With the Nintendo DS there are times where all touch controls are perfectly appropriate, case in point The World Ends With You. And then there are times where it is better to have mainly D-pad controls, like the Castlevania games. And every now and again you get a title that seems to get them all backwards. Such is the case of Summon Night Twin Age from Atlus. You’ve got an RPG that uses touch controls exclusively, which is a departure for the series. Previous titles used a side scrolling, almost fighting game styled battle system, where as Twin Age instead uses a more casual, MMO style of combat. This major departure alone took a great deal of getting used to. And once I did I found it for the most part works out well, but in the end makes the game a lot more sluggish to play, as you’re waiting for things to happen.
Summon Night’s main characters Reiha and Aldo are about to experience a coming of age ceremony, that is cut short (isn’t it always?) by the sudden change in the Spirits that reside in every living thing and is causing all sorts of natural disturbances. The children decide to take up arms to find the cause of the change in the Spirits. It’s all fairly straightforward; you get your story information as you progress in a very linear fashion through chapters. It is a typical J-RPG fare, which is not to say it is a bad thing, it’s just common, and really doesn’t add anything to the DS library that you may already have.
Summon Night Twin Age is a fairly good looking game with large colorful sprites, which makes up for the somewhat bland environment art. Character sprites are fairly detailed and have the typical anime style to them, which is very obvious during story points where their large character sprites take up screen real-estate so they can emote for the story. It’s not like there is anything new here though, it’s just like I said before, common.
Audio is a midi-lovers dream, which is odd considering what the DS is capable of for producing sound. It certainly feels old-school, but it also feels dated, especially considering the some of the musical triumphs of previous titles, like again, The World Ends With You. There is a minimal amount of voice acting that occurs over the course of dialog and gameplay, which for the most part is a blessing and a curse, some scenes get really text heavy, and then there are times where the acting just isn’t really up to par.
At the outset of your adventure you are given the choice on whose story you’d rather follow, either Aldo or Reiha’s. Aside from the point of view of the story this does not change much of the overall adventure, as you are allowed to change characters on the fly during gameplay. This allows for some varied gameplay when it comes to battle.
The battle system plays out like an MMORPG, once you’ve got a target in your sight you tap the enemy on the DS screen, and your character will go after them, slowly dishing out attacks. You can speed this process up by performing the various special attacks which require skill points to perform and slowly regenerate over time, or through the use of items.
The two main characters have distinctly different attack styles. Where Aldo is more of a hands-on character with melee weapons, Reiha is the magician that has a great variety of spells that make good use of the DS control scheme. Aldo’s control scheme is a lot more simplistic, but both characters will have you doing things like tapping out points on the screen or drawing lines to provide a trajectory for the attacks. This keeps you on your toes, but between the time it takes to tap the skill you want to use on the skill bar and then draw it out, it can result in times where you’re taking more damage than really should be necessary.
Character interaction plays a large part in how your party is formed. After a given level you are asked to converse with someone. Depending on how you play the chapter and who you talk to at the end, your other party members will receive support points that will cause them to be more alert and attentive during gameplay and basically improve their AI. So the higher Reiha’s support level may be, the more likely she will be to throw healing spells your way a little bit more often.
Of course these skills mean nothing if they aren’t powered up. In between chapters you are allowed to fill out your skill tree with points gained from leveling up. There are also special skills that are unlocked only when special conditions are met. You can also pick up new weapons or enhance your current stock. Or like in previous Summon Night titles, you can create new weapons and items with the goods picked up over the course of dungeon crawling.
Summon Night Twin Age from Atlus is a fun little diversion, but it is unfortunately overshadowed by some bigger and better talent, namely The World Ends With You. An initially confusing and overall slow battle system keeps this game from being more entertaining, but if you’re starved for something a little more casual and don’t need a massive time sink Summon Night Twin Age has a great pick up and play system with plenty of options when you’re strapped for time. It’s a fun game, but with its battle system, it feels like this belongs back in 2005 shortly after the DS launched. I would have certainly taken this over Lunar: Dragon Song.