I always get a little skeptical when it comes to games that are simultaneously released for console and for portable. It’s very odd, being able to play the exact same game that I have on my PS3 on my Vita, in completely different areas. However, while I reserve a modicum of skepticism, I also am reminded of when I was younger and playing Super Mario Bros. 2 on my Game Boy, while my parents would play it on our SNES at the exact same time.
When playing NAtURAL DOCtRINE, releasing simultaneously for PS4, PS3, and for PlayStation Vita, it reminded me a lot of various strategy roleplaying games that I played when I was younger – and reminded me of the parts that made me not want to play strategy games. I have since gone back and appreciated strategy games, but the PS3 version of NAtURAL DOCtRINE made me crawl back into my shell of JRPGs and other types of RPGs. In order to get everything on the screen to look somewhat pleasing to my eyes, including get rid of the horribly drawn “anime” headshots that are the default no matter what console you play on, I had to mess around in the settings for quite some time. Yet, the one thing I wish they had thought to include was the Japanese vocals; the English voices grate on my ears, especially when I had to sit through the tutorial twice, one on the PS3, one on the PlayStation Vita.
The main character(s) involve a guy named Geoff, a girl named Vasily, their “master” named Zekelinde, and another girl named Anka, with a bunch of other people that they run into on the way. You’re fighting mainly against a bunch of goblins that have invaded, as well as various other monsters. Each of the monsters have different weapons, so you could be fighting a goblin with a sword or with a gun, depending on your luck/on which dungeon you’re in. The goal, as far as I can tell (the game is not very forthcoming about the information) is that you’re trying to obtain this substance called Pluton, which is also your source of power for magic. It’s all very confusing, and you only get that much information by scanning through the Tips menu, which is chock-full of things that they seemed to have forgotten to mention during the tutorial.
The style of the game is quite annoying as well to play on the PS3 – however, when faced with the exact same type of style on the Vita, I found myself enjoying it more. It’s a style that lends itself better to a portable console, in my opinion; trying to mix together the free-roam elements of a regular RPG, while also the block system of strategy RPGs, it comes off as clunky and awkward when playing on the PS3. Having to press forward on the analog stick for a few moments in order for the character to move to the correct spot which is quite a few meters away, before I can even attack – well, you’ve already begun to lose me. However, I don’t know if the distances are a bit shorter on the Vita, or if the smaller screen helps my opinion of it, but it’s a lot more tolerable on the portable console.
When it comes to the actual fighting, it’s very…strange, to the say the least. It introduces the idea of linking, which is weirder than it sounds. In order to properly link with your teammates, you have to form them in a triangle or diamond shape with the enemy. Here’s the weirder part – the farther away they are from each other, the bigger the boost. So not only do you have to cram in these characters into a single box, you also have to make sure they’re spaced out as best they can in order to get the best result. But if you line up a gunner character with another one of your party, watch out – because the gunner character will just shoot your other party member. If this doesn’t seem too bad to you, imagine how it is when it’s used against you, since the enemies can also link up against you.
The fighting style is also very turn-based, once you figure out where you’re going to stand. You have a variety of choices, depending on your character and what you’ve unlocked on their skill tree; some characters use swords, some use guns, some use both. Some can use a shield as a weapon. Once again, these are a lot of things that aren’t actually explained in the game, and are things I’ve had to figure out on my lonesome; some were easier to find out than others, granted, but it’s still a little ridiculous that I have to teach myself how to play a game.
On top of that, the tutorial was incredibly easy – and the game incredibly difficult, even on easy mode. There are too many things that make it too complicated, which make this not very fun. I died several times in the first non-tutorial dungeon, just because I made a mistake that I didn’t even know was a mistake, or a mistake that I didn’t know how to get out of. It requires a lot more brainpower than it initially lets on, something that is be a bit of a detractor. Just to give you an idea, the creators had to add an easy mode patch in for the Japanese players, because everyone complained it was too hard.
But for some reason, It is immensely more satisfying to play on the portable console than on the regular console. Strategy games lend themselves a lot more for portable systems, even if they aren’t too great. The smaller screen makes things a lot more fun in this game, and it’s just a lot better in many ways – even if there aren’t actual differences in the style, it’s just better to play on the portable console. As a result, I would be unable to recommend this game, even while I’m a bit more content with it on the Vita.[review]