850683_largerI used to love JRPGs. I played all the classics. The Final Fantasies, the Dragon Warriors, the Breath of Fires and the Phantasy Stars. I’ve also played the games that came later, the corrupted blood line of the classic JRPGs that established the clichés that now characterize the genre. The evolution of the JRPG could be likened to a graph with a line that rises steadily over time, peaks for a long while and then descends into a long slow slog into oblivion with an occasional brief spike.

Kemco’s RPG End of Aspiration [$7.99] sits squarely on the downward slope of that graph. It resides at the far right of the bell curve, populating that endless miasma of forgettable games characterized by endless grinding, painful Engrish and clichéd characters. At the risk of being smug, End of Aspiration isn’t just the name of this game, it’s a description of its design. It’s not all horrible, especially if you love JRPGs. The graphics and animations are excellent, and the game is respectably lengthy at around 13 hours to complete the main quest. If, however, you’ve burned out on the genre like I have and are looking only for the occasional high quality release, this definitely isn’t the game for you.

mzl.zzmoxrod

The story is incredibly average and altogether forgettable. Something about an idealistic young woman saving an orphanage and an idealistic young man promoting ethical trade practices and an idealistic martial arts master trying to prevent a rogue student from destroying the world. There are two other characters: an idealistic female martial arts student with no direction in life and a waif of a creature with a caterpillar on her head who must have lost her way during a cosplay event at an anime convention and ended up in this game. Oh, and then there’s the mafia, which is trying to take over the world by turning on some abandoned blenders, toasters and microwaves rusting away in an ancient mechanical city. Yes. The mafia. La Cosa Nostra? The Yakuza? I’m not sure.

mzl.pulwadpeEnd of Aspiration is one long grinding slog for the most part. Battles occur too frequently and take way too long to complete. It wouldn’t be so bad if the length of battles was a result of complicated strategic considerations. It isn’t, especially boss battles. Battles are mostly wars of attrition. With the bosses it’s even worse. I spent 15 minutes whittling away at the obscene number of hit points allocated to one of the mafia bosses on top of a tower. The boss had absolutely no chance of beating me and I knew it. So I spent 15 tedious minutes chipping away at her hit points until, at last, she died.

The dialogue is uninspired and dull although mostly serviceable. The story itself barely moves the game from one uninteresting event to another. As for the game’s use of Engrish, it’s not the worst I’ve seen but it has its fair share of painful moments. My favorite: a young woman who is upset because a local merchants stares at her “busts.” I think she meant breasts because bust is the singular term for two breasts, but who knows, maybe she has four breasts and thus two busts. Or maybe she meant bosoms. Wait….

Combat, which makes up most of the game, is typical JRPG fare. Characters walk across the map until an invisible enemy encounter triggers a switch to a side view combat screen. Combat is turn based. Your characters have physical attacks, magic attacks and special mega-attacks. You’ve seen it all before in every other JRPG you’ve ever played.

mzl.fdtvnvolDungeons are boring and poorly designed. Most of them consist of lengthy twisting configurations that wrap back on themselves or ridiculously long straight corridors designed for the sole purpose of maximizing grinding. The over world map is uninspired and mostly empty. Eventually, you get an airship which allows you to visit other locations but there isn’t much to see. The airship is there just to force you to embark on a quest to reach an otherwise unreachable location. There’s nothing exciting about flying around and exploring because there’s nothing to explore.

There are optional IAPs that provide you access to additional dungeons and special items but honestly I couldn’t be bothered to spend more money on an already boring game. The game has music, and that’s about the best that can be said of the few tunes that sit barely noticed in the background. The battle music is particularly generic and sounds like Kemco took every combat song from every JRPG ever made, threw them into a blender and used the mashed up end result. Same goes for sound effects.

The touch controls are mostly accurate and easy to use. One problem, however, is the D-Pad, which is placed too close to the character menus that you need to touch to administer potions and healing/status spells. You're forced to spend a ridiculous amount of time hunting for the pinpoint touch spot that isn't covered by the D-Pad. The D-Pad can't be moved either.

It’s unfortunate that this game is so bad, because it has a spark of potential in its design framework. The graphics and battle animations are great, at least by 16-bit JRPG standards. It’s almost like End of Aspiration is the shell of a great game that left all the really good parts behind.

It’s tough to fill your JRPG craving these days. There’s the Playstation Vita, I suppose, but I don’t actually know anyone who owns one, and the same goes for the Wii U. Then there’s the Nintendo DS and 3DS, where you’ll find the occasional Tales of Such and Such game once or twice a year. SquareEnix has been doing a pretty good job of rereleasing its flagship titles onto iOS. Then there’s Kemco, which has been releasing new titles on what feels like a monthly basis. Kemco is also aggressive about discounting its games at release and at frequent random times throughout the year. Some of their games are pretty good. Unfortunately, End of Aspiration isn’t one of them.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarNoneNoneNone
  • diaskeaus

    What the heck is with these reviews? Kemco games are no Final Fantasy, but they are cheap, well-designed romps, and generally go on sale for $1. They all have well-designed auto attack systems, with touch movement and engaging personalities.

