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Avalon Code is the brain child of Matrix Software. They helped Square Enix with the Final Fantasy rehashes for the DS. It was released by Marvelous Entertainment, well known for their Harvest Moon games. Yes, the two big wigs in DS gaming have joined forces to create something that really should be more awesome than it is. Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible, but it's not as great as I'd hoped either.
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This is pretty cool, actually. The main character, whom you can name (male or female, depending on which you choose) is a poor peasant wandering around the monster infested fields when they are chosen by the Book of Prophecy. Now this is where the saving the world part usually comes in, but not in Avalon Code! No. The world is going to be destroyed and there is nothing you can do about it. Instead, it is the main character's job to record the parts of the dying world that he or she wants to have re-created in the new world. That's right. You record what you see fit and leave out what you don't (although filling up the Book of Prophecy it levels up).
To help along the way are elemental sprites which are bound to the Book of Prophecy. You must find all of the sprites and record the world before it ends.
The story does get a little cliche as it goes on, but as a concept it is still pretty cool.
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While the story has a really good hook, the gameplay is a mixed bag. The best part about Avalon Code is using the Book of Prophecy. In order to record something you have to code scan it (hit it with the book, using the B button, and it will appear on the touch screen). Each item, person or monster you hit has a grid of nine squares which are filled to varying levels with certain attributes. You have an area that can hold four attribute blocks (a group of connected attributes, like three fires or four silvers). Using the book, you can manipulate the attributes of everything to either give monsters less HP or more, help people or power up items. In fact, you don't even really buy items at all in Avalon Code, you just code scan them and you can use them whenever you want. However, you do need MP to manipulate the book, so you can't use it without a consequence.
Unlike the rest of the game, which is controlled by the use of buttons, the Book of Prophecy is controlled soles with the touch screen and stylus.
The only other really interesting thing about the gameplay in Avalon Code is leveling up the Book of Prophecy. You do this by filling up attribute pages and just exploring the environment. This time, when you look around a strangers house you aren't just snooping, you're recording information!
Well, this is an RPG so besides code scanning everything you can get your hands on, you also have to fight. It's real time combat, which is a plus, but the enemies are constantly re-spawning and the amount of attacks you can actually do (even with the addition of special attacks) is pretty limited. All in all fighting seems more like a chore than any fun. The only good part is one of the attacks that allows you to toss enemies into the air to extreme heights, but even that gets old after awhile. Since they made the Book of Prophecy so innovative I wonder why they didn't bother improving the combat aspect, as you have to do a lot of it. It feels like stiff button mashing in the worst possible way.
Dungeons are another huge disappointment in Avalon Code. There are no puzzles to figure out, instead you are locked in a room and the game tells you what to do to get out of it (example: hit all the switches in the room). Yeah, sometimes figuring out how to hit the switches can be minority challenging, but that doesn't make up for the fact that it is very repetitive.
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Graphics and Sound
The graphics in Avalon Code are well rendered and smooth. The characters look and move nicely and the towns look pretty good. However, out on the field the landscapes are boring and repetitive (grass, grass and more grass, I get it!). There is virtually nothing to interact with, besides the occasional flower and lots of monsters. It makes moving from one place to another more of a pain than a joy. A big fat boring pain.
Sound-wise, Avalon Code is pretty impressive. A lot of the dialogue is spoken (and the voice actors do a good job of it) and the music is interesting but not distracting. It's pretty typical sweeping RPG fare, but it never gets old or annoying.
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Yes and no. I really like exploring towns, code scanning and manipulating the attributes of things in the Book. That part feels super innovative and interesting. But then I have to travel someplace else across a long boring landscape riddled with boring monsters I have to button mash to death. Yawn. I would really rather there was no fighting in Avalon Code at all, as it is so unenjoyable. This would have made a much better puzzle game, but I did like it enough to keep playing.
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Avalon Code is a really good effort on the part of Matrix Software. No, it's not perfect, but it's not a horrible game either. Sure, I wish the combat was either much improved or absent, but I can't have everything I want. I don't regret playing it, although I'm not sure if I would do it again. It you want a decent RPG and don't mind button mashing and micromanagement, give Avalon Code a try.