Ghost Lion, or Legend of the Ghost Lion according to the title screen, is an RPG that tries to incorporate several new ideas into the RPG formula. However, they show that while innovation is the only way to bring something new and enjoyable to the table, it’s also very easy to come up with something that’ll bomb. This game manages to bring in interesting new ideas to the RPG formula...But some of them, particularly the leveling-up system, just really bog the game down.
I’ll just start right off with the leveling-up. In this game, you do NOT get experience points. Defeating enemies will not raise your level. In order to level up, you need to find a ‘Fragment of Hope.’ These fragments are scattered around in dungeons and you need to do some exploring to find them. If you don’t like to explore in games, you’re not going to enjoy your time here. To put it simply, if you don’t explore, you won’t be leveling up...If you don’t level up, you don’t have a chance in the later areas of the game. Now, honestly, this wouldn’t be so bad except for one thing – the random battles.
With no experience to be gained, all you get from battles are money...Which can really make the random battles get on your nerves. Unless you constantly die (in which case, your money is halved) you will never, ever have any money problems in this game. So, if you aren’t fighting to level up...and you aren’t fighting to gain more money....Why do you need to fight so often? Also, since this game rewards exploration by leveling the character up, it’s just kind of annoying to have so many random battles while you’re trying to explore.
However, as far as battles go, that’s where more innovation comes in...And unlike the leveling-up system, the battles are actually pretty well done. You control a young girl named Maria from the start...And she will be your only party member for the entire game. Instead of recruiting new members to your party, you’ll be collecting artifacts that contain spirits for you to summon. Every battle, you start off by yourself. But, you can take a turn to summon an ally...And you can continue to summon allies for as long as you have ‘dream points’ (MP) to do so. Once an ally is summoned, it’s just like they’re a party member; you control their actions. If they die, they’ll fade away...But if you feel that ally needs to still be in the battle, you can always immediately summon them back again. It’s a very interesting system, it’s challenging, and it works well....But with the frequency of random battles, it just gets boring after a while.
Back to the exploration, on the world map, it can be a lot more difficult to find where you need to go than it should be. There are towns that are a lone mushroom slightly off to the side of a forest of mushrooms...The mushroom to the side doesn’t look any different than the others, it’s just off to the side. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to at least color it differently to give players a heads-up that it’s something to check out. Worse yet is a lake that you need to find later in the game. It’s not even marked, you simply have to walk up to the water shore...Again, it looks like part of the world map. A few markings would have been nice. Granted, the majority of places you need to visit are marked as clearly-visible castles, towers, and caves...But that just further makes me question why those other locations aren’t marked as clearly when they did it everywhere else.
If you’re looking for a long RPG experience, you won’t really find it here. I beat it in a little over twenty hours. If you know where you need to go and what you need to do, you could probably finish the game in ten hours. The story, while a very interesting concept, just isn’t executed well. The story won’t drive you to keep playing at all...In fact, after the introduction, you really won’t get a whole lot of story until you’ve beaten the final boss and watch the conclusion. Granted, talking to some townsfolk will unveil some story aspects...And one particular person in a town basically spoiled any chance of surprising me with the ending, but for the most part, the game is devoid of story.
As far as cosmetics go, Ghost Lion does alright. Graphically, the game is generally well-done. Some dungeons and areas look pretty neat while others, while not bad-looking, just don’t have the same flair. The character designs are all pretty well done as well. The only real gripe I have regarding the graphics are that there’s a bit of recycling in the game. Several dungeons look alike, just with different layouts. There’s also the common RPG practice of re-coloring of enemies found here...But since the actual number of enemies you’ll encounter is so low, it doesn’t seem like it’d be too hard to create individual sprites for each one. In the audio department, the game is so-so. The music gets the job done for the most part, but it’s not really anything great. You won’t hate it, but you won’t enjoy it, either. It’s just kind of there....Until you enter a battle. The battle music is kind of annoying...it’s pretty much just two notes repeating...Then the two notes change....Then go back. It’s not so bad at first...But you’ll hear it a LOT...and each time you do, the urge to hit the mute button will grow.
I really wanted to like Legend of the Ghost Lion...I really did. It tries to innovate the RPG genre, and while the battle system works alright, the leveling-up system makes the random battles seem more like an unnecessary chore than a needed aspect to the game. If the random battles were turned down a bit, the experience would be much more enjoyable, but for what it’s worth, Ghost Lion is still worth playing for die-hard RPG fans. There are some neat ideas to be found in this game...Unfortunately, the bad of the game slightly outweighs the good.