Platforms: PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Serise X, PC
Reviewed On: PS4 Pro
Release Date: 29/07/2021
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code.
It is not every day a game involving a giant tank, anthropomorphic animals and war would get me to stand up and take note. Fuga Melodies of Steel does just that. There is so much happening that it is hard not to take not of these kids’ plight.
With CyberConnet2 celebrating their 25th anniversary and their first self-published title, it feels fitting that Fuga Melodies of Steel is the game they picked to push the company forward. Back in 1998, CyberConnet2 released their first game Tail Concerto, and in 2010 Solatorobo: Red the Hunter was released that continued the story of Little Tailed Bronx. With both these titles not making a splash, they a back trying again with this entry. Fitting is the game world that started it all, they revived to mark 25 years.
Fuga Melodies of Steel opens with the Berman army invades the small town of Petit Mona. Colonel Pretzel decimates the undefended town. Luckily, a group of young children escape with the guidance of a strange voice.
It led the children to a cave that has been opened, and the children boards the legendary tank Taranis now filled with the hope of survival and saving their family. The children and the Taranis will travel throughout the lands fighting the Berman army every step of the way to save their families.
As a narrative, it touches on the fact they are kids with their innocent interactions and simple beliefs and impulsive natures with the drive to risk everything for their families. Along with death, killing, loss, comradeship and being alone. None that hit you as hard as in the first twenty minutes of playing.
The Taranis is equipped with the soul cannon, a weapon that can destroy bosses in one shot. However, this power comes with a price. This price is the soul of one child. You need to choose a child to sacrifice, with no warning. I had to stop, and I just looked at the screen like ‘What? No, I can’t.’ I have never been made so uncomfortable in a video game as I was at this moment. When you finally pick a child, it played their memories of their brief life back at you to run salt in the wound.
This was put in to make you feel this way and to show you what is at stake if you use the cannon and my gosh. It works. I made sure I didn’t use the cannon.
After the heart attack given to you in the opening minutes, the actual game will start. There are a lot of things that happen and to do within Fuga Melodies of Steel.
They split Fuga Melodies of Steel in to chapter that work as the current region. Expanding the story and getting to know the crew of the Taranis better. Each of the chapters opens with a visual novel style story section. Showing more about the war, the kids and the Berman army and so on. Followed by a visit to a town. Here, you can barter for items to use in battles. In to the intermission, then the battle flow. Finishing with a boss fight and more story.
In any given chapter, the game gives you three intermissions; at the start, in the middle of battle and just before the boss fight. They should NEVER waste this and are one of the most important aspect of the game to progress. In these intermissions you are free to wander around the Taranis as whom every you want. As you wander around, it is possible to talk to the other children and improving their relationships. Doing this not only helps in battle but helps to see how each child relates to each other as they act differently to each other and it makes you get invested in the party.
It is also possible to improve the Taranis its self, from improving the weapon, more bunks to heal injured kids and so on. As long as you have materials to do so. Low on them, you can do fishing to get more. All these actions cost AP and you get 20 AP each intermission, making decision matter and get the player thinking.
As you travel though the regions, you will engage the Barman army. As you progress, you will need to pick a route to take, the easier options to the harder options. Taking the harder route will net you better loot but get less healing items. With considerably harder fights, it is a great and simple risk/reward system.
For engaging the Berman enemy’s there are a few things to consider. First, the enemies them self, each Berman tank/vehicle has a weakness to one of three weapon types, Cannon, Granade Launcher and machine guns. Attacking with the weapons, the Barman’s are weak too will stun lock them for one round allowing for extra attacks. Now to the party, it is possible to swap the party members every three rounds. With 12 party members, it is advisable to swap them if need be. And it will be necessary to make sure you avoid injuries. The more damage the child takes, the more likely they are to get injured.
As you pick the party that has the best chance to do max damage to the Barman tanks, you can also equip a support character. This is where relationships come in to play. There are link attacks (limit breaks) that can cause a whole range of effects depending who are linked at the time. Higher the relationship, the faster the attack grows and more powerful it is. We are not stopping there each character has a hero state that will give them a boost like speed increase. This mode is linked to damage done and the intermission interactions.
The art direction in Fuga Melodies of Steel is simple and beautiful. Each hand drawn character is distinct and stunning in their own way. The gritty washed out colour pallets sell the atmosphere of the narrative perfectly.
Overall, Fuga Melodies of Steel is a fantastic game, with a heartfelt narrative and deep strategy elements in and out of battles. A massive loveable cast of children to get to know and some possible heavy choices. The difficulty of some fight may be off-putting to some as you cannot grind out levels.
However, I loved Fuga Melodies of Steel and it is one of the best JRPGs I have played this year from a story point of view and engaging battle system. A must play.