Platform: Wii, PS2 (Reviewed on Nintendo Wii)
I really don’t even know how to start, other than saying I have never been so severely disappointed in a game I was looking forward to reviewing in my entire time at Gamervision. Oh, I’ve played some stinkers, that’s for sure, but Baroque? An Atlus RPG for the Wii? This game should have been everything I wanted. Instead, it was a whole lot of garbage.
In Baroque, you take the role of The Protagonist, a nameless, speechless, amnesiac guy. Aside from that totally original characterization, there is almost nothing known about Protagonist. He apparently committed some kind of sin that he can’t remember, yet still feels guilt. The point of his quest is to journey into the Neuro Tower and atone for his sin, while saving the meta-beings.
Does that make any sense to you? Me either. Atlus is known for some pretty weird stuff (teenagers shooting themselves in the head repeatedly, some rather unflattering portrayals of religious figures), but this game is a mess from the very start. Maybe it’s the complete absence of story that caused me to lose interest almost instantly. Unless you’ve been following this game through development (which I did, sadly), you’ll be even more clueless about what’s going on than I was.
While you start out in some kind of outer world with no instructions on where to go or how to defend yourself, you’ll soon wander directly into the Neuro Tower, which is where you’re eventually supposed to end up. The problem is, there’s actually a training dungeon available that you should probably head to first. Too bad the Neuro Tower is directly in front of you when you start playing, while the training facilities are off to the side somewhere. Brace yourselves, because Baroque only gets more nonsensical as the game goes on.
For example, when you do actually find the training dungeon after meeting a quick and painful death in the Neuro Tower, you’ll find Coffin, who guards the training area. He also likes to use the word “goddammit” in literally every sentence, some of which are not translated too well from their original Japanese. Also in the outer world, you’ll find Archangel, who hands you a pitiful excuse for a weapon and tells you to go into the Neuro Tower. Why? Who knows?
The Neuro Tower is, essentially, a many-storied dungeon that gets darker and harder as you journey downward. You’ll encounter enemies like floating fish, weird shell creatures, annoying little bugs of some sort, and what look like baby sumo wrestlers, among others. A variety of crappy weapons are scattered about the Neuro Tower to use against foes (the weapon given to you by Archangel runs out of ammo in about five minutes), so you’ll usually end up beating these creatures with a stick until they die or, if you have no weapon, punching and kicking them.
There are some intriguing moments in Baroque, which usually occur when you encounter another character in the tower. It’s rarely enough to make you feel like the story is progressing, though. The time between these moments is filled with complete and utter mediocrity, which you’ll spend picking up random items off the ground and hoping that one of them will help you when you get triple-teamed by poisonous shell monsters.
The Neuro Tower wouldn’t be nearly as unpleasant if the combat was enjoyable, since that is how the majority of gameplay is spent. However, the fighting is just terrible. Attacks are mapped to the Wii remote, so you can either shake the remote or push a button to attack. A targeting system makes the combat a little easier, but it’s not at all deep: target, attack until dead, repeat. Also, if you happen to get killed, you wind up back outside the Neuro Tower, stripped of any levels or items you may have gotten, which is ridiculously frustrating.
It’s easy to see that Baroque was going for a distinct and unique art style, but unfortunately it has none of the graphical appeal that some previous Atlus games had. The weird, grainy look makes it seem more like something is wrong with your TV than an artistic vision. There’s just nothing stellar about the way this game looks. Dungeon floors are mostly bare and empty, devoid of serious details, and the characters themselves are not memorable in any way.
Baroque was such a personal disappointment because I am constantly singing the praises of Atlus and their games. I’m obviously not a blind fangirl, but I’ve had such good experiences with their games in the past, it’s hard to imagine how they could go so terribly wrong. Perhaps the fact that they only produced this game, not developed it, had something to do with it. However, Baroque was so not fun that I’m now doubting all of the upcoming Atlus games I was previously looking forward to.
If a dungeon-crawler with mediocre graphics, terrible combat, annoying characters, and no story sounds appealing to you, then you should definitely run right out and buy this game. However, in all seriousness, I can’t even recommend this at the “budget” $40 retail price. There’s nothing to draw you into this game, even if you’re a crazy Atlus fan, and no reason to play it unless you’re being forced to. I honestly wish I could say more positive things about this game after all of the raving about Atlus that I do, but I really can’t. Just stay away.