I think I’ve mentioned before that people tend to forget about how rough things were for fans of Japanese titles back in the early days of gaming. Franchises were released in piecemeal and “localization,” such as it was, tended to amount to copious artistic license and censorship. It’s only fairly recently that it’d be possible to play games like Record of Agarest War: Mariage without knowing Japanese, so it’s fortunate that there’s been a push to localize pretty much everything.
When the innocent are besieged by monsters, who’s going to save the day? Why, the Hero and his Maidens, of course! Equipped with the powerful Ciel Blade, hero Rain and Maidens Felicia, Kunka and Patina – who are clad in magical Plumage cloth that gives them supernatural power – are going to take the fight for the world to the Archdemon himself. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
I mean that, by the way. It’s a very tough job. Mariage is not playing around – as early as the second dungeon you’re going to get your butt handed to you. You’ll need to make the most of this game’s various systems, such as swapping characters between one of your party’s four Roles, to get anywhere. Even then things are going to be struggle. Monsters hit hard, they hit multiple people and they inflict status effects…and that’s just in normal encounters. Bosses are even meaner. Things let up somewhat as you go on, but that brutal difficulty spike takes awhile to abate. Leveling up and collecting items to fill out a Sphere Grid-esque progression web for each character is key. You can also, erm, unlock a character’s divine power by…yeah, let’s not talk about it.
Anyway, that’s kind of hilarious, because it’s clear right from the outset that difficult turn-based combat really wasn’t supposed to be this game’s selling point. Yes, this is another game in the Record of Agarest War series, so that means somewhat-less-than-necessarily-savory content. If that’s your thing, go nuts! There’s plenty of it here! Maybe if you grind enough levels to survive the game’s brutal combat you’ll get to see some of it! There’s even a cute system akin to Phantasy Star III on the Genesis where you can play the children of your original hero and then their children as well, which is something of the hook of this game; in practice, Fire Emblem Awakening probably did this idea better.
This was originally a PlayStation Portable game and it shows, though thanks to its stylized appearance it doesn’t look all that bad. Indeed, from a presentation standpoint the biggest complaint would be the comically poor localization. Typos and broken sentences abound! The plot is fairly tepid to begin with, but any drops of immersion you might wring out are quickly soaked into characters misspelling words and stumbling over their lines. Fans are probably used to this, however, so your outrage mileage will vary.
That said, if JRPGs are your thing, and you’re into this series, you’re probably going to enjoy Record of Agarest War: Mariage. You’ll want to come into it expecting an Actual Game rather than an excuse for not-so-family-friendly artwork, however. That might be a rude awakening, but it does help this title’s longevity a little and it’s difficult to complain about that.