Kingdom of Paradise for the PSP is a surprisingly deep RPG that allows players to create a great number of attacks. The swordplay system allows you to create your own style of attacks using special moves and potions to increase your skills. The game follows most role-playing conventions otherwise as you traverse a large map of different areas, facing off against dozens of enemies in real-time battles. From a visual standpoint, the game excels with a robust storyline unfolding rapidly. While there isn't much competition on the PSP, Kingdom of Paradise is a solidly entertaining role-playing adventure that should keep you busy for quite some time.
Set in feudal Japan, Kingdom of Paradise is set in the mystical Ouka and follows its protagonist Shinbu as he tries to find the Kirin Clan who massacred his erstwhile temple. On his quest, he'll find that the sole survivor of the attack was a young girl named Sui Lin who has become the new leader of the sect. Shinbu walks into these events but has no claim on the temple since he left them behind several years before. During his younger days, he'd actually been kicked out for disobeying the master's orders. While Kingdom of Paradise's structure and style follows most RPG conventions, it offers a few unique mechanics all its own to keep things fresh. The game follows the action from an overhead perspective, with most actions occurring in real time. KOH's game world and environments are quite massive, with the map unfolding slowly as you reach new areas. This gives the player plenty of room for exploration and discovery. During the game, your objectives are to reach certain areas of the map, and fight the hordes of beasts who attack you. Unlike the turn-based approach in most role-playing game, each battle takes place in real time, and you'll usually find yourself surrounded by multiple enemies, all of whom must be defeated in order to move on. You aren't alone in these battles, since Sui Lin accompanies you throughout. She is a decidedly effective swordsman as well. Most of the enemies put up little resistance, at least early on. However, the game throws more intelligent foes, including massively challenging bosses come at you during its later stages to make things more interesting.
During the game, you'll collect a variety of items including scrolls, weapons, health power-ups and other items. These can then be equipped with your character, which can be done on the menu screens. The menus themselves are fairly easy to navigate, making it easy to see what you have in your inventory. However, this system can also be confusing since some items need to be equipped before they can be used. That said, the really interesting part of Kingdom of Paradise lies in its extensive use of swords, which is almost a mini-game in and of itself. You begin the game with a standard sword and a few rudimentary weapons, but can earn, use and combine these to create some incredibly effective weapons. In addition, you can use scrolls to add special moves to your attacks, giving you a versatile arsenal which lets you battle foes with less predictability. You'll need to understand several facets of the game in order to use all your powers effectively. The first of these are the Bugei Scrolls, which contain all the moves your character can perform. They are collected throughout the game in various locations such as treasure chests and can also be found when you kill an enemy. There are two basic types of these scrolls, Clan and Freestyle. Clan scrolls contain the moves passed down from the elder members of your clan, while the Freestyle scrolls allow you to create your own sets of moves and combo attacks. Additionally, when you obtain a special sword, you can use the special Chi Attacks by using their character's Chi Arts menu, where you can select which attack to use, then can enable these attacks by holding down an attack. Each time they're used, they drain the Chi Energy, and are thus limited in use. These two systems add a lot of complexity to the gameplay, making it much deeper than the standard hack and slash it seems to be at first.
While the role-playing aspects are solid, Kingdom of Paradise's graphics excel by PSP standards. The game's natural environments are richly developed with a series of elaborate villages you can explore. Each of these features a number of NPC's to interact with, giving each one a semblance of life. Most of the populace aren't going to give away much, though occasionally you'll find a useful piece of information. Kingdom's battles are surprisingly intense, with players surrounded by a number of other foes, with little slowdown evident. The fixed camera is decent in the exploration areas, but becomes a hindrance here since it makes it difficult to target your attacks at specific enemies. Making matters worse, the real-time nature of these battles makes it frustrating to use special attacks, causing most matches to devolve into relentless button mashing. The standard enemies don't put up much of a fight, making these battles become monotonous quickly. However, things tend to improve later on with soldiers that are more sophisticated and boss attacks. This gives Kingdom of Paradise a decent learning curve that allows you to gradually learn the special attacks, chi arts and other elements of the gameplay easily without having to spend a lot of time on training missions. Overall, the game's structure starts off slowly, but gradually becomes more involved.
While there has been a noticeable dearth of traditional role-playing titles on the PSP to date, and we're happy to report that Kingdom of Paradise fills the void nicely. It's deep combat system is obviously the highlight, and allows plenty of flexibility and nuance. With several layers of weapons and spells, the game gives you many paths to choose from. The game itself is enjoyable and challenging with an interesting story that immerses players in their quest. While it can't compete against more elaborate RPG's on other consoles, this is still a solid looking game. From a visual standpoint, the game looks solid with excellent character animations and effective cut-scenes that allow the story to unfold in some cool anime-style cinemas. The overall look of the game is cohesive and interesting, with a variety of special lighting and weather effects used to add realism to the gameplay. While there are probably a bit too many random battles in the game, their real-time nature makes them exciting and challenging. However, the focus on creating an extensive and deep combat system pays off, giving you a great deal of control of not only how your character moves, but also how they fight. This gives the game a refreshingly open-ended feel compared to many other titles, which keep the player locked in to a certain style throughout. Kingdom of Paradise is a solid RPG that offers a great deal of action and strategy, intuitive controls and, a long quest, making it an excellent purchase for fans of the genre. Its not the smoothest or most polished RPG on the market, but this solid title delivers an engaging gameplay experience.