Impressions: Chantelise

By Alec Meer on July 27th, 2011 at 4:36 pm.

I’ve spent a few hours nuzzling up to Chantelise, the next Westernised translation/do-over of a Japanese indie title from noble Recettear chaps Carpe Fulgur. Because I appear to be pretty terrible at the game, a full Wot I Think is probably some days off. Meantime though, here’s some early impressions ahead of the release on Friday.

It strongly evokes Recettear while being absolutely nothing like it. Obviously much of that has to do with the love it/hate it/be a grown up and not be too fussed either way art style, but even beyond that a confluence of tone (via Carpe Fulgur’s extensive and breezily charismatic rewrite of the dialogue), references (many items bear similar if not the same names) and interface design paints this as a clear companion piece.

It’s not a game about buying, selling, fleecing and being fleeced, however, and as such loses Recettear’s immediate appeal of being a snarky joke about RPGs artfully expanded into an entire game. This, conversely, is something a whole lot more familiar, and indeed immediate. It’s a dungeon-crawler, a game about killing and killing and killing and killing – with an occasional spot of shopping in between so you’re even better positioned for killing and killing and killing and killing.

At least, so far as I know that’s its thing. I’m very early in, currently getting my pasty bottom handed to me by the first boss. Said boss is a witch in a mystic mech suit, and it’s a giant leap in difficulty up from what precedes it. As far as I can tell, this is because you’re not supposed to carve your way straight through a dungeon run like a laughing maniac, but because you’re supposed to repeatedly tackle maps until you’re a bit more buffed up and a whole lot more accustomed to the enemy types. Either that or you’re presumed to be ten times better than me and can breeze right through, but the brutal ease with which that boss keeps finishing me off suggests I need to grab a whole lot more loot then sell it back in town for more of the potions that increase my max health.

There doesn’t appear to be any levelling or experience system here – not yet, at least – but instead you increase your biffability and biff-resistance by buying increasingly expensive upgrades. With a new staff, some gloves and three HP-boosting potions, I’m about as buffed as I’m likely to be able to afford at this stage, so hopefully the next run at mecha-witch (and the preceding 20 minutes of dungeon) will be successful. I might get a bit stroppy if it isn’t. You wouldn’t like me when I’m stroppy.

As for the combat itself, this is entirely a real-time game, but it doesn’t really fall into the button-bashing camp. There are buttons. You should definitely mash ‘em a bit. You’ll enjoy the results. You should also, however, be choosing your moment to unleash magic attacks (activated by you but unleashed by your non-playable fairy companion) and most importantly collecting the constantly-dropping gems in an order that will activate the most effective combo attacks. One yellow gem means you’ll summon a giant wrecking ball that spins around you for a few seconds, but two yellow gems means you’ll be clad in mystic armour for a while. So while the temptation is to pick up gems as they drop, in that compulsive loot-hoovering hunger we all know so well, actually you should be picking and choosing, so the six gems you can carry at any one time can be unleashed in the most devastating fashion possible.

The game hints that later on you’ll be able to combine more gems for an attack, but where I am it’s a max of two. It’s much more easily done than it might sound from such reckless talk of combination however – just hold down rather than tap the magic button and the two gems at the front of your stack will be unleased together. Want to get different gems in the stack? Tap the button once to cast whatever’s at the top, then wait for the one you want instead to drop. It’ll be a matter of a seconds: at least one in two foes seem to drop a gem, and that means you’re constantly casting spells rather than peevishly saving them up for harder fights. Like I say, this is an immediate game: drop right in and cause merry hell.

Ah yes – I mentioned buttons. You are going to enjoy this more on a gamepad rather than a mouse and keyboard. I’m fine with that, and it’s not to say there’s something wrong with mouse and keyboard controls – but it’s one of those games that just seems to react better to twin sticks and face buttons. Controls can be rebound, but I’m pretty happy with as-is – a button to stab, a button to magic, a button to jump and a button to target. It’s extremely simple to control, but combat mastery requires tactical thinking.

