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Review:Revenge of Ranche

Revenge of Ranche is a game that you probably have never heard of before. I’m pretty sure I found this game on the old Hamster Republic Gamelist, though I can’t seem to find it on there now. I’m always extremely interested in checking out games that people make who don’t frequent the forums. The author of this game didn’t upload it to the usual places and opted to only have it available from his website (and possibly, the old HR gamelist at some point).

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Upon further investigation, I discovered that the author did make a few posts on the Castle Paradox forums in early 2013. He asked for help with a couple of problems and also briefly mentioned his game, Revenge of Ranche. From what I gather he is an aspiring game developer and this is his very first OHRRPGCE project. While RoR is only in demo stages, it is still quite lengthy, giving you at least 2-3 hours of gameplay before it ends.

ranche (14)RoR is definitely one of the better newbie games I have played in a long time. It manages to do a lot of things pretty well though it still needs work in a lot of areas to truly shine. If this were a complete game I’d probably give it a harder time, but given that it is a demo I will be more lenient in my observations (and the fact that it is the guy’s first OHRRPGCE game).

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Enough with the preface, let’s get on with the meat of the review. Revenge of Ranche is, surprisingly, not about a spiteful jar of Hidden Valley. Instead, it stars a teenager named Omar, who essentially has a falling out with his father, which ultimately leads to his father’s disappearance and Omar moving to the LaFlora Islands to stay with his Grandpa. That’s when things get weird and you discover that the move may be the key to unlocking Omar’s past, among other things.

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The story as it stands is just “decent”. There’s nothing amazing about it, but it appears to follow a fairly clear direction. I will admit that some of the dialogue is a bit awkward and some places suffer from some continuity issues, but it does appear to have some form of basic structure to it. I absolutely despise the fact that almost every dialogue outside of general npc talk is scripted. In other words, you cannot advance text boxes at your own pace. I think this is a good approach to have in some situations, but certainly not for every event. It will a little annoying if someone said something like “Hi!”, and I couldn’t advance the text box early. Instead I had to wait several seconds before the box would advance itself. Also, I have no idea at this point what the game has to do with revenge, but perhaps that is to be highlighted in future versions.

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The graphics are not too bad, especially for a new OHRRPGCE user. There’s plenty of things that could use some work of course, but it’s obvious that the author uses a distinct, consistent style throughout the game. Most importantly, all of the graphics appear to be completely original. It will take time and practice to improve upon what is here, but it can be done. Though some enemies suffered from palette swaps, there was a surprising amount of variation in enemy graphics. Although not groundbreaking by any means, many of these sprites made use of ground shadows. The heroes did not use shadows at all, however, which was kind of weird given that most enemies had them already.

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I only had two real issues with the graphics, one of them being building exterior maptiles. Almost all of the buildings suffered from extremely odd layouts that caused the hero to only enter a portion of a door rather than in the center. This is an easy fix and I’m really surprised that the author continued to let this happen throughout the game. It almost reminded me of some of the odd town map designs in Fat Frog RPG. Either way, I hope that this is fixed in future versions.

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I appreciate the Earthbound-like cartoony graphics and the fact that they are all original, but Masami’s walkabout has to go. Magically, her hair is twice the size in her walkabouts than it is in her battle graphics. When she walks north and south, it’s like she has two massive hair-slinkies instead of actual hair. Brian’s north and south graphics are also strange in this way, though not quite as severe. The Earthbound-ish exaggerated extremities are great, but a few of them need work.

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Ranche’s combat houses the game’s strongest AND weakest points. How is that possible, you might say? I like the combat because there are several bosses that actually pose a decent challenge even if you level up some before facing them (the boss in the fire cavern comes to mind). A couple of the bosses simply cannot be beat by mashing buttons alone and require certain abilities and counters to overcome. This is a huge plus in my books. Although most random battles were fairly simple, the generic enemies still had a fairly wide range of abilities they could use. Not fighting a bunch of random enemies that share one attack was quite refreshing in my eyes.

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So what could be wrong with the combat then? Simply put, Ranche has some of the SLOWEST battles I’ve ever seen. The heroes start out with a speed of 5, and appear to only reach 7 or 8 before the demo is over. This is a huge turnoff to me, and I’m sure it will be for the majority of other players. If you are going to have battles that slow you might as well transition into turn-based combat, which might not be a bad idea at all at this point.

The musical selection appeared to be placed well, and I was surprised that there were several tracks I had never heard of before (but really liked). Despite being arranged well, the author used way too many well known tracks and sound effects for my tastes. Ranche has a strong Earthbound feel to it, which I do like, but I don’t like when a game uses multiple commercial tracks AND sound effects from a single, well known source. Some of the weapon designs were obviously ripped from Earthbound as well.

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When you make a game resemble another well known commercial game too strongly, it takes a lot of fun out of the experience (and the originality of your game). If I wanted to play Earthbound, I would play it. Say what you will about ripped music, but I’ve always believed that if you are going to do it to choose the tracks wisely. For example, a bad choice would be considered Ranche’s overworld theme, which is none other than Final Fantasy IV’s world map track. Outside of the Earthbound ties being way too strong in some places and the Final Fantasy themes, I enjoyed the sound fairly well. I do suggest that the author change out a few of the tracks and sound effects in the completed version, however.

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Despite the flaws, I did enjoy most of the content thus far. Unfortunately I was forced to end the game early from what appears to be a game breaking bug. According to the hint file bundled with the game, I had a decent bit more of content to see but was unable to figure out a way to progress. After searching for a good while for a solution, my only conclusion is that the game still has some issues to work out. The game-ending bug wasn’t the only issue either, because it was pretty obvious that I was able to visit certain areas before I actually should have been able to (the Midi Range and Fire Cavern before talking to Xi comes to mind).

With that being said, Revenge of Ranche is just a demo, but I do like the direction it is going. I think we could potentially have a great game on our hands in time. I look forward to future versions of this game!