Review Threads of Fate - (PS1) | First posted over at TCH
Nightingale Offline
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[Image: Threads-of-Fate-Coverart.png]

System: PS1.
Year: 1999.
Genre: Action RPG.
Developer: Square Product - Development Division 3.
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Threads of Fate is my favorite PlayStation game.

For me, this is the very definition of a "hidden gem", as I found it by accident while looking for a new RPG to play on the console that's so famous for them, to escape from the over hyped clutches of games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross. Looking back on it, though, I'm very surprised by the fact that Threads of Fate has not reached the popularity of those two, as it isn't lacking any quality (and in fact, far surpasses them in areas that we will be discussing soon enough). But alas, it is a rare and obscure one indeed.

The hard fact is that no-one I have ever met (and I know quite a few PS1 owners) has even ever heard of this title, probably because it is such a weird one. It's an RPG that doesn't drive you crazy with inventory management, that doesn't have you working towards an optimal strategy to beat it and that doesn't make you dress your warrior of choice into the best gear available... a task you so often have to repeat in other games on the genre and that, at least for me, grows really tedious really fast. Instead, Threads of Fate relies on a few neat tricks to smooth out the experience: some upgrades to your weapons can be purchased from time to time, and the rest of your stats are bought, as opposed to grinded for... I find this very interesting (and frankly refreshing), since it means all effective grinding is gone, and you can just beat the game at your own leisure, only buying strength, defense, MP and HP points as you please, without any magic number to hit, meaning that the other big problem most RPGs have (the over-leveled character) is also gone... partly.

While you are limited by how much money you have at your disposal to buy and apply points, the game offers no level cap for these upgrades... and lets you roll the counter up to 999 on all areas, turning every encounter into a one-hit KO fest. Of course, this is only achievable with the help of cheats, but I find it amusing that such an option even exists and can be obtained in such a semi-legit way... and that's really the charm of games like this one, they could just experiment without being brutally panned by the unforgiving press. They were just having fun programming it and it shows.

And speaking of fun, the true highlight of Threads of Fate comes from the fact that it is two games packed into one: the very first thing you'll do upon pressing Start is selecting which one of the two stories you wanna play: the "Tale of a Spunky Girl", or the "Tale of a Mysterious Boy", and these are actually quite different, despite being intertwined.

But before I continue there, I guess I should mention something that might throw the most hardcore fans of the genre off: while you have a choice of playing as two different characters, both are magic users with a built-in melee attack for when you are running low on MP. I have heard this being brought up a lot as a complain on the very few instances in which the game did get a mention or review and I can't say I disagree... it'd have been nicer if one of them was the melee warrior and the other one the magic user, but it works either way.

My playthrough of the second one (starring a boy named Rue) is currently half-way through, so I won't comment too much on it yet, but I will say that I finished Mint's "Tale of a Spunky Girl" and it was an absolute delight to play.

Rue's story is darker in tone and much more serious, which I guess was intended as the "purest" of the two as far as RPG formulas go, with a character set on a quest to achieve a greater goal. And I must say that it is pretty engaging and fantastically fun so far, but even then it didn't manage to become the best of two, which I think speaks volumes about the kind of quality present on the other side of the game.

Mint's story is basically the game being played for laughs; it's fun and cheeky, with a pretty awesome protagonist and a ton of moments that are guaranteed to make you smile. But for me, the real crowning jewel of this half of the game is that its title character is of a special kind that I think writers and developers tend to shy away from: the irredeemable bastard.

Let's face it, the very second she's on screen for the first time, Mint comes across as an unlikable, mean-spirited, bratty character... the kind that would throw temper tantrums over petty issues, resort to violence at the mere sight of a disagreement and also the kind that would plot how take you down while directly facing you, doing some hair flips for good measure (all of which actually happens in the game). I'm both grateful and surprised to see they went this way, as she's a character that, on the surface level, is hard to get behind, with her completely selfish goal and no room for improvement (as well as strange pumpkin phobia), but she's played to perfection and becomes a complete joy to control and guide through the game.

