Lusi-shins, you may at least be aware of the existence of EasyGameStation and Carpe Fulgur after the moderate success of Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale. The two-person team at Carpe Fulgur, now on the map thanks to Recettear, went on to localize one of EasyGameStation’s earlier titles, Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters.
Released in Japan in 2006 and in North America in 2011, Chantelise is, as the full title suggests, the tale of two sisters. Chante, the older sister, has been turned into a fairy by a witch’s curse, and she and her younger sister, Elise, spend the game traveling in search of a cure. The player takes the role of Elise, as Chante flies beside her and handles the magic casting. The two sisters travel between a small, unnamed town and several elementally-themed sets of ruins in search of the witch that cursed Chante.
Like Recettear, the localization is easily the strongest part of Chantelise. The writing is humorous and helps to set the game’s generally light-hearted tone. The plot becomes more serious as the game goes on, but the humorous moments never disappear entirely, and the localization remains solid throughout. The small cast of characters, while amusing, lack substantial character development. The setting is not particularly exciting, but then Chantelise is a game designed more around its gameplay than its story.
Chantelise is a 3D action-RPG with more action than RPG; one could easily argue that Chantelise is more of an “action game with RPG elements” than a proper action-RPG. To wit, there is no leveling in Chantelise: Elise’s stats are instead determined almost entirely by her equipment; for example, her HP is permanently boosted by the “Ferromin” line of items. Magic stones dropped by enemies enable magic use in-game. Depending on the color and order of the stones used, Chante will cast different spells. The magic system is not overly complicated, but the fact that available spells are dependent on the order in which stones are picked up adds a bit of strategy to an otherwise simple combat system.
The most notable thing about the gameplay of Chantelise is its difficulty. Because of the relatively little impact that equipment has on Elise’s strength, much of the player’s improvement in successful combat comes from learning to dodge enemies’ attacks and through figuring out enemy weaknesses. Until late in the game, at which point the player can potentially find an item which completely trivializes most of the game’s combat, Chantelise is refreshingly difficult in the old-school style. Enemies in Chantelise hit hard, and the bosses hit even harder. Healing is, for much of the game, extremely difficult to come by; the player is forced to rely on random enemy drops and eventually two healing spells. Thankfully, dying is not particularly punitive, as the player is merely ejected back into town, keeping all of the items and money found before dying. It is a good thing that dying is not especially punishing, as players can expect to be killed many times while they learn enemy patterns.
Chantelise was made by a small team and initially released in 2006, and this shows in the game’s graphics. Decent, but not especially memorable, 3D environments are combined with almost Disgaea-esque anime-styled sprites to create a graphical style that can, at times, be somewhat strange to look at. The graphics are not technically impressive, but this is to be expected of a small-budget title. Whether the art style is actually “good” or not is subjective; some will like the clash of sprites and backgrounds while others may find the appearance disjointed or incoherent. The music in Chantelise is very fitting to the game, but it is not the kind of video game music one would likely listen to outside of gameplay.
Is Chantelise a game worth purchasing? People who enjoyed games like Disgaea and Recettear should consider purchasing Chantelise; like so many other games, it is frequently on sale on Steam. But Chantelise: a Tale of Two Sisters is not as good as Recettear, nor is it otherwise an amazing title. Fans of Recettear should certainly check out Chantelise, but other gamers are advised to give the demo a try before spending ten dollars on a title where the primary appeal might be directed at a niche audience.