Title: Summon Night 5
Developer: Felistella, Gaijin Works, Namco Bandai
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: PSP
Download: 374 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Q1 2016
PSTV Support: Yes
Some franchises out there are still in their first phase for being on Western shores. Many games just don’t come West, be it for being too inappropriate for the ESRB and PEGI systems to accept them, Japanese Voice-Actors not giving the okay for their voice-work to be used in an American or European version of a game, or just the developers not wanting to bring them over to the West.
Such is the state of the Summon Night series. Only a couple Summon Night games came West, and they were both Game Boy Advance spin-offs and not part of the main franchise. Summon Nights 1, 2, 3, and 4 remain Japan-exclusive. However, will Summon Night 6 in development for the PS4 and PS Vita, Gaijin Works has helped localize a previous game in the series. More specifically, the main series’ fifth entry.
So, without further delay, here is my retro review of Summon Night 5!
Summon Night 5 takes place in the world, Lyndbaum, which is a hub world that can connect to several other worlds, known as Otherworlds, home to many different types of species, like angels, fiends, and others. Lyndbaum is a place where all races live in peace, under the protection of the Eucross Summoners and their otherworldly partners known as Crosses.
The story of this game is set around a main character (Folth if male, Arca if female) whom acquires a Cross at a very early age and works to become a Summoner. The plot is around their work to protect Lyndbaum from threats large and small, slowly leading up to a catastrophic world-ending threat that not only tests the Eucross Summoners, but is something the main character is quite involved in.
It’s really hard to keep this section short with a description because there’s so much even in a small synopsis. However, for those wondering if this is standalone, it is. The first chapter does an excellent job of explaining the worlds, hub world, Crosses, Summoners, and much more to bring you up to speed on what Summon Night is all about.
The only thing that’s not so good about the story isn’t the story, but the translation. As a whole, the game’s translation isn’t that bad, but there are a lot of instances where the incorrect word is used in a statement. Like having a statement that says “You would just be a hindrance” but it actually saying “You would just be a remembrance.” This would just be something to brush off, but it happens a lot. The translation isn’t awful, but there are a lot of misplaced words.
Summon Night 5 is a Strategy RPG, much like Disgaea, Final Fantasy Tactics, or Rainbow Moon. As you play the game, combat will utilize grid-based maps where you send your units around to set up attacks and the enemy does the same. It’s got some uniqueness to it, but for all intents and purposes, it is a turn-based SRPG.
Instead of going from a hub world to missions, Summon Night 5 actually has a world map you can run around on and explore. I will say that the world map is undoubtedly the most unique and different world map I’ve ever seen in an RPG before. The world map is 2D and flat, but you can run around on it with giant 3D character models. Imagine the Hyperdimension Neptunia world maps but with 3D models running around on top of them. It sounds weird, and definitely looks weird. But it provides a unique experience.
Exploring the world map has a few different things you can do. There are facilities and then there are locations where you can talk to NPCs and spawn story scenes/events. Story events are easy to tell apart, as some are highlighted green, meaning they’re just little tidbits of dialogue and the Yellow actually spawn lengthy story scenes and Event Battles.
The facilities are Eucross HQ, Your Home, The Bar/Shop, and The Blacksmith. Eucross HQ is where you can take on missions or do rematches with cleared Story Bosses. These are more or less used for training purposes. There will be times when you’ll need to stop to beef up your party on levels and materials, so you can do and re-do missions and rematches as many times as you want.
The Bar and Blacksmith function as shops. In the bar, you can buy accessories to equip to your characters as well as items. As a side-note, this also houses your personal room, where you can view the artwork gallery and save your game. The Blacksmith shop is where you can upgrade your weapons and skills. Materials you gather from missions can be used to enhance your weapons, such as adding skills or just increasing their physical or magic strength. A user’s Cross can be upgraded to be able to learn new attacks or support skills as well.
This brings up the progression and character development of the game. You earn EXP from battle that can be distributed to the characters to level them up. When this happens, you get 3 points and you’re free to add those bonus points to any stats you want. However, your class restricts what you can do. Some classes only allow you to use 1 bonus point per level for attack. This can also be redone if you get certain items, as the game has a “Life Redo” system where you can lower someone’s level and redistribute those points.
That also goes into the class system. As you level up your characters, they will learn new classes you can put them in. This doesn’t affect skills they learn, but it does affect their stats. Some stats favor physical attack and defense over magic. And, as stated above, your class can determine how many points you can point to what stat when that character levels up.
