Can Ragnarok Odyssey fill the Vita’s RPG gap? Or is it just another Monster Hunter clone?
Ragnarok Odyssey has had a long, interesting journey since its original stint as a PC MMORPG. First, it made a jump to the Nintendo DS, where it became a substantially slimmed down single-player RPG with co-op elements. Now the series is on the PS Vita—still not a massively multiplayer RPG, but considerably more massive than its DS counterpart. Whether it can fill the gaping RPG hole in the Vita’s lineup is another question entirely.
Yep, it’s Monster Hunter
Even XSEED’s PR representative admits that Ragnarok Odyssey has a lot in common with Capcom’s extraordinarily popular multiplayer action RPG series. But at this point, what doesn’t? Sega, Namco Bandai, and Square Enix have all released their own takes on Monster Hunter, so what’s one more? The reason Monster Hunter is so popular—in Japan, at least—is that it’s a great fit for handheld devices like the Vita. It lends itself easily to local co-op, and more importantly, it’s the kind of grind that can make a long train trip pass quickly. Ragnarok Odyssey is certainly no different—it even has much the same format. It does, however, manage to improve on the formula in some key ways.
A Dash of Devil May Cry
Ragnarok Odyssey definitely isn’t the first game to try “Monster Hunter, but faster,” and I doubt that it’ll be the last. What’s important is that it’s more than just a hack-and-slash action clone on steroids. It still has that dash of strategy that has helped to define Monster Hunter over the years. Light strikes, heavy strikes, and aerial combos make for a pretty nice repertoire; but Ragnarok Odyssey goes even one step further with its tension gauge. Activate ‘super mode,’ and health and stamina begins to drop at a rapid clip. The only way to recover it is to attack enemies as quickly as possible. It’s a good compromise that forced me to back away from my usual practice of spamming tension attacks. I expect it will be a huge factor in the outcome in boss fights.
Do We Really Need a Time Limit?
One thing that kind of jumped out at me about Ragnarok Odyssey—every single mission has a time limit. Now I wonder, is this really necessary? I mean, granted, the limit can range anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, so it’s not as if I’m feeling a huge amount of pressure. But I’m not actually a huge fan of time limits outside of certain situations (like a bomb is about to go off), and that goes double for RPGs. I’d much rather take my time and see what I want to see. And really, if I want to take my time and grind some experience, shouldn’t that be my own business? Regardless, it’s not a huge issue, but nor do I think it’s really necessary to have a time limit.
Friend of a Friend
One thing I like about Ragnarok Odyssey is it actually makes it pretty easy to get a friend in for some co-op action. It’s a simple matter of going to the tavern and inviting a companion, or opening up the game to random cohorts. In games like these, two heads are always better than one; so the more options, the better (even if Ragnarok Odyssey limits co-op to people who are in the same chapter).
Before you start getting excited though, here are a few things to consider. First, Ragnarok Odyssey’s missions are pretty repetitive. It’s kill 10 of these or gather 5 of those all the way down the line, from what I hear. Second, you’re not going to be able to invite anyone while commuting to work owing to factors like a lack of wifi. So for those hoping for an interesting traditional RPG on the Vita… well, keep looking. It is basically Monster Hunter, after all.
Free downloadable content?
Now here’s a bit of a shocking twist—XSEED may not be interested in taking their customers for every dime they’ve got. They might even provide what is premium content overseas for free in the U.S. I know, I don’t know what’s going on either. There are currently three pieces of downloadable content available for Ragnarok Odyssey in Japan, and XSEED’s reps told me they are considering providing them gratis in the U.S. release. Now, they may still charge for future pieces of content; but in the short term, it’s a nice gesture.