The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince CaspianESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Fall Line Studio
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Compatible
Disney’s Dgamer Feature Compatible
My first exposure to anything related to the Chronicles of Narnia franchise was the DVD “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe”. My wife and I rented it on a whim and found ourselves enjoying the rich storyline and great special effects. Fast forward to 2008 and the sequel to that movie “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” has just hit the big screen as I write this review. Disney has also released a DS game by the same name. And after some playtime with it I would have to say that although not a great title, the game left me pleasantly surprised.
Anyone looking for a great looking game that mirrors the ‘big screen’ experience may find themselves somewhat disappointed. The visuals just don’t have what it takes to really grab you. Sure, the 3D battles look pretty darn good, and so they should given that the camera zooms in on the action; however the rest of the game’s look and animations are somewhat stiff and robotic. As for the characters, especially outside of the battle system, they are quite hard to recognize or discern as they are so small and pixely. I guess what really disappointed me here is how much of a difference there is from the great battle scenes to the rest of the game. If all the visuals had the polish that one finds in the aforementioned battles, then the whole look of the game would have been that much better.
Prince Caspian for the DS is of course a smaller version movie. The game does make a valiant effort at transitioning from the big screen to the DS, but in the end it really could have done more. The musical score is pretty good and sounds solid coming from the DS’s stereo speakers. Headphones even sound better. The main trouble here is that the music starts to become somewhat repetitive and some of the music does not really match the on screen action. As for the rest of the sound effects in the game, they manage to get the job done. Weapons sound different and manage to convey the on-screen action quite well. At the end of the day I just can’t help but wonder if more really could have been done, and in my opinion I really think it could have, but what is included in Prince Caspian for the DS in terms of sound does the job it has to.
Anyone who has read the books, or watched the first movie, will know that Prince Caspian is the next chapter in the “Chronicles” legacy. The story has the original characters from the first book/movie returning to the land of Narnia. Upon their return they find that things are very different then the way they left them. The game takes an Action/RPG approach to the title following both Prince Caspian and those crazy kids who first stepped through the wardrobe not so long ago. There are basically two plots which the game focuses on. The first plot follows Prince Caspian and his eventual escape from Miraz. The second plotline, which should be expected, follows the original kids return to the land of Narnia. To allow for the two storylines to move along, developers Fall Line Studio have used story illustrations in place of traditional cutscenes. I found it was somewhat an ‘enchanted’ touch and very much suited the theme of what was presented on the DS’s dual screens.
Fans are well aware that Narnia contains a lot of interesting and somewhat unique characters. Well the DS version of Prince Caspian is no different. There are over 15 playable characters in the game. I have not had the chance to watch the second movie yet (hey, my personal life does not allow of it...darn toddlers) but from what I understand pretty much every character from the recently released movie is in the game. When you form your party you can mix and match who you have in it too, so if you have a favorite set of characters from the movie, feel free to use them as your battle group.
In terms of the RPG elements, specifically the battle system, developers Fall Line Studio utilized an all touch screen control and it is somewhat different from your traditional turn-based battle system. I enjoyed this for two main reasons. One, I am not an RPG fanatic and my experience with such is limited. Two, I found that this helped the pace of the game and as it uses the features of the DS it was pretty cool too. Attacks are done by following a series of on-screen commands. You will find six classes of characters and each one is assigned a different touch screen attack to use in battle. For example, you will use the stylus to trace slash lines with a sword which translates to into how strong and effective your attack will be in battle. Each of the various attacks is pretty well implemented and you will find yourself actually involved in the various battles that you face instead of just watching what goes on on the screen. Of course as this is an RPG you do have the ability to upgrade your individual characters in such areas as weapons strength and damage ability. This is quite straightforward to do. Using items is just as simple as the attacks as you just click, drag and drop.
Now you have to remember I am not an expert when it comes to RPG’s, but that being said I am not inept at them either. I found that the battle system in Prince Caspian offered some very interesting gameplay elements that anyone will pick up. What surprised me is that there is a bit of strategy to the battles in the game. Why I was surprised is that this shows that the game was not dumbed down in an effort to just attract an audience who saw the movie and cash in on them. Instead there is a level of depth which allows for a more satisfying experience rather then the game just being a mindless hack and slash. During the battles, and just before an enemy attacks, you will see them glow orange. Here you have the option of rushing in and intercepting their attack. Should you choose not to, hold on to your hat and hope the damage inflicted on you is not that bad. Of course you cannot just battle all the time as you have to recharge after your turn. The recharge time on both you and your enemies differs is based on one’s class. So picking and choosing who to use, and who to attack, plays a paramount part in the success of your battles. Of course you can also use many different items in battle ranging from simple weapons to raising your characters ‘forge’ level. All in all there is a lot to enjoy in this battle system and it is my opinion that a lot of people will be happy with what the game does in this area.
The strength of Prince Caspian lies in its battle system, and this is a good thing as the rest of the game is somewhat average and just doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ that the battles have. Beyond the battles, the main crux of the game has you walking from one destination to another battling anyone who crosses your path. Reaching each destination carries the story along and you are forced to go from one place to another in an effort to tell what is already laid out in the movie or book. It is here that I found myself disenchanted with the game as I was just moving from a to b, then from b to c, and so on. It seemed pretty repetitive. In terms of the overall gameplay length, if you just hurry through the main story the game will be over quite quick. There are some sidequests for you to complete but not all are that necessary for the game.
If there is any replayability to the game is it the utilization of the Disney’s Dgamer function. Simply put the Dgamer service can be found on Disney Interactive’s website and its use in Prince Caspian can be compared to that of any online gaming service (e.g. XBOX Live comes to mind). So here you can compare your score from the game to other gamers as well as equip items found in the game to your personal Dgamer avatar. For the real stat junkie, the leaderboard may be what adds to the game’s length of play. This is particularly evident in the ‘perfect battle’ stat. Pulling off perfect battles against multiple enemies is not particularly an easy feat and those wishing to show off their gaming prowess may choose to do so here. Prince Caspian’s use of the Dgamer feature is neat, and it is an early sign of what Disney Interactive may be able to do in the future.
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