Category: Action RPG
Requirements: iPhone OS 2.1 or later
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod touch
File Size: 12.1MB
Version Reviewed: 1.4
Price: $2.99 (free version available)
Age Rating: 9+ for infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence
I’m not playing this game because I had tremendous interest in it. I mean, that’s the norm for an app reviewer, where our iPhone gaming schedule is pretty much dictated by the review requests we get. Therefore, we glossed over Zenonia at the time of its release, and that was a mistake.
Zenonia’s nearly a year old, you see, having been released in the U.S. in May of 2009. So, why play through it now? Because Zenonia 2 is due out this month, and if that game is half as cool as it looks, you owe it to yourself to work through its predecessor before it’s released.
In Zenonia, you play Regret. I kid you not, the main character is named Regret, which servers as proof to emo kids everywhere that their parents could be worse. Regret comes form unknown origins, of course. At the beginning of the game, his equally unfortunately named “father,” Pardon, (which could explain why Regret was named so maliciously) is killed, launching the lad on a mission to discover his origins and hey! Guess what! There’s evil afoot!
And this is all fine, because Zenonia is a JRPG (Japanese role-playing game), meaning you’re going to get a bunch of melodrama amongst teenaged warriors. JRPG is to adventure gamers what Twilight is to teen-aged and middle-aged women everywhere. It’s where the sad, lonely, misunderstood boy can break free from his surroundings and save the world, and maybe get a mostly naked elven archer girlfriend (or the game-specific equivalent) in the process. It’s totally contrived, but handled with a knowing sense of humor that makes it all work exceptionally well.
But Zenonia offers much more than just the necessary plot elements. For an iPhone game, it also offers an astounding amount of customizability. You can choose from between three classes—warrior, paladin and assassin—and then customize to levels that will likely frighten away some of the less hardy role-playing gamers. Spells, potions, weapons armor and more can be found/bought and managed to tremendous effect, but the iPhone is unfortunately not conducive to this much micromanagement. The inventory screen is tiny to both see and control. This is unfortunate, because you’ll need to spend quite a bit of time in there. You can assign items to quick access slots, so be wise about that. I find myself using those not for items I need most in battle, but for items that would most often keep me out of the inventory screen.
The graphics in Zenonia are not the must stunning I’ve seen, but they’re likely what they should be, considering the iPhone’s restrictions. They’re colorful and quick, harkening back to the systems on which we all spent so much time playing similar games. It’s too bad most games that look good on the iPhone do so because they look retro, but if the design works, have at it.
Audio is fine, too. Appropriate. If you’re not happy with the soundtrack, you can use your own MP3s, but I never recommend that. The in-game music is much better at conveying the appropriate mood, and always will be.
The gameplay itself involves a lot of level grinding. You and your NPC companions will fight many battles—both annoyingly small and intensely epic—across the main story and the numerous sidequests. Control is handled with a virtual D-pad on the bottom left, with action taps on the right. The buttons are fairly small, making control somewhat difficult. Even basic movement in towns was awkward, as my little Regret would often walk past the people and doors with which I wanted to interact. Add this into some fairly intense battles, and you can see how it’ll likely put off quite a few gamers.
But stick with it, and you’ll be rewarded with what is likely one of the iPhone’s deepest, most rewarding games. You won’t blame the game for the shortcomings, you’ll blame your iPhone or iPod touch, and you’ll be justified.
Zenonia is a big, satisfying game on a system that’s unsatisfyingly small. I would tell you to hold on for the iPad before you play this, but considering Zenonia 2 is just around the corner, it’s best to get this now. The game offers a rewarding enough experience to compensate for the typically annoying iPhone touchscreen controls.