In 2009, North America was treated to Opus Studio's first game that dealt with the concept of time, Half-Minute Hero. The game had players playing out 30-second mini-games under a variety of different play styles, including an old-school RPG and even a tactical strategy game. Instead of creating an immediate sequel, Opus Studio created a brand-new game with that core theme - Jikandia: The Timeless Land. But instead of mini-games, Jikandia revolves around the dungeon exploration genre. There's been a noticeable amount of these types of games as of late, so does Opus' spin on the genre provide players with a timeless classic or does this title simply fade into obscurity?
In Jikandia, players take the role of a male or female character who is travelling on a train with their fellow classmates when the train suddenly malfunctions and throws all of the kids into a mysterious portal that pops out of nowhere. Players learn that they've ended up in Jikandia, a world where time doesn't exist...until just recently. A few hours into the game, it becomes clear that a person calling themselves the King of Time is bringing back the concept of time to Jikandia, causing monsters and the land itself to run afoul. Of course, it's up to the player and their classmates to take down the King and return normalcy to Jikandia.
While this initially seems quite worn out for an RPG, it somehow works exceptionally well in Jikandia. The story, as you'd expect, doesn't take itself too seriously and it shows in Aksys' localization. Numerous times throughout the game characters will bring up completely random conversations, even referring to several well-known Internet memes, but they all surprisingly fit well in the carefree and go-lucky world that Opus Studio has created. It's sad however that the game doesn't fully utilize Aksys' excellent localization, as the dialogue box only shows a few words at a time. Trying to make the text go faster using the X button, like in most RPGs, will skip to the next line, but players are forced to wait for each line to finish. This gets quite nerve-wracking during some of the later post-boss dialogues, which takes a good 2-3 minutes to finish.
The core of the game, the dungeons, fare much better. Revisiting the concept of time found in Half-Minute Hero, Jikandia has players choose the amount of time they wish to spend in any given dungeon, from 3 to 30 minutes. The longer you stay in the dungeon, the better the chances are of getting better weapons and items from the treasure chests that line the dungeons. This system works exceptionally well in practice, since it allows casual players to spend a brief time in the dungeons each time they pick up the game, while hardcore dungeon raiders can spend the full 30 minutes in an attempt to get the best loot possible.
Going along with the concept of Jikandia being in flux, the dungeons are randomized every time they are entered, including the stages, items and enemy placement. Each floor has its own unique goal, which ranges from defeating all the enemies to getting to the next room without taking any damage and even grabbing all of the available treasure. Completing the task nets the player a floor star, which awards bonuses that make the next floor easier. Once players get the max five stars, they can gain the ability to invoke temporary invincibility, which comes in exceptionally handy and is usually crucial during the bouts with Jikandia's many bosses.Further utilizing the aspect of time is the addition of timed events, which apply to nearly everything in each of the dungeons. Select treasure chests, enemies and the goal doors all have timers attached to them. For the treasure chests, unlocking them as the timer hits zero will net a better item, whereas defeating an enemy will net a score bonus. The goal doors have two different types of timers: white and red. Like items and enemies, entering the door when the white timer hits zero helps you out, whereas missing the red counter will net you a penalty and automatically warps you to the next floor. There's also a number of timer events which require hitting the shoulder button at a specific time given on-screen, which generally help out the player.
Like in most RPGs, the main character has a set amount of health points, which can be gained back in dungeons through various herbs and potions lying around. Keeping a close eye on this gauge becomes paramount during Jikandia's boss battles, as some of the latter bosses are quire brutal and require Mega Man-like memorization to surpass instead of mindless button-mashing. While this might seem too old-school for a current generation game, Jikandia handles this quite well with its massive customization options.
Jikandia allows players to assemble a team of up to three people (including the main character). The main character can equip several different types of weapons, ranging from swords to bows and even spell books, so picking the right supporting character becomes exceptionally crucial when traversing the game's many dungeons. This is augmented by the "Quartz" system, which allows players to equip magic stones which improve the main character's abilities. These can range from simple stat-boosters to dealing special effects when attacking and even gaining new abilities such as double-jumping. By having the ability to quickly trek through a dungeon to get to the boss with a 3 minute time limit, Jikandia allows players to easily test out new combinations without making things frustrating and is easily one of the best things the game gets right.
For a PSP title, the graphics and music in Jikandia are serviceable, but aren't exactly going to outright impress anybody. As is evident from the Jikandia's laid-back storyline, the graphics and music are very old-school. The music is composed in that classic MIDI style from the Super NES era and is very catchy, but does tend to grate on your nerves the more time you spend in the area, especially when going for 10-plus minute excursions. The graphics are very cheerful with a pastel-ish look and very vibrant colors. This does have a disadvantage in some of the levels, especially the volcano level, as many of the blocks look the same but function very differently.
Jikandia: The Timeless Land, by design, emulates the old-school games of yore, for better or worse. The frantic button-mashing and pattern memorization that requires players to keep on their toes does become grating after a while for those who like to play through marathon sessions, forcing players to play in shorter spurts than they might be used to. But this design philosophy is greatly helped out by the immense customization options available, letting players spend short amounts of time determining what works and what doesn't without having to spend countless hours. Sometimes we just want a simple game to play after a long day's work - that game is Jikandia: The Timeless Land.