Our main character, Cram
Lelouch Lanvelouche, is a genius machinarian tasked with excavating “Attributes,” or relics from the Old World that was annihilated 1000 years prior. By his side is his giant robot fist and resident AI, Chronos. Cram eventually teams up with two other women as well, Retla Stoltein the mysterious (cat-themed!) mercenary and Estiole “Esty” Esthanathelle the Verdant Priestess (and a pointy-eared gynoid, too) to find out the truth behind the legendary attribute “Machina” as well as the dastardly plans someone in the current era has regarding it.
Planet Ruler is a treat to behold, both in its audio and visuals. Background music consists of either ambient noise or catchy jingles, and some boss battle themes are rock music as well. Characters are voiced with lines at the start and end of each battle, and can be funny if you can understand Japanese – I could discern Retla’s “Where are you looking?!” after an offhand remark from Etsy (VOICE file all002f, btw). The dungeons and characters have impressively detailed pixel art, both in and out of battle. Just about everyone who gets a full-size sprite is unique enough to instantly tell apart – like Master the barkeep, with shades, nicer clothing and a scar across his face. That last detail really reinforces his purpose in-game as the teacher of battle tactics.
Speaking of which, combat itself is somewhat turn-based but also flows according to real time. Central to battle is the combo system, where you’re rewarded for stringing together as many hits by having each successive hit stack on a damage multiplier BUT penalizes using the same skill repeatedly. Combos do allow 10 seconds of real-world time after the last hit before the combo string is broken. You can input subsequent Art commands before the animation finishes, too. Also there’s the TP gauge which allows you to either power up your standard attacks (called Arts in-game) or used for other spells, but also slaps on a particularly nasty status ailment that halves both your TP generation and damage dealt, while also doubling damage taken on a character should their TP dip below 10%. It’s important to get the hang of these mechanics as early as possible as bosses will soon regenerate a set number of HP per turn. It’s not particularly that complex, but is still substantially more in-depth than the “pick a skill to bash enemies ASAP” approach. Further multipliers are thrown into damage calculation depending on whether an enemy is weak to or resists an Art’s element.
Imban’s (QA lead during localization) review over on Steam gives a 7-10 hour estimate to the general length of regular gameplay, but of course your mileage may vary. Battles do appear randomly (occasionally throwing a Rare Enemy roll) and you’re left with save points instead of freely being able to save whenever – something to keep in mind if you experience difficulty with normal enemies.
The only negatives I can truly state about Planet Ruler are the 640×480 default resolution and the input glitch common to the RPG Maker engine. You can activate fullscreen mode by either pressing Alt+Enter or ticking the option in the F1 menu, but will look best with 4:3 ratio displays. (Furthermore, like all other RPG Maker games, the F12 key automatically goes to the title menu, so beware!) I’ve only seen the input glitch once, this is where a key direction is registered indefinitely regardless of actual key input, so it shouldn’t be too common – always save your progress! One more thing which may pose a problem is that the overhead camera during dungeon transit is dynamic and tracks player movement, but not as rigidly compared to other games.
If you enjoy JRPGs, this is a pretty high recommendation, and even more so should a sale occur. Personally, this feels like a GameBoy Advance-era Summon Night title in all but name; you go dungeon crawl for materials to upgrade your weaponry in order to tear through enemies faster. Happy adventuring!
I wonder if poor Ricotte will ever be noticed…..