IGN Review of Di-Gata Defenders
Canada's blessed the world immensely over the years. From its celebrities to its moose population, there's a lot to thank America's hat for. However, one thing in particular that Canada should issue an apology for is its cartoon series Di-Gata Defenders. And by default, that apology should extend to cover Di-Gata Defenders DS.
Defenders is a traditional RPG through and through. Turn based battles, equipment, side quests -- it has it all. You even get to play as a mysterious stranger who saves the world. Granted, these very trends are the core of several RPGs (and several great ones at that), but Di-Gata Defenders manages to bring out the utter worst in this formula.
As soon as you fire up the cartridge, Di-Gata Defenders erupts into a pseudo-anime intro with high octane techno music. You might not know anything about the series, but at least the fast tempo beats will keep you awake. Sadly, this brief moment of excitement is all the game has to offer.
You begin by customizing your character. You can change your face, clothing, and stats. You customize your stats by choosing one of several sigils with names like Infinis, Ogama, Yin, and Yan. Each sigil offers different status boosts covering all the RPG standbys: HP, Knowledge, Defense, Stamina, etc. You've seen it all before.
Once you've customized your Defender, it's straight to the story. While a lot of RPGs strive for great, enthralling stories, they usually find a way to ease the player into that world. Defenders is pretty much a fanboy party from the start. Characters just start tossing names like you've followed the series from episode one. While the Di-Gata Defenders fan club may really appreciate this, it makes the game completely foreign to outsiders.
As it would turn out, a treasured artifact has been stolen from your clan and all of the show's main characters (Seth, Erik, Adam, and Melosa) are busy. So it's up to you, the mysterious new Defender, to track down the thief and reclaim the artifact. Using your stylus to walk, you can now begin your quest.
On your journey you will run into enemies in the wild. You can see the monsters walking around, so there are no random battles. Get within a few feet of enemies and they'll sprint at you like the rabid humans from 28 Days Later. Upon making contact with an enemy, you will leave the world map and enter a battle screen.
As mentioned earlier, battles are turn-based. You can choose to attack, defend, or summon. Attacks list their accuracy rate which gives you a few options: you can either go for a stronger attack with a greater chance of missing or choose a weak attack that is more accurate. You can even choose your shield level for defending. The higher the shield level, the more shield points it will cost you, and once you're out all damage will drain your HP.
Summoning a Guardian will bring your guardian into play. Guardians are like Summons from Final Fantasy games and will help you fight for three turns. During these three turns, they will take any damage directed at your character and attack enemies. Knowing exactly when to summon your Guardian can be a critical factor in winning.
By progressing through the story and completing side quests, you can acquire several other Defenders. Each one offers different attacks and statistics. Finding a Defender that suits your playing style can give you a decent advantage in a fight.
While the description of Di-Gata Defenders may sound like a million other RPGs at this point, it's the execution of all these factors that are done poorly. Talking to other characters is done with dialog boxes that only indicate who is speaking by name. In a world of characters with bizarre names it's easy to get lost or even know who to talk to. Branching dialog selections are offered, but the options all say the same thing, just in different ways.
The graphics of Di-Gata Defenders are pretty terrible. Character models are crude polygonal structures with extreme lack of detail. The environments that you do so much exploring in are generally flat in color tones and reek of sheer blandness. If you saw the high-octane (and uber cheesy) intro, then looked at the actual game being played, it's hard to tell that they draw from the same source.
On the sound scene, Di-Gata Defenders is a mix of calm Asian themed music like you would hear at a Chinese buffet and dorked out techno. While walking around, you get the Chinese buffet symphony but as soon as you enter a battle it's the Wachowski brother's personal playlist. Battles are over fairly quick and the constant jump back and forth between peaceful Asian sounds and techno can make you downright nauseous.
The final nail in Di-Gata's coffin is its equipment system. Like all RPGs, you want to have all of the best equipment the game has to offer. RPG's traditionally allow you to find equipment, acquire it in battles, or buy it from a store. Defenders uses an arbitrary trade system where you barter for new equipment. Instead of just paying for it with money, you have to fight monsters and acquire a ton of obsolete equipment, go to town, and trade bulk supplies of one item for a better version. Even if you like grinding in games, this trade system will make you want to turn off your DS and go outside.
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