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1 or 2 players
(with link cable)
Tun based strategy/RPG
'The insanity must end---one way or another---'
That's what it says on the packaging for this game, and after looking at the prices some people were asking for it, that is exactly what entered my mind...
Faselei! is one of the most sought after games available for the Neo Geo Pocket, mainly because SNK pulled out of the west before it came out in the US. A Japanese version had been available for a while, but was obviously not too playable for anybody that didn't have good knowledge of the Japanese language. However, an English version was made and released over here in the UK, but because of SNK's change of business plans, not many were actually made, making it a very highly sought after item. Anybody that has seen the auctions on Ebay that had it going for $90 and more will know what I mean.
I was pretty cheesed off with myself actually, because I had many chances to buy this game on its release here in the UK, but I never did. When I eventually decided to buy it, I soon discovered how difficult it was to obtain it. I didn't want to pay too much money for it, so I bided my time and eventually managed to get a copy for a reasonable price. So... was it worth the wait, the hype, and more importantly; is it a good game? Well, despite a few minor problems, the answer would have to be yes!
Faselei! is classed as an RPG by many people, but it is really a turn based strategy game with huge mechs (or robots for the uninitiated :) called "Toy Soldiers", or "TS" as the game calls them. Movement is controlled by the use of chips which you can add to your mech. The game calls this ystem "TIPS", which stands for "Tactical Intelligent Programming System". There are four types of chip that you can buy: Move, Attack, Defense, and auxil. "Move" chips include simple commands like moving forwards and backwards, and more advanced commands like dash and sidestep. "Attack" chips use is pretty obvious; they let you equip different weapons to your mech. "Defense" is also pretty obvious, and includes chips that let you use your shield and guard. "Auxil" chips let you use Items, reload your weapons and a few others.
For each turn you take, you can use a set amount of chips. The amount you can use depends on the mech you have, as some can use more than others. There are also limits to how many chips you can equip on your mech at one time, but this depends on what CPU you are using (there are a few different types that you can buy from the shop before you go into battle). On each turn, you use the relevant chip for whatever action you wish to perform. This might all sound a little complicated, but once you have played the game a couple of times it is very easy to understand. In fact, the first chapter of the game is a mini tutorial, which will teach you the basics.
Before you go into battle you will need to go to the aforementioned shop to stock up on stuff. There are many items that you can buy from there, like new TS, more weapons, armour, new CPU's, more chips to use on your mech, ammo for your weapons (which is extremely essential). There are a few other important items too that you will need to stock up on, like repair kits and also backpacks which will enable you to carry more things into battle. As I was saying though, the most important thing that you can buy is extra ammo. That runs out very quickly, so you absolutely HAVE to stock up on it before each mission. The only problem is that you can only carry a few items into battle (depending on what the limit of your backpack is). Because of this, you need to be very careful about how you use your weapons. If you aren't, you'll run out and the only thing that you will be able to do is fail the mission! I learnt this the hard way, so take heed of my warning :)
After you have bought your chosen items, you need to go to the docks to equip them. At the docks, you can equip whichever weapons you think you will need in battle, add chips to your mech, and assign weapons to those chips. You have to make sure that every weapon you are carrying has an attack chip assigned to it, otherwise you will not be able to exit the docks (a lot of people make tis mistake). You can also give your mech a personal touch too, by changing its color and its name. Its pretty pointless, but fun all the same ;)
Something that impressed me was the storyline in this game. It is suprisingly decent, and you always want to finish each stage to see what will happen next. The cast of characters is also quite likeable, and before each battle there is always some radio chatter between them, in true anime style. This adds a little more depth, as you actually feel like every mission you do has a purpose, even if the storyline isn't groundbreaking (it is still a lot better than you might expect). There is also scope for improving the main characters ranking, which you will need to do, because the higher your level, the better the equipment you can buy will be. You'll also need to collect a lot of money to buy all this eqipment, but never fear; you can choose the task option, which lets you go on simple missions in between the full stages. These let you collect items and extra cash. The task stages are really just the ones that you have already completed, but you'll need to go on them if you want to buy the stuff you'll need to finish the game.
I haven't given mention to the graphics in this game yet, which isn't usually a good sign. I'll come clean and admit that graphically, Faselei! is a little bland. Apart from the character portraits and a nice intro sequence, it isn't very colorful and it looks a little dated. On the other hand though, the screen is very very well set out and it is easy to see what you are doing at all times. Sacnoth has made good use of the NGPC's tiny screen, and the layout of all the menus is crystal clear, so you shouldn't have any problems there. It's well done for a handheld machine anyway. So, the graphics deserve 10/10 for functionality, but score a bit lower overall.
The sound is also pretty uneventful, apart from the intro sequence, which has a song playing during it. I couldn't really understand much of it though, apart from "Would you like to leave a record of your call?", because it obviously sounded a little tinny. The song suprised me the first time that I played it, as I didnt expect that from my NGPC. The rest of the sound is pretty bland though, and consists of some average sound effects and "plinky-plonky" (as my friend described it) music. All the same, it's pretty reasonable though, and I have no major cause for complaint.
Faselei! is a great game, but it does have a few faults which knock a bit off its overall score. The main problem I have is that it can get a little too hard in places. I found this out quite early on, but this was mainly because I didn't have enough ammo to finish off the missions I was on. You can only put a small amount of ammo into your backpack, so it is imperative to choose the correct weapons and ammo for each mission or you will fail every time. The other fault is that you can be knocked off course totally by your team-mates and enemies. Say for instance, you decide to move forward twice, turn left, then move forward twice again; if at some point something moves into your path, you will just bump into them, lose some energy, and also get moved off course. Half the time you will end up doing things that you didn't intend to do, because even your team-mates don't take into account that you might be moving in a certain direction, and often bump into you. This isn't a huge fault, but it means that you will need to predict other people actions in advance.
It is also a little doubtful that you will want to play through the game again after you finish it, although it is fun while it lasts. Having said that, there is another gameplay mode that I haven't mentioned. The "VS battle" mode lets you fight against a friend who also has a copy of the game and a NGPC. The chances of you finding someone with both of those are pretty slim however, so it is unlikely that many people will get the chance to try this out. I know I haven't been able to anyway...
Despite a few shortcomings, this is a very good game, and one that I wholeheartedly recommend. There isn't really a lot of competition on the NGPC for this type of game either, so if you are a fan of turn based strategy games, then you should look no further! Faselei! should keep you addicted right up until you finish it, which is something that can't be said for a lot of other games.
Overall, one of the NGPC's best games (but not quite perfect), and one that should be in the collection of anyone that likes stategy games (if you can actually find a copy!).
Game play: 8/10
Replay Value: 7/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
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