After all the times we've talked about Saturday Morning RPG since we played it at MAGFest, and after all the wishing, waiting, and hoping for its release, SATURDAY MORNING RPG IS FINALLY HERE! ...and it definitely lives up to its promise.
As of the game's launch, the the first two episodes are available, with the third in the works. The first episode introduces most of the game's core mechanics, and some of the main characters you'll be seeing throughout the rest of the episodes, while the second episode fills in a little more about the SMRPG universe, introduces a few more characters and weapons, and really starts to show the overall direction of the game.
At its heart, SMRPG is a Japanese-style RPG surrounded by a story filled with characters and items inspired by cartoons, movies, and TV series from the 1980s. You play as a high school student named Marty who is given a special notebook that enables him to bring out magical properties in everyday items. After receiving the notebook from a mysterious person known as "The Wizard," Marty inadvertently becomes the hero tasked with saving the world (and a popular girl from school named Samantha) from the evil Commander Hood and his soldiers.
The gameplay will be pretty familiar to anyone who has ever played the Final Fantasy series or other JRPGs, but what makes the game stand out is the style and the setting.
While many JRPGs involve swords and magic, SMRPG has characters that fight with Transformers-inspired robots, Deloreans, and Care Bears among other things. The story is also full of humor and pop culture references from the 80s, which really adds to the character of the game. Most of the refences give nods to notable movie, video game, and cartoon franchises and celebrities, so they're easy to relate to even for those who didn't necessarily grow up in the 80s.
The inventory system allows you to choose several items from your inventory to use in battles. This allows you to customize your inventory to your combat style, or the types of enemies in the area. Most of the weapons offer some sort of minigame element that will increase your attack strength based on how well you do. The minigames are generally based on well-timed or well-placed screen taps, and become second nature after a few battles. These mechanics allow you to participate in battles, and give you some control over your performance, rather than having your attacks and defense decided at random.
Marty's notebook can also be outfitted with different covers as well as scratch-and-sniff stickers (that you can scratch off when starting a battle) that will affect your character's stats.
Each episode features a main quest and a couple of smaller optional side quests to be completed, which earn you XP, money, and other items. Once completed, episodes can be replayed using the items and abilities gained the first time through.
The episodes generally last a few hours each, giving you enough time to really appreciate the game, without it ending too quickly, and they definitely offer enough content to fit the $1.99 price point.
The individual episodes feature their own storylines and are playable in any order, so if the story of an episode doesn't seem like something you'll like, you can play a different one without sacrificing anything. The Items and XP you collect also transfer between episodes, allowing even more depth across the entire series.
The game's graphics consist of 3D rendered backgrounds, with 2D pixel art for characters and items, and they look fantastic. Detailed scenery items such as the signs, posters, and chalkboards spread throughout the school in the second episode also have funny and interesting things written on them, which adds a touch of humor and detail to really flesh out the world. Even the game's main menu maintain the style and feel of the main game.
The music and sound in the game are absolutely incredible. The music was composed by Vince DiCola, who composed music for Transformers: The Movie and Rocky IV, along with his composing partner Kenny Meriedeth, who was involved in creating the music for dozens of TV series in the 80s and 90s, and it shows. The music is dramatic, and really sets the mood for the game. The score takes on an urgent, high-energy feel during battles, but stays catchy and interesting during quests and cutscenes. The sound effects have a nice weight to them, and keep the battles feeling substantial.
Overall, SMRPG offers a rich, deep RPG experience. What's even more impressive is that it does so on a mobile platform. Saturday Morning RPG is one of the most ambitious games I've played in a long time, handheld or otherwise, and it's unbelievably well done.
Saturday Morning RPG is available in the iOS App Store now, and is compatible with most iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch models.
If you've played Saturday Morning RPG, feel free to leave a comment about it below. You can also stay up to date on the latest SMRPG news by following @TheMightyRabbit on Twitter.