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Threads of Fate
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Squaresoft
Publisher:  Squaresoft
Features:  Analog control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  1 block
Squaresoft seems determined to make you forget all about its great Super Nintendo games. Threads of Fate is an action RPG split into two separate storylines with two playable characters. It's also one of the best games for the Playstation this year. Usually 3D RPGs leave me a bit cold with their mainly blocky looking characters and environments, but the characters and environments here are for the most part easy on the eyes and full of life. The game has a relic-hunting quest that owes a bit to the early Final Fantasy games, uses a menu ring system similar to the one in Secret of Mana, and some of the action scenes are a bit similar to Brave Fencer Musashi (without the awful Saturday morning cartoon aftertaste.). But somehow the game doesn't seem very derivative at all. It's nowhere as difficult as Vagrant Story, or as complicated as Saga Frontier 2 or Legend of Mana, but this makes it all the more accessible to anyone looking for a solid, fun adventure game.

You can play as either the shape shifter Rue or the ring-wielding sorceress Mint, and they both have their own motivations in the game. Rue wants the relic in order to bring his guardian back to life, while Mint is out for a little revenge against her hated sister, and then- "It's World Domination Time!" You'd think that with all this drama, the game would be full of the overly bombastic angst and "Why me?" whining that's part and parcel of RPGs. but ToF is full of humor and a nice sense of adventure to go along with its doses of drama. Mint's quest is the fun one, full of pratfalls and magic, while Rue's journey is the more serious of the two. Like in any adventure game, you'll meet a host of non-player characters who'll dole out advice, hints, subquests and even a bit of danger, but here there's a certain style in the game's artwork and animation that gives them a special liveliness.

The two main characters will meet throughout the game in slightly different areas and events throughout the game, so it's actually worth the time to play through both adventures. The cool thing is that if you save the first game to a memory card, and clear it again, you get to start the game over with your characters powered up as they were at the end of the first game! And the gameplay is so great, you won't mind playing this one over again. Although the game world is in full 3D, each area has an invisible boundary, so it's impossible to get lost or stuck, and the game's puzzles aren't too mind-bending. You'll have to use Rue's ability to collect "monster coins" and transform into enemies in order to get through some areas, while Mint prefers the brute force approach her magic gives her. Of course, most of the time she ends up falling on her overconfident face, but like Tron Bonne, Mint is a villain you'll really grow attached to. The small touches of humor in Rue's adventure come from his encounters with Mint, and the impressions some of the other characters in the game have about him.

Speaking of impressions, the graphics are really something special, with an amazing amount of detail all around, and a controllable camera in certain areas. Careful exploration pays off, as in certain locations you'll discover hidden items to aid you in your quest. The control is amazingly precise, and only the terminally clumsy will have any major problems with it. The music is also as rich as the graphics, and if you're into game soundtracks, this is one worth seeking out. Hardcore console RPG players might find the lack of difficulty a problem, but ToF is one of those great games that becomes a joy to play because all the other elements fit together so smoothly. Now that I think about it, forget what I said in the first sentence of this review- Squaresoft is continuing it's tradition of producing some of the best quality RPGs on any home console bar none, and Threads of Fate is one of the best games it's done this year.

Greg Wilcox

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