Ruin Arm (ルインアーム), released 6/23/1995, developed by Bandai
This game is considered an Action RPG by some sites, and I can see the classification — I believe that by my definition it technically qualifies, but it’s really more of a Zelda type adventure game. The game was clearly heavily inspired by Link to the Past, inviting unfavorable comparisons with that game at every turn.
The opening scene shows a mech of some kind destroying a city. We’re told that once there was a large thriving civilization using both magic and technology, but humans destroyed themselves, leaving only ruins to mark the previous high civilization.
The main character is Kurisu along with his sister Litol (You can have them choose names; there are a bunch of preset names including some injokes like Luke and Leia, Hansel and Gretel, and some anime references.) The characters’ father tells us to go to a nearby cave and get a sword.
The game plays out like a Zelda game. In this case you can assign one item to each hand and one armor; each piece of equipment is activated by a button although not every item can work that why (pressing X in the above screenshot would do nothing). The numbers below the weapons are durability — I don’t know why so many games feel like they have to include this. Most of the time it serves no real purpose other than to annoy the player.
There are no XP or levels; instead you find stars from chests in dungeons. You can assign these stars to five stats (HP, MP, strength, defense, speed). You can reassign the stars at any time. While this might seem like an interesting system, it works into the biggest complaint I have with this game. The interface is too fiddly and you have to interact with it way too often. You spend a lot of time in the item menu, which is never a good sign for a game. Zelda has a very clean interface and you can quickly switch items in the menu. Not here.
As you can see from this shot, only 3 items from the list fit on the screen at once. You have to choose what you want to do with the item in the list above (right arm, left arm, body, use, exchange, split, merge, discard) and then find the item in the list. You have to do this at times you really shouldn’t. As in Zelda there are keys you find in the dungeon to open locked doors. But unlike Zelda they don’t just automatically work. You have to go into the item list, find the key, assign it to a button, exit the menu, press the button to open the door, and then go back into the item list and re-equip the item you had before.
Later you get Jump Shoes, but these go in the armor slot, meaning that you’ll have to go through the item menu to get the Jump shoes then put back on your armor once you’re done. In addition, the jump distance is controlled by speed, meaning that you may also have to juggle the stars to be able to make the jump. This constant fiddling in the item menu gets old and really slows the game’s pace down. On top of all this each character can only carry 16 items, and so there is inventory management again. I still have yet to play a game where I thought that managing limited inventory was fun.
The other big problem with the game is the second character. You can play this 2 players, which may be the best way to do it. The computer controlled player is constantly getting stuck behind things. If you equip her with attack magic she’ll immediately use it all. There are parts of the game where you have to do things with both characters, so if you’re playing on your own you have to once again fiddle around in the menu to switch control of players and such.
It’s too bad because I think there is a good game in here, if it weren’t such a chore to play. I ended up stopping at around the 40% mark of the game; as I said in the intro while this may count as an ARPG in a technical sense according to my rules it doesn’t feel like one. If it were a really good game I probably would have kept playing it but I just wasn’t having fun.
To briefly go over the part of the game I played: dad sends us to find a sword in the cave. There, we have a letter from him telling us that something bad has probably happened and they should look for Jeek in Londium. Heading back to the town we find that some black clad men chase the dad to a cliff; the dad jumps off the cliff with a friend but they probably survived.
We then chase after dad, and eventually locate him but he has lost his memory. So we have to find a gem to make a medicine to cure him (there is some kind of item synthesis system in the game).
But dad is gone by the time we get the gem, so we continue on. Eventually I did find Jeek, but he didn’t tell us much and just gave us some spells and jump shoes. The story hadn’t developed all that much, but presumably there will be something about the lost technology and robots.
So I wouldn’t say this is a terrible game, but it has a lot of flaws and to me is not really an RPG.