Review: Summon Night: Swordcraft Story

» A sword is not strength. A sword is not skill. A sword is not fellowship.

(GameBoy Advance; Atlus/Banpresto/Flight Plan)

What's this, then?

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is an RPG-like game. It's not real complex, but it has some interesting twists, and good replay value.

A bit of plot and characters

At the beginning of the game, you get to choose the main character: a boy or a girl. This child is the son/daughter of a famous "craftlord" who died three years ago, and they are now starting their training to become a craftknight. Being an apprentice, they will learn how to forge weapons like swords, axes, spears, knuckles and drills.

The main plot revolves around a tournament where minors compete to become the next craftlord. Besides fighting in the tournament, you will get to explore dungeons full of monsters and treasures, run errands, travel to other areas, solve puzzles (more or less -- the game is not very puzzle-oriented), and pick up new techniques along the way, which allow you to forge more powerful weapons. You will also get a guardian beast, which helps you during battles (and generally makes the game more enjoyable with witty banter or otherwise).

Game mechanics

As said, this game isn't very complex. Much time is spent in the dungeons, leveling up and gathering materials, which are necessary to forge weapons. Random battles occur here. The interesting part is that they are not turned based; rather, you get to fight your opponents in a special screen. This part is mostly action, where you run, jump and hit monsters with your weapon of choice, rather than selecting an action from a menu. Your guardian beast can help here by using magic. In regular battles, you can also switch weapons, so there is a bit of tactics here as well (some monsters are better fought with certain weapons than with others).

Tournament battles are similar, but there are a few differences. You only get to bring one weapon; if it breaks, you lose (and of course you also lose if you run out of HP). Conversely, it is possible to win by breaking your opponent's weapon, in which case you not only win the battle, but also get the technique to make their weapon, for your own use.

The good

This game has great replay value. When you "beat" it (i.e. successfully end the main storyline), you gain access to 50 extra dungeon levels, where you can level up more, fight new monsters, find new items and acquire new techniques. On top of that, there's now a continuously ongoing tournament where you can match your skills against 8 opponents.

But wait, there's more! Should you want to play the game again from scratch, then it's possible to play with the other character (male or female), a new guardian beast (there's 4 to choose from), and specialize in a new technique. During the game, you could also make different choices, answer questions differently, etc.

The story itself isn't too original, but isn't weak either, and there's quite a bit of humor, for kids and adults alike. (Although more so if you have a guardian "beast" that can actually talk and make wisecrack comments.)

The bad

Overall this is a great little game, but unsurprisingly it also has a few downsides. For example, much time is spent leveling up, which gets tedious sooner or later. Of course, this is true for many RPGs, and SN alleviates it a bit by the action aspect of its battles. Also, choosing a guardian beast feels kind of random (I recommend gamefaqs for those who want to pick a specific one). Oh, and puzzles are weak.