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Trinity Universe
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Similar to last year's Cross Edge, Trinity Universe is a crossover JRPG combining characters from Gust's Atelier series and Nippon Ichi Software's Disgaea series. I'm hesitant to call Trinity Universe a "do-over," but in some ways that's exactly what it is.

I'm really beginning to dig NIS's "visual novel" presentation. Once-static character portraits are now animated between poses. Though far from full-scale animation, it looks great and adds new life to cut scenes. And boy, are there a lot of them. Trinity Universe adds cut scenes for nearly everything. On the plus side, it's genuinely funny and enjoyable. Still, expect breakages in gameplay.

In-game, Trinity Universe looks good, but not great. Character models outshine everything else, particularly environments, which seem a little flat and lifeless at times. Animation is great and there's no shortage of particle effects to add a little glitz.

Trinity Universe offers both the original Japanese and re-dubbed English language tracks. I can't say much for the Japanese side, but the English voicework is pretty good. One oddity is the lack of voicework in some areas. Some cut scenes are fully voiced in one part, then silent the next.

Music is vibrant and bouncy, though you will get really tired of the theme song. Every time you enter the Netheruniverse, it begins to play. Considering how much time you'll spend exploring... yeah.

Above all, Trinity Universe has fun with itself. It's an incredibly light-hearted approach to both design and story that, based on my first few play hours, is proving enjoyable. It has the same approach as the first Disgaea. There are jokes about videogames (mainly JRPG conventions) at every turn and a few references I'm pretty sure I'm missing.

The entire concept is woven around a giant floating asteroid/ planet, the Netheruniverse. The area has an odd magnetic pull causing everything - from buildings to small planets - to enter its orbit. The influx of orbiting garbage doesn't phase anyone, though when it begins to fall out of orbit and into town... well, there's an issue.

At the start of the game, you can choose between two characters, the Demon Dog King, Kanata, and Valkyrie Rizelea. Each character follows their own story revolving around what to do with the gobbledygook periodically falling from orbit and crushing people's houses. Rizelea wants to end the destruction by convincing Kanata to take up his true position as Demon God Gem (just roll with me here, folks). Kanata isn't high on the idea, and would rather find a solution that doesn't involve him turning into a rock. Barring that, at least he'll get a great adventure out of the deal.

I had a lot of fun with Trinity Universe's ability to have fun with itself and its story, but it becomes a victim of its own playfulness. Jokes are great; the sillier the better. But whenever the game tries to take a step back and examine some larger plot issue (Kanata questioning why Rizelea wants to save the Netheruniverse, even though its not her job), it's hard to take the game seriously.

Trinity Universe is a bit different from typical RPGs. Though a great deal of gameplay takes place in dungeons, most of the overworld consists of navigating through menus. This cuts down on time spent wandering around searching for shops and other items, though at the same time it keeps the Netheruniverse from becoming anything more than a few still images. I liked the ability to quickly jump from store to quest, but a sense of what I was trying to save would have been a welcome addition as well.

Visiting dungeons is a fun and rewarding experience. Since trash floats in and out of orbit, every time you visit a dungeon, new items are churned up. Dungeons will eventually drift out of orbit. If you're in one when this happens, it's a mad dash through the door to escape. Of course, this is also when the really valuable items begin to show up.

Each character's quest affects the game's overall difficulty. Kanata is described as a "beginner" character, while Rizelea is for experienced players. The more noticeable difference between the two is their play styles. Kanata automatically gets access to the Monster Coliseum and the ability to conjure monsters. With access to the Coliseum, you gain experience and better items much earlier than you would playing with Rizelea. It sounds great in theory, though it takes a while before you'll start winning matches in the arena. I don't expect the game to hand things to me, though when something is advertised as "easier," I don't expect to fight for my life.

Then there's the misuse of tutorials. Regardless of whom you play as, the game will bombard you with tutorials throughout the first hour. Every step, move or button press is accompanied by some sort of long tutorial message (including one that tells you how to access the "Additional Information" page). The frequency goes down later on, only tutorials come in after you need them. At one point, this resulted in at least an hour worth of replay time.

Game Mechanics:
Trinity Universe is a dungeon crawler in every sense of the playstyle. The cosmic flotsam and jetsam serve as dungeons. Though the game plays like a typical RPG (random encounters and all), there's a unique search mechanic in play at all times. Hitting (Square) emits a beam that flows through the dungeon, pointing out areas of interest. These include unique treasures and monsters. There are a couple of stipulations that go along with the beam. The moment you move, it disappears. Additionally, you're given a limited number of uses per dungeon. The system is great and really works as a play mechanic. It encourages exploration without it devolving into a truffle hunt with a blind pig.

Trinity Universe's combat is turn-based, but features action elements. During battle, you can build up combos using the face buttons. As long as a character has combat points, they can continue to doll out hits, even unleashing special dialed-in combos. Characters can even chain their combos with other characters, offering stat boosts and massive damage.

Launching chain attacks takes some time to understand. It's not a complicated system, though the timing is pretty intricate and the game does little to help you hit your marks perfectly. There's an ever so slight disconnect between the time it takes for attacks to register and the gauge to switch to another character. It's possible to completely miss a combo because you're off for a second. Once you adjust to the timing in your head, the system is great. If you can't, expect a few uphill climbs with later bosses - combos are important.

Trinity Universe is a much better game than Cross Edge. It improves nearly everything that went wrong with the first crossover effort. There are, however, a few lingering issues. Hardened JRPG fans will be able to gloss over most of them, though newcomers should be wary.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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