    My personal beef with JRPG reviews is that ever since Final Fantasy VI, if games haven't match up they've been vilified, but half of the 5-star reviewed games for iOS drive me up the wall with boredom, to the point where when a Kemco game is sold for $1-4 dollars, it is always an insta-buy.

    • MrAlbum

      The core main strengths of a JRPG that I have seen are a.) the immersion of its storytelling and b.) the engagement of its mechanics. These core strengths, however, are very hard to innovate on because they are both a.) old as dirt and b.) vague as all heck.

      Take immersive storytelling. The ability to tell a great story is as old as the human race. We tell and listen to stories since we are infants. There are innumerable ways to tell a story, and multiple ways inside those ways to make the stories immersive.

      So how the heck does a developer improve on immersive storytelling? I have no definitive answer.

      Take engaging mechanics. The general rule of thumb is that if a game is fun, challenging, and/or interesting to play, then its mechanics have engaged the player, because the player got a positive experience out of playing the game in some way, shape or form. However, what about the mechanics was positive for the gamer? The turn-based combat? Interacting with NPCs? Exploring the overworld? Dungeon delving? Haggling with shopkeepers? The list goes on and on, and what is even MORE frustrating is that every gamer will most likely be engaged for different reasons than a second/third/etc... gamer would be.

      So how does a developer improve on engaging mechanics? Again, I have no definitive answer.

      The only thing that I can see that MIGHT help would be to laser-focus each of these extremely broad, vague strengths onto one or two specific things. To consider this, let us take a look at Chrono Trigger:

      Chrono Trigger's main combat gimmick was the Techs that characters could learn. These techs often required not only specific party members, but used multiple characters for each Tech attack, which used those characters' turns. Thus, the combat was a balancing act between using each member independently and doing multiple actions of average effectiveness, and doing a massive whopper-of-an-action with all your party members. By laser-focusing the combat on the Tech attack management, Chrono Trigger brought something fresh and new to the JRPG genre. One could consider this a small improvement, but with a strength as vague as "engaging mechanics", the more specific one becomes, the better.

      Those are my thoughts on the subject of innovation in the JRPG genre. Here is the Tl;dr:

      BE SPECIFIC OR BE GENERIC.

      • C. Stubb

        Actually, the thing about combat in Chrono Trigger that I thought was most innovated is that switching to combat didn't take a flash of light and switch you to some out-of-scale backdrop made to look similar to the current landscape you were in, but instead took place right where the party was standing when the enemies were encountered. Furthermore, rather than the usual left-right split of enemies and heroes, your party usually ended up being right in the thick of things and totally surrounded. Some "techs" (such as Crono and Robo's "Cyclone Sweep") relied on enemies being located close to Robo's on-screen location at the time you wanted to use the "tech".

      • MrAlbum

        Which made the Tech combat all the more complicated to effectively use. I focused on the Techs because that's something the player has control over, with regards to using/not using them. I.E. it was a "combat mechanic". Enemy placement and positioning does make many techs harder to use, but that simply challenges the player to effectively use those techs depending on the battle situation. In short, enemy placement exists to challenge the player's ability to effectively use the techs at their disposal.

        At least, that's how I see it. Great point there!

    • Bool Zero

      Reread your post out loud to yourself, especially that last part and consider the problem with it... If a genre hasn't been able to match or surpass what was once a defining pinnacle of the genre decades ago, then perhaps that is a problem, especially considering how long it has been since FF6 (your example). If you look at other genres you can see games that have debatably pushed their respective genres forward and have had games that have became the new litmus test to beat; even despite perceived over saturation of its respective markets. The JRPG subgenre is one of the few genres that has yet to progress in a meaningful way; yet somehow has managed to make much progression and change in the same instance in a fight it recapture what it has lost. Perhaps because he sub-genre means too many things to too many people and it is too difficult to meet every JRPG gamers expectations. Either way the genre over-saturated itself in the PS2 era and has yet been able to bounce back for a reason...

      • Onikage725

        Over saturation definitely occurred in the PS1 era, especially when one counts what wasn't released here. Heck, allowing imports, that arguably occurred in the 16 bit days. The PS2 era was just the beating of a dead horse.

      • MrAlbum

        Then again, exactly how does that improvement/innovation happen when it is unclear what needs to be improved?

        I'm not saying that the classics are flawless; I'm saying that people are still struggling with what about those classics needs to be better. The best folks have been able to come up with is the ol' chestnut: "iterate with a twist". Since no one can figure out what needs improving, devs who want to make a JRPG often feel that they have to repeat what came before and simply slap some new mechanic on top.

