Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Guest Rant: Soma Bringer's EX Dungeon, by Humza

Well this is just peachy keen: another guest rant, and not just less than a year since the last, but only a single month! To say that I am pleased would be a gross understatement; I sincerely love the fact that I have readers interested enough in this blog to submit their own opinions, and the fact that I get to read new and interesting perspectives from them, and, it must be said, the fact that I'm off the hook to rant myself for a day. Hey, I'm actually legitimately busy these days. To me, a small break like this is something to treasure.

Today's guest ranter is Humza, who is gracing us with his words for a second time, after his debut rant about Energy Breaker. Humza's a damned fine gentleman who's done me multiple solids in the past, from providing me with a particularly pleasing moment in my life to generously buying me Valkyrie Chronicles 1 on Steam. And the hits keep coming from Humza now with a new guest rant that covers another RPG I have yet to play, Soma Bringer!

Disclaimer: I don't own Humza's words below, and they don't necessarily reflect my own perceptions and opinions. I mean, they might. But I wouldn't know just yet, not having played Soma Bringer myself.

Soma Bringer's EX Dungeon

April 19th, 2016

Soma Bringer is one of the better known fan-translated RPGs for the DS, being developed by Monolith. It has post-game content that extends the story, which this rant will mostly revolve around (and, naturally, there are spoilers ahead).

The game’s ending (which is a core part of why these dungeons exist from a narrative perspective) shows that the characters Idea and Adonis both merge with Aletheia to stop the Visitors from harming people, which essentially means that neither of these characters would be seen again. The EX Dungeons all chronologically take place before the party reaches the final dungeon, so Idea hasn’t merged with Aletheia at this point. But she keeps her memories, so it’s possible for her to take steps to avoid her death.

With the history lesson out of the way, I have to say that the EX Dungeons are pretty bad, even when post-game content like this is generally weak. From the description above, one would assume that finding out how and why Idea managed to go back in time would be a core part of the concept, but this is not mentioned at all beyond the first few lines of dialogue in the first EX Dungeon’s prologue. If Idea doesn’t act on her knowledge of being unable to meet the party again, then there’s just no point in going through the dungeons. It’s entirely purposeless and retroactively detracts from her sacrifice during the ending, since her inertia suggests that she doesn’t care about her fate, thus making her sacrifice seem less sincere. Monolith probably wanted to subtly convey a message here, but as typical of them, they mistake withholding information with subtlety.

Instead, the EX Dungeons focus more on developing the characters’ backstories more. And that's a positive addition! Or, at least, it would be if it wasn’t handled ineptly. Most of the information that is given during the EX Dungeons is mentioned previously in the main part of the game, like how Millers rushed to save Forte after the latter fell off a cliff. The only information given that’s not covered in the main game is Einsatz and Jadis’ history of being bandits, and it certainly isn’t worth traversing 51 floors in a dungeon for this backstory. There are plenty of dungeons in the main game that lack story content, which would be repurposed to tell this information in a shorter amount of time without losing anything of value. The most damaging aspect for developing characters’ backstories is probably the sparse dialogue, though. In that respect, it’s a bit similar to Persona 3’s The Answer, where the majority of interesting content is at the beginning and end (except the EX Dungeon’s content is probably only half as interesting).

The EX Dungeons aren’t entirely irredeemable; the writers could have opted for an approach similar to Tales of Legendia’s Character Quests, where different party members overcome hardships while revealing some of their history in the process, and Idea eventually implements a solution in the epilogue that would stop the Visitors without her death.

Soma Bringer’s main story was decent, but there weren’t any qualities that were really worthy of note, so there aren’t any high expectations on the EX Dungeons to be much better. Even despite that, the EX Dungeons disappoints because it opens up new loose plot threads and regurgitates events from the main game, without enough dialogue to justify the traversal of 100+ floors in a dungeon*.

* I’m not joking about the total amount of floors exceeding 100. You can go to the bottom of this page and add up the amount of floors in each dungeon. The total is 115, which makes for bad pacing considering the sparse dialogue.

1 comment:

  1. I remember playing this years ago and seeing comparisons to Secret of Mana. It was disappointingly boring, but probably Mitsuda's best soundtrack since Chrono Trigger.