Resonance of Fate is the RPG You Should Have Played Over Final Fantasy XIII

... And now that it's on PSN, there's never been a better time to check out one of the best console RPGs you might have missed.

Critique by Bob Mackey, .

Time, unfortunately, comes in a finite supply. And, in the world of video games, nothing underlines this fact more than trying to decide which RPG will consume your dwindling hours.

This scenario stood as the trickiest dilemma facing the audience for 2010's Resonance of Fate (originally titled "End of Eternity" during its Japanese release), which launched just a week after Final Fantasy XIII in the United States. It's unlikely this unknown quantity with a generic JRPG name would have taken the console world by storm, but it didn't stand a chance next to one of the most long-awaited games of the last generation. Finally, Final Fantasy would come to life on HD consoles—and we'd been waiting for nearly four unbearable years for it to happen.

Resonance of Fate's Vashyron is still dealing with the fact that "Vashyron" is one of the dorkiest names ever.

History has been written, and, unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII won't ever rank in the top RPGs of all time. It represented Square's initial inability to come to terms with the demands of a new hardware generation, and XIII's fugitive plotline seemed like nothing more than a flimsy excuse to string along a collection of HD assets that had no real connection to each other. Though its battle system provided a revolutionary twist on the typical turn-based Final Fantasy encounters, at best, XIII felt improvised, rather than a team's fully formed idea come to life.

So if you happened to miss Resonance of Fate during Final Fantasy XIII's cycle of hype, then backlash, then backlash to the backlash, I won't blame you. Resonance would have been off my radar completely if it didn't show up in my mailbox for the sake of a freelance review back in March of 2010. In the end, I gave it a C+, which I consider one of my biggest mistakes as a critic. Before I became a massive fan of the Souls RPG series, which features a similarly hands-off style of player guidance, I faulted Resonance for having an overcomplicated battle system that didn't bother to explain itself very well. I focused on this initial frustration, and downplayed all the fun I had following the 10 hours Resonance's battles had me stymied. Now, in those precious few moments the game comes up in conversation, I have nothing but good things to say about it—and if any of you Metacritic people are willing to let me take a mulligan, I'd like to bump that score up to at least a B+.

If the comparisons between Resonance and FFXIII seem unfair, I'm not trying to pick on the latter—it's just odd these two RPGs came out so close together and have a completely different take on the genre. Final Fantasy tried to modernize, but the game's approachability led to a battle system that unfolded much too slowly. Resonance, however, has one of the most complex battle systems a JRPG has ever seen, and isn't shy about shoving all of its ideas in your face immediately. And your only assistance comes in the form of (optional) poorly worded tutorials that do their best to summarize the rules and their many contingencies. In all fairness to Tri-Ace, teaching players this system through words alone seems like a nearly impossible task—like any good board game, it's best learned through action rather than study.

And Resonance of Fate's battle system stands as the biggest highlights of the game: It feels kind of like Valkyria Chronicles', but with a faster pace, a bigger emphasis on teamwork, and many more variables that can affect the outcome of battle. The game uses a lot of its own lingo, so stick with me on this: Resonance's battles mainly involve successfully performing enough Hero Actions—a run-and-gun attack that sends you to a chosen location on the battle map—to unlock a combo attack that lets you circle enemies and blast away with your entire party at once. And just how you attack these enemies can greatly affect your rewards: Juggle them into the air long enough, and if they reach a high enough point, you're given the chance to stop a meter in the right location and keep them in the air for even longer. Knock an enemy into the air, then jump, and shoot from above them, and you'll smash them into the ground, which yields plenty of treasure. Though it's easy enough to rely on the cycle of Hero Action-combo-repeat, Resonance's battlefields offer plenty of variables to shift strategies, like changes in elevation, explosive environmental objects, and even cover to hide behind. Enemies can also have many parts, so taking them on effectively often involves figuring out the way to reach their most vulnerable areas without disrupting your plan of attack.

For me, an RPG lives and dies by it battle system, which is why I recommend Resonance so wholeheartedly. Even when I reached the final boss, the fighting failed to grow old, mostly because the game makes you feel absolutely awesome for playing well. If you know what you're doing, it's possible to completely wipe the floor with enemies on your first turn, and dispatching them stylishly brings in some great rewards. These feed into Resonance's character customization system, which allows you to build the insanely improbable gun of your dreams—if one scope gives you greater accuracy, why not add five? The world map also allows for customization, as you can't make progress until you earn the properly colored hexes to build a path to treasure or an out-of-the-way dungeon. Compared to Final Fantasy XIII's static world of colorful tubes, Resonance of Fate almost feels like SimCity.

