Saiyuki: Journey West
September 27th, 2002
I spotted this game at GameStop while I was living in Columbus, and picked it up for three reasons: 1.) I had an urge to play a Tactics RPG, 2.) I had read a preview and it looked interesting, and 3.) It was cheap. I've got to say, I'm glad I did. It turned out to be a really fun game.
Graphics - 7
The graphics here are really nothing spectacular. Oh well, it's a Tactics game; you don't really pick one of those up expecting it to look beautiful or anything. It would have been nice if they had spent a bit more time on the spells, Guardians, and Were attacks; as it is, most of them looked pretty silly. Still, everything ran fairly smoothly, and the battle screens all looked pretty nice.
Music - 6
In a word, forgettable. It hasn't even been that long since I played the game, and I can scarcely remember what it sounded like. The tracks I do remember weren't anything special, though. Besides, any game where you mute the TV and start playing music on your stereo can't have the world's greatest music, now can it?
Gameplay - 10
This is really where the game shines. The battles are a lot of fun. It seems like this is where most of Koei's time and effort went into, because it's the only aspect of the game which is really, really good. When I played it, I'd sit around doing random battles for a few hours not to gain levels, but just because it was fun. When I wanted to level up, I'd just go to a Dojo, turn the Auto Battle on, and then watch TV or go to class/lunch/whatever, and about fifteen minutes later the battle'd be over and my characters would be another level or so higher. Some people would call that cheating, but I prefer to call it taking advantage of the system (which some people would also refer to as cheating.) Besides, the manual suggests doing just that, so that makes it okay.
The battle system is like other Tactics RPGs, with two main differences: Weres and Guardians. All of your characters (except for Sanzo) have the ability to transform into some sort of beast, known as a Were. You can then use these forms to perform all sorts of really powerful/useful moves. Fortunately, the game is balanced so you can't abuse the system and overkill your opponents; only one character can use a Were form at a time, and you have a meter that limits your time spent as a Were (each move you do knocks off a certain amount of points from the meter.) Rather than using Weres, Sanzo has Guardians which he collects throughout the game. Each Guardian he summons casts a certain effect on the entire party for its duration in play and gives Sanzo a special attack. The game's really worth getting for the battle system alone. It can be a bit difficult at times, but you'll have plenty of opportunity to level up, so it's not impossible by any means.
Plot - 8
Saiyuki: Journey West is based on the same legend as Dragon Ball, the main difference being that Saiyuki follows the legend much more closely. The plot itself is quaint and easy to follow; they don't try to do anything on too grand of a scale, which is good, and they don't make it so simple that it's stupid. The plot follows Sanzo as he travels from China to India at the request of the mystical Lady Kannon, who appeared to him in a dream. Over the course of his journey, he meets up with several Weres who accompany him to his final destination. The game is filled with little side quests and optional characters, most of which tie into the main plot in one form or another. A strong cast of villains enhance the plot and keep you playing when your own characters start to frustrate you to no end.
Characters - 6
This really isn't the best game to play if you're looking for a strong, developed group of characters. But if you're looking for naive idiots who do the most predictable things and lead themselves into bad situations because they're too stupid to see the obvious, then look no further! Just about every one of the main characters is one dimensional and never evolves. The only ones who have even a little depth to them are Goku and Gojo, and even they aren't that great. I found myself liking the supporting cast a lot more than the main cast. In fact, Reikan ended up being my favorite character; he actually had some depth to him, and it was just amusing listening to his dialogue. The majority of the game's villains all had good personalities, and most of them were even dynamic characters in that they didn't stay the same throughout the game. Deva was probably the best character in the game as far as personality and development go. Hell, if they make a Saiyuki 2 (and don't choose to follow different arcs of the legend,) I'd love to see it about Deva.
Overall - 7.5
If you're only into traditional or action RPGs, and have never played a Tactics RPG, I'd recommend picking up Final Fantasy Tactics first. While Saiyuki is a good game, it's hardly the best introductory to the genre due to its mediocre plot and characters. If you're already a fan of Tactics style RPGs, you'll definitely want to pick this game up. Its great battle system makes it a lot of fun to play, and it's definitely a worthy addition to your collection. Give it a chance; you'll be glad you did.
Saiyuki: Journey West Reviews
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