The K'hyurbhi Lands; A Review

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The K'hyurbhi Lands; A Review

Post by sotrain515 »


This time I will be reviewing the K'hyurbhi Lands by FnrrfYgmSchnish (preceding sentence brought to you by the copy and paste functions). I will be honest, this one put my "finish-every-game" credo through its paces and my opinion of the game suffered heavily for it. I logged five and a half hours with this sucker which is about five hours more than I would have liked.

Fair warning: this one's going to be a long review since I spent so much time with this game and I have a lot to say about it. Let's start, shall we?

The graphics were pretty cool. The spritework is Pokemon- and Earthbound-inspired among other sources: big eyes, bright colors and cuteness abound. There was a certain amount of repetitiveness in the designs, however, that I couldn't help but notice after a while. The three main characters and many of the enemies fell into the Head-on-Feet (Hands-optional) aesthetic which had definitely worn out its welcome by about the Roton desert section.

The maptiles were pretty snazzy and again evoked Pokemon or maybe an early Final Fantasy (or Dragon Quest? I never played those). Little effort was made to hide the grid but the effect was no less charming for it. My complaint about these was again the repetitiveness. I was about ready to swear off amateur spelunking forever the fourth time I saw that damn cave tileset. Variety is the spice of video games!

The sound was -- I guess I'm kind of neutral on this game's sound. I believe all the effects are the bog standard set that come packaged with the OHR and they were placed well. I very much appreciate having little beeps and boops when I'm navigating my menus. It just makes everything so much more video gamey.

The music is pretty catchy and used appropriately. I was never the biggest midi fan, though, and the battle and world map themes started to set my teeth on edge after a while. Also, the author is unable to credit a couple of the songs used in the game according to the readme. Wouldn't it be better to just replace those tracks? Oh well, that's a minor complaint for a free game, right?

Okay, buckle up, this review is about to take a turn for the negative.

The gameplay was, in a word, tedious. I'm sorry to say it but it just flat out was not fun.

Most of the unique moves that my characters got were useless for various reasons. Dodge and Defend felt like wasted turns, the Foodfight ingredients were hard to come by after the first area and Blurbrage took too many turns of build-up. The Killah moves were pretty much must-use on that character but only because his regular attack sucked and he could freely regenerate MP whenever he felt like it.

By and large the battles in this game committed the biggest sin in OHRRPGCE gaming: they were (wait for it) Space Bar Mashers. And they were the worst kind, too, featuring enemies with low damage, multiple-hit attacks, lots of hit points and stun move after stun move. It surprised me more than anything because stats-wise the game is fairly well-balanced which points to play-testing.

Before I move on to the game's story I also just wanted to comment on what appeared to be a pretty major bug. One of the game's main characters learns an ability called SnackBreak. When used out of battle this ability costs nothing, effectively eliminating all need for consumables, inns, beds, whatever. This also may have heavily skewed my opinion on the balance of the game now that I think about it because I was basically going into every fight after the first area with full health. The game is probably much harder without that glitch, actually. Oh well...

The story... Ah, the story. The story is like what would happen if as an adult you found a Trapper Keeper full of your elementary school doodles of Kirbys and Marios and Goombas and rather than going "Oh, how cute" you instead hugged it to your chest and said "This will be my Ulysses!"

To illustrate, take some of the names in the game. In the first chapter you encounter the following, all of which belong to separate entities: Narmer, Nummer, Nummy, Numnum, Numm and Num. It's almost Lucasian!

Additionally, many of the game's heroes and enemies appear to be thinly-veiled Pokemon and Kirby characters for no adequately explored reason. Is there a commentary on those games buried somewhere in here? Is this some kind of bizarre deconstruction? Did this evolve out of an ancient, half-remembered fanfic?

There are no girls in this game. Well, except Christy. Christy was great by the way. The game would have been a lot more fun with more quirky interludes like hers. That was the one point in the proceedings where I was genuinely caught off guard and left wondering what would happen.

From a writing perspective, pretty much everyone in this game speaks with the exact same voice. Kids, adults, main characters, NPCs, kings, peasants, etc. I know many authors struggle with this (me included) but it's not something you can really ignore. Especially in this case since we know so little about these guys.

The tone of the game is odd with its inherent childishness at times punctuated by darker, more adult themes. For example, it touches on the concepts of race war, cannibalism, slavery and regicide. It's all done in a kind of silly manner, but still. I was particularly unnerved by the fact that the Nummer-race apparently thought nothing of eating the Kerber-race. And the Kerbers in the restaurant were more-or-less cool with it, too. Huh???

On the positive side of things, some of the game's vignettes were kind of funny. The guards and king in the castle were amusing as were parts of the Killah training section. Really, the game should pare down almost all the exposition and replace it with more jokes. It takes itself far too seriously on the whole.

Moving along, let's talk about the game's pacing. In the first chapter your party is split and you have to grind up the first guy, Nummer, to about level five or so (I went up to seven to be on the safe side) before you can advance comfortably. Then you have to do it again with Kerber, a far weaker character. Then finally with Upchuck (though his sidequest is much shorter and easier). It's tedious and it just made me wonder why the hell they all three couldn't just stick together and level up as a group.

After you defeat King Numm (SPOILERS!) the characters pretty much say, "Well, what now?" which you never want to hear in this kind of story! Seriously, don't do that. If the heroes don't have well-defined goals you are inviting the player to lose interest.

At this same point the game opens up from a tiny part of the map consisting of about three locations to basically the entire world! This was daunting to me and again gave me the urge to turn the game off. I may be a bit of a gaming heretic in that I think that tons of player choice is generally a bad thing. It often just leaves a game unfocused and results in a mushy narrative. Unless it's a sandbox-style game out of the gate my options should be limited, at least until I have a feel for the world and characters.