Without revealing anything, I'll say that I'm happy to report that she doesn't grow one inch during the whole game: she's a complete brat during the opening scene and still is during the closing one. But that doesn't mean that she's a one-dimensional character, though! In fact, she has a surprising amount of depth for the way in which she was written, and surprised me more than once towards the end of the adventure.

I also really like how some characters try really hard to put aside their differences with Mint, as the necessity of working together emerges, yet she does little more than belittling, insulting and making fun of all of them in increasingly hurtful ways. I can't even express how much I love that, as the genre is utterly filled with goodie two-shoes characters, and having one that is the exact opposite is simply priceless.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you haven't fallen asleep yet, then you are probably wondering how does this game play. Let me put it this way: it's a servicable gameplay, but it didn't exactly win me over.

The combat is fun and I didn't mind it one bit, which is good, but I think the execution is rather poor for what was fair to expect coming from a PlayStation game.

While the main town is completely 3D, all other areas are displayed on a 2.5 D kind of way, making your three dimensional character exist against a three dimensional background, but moving in a two dimensional plain. It's as confusing as it sounds, and there were no shortage of times when I wished I had a camera I could adjust.

The game also included a couple of instances that required precise platform jumping... far from impossible but also fairly annoying, since the mid-air control was so finicky. Luckily, messing these up would only trigger a minimum HP lost as the penalty and nothing else, as you'd re-spawn immediately from the last ledge you stood on.

Thrown in there was also a sequence that I absolutely DESPISED. It's brief and makes sense, but it took me several tries on both of my playthroughs. Your goals during it is to outrun a monster that's chasing you across the world's longest flight of stairs, while also avoiding obstacles; if the monster does so much as grazing the tip of your clothes, it counts as a loss for you and you re-start from the bottom of the stairs. It's infuriating and I'm glad it only ever happens once.

But for all its faults, Threads of Fate's gameplay can also be tons of fun, with smart puzzle-solving and active usage of all the techniques you unlock during your journey.

Both of your characters acquire elemental magic as the story progresses, and can use it to both open new paths on the map and to defeat enemies with ease. Some monsters don't even blink if attacked with certain kind of magic power, but get completely wrecked if aimed at with the right kind of element, which makes for an actively challenging and busy fight.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The graphics are really nice, and look better than most other PS1 games I have played over the years.

Everything is very colorful and sells the fantastic setting very well, without actually shoving it down your throat (well, most of the time, Fancy Mel's place looks like some designer's bad acid trip... and that's no exaggeration). There are a lot of things to look at and be amazed by here, but, for me at least, the real winners are the character models.

Not only are these very nice and detailed, but are animated to perfection, and allow for a wide range of expressions and the ability to have semi-believable body language. This is important, because the game has no voice acting in it, and all the spoken dialogue is delivered through plain text, with the characters reacting accordingly to what's being said. I don't think the final product would be half as good without it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The music is also very good, even if not something I'd listen to on its own, without playing the game it came from.

There are a handful of tracks for the entire game, and all of them hit a bulls eye, either highlighting or underlining the different moments as required.

I actually don't think the music is that memorable, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy listening to it through not one, but two rounds, so there's some quality in there, no doubt.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_09.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_17.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_19.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_28.png]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_32.png]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_12.png]

Image credit: Ray Hardgrit / Super Adventures in Gaming
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In conclusion: In case it isn't clear by now, I absolutely adore this game.

I don't think it's gonna be for everyone, as the aforementioned lack of camera controls and playing as a downright mean-spirited character might throw some people off, but I do think it's absolutely worth a try if you can look past those issues.

I honestly think that this is a great game that's held back by some problems --some of which are kinda severe-- but that still shines through, and has the power to provide hours of entertainment for those bold enough to try it out.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
When leaves have fallen.
And skies turned to grey.
The night keeps on closing in on the day.
A nightingale sings his song of farewell.
You better hide from her freezing hell. ~ Ice Queen, Within Temptation.


