Have you ever played a game that might just be a bit too charming for its own good? Where the amount of love and care and originality is obviously high-tier, to the point where you get a bit overwhelmed? Can you have too much of a good thing? These are questions that came to mind during my time with RPG Time: The Legend of Wright.
Somewhat disappointingly, the game is not a JRPG starring a pointy-haired lawyer, but that aside, RPG Time is a game that’s difficult to really nail down. You would think based on the title that it would be a Dragon Quest throwback nostalgia fest of some variety, but it seems to be a love letter to 90’s gaming as a whole, changing gameplay styles frequently enough that I wouldn’t really assign it a single genre.
This unique title has you playing as a child after your class is over for the day when your friend Kenta approaches you, asking if you want to play a game. The game in question is The Legend of Wright, a massive arts-and-crafts extravaganza that he has created out of his notebook and half the supplies in the art classroom.
Taking the phrase “pen and paper RPG” to its logical extreme, the bulk of the game is drawn into Kenta’s notebooks, accompanied by many physical props he has created to supplement the experience. Your life bar is a measuring tape, your stat block has been created out of pixel beads, and your sword is a pencil with a cardboard guard attached to it.
Kenta acts as Game Master throughout the experience, providing tutorials to the player and voicing all of the NPCs (for each of which he has a paper-crafted headband to represent whom he’s speaking as). He has also helpfully created icons for the “Action Button,” which changes functionality pretty much any time the page of the notebook is turned, and every time the player gains experience, he gives you a slip of paper mentioning it.
This game absolutely oozes charm to its pores, and yet once I was a few hours in…if I’m being honest, I was starting to get tired of it.
One of the big issues RPG Time has is its pacing as a result of how hands-on Kenta is with the player character. Every moment of the game, you are being told exactly what to do and how to accomplish it, which would be great for younger players if the typical pace of gameplay weren’t very slow. This is a very wordy game, and I can’t imagine it holding the attention of a child audience for that reason.
But if that leaves an adult audience happy to bathe in the nostalgia, then the absurd amount of tutorialization might leave a bad taste in their mouths. The game switches things up very frequently, and every time it does, it will come with Kenta explaining everything you’re meant to be doing, leaving nothing up to the player to figure out.
And systems like the life bar, the experience meter, and the stat block are cute, but they rarely come up due to how little the combat system is actually used. Far from being a random-encountered affair, The Legend of Wright is a deliberately-crafted adventure story more similar at times to Dragon’s Lair than Final Fantasy. In the entire first chapter of the game, which sees Wright navigating his way out of a cave, there are only three battles that actually use the combat system.
And unfortunately, the on-rails nature of the game ends up calling the very idea that it’s an RPG into question. The role you are playing is the kid Kenta is running the game for, but that kid is playing a character in a book that’s already been totally written for them. The title of the video game feels a bit misleading on its own due to the minuscule amount of “RPG” to be found in it, and the system of levels and numbers that usually comes with an “RPG” is almost an afterthought.
RPG Time: The Legend of Wright is a game that has already had a difficult time finding an audience on the Xbox. That can partially be blamed on the deluge of titles coming on Game Pass, but having now played it, I would also say that it’s a game unable to make it clear who it’s supposed to be for. There will absolutely be a niche community that bands around it for its charm and the genuine fun that can be had if you can manage to become immersed in it. It’s a unique and at times, genuinely charming and imaginative experience. But I think that many children will likely be turned away by an excess of dialogue and many adults by an excess of hand-holding. It leaves me torn between singing its praises and being frustrated by its shortcomings.
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