I’m enjoying the look too. I’m not a big fan of that particular art style, but the 3D levels paired with 2D, hand drawn-looking characters is an effective tack, and one that successfully hides the game’s years behind appealing stylisation. As for the game as a whole – it’s too soon to call it. I don’t yet feel the urge to evangelise it as I did Recettear, and having just recently spent so much intimate, debilitating time with Realm Of The Mad God I’m pretty much damned to find any other action RPG pretty tame for a while. I need to see how much Chantelise opens up later, once I’m past that first bloody boss at last. Right now, I’m a little concerned by the apparent need for grind, but don’t take that as gospel – there really is every chance I’m just doing it wrong. I do a lot of things wrong, like forgetting to have lunch today then wondering why I’ve got a headache.

I’m certainly keen to continue clambering up mount Chantelise however – the writing’s charming and funny, and the spell system particularly is slick and merrily destructive. Hopefully a bigger choice of dungeons and a town with a bit more to nose at during my downtime are right around the corner. And then, around another corner, more types of mad magic to remotely pummel things to death with.

Chantelise is released on July 29, for $10/€8/₤6.50. There’ll be a 10%-off preorder at Gamersgate and a 10%-off weeklong deal at Steam starting on launch day. You can try out the demo here.

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57 Comments »

  1. Eclipse says:

    many items and monsters are not only similar but the very same sprites. They were first used on Chantelise and then re-slapped on Recettear later on

  2. PanzerVaughn says:

    Sounds like something Dark Cloud veterans would enjoy?

    • PodX140 says:

      I haven’t heard of that game since it and it’s sequel sucked me into a bottomless void of leveling and management (Which path should I take? What gems should I put on now? Should I grind another level before upgrading this?). I LOVED it. If this is anything like dark cloud, I’m in for one hell of a game.

    • Wulf says:

      The sequel to Dark Cloud almost had me but it was simply too much, I couldn’t keep up with it, and more interesting prospects eventually came along.

    • TariqOne says:

      I spit on this RPG. Not fit to wash the unmentionables of Guild Wars 2, it is.

      Mmm … Guild Wars 2 …. Be back in 10 — nay, 15! — minutes!

    • Veracity says:

      Not really, unless that’s the only console toy action dungeon crawl game you’ve played, in which case maybe. It has none of Dark Cloud/Chronicle’s randomization or overwhelming mess of gimmickry, though – it’s a straightforward monster brawl in the same vein as Ys. At first glance it also looks a lot less grindy. There’s a “secret” (extra chest) to trigger in each area off arbitrary conditions that seems as though it gives you whatever you need to be going on with, though you can grind money for even more junk if you must, and there’s rare buyable equipment eventually that requires selling (potentially rare) drops to become available. Based only on Recettear, I’d cautiously guess you needn’t grind anything for the story, but more tiresome repetition might start to look worthwhile if you pursue optional dungeons beyond that.

      Territoire does have some kind of town planning element, which might recall Dark Cloud a little more. The fighting in that is SRPG, though. And it’s not going to be available in English for at least a thousand years.

  3. McDan says:

    Been trying the demo, it’s quite fun and does remind me a lot of Recettear, which I love. So…um…yeah, will probably get it.

  4. Dominic White says:

    It’s a decent game for sure, but it’s definitely showing its age, being at least a couple years older than Recettear, back when EasyGameStation were still finding their feet. More than anything, the controls suffer – it’s resolutely digital when everything should be nice and smooth and analogue.

    The retranslation has done wonders, though. Great work from CF as always.

    • amandachen says:

      Yeah, it’s like dozens of old console games. I played this a while ago (different translation). It’s fun if you like that sort of game.

    • Bhaumat says:

      Likewise. Well, untranslated, which meant I got stuck half way through when I couldn’t figure out what I was meant to do. If you’ve played Duo Princess (an earlier fan-work they made) you’ll recognise the engine they used, improved and expanded on here. It’s old, but I think it’s good enough that it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying the game.
      I’d like to finish it and see CF’s translation, so I should think I’ll be buying it.

