Chantelise: A Tale of Two SistersESRB:
Platform: PC Games
Category: 3rd Person: Action, RPG
Chantelise is a game with a bit of a curse. Specifically, a curse of difficulty and controls. Apart from that, it's a fun casual game, with some nice little touches and a good giggle now and then. But the two problems with it do sort of hang over it, and thus, it's appeal is a bit less than it should be.
Firstly, the story, and world, are fairly simple. You are Elise, and, with your sister Chante, who has been turned into a fairy, you're looking for the witch who did this to you. Thus, you embark upon an epic quest of several dungeons, and even more shopping expeditions, to hopefully make your sister human again. It's set in the same world as Recettear, although at a different point in history (As opposed to Recettear, fairies are apparently quite rare at this unspecified point in the timeline). It's a world of adventurers, dangerous wilderness, and a society so laden with adventurers that people find it a good idea to open up item shops specifically for them. Scary thought, really.
Gameplay is, unfortunately, where the flaws set in. The only place with real flaws, but they're still a bit of a doozy. Got a gamepad? No? Ah. Then you're going to have as much difficulty as I did with this game. Because, you see, it was obviously designed with gamepad in mind. With a gamepad, you can use the right stick to control the camera. With a keyboard, you're stuck with holding down the V key when you want the camera to try and follow you. I said try, because it doesn't always manage it. Tapping the V key when a monster is near focuses the camera on the monster, and, in most cases, this is actually a good idea, as you can focus on the middle of a group, and slash them all with your sword, or, in the case of spells (we'll get to spells in a bit), it allows you to have a good chance of hitting your target, as opposed to only a reasonable chance. The three button system, well known to those who play indie shooters (arrows to move, Z attacks, X jumps, C casts spells) is fairly comfortable, apart from the aforementioned camera, and, in each area of the dungeons, including the tutorial level, there are secret chests. I've gotten to the first boss, and, so far, I've only missed one chest. Unfortunately, mentioning the boss leads to the second problem with this game.
You see, there's a bit of a problem with the difficulty curve. The normal monsters are fairly easy to figure out, and you can reasonably get through a dungeon quickly once you've worked out what's what (Eyeballs are easiest to hit with spells, Skeletons only die from magic, slimes and bugs... just wallop them as quickly and repeatedly as possible), but the bosses are several orders more difficult. For example, the first boss of Chantelise is basically a mecha-earth-golem thing. That same creature was encountered in Recettear... but halfway through the game. And god help you if you focus the camera on it, because it means that, when it does its jump and slam attack, you have no idea where to dodge, because the camera follows it up... and DOWN. Usually straight on your head. Even unfocused, it's pretty hard to take down with keyboard controls, and, even with gamepad, it's going to be a struggle. Heck, even with a gamepad, and all the HP boosters I bought at the shop (go back to the shop once you have some money, because Aira does sell you things from the word 'go'... you'll need it), it's going to be tough.
Graphically, and musically, it's alright. Not amazing, but alright. The music is quite nice, not too intrusive, but not amazing, and the sounds of thwacking enemies are rhythmic, getting you into the mood. The graphics themselves are sprites on a 3D landscape, and it's not as jarring as you'd think it would be, only quirky. I happen to like it, but I would say it's a matter of taste.
Overall, if you have a gamepad, and you like action RPGs with a bit of bite to them, at least give Chantelise a try, because it's fairly cheap, and, thanks to a time attack level feature, it's got some replay value. But if you don't have a gamepad, keep in mind that it's going to be hella difficult until you get one.