Crack the code in XSEED's slick role-playing adventure.
In Avalon Code for Nintendo DS, you erase the planet's existence and build a new one, salvaging certain aspects and wiping out the rest via physical force. This is an extraordinary take on the routine role-playing formula, although the writing occasionally enters cornball territory. Think of Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still and you get the idea.
Avalon Code's gameplay is broken into two parts. The first is action, where you battle monsters through a series of dungeons. There are certain goals you must meet in each room, like hitting enough switches or killing everything. There are secondary goals too, such as not taking damage in a fight. The action segments are fun, although you start out with such low MP that you'll be in an uphill climb.
The second is the traditional RPG stuff where you visit townsfolk. Sometimes you're given side missions to complete, and other times the answer is right in front of you.
What's unique about Avalon Code is how the Code System ties into both parts. As the planet's janitor (without the broom), you're given a Book of Prophecy that enables you to break down anyone or anything via a series of codes. You can scan things within your range, breaking it down line by line and effectively twisting it around. For instance, if an enemy has an invulnerable stone skin, you smash it with the code, remove the Stone portions and kill it. By the same token, you can also help townsfolk, remove Wound Code from an injured animal or make a sick patron better by extracting the faulty Code.
It's a wonderful system, even though it takes time to master. Keep in mind that the Code doesn't always work in your favor. Sometimes, by removing effective code from stronger enemies, you earn less MP and HP. Another negative part of this play system involves the book itself. While you move around on the top screen, you flip through pages on the bottom. Considering that the book has hundreds of pages, it may take some time finding something for the task at hand. If you don't have the patience to handle that, Avalon Code may not be your game.
If you can withstand it, Code rewards you with a solid presentation. Developer Marvelous has done its homework with excellent graphics on the DS (it handled the ports of Final Fantasy III and IV). The game features elegant character design, the worlds you run through are actually worth exploring and the text windows are easy to read. As for sound, you'll hear some good voice work, RPG-style battle effects and a soundtrack that's very fitting for this sort of game.
If you're looking for the next step in the role-playing genre and don't mind doing a little work, open up the book and crack the Code. You won't regret it.
What's Hot: Terrific plot involving the destruction of the world, inventive Code system, traditional action/RPG gameplay, nice visuals and music.
What's Not: The touch-screen book interface takes forever to flip through, the Code system takes time to master, weak writing.