  5. Temple says:

    Stop! Hammerball!
    ^This is good.
    (I am aware this offers nothing to the dialogue, and now I am so ashamed)

  6. BadgerAttackSquad says:

    I had a hard time on the boss too. The trick is to dodge twice right when you hear him jump. It almost always let me escape.

    Other than that I just blasted him with magic constantly. Melee does virtually no damage to it.

    I also think it helps if you don’t lock the camera on him except when you’re using spells. I had a hard time avoiding him when he was in the air if I was locked on.

    • Tenpo says:

      I actually succeeded better by keeping the lock on him.

      Keep the lock on the Jewel-joints of the arms, and when he prepares to jump on you, you simply need to run in a direction (whichever you prefer…) and dodge at the very last moment just before he hits you/the ground.

      As soon as I found that tactic he never touched me again.
      Having the speed-boost boots probably helped with this though, dunno if it’s the right choice without them

    • BadgerAttackSquad says:

      I unfortunately did not have speed boots. :( I could sometimes avoid him if I dodged right before he landed, but I found the only consistent way to avoid his jumps was a double dodge when I heard the jump noise.

      If I remained locked on my dodges didn’t always go in the same direction due to the camera spin while he was in midair. This resulted in more hits than the double dodge method so I just used that.

      Unrelated: If anyone is playing without a gamepad, you need to stop and plug one in. It makes everything soooo much easier. (camera control anyway)

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    Indeed, according to the demo, this game is quite good.

    The 29th just can’t come soon enough…

  8. pakoito says:

    I didn’t quite like it. It was supposed to be dungeon-crawl-hood but the lack of evolution, combos and having to clean whole areas just turned it down for me.

  9. fauxC says:

    As much as I loved Recettear, the dungeons were tedious interruptions to the fun (and the great translation).

    This sounds like a horribe grindy mess to be honest. I’m hoping to be proven wrong though.

    • ffordesoon says:

      If you hated Recettear’s dungeons, I think it would be prudent for you to give this one a pass. That, at least, is what my time with the demo indicated.

      If, on the other hand, you are someone who quite liked Recettear’s dungeons, as I did, this is a monster-killin’ hoot. As, you know, we say in the American South. Y’all.

  10. OptionalJoystick says:

    One thing worth pointing out for fellow thickies: Targeting/Lock-on works in the reverse fashion to what I was used to. Tap to select, hold to cancel. As the same button is also Camera Reset, it’s a little unclear that You’re Not Doing It Right.

  11. westyfield says:

    I am deeply uncomfortable with my sexuality and therefore dislike the anime art style. I dislike it so much I feel compelled to say so here, in this comments thread, and will dismiss the rest of the game based on that and that alone.

    • Meatloaf says:

      Oh, we’re doing this again? I thought Alice had covered us in this regard. Oh well, ever onwards, then.

      I haughtily and thoroughly disagree with your dismissal because I believe that anime is not a single genre but rather a medium in which many distinct and differing styles of art, storytelling, and characterization can take place. I will point to many good and bad examples of many genres and stories implemented in this medium. I also tend to like Anime Art because of the generally stylized visuals and colourful worlds, people, and environments that are represented therein, as opposed to the often drab ‘n’ grey Western Video Game Shootings style.

      Unfortunately, I will now choose to express myself in this comment thread by asserting that Anime Is The Greatest And You Are The Worst.

      Despite this simply being a divergence in taste, I will now attempt to belittle you as a person, and disregard anything you ever have to say at any point in the future because of this differing in preferred aesthetic and art style.

