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Sword of Jade: Parallel Dreams vs. Iblis
Sword of Jade: Parallel Dreams Battling the undead.
Play Time: 10-20 hours and many more minutes
Review # 9 for Iblis Battling the undead.
Them's Fightin' Words
    Sword of Jade is easily the most anticipated OHR game ever, after being in production for 6 years. Not surprisingly, after such a long production time, it is without a doubt the best and most professional OHR game ever created. This is definitely a game you'll want to add to your collection.
    The graphics are somewhat mixed. The in-battle graphics are great, the enemies are extremely varied and are very well-drawn. It was always interesting to see the new and unique enemies. Hero sprites are generally not quite as well-drawn as enemies, but still very good. Your hero sprites also change through the course of the game, when you equip a new weapon or find new clothing. The attacks look great too, using chains and sprite motions in a much more detailed way than any other OHR game I've played.

The map-graphics, however, are not up to the same standard. While the walkabouts are very animated and have a lot of different movements they do, they don't really look that great themselves. They're not bad, certainly, they're just not on the level of the battle graphics. The maptiles are sometimes good and sometimes bad. Sometimes they look carefully made match the style of the sprites perfectly. Sometimes they look shoddily put together in photoshop. But there are more of the former, I think. Overall the map graphics are still quite good, they're just not nearly as good as the battle graphics.

The custom menus looked great as well. Normally in OHR games custom menus end up not matching at all, but in this game they fit perfectly with the regular OHR menus.
    This is easily the highest point of the game for me (and this is in a game where basically everything is a high point!). The story really pulled me in, I cared about the characters and what was happening more than I ever have with any game before. The heroes were amazing, with a single exception. I thought Pyrus was pretty boring. But the other three were great, it was always a joy to listen to their conversations.

The villains were some of the most horribly evil beings I've ever seen in any game. This is one of the things that really kept me going in the game, the knowledge that I had to beat them. The fact that the enemies are so despicable in every way really helps drive me forward.

Most of the dialogue was very skillfully written. There are some times where it gets a little too blatant with the philosophy, but it never really bothered me. Part of the conflict in this game is a philosophical one, so it make sense that the characters might be talking about that. Aside from that, I loved the dialogue. Even the nameless NPCs filling up the various towns say interesting things. There is no one who will endlessly say "hi!" or welcome you to the town.

Furthermore, the story scenes were heavily plotscripted. People were always moving and emoting and doing all sorts of things. There's never a time where two people just stare at eachother and drone on, someone is always doing something.
    There was a lot of thought put into the gameplay, and there are many unique things about this game.

The first is the Jade Countdown. You have a certain number of days before Dogero becomes irreversably jaded, before he gives up forever. However, by seeing others succeed and/or try to go after their dreams, you can extend the countdown. After playing the game for a little while you should get a pretty good idea of what actions will help the countdown and which will just waste your time.

The second is the time system. Obviously for the jade countdown to work, there has to be some measure of time. In this game the days are divided up into four parts: morning, noon, afternoon, and night. This affects the gameplay because different monsters show up at different times of the day, different sidequests will be available, and in general NPCs will be in different places. Resting or sleeping at an inn uses up one quarter of the day. The flow of time makes the game feel much more real to me.

Resting is another important gameplay element. To rest you either use the "Rest" item or just hit the "R" key. You can do this anywhere but inside houses, and basically it uses up a quarter day and heals you just like an inn. This is useful in dungeons when you need to get healed but don't want to use up any items or SP.

You can also hunt monsters in this game, by using the "Hunt" item or hitting the "H" key. This doesn't work in dungeons, but when you're outside and not in a town it usually does. Basically it just gets you into a fight, and lets you level up without having to wander around looking for enemies (this game uses wandering enemy NPCs instead of random battles).

Lastly, levelling-up and stat-growth are treated differently than most games do. When you level-up it doesn't increase your stats, except for HP, and you get to do one of three things: learn a new skill, improve a skill you already have, or gain one SP. Being able to customize your characters like this is very useful and makes the game more interesting. But when you want to improve your stats, you have to go train at a Suludan. Basically you pay them some money and spend a certain amount of the day (it varies) improving a specific stat. There is a limit to how much training you can do in each stat though, so this won't let you become too strong.
    The battles were far above average, though still not perfect. To encourage players to use their special skills, your SP is restored after every battle. And to further encourage players to use their skills, most enemies will kill you if you just try to sit on the space bar. So these battles do require some attention. However, usually they don't require all that much strategy. You'll probably find a set of moves that works in most battles and just use that, changing it every so often when you get some better skills. Boss battles tended to be more enjoyable, I thought. They were always very intense and I had to move fast to keep from dying.

One problem I know some people will have with this game is the speed of the battles (though I didn't find this to be a problem myself). Most OHRers seem to prefer very fast paced battles, and this game might be slower than some would like.
  Map Design
    This was very well done. The maps are generally quite large, but they help the player move through them quickly. When you come to a long, straight passage the game speeds up and automatically zooms you through it, instead of making you wait as you walk down some endless hallway.

The towns felt like real towns to me. They were all big maps, even the small towns, and they were full of different NPCs. Much better than the standard ghost-towns we see in most OHR games.
    It was quite challenging. I didn't feel like there was ever a time that even the random battles were easy. But I never felt like they were too hard either. Everything in this game is a challenge, but every enemy is beatable too.
    Most of the music was original, with some public-domain music in a few places as well. I thought almost all of the music was great, and fit the game perfectly. I think there were a few times where a particular instrument was a little grating, but for the most part all of this was great. There were many different battle themes, which is something I always like. It keeps the game feeling fresh the whole way through.

Actually, there was one song I didn't like at all: the first battle victory theme (it changes later in the game). That song was pretty bad, I thought. But it's replacement is quite good.
    As if you even have to ask. Of course I enjoyed it! This game was an absolutely amazing experience. I recommend it to all! I guarantee it will make you feel incredible.
Final Blows
    I loved basically every moment of playing this game. I rather intend to play it again sometime soon, and I expect to love it again the second time. Play this game! It'll be a terrible loss if you don't.

I should mention, the game is a little hard to get into at first. It all seems so different, I had a hard time getting started. But after I played for a little while I could hardly get away from it.
A new morning in Fralin.

A new morning in Fralin.
Final Scores
Graphics: 9/10.0
Almost all good.
Storyline: 10/10.0
This is my favorite game story ever.
Gameplay: 9/10.0
Unique and challenging.
Music: 9.5/10.0
Excluding a couple times where it was a bit grating, the music was perfect.
Enjoyment: 10/10.0
This was the most uplifting game I've ever played.
Overall Grade: A+
Final Thoughts
    Never give up.  

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