During the early years of the PlayStation Vita, developer Game Arts and publisher XSEED's released original Ragnarok Odyssey and it was met with mediocre praise due to some issues with the product. So almost two years later and with a new version that's now entitled Ragnarok Odyssey ACE, the developers have managed to create a game that has some welcome additions, but doesn't do much to warrant the two year gap.
For those who played the original, ACE will feel very familiar. You engage in quests to eradicate monsters large and small, collect materials and cards from said monsters and use those drops to craft new weapons, armor and items to defeat even bigger monsters. It's a bit of a mouthful, but that's the game in a nutshell and it means that if anyone was expecting a slight change of pace, they will be disappointed.
If you already logged tons of hours in the original you can import your monster and weapon cards into ACE, although certain content such as stuff gained via the PlayStation Vita's Near application won't transfer over. Surprisingly the game also makes you start over from the beginning so it's really more of NG+ type transfer than anything else.
Most all of ACE's changes come from the new post-game dungeon called the Tower of Yggdrasil. After completing the original game's final chapter you find out that a large hole opened up in the roots of the legendary Yggdrasil tree and there are monsters inside that need to be exterminated. Oddly though the text pacing issues from the story take place here like it does in the main story, so it breaks up the flow from what should be a fun post-game romp for advanced players. The fact that said story is largely unforgettable makes one wonder why the developers even included it when most beginners likely would never play through this section and the advanced players already got their fill of it earlier on.
The actual dungeon itself is a bit of a mixed bag. What's neat about the dungeon is that you gradually gain access to the floors by collecting "Yggdrasil Droplets". These can be bought from a new in-game NPC called Norn or obtained by completing quests inside the tree. There's also timed randomly-generated challenges which reward you with various bonuses and increased drop rates if successfully completed. The issue with what appears to be a fun twist on the gameplay experience is that most all of the monsters are re-skinned versions of ones from earlier in the game and it creates and sense of deja vu.
The gameplay thankfully still holds up and is very similar to the original. The fast, fluid battle mechanics are still here and the developers have made the classes a bit more balanced by moving some of the skills into class-specific "ACE Skills", such as providing new healing skills for Clerics and knockback effects for Hammersmiths. One odd control issue comes out of this as it's tied to the lock-on mechanics. These were a pain back in the original as it was a chore to successfully target an enemy when a mob of them attacked you at the same time.
ACE also includes an odd addition with the new "Halomonas" weapons which are powered-up via completing "Orders" during quests instead of via drops. Once successfully powered up you'll easily surpass anything the drop-powered items can produce making the whole drop system pointless in a way as weapon-wise there's no reason to do it. It will also leave you questioning why you need to farm so many monsters.
The excellent multiplayer found in the original returns in ACE with a more class-based approach due to the addition of the ACE skills. There is some slight lag due to the wireless connection, which will vary depending on the signal strength of you and your party members, but it's still relatively playable when there's issues. Like the previous game the later chapters are essentially structured around having a party instead of soloing them, but the developers added new "Mercenary Helpers". These act as AI party members and you can employ two at a time. They do take a percentage of your earnings and aren't as good as real players, but they fulfil their purposes as meat shields against more powerful enemies and bosses.
As far as graphics go, it's a wide difference depending on the version you're playing. The Vita version looks crisp and vivid just like the original even if the bloom effect is slightly overused, whereas the PS3 version looks like the Vita version on a larger screen. This becomes apparent when dialog boxes and other UI elements only fill the Vita-sized length of the screen as is the case with the dialog text. Graphically the PS3 version isn't broken but it's not a looker in any sense of the word.
It should also be noted that there is a cross-save feature between the two versions but since the game isn't cross-buy most users likely won't have a use for this feature. In testing the functionality, it worked fine although you need to remember to go back to the title screen for the data to properly sync back to the servers.
Ragnarok Odyssey ACE is an incremental, not fundamental upgrade to the original. If you enjoyed the mechanics in the original you'll get more than your fill of new content, but for those who wanted some of the original's issues fixed or more varied content that isn't what you'll find here. Perhaps ACE isn't the best term for this game and after almost two years, it should have provided more.
|Graphics on the PS Vita version are still crisp and vivid.|
|If you enjoyed the original, you'll get your fill again.|
|The new ACE skill mechanics help fix the class balancing issues in the original game.|
|Graphics and UI aren't optimized at all on the PS3 version, looks like a resized PS Vita game.|
|Given the time between releases, more should have been added.|
|The new weapons make the game a joke if you power them up correctly and it unbalances things.|