I didn't say much about Resonance's plot, but that's because it's a game that's mostly held aloft by its interlocking mechanics and systems. That said, the story borders on forgettable, but thankfully Resonance understands its strengths, and the narrative never feels overbearing—though, as expected, it tends to oversexualize its entirely-too-young female lead too often (her most expensive costume essentially gives your battles endless panty shots). Even with these minor flaws, Resonance feels like an excellent throwback to those wild RPGs of the PlayStation era, where developers were suddenly given a CD's worth of space after years of being inured to limitations of cartridges, so they tried out any crazy idea they could think up.

To be honest, PSN's asking price of $19.99 for Resonance may be a little much: It's definitely worth the money, but, from an economical standpoint, it seems the people who would have paid that much for this game would have done so a long time ago. Still, if you're counting down the days to the next big console RPG release, Resonance of Fate is a great way to pass the time. And hey, Square essentially hired Tri-Ace to fix the further installments of Final Fantasy XIII, so Resonance's retail failure doesn't have the worst ending possible. Still, it'd be great for more people to know about this deep, quirky RPG that Sega dropped into the world at the worst possible moment.

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Comments 20

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  • Avatar for TheDarkKnight9113 #1 TheDarkKnight9113 4 years ago
    This game is in my backlog and I was worried about the battle system, Thanks for alleviating my worry.
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  • Avatar for Viewtifulzfo #2 Viewtifulzfo 4 years ago
    You sold me on the game back in the 1UP days, actually! I'm happy to see it get more love than it did upon release. It's pretty satisfying to do battles in one turn because you had the right approach, and it takes a while to reach that zen-like state of being able to take all factors into accounts, but it feels complicated for good reasons.

    Course, a physical copy costs the same nowadays as the PSN release!
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  • Avatar for scarritt #3 scarritt 4 years ago
    I picked up a physical copy of this the other day. I'm enjoying it so far, but I'm struggling to wrap my head around the intricacies of the battle system; like you said, Bob, the tutorials don't do a very good job of explaining the game. I'm still not quite sure what makes my hero gauge run out. But the main reason I got it was based on your recommendation on a recent episode of
    Retronauts, and I'm looking forward to tackling the systems.Edited September 2014 by scarritt
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  • Avatar for TernBird #4 TernBird 4 years ago
    Every time I see this game in GameStop, I feel bad for not picking it up.
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #5 Kadrom 4 years ago
    Platinum'd it back when it came out. I'm a huge tri-Ace fan and this is my 2nd fave game of last gen next to Dark Souls. I've razzed you a few times for the C+ but I can't fault people for being baffled by the battle system at first. It's worth the climb though for sure.
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  • Avatar for SigurdVolsung #6 SigurdVolsung 4 years ago
    I did enjoy Resonance a lot, I remember seeing it back on 1up and deciding to pick it up. But frankly I am a huge fan of FFXIII, and I enjoyed all 3 installments of that more than Resonance. The first installment of 13 was my least favorite of the trilogy, however it shines at the end, after you have beaten everything else in the game and you unlock all the optional hunts and ultimate weapon creations. At that point their original vision of the combat system truly shines. I bring this up because I consider that to be a similarity with this game. Initially the combat system seems to be a problem, but the more you get into it, and the farther you get into the game, the more the combat truly shines.
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  • Avatar for thewonps #7 thewonps 4 years ago
    I need to revisit this game. I remember being unable to advance past the second dungeon. Stupid donut cops! Yes this game has donut cops.
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  • Avatar for fal_82 #8 fal_82 4 years ago
    heheeh I actually disliked you Bob when you gave ROF a C! I bought the game 8 months after FF13 released. Sure I havent finished the game and its in my backlog but yea it is a fantastic game fer sure!!
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #9 SatelliteOfLove 4 years ago
    There's a ton of console JRPG names that fit where "FFXIII" exists in that sentence. :P

    But RoF had a couple problems for me: wierd-in-an-unfun-way cutscenes and how the combat boiled down into the same "triangle" offensive manuever.

    I did like the characters both in design and dialogue when they weren't being forcibly goofy, and the sense of place the game cultivated used the linear, restricted nature of the locale rather than imprisoned by it (Dragon Age 2 suffered from this too).
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  • Avatar for tylerclarke00 #10 tylerclarke00 4 years ago
    I own the game, and bought it cheap a year after Final Fantasy XIII came out. And no I shouldn't have picked this game up over XIII, XIII was still the better game.

