Thursday, February 21, 2013

Game Review: Symphonica (iOS)

Symphonica is an iPhone game that combines classical music, anime character designs, and finger tapping. Square Enix made the prologue and the first three episodes of the game available for free download in the App Store, confident that nerds such as myself would shell out fifteen bucks for the whole package. Fortunately, my strict ninja-pirate training has rendered me immune to such pleas for remuneration by game developers. I will wait patiently for my birthday so a loved one will buy it for me! Mwahahaha, I have defeated your aggressive pricing model, Square Enix!

...oh, wait, they still get their money, don't they. Curses.

Anyway, if you're looking for a brief distraction on a slow workday, I never have those so I can't possibly imagine what it must be like, I highly recommend joining perpetually upbeat conductor Takt and his ridiculously young, pretty, and skinny orchestra as they struggle to ascend the ranks and perform in the prestigious King Hall.

Symphonica takes place in Einstaz, the classical music capital. The city's top attraction is Concerto Tower, which features performance halls in every floor, arranged according to awesomeness. Amateurs start out in Open Hall, at the lowest level. Meanwhile, nobody has ever performed at King Hall at the very top, because no one is awesome enough. Performers at King Hall will receive the elusive Zero Score, a Lady Gaga/Jay-Z/Alicia Keys/Kanye West/Taylor Swift mashup that marries Tchaikovsky's intensity with Shostakovich's dissonance. Just kidding. I have no clue what the Zero Score is, except that apparently every musician wants to get their strong, slender fingers on it.

Enter Takt, androgynous, well-dressed, and determined to become a master conductor so he can reunite with his older brother, Volt. If you think that's contrived, I agree. We're not here for the story, kids, we're here to do the touch-screen equivalent of button-mashing, while grooving to the masters.

Takt goes to the decrepit and possibly haunted Magica Hall to meet the members of his orchestra, the Fayharmonic, so named because everyone looks like fairies. Below is a group picture of the musicians with speaking lines: clarinet player Iren, flutist Ires, concertmaster Maria, and the Episode 3 addition, French horn player Irina. And no, I have no idea why Maria poses like she's on the red carpet.

Fayharmonic: modeling is their Plan B.
The twee musicians immediately reveal the stakes: many of their conductors have quit, so they decided to disband if Takt gives up, too. Our heroic hero cheerfully spins this into a positive, i.e. an opportunity to build something from nothing. Everyone expresses disbelief at his optimism, but he's so darn handsome, not to mention their new boss, so they eventually play along. Get it? Play along? They're an orchestra? Tee-hee-hee, I kill myself.

And then it's off to the first rehearsal! By this time, you know the finger drill, no pun intended: the one-tap, two-tap, swipe, arc, etc. Your first song is The Nutcracker's "March." GO!!!

These small creatures await your command!
Once you're done with the 30-second practice, you move on to Symphony No. 25 in G Minor. If you do really well, your orchestra glows! The cuteness, it is unrelenting!

Next, Takt takes Fayharmonic to Concerto Tower for the Hall Exam, where they meet the Hallmaster, whose thin mustache, scheming eyebrows, and Dracula costume radiate pure, musical evil. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, and you will because that's how the game advances, is to conduct "Eine kleine Nachtmusik." Hells yeah.

In my second run-through of the game, I was so inspired that my orchestra turned PINK and SPARKLY during this piece. I mean, come on. Come on. What's next, a screen full of puppies? ...Please?

The story, such as it is, moves along, and introduces you to Chloe, a ghost inhabiting a doll that creeps out everyone in Fayharmonic. Chloe selects Takt as her apprentice. Their mutual goal: the Zero Score. Wow, I did not see that coming. I will lay down good money on a wager that the Zero Score will restore Chloe's spirit to where it belongs, or averts a city-wide disaster being planned by the Hallmaster, or something like that.

Chloe just wants you to be happy, like her.
As the plot thickens to the consistency of gruel, you will get to conduct "La primavera (Spring)," The Nutcracker's "Waltz of the Flowers," as well as "From the New World," which legit hurt my wrist. Conducting is hard.

After that, a tile for Episode 4 appears on the episodes menu, and tapping it informs you that the free ride is so over, like my crush on Jordan Knight. I don't want to talk about it.

Based on the episodes I've seen, Symphonica is eye and ear candy. Forget what I said earlier. I would snap up the full version of this game, if I didn't have Assassin's Creed III for the PS Vita waiting patiently for me to finish Eiyuu Densetsu: Zero no Kiseki Evolution.

Ah, the gamer's life, it is so busy.

On a completely unrelated side note, I just realized that if me and my friends were Planeteers, our battle cry would go like this:

"NERD (video games)!"
"NERD (arts)!"
"NERD (neuroscience)!"
"NERD (sci-fi)!"
"NERD (comic books)!"
"With your powers combined, I am CAPTAIN NERDFACE!"

This post is being sponsored by a tuna sandwich.