This title from 1999 and 2000 in Japan and the NA respectively is a more modest "gaiden" in Squaresoft's decorated history, often considered a kind of kid brother to Brave Fencer Musashi, which itself was a departure for them as a 3D action-RPG. The budgetary parcity is evident in the one-town gameworld and the absence of full-motion cutscenes, alongside with lesser adornments in the environments. In it, light RPG elements gild a core gameplay of stripped-down Zelda-like skirmishes generally found a satisfying whiling away of a few idle hours. The trials and tribulations of making 3D platforming work, however, Squaresoft wasn't able to negotiate here, with control difficulties abounding. Luckily, failures do not set the player back far. The other polemic points are the game's hors d'oeuvre duration and the abstraction of challenge, something tied to the juvenile target audience.
Besides that, there's an unusually glaring imbalance in how attractive the two selectable main characters and their scenarios are. hardcoregaming101 has this to say on the one almost universally considered ascendant: "Mint, on the other hand, is a show stealer. The pipsqueak sized punk is a joy with every line of dialog. She’s such a genuinely terrible person, which makes her development into a properly fleshed out one have more weight. [The other protagonist's] entire story is an endless string of nothing and sad that feels empty, while Mint has an arc, ups and downs, and manages to have actual dialog with characters that goes beyond 'man, your live [sic] sure is sad' and exposition." It seems it might almost be the trendy thing to do to ignore the other character completely, or at least play him second on the condition the gameplay was to your liking. This is not only due to the less piquant story and writing and lack of significantly diverging locations and boss fights between the stories, but also because his special gimmick (monster transformations) is more laxly integrated into gameplay than Mint's spellcasting, somewhat marginalizing its use. Despite this, the generally appreciated localization, the colorful graphics, distinctive SFX and musical scores may push you into completing both campaigns, given all are at least slightly unique to each character.
What makes this game an underdog is its notably poor sales facing stiff competition even just from other Squaresoft titles – the likes of Chrono Cross, Final Fantasy VIII, Legend of Mana and the PS1 port of Grandia – seeing either a JP or NA release in 1999. Furthermore, buyers may have been put off by Square's attempts to lure in a younger audience. Most reviews you see today are still happy enough to recommend giving it a try. Two thumbs up!
Reviewed by: LotBlind