Tristia: Restore Review – May It Sink Down the Deep Blue Sea

    Title: Tristia: Restore
    Developer: KOGADO STUDIO
    Release Date: January 20, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Komodo
    Genre: Action, Puzzle, Simulation

Tristia: Restore is an oddball of a title right from its inception. When bringing back Aoi Umi no Tristia, Kogado decided to make two games instead of one. While Tristia: Legacy was a faithful remaster sticking close to the source material, Restore was the team exploring the setting again to make a more dynamic “action puzzle” instead.

The idea here most likely derives from the simple concept that the original gameplay is dated. As I mentioned in Tristia: Legacy’s review, it’s noticeable how the game is from another era, and modern players would demand quality-of-life features. So, with the original game being a little clunky and slow, why not make it action instead? (Spoiler: this decision was horrible, and I, unfortunately, have to say Tristia: Restore is hot garbage.)

Both games tell the story of Nanoca Flanka, the granddaughter of the great inventor Prospero. To restore the maritime town of Tristia, she works day in and day out to craft new items. She also grows closer to a cast of colorful characters, including a questionable nun and an elite classmate who has the hots for her.

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Tristia: Restore aims to show another side to Nanoca’s tale. Instead of the macro management side, it’s all about handling requests like in a fast-paced cooking game. Unfortunately, however, it adheres to this misconception that “having to go fast” is all that matters to make a game fun for modern audiences and lacks even an ounce of care. The result is a broken gameplay experience through and through.

As requests appear on the top area of the screen, players have to quickly move around the room to get ingredients and shove them into the correct tool. Each request has a time limit, and some recipes demand multiple steps to be fulfilled. However, you don’t have to do all of them: just a few target recipes are enough to succeed.

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The first issue here is that the recipes can get very complicated, so even early on, it’s already too much of a chore to know how to make all the necessary ingredients. It also fails to explain which tools you have to use, representing them by symbols that sometimes may mean losing an entire run to understand.

Despite the game’s failure to introduce itself with a poor excuse of a tutorial and things getting too complicated in the first stages, you can eventually get used to things. By then, it’s still way too many recipes and ingredients to keep track of alone. As such, the game expects you to spend some time looking up the recipes menu during the stages but penalizes the player as the clock never stops.

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To simplify matters and allow players to evolve their play, Tristia: Restore offers an upgrade system. By spending coins obtained in each successful run, players should have been able to enhance Nanoca’s speed, how fast each tool will produce an item, or add an extra stove/reactor. The truth is none of those things work in reasonable ways.

When choosing to make a tool faster, the “Level 1 upgrade” already makes some of them instantaneous, so there’s never a reason to go beyond it. Extra stoves/reactors become pointless when you get the item immediately. When enhancing Nanoca’s speed, she’ll become so fast that she’ll go beyond the boundaries of the screen, making it unplayable. Lastly, there’s an option to reduce the game speed when reading recipes, but it does the opposite causing quick game overs.

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They’re such blatant bugs that I can’t imagine the team having done any balancing, let alone a QA team ever touching it. Tristia: Restore is a broken experience released as if it were a finalized product, but even fixing some of those issues would not be enough to make it more than a mediocre product. It’d still be a bad game at its core.

The tools’ functionality is one instance that shows the issues on their inception. Each device is a different minigame, so you press the button a few times to cut materials or do other quick-time events when requesting your AI partners’ help. How can you handle multiple tasks simultaneously when you’re stuck “playing with your dog” to get materials? Some of those appliances will still take their time getting the job done, but that only makes things more frustrating under the constant pressure of time.

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Tristia: Restore is thoroughly unbalanced, poorly designed, and a regrettable waste of a good concept. The developers seem to have had many ideas, throwing them into a cauldron and never bothered to check if things would work. Without a clear vision, this was already a recipe for disaster, but the apparent lack of care and polish added insult to injury.

The only thing that could be interesting in the game is a few story bits here and there. We get to revisit some moments of the original game from a different perspective. It’s neat to see the characters again, and there are a few neat CGs. But even in those, the game feels like an empty Tristia husk.

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When retelling the story, Nanoca starts with a summary of the events. It skips many details and tries to play it as if Nanoca didn’t care much about the accurate rendition of things. While scenes aren’t short, it all feels cynical and falls short when trying to capture the magic of the original game.

Other issues include missing graphic elements, untranslated menu texts, and bad choices for the items’ names in English (which are also inconsistent with Tristia: Legacy). It looks like they just threw it on Steam checking if the game loaded and never actually doing any playtesting to the build.

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Tristia: Restore is fundamentally broken. It is one of the worst experiences I have ever touched in video games, and the first time in my life I have ever felt regret for playing one. I wish I had Nanoca’s skills to make a time machine and tell the developers to invest all their money in Tristia: Legacy instead. That game deserved more.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.