Review: Zenonia (DSiWare)

DSiWare's first must-have RPG

With RPGs being such a popular genre, it's surprising to see that, up until now, Legends of Exidia has been the only one available on the DSiWare service. Fortunately, for the poor RPG fans who have been feeling neglected, Gamevil has finally added a new title to the mix with their release of Zenonia. Despite both having been ported from cell phone games, Zenonia is an incredible improvement over the previous entry in the genre. Combining hack and slash RPG action with puzzle elements, this top-down adventure feels like a mix between classic Zelda and Sword of Mana.

Zenonia follows the story of Regret, a 17-year-old boy who is looking for answers to his father's mysterious death at the hands of a demon. Along the way, he travels the land of (you may have guessed it) Zenonia and meets countless interesting characters who help him on his quest to find and stop the source of this great evil. While the story is not really groundbreaking or unique and clearly borrows directly from countless games before, it is an enjoyable enough tale to keep players hooked. The witty dialogue and sharp humour of the NPCs add to the game's charm and make Zenonia a much more interesting place to explore. Despite the story lacking originality, the only real problem here is the slight translation issues; it's not game-changing or offensive, but there are frequent enough typos to turn a few heads.

When you start out, you have the option of being one of three classes: assassin, paladin, or warrior. Making this decision depends on what type of game you want to play: while warriors have brute strength and are able to plow through most enemies, paladins are much more magic adept, allowing for different strategy while in battle. Another great part about Zenonia is the option to follow either a good or an evil alignment. By choosing to save certain characters or reacting to certain situations, the storyline will actually change depending on how naughty or nice you feel like being. This provides excellent replay value for players looking to try different paths that can significantly alter the game.

There are many quests in this game, both main and side. The main quest follows the story line of Regret searching for answers to his father's death, but there are dozens of side quests available to explore as well. You are allowed to have up to four side quests open at any given time, and you can freely drop them and pick them back up later if you don't feel like fulfilling their requirements. The side quests are great for quickly racking up gold and experience points to help you in the main story.

The leveling system in Zenonia is simplistic, but effective. The gold that you earn from both killing enemies and completing quests can then be spent on stronger weapons and armour or on healing and status effective items in the shops. Whenever you level up, you are allotted a certain number of status points and skill points. You get to choose how to distribute your status points among your attributes, adding an element of strategy to the game, depending on what type of character you are playing. The skill points can be distributed between either your active or passive skills. Active skills are your special attacks that you can increase the strength of by adding skill points to them, and adding points to your passive skills changes the more defensive attributes of your character. Though Zenonia is not necessarily a difficult game, some of the monsters can often be several levels above you, so expect to spend a few hours in between quests level grinding.

Zenonia controls like any action RPG should. The D-Pad is used to move and the A button is your primary attack, with special attacks assigned to other buttons. The touch screen is completely useless here with the exception of displaying a map and the occasional statistic menu. The controls are, for the most part, accurate enough, but every now and again, you might have a little difficulty lining up to attack an enemy or go through a door because the entire thing works on grid-based movement.

The audio and visual combination of Zenonia sets a new standard for what DSiWare games should live up to. Sporting beautiful 16-bit graphics and a fully fleshed-out soundtrack, this game feels like it fell straight out of the SNES library. All of the maps, from forests to cities and building interiors are colourful and detailed enough to make for an engaging time spent in the game.

Conclusion

Zenonia is an incredibly impressive game with a lot to offer its players. It is sprinkled with slight translation and minor control issues, but these can easily be overlooked as long as you're willing to enjoy the game for what it is. Considering that it is only 800 Points, you are definitely getting your money's worth and then some. If a sprawling and epic action RPG with 40+ available hours of gameplay is what you're looking for, then the DSiWare game for you has finally arrived.