When you’re in combat, things are pretty basic for an SRPG. You’re on a grid with enemies and you take turns until Win or Lose conditions are met. Conditions are fairly varied in the game, whereas most SRPGs require you to just take out all enemies on the map. Some missions in this game have you surviving endless waves of enemies for a certain amount of turns, taking out enemy leaders, or just doing the standard “clear the map of enemies” objective. The variation is something I think is nice about the game. Makes it less repetitive as an SRPG. That and the fact that some stages have endlessly spawning enemies.
The unique systems of the combat are the Brave, MP, and Cross systems. Brave is something you acquire by defeating enemies or succeed in battle sub-objectives, like being the first side to land a hit, kill multiple enemies at once, etc. You also lose Brave if you have a party member die on you. Aside from worrying about your units staying alive, you’ll automatically lose if your Brave meter falls down to zero. In some of the longer battles, it is wise to go for those sub-objectives, even if you’re doing it just so you have brave in reserve.
MP and Cross are unique in that you don’t use items to replenish MP for skills like in most RPGs. Instead, you gain MP when you land attacks on enemies or get kills. So, if you want to use your powerful healing skill, the healer’s got to attack the enemy enough to build up enough MP to use it. Then, you can use your Cross after so many turns in battle to go into an “Awakening” state, where all of your stats are exponentially increased for a couple turns. The way it looks and plays heavily reminds me of Trance from Final Fantasy IX.
One thing I thought to mention before wrapping this up is difficulty. When Summon Night 5 starts, it feels like a casual game. For most of the game, chapters won’t last more than an hour or so, and the battles are simple, rarely ever requiring you to stop and level-grind if you keep up with the missions. However, once Chapter 10 hits, it suddenly gets really hard. A lot of RPGs have difficulty spikes, but this is a pretty huge difficulty spike and it keeps getting exponentially harder from there.
With the difficulty and the requirement of doing quite a bit of late-game grinding in mind, Summon Night 5 should take you roughly 30 hours to get through your first time, be it on the Easy or Normal difficulties. Even if you choose Easy, it doesn’t mean those hard chapters will be easy. They’re still hard. Just not as bad as in Normal.
The game’s replayability comes in the form of both New Game Plus and endings. You have a choice of 4 different Crosses when you play the game, each of which play different and talk differently in the game. So, you may want to replay to use a different Cross. There are also 12 different endings to achieve. One for each major character plus the routine Good, Bad, and True ending mix. New Game Plus also carries over a variety of things, from items and skills to unlocked missions and unlocked recipes, so there’s something to help you if you’re encouraged to replay the game to get those endings.
The game’s controls work quite nicely, for the most part. Since this game is compatible with the PlayStation TV, you can expect the L and R controls to also function on L2 and R2. Don’t expect more out of that, though. This is a new game, but it’s still PSP software and not PS Vita software.
The D-Pad and Left Analog Stick control your movement on the world map, though only the D-Pad is used in battle. During those sequences, the Analog Stick is used for zooming in and out on the map. The L and R triggers are used for rotating the camera while in battle. Then, we have the face buttons. X is used for confirming menu options and circle cancels an option. Triangle lets you look at the details of a unit, and square lets you change what direction a unit is facing when their turn is over.
Overall, the controls are pretty standard with that you’d expect. The Analog camera controls can throw you for a loop and get stuck zoomed in, but nothing a little testing with buttons cannot solve.
Visually, I’m torn. This game looks great for a PSP game. The visual novel models are 3D and move like the models do in the Neptunia games during scenes. There’s plenty of detail in the models, and you just don’t see many fully 3D SRPGs these days. The game even shows off its presentation by using Fire Emblem-style zoomed-in battle animations.
However, I have to take a point for presentation because it’s blurred out on the Vita and PlayStation TV. As nice as the game looks, there is a very noticeable blur in the entire presentation, especially when you’re reading dialogue. I want this section to be free of criticism because I really love the way it looks. But you just can’t ignore the blurring.
The rest of the presentation is done well. There isn’t any voice-work done outside of battle animations, but the music makes up for it. It’s got a unique music style to it, as most RPGs do. I wouldn’t say it stands out among the best the PSP has to offer, but it’s certainly enjoyable. I found myself humming the Event Battle intro music every time it came up.
Performance, I have no complaints with. The frame-rate is nice and steady and load times are quite short.
Summon Night 5 is a fine introduction to the series for western gamers. It’s not perfect, as there are misplaced words in the translation, not to mention a blurry presentation on the Vita and a very unbalanced difficulty flow. If you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind a few misplaced words, I would recommend this to any and all SRPG fans. The final chapters will put your skills to the test.