To the casual gamer, Role Playing Games (or RPGs if you’re one of the cool kids) can be more than a little daunting, and sometimes the only thing that seems more insurmountable than RPGs are JRPGs, or Japanese Role Playing Games (if you’re totally against the idea of brevity).
For all of Transistor’s flourishes to make it more universally appealing, the story and gameplay couldn’t scream JRPG any louder if they tried, but even if you’re not a fan, it’s also a great first step into the genre, easing us into the tremendously complicated set-up one baby step at a time.
You start playing as Red, a famous singer in a future-retro-steampunk world that seems filled entirely by gangways and platforms. Oh, and killer robots. You’ve lost your voice during an assassination attempt on your life, so the only thing we hear is your talking sword, Transistor. Yes, we said talking sword. You collect power ups which allow Transistor to perform a variety of different attacks, upgrading as you go along, to destroy the opposition put in place by Camerta (the bad guys) who have taken over the city of Cloudbank.
The story moves along nicely, feeding you information as you move through the environments, with both the odd relationship between Red and his big sword, as well as the bigger story of what exactly is happening in Cloudbank in the background.
Same goes with the gameplay, as you pick up new abilities fairly sharpish, each with their own pros and cons, and the turn based action is handled well as you can dictate which moves you want Red to perform, and while these Turn attacks happen much faster, they also leave you without the ability to attack again while Transistor is recharging. It’s a smart and ingenious way to deal with what is usually the biggest grip that non-RPG players have with RPG games.
The angled-top-down view and simplistic but pretty visuals work well together, except when the action drags the screen to a wider angle and things get unwieldy, or when stuff is happening in the foreground… behind a building that fails to go transparent, and you’re left wondering if you’re aiming correctly.
These little niggles aside don’t detract from the overall experience, but what will detract is whether or not you’re willing to invest in something this abstract. There is quite a bit of entertainment to be had here, and most of it falls between the two stools of old school arcade beat ‘em ups and new school JRPGs, which means either everyone will be impressed, or nobody will. We’re betting on the former.
Format: Playstation 4
Genre: Action Adventure