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Eternal Poison
Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Flight Plan
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Eternal Poison boasts a completely different look compared to most Atlus SRPGs. The anime look that usually accompanies Atlus-releases is gone and replaced with something that would feel more at home in a Castlevania game. I normally don't go for character art galleries, but the visual style is so compelling that I found myself wanting to unlock new art. Players who pre-order can even nab an art book showcasing some of the game's art style as well. It's one thing to see it on your TV, but seeing it in print will give you an even better appreciation for it.

The only issue is that, although the artwork looks great, it doesn't translate into 3D all that well. Considering how awesome the 2D artwork looks, it is hard to not be a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong, Eternal Poison looks great, but there's nothing particularly impressive about the visuals either. Characters are fairly flat and the style doesn't come off as impressive. Granted, there are hardware limitations at play, but that only accounts for the blurriness. In-game models are still pretty basic when compared to other PS2 games.

Although there are a few voices that don't quite match up to the characters, the voicework is rather good. I would even go so far as to say it is easily some of Atlus's best work outside of Persona 3 or the original Disgaea. The soundtrack is equally as impressive; you only need to spend a little time on the title screen to get a feel for the music. It's dark, moody and fits the visual's style perfectly.

Eternal Poison may be a different look from Atlus, but the underlying gameplay isn't much different than other strategy games. Battles take place on an isometric grid on which characters move around and perform various actions. Battles tend to be drawn-out affairs, which is one of the game's few missteps. Part of the problem comes from the long attack animations, though that problem can easily be taken care of after a trip to the Options screen. However, the rest of the problem is a result of the interface. It's ugly and not that useable. Nearly everything has to be accessed through the in-game menu, which is a tedious task.

Most of the battle revolves around figuring out enemy weaknesses and planning parties and strategies that exploit that weakness. Character turns are displayed at the bottom of the screen and you can check out weaknesses using the aforementioned in-game menu. Characters can perform melee or ranged attacks or even store attacks to build up multi-character combo attacks. With so much going on, it is sad to see that most battles eventually turn into simple wars of attrition.

Eternal Poison follows multiple story paths that slowly fill in the gaps towards the overarcing narrative. The "main" character is Thage, a witch in search of something called Eternal Poison. Along the way she comes across a city, Besek, which appears out of nowhere where she meets Retica, whom Thage turns into her unwilling slave. The entire first act is completely different from what players are used to seeing, and does a great job of setting up the game's dark tone. Other characters include Ashley, who travels to Besek at the behest of the Church and Olifen, who is doing the same, but in the name of the Kingdom.

From here, the story splits off into what appears to be a completely random story that somehow or another manages to make sense. In other words, if you aren't a fan of stories that remain a confusing mystery until the very end, you won't enjoy Eternal Poison's tale. On the plus side, each story takes only about 20 hours or so, and once you begin to see how the stories connect, you'll want to see what everything means.

One of the more difficult aspects of Eternal Poison is that, unlike other SRPGs, you are stuck on a linear path. There's no opportunity to level up characters between major battles, nor can you go back and replay missions. Once it's done, it's done. This makes leveling a much more daunting task; you really have to think about how to best level up weaker characters while paying attention to keeping everyone up to par with enemies. This won't appeal to everyone, though it is slightly easier than it first appears. Nearly everything your characters do (besides moving) earns experience. As long as you are able to keep your characters alive and make them do something each turn (even if it involves casting a pointless spell), you should be able to keep your units up to speed.

Even if your characters can keep pace, know that Eternal Poison is still a hard game. Game Over screens aren't an uncommon site and may challenge even the most persistent and patient of SRPG players.

Game Mechanics:
Most of the game involves capturing Majin, or demons. All characters have a magic book that can capture Majin. Once captured, Majin can be summoned into battle, sold or distilled into skill tabs that you can then attach to equipment. Capturing Majin adds a completely new dimension to gameplay, though it is something that only truly hardcore players will really want to pursue. Some Majin will only appear after certain conditions have been met and capturing is fairly complicated. Additionally, Majin can only be summoned a finite number of times.

Eternal Poison offers several extracurricular activities besides the core story campaign. Between battles, you can customize equipment, skills and adjust your party. There's also a mini-game which is hard to explain but easy to learn. Completing boards (around 50) unlocks concept art, which is a nice bonus considering how nice the game looks.

Eternal Poison isn't a perfect game and certainly isn't for everyone, but it's another must-play game for Atlus fans and something every SRPG fan should checkout.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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