Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Review (Nintendo DS)
Based on the latest film in the popular Chronicles of Narnia series, this Disney published game is a traditional RPG for the Nintendo DS. Can it duplicate the success of it's source material?
Based on the tremendously successful motion picture, which in turn was based on the C.S. Lewis novel of the same name, Chronicles of Narnia: Price Caspian for the Nintendo DS is a traditional turn-based roleplaying game developed by Fall Line Studio and published by Disney Interactive. The book is legendary, and the movie was both a critical and financial success in theaters, so this little handheld RPG had a tremendous pedigree to live up to. Unfortunately, despite being a decent enough game, this version of the Prince Caspian game fails to equal the high standards set by its source material, and likely will wind up lost amidst a crowd of far better Nintendo DS RPG titles.
The game loosely follows the plot of the most recent Chronicles of Narnia film, focusing on the struggle of the titular Prince Caspian, the Pevensie children and an alliance of Narnians as they battle the ruthless King Miraz and his Telmarine troops. Some additional content has been added to lengthen the game and allow for more action, but it doesn't really detract from things too much. Interestingly enough, during certain moments the game will prompt the player to turn the DS sideways, like a book, and read pages that advance the story to the next playable bit. Personally, I like the approach, and it'd be nice to see more games take advantage of it. Also helping the plot along is the Journal section of the menu, which keeps track of the events as they happen and helps players remember where they are in the game and what they need to do next. All in all, Prince Caspian is a solid effort story-wise.
Graphics and Sound
While the characters and environments aren't as large, lush or detailed as a game like Final Fantasy IV they aren't bad. My initial reaction was that the visuals and character models weren't much better than the old action-RPGs for the Game Boy Advance, but they are much clearer and easier to look at. Also, the top screen shows maps, character portraits and text. The maps are workable, if a bit on the plain side, and the portraits are of varying quality, with some (Caspian) looking outstanding and others (the Pevensie boys) looking rather ghastly. Battle graphics are decent as well. In terms of music and sound effects, I suppose it's a solid effort, but the score reeked of a generic attempt to make something that sounded rather "fantasy-ish". On the whole, the audio and visual aspects of the game kind of left me lukewarm, and only able to award an average score.
As mentioned above, this is a turn-based RPG, so anyone familiar with the genre should already know the basic concepts: move around maps, fight enemies, complete quests, level-up, find treasure, rinse and repeat. Movement can be controlled by using either the directional pad or the touch screen, and likewise many other aspects of the title can be controlled either with the buttons or the stylus. The inventory screen is done up Diablo style, with a drag-and-drop type menu for various items. There are, thankfully, no random encounters; all enemies are visible on the map, so you always know when you're about to enter battle and can avoid fights as necessary.
Once engaged in combat, the player's party stands on the right, and their opponents will be on the left. To fight, the gamer needs to touch a character, then touch the foe they wish to attack. That will initiate one of several touch screen minigames, based upon the weapon wielded by the attacker. For example, sword users need to trace slashes across the screen, while for magic attacks the player must complete a version of connect the dots without lifting the stylus and for firing a bow and arrow, the gamer must use the stylus to pull back on a bowstring, aim, and hit a small target on the touch screen. It's an interesting gimmick, but it slows down combat too much for my tastes and really gets tedious after a while.
Looking at the total package, I can't help but shake the feeling that while this is a technically solid package and does include some unique gameplay elements, it just cannot compare to some of the truly great roleplaying games that companies like Square Enix or Atlus have already released on the Nintendo DS. Having to complete a touch-screen minigame for every single attack is overkill, and the game is lacking much of the character customization and overall gameplay depth typically found in these kinds of games. Players can unlock honors and items for use in Disney's DGamer online service, but truthfully I can't see too many people caring about that. The story isn't bad, but given a choice between playing the DS game or watching the Prince Caspian movie, the film will win every time, hands down. Thus, what you're left with is a rather average RPG that is not as entertaining as other games on its chosen system, nor is it as entertaining as the book or movie upon which it's based. With that in mind, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian just isn't the kind of game that we can recommend.