#1
Nightingale Offline
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Joined:
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[Image: Threads-of-Fate-Coverart.png]

System: PS1.
Year: 1999.
Genre: Action RPG.
Developer: Square Product - Development Division 3.
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Threads of Fate is my favorite PlayStation game.

For me, this is the very definition of a "hidden gem", as I found it by accident while looking for a new RPG to play on the console that's so famous for them, to escape from the over hyped clutches of games like Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross. Looking back on it, though, I'm very surprised by the fact that Threads of Fate has not reached the popularity of those two, as it isn't lacking any quality (and in fact, far surpasses them in areas that we will be discussing soon enough). But alas, it is a rare and obscure one indeed.

The hard fact is that no-one I have ever met (and I know quite a few PS1 owners) has even ever heard of this title, probably because it is such a weird one. It's an RPG that doesn't drive you crazy with inventory management, that doesn't have you working towards an optimal strategy to beat it and that doesn't make you dress your warrior of choice into the best gear available... a task you so often have to repeat in other games on the genre and that, at least for me, grows really tedious really fast. Instead, Threads of Fate relies on a few neat tricks to smooth out the experience: some upgrades to your weapons can be purchased from time to time, and the rest of your stats are bought, as opposed to grinded for... I find this very interesting (and frankly refreshing), since it means all effective grinding is gone, and you can just beat the game at your own leisure, only buying strength, defense, MP and HP points as you please, without any magic number to hit, meaning that the other big problem most RPGs have (the over-leveled character) is also gone... partly.

While you are limited by how much money you have at your disposal to buy and apply points, the game offers no level cap for these upgrades... and lets you roll the counter up to 999 on all areas, turning every encounter into a one-hit KO fest. Of course, this is only achievable with the help of cheats, but I find it amusing that such an option even exists and can be obtained in such a semi-legit way... and that's really the charm of games like this one, they could just experiment without being brutally panned by the unforgiving press. They were just having fun programming it and it shows.

And speaking of fun, the true highlight of Threads of Fate comes from the fact that it is two games packed into one: the very first thing you'll do upon pressing Start is selecting which one of the two stories you wanna play: the "Tale of a Spunky Girl", or the "Tale of a Mysterious Boy", and these are actually quite different, despite being intertwined.

But before I continue there, I guess I should mention something that might throw the most hardcore fans of the genre off: while you have a choice of playing as two different characters, both are magic users with a built-in melee attack for when you are running low on MP. I have heard this being brought up a lot as a complain on the very few instances in which the game did get a mention or review and I can't say I disagree... it'd have been nicer if one of them was the melee warrior and the other one the magic user, but it works either way.

My playthrough of the second one (starring a boy named Rue) is currently half-way through, so I won't comment too much on it yet, but I will say that I finished Mint's "Tale of a Spunky Girl" and it was an absolute delight to play.

Rue's story is darker in tone and much more serious, which I guess was intended as the "purest" of the two as far as RPG formulas go, with a character set on a quest to achieve a greater goal. And I must say that it is pretty engaging and fantastically fun so far, but even then it didn't manage to become the best of two, which I think speaks volumes about the kind of quality present on the other side of the game.

Mint's story is basically the game being played for laughs; it's fun and cheeky, with a pretty awesome protagonist and a ton of moments that are guaranteed to make you smile. But for me, the real crowning jewel of this half of the game is that its title character is of a special kind that I think writers and developers tend to shy away from: the irredeemable bastard.

Let's face it, the very second she's on screen for the first time, Mint comes across as an unlikable, mean-spirited, bratty character... the kind that would throw temper tantrums over petty issues, resort to violence at the mere sight of a disagreement and also the kind that would plot how take you down while directly facing you, doing some hair flips for good measure (all of which actually happens in the game). I'm both grateful and surprised to see they went this way, as she's a character that, on the surface level, is hard to get behind, with her completely selfish goal and no room for improvement (as well as strange pumpkin phobia), but she's played to perfection and becomes a complete joy to control and guide through the game.

