Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey ($8.99) by Kobojo is a premium turn-based RPG adventure that will appeal to anyone who wants a “real” game on their mobile device. If you enjoyed other RPGs like the Final Fantasy series or even Chaos Rings, then you may like having Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey in your collection.
Several years ago, when I had much more free time on my hands, I loved just sitting back for a few hours and diving into a JRPG on my Nintendo handhelds. I could spend hours just on Final Fantasy games just grinding my team to become powerful enough to take down even the toughest foes. Nowadays, I don’t spend too much time on my Nintendo 3DS anymore, as it seems most of my gaming is done on my iPhone 6s Plus. However, when I heard that Zodiac: Orcanon Odyssey was coming out with some significant contributions from Kazushige Nojimia (writer, Final Fantasy VII) and Hitoshi Sakimoto (composer, Final Fantasy Tactics), I was genuinely intrigued and excited for this release. While it is certainly not without flaws, so far I’m finding the game to be rather enjoyable and worth a look.
The visuals in Zodiac are stunningly beautiful, which should be no surprise. If you have played any Japanese RPG game in the past, then you’ll be coming into familiar territory here. Zodiac has many anime-style cutscenes that will reveal the story and plot behind the game, and the graphics during gameplay are gorgeous with zero skimping out on the finer details and textures. The environments look lively and lush, and character models are amazingly rendered with energetic animations and movements. The atmospheric soundtrack to the game is well done, which comes as no surprise given the name behind it, and is a big draw to the game itself. Sound effects are a nice touch as well.
The controls in Zodiac are simple, though I feel that it does get a bit cumbersome at times. To skip cutscenes, you just have to tap on the screen — while this means faster skipping, I was a bit surprised that there’s no confirmation, as I was trying to prevent my screen from dimming and then realized I just missed the beginning of the story. To move your character around in the various areas you’ll be going through, just drag your finger or thumbs around and your character will follow (you fly on a gryphon mount). Interact with NPCs and objects by tapping them, and initiate battles with enemies by touching the ominous floating bubbles that are scattered around. Unlike games like Final Fantasy, there won’t be the element of surprise with random encounters in Zodiac.
Combat in the game is turn-based, but it has a different approach than what many of us may be used to. Rather than go through a text based menu of choices, Zodiac presents several different icons on each character’s turn. These represent the types of attacks that they can perform, and several of them will have additional effects, such as raising defense or doing more damage at the cost of making you vulnerable for a few turns. To use an attack, just drag the icon of the one you want to use onto a target enemy until their ring goes from red to green. There are also some special abilities like calling in your mount for some backup help, and you can use items if needed. Stronger attacks have a cool-down period, as indicated by the number badge on the icon after it is used.
Once combat is completed, you will earn a chest at the end with some rewards, such as useful loot items as well as gold coins. You will also get experience points for each character in battle, which lets them level up once the gauge is full enough. When a character gains a level, their stats increase, though there is not much customization with their class type or attributes, which is unfortunate. Aside from equipping gear on them, players don’t have control over how their attributes are distributed.
Another thing that bothered me a bit was the fact that while this is an RPG, it does not really let the player explore the world or grind battles to level up faster. Instead, the game is based on missions to progress the story, and it is more about pushing forward than exploration. As annoying as random encounters are, I would have liked to see that in this game to make it easier to level up characters. The extra animations that take place for characters to get into position also means more time wasted during each battle — there should at least be an option to skip unnecessary animations, at the very least.
While Zodiac still has its own set of flaws, I’m still enjoying the game. The art style is incredible to look at and shows a lot of care went into the aesthetics, and the music is great. Controls could use a bit of work, perhaps with a virtual joystick for movement rather than having your fingers all over the screen, obstructing your view. Still, the storyline is pretty interesting and the combat system is unique, which is a plus.
I think the $8.99 price tag for the game is a bit high considering that it lacks some big features of RPGs, but if you are still interested in giving it a try yourself, it can be found on the App Store as a universal download.