Name: Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A.
Genre: Single Player Role Playing Game
Platforms: Nintendo DS
For those not familiar with the source material, Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. is based on the fourth season of the semi-popular French pseudo-anime, Code Lyoko., which follows the adventures of several high school students who find a way to “virtualize” themselves, transferring their minds and bodes from the physical world to a virtual one called Lyoko. There, they use virtual martial arts, virtual weapons, virtual plug-ins and other virtual items to fight off the virtual forces of virtual evil. Of course, if you don’t already know this, there’s about a 1% chance you’re actually playing the game, so maybe this explanation is unnecessary. That’s the game’s opinion, to be sure, because it starts you off with zero explanation or introduction. We’re very much expected to know who these characters are and what they’re facing off against, and for non-fans of the show, it can be jarring and off-putting.
The game starts you off in your school, where you can talk to teachers and other students by tapping them with the stylus. The conversations you have with the NPCs are generally well-scripted, but have very little to do with the actual story. These are optional, and can certainly be skipped in favor of moving on to the actual gameplay.
At its core, Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. is a traditional RPG. Once your four characters are digitized and sent to Lyoko, you’ll control a super-deformed version of your team’s leader as he walks through a digital “overworld”, randomly encountering monsters as you go. Once in battle, your four warriors use an active battle system where you’ll need to recharge after attacks. It’s not quite turn-based, but not quite real-time either, finding a decent balance that’s reminiscent of the system used in Final Fantasy X. Just like in every rpg ever, you’re able to attack, use spells (called Powers) or items on your turn. There are also spell-like actions, called Functions, which allow players to temporarily increase their stats. Each character has a hit point meter and a Function Point meter (mana), as well as a Tension meter. Getting attacked by enemies will fill your Tension meter, allowing powered-up super attacks. These attacks involve simple, touch screen-based mini-games. For example, the main character, Ulrich, has a special katana attack that requires you to tap three circles in rhythm in order to deliver the maximum damage. It’s a nice feature that helps break up the monotony of pressing attack over and over and over and over…
All of this is pretty standard fare for rpgs, of course, and Code Lyoko doesn’t do much to differentiate itself at all. In fact, there are times that you’ll feel like you’re playing a hastily assembled, poorly made custom dungeon from one of the RPG-Maker games. The only thing that makes this game stand out even a little bit is the touch screen controls, and even they aren’t particularly well implemented. The attack options take up the entire lower screen, forcing your eyes to remain fixed on the touch screen, despite the fact that all the action takes place on the top screen. A setup with your touch-activated characters on the bottom and the enemies on top would have been a far more intuitive and effective interface. As it stands, though, it work well enough, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
Visually, Code Lyoko: Fall of X.A.N.A. is simply awful. There’s no other way to put it; the game is downright ugly. While in school, your hand-drawn 2d classmates look fine, mirroring the show’s art perfectly. While exploring the Lyoko world, however, we’re treated to super-deformed versions of the characters that look nothing like their TV counterparts, and flat, boring, one-color levels that all look exactly the same, just with different colors. You start out on the brown board, and boy, is it ever brown! The next board is the blue board, which is the brown board, except blue. It’s pure laziness, and it actually affects gameplay. There’s no mini-map, and while none of the levels are terribly complex, it is still very easy to get turned around on these flat, monochromatic, featureless expanses. Once in combat, we at least get full-sized versions of the characters, and the look passable, but the enemies you fight are poorly designed and utterly uninteresting.
If you aren’t a fan of the Code Lyoko series, there’s absolutely no reason to play this game. The story is a snoozer, and without previous exposure to the characters and their world, it won’t make much sense. It’s also short, ugly, boring, tedious and unbalanced, and offers nothing new or innovative to the genre. There are tons of better rpgs on the DS, but I suppose fans of the show will want to play through it to see where the story ends. For anyone other than that, this one isn’t close to being worth the price.