I try to devote a rant to most Indie RPGs I play, on the basis that they usually can use the extra publicity (though not always; holy shit Undertale got popular fast). I’m not sure whether today’s subject, Eternal Senia, really benefits from publicity the way most other Indie RPGs would, though, since Eternal Senia is free on Steam--does its creator, Holy Priest, actually get any money from the game? I really don’t have any idea. But I do know that either way, ES is a great RPG and that whether or not publicity benefits it, playing it benefits others, so on we go.
Eternal Senia is a free Indie RPG available on Steam, made using RPG Maker. Now, yes, everyone and their mother seems to have dabbled with RPG maker at this point, but that doesn’t mean you don’t still find some quality works coming from it. Embric of Wulfhammer’s Castle, though sadly getting harder and harder to locate since its creator vanished into the mists of the internet, remains one of the better RPGs I’ve ever played, an artistic work of video game storytelling that contains within it great emotional power and one of my favorite RPG romances to date, and it was made with RPG Maker. And Eternal Senia joins it as another really great game resulting from the RPG Maker program.
Eternal Senia is relatively straightforward in terms of its plot. Senia is a girl who has entered the Tower of Eternity to save her adopted older sister Magaleta, who is a powerful demon-fighting magical holy nun or something...you know, anime stuff. And that really is basically the game right there--you take Senia up through the tower to save Magaleta, learning about their history and the lore of Eternity as you go along. That’s not to say that there aren’t plot twists and story depth in ES, of course, but it all just boils down to a simple story of the incredible, touching love between these 2 sisters.
What makes this game so great is how incredibly poignant it is. Some RPGs are about the ideas and events of a story most of all (Deus Ex 1, for example), some are more personal, with the characters and their interrelationships being the center of game (Planescape: Torment, for example), and most, I would say, are a balance between the 2 sides (Wild Arms 3, for example).* Eternal Senia falls into the second category, drawing you into the story of its protagonist and her sister, and bringing you massive, massive doses of what is clinically known as The Feels. Seriously, if you enjoyed choking back sobs and feeling your heart itself affected by the tale of, say, Mother 3 or Undertale, then you’ll love this game.
It’s actually kind of remarkable how quickly you become invested in this story of love, devotion, and sacrifice. The game is not long; Steam has clocked me in for a mere 5 hours of playtime, and I played pretty close to a completionist run of the game. Yet in that short time, Senia and Magaleta quickly become characters that you have a vested emotional interest in, and genuinely care for. That’s a feat that a LOT of RPGs can’t manage with a full 50 hours of storytelling opportunity, let alone doing so in a tenth of that time. Only Undertale and Eternal Senia can get me teared up for an ending after half a dozen hours or less, and if you’ve been reading my rants in the past couple months, you know that any comparison to Undertale speaks highly for a game.
It must be said, of course, that the game’s not perfect. Some people have complained about the gameplay itself. Eternal Senia uses a very serviceable and smooth gameplay system, but it’s certainly also not very impressive. Basically, you ram your character into enemies to attack, giving and suffering damage at the same time. Not the only RPG that uses this mechanic (Fairune, Witch + Hero), but I can understand why that would be off-putting. What I don’t understand is how anyone finds your standard RPG combat system any more entertaining...at least in Eternal Senia, I’m actually controlling my character’s actions, even if it’s just running around body slamming stuff, rather than simulating the experience of navigating DOS, like your average menu-based combat system.
Of more significant note, of course, is the translation issue. If you can read Chinese, great! You have no problem. If you’re relying on the English translation, though, well...there’re a lot of technical problems with the translation. Grammatical errors and awkward phrasings are, well, abundant. If you grew up with video games in the 80s and 90s, get ready for a nostalgia bomb of Engrish like you’ve never imagined.
Still...it’s a rather interesting situation, this translation issue. Even though everyone agrees that it’s there, I don’t think I’ve seen a single player of Eternal Senia mention in a review, forum post, or anything else that the translation was a significant stumbling block in playing and appreciating this game. It certainly wasn’t for me! And I’m an English teacher in training! Somehow, the meaning of every line is adequately clear, and you’re drawn into this tour de force of emotion no less for the fact that a lot of its dialogue sounds weird. In fact, I have to wonder whether a small part of how emotionally gripping the dialogue is, could actually be due to the translation...there have been times in RPGs past, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, in which the first, ‘lesser’ translation conveyed the characters’ pathos and ideals much more earnestly than the later, ‘corrected’ translation. Whether or not the subpar translation hinders or secretly helps it, though, the fact is that the dialogue, story, character development, music, and personalities in this game will hit you and hit you hard regardless, so I would urge you not to let this flaw dissuade you from checking Eternal Senia out.
And that’s about all I have to say about this game. Eternal Senia is a rollercoaster of tender emotion, more likely than not to leave you misty-eyed if not outright weeping at its ending, and it does all this while costing you very little time, and no money. Although you can, if you want to show your support, donate via Paypal at http://m963741m.wix.com/senia#!about-us/c21nl (thanks to the Anon who submitted this link!). I certainly enjoyed the game enough myself to donate. I’m told that Holy Priest is working on a sequel,** and I can’t wait to see this story continued. I definitely recommend you check Eternal Senia out; it’s just a lovely RPG.
* Well, I suppose there’s also a fourth type of game: the one that doesn’t bother with either, and is just a pile of boring nothingness, like Lagoon, or Evolution Worlds.
** Thank God. I mean, maybe I’m just setting myself up for more heartbreak by wanting a continuation, but all the same, if there weren’t a sequel in the works, then I’d have a new entry for the top spot on my list of Most Needed Sequels.