The new Yoko Taro comes to Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC
The electronic entertainment industry is a clear example of how human relationships are not watertightrather, they always move forward. Two decades ago the very concept of the video game, in its determinations, was much darker than today; not only on an economic level (infrastructure, budgets, sales …) but also on a social level (popular acceptance, player communities, art conception …).
Both planes flow in perfect contradiction, mutually denying each other and reaching new forms never before discovered: man transforms the environment through his work force, but also transforms himself. This also affects video games which, as merchandise, are a reflection of the society in which we live.
Given the particularities of the current mode of production, it is frequent that within the same industry there are different ‘categories’ depending on the socioeconomic stratum. To put it another way, in video games we also find ‘social classes’: we are talking about triple A’s, indie games or middle class video games (and with a certain elitist air, at times). Obviously we not only refer to the capital managed by the developer, but also connect with a part of the character of the player in question.
The less ambitious forms of development have conveniently experienced a reinforcement of their ‘indie’ identity and, therefore, have been fetishized by a small group of consumers seeking to satisfy new and select demands. This category of video games, with lower budgetary ambition and more affordable price, is currently enjoying a massive proliferation.
Yoko Taro is one of the most iconic figures in the current video game industry. And it is not for less: the guy is well trained as a writer, and his talent has allowed him to climb in just a decade of presence in the world. One of the lessons he gave us in his magnum opus (‘NieR: Automata’, 2017) was to give a spin to the concept of ‘gender’ in video games, making it clear that it should be used as a means (and not as an end). ) in which the narrative existed for itself: we are not playing a ‘hack and slash’; we play NieR, who chooses to use the language of 3D and 2D technology as tools to tell his story.
Obviously these details tend to go unnoticed in the eyes of the consumer, who is immersed in the assumptions generated by the industry itself and the mass media. Here the role of the video game critic who, as a ‘transducer’ or interpreter, acts as an operative body for the mediation between the relationship of the subject (player) and the object (video game) should be crucial. Obviously it does not always happen, and sometimes the technical aspects of it are abstracted, denying the artistic totality of the product.
Let’s move better to the matter at hand: ‘Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars’, developed by Square Enix. Is about
a little adventure that mimics traditional pencil and paper RPG games, with the voice of the game director included as the sole narrator Its playable base is built through a card system, in the purest ‘Gwent’ style, but including exploration by a mapping fragmented into squares (like the boards of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’) and Random Eastern Turn-Based RPG School Battles.
Its head, Yoko Taro, declares to perceive in the construction of the video game a process of synthesis or abstraction, having to represent a 3D environment on a 2D television screen. It is in this same process that subject and object, player and video game, connect as a result of a concrete and understandable language for both. Like when the operators of the Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus’ ship in ‘Matrix’, read the woman in the red dress through the green programming code (although obviously under a not so primitive interface).
This is how the author refers to his game, which abandons hyper-realism to operationalize mechanics on boards, squares and illustrations of fixed animations: all reduced to the minimum concept to be able to exploit narratives much more dependent on the player’s cognition, and force us to imagine. Taro, who has always been very subtle about storytelling, finds here a small plot where he can materialize his ideas.
Focusing on more technical aspects, unavoidable in this type of reviews,
the campaign lasts between 10 and 15 hours. During development we play a scathing adventurer and his pet monster who, still completely lacking in battle experience, decide to accept the dangerous mission of annihilating a legendary dragon. The duo will be joined by a third companion shortly after starting, and together they will dedicate themselves to going from city to city, facing rivals and carrying out small assignments.
Combat is the aspect of the gameplay where we will unleash the deck of cards: we must bear in mind that ‘Voice of Cards’ is not what we would commonly consider a card game in the style of’ Magic: The Gathering ‘or’ HearthStone ‘, but rather a JRPG that uses the card component as an alternative to the usual combat options of the genre. It is a mistake to expect the usual depth of this class of competitive-oriented games, but that does not remove elements such as the existence of a mana reserve, which requires the expenditure of certain amounts depending on the card released at the time. Mana management will be the main strategic premise in each fight, which will become increasingly demanding as we progress through the plot.
Nor do we expect a story in the same vein as the NieR and Drakengard sagas, because this has nothing to do with it. It is more similar to the childish and typical fable, but with a very ‘camp’ touch, full of clichés that end up parodying themselves.
A breath of fresh air to the hackneyed hero’s journey, with a good load of sympathy and charisma.
Another aspect that attracts attention is a visual section that, without being the worst in terms of graphic muscle, retains a very own and outstanding style. Each illustration is taken care of to the maximum and, although the environments of the board are somewhat dull and repetitive, they are faithful to what they want to represent. Without a doubt, the best thing is the design of the main characters and the creatures of the game.
To get fussy, something that does not convince me is the decision to bring together all the dialogues of the characters in the narrator. Listening to the same voice for 10 hours ends up saturating the brain, and although I understand the decision as logic within the creative process, the inclusion of dubbing for each character would have been appreciated (or directly the option of deactivating the locution to pull reading).
Regarding everything else, no complaints in what it offers;
a ‘small’ title at a more than affordable 30 euros that enters easily through the eyes, quickly immerses you in his world and dazzles you with his charisma, his game system and his soundtrack; Completely translated into Spanish, yes, with voices to choose between English and Japanese.
Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is available for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC in digital format.