    • westyfield says:

      I expect now I’ll say something rude about your mother, probably questioning the legitimacy of your birth, then make lewd suggestions about your sister or sisters (this argument assumes that you have at least one sister).
      At this point, after I’ve thoroughly insulted you and your family and turned every spectator away from my point of view, I’ll make you think as if I’m going to agree with you in one regard, before changing my mind and straw-manning you and everyone who shares your opinion.
      Not really sure what happens here, probably more pointless verbal sparring before one of us either gets bored and stops responding, or an admin tells us to stop it.

    • Meatloaf says:

      In response to your petty insults, I suppose I am due to call you a troll, thus enabling me to not only handily brush off everything you have to say, but also develop an even more vaporous sense of superiority.

      I will, in turn, reciprocate these insults by declaring that you are, due to some simple grammatical or formatting error, a complete nincompoop, and call your sexuality into question despite that being both completely irrelevant none of my business whatsoever.

      This also will have the side effect of driving off anyone who attempts to engage in an actual discourse, seeing that the thread is full of petty arguments such as ours.

    • westyfield says:

      Now I shall proceed to huffily storm off and cease responding to your comments. I shall loudly state my intent to do so, in order that all may see that I am more mature than you as I rise above your petty arguments. Of course, were you to respond with something like “good riddance” or a similarly biting remark, I would have no choice but to return and insult you back, thus ensuring that I have the final say in this matter.

    • Wulf says:

      And now I’ll step in and suggest tea, biscuits, and killing him anyway.

    • Acosta says:

      This was brilliant and beautiful. Thanks!

    • Fierce says:

      *Slow clap*

    • ffordesoon says:

      I, being fashionably late to this particular lynching, shall nevertheless assert my validity as a person by asking each of you to take a step back and look at yourselves in the light of day.

      After that, I will have such a head of steam built up that I shall elaborate on my already-tiresome argument by writing a long and pointless diatribe comparing and contrasting the two arguments, after which I shall cap the post with a warmly witty remark intended to to evoke conciliatory feelings in both parties.

      And then, predictably, I will constantly refresh the page for several minutes, hoping against hope that either of the warring parties will come back and respond to my meticulously crafted and entirely unnecessary response, thus validating it – and, by extension, me. When this doesn’t happen, I will leave the page, resolved to visit it again in a few hours’ time. Perhaps I will mutter something about time zones to myself.

      ((It is rather sad how many times I have actually done this.))

  12. CaspianRoach says:

    >but it’s one of those games that just seems to react better to twin sticks and face buttons

    What is this?! RPS telling people to use gamepads? Heresy, I say!

    • Tenpo says:

      Strange thing is: I couldn’t assign the camera control and the directions to the sticks on my pad with the demo.

      Maybe it has to do with the fact that I use my PS3 pad with a plugin?

      Anyone using a leggit PC pad or 360 pad had the same problem?

    • HermitUK says:

      I’m avoiding the demo because I’d already decided to buy this one on release anyway, though it could be the game is using XInput, which a PS3 pad plugged into the PC doesn’t use, as I recall.

      You could try http://code.google.com/p/x360ce/wiki/MainPage which essentially lets you use non XInput devices as 360 pads. Also useful for any GFWL game that supports a 360 pad but not other gamepads. A tad fiddly to set up, but it works.

      Edit: Otherwise check the Carpe Fulgur forums, see if there’s any reported issues on that front.

    • SpaceDrake says:

      Tempo: the left-right axes on the right-hand stick always control the camera, so long as you’re using an Xinput joypad (I.E. one with X-rotation assigned to the left-right of the right stick). And yes, heresy though it might be, it plays a hundred times better with a gamepad. Keyboard controls are THERE, they WORK, but it was really made with a gamepad in mind.

    • BadgerAttackSquad says:

      @Tenpo: I use a PS3 controller with the Motionjoy drivers and everything worked fine with no configuration.

      (I had the controller enabled as a PS3 controller if this makes any difference to you. Usually when emulating I find it easier to use one of the PS2 settings.)