Without revealing anything, I'll say that I'm happy to report that she doesn't grow one inch during the whole game: she's a complete brat during the opening scene and still is during the closing one. But that doesn't mean that she's a one-dimensional character, though! In fact, she has a surprising amount of depth for the way in which she was written, and surprised me more than once towards the end of the adventure.

I also really like how some characters try really hard to put aside their differences with Mint, as the necessity of working together emerges, yet she does little more than belittling, insulting and making fun of all of them in increasingly hurtful ways. I can't even express how much I love that, as the genre is utterly filled with goodie two-shoes characters, and having one that is the exact opposite is simply priceless.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

If you haven't fallen asleep yet, then you are probably wondering how does this game play. Let me put it this way: it's a servicable gameplay, but it didn't exactly win me over.

The combat is fun and I didn't mind it one bit, which is good, but I think the execution is rather poor for what was fair to expect coming from a PlayStation game.

While the main town is completely 3D, all other areas are displayed on a 2.5 D kind of way, making your three dimensional character exist against a three dimensional background, but moving in a two dimensional plain. It's as confusing as it sounds, and there were no shortage of times when I wished I had a camera I could adjust.

The game also included a couple of instances that required precise platform jumping... far from impossible but also fairly annoying, since the mid-air control was so finicky. Luckily, messing these up would only trigger a minimum HP lost as the penalty and nothing else, as you'd re-spawn immediately from the last ledge you stood on.

Thrown in there was also a sequence that I absolutely DESPISED. It's brief and makes sense, but it took me several tries on both of my playthroughs. Your goals during it is to outrun a monster that's chasing you across the world's longest flight of stairs, while also avoiding obstacles; if the monster does so much as grazing the tip of your clothes, it counts as a loss for you and you re-start from the bottom of the stairs. It's infuriating and I'm glad it only ever happens once.

But for all its faults, Threads of Fate's gameplay can also be tons of fun, with smart puzzle-solving and active usage of all the techniques you unlock during your journey.

Both of your characters acquire elemental magic as the story progresses, and can use it to both open new paths on the map and to defeat enemies with ease. Some monsters don't even blink if attacked with certain kind of magic power, but get completely wrecked if aimed at with the right kind of element, which makes for an actively challenging and busy fight.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The graphics are really nice, and look better than most other PS1 games I have played over the years.

Everything is very colorful and sells the fantastic setting very well, without actually shoving it down your throat (well, most of the time, Fancy Mel's place looks like some designer's bad acid trip... and that's no exaggeration). There are a lot of things to look at and be amazed by here, but, for me at least, the real winners are the character models.

Not only are these very nice and detailed, but are animated to perfection, and allow for a wide range of expressions and the ability to have semi-believable body language. This is important, because the game has no voice acting in it, and all the spoken dialogue is delivered through plain text, with the characters reacting accordingly to what's being said. I don't think the final product would be half as good without it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The music is also very good, even if not something I'd listen to on its own, without playing the game it came from.

There are a handful of tracks for the entire game, and all of them hit a bulls eye, either highlighting or underlining the different moments as required.

I actually don't think the music is that memorable, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy listening to it through not one, but two rounds, so there's some quality in there, no doubt.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_09.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_17.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_19.jpg]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_28.png]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_32.png]

[Image: Threads_of_Fate_%2528PSX%2529_12.png]

Image credit: Ray Hardgrit / Super Adventures in Gaming
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In conclusion: In case it isn't clear by now, I absolutely adore this game.

I don't think it's gonna be for everyone, as the aforementioned lack of camera controls and playing as a downright mean-spirited character might throw some people off, but I do think it's absolutely worth a try if you can look past those issues.

I honestly think that this is a great game that's held back by some problems --some of which are kinda severe-- but that still shines through, and has the power to provide hours of entertainment for those bold enough to try it out.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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