A very divisive title, Agarest’s main feature can be either its main draw or an irredeemable flaw: can you endure a journey that spans multiple generations of heroes and over a hundred hours?
The game is a tactical JRPG where you control a party of up to six characters, fighting in extremely challenging turn-based battles. The game was clearly made for hardcore players, so expect tons of stats and equipments, an elaborate skill system, combo attacks, crafting, enchanting, monster capturing, formations, multiple routes, fan-service and a lot of grinding.
Along the way you’ll meet a colorful cast of characters – including three romanceable heroines –and make a few decisions which affect your alignment, the battles you’ll face and which girl likes you more.
After a few dozen hours, you reach the climax, battle evil, marry your girl of choice and have a baby. However, instead of ending there, the game flash-forward until your son is all grown up and you take control of him, ready to meet new companions, romance new girls and make a new stand against evil.
Agarest lasts for five generations, all working towards a final goal. Items, spells and some companions carry on, and the stats, weapons and looks of each generation’s hero are determined by his parent’s, leading to some interesting long-term planning.
Inexplicably, despite being “five-games-in-one”, the developers decided to pad Agarest’s length. Thus, while the events and story battles are interesting, you’ll waste an ungodly amount of time in pointless filler fights. Moreover, the game is repetitive and really starts to drag after the 3rd generation. I honestly can’t imagine the patience required to replay it multiple times to see all the routes and the secret “true ending”.
In 2009 a prequel, Agarest Zero, was released. It follows the same basic formula but reduces the filler combat and only has two generations. It also added character creation for the first hero and a lot of great post-game content – including an abridged version of the first game, that removes some characters, all filler battles, and any romance choice. However, you must finish the game once before unlocking it.
Agarest 2 arrived in 2010 with better graphics, three generations of heroes and new, more complex (but confusing) combat system centered around reflex-based combos.
It’s hard to pick the best game – the first has the best characters; Zero has the best gameplay and least padding (and also the abridged version of the original) while Agarest 2’s fast-paced number-crunching combat might interest more some players.
Regardless, here’s some advice: Agarest’s DLCs are pay-to-win, so disable all of them except for dungeons and extra costumes. Otherwise, you’ll start the game extremely overpowered, ruining all the fun. Felipe Pepe