    • Veracity says:

      You’ve tried waggling your right stick when the custom.exe binding prompts you for camera control? That worked for my (non-xinput) controller. It calls the axis you’re assigning “triggers”, but that doesn’t matter. Doing that also lets you bind + and – back to front, so that the camera controls are the one true and correct way around. Failing that, above suggesting re trying xinput emulation with x360ce is probably your best bet, since as far as I understand they’ve hacked it to force that always to work (original used shoulder buttons for rotation, I think). Or use xpadder, which also has the advantage of letting you bind Z+X to a single button, so dodging doesn’t require smooshing two face buttons at the same time.

    • Tenpo says:

      @BadgerAttack:
      I’m using MotionInJoy too, but was using it with the 360 emul setting.
      I tried with Ps3 after reading your comment, and now it works…even if I revert to 360…..

      The joy of technology….

      Thanks to all of you. Those other solutions might come in handy if I find another problem like this on another game.

    • iviv says:

      Just to report that I could assign everything fine using the config tool on my wired 360 pad.

    • Zyrxil says:

      The problem is…you’re all wrong. This is basically a PS1 game. It was not made with Dual Sticks in mind, it was made with a DPad, 4 face buttons, and L R for controlling the camera in mind.

      The movement is purely digital. You don’t really need a gamepad, you just need to let go of the mouse and have both hands on the keyboard. Having played Xenogears on ePSXe, the controls were instantly comfortable. I suggest people try out these binds before reaching for an analog stick pad with a mushy dpad:

      Keypad for movement
      F: Jump
      D: Attack
      S: Magic
      E: Camera
      W: Pan camera left
      R: Pan camera right.

    • Tenpo says:

      The problem is…you’re all wrong. This is basically a PS1 game. It was not made with Dual Sticks in mind, it was made with a DPad, 4 face buttons, and L R for controlling the camera in mind.

      This little fellow says Hello: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/DualShock.gif

    • Zyrxil says:

      Here’s the original PS1 controller.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PSX-Original-Controller.jpg

      There are a ton of PS1 games that simply didn’t have Dual Shock support; e.g. Xenogears. Chantelise is a game in that mold of an early PS1 RPG, and there is an appropriate lack of analog control support. As someone who’s played a lot of PS1 JRPGs, the fact that the camera is controlled by two digital keys instead of the stick is a dead giveway.

    • Tenpo says:

      Sure that was the original one.
      Sure some early games were designed purely for it.
      But later on the dual-stick extravaganza came, and games WERE designed to use them.

      And in the present case, even if it might not have originally been designed to be used with dual sticks (and I seriously doubt it), the in-game tutorial specifically tells you that you can do it “with the right hand stick”.
      So I don’t think we’re all wrong when we suggest it should be played with a controller “with dual sticks”.

  13. Carra says:

    Seeing the first screenshot I was thinking “Recettear 2?”.

    Also, “I’m certainly keen to continue clambering up mount Chantelise “. Who wouldn’t?

    • magnus says:

      ‘Also, “I’m certainly keen to continue clambering up mount Chantelise “. Who wouldn’t?’

      Whaaaat? And people think I’m weird for having a thing about BBW’s and then you post that! :O

  14. Wulf says:

    I love, love, love the style of this and the humour, but I’m allergic to grind and literally can’t involve myself in it. There’s really little that’ll turn me off quicker. So I probably won’t play this one… but hell, I might pick it up just to support the translators. And I have to say that I’m looking forward to their next game, whatever that will be. (I remember the screenshots but I’m still not at all familiar with that game, so I won’t know more until they release more about it.)

    Also, I’m hoping that eventually they’ll take a risk and translate something more esoteric and strange. I am at least somewhat familiar with the Japanese fan game industry (including the ones being sold) and there are some incredible entries out there which deserve a translation. Some of which, however, will unfortunately turn the brain of the average Western gamer inside-out.

    • Oozo says:

      Names,Wolf,we want names! (Or,alternatively, sources where these names canbe found.) I just finished Red Seeds Profile and really got addicted to having my brain split in two…

  15. Archaeon says:

    @HermitUK

    You could try http://code.google.com/p/x360ce/wiki/MainPage which essentially lets you use non XInput devices as 360 pads. Also useful for any GFWL game that supports a 360 pad but not other gamepads. A tad fiddly to set up, but it works.

