Author Topic: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review  (Read 1048 times)

Offline CarolineJohnson

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[NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« on: April 16, 2014, 12:35:08 AM »


RIZ-ZOAWD (JP) / The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road (NA)
System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Media.Vision
Publisher: D3 Publisher (JP) / Xseed Games (NA)
Genre: Turn-based RPG
Release Date: December 25, 2008 (JP) / September 30, 2009 (NA)

I know what you're thinking ("A Wizard of Oz RPG? Is it any good? The other games based on Wizard of Oz are terrible!"). Immediately drop those thoughts and at least take a look at the game. You can't judge a game by the other games based on the same thing. That'd be like calling Final Fantasy IV a travesty because you didn't like Final Fantasy X-2, or calling the Kinect a failure because you played Zumba Fitness once and it sucked.

And hey, you know Xseed releases some pretty interesting games anyway, so it's not like you could ever be disappointed by it.

STORY

The story is basically like the source material, with a bit of a JRPG twist.


The game starts with a somewhat mystifying scene where a witch is writing in a book and coming up with a name for some characters in a story of some sort. However, these characters are revealed by the default names to be our main character and her dog! The game then fades out and goes into a storybook-esque series of images and text telling the story of Dorothy and Toto.

Dorothy is living alone on her late parents' farm with her dog, Toto. One day, the sky grows dark and as the two head inside, a tornado rips through the house and destroys it. They're pulled into the sky with bits and bobs of the house, and Dorothy passes out. She and Toto awaken in a mysterious land next to a road made of golden bricks. Before she can get her bearings, a giant shadow calls out to her and introduces himself as the Wizard.

The Wizard tells her to meet him at his castle just down the yellow-brick road. He gives her equipment to fight monsters and magical ruby red shoes that will allow her to walk on the innately-magical road. Along the way, she makes a few friends: Strawman, Lion, and Tin Man. They join her in traveling to Oz Castle (this game's equivalent of the Emerald City), for they also want a wish from the Wizard (though Tin Man's reasons for following them are unknown, as all he can say is "Hva hva").

After arriving, the Wizard tells Dorothy that he wishes he could help her get home, but the four witches of the seasons are conspiring for the throne. If he leaves the castle, they'll certainly attempt to take it! However, the Wizard tells Dorothy and Co. that if they defeated the witches of the seasons then he will grant each person a wish.

Along the way, you'll meet feline servants of the witches, Cat Hoods, as well as the four unique witches themselves.

GAMEPLAY

The gameplay is highly reminiscent of traditional JRPGs, except for the overworld. Movement on the overworld employs one of the most unique control schemes I have ever seen in an RPG: a virtual trackball. Dragging the trackball causes Dorothy to walk, while flicking the trackball causes Dorothy to run. This is a smooth and fluid control system that, while quirky, is much more interactive than just holding the D-Pad in one direction or touching and holding a specific spot for an amount of time.

Along with this trackball, the camera is also controlled via two left/right buttons on the touch screen. However, I found that you will rarely need to use them as the camera is already pretty good without any input to it whatsoever.

Now, there's also one more thing: a context sensitive action button on the touch screen. You've probably seen this in Zelda games, but this has one more function than just opening treasure chests and selecting the crystal at the end of an area. Why, when you aren't near anything that will cause the button to change function, it will have the picture of a dog. If you poke the button when it shows a dog, you will PET TOTO. While this has no actual significance within the gameplay, it's an interestingly cute way to do things rather than greying out the button when not in use.


In battle, it's pretty much a standard turn-based RPG. The top screen shows the monsters, their health, their monster type, and all of your relevant stats. You have to play out your attacks and your party, as enemies have specific weaknesses a specific character can exploit. For example, Dorothy is strong against ghost-type enemies, Tin Man is strong against plant-type enemies, Strawman is strong against water-type enemies, and Lion is strong against shell-type enemies. Each enemy type is labeled with a very distinct icon that makes it easy to remember what's what.

However, you can't just have all four of your characters out at once. Each character takes up a certain amount of party slots. Dorothy and Strawman both take up one slot, Lion takes up two, and Tin man takes up three...and there are only 4 slots max. You don't necessarily have to plan out in advance who to have in your active party, though. You can switch your party around in the middle of battle with no penalties or used turns, and all four members gain the same amount of EXP whether or not they participated in the fight.

