, which isn’t a bad thing, but it makes it difficult to recommend to those who have already played. Of course, fans would have likely already spent well over 100 hours in the game, but if your love for these characters is that deep, by all means, spend some more time.
Record of Agarest War on Switch is the definitive way to experience this adventure. The portability allows you to take the level grinding and waifu relationship building on the go or to bed with you; I won’t judge. The nuanced battle system is unique and fun to experiment with as you face off against some truly tough encounters across several generations. Returning fans may not have it in them to see this war through until the end, but new players may enjoy the adventure.
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