If you’re in any respect conversant in Utawarerumono, you would possibly learn the above headline and wish to chide me. “Of course Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen‘s the best start point! It is literally the start point!”
You’d be completely appropriate. Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen is a remake of the unique 2002 PC sport. And now, it’s been formally localized into English for the first time by NIS America, becoming a member of its two-part sequel, Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth. (Those had been localized and revealed underneath Atlus USA). Unfortunately for authentic followers, Prelude to the Fallen arrives in 2020, three years after the 2017 launch of the opposite two titles, placing it in “prequel” territory, so far as many gamers are involved.
Regardless, its presence is welcome, because it makes for a superb opening act to the now-multipart Utawarerumono saga. The character of its writing and the richness of its world hasn’t diminished within the intervening years, and the expertise of taking part in it retroactively elevates the sequel duology. Putting issues plainly: If you wish to begin with Utawarerumono, you could have each motive–for good and for sick–to begin right here.
For the uninitiated, the Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen remake works in roughly the identical manner Yakuza Kiwami did for the unique Yakuza sport. Just as Kiwami rebuilt the story of the primary sport within the engine and with mechanics drawn largely from Yakuza 0 (itself a real prequel), Prelude to the Fallen adapts the unique narrative and visuals of Utawarerumono and plugs them into the battle system used for the Mask duology. Players who’ve tried these video games will discover Prelude‘s mixing of linear visible novel with occasional turn-based tactical battles immediately acquainted. If something, the battles are somewhat too acquainted, and after practically 120 hours of taking part in by means of it within the sequels, I discovered them equally perfunctory, regardless of the spectacular effort that went into animating flashy assaults and combo motion pictures. They do no less than break up the in any other case never-ending tide of narrative, although.
Then once more, the narrative isn’t all that tiring. Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen is a simple, however partaking and heroic story. A anonymous man wakes up in a bucolic village, remembering nothing of the world and even his personal identification. Permanently grafted to his face is a fearsome metallic masks, its origins much more mysterious than his personal. Caring for him are the inhabitants of Utawarerumono‘s world: A various array of what are greatest described as “anime people with animal ears.” Before lengthy, the anonymous man is given a reputation, “Hakuowlo.” and making his manner within the new world brings him into an escalating sequence of conflicts, as he tackles threats to himself, his household, his nation, and extra past.
That all sounds a bit generic, admittedly, however Utawarerumono sells its distinctive setting properly. Taking mild inspiration from the visuals and language of Japan’s indigenous Ainu individuals, the sport sports activities an aesthetic that appears unique, even to its authentic Japanese viewers. Terminology and naming specifically don’t sound notably “Japanese,” as is popularly understood. That stated, although these influences are largely stored superficial; they do the job of constructing the sport’s setting and world stand out from the group of much less distinctive fantasy motifs.
But if the visuals are the hook, the road and sinker are the sport’s energy with regards to characterization. All the principle forged members, from the caring Eruru, the quiet tiger-whisperer Aruru, the hot-blooded swordsman Oboro and the stoic Benawi, develop from their fundamental archetypal personalities into deep, diverse people over the handfuls of hours it’ll take to run by means of the sport. Almost everybody will get a chance to shine, and gamers will come to see the forged as a misfit household of kinds. There’s squabbling, idle chatter, hilarious squabbling and hi-jinks, and typically bloody fight (thanks, Karulau!) to energy the group by means of conditions starting from a hunt for scrumptious honeycombs to reckoning with what occurs whenever you discover out God is actual and pissed off. That all that is totally voiced by plenty of extremely succesful Japanese voice actors is simply icing on the cake.
If there’s one unlucky wrinkle to the writing’s energy at drawing endearing relationships, it’s that a few of these relationships carry unlucky baggage. After all, Utawarerumono was initially developed as an grownup sport, and although this model is an all-ages one, there are clearly scenes in place that had been initially meant to culminate in horny occasions with Hakuowlo. This provides a extra eyebrow-raising edge, contemplating some characters are framed and written as significantly extra childlike. I discovered myself eager to ask Hakuowlo “Hey, are these your daughters or your wives?! Please pick one and behave accordingly!” While I’m hardly a prude, it’s telling that the sequels, which had been developed first for consoles as all-ages titles, don’t endure the identical points with the character relationships. I can solely conclude that the urge to incorporate adults-only content material has, on some stage, compromised a few of the character dynamics in Utawarerumono.
Another wrinkle could also be extra related relying in your prior relationship with the Utawarerumono franchise itself. Players who performed by means of Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth first will possible have plenty of main reveals already spoiled. The localization is tough in spots, with awkward phrase decisions and a few uncommon turns of phrase that basically may’ve used a pair extra passes with QA or an editor earlier than being accepted. Mechanically, I discovered a few of the adjustments put into place for Prelude to the Fallen‘s battle system to be a step backward from the best way issues had been accomplished within the Mask titles. It felt prefer it took longer to cost as much as the flamboyant final assaults, and it additionally felt prefer it took too lengthy to stage characters to some extent the place they unlocked their longer assault strings. Given that the sport is perhaps 10% battles at greatest (with the remainder of the time being taken up by engrossing visible novel stuff), it was sufficient to make me bump the issue down and largely ignore the non-obligatory coaching and free battle modes.
Nevertheless, Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen helped reaffirm my affection for the sequence, one thing that had grown fuzzy in my thoughts since taking part in the wonky fan translation a few years in the past. The adjustments made replace the sport for a brand new viewers, and it’ll be a prolonged, rewarding expertise for anybody who desires to attempt it out, although completely new readers will get essentially the most out of beginning with it.
Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen is offered on PS4 and PS Vita. It releases on May 26, 2020.