Publisher: JAST USA
Price: $29.99 USD
Release Date: English: January 26th, 2017. Japanese: August 3rd, 2007.
Aselia the Eternal is one of the most popular translated visual novels among the English fandom. It’s a pretty good game with just the right balance between being a Visual Novel and a proper tactical game. Seinarukana takes place in the same world as Aselia, albeit with completely different settings, characters, and mechanics. The games can be played in reverse order, or you may even ignore the first game altogether. There are a few minor references to Aselia in Seinarukana, but nothing that would ruin the experience should you not play the first game.
Seinarukana’s plot is centered around a small group of students with super powers. More precisely, they are reincarnations of gods and goddesses of the past that still possess their previous powers and memories. During preparations for their school’s festival, the school campus is attacked by unknown enemies. During the attack, the entire school campus is ripped off the ground and thrown into another world, carried off by a giant flying whale.
Naturally, everyone inside the school was brought along with them, including the regular students that have no powers. In order to return home, they must travel to multiple worlds and solve conflicts within each of them. Along the way, individuals from each of those worlds join the party one by one, as you uncover the hidden plots that tie all those events together.
The world of Seinarukana is very similar to the one from Aselia but the setting is completely different. Aselia was about a small group of students being stranded in another world for years, controlling a large number of troops and dealing with all the problems from that world. In Seinarukana, a very large group of youths is making a tour of the universe and fighting in each of them, but never spending much time in the same world. Interacting with the same universe as the previous game while presenting a completely different setting made for a very fresh experience, coming from one game to another.
The cast of characters in Seinarukana was quite large and diverse, and overall I would say that I liked each and every one of them more than any of the characters from the original Aselia. At first I was very disappointed during the first hour of gameplay, when they are still living on their original world, when the game introduces the protagonist as a boring and generic guy with no personality, oblivious to the romantic advances of all the girls around him. This type of easy-to-self-insert-into protagonist is something many people find distasteful, from how every other game and anime abuses it. I was expecting to not enjoy the story and characters as much as the first game due to this.
Fortunately, I was wrong. Once the game revealed the setting and the meaningful starting events took place, I was instantly hooked. Better yet, the boring cookie-cutter main character actually developed some semblance to a personality later on. I still wish the writers would have put more thought into his characterization in the first place, but I can’t say I ended up hating him by the end.
At a surface level, gameplay in Seinarukana doesn’t look very different from the gameplay segments in Aselia the Eternal, but it is actually quite better. The objective in both games is to capture enemy bases in order to advance the story, with the difference being that all the gameplay mechanics in Seinarukana are much more polished. Purifying Mana in order to enhance units is still the only way to improve an unit’s stats, but unlike the first game, you do not gain skills from this. New skills are obtained throughout the story and by capturing enemy bases. Aselia was a turn based game, in which the player and the computer took turns moving units around the map, attacking, and training. This game instead keeps track of how fast characters can perform actions, with each unit having its own action cooldown. Fast units can perform multiple actions before slower units can react.
The actual battle mechanics have also changed a great deal as well. Using characters as All-Rounders, units that battle on their own, became much more viable now than it was in the first game. The balance between Blue and Red -type support skills was greatly improved as well. In Aselia, players were forced to bring Blue -type units in every composition in order to counter Red -type offensive magic, which would often kill entire parties in a single cast. Seinarukana’s Red magic is a lot less overwhelming, meaning I had a lot more freedom regarding party composition.
Last but not least, spells in Seinarukana require charges to use. Every character replenishes 2 charges after every attack, meaning skills that cost more than 2 charges cannot be used repeatedly. Paying attention to this was really important during boss fights because it gives the player ways to prevent them from using their strongest skills, as long as you do not allow them to build-up enough charges to use them. All the battle mechanics are solid, and all of them are direct improvements over Aselia’s battle system.
Unfortunately, I had a lot of problems playing these games. Both of them gave me issues with full-screen mode. The game would refuse to stay in focus unless I closed every other window. Even worse, Seinarukana is known to error on launch for many users because of faulty compatibility with modern systems. There are work-arounds for all these problems, but I was forced to spend a lot of time researching all those issues in order to find solutions. Those game’s resolution is very low as well, making full-screen mode appear stretched out and not very good-looking at all. The lack of any proper video configuration was also a big issue.
The otherworldly language from Aselia was all but dropped in Seinarukana. It is heard in a few dream sequences in the first hour of gameplay, but it doesn’t show up later in the game at all. Furthermore, even though the cast were traveling different worlds, language barriers were completely ignored in all cases. It was a bit disappointing to see this, all the more considering it was a major plot point in the first game, with a full chapter voiced in the fantasy language they created for the series.
The music tracks during the Visual Novel segments is diverse and memorable. It served its purpose of setting up all the mood changes during every scene, and I was quite satisfied with it. The whole game has a unique atmosphere of going on a grand adventure, and the soundtrack plays a large part in that.
On the other hand, during the combat and gameplay segments, music was rather boring and repetitive. A few more tracks for battle would have been great but because the music was otherwise great, I was willing to overlook this minor flaw.
The drastic change in art style is likely the first thing players will take note when going from Aselia to Seinarukana. The art from the first game was, for the lack of a better word, weird and ugly. Character’s faces had the characteristic early 00’s art-style, while the hairstyles looked like they came from the 90’s. I greatly enjoyed Aselia and, as a result, I came to appreciate that strange character design, though I understand many people would find it a unappealing.
Seinarukana has none of that, the characters all look like average anime-y people with no particular art-style. While the series may have lost some of its charm because of this, the increase of quality was indeed quite substantial. Other than characters, backgrounds in Seinarukana also look slightly better than Aselia’s, though not enough that they’d stand out much.
Perhaps the biggest improvement was in the use of 3D for map movement. Aselia’s map was a flat surface made to look like a 3D landscape, while Seinarukana uses real 3D models.
Seinarukana also uses 3D during the actual battle sequences, albeit characters are still 2D pixel surfaces.
Sprite work still looks detailed and beautiful. It was held back by the game’s low resolution, but still quite pleasing nonetheless.
Other than the questionable protagonist, awful full-screen and compatibility issues, and lack of higher definition assets, the only other problem I had with the game were these.
At some points in the game, the text failed to display properly. The final check stages must have been somewhat sloppy in order for this sort of thing to have survived the final release of the game. Nonetheless, because it didn’t take away any important parts of the story, it wasn’t anything too important.
Seinaruka turned out to be a solid title. It is very unusual for a sequel to turn out better than the original game. The story, plot, and setting hooked me right in. I caught myself playing for very long sessions simply because I couldn’t put the game down.
However, despite that feeling, I did not feel like playing the game a second time. There are multiple routes for different heroines in the game but I could not force myself to play a second time. The reason for that is simple: the combat in the game takes too long. For a first playthrough it was perfect, but going through every battle again in order to get another girl’s ending was not appealing to me.
The game would largely benefit from a few more changes to the gameplay, specially in regards to speeding up the time it takes to move around. During gameplay segments, I was forced to hold down CTRL the entire time to speed things up. It helped immensely, but still took forever during certain parts.
Seinarukana is an amazing story. Albeit with a slow start, it will quickly catch the reader with its unique setting and interesting characters. The game has a very strong atmosphere of going on grand journey, with a large cast of characters, having a lot of fun, discovering new worlds and the people who live in them, making friends and saving the world. It does so while balancing storytelling and actual gameplay. It is severely held back by a handful of technical downsides but, overall, it was one of the better RPGs I have played to this day.