Fuga: Melodies of Steel Review (Switch)
Release Date: July 28, 2021
File Size: 1.2GB
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Fuga: Melodies of Steel feels like it came out of nowhere. Developed by CyberConnect2, the developers of several of the .hack and Naruto games, Fuga: Melodies of Steel is the company’s first step towards making new, original games in the current decade. In fact, this is the first game that the company has self-published, since in the past they have usually gone through Bandai Namco. The backstory concerning the creation of this game alone is fascinating.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel is actually meant to be associated with the Little Tail Bronx series, although no knowledge of that game is required to play this one. According to CyberConnect2, the tone is meant to show characters who “will experience the horrors and cruelty of war,” but will “depict the bright and joyful atmosphere that the Little Tail Bronx series is known for.” Fuga: Melodies of Steel is a tone shift from the seemingly bright Little Tail Bronx mobile game (which I have no firsthand experience with, so any conceptions I have about it are based off of the few images I could find of it), although you can at least see where the inspiration of the anthropomorphic characters come from.
With the ambitious goal of making this game the first in a trilogy, does Fuga: Melodies in Steel hold up? Or is CyberConnect2’s first step into developing games centered around original IPs just a sign of failure? Let’s break it down and see!
The story of Fuga: Melodies of Steel is centered around World War II, but more specifically based on France of that time. You will play as a group of young children who have just dealt with the trauma of watching their village, Petit Mona, burn to the ground and their loved ones taken by the Berman army. As these children have been brought together by tragedy, the game opens up with them already on a mystery tank known as the Taranis.
There isn’t a lot known about the Taranis, other than two mysterious voices that make their appearance as you progress through the game. The first is a disembodied voice that is coming from a radio, urging the children onward to save their parents. The other, however, takes the form of a holographic young girl, begging them to stop fighting if they wish to survive.
The story of Fuga: Melodies of Steel takes place pretty much on a rail. You aren’t really given much choice how the story will play out, other than an important decision that can occur during any major boss battle that you fight. Based on those decisions, the ending that you get will be slightly different.
Along with the general gameplay, affinity towards your comrades is very important. On top of building up your link attacks, you can also view link events, where the two characters will interact with each other. While written almost a bit childish (the characters are all children, so it makes sense), these moments are charming in their own right.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel is a turn-based RPG with roguelike elements. There is a turn timeline at the top of the screen and based on a unit’s speed, as well as the type of attack used, they will get to act at a certain moment in time. This moment can be affected by status ailments, or delays. During your turn, you can choose to use a normal attack, use a skill, defend, use an item, or use a Link Attack, if your gauge is filled completely.
The Taranis has a set amount of HP and SP that can be used. Once your HP is depleted, you will lose and be taken to the game over screen, where you can choose to start back up at a certain point before the battle you lost. If your SP is depleted, you won’t be able to use any more skills. You do receive healing items throughout the game, which you can use at any point during your turn.
As for the general layout of battle, you can control up to three units at a time, while three others act as support units. There are three types of guns, each with their own color associated with them. Machine gun units are blue, cannon units are red, and grenade launcher units are yellow. Each of these units are strong against a specific type of enemy force. If you attack an enemy type that you are strong against, you have the chance of delaying them if all of their weak point markers are removed. Once those markers have been removed, you won’t be able to delay that unit again until their next turn, where the markers will be refreshed.
You are able to change your formation at any point during battle by hitting L1. You can set any unit to any position, as long as that unit hasn’t been knocked out. If a unit has been knocked out, you won’t be able to use them until they are healed in the Taranis during Intermission. Once you have confirmed your formation, you won’t be able to make any more changes until three of your characters have done an action. However, if you didn’t make any changes, you can access the formation screen right away.
When it comes to difficulty, the battles aren’t too bad. However, you may run into the issue where boss battles act as a spike in difficulty. While not impossible to overcome, boss battles act as a way to make sure that you are exploiting enemy weaknesses, healing when necessary, making use of status ailments, and using your Link Attacks.
