If you took an old school JRPG, gave it a fresh 2D aesthetic and optimized it for mobile than you would have Kobojo’s latest title Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey. Zodiac is a unique premium RPG which is available on iOS. The game stands out on the mobile platform with its new world and lack of paywall mechanics, but it isn’t without its flaws.
In Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey, you play as the protagonist Cael, a soldier sent out to patrol the borderlands. His nation is undergoing a change in leadership as the old Director succumbs to illness with no heir. Meanwhile, racial tensions are causing all sorts of political and social strife. On top of getting wrapped up in all of this turmoil, Cael is learning that he has the ability to take on different magical forms and abilities when he comes in contact with mysterious shards.
When it comes to story, this game is a classic JRPG. There is plenty of trite fantasy racism and punny names for everything. Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey isn’t mold breaking or even particularly interesting when it comes to the storyline but the world is well built and engaging. The beautiful 2D art helps with this as it presents sprawling landscapes for players to discover. Movement is touch based and intuitive with Cael and his flying mount traveling in the direction you tap or swipe across the screen. Dungeon layouts are somewhere in between side-scrolling levels and the type of free form world exploration usually found in JRPGs where players can explore a limited selection of various paths. Dungeons are mission based with a somewhat linear progression, but without players being railroaded through.[caption id="attachment_64288" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Despite having a damaged wing Kadyn still performs well in battle.[/caption]
Exploration in Orcanon is rewarded with hidden loot, side quests and interesting NPCs to talk to. Nearly every NPC drawn into the background can be conversed with and those dialogues really help flesh out the world. There are a set number of enemy encounters in each level, and finding them all will get you full completion and more experience points, but there isn’t really a way to grind to higher levels.
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey's combat is smooth in a classic turn based style. Attack icons can be dragged over to the intended enemy or simply tapped. Cael has a party of fellow heroes with various skill sets, and there are a variety of fun enemies to encounter. Cael himself can change into different Zodiac forms by merely sacrificing his place in the turn order, and each of these different forms have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Sage can heal but has lower attack power, and the Alchemist makes up for his lack of defense by doing more damage with stacking status effects.[caption id="attachment_64290" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Use job points to unlock skills along Cael's skill tree.[/caption]
Aside from combat, players will encounter interesting puzzles and a fair amount of fetch quests. As you progress in the game and gain experience points, you’ll need to make sure your party has the best gear. Equipment is streamlined with only a weapon and armor slot to fill for each character, and the decision comes down to what the highest rated item available is. There’s a skill tree for each of Cael’s forms as you level up, but players won’t have to worry about managing the other members of the party.
Other classic RPG elements aren't executed as well in Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey. For example, crafting is included in the game, but almost as an afterthought. It’s difficult to figure out how the system works and there aren’t many recipes to utilize once you get a handle on the basics. It’s easier to ignore the system entirely and instead buy useful items with the money you'll receive from selling things sitting in your overcrowded and disorganized inventory. In addition to all this, players could become frustrated that saving the game is only available at checkpoints, but this does add to the difficulty level at times. The good news is that the developers have heard many of these complaints from early players and are looking to make improvements in regards to the inventory and saving systems.[caption id="attachment_64291" align="aligncenter" width="440"] Not sure what all these items are but it doesn't really matter because I'm just gonna sell them anyway.[/caption]
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey feels like a fully fledged and immersive game and not just something designed to pass the time as many mobile titles are. The game has great animations and artwork with lovely anime style cutscenes. These graphics are accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack. The game has a good interface that has been optimized for mobile. Although all the story-line content hasn’t been released yet, there are many hours of gameplay between getting full completion, playing dungeons on different difficulty levels and the online multiplayer content. The rest of the content for the story line, including party members and Zodiac forms, will be released in stages at later dates.
Despite all this, the current content available for the game feels like an extended demo. There are only three Zodiac forms you get to unlock and while the chief party members have been introduced you only really get to use two of the supporting characters in combat. The story is only just getting started and isn’t particularly interesting but the tease of what’s to come looks like it could get really intriguing.
Those who play Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey may experience some bugs. Throughout my time with the game, I had it freeze up on me, close unexpectedly, and make the combat menu disappear halfway through a battle. Nothing exactly game breaking, but a mid-battle glitch can definitely put a damper on your gameplay experience.[caption id="attachment_64292" align="aligncenter" width="440"] The backgrounds are so gorgeous it's almost a shame you have to obscure the view with your fingertips.[/caption]
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey offers a beautiful and classic JRPG experience. Art, music and combat are all great. However, bugs, too little release content, and annoying save and inventory systems make for a less than stellar gaming experience. The game is reminiscent of The Legend of Dragoon and early Final Fantasy titles. It could be a good game to introduce the genre to those that are new to JRPGs, as well as those that want an authentic JRPG experience on mobile.
There is new content for Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey to be released in the future that will continue the story. The game is also planned for release on PS4 and PS Vita at a later date. Download Zodiac for iOS from the App Store for $8.99 if you want an authentic, if slightly flawed JRPG experience on mobile.
This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on an iPad Air. Screenshots in this review were used with permission from Kobojo.
Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey offers a beautiful and classic JRPG experience with great art, music and combat. However, bugs, a tiny amount of release content and annoying save and inventory systems make for a less than stellar gaming experience.