Review: Eternal Poison

I don’t want to write another post about the House of Night series that isn’t a review. I’m not in the mood to write a post on a serious topic that will devolve into a rant (racism) so for now you get a review of a niche game for the PS2.

A couple of days ago I dusted off my slim PS2. I love my PS2, I still buy games for it (https://www.videogamesplus.ca/default.php) and anyone who got rid of their PS2 is a fool, end of story. Seriously, I was all set to buy a PS3 when I found out it wasn’t backwards compatible. WTF Sony? (I know, something about how the discs are different.)

So anyways, Eternal Poison (Poison Pink in Japan)is a dark fantasy strategy RPG developed by Flight Plan and published by Atlus in North America for reasons known only to Atlus. It’s definitely a W(Weird)idJ(Japanese)eT(Thing) series (as are most games in Atlus’ catalogue) and definitely not for everyone.

The box, unfortunately marred by an orange “soundtrack disc included” bar in person.

In a nutshell, the story is that a princess is kidnapped and it’s up to her fiancee to rescue her from the demonic labyrinth known as Besek….

No, wait, it’s about girl searching for her lost mentor….

No, that’s not right, it’s about a mysterious girl and her antlered wolf friend who are searching for an artifact that the legends say can bestow incredible power on the bearer.

Okay, the truth is that Eternal Poison‘s story unfolds through all of these characters’ stories, so you’ll want to play through all of them to get the most out of it. Fortunately, the campaigns are short (around 20 hours for each) but if this type of forced replaying bothers you, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this game. The other thing about this game’s story is that it’s (purposely) vague, expect to be saying “Who the heck is this person and what do they want?” a lot, because the game doesn’t really explain what’s going on until much later (maybe even around the end). If you’re the type of person who likes to know what’s going on right when its happening, this isn’t the game for you. If you don’t mind a metric ton of mystery, then the story might appeal.

Gameplay-wise, Eternal Poison uses a grid-based system that will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a strategy RPG, characters can choose to attack, use skills or magic, wait or defend, the usual stuff. However, lead characters, via the “Lead” command can also choose to allow characters who have waited to use their turn a chance to move or attack, ideal for trapping an enemy in a pincer formation or delivering a final blow to a near incapacitated opponent.

Another important aspect of the gameplay is the demon capture system. Yes, sometimes Eternal Poison plays like a macabre version of Pokemon. To capture a demon, you need to fill up the overkill meter, which is accomplished by weakening the majin as much as possible, and then damaging the majin by a certain amount beyond what it would take to reduce its hit points to 0 (ie. a majin with 10 hit points and an overkill value of 50 would need to be hit for 60 damage in order to have a chance at capturing it). Once captured, majin can either be summoned in battle (which is, in all honesty kind of useless since you can only keep them on the field for a limited time) or harvested for points that keep majin in the field longer (useless if you don’t use majin) or skills.  It’s a shame its such a pain in the ass to summon captured majin, because deciding whether you need that extra power for your summons or skills could have added an interesting dilemma to the mix, but in practice, unless you’re an idiot or a masochist, it’s best to always go for the skills they can give you.

I should say something about mercenaries and refugees. Mercenaries make up the bulk of your fighting force (in addition to the three story characters). Unfortunately (as with many SRPGs that aren’t Fire Emblem) you never really get to know or interact with them (beyond a few lines about their motivations and some random chatter). Refugees are people you rescue from Besek. If you visit them, sometimes they will give you items, other times they’ll just thank you and leave. It’s worth talking to them on the off chance that they might give you stuff.

By the way, did I mention this game is hard? This game is hard and it WILL punish you for playing sloppily. (Fortunately, there’s no permadeath so allies who are killed in battle are simply removed from play for that fight.) Keeping multiple saves is definitely recommended, as there will be times when the game tries to screw you over (ie. mentioning that you need a particular skill to defeat a boss enemy right AFTER you finished assigning all your skills, or mentioning the way to get a secondary objective in the middle of a round). This kind of fake difficulty is very annoying, so I definitely recommend creating at least two saves per game. This is one game that definitely rewards preparing for fights beforehand, so make sure you have all the items and skills you need, because there’s no going back once you’re out there. The game also does not let you repeat fights, fortunately, your characters gain experience from absolutely everything (dodging an enemy attack, using an item, attacking, healing) so even your healers can level up fiendishly quick.

I would be remiss if I didn’t devote some time to talking about the art. If you’re a fan of ruffles and lace, the art’s got you covered. The monster designs are also very cool (there’s a centaur shark, seriously, a centaur shark, a creature with a horse-like body and a shark head) The cutscenes are fine, but some have admitted being a little creeped out by Thage’s (the blonde girl in the middle) look (one reviewer said she looks like she has Down’s Syndrome). The voice acting is a mixed bag, some of it is good, some of it is tolerable, other times it’s simply grating. The in game walking animation is just….who the Hel thought it was a good idea to have Thage swing her hips like that when she walks?! When you attack an enemy, the game cuts to an animation showing your character attacking. They might be fun to view at first but they do lengthen battles, so if you want something a bit more fast-paced you should turn them off. The environments are interesting even though the maps are small. I also really like the names and descriptions for each level. They have names like “Innocence”, “Misery” and “Stray” (from the path, I’m assuming) and the class names (forget mage and priest, how about Hellcaster and Cursed One?).

Anyways, I guess if you like strategy RPGs, aren’t afraid of a little challenge, and want something a bit darker than your standard fantasy setting, you might like this, and if you like what the characters are wearing on the box, there’s more where that came from. If you’re interested in purchasing it (comes with a lovely artbook and soundtrack CD) you can find it here.

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