Along with that, you have magical skills that are surprisingly not learned via level up. They're learned by talking to certain characters on the map who ask if you want to spar them. This ensures you don't obtain a skill before you have the stats to use it, and that you can use the skill more than a few times. Doing this is absolutely crucial to succeeding in the game, as potion costs can start really racking up once the game stops babying you and giving you potions every couple of minutes.

One more thing: Gold is rare when you start out. It can be rarely obtained from battling enemies, but as you can only get 1 gold at a time this way, your main source of "income" will be the gold coins left out around the overworld. As far as I can tell, gold on the overworld NEVER respawns, meaning you have to strategize how you purchase things even more than a normal JRPG. To put it into perspective, in my latest playthrough I had somewhere around 20-40 gold by the time I finished the first area. After I prematurely exited the second area to heal and save about an hour into it (I take my time and the areas have a lot of branching paths), I only had around 80 gold. A lot of the equipment is around 50-150 gold.

SOUND AND VISUALS

Now, how can I describe the sound?

The sound is absolutely amazing. Everything sounds so magical, new, and (at times) exciting! Battle sound incredibly exciting and dangerous, while boss battles sound the same times 10. Victory sounds very regal and magical. Each overworld theme is even very unique to each season, using different instruments and genre to give the areas life. While Spring sounds like a light stroll through a field of flowers, Summer sounds like coming out to the beach from an adventure in a jungle. Each song sounds beautifully unique while also sounding like they're songs belonging to the same magical world.

Xseed did a really good job on possibly two of the best things in the game: the vocal themes. The opening theme, RIZ-ZOAWD!, is a beautifully-constructed homage to Over the Rainbow, and maybe even the musical Wicked. The ending theme, Touge no Wagaya, sounds like it connects right back to RIZ-ZOAWD with a similar, yet slower melody. They sound like they should be in the game, while also sounding like they could have been in the original movie had they had English lyrics. Yes, that's right. You heard me. Both songs were not dubbed. When I say Xseed did a really good job, I mean a REALLY good job.

The sound effects are also very good. While Dorothy's footsteps sound like any old footstep noises and the chest opening sounds sound like any old chest opening sounds, the sound that plays when you get a critical hit sounds like an ethereal sword making contact. The sounds of when monsters notice you sound very much like a ghost coming to get you. Even the sounds of defeating monsters are very pleasant, and give the effect of ghouls fading away.

Song Preview 1 - Seasons || Song Preview 2 - Yellow Brick Road || Song Preview 3 - Let's Go to a Magical World
(Note that while in the game, some of these may be toned down to fit what the DS is able to produce, it does not take away anything)


The visuals look as amazing as the sound. As far as I can tell, the visuals probably very nearly max out what the system can produce. You wouldn't expect it at first, but everything has this essence of life and anime-esque beauty to it. Everything from the original story/movie that is in this game has been redesigned very pleasantly and colorfully. The hard work put into this game shows even in screenshots which, while they don't look bad, it's definitely a running theme of the system that the games look much better in motion.

It's easy to identify exactly what everything is, and nothing looks particularly blocky like what is normal for games on the system. Textures do not overlap and warp when the camera moves. The whole game has a sense of depth to the graphics that you'd think it was originally produced for the 3DS and then moved to the DS. Character animation is very smooth, to the point that it looks like Dorothy smoothly flaps her arms like a bird when she runs.

The colors are also very bright and varied. You can easily tell Dorothy, Toto, monsters, and important landmarks apart from the area, and it's almost always very easy to see where walkable areas are. It seems like the visuals were carefully and lovingly crafted to give the idea of a fun, magical, happy experience.




STORY: 9/10
GAMEPLAY: 9/10
SOUND: 10/10
VISUALS: 10/10

TOTAL: 9.5/10
« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 04:17:34 AM by CarolineJohnson »

Offline NekoJonez

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Re: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2014, 04:40:43 PM »
;w; Another game on my must play list. DAYUM. It's too long.

Great review Inu!

Offline CarolineJohnson

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Re: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2014, 07:00:54 PM »
Lemme just edit a couple of song previews and videos into the review, since I just remembered that one of the better videos shows the game at half-speed for no apparent reason, and Youtube DOESN'T have more than 3 songs from the game.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 07:18:34 PM by CarolineJohnson »

Offline Cupcake Fury

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Re: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2014, 07:42:36 PM »
The game looks pretty good o-o
EDIT: The music is awesome :O

Offline NekoJonez

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Re: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2014, 09:32:54 PM »
Note: I'm fine with the music links.

Offline Joel16

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Re: [NDS] The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Review
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2014, 09:51:24 PM »
Nice review, the game looks pretty good.