Review: Miden Tower (Switch)

There’s retro, and then there’s just cheap.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 08/24/2020 02:19 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Old-school RPG mechanics; fairly deep mechanics; a few clever moments
Poison Mushroom for...
Mediocre production values; generic plotline; stale combat system; cumbersome interface

One of the criticisms of mobile games, in the early days, was that they lacked the depth and breadth of console games. Thanks to freemium games and micro-transactions, that’s still by and large true today, although things have improved somewhat over the years. The gap between mobile and console has long been apparent in most genres, but it was particularly obvious with RPGs, a genre that invites depth and breadth.

KEMCO was one of the earliest and most prolific producers of classic JRPGs on mobile devices, with a blend of both freemium and full-pay titles set in that familiar JRPG anime style. In recent years, the company has branched out to other platforms, including, most recently consoles.

Miden Tower is such an example. It’s a multiplatform title, available on mobile, Xbox One, PC, and, of course, Nintendo Switch. At the time of this review, the Switch version is $20.99, which is more than PC ($14.99) or mobile ($8.99). The different versions appear to be identical.

On paper, this is your garden-variety JRPG. Young protagonist with a dark past? Check. Cute mysterious girl by his side? Check. Experience points, leveling up, random battles, and equipment? Check. Ability to adjust attack and defense by putting characters on a front line or back line? Check. The basics are all here, and while there are a few small wrinkles on the formula–the girl’s origins are sort of funny–for the most part this is well-worn ground. Don’t expect a Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI moment.

Being derivative isn’t entirely bad, but the devil is in the execution. For one thing, it looks bad. The character image designs during dialogue aren’t terrible, but the on-screen actions certainly is. Character movements are atrocious, with a low animation rate that looks like a low-budget stop-motion film. Even SNES RPGs from the 1990s looked smoother. Special attacks are equally underwhelming, missing the grand moments that 16-bit fans are used to seeing. This game doesn’t just look retro; it looks cheap, even compared to other smartphone-based RPGs. It doesn’t help that the backgrounds are by and large forgettable.

Equally clunky is the interface. The menus aren’t very intuitive, with a layout that takes some getting used to. Fast travel in Miden Tower, likewise, is both something of a chore. The combat menu is cluttered, too, and on top of that has only a faintly glowing marker that makes it hard to see what attack or action players are taking.

Another problem is that the game doesn’t do a great job of unveiling skills and abilities. Normally, an RPG starts players out with a puny character and then gradually amps things up. In this game, the starting character is not only strangely overleveled, but has access to far more skills and abilities than your typical RPG would start with. It’s a lot to sort through from the outset, but since the characters are so powerful it doesn’t matter all that much, as players will plow through enemies with almost no difficulty.

Overall, Miden Tower suffers, not from just being generic, but also lackluster. It’s not enough to say that it has the feel of a cheaply-made mobile RPG, because mobile RPGs have shown they can have polish. There are many quality indie RPGs out there that look cute, play well, and endear themselves. This isn’t one of them. For those reasons, Miden Tower is hard to recommend, especially at the $21 price point.

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