    You, good sir, are officer and a gentleman for posting this link. I’ve been looking for something like this for several months. I heartily thank you. May a squadron of beautiful vaginas find their way to your crotch by day’s end!

  16. BeamSplashX says:

    The sprites + 3D look reminds me of Ys Origin. It’s an underused approach, it seems. Even free Japanese indie games go for full 3D (like Ruins of the Lost Kingdom, which seems awesome but difficult to get into long-term without translation, hinthintnudgenudgewinkwink).

  17. ZephyrSB says:

    Maybe this version won’t BSoD me whenever I try to play fullscreen. CF seems in a bit better position to do this properly than an unknown French publisher using a fan-originated translation attempt (it was a good early effort, just too many little problems to really enjoy it).

  18. Warboss says:

    Chantelise reminds me of this old game, Legend of Foresia, with the J-ARPG feel. 3D characters in an old-school 3D world bashing monsters for jewels and experience with up to 4 players on screen fighting alongside each other on the same computer. I’ll be sure to give it a try.

  19. noodlecake says:

    An almost definite buy from me. I adore Recettear.

  20. Chimpyang says:

    In respect to the writer’s problems with the first boss: double greens!

  21. HermitUK says:

    Played a couple of hours of the full game and just killed the Golem. It’s certainly not got that spark of originality Recettear had, but it’s a very enjoyable game. A few quirks, but mostly these are understandable (as it is an older game than everyone’s favourite item shop simulator). CF’s translation work is excellent once again.

    A few points spring to mind from what I’ve played so far:

    1. If you’re locked on to the Golem, using the dodge move directly towards the screen as it jumps should avoid the damage as it lands.

    2. You can target the crystals on the Golem’s Shoulders (bit fiddly to do with the analogue stick, so just target the golem and tap the target button again to toggle between the shoulders) – Destroying these knocks the arms off, making him a lot easier to finish off at close range. This also causes a hidden chest to appear (See below).

    3. Each screen in a dungeon has a hidden treasure chest which you can find in Story or Practice mode. For example, destroying all the torches on a screen or killing a group of grey slimes might make one appear. Hunt these down – you’ll get treasure to sell and equipment so you don’t need to buy it from the shop (thus saving money for the health boosters and reducing the need to grind).

  22. Lyrica_Ravenkin says:

    I really liked the look of the game so I downloaded the demo. It sorta reminds me of the Tales games or even Dark Cloud. I have not played long but so far I am having loads of fun. I even got it for my sister. I have yet to make it to the first boss which sounds really hard after reading the story above, but I hope to beat her in under ten tries. Good luck to all those who are playing.

  23. Pete Davison says:

    It’s not grindy — at least not in the same way as a more traditional dungeon-crawler. In fact, it’s not really a traditional RPG at all — it’s an action game with a few RPG stylings such as equippable items and an upgradeable HP bar. There’s no XP or levelling up or learning new skills — just your own skill as a player improving, and the odd bit of equipment to bump up your stats. The only thing close to grinding that you need to do is repeating areas to get treasure chests you missed, and repeating a dungeon run to get back to the bosses — which, yes, will kick your bottom from here until next Tuesday if you don’t figure out their attack patterns and weaknesses. Oldschool.

    Fortunately, though, once you’ve cleared an area of enemies and unlocked the door once in Story mode, you can simply charge straight through into the next area without having to kill anything. Makes repeat runs that much more bearable, though there’s still an element of challenge.

    Learn to use the dodge move — it’s essential, particularly for bosses.

  24. RabidRenamon says:

    You have to dodge, you can’t take attacks, Attack+Jump is your best friend in boss fights, also, the next boss, when you pull off a combo in his face he gets knocked back, and can, occationally fall in lava.

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