XBox Live Indie Games
80 MS points
It’s very obvious that the developer of Bonded Realities is a big fan of Earthbound. From the cartoony visual style and silly enemies to the menu and font styles to even using PP instead of MP, everything about Bonded Realities screams Earthbound. So is this the fan-made Earthbound sequel we’ve all been waiting for? Sadly, no.
That’s not to say that Bonded Realities is horrible or anything. The music is good and there’s a number of amusing lines of description and dialogue. The monsters are generally based on bad puns which I’m all in favor of and each enemy has a good number of unique lines of description for attacks and the like. A save anywhere feature and the ability to turn off encounters increase accessibility. And at 80 MS points for about 3-4 hours of content, it offers a decent value.
Where the game falls down is in the gameplay. My strategy for most random battles consisted of mashing the A button (selecting Fight) while surfing the Internet. Later on (after buying a bunch of PP restoration items), I would occasionally throw a Group Attack technique in to make it go a little faster, but otherwise the Fight-Fight-Fight-Fight strategy served me well. Monster groups cap at 3 monsters per battle and generally monsters in a single location all have similar HP & offensive capabilities. Unless you’re severely underleveled or start a fight in critical condition, you’re never in any danger from a random encounter. Moreover, your characters don’t have very many abilities to begin with so even if I wanted to be more strategic with the combat, it’s not really an option (even at the end of the game, I only had 4-5 spells per character). Boss fights require a little more strategy and the final boss fight changes things up some, but overall the combat is very shallow.
There’s next to no character customization. LV-Ups bonuses and abilities are all predetermined and most equipment falls under a strict Sword 2 is better than Sword 1 line of progression. There are also a few minor annoyances like the Menu button being Start (instead of Y like pretty much every other RPG) or the fact that the game doesn’t tell you how much damage enemy attacks deal (you just see your HP drop). On the plus side, LV-Ups come at a relatively fast pace, and there are a few puzzles and mazes to add variety to dungeon exploration.
Overall, I had mixed feelings upon finishing Bonded Realities. Although I enjoyed the game’s quirky style, I found the gameplay generic and boring. I’d love to see a sequel that builds on the first game’s strengths while offering more sophisticated and better balanced gameplay, but in the meantime, I can only recommend Bonded Realities to novice RPG players and those who can overlook poor gameplay.