        At least, that's how I feel. If you've read my previous comment, you can see more about how I see the issue, if you are so inclined. It's not perfect, but there may be a good point or two to ponder over.

  • Tyler Piderit

    I find myself struggling to get through even the highest quality JRPGs in my young adult life. Maybe my attention span has completely diminished. I always have the intension of finishing, but barely get a few hours under my belt until something else catches my eye.

    I can't even play through my favorites from childhood anymore and that does make me sad. FFVII, FFVIII, Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, etc. *Sigh*.

    Having a ton of fun playing XCOM on my phone though, and the updated FFT: War of the Lions! Turn-based strategy RPG for the win!

    • RampageDeluxe

      I'm the same way. I think we just have less time than we did as children and are looking for more of a quick fix than a long epic.
      I could be wrong. I have the desire to play them, until I start playing them.

      • Amenbrother

        Wow well said I kind of agree.

    • Greyskull

      I'm older than you...aside from "tactics-based" JRPGs and SRPGs, I haven't gotten through a proper JRPG since before FF7. Finished the first disc of FF7, then died of the boredom of watching a 30 minute death scene of a character I never cared about. At least, back then, I was able to get a refund. A game can have many of the cliches inherent to the genre and still be great, given a strong dose of originality...Valkaria Chronicles on ios, please? :)

    • swatbot

      Personally I just played the genre to death and that's why I got bored of it. After your 50th game with the same mechanics and more or less the same story arc, JRPGs become so predictable that playing them is as about as fun as that job you used to have bagging groceries, unless they hella stand out.he kind of story I consider a 'good story' has changed a lot. a BioWare RPG that is still fantastical but full of subtle commentary on social issues and character motivations holds my attention a lot more.

      I've taken a 10 year break from JRPGs and find that I'm just about able to enjoy some classics again, though. Also, some of my friends rave about xenoblade being the best JRPG in over a decade. Too bad I'd have to buy a Wii just to try that one game.

  • XvEsunavX

    The devs are gonna need some ointment for those burns.

    I feel inclined to agree that I'm more pressed for game time and that factors into appeal. I can no longer buy a new rpg and plow through it in a weekend, or week. In and of itself that isn't a pressing issue, but when my playing is sporadic I sometimes come back to a game lost in what's going on. Couple that with a new title being released and we have a vicious cycle akin to the cycle of abuse. I want to be happy with what I have, I try to make it okay, I feel content with a new title, and it slaps me in the face. Why won't you let me be happy with you? Lol.

  • Bool Zero

    Wow, nice to see I am not alone! I used to love this genre in my youth and even very young adulthood, but admittedly nearing 40, and for the past perhaps decade I can honestly say tat despite my trying, I can't tolerate the genre anymore. I agree with most of the posts here! The sub genre just doesn't enthrall me anymore and I feel that it is partly to do with the genre not growing with its aging demographic and not innovating or enticing a new fanbase. So we have this weird middle ground of a dwindling demographics where old one time fans have left the genre behind, no notable outstanding titles to draw new fans, and a waning existing fanbase that accept passable entrants as great because there is little else to satiate.

    Just my two cents...

  • Onikage725

    I played is game for about a half hour on launch and agree with every word. Not saying everything from this company is bad. I'm not even saying this game is "bad." But it was so average and predictable. When I have XCom, KOTOR, and TWEWY waiting for me mid game, and Tactics Ogre on my Vita...generic JRPG #347 gets voted off the island.

    • saansilt

      No marshmallow for this game.
      It goes on the dock of shame onto to the boat of losers away from the island.
      It can't return. Ever.

  • Flare_TM

    Boobs

    • MrAlbum

      You mean those flightless diving birds with blue feet?

      #rimshot

  • Kirs

    KEMCO: END OF INNOVATIONS

  • diaskeaus

    What I lived about Aspiration, in no particular order:

    1. The IAP is fun: you can purchase IAP, or you can just fish. It takes awhile, but I've managed to unlock most everything in a couple of hours.

    2. Plus, the rewards for IAP has some of the most innovative design I've seen in a long time, including town map unlocks, dungeon map unlocks, and additional features. You can also buy skill slots and really customize each character to your whims, to an extent.

    3. Characterization is very out of the box. There are no shining knights or scared princesses - for example, one character is an immortal who is constantly being discriminated against because she has powers. Another character wears a caterpillar on her head. In general, the characters are all very likable.

    4. There are unlocks for finding all the the monsters, skills, and items - and there are a lot of them.

    5. I also really enjoyed some of the villains, who often seem like they are part if the wrong side and feel regret, but really have no choice in the matter. I found myself utilizing most of the skills in battle in order to defeat some of the bosses.

    6. The storyline's translation is a but wacky, and overall script feels disjointed at times. But overall, I've enjoyed this Kemco offering more than some if the others.

  • diaskeaus

    Lol. Lived = loved.

RPG End of Aspiration Reviewed by David Tibbetts on . Rating: 2