Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD

You know, I haven’t played JRPGs in a long time. In fact, the last one I invested any real time in was Final Fantasy XII. I kind of miss playing those types of games though, and when I was given the task to review Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey (the developer may be based in France but the main writer for the game is Kazushige Nojima, who wrote several Final Fantasy titles, and the style is very reminiscent of other JRPGs so I’m counting it as one), I thought that the game might rekindle my interest in the genre. Sadly, this wasn’t a good game to help me re-acquaint myself with the genre because, well, it kind of sucks.


The combat system is easy to use and is a nice change of pace from the usual text-heavy menus you see in other JRPGs.

At first glance, Zodiac seems to hold great potential. For one thing, the game looks gorgeous. I’m serious, look at the screenshots; with beautiful colors and an impressive amount detail you can’t deny that this game looks damn good. The environments and monster designs are particularly are well done.

The other promising feature that this game offers is its intuitive battle system. Instead of text-heavy combat menus you would see in something like Final Fantasy, you choose what your characters do by dragging and dropping icons that represent an attack or action towards enemies or allies. If you need to remind yourself of what actions these icons represent, all you have to do is press the character icon on the bottom of the screen to look up the info.

Sadly neither of these features are enough to save this game from its own mediocrity. One of the main problems is how poorly executed the main story is, which can be attributed to a couple of factors.

One of the biggest reasons I found the game’s story (as well as its atmosphere) uninteresting was the lack of voice acting. Most of the dialogue is told in-game or through an occasional cut scene and none of the characters actually speak, even during pivotal scenes. I would be more forgiving if this only applied to dialogue outside of major plot events, but this is not the case. It’s boring to watch characters carry out long conversations in-game, and it’s even more boring and at times awkward during cut scenes when characters are talking to each other with only subtitles telling you what they’re saying.

Zodiac also does this really weird thing where it cuts away from what you’re doing to show a cut scene of an important event relevant to the plot happening elsewhere. It’s not like this couldn’t work, but it’s done in such a random and jarring way that it breaks up the pacing in the story. Speaking of the cut scenes, they don’t look nearly as good as rest of the game, mainly due to overly-simplified anime-look of the characters, which contrasts to how detailed they look in the rest of the game.

The gameplay elements, besides the combat, are mundane at best. Exploring levels feels sluggish since your character can’t move all that fast, and despite some items to collect, NPCs to talk to, and some side quests to engage in, it gets boring really fast.

The side quests, by the way, seem kind of pointless since the rewards are usually not all that great. Sure you get a bunch of gold and some items, but considering how quickly you’ll accumulate gold from combat, why bother? The quests usually consist one of the following: fighting off monsters, solving rudimentary puzzles, or some sort of fetch quest, and they don’t really add anything fun to the game. After a certain point, I just didn’t bother anymore.

With gold you gain from combat, main quests, and side quests, you can spend it at the big city (known as Arcon City) on weapon and armor repairs, new items, and upgrades. You can also craft new items with raw materials you gather throughout the game. This is an extremely important mechanic in the game, which is why I’m baffled as to why the tutorial didn’t really spend time on it. The combat mechanics, skill tree, and most other important mechanics are explained in detail, so why isn’t buying and selling discussed? It was only after I realized I had accumulated all this gold and had no idea where to spend it did I think that maybe look for where the shops are. While I was able to find these shops fairly quickly, someone else who’s never played any type of RPG may never think to look at all. Why game? Why didn’t you explain this? You can’t just assume everyone who’s playing is going to figure all this out on their own.

Besides all the problems with the gameplay and the story, there are also technical issues with Zodiac. While playing, the game froze on me four times. I had to close the app entirely and reload it just to continue playing. Most iOS games I’ve played over the years crash once in a while, but I’ve only played this for about three days and it’s froze more times than any other game I’ve played on my iPhone. It’s really frustrating, and I hope Kobojo fixes this in the next update.

I wish Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey was a better game. I was really looking forward to something that could rekindle my interest in JRPGs, but sadly there’s way more style than substance here and it really impedes my enjoyment. Even the one gameplay element that’s competently executed, the combat system, gets mundane after a while. It may be intuitive and easy to use, but I found myself sticking to the same attacks and combat strategies for fighting enemies (except the bosses) I faced. There’s really nothing besides the visuals that really stand out in this game. It’s an underwhelming experience, and if you’re looking for a good JRPG title, you’re better off looking elsewhere.