Outside of battle, you will do one of three things: collect items in a village, move across a map towards a chapter’s boss, or go through intermission. Before you go through the level in each chapter, you will come across a village, where you can get some items and also consolidate your supplies. Since there is no money, there is no shop to replenish your supplies. What you find during your playthrough is what you get, so make sure to make every item count.
Once you’re finished in the village, you will make your way to the chapter map. For the most part, you will be moving on a linear path picking up general items, going through battles, restoring HP and SP, and finding new dungeons to get rare items for upgrades to the Taranis. There will be times when the route will branch off and you can choose which way to go. Typically, routes will either be marked as Safe, Normal, or Dangerous. The more dangerous a route is, the better items and more EXP you can get. However, you do have to keep in mind that you have limited resources and that there are only so many item pickup and healing spots during a chapter. But on the flipside, staying on the safe path may be just as detrimental, as you won’t get as many items or EXP to level up your units.
After a while, you will come across Intermission spots, where you can upgrade the Taranis, perform tasks in the tank, and speak to the other children. With upgrading, along with the three different gun types, you can also upgrade the Taranis’ HP and SP gauge. You can also get more items while you’re on the tank, fix meals to boost stats and give EXP, rest to heal knocked out and/or injured units, farm and harvest food to make meals, set your opening formation, and speak with the other children to build affinity.
Affinity is very important in this game. First off, units that have a minimum of two hearts of affinity are able to build up their Link Attack gauge in battle, which is very important for launching powerful attacks and effects. And the higher that you build your affinity gauges, the better the effects between those characters will be, such as higher accuracy and a tolerance against being injured.
The only caveat is that you have 20 AP to make use of, and almost everything that you do during Intermission costs AP. Talking to other characters costs one AP while healing your injured units costs five AP. As you play through, you will find some tasks more pressing than others to do, so make sure that you plan out your Intermission well so that you aren’t left floundering with not enough AP.
The majority of the game will be watching the 3D model of the Taranis as it traverses the lands of Gasco. The details on the Taranis itself are very impressive. Honestly, the attention to detail in general with Fuga: Melodies of Steel is great. I would say the only slight downfall are the models for the children during Intermission, but honestly, they grew on me and I find them to be really charming.
All of the story moments are told using CG art and 2D sprites, all of which look great. The art team for Fuga: Melodies of Steel really knocked it out of the park. A detail that I really loved was the fact that Fuga brought on multiple artists to draw the end chapter card art. Seeing multiple artists’ rendition of the characters in different environments and situations was really cool. And you can view that art and more in your collection, which is available at any time from the main menu.
The music is another point that I liked as well. In particular, the song Flowers on the Trail, really drives home how tragic this entire situation is. It’s such a sad song, yet one that does leave the player with some hope to see a better day.
Fuga: Melodies of Steel is definitely a game that left an impression on me, for better and for worse. This is a game based around World War II and as such, you are dealing with very serious and sad events. This is not a game to go into looking for a rosy tale of flowers and sunshine. This is a story about sacrifice and the consequences of war, all in the viewpoint of children.
Gameplay-wise, Fuga is pretty much on rails. There are multiple endings based on the amount of characters that survive, as well as a True End. But because of its on-the-rails experience, there is no grinding to be had. For those who like a challenge, that should sit well with you. But if you’re like me and find yourself stuck in a pickle due to not being able to upgrade your units or the Taranis enough, this can lead to some frustration. And while most of the fights on the route will not give you much problems, some of the boss fights will ramp up the difficulty of a chapter without any warning. It is possible to beat these bosses, but it will take good resource management (and saving up your Link Attacks to bombard the chapter boss) if your units aren’t in tip-top shape.
Given the price tag, I can understand any apprehension that comes with checking out a game like this. If you’re still on the fence, but do like what you’ve heard/seen, I would say wait for a sale. While not a bad game at all (in fact, I enjoyed it in spite of the difficulty spikes), the mechanics may be a hard sell for those who don’t already like these types of games. Nonetheless, it is an experience that I would recommend people check out, if nothing else than for the compelling story that CyberConnect2 was able to weave. I really do look forward to seeing what they do with this universe of games, if they choose to go ahead with a sequel.