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Rondo of Swords Package Art
Strategy RPG

Rondo of Swords

Turn-based strategy games seem to have reached a plateau. The genre consists of several staples which are part-and-parcel of every tactical game, regardless of developer or series. Therefore, it's great to see it when a developer takes a chance a changes up the formula, just like Success has with the Atlus-published Rondo of Swords.


The graphics are not where Rondo of Swords defies expectations. Like most handheld strategy games, the action is displayed on a grid-based map with characters occupying one space each. Dialogue is displayed with large character portraits with text boxes beneath during cutscenes, and menus tend to favor manilla.

During either an ally or foe's attack, the screen shifts to a two-dimensional side view, where the character is shown dashing toward the opponent. After the damage tally is complete, the view returns to the normal map screen. The game doesn't push the DS to its technical limits, but it does sport an interesting art style that's a tad different from the Saturday morning art style typical to games of the genre.


Rondo of Swords offers more voice acting than usually seen in a game of its ilk. While the game is not fully voiced by any means, each character does seem to have a distinct voice present in battles. There is, however, no voice acting in the story-oriented parts of the game.

On the music front, the effort seems strangely mixed. The music within the map screen or menus is hardly varied at all, and while some player characters seem to have their own distinct themes while attacking, others do not, and there isn't any particular reasoning behind which do and which don't.


The gameplay in this title changes it up, but strategy fans shouldn't be worried -- the game is still very recognizable. The main shakeup here revolves around melee attack; melee-based characters attack based on movement patterns. This is a big shift from the traditional strategy RPG setup of moving next to a unit and then attacking. Instead, in Rondo of Swords, characters can chain attacks for any opponents within their movement radius, then, in theory, flee back to safety. A character with a high movement ratio could conceivably strike up to eight opposing soldiers in one turn. If one of of the enemies counterattack during the chain, the character will be knocked back to a nearby square, possibly leaving him or her vulnerable for attack.

Outside of melee combat, not too much has been altered. Archers can move and then attack, though only one opponent at a time, and spellcasters can either move or cast a spell, but not both in one turn. There is quite a large cast of characters, including a couple from Success's companion series Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, and while generally only six characters can participate in battle at any given time, there are plenty of activities outside of battle for player characters to participate in, and most of these result in stat bonuses or the receipt of helpful items. PCs can go on quests, train themselves for further battle, go shopping (this is the only way to obtain items outside of battle, there are no shops), or undergo trials in order to get promoted to a higher character class.

Characters are also customizable in aspects beyond equipment. Skill points earned through battle or training can be put toward a number of character-unique abilities or skills, some of which are passive and others of which are usable in combat. To an extent, the player must decide whether to use skill points to level up a particular skill all the way or spread it around and a have a variety of mediocre-to-average skills. While the ability to keep experience earned when escaping from battle is a nice touch (and vital in some missions) the lack of an overworld map of any sort -- missions must be played in order -- seems to limit choices somewhat. On the other hand, the game has multiple endings based on which in-game events were completed or ignored, encouraging replays.




With the movement-based attacks and extensive roster of characters, there's no doubt that strategy fans will find a lot to like here. While the game is clearly made to be played with buttons, touch screen fanatics can play with the stylus if desired -- dragging the characters routes around the screen is a nice touch. Those put off by the changes shouldn't feel too threatened, as Rondo of Swords includes an in-depth, and thankfully, completely optional tutorial that fully explains the game's battle system. Overall, Rondo of Swords offers a nice differentiation from the usual turn-based tactics fare.

final score 8.4/10

Staff Avatar Aaron Roberts
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