And honestly, five and a half hours later, I still have no idea who these characters are, what they're trying to accomplish or why! Why does Nummer decide to ditch the crown? What was his relationship like with his father who he just found out died? How did Nummer, Kerber and Upchuck meet? Where were they before they returned to the kingdom? What is their quest? Do they seek the Grail? Throw me a bone here!

I know this is a demo but I think the overarching goal should be pretty well defined by the end of a JRPG-type game's opening chapter. Ness needs to meet Buzz Buzz and hear about Giygas. Randi needs to pull up the Mana Sword and talk to Jema. Cecil needs to be kicked out of the Red Wings and set off on a quest for redemption. Nummer killed the king and rejected the throne but now what? And why? I'm not asking for Shakespeare or even Woolsey, but please, give me something to hang my Power Glove on.

Okay, enough tortured gaming metaphors for now.

My opinion of this game sadly dipped the more I played it. As the king's guards shoved the party out a window in the opening cutscene I thought I had stumbled upon an unsung classic of the engine (great plot scripting, by the way, forgot to mention that). But as I got into random encounter 9,483 my enthusiasm was replaced with scorn. Still, I'm gonna give this game a Download It With Caveats just because a lot of effort clearly went into it and the spritework is just so darn charming. Potential players just may want to end it a bit early while some good feelings still remain.
Didn't believe me, did ya?
Didn't believe me, did ya?
tkl0176.png (5.78 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
The demo-is-over screen.  Well, close enough anyway...
The demo-is-over screen. Well, close enough anyway...
tkl0177.png (18.37 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
You stay classy San Diego.
You stay classy San Diego.
tkl0179.png (4.63 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
Cannibalism gives me the willies!
Cannibalism gives me the willies!
tkl0181.png (9.55 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
Kirby forgot to pack his razor.
Kirby forgot to pack his razor.
tkl0182.png (8.93 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
My gift.  My curse.
My gift. My curse.
tkl0183.png (7.28 KiB) Viewed 2696 times
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Post by FnrrfYgmSchnish »

Yeah, Snack Break being broken like that is an engine bug. Item costs just don't work outside of battle yet. I definitely have noticed that I relied a lot on the broken-ness of that when playing through; not entirely sure how I'd go about fixing it, though.

Also, Blurby Rage is primarily an attack-booster; the shockwave if you use it three times is useful but not its main purpose (it actually only exists to prevent people from abusing it to skyrocket Upchukk's attack to insane levels by spamming the attack-boosting part.) Since you talk about it taking so long to pay off, I'm assuming you missed the attack-boost part and were only using it to build up the shockwave all the time instead?

Only the K'hyurbhis were ever directly based on anything from Kirby. I assume you're reading "Kirby-ness" into anything with a round body shape (even though many, many video game characters have had that shape, both before and after Kirby himself. Pac-Man, various Mario enemies, Lolo/Lala, the characters of many forgotten NES-era games, and yes, Kirby and various Pokémon. Heck, even Mr. Potato Head comes pretty close to the "head/body as one part, lumpy feet with no legs" shape.)
The only thing Pokémon-related is the "Pekauh" enemy, which is pretty obviously a Pikachu spoof. That one was intentional. I have no idea where else you're seeing Pokémon in this game, though...

Narmer is named after an actual Egyptian ruler. I can see how you'd think it was "yet another NUM name" if you weren't aware of that, though, since it sort of sounds like one.

There are no specific characters named "Numnum" or "Num" in the game. Are you mistaking the generic NPC species/title identifiers for actual names? Because "Numnum" is the name of the species, every random Numnum NPC is just labeled "Numnum" (except the kids, who are labeled "Little Num" if I'm remembering right.)

There are random NPC females in the game, there just aren't enough physical differences between males and females of the various Nummorrian species for it to be obvious. Did you assume every random NPC must've been male because they didn't have a pink bow on their head or something?
But yeah, Christy is probably the only major female character so far (she would've been one of two if I had gotten as far with this demo as I had originally planned to, but the fact that I was trying to get a demo done before the the Heart of the OHR contest deadline kept that from happening.)

And yeah, the game does kind of cut off in a "too open" part. I had originally intended for the city of Kirbadon to be finished and some actual plot events to come up on the return trip to Koogra, but once again, Heart of the OHR deadline kept it from happening and I decided to release a not-quite-there demo before the contest was over rather than not release it in time for the contest at all.

I disagree that everyone speaks with the same voice--Upchukk, Numm, and some of the Lost K'hyurbhis definitely have their own ways of speaking which are pretty distinguishable from any random NPC, and Kherber is a least a bit different most of the time. Aside from a handful who definitely do sound different, though... yeah, I can see what you're talking about. Especially with most of the NPCs. As far as the player characters, though, Nummer is the only one that seems really generic to me; not sure how I'd go about changing that.

There is no cannibalism in this game. Numnums and K'hyurbhis are not the same species, and Numnum-eating-Numnum or K'hyurbhi-eating-K'hyurbhi is definitely not tolerated. I know it's probably a little hard to grasp as a human who's used to the "anything that eats US is BAD!!!" mindset that many of us have these days, but it's perfectly normal for a predatory species to eat other species regardless of the intelligence levels involved, and the fact that one species eats another does not automatically make the two enemies (the Numnum-hating Hamhu K'hyurbhi tribe are definitely the ones in the wrong here.) Numnums and K'hyurbhis have established that barging into towns and eating somebody there is not okay, but so long as the hunting was done outside of the borders of any settlement and excessively painful/cruel methods of killing were avoided, there's no problem.
The planet Nummorro is an alien world 39 nherbis away from here, after all... don't expect everything to run on Earth human rules and assumptions about the way things work.
FYS:AHS -- Working on Yagziknian NPC walkabout sprites
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