Chantelise: A Tale of
Life isn't easy for fairies. You have to shop in the newborns' clothing section, you leave messy dust everywhere you go, people think that by shaking you around and sprinkling your dandruff on themselves that they can fly. It's a tough life! This is a situation that our heroines Chante and Elise are learning about firsthand in Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters, a new action-RPG developed by EasyGameStation and published by Carpe Fulgur. Sound familiar? They should, because the same two teams brought Recettear to the English-speaking world last year!
Chantelise could be seen as a sort of "prequel" to Recettear with different gameplay, but you'll recognize a lot of art, items and monsters from Recettear. Chante and Elise head out one night under an ominous red moon when Chante is mysteriously cursed and transformed into a fairy. In the hopes of returning Chante to her human form, the pair journey to a small town that's hiding its share of secrets. Dungeon-crawling and adventure await!
You control Elise, the younger sister, while Chante the older-sister-turned-fairy follows you around automatically. Ideally you'll be using a gamepad (a standard Xbox 360 controller works great!) but if not, you can move around with the [arrow] keys, attack with [Z], jump with [X], cast spells with [C], lock the camera with [V] and control the camera with [A] and [S]. Pressing the attack and jump keys together allows you to perform a quick evasive dash that comes in very handy during boss battles. Naturally these controls can be customized as well.
Elise is armed with a sword that she can use to bash monsters, but it's generally a lot more effective to cast spells with Chante instead. As Elise pummels bad guys, magic stones go flying all over the place. Picking these up allows you to use various types of magic based on the stones you grab. For instance, red stones produce fire spells, blue stones tend to be water, green stones are thunder or wind and yellow stones are physical or force-based.
You can also combine various stones to produce new effects. At first you can only mix two of the same color stone, which will usually result in a more powerful spell similar to what you would get with one. Multiple red stones produce cluster grenades and fire walls, multiple blue can freeze enemies or heal Elise, multiple green produce more powerful blasts of lightning and multiple yellow can boost Elise's defense. As you progress through the game you'll unlock new spell combinations to use.
With sword and magic you'll adventure through a variety of dungeons. Generally you'll need to clear all the enemies out of each room to progress. Each room also has hidden treasures to discover and at the end of each dungeon you'll fight a powerful boss monster. Between adventures you can shop in town for upgrades — unlike many similar games, Chantelise doesn't feature an experience-based leveling system, so buying upgrades in town is most effective way to improve your character.
Chantelise is presented in a unique 3D style. While the action takes place in a three-dimensional world, most of the characters are actually two-dimensional sprites. This gives the game a striking look, but it can take some time to get used to lining up Elise for attacks since she doesn't actually have any depth.
Analysis: As the "prequel" to Recettear, Chantelise shares quite a bit with that title, most notably its adorable art style, engaging gameplay and hilarious translation. One aspect that the games also share is a remarkable level of difficulty. Elise is fairly fragile and weak unless she's equipped with the proper accessories, which you'll need to switch often to address the types of enemy you'll face. As if this wasn't enough, for the first two hours or so of the game it's impossible to heal without using random and infrequently dropped items. When you finally gain access to healing magic things become a bit more reasonable, but the first couple dungeons are surprisingly brutal and might require inexperienced action gamers to restart a few times.
While the action in Chantelise is excellent despite the difficulty, the real highlight of the game lies in the fantastic story and dialogue. While the plot is fairly standard, it's played for laughs, with Chante threatening to kick people in the shins on a regular basis and Elise doing her best to keep her violence under control. It's all incredibly charming and it does a great job keeping the game fresh.
Fans of the action-RPGs of the PlayStation era will find a lot to love here as it plays a bit like a lost gem from that time. Anyone who enjoyed Recettear should certainly give Chantelise a shot as well. All in all, this is a solid title and deserves a look — just make sure to clean the fairy dust off your keyboard after playing!