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Hands-On with the Avalon Code demo
Avalon Code, an action-RPG due out later this month (March 2009), is the latest project from Matrix Software. You might remember the name Matrix as the creative team behind the DS remaked of Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV. Now, they're testing the waters with a brand-new intellectual property, and if the demo version of the game is any indication, it is shaping up to be something special.
As the Avalon Code demo begins, players are treated to a brief story sequence to help get a feeling for the overall plot. The game's hero, Yumil, has a dream that foretells the end of the world, and when he awakens he finds himself in possession of the Book of Prophecy. We then learn that he was attacked by a monster by saved by a fire guardian named Rempo. Rempo, who serves as the player's tutorial guide throughout the demo, then tells Yumil that he was chosen by the Book, that the world is indeed coming to an end and will be replaced with a new one, and that it is up to our protagonist to use the book to choose exactly what is worth carrying over to the new world. It's a fascinating premise, and one that holds a ton of potential if executed properly.
Next, Yumil (and the player) is introduced to the concept of Code Scan. By using the B button to hit a person, monster, item, etc. with the Book, the code is translated into its pages. The big hook here is that every item is made up of certain types of codes, and they can be moved around and played with to make certain things stronger or weaker. For example, during the demo you have to fight a Goblin. By scanning him, you realize that he is made up of Iron and Justice. However, by removing the Iron component, you can lower his HP considerably. The same can be done with your sword--by removing a certain element, you take the rust off your blade and make it more powerful. There are also things called Metalize Tablets that can be scanned and provide the player with a recipe for a new weapon or item. It isn't present in the demo, but a Nintendo Power article from a few months back also hinted that this system can be used in other ways, such as removing a certain code from someone to cure them of a disease. The whole thing looks and sounds unbelievably cool, and it provides the game with a great hook that gamers should love experimenting with.
Finally, the game gives you a good feel for the action-based combat system. What is presented in the demo isn't overly complex, but it was solid and enjoyable. The X and Y buttons are used to control each of Yumil's twin swords, and if you hit the A button, you can launch into a special move called a Judgement Link. Performing a Judgment Link requires first pushing A, then alternating between the X and Y buttons to try to keep your opponent in the air. Successfully complete a large enough combo and you'll be rewarded with an item. After taking down a small group of Goblins, the demo ends.
Graphically, the game is incredible, which should be no surprise considering just how impressive the Final Fantasy remaked Matrix worked on were. The music was a different story. Perhaps its because the trial version features just a single track, looped over and over, but it grew to be quite annoying during the course of the demo. Hopefully the full version will feature a more extensive and higher quality soundtrack. Avalon Code has been rated E-10 for Everyone 10 & Up, with warnings for Minor Language and Fantasy Violence. It is currently expected to be released in North America by Marvelous Entertainment USA / X-Seed Games on March 10, 2009, but curious gamers with access to a Wii can access the demo right now via the Nintendo Channel.