    Resonance had better characters, but that's because it was truly only working on three. While the game-play was fun, it was extremely repetitive, to be able to move on the over-world required a ton of grinding which was ridiculous, you were easily out-leveled in too many situations (even after grinding for a ton of parts to move on the over-world), and the weapon upgrades didn't feel like they did hardly anything for you.

    I'm still half way through the game but I don't want to pick it up again just because of the ridiculous amount of road blocks keeping me from completing the game. :/
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  • Avatar for Stevegasm #11 Stevegasm 4 years ago
    I bought this game instead of FFXIII back then. Loved the game. After playing FFXIII a few months later (my younger brother bought the game), I have zero regrets, aside from the one I think you mentioned in a podcast back during the 1up days. After playing ROF, it's hard to get into any other JRPG. The complexity and depth of the game's systems is such that everything else seems overly simple.

    I often see brand new copies of this game in bargain bins, more the PS3 version than the 360 for anywhere from $10 to $20 depending on the store.
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  • Avatar for daysofstatic65 #12 daysofstatic65 4 years ago
    The excellently choreographed combat is reason enough to adore this game. Also, thank you for spending the time to promote Resonance of Fate.
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  • Avatar for DogNozzle #13 DogNozzle 4 years ago
    This is one of those games that has a lot of really good points, and some really bad ones as well. I had a great time playing it, but I don't think I ever really had a clue what was going on in the story. I think that if the game had been hyped, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it so much, but it's one of those games that sneaks up on you by being better than it ought to be, and just having a lot of personality.

    The Mr. Potato Head style weapon customization is also the best kind of ridiculous.
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  • Avatar for JyakotuKurayami #14 JyakotuKurayami 4 years ago
    I'm one of the rare few FF fans that actually enjoyed the XIII trilogy of games. Once you disable the cursor being on AutoBattle automatically and actually input the commands manually, the first FF13 had a very fast ATB system that I enjoyed. RoF looks interesting, but nothing about it grabbed my immediate interest. I have a friend who owns it, so I may borrow it from him one of these days.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #15 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    @JyakotuKurayami You're not rare, despite the vocal minority on the internet. I think a lot of people enjoyed the XIII games. They did sell very well and were all very interesting games... I am sure a lot of people enjoyed them.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #16 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    So Bob, although it leaves a slight distaste in my mouth that you're praising Resonance of Fate by bashing FFXIII, still I really appreciate this article. It's wonderful to hear you admit that you regret the score you gave it, I love that kind of thoughtfulness from a critic.

    I want to ask you... was this article born from the Retronauts podcast where you talked about RPG Battle Systems? In that podcast, you mentioned how much you loved the battle system in Resonance, and after praising it for awhile you mentioned that you gave initially it a C. I couldn't help but notice that you seemed a bit regretful when you said that, and I wonder if you decided to write this article at that moment?
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  • Avatar for moush #17 moush 4 years ago
    If you can put up with hours of grinding in true JRPG fashion with a clunky battle system and cliched anime characters/story, go ahead and give it a try.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #18 bobservo 4 years ago
    @lonecow I did earn a lot of money, but the only reason I bought the outfit was because I bought ALL of them and I wanted to know why that one was so expensive.

    In terms of sexualization, there's a shower scene, and an entire mission where you essentially use her as creep-bait. It's not enough to turn me off, but I'd rather it not be in the game.
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  • Avatar for Arvis-Jaggamar #19 Arvis-Jaggamar 4 years ago
    I might be one of the biggest Final Fantasy fanboys in the universe and I will say that I bought Resonance of Fate the day it came out and have yet to own a copy of Final Fantasy XIII.

    That being said, I have yet to finish RoF, but it's near the top of my pile of shame.

    I should also point out that I have played and beaten FFXIII and really enjoyed it. But I tend to buy games on release if I feel like they really need the support, which I knew FF did not. Not only that, but I felt compelled to withhold my support from Square because I was not a fan of the direction they were taking both their business and the FF series.

    RoF could really use a sequel, or another game that uses its battle system as a foundation.

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  • Avatar for mike-knew #20 mike-knew 4 years ago
    For some reason, I remember deciding not to buy this game... Why was that again? Oh yeah! I read the review on my favourite website, (may it rest in peace). I've been on a search for any jrpgs from last gen, so I recently picked up Tales of Vesperia and was looking at this again. Will probably pick it up now that I see you've changed your mind a bit, so I hope that makes you feel a bit better haha.
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  • Avatar for ProApocalyptic #21 ProApocalyptic 4 years ago
    Deleted October 2014 by ProApocalyptic
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