Tuesday, 17 May 2016 00:00

The Song of Seven: Chapter One Review

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Fear is a funny thing.

Ideally meant to keep us safe from harm, if left unchecked it can become a barrier that prevents us from doing things that we may otherwise find enjoyable. It’s great in situations that require us to stop and think about possible hazards, such as walking near a dangerous cliff or travelling through a sketchy neighborhood. There are times, however, where fear is an obstacle that we must overcome in order to reach our full potential or even find enjoyment in things others take for granted. I personally fear roller coasters and movie theaters - things that others readily take pleasure in on a regular basis. While it hasn’t been a fear that has prevented me from living a normal life, it has meant that I’ve avoided certain social settings such as an amusement park or the movies. I haven’t felt like I’ve been missing out on much, but...perhaps that’s the fear talking.

It’s that same fear that dictates Kiba’s life and the lives of the villagers around him. His story is a simple one - he’s a human-like young man with a tail, pointy ears, and green hair. He lives in an isolated village with his parents, sister, and several other villagers. The village is walled in from the outside world; no one gets in and no one gets out. It’s this fear of the unknown that dictates Kiba’s life, and it shows - even his posture betrays his lack of confidence with a slouch and one arm grabbing the other, as if unsure of himself. Although he seems unhappy with his current situation, there’s no way that he would venture out into the wilderness for fear of some great misfortune happening…

...until Emma walked into his life and pulled him out of the village to explore the vast world that had been closed off to him since birth.

And like that, their journey begins!

This point-and-click adventure is not something that necessarily stands out at first - it’s stylized and seemingly niche with its fantastical nature. It's a quiet, unassuming title that definitely deserves a second look, though. Developed by Enlightened Games, this title is only the first chapter of many more to come. Once the game begins and the story starts to unfold, the charm of this title becomes clear: its graphics, music, and storyline are all aesthetically pleasing and add to this genre in a unique way.

Graphics are an interesting aspect of gaming - a game with amazing graphics may be terrible, whereas one with terrible graphics may be amazing. Katamari Damacy was stylized and seemingly niche, but they didn’t try to be anything more than they were, which was simple, silly fun. The bad graphics were overlooked due to the unique and innovative gameplay. Song of Seven's graphics immediately reminded me of this guideline - if a developer cannot offer top-tier AAA quality graphics, they should go for a stylized look that can appear polished in order to offset the “lone guy in their basement” feel of the game. In other words, graphics do not necessarily make or break a game, and if you can’t give Last of Us type facial expressions, perhaps it’s best to create a unique, stylized look. Song of Seven not only attempted this but excelled at it - the almost cartoonish graphics were really quite beautiful, but it was the way characters and scenery moved that really struck me as well-done. Grass and leaves swayed with the wind, Kiba would reach hesitantly and avoid eye contact, and character running was slightly reminiscent of Final Fantasy X in quality. There was a lot of time put into the graphics of this game, and it shows - even though there were limitations, the developer easily overcame this hurdle and presented clean a clean, vibrant title.

The music was gorgeous! I was very impressed by the soundtrack; it took me back to my days of playing Fable and I believe it’s up there with AAA quality. Sound effects were also well done - from opening the door to the sound of footsteps, each sound was high quality, believable and, perhaps most importantly, not distracting.

The storyline was perhaps what impressed me most.

It’s really quite a simple concept - there’s a young man, perhaps just a teenager, who has never ventured into the outside world. At first he’s fearful, but he learns to not only overcome his fears but grow from his experiences. It sounds hackneyed until you see that the characters reveal the story through their personalities - not only from their words but from their non-verbal expressions. In indie games, we’re usually accustomed to character movements being extremely limited - when standing, character does A. When talking, character does A. When fighting, character does A. But in Song of Seven, it’s different. When Kiba is running, he almost runs like a wobbly child. When he’s talking to someone, he avoids eye contact and does a cross-body grasp of one arm with his other. He slouches and he appears timid. Emma, on the other hand, stands proudly and assertively. She has good posture and a confident facial expression. Her movements match her personality, which is self-assured and adventurous. It’s incredible to me that an indie game would be able to create this level of detail - I didn’t have to even understand what the characters were saying to know who they were and what they were about. I can think of very few games that have attempted this and even fewer that have achieved it, making Enlightened Games a minority in this industry.

Gameplay was decent and solid. I will be the first to admit that point-and-click adventures aren’t my favorite genre, but I can say with confidence that if this is a genre someone else likes, they would enjoy this game. The items required to move forward with story progression are never too far out of reach and can be easily found with a quick tap of the tab button, where they will then be highlighted. This ensures that the pace of the game is constant, enabling the player to continue without too many long pauses and wondering where to go next. This steady, consistent pace is what keeps the player entertained for extended periods of time, making this a title that won’t be discontinued out of sheer boredom.

Fear will always be a factor in our lives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to let it rule over us. In the case of Kiba, he learned that there is more to life than what is inside his city walls and that there’s adventure ready and waiting for him. While playing this game, I pondered upon my own fears and wondered if I, too, could overcome mine. I don’t think I’ll be pointing and clicking my way to a roller coaster anytime soon, but maybe I’ll stop nervously checking the exits in movie theaters during a film. After all - if Kiba can leave the only village he’s known for his entire life, I can sit through Star Wars or the Avengers and not have an overwhelming sense of doom.


The Verdict

Like Kiba, we should all learn to take the first steps outside our respective comfort zones and begin to enjoy life around us.

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Heather Johnson

Heather has been playing video games ever since she can remember. Starting off as a PC gamer at age 2 with edutainment games and progressing to the NES and beyond, she has always had a love for everything gaming, PC and console. She’s carried a hand-held console in her back pocket (now purse) since the 3rd grade and is probably the only person in her mid-twenties that still enjoys street-passing. She lives in Los Angeles and currently works for Bandai in the marketing department – she doesn’t make toys, she just makes toys look good. Right now she is actively avoiding planning her upcoming wedding by playing Skyrim. Other hobbies include trying to go to the gym, watching documentaries, sleeping, and tormenting (see: showering with affection) her beloved Maine Coon, King Henry VIII. Favorite games include FFX, Katamari Damacy, Saints Row IV, Skyrim, Catherine, and Phoenix Wright. She has her phone surgically attached to her hand and is happy to help whenever possible.