You’re thinking: Far East of what? Japan’s thinking: something in Japanese that translates as “Oh, that 2 million selling RPG, which brought proper cutscenes and CD-quality music to the genre via the PC Engine in 1989 and provided admirably stiff competition for yer Final Fantasys and yer Dragon Quests.”
In other words: this remake of Far East of Eden II is big news to those in the know. It’s traditional, all right - village boy sets off for take-turn battles to rescue Japan from demons etc, etc. But what makes this faithful re-release a cut above your average simplistic two-decade-old RPG is, perversely, the simplicity. There’s little to do except walk across a few squares of map and kill the next floating specter with incomprehensible kanji, but it’s all so unexpectedly quick - you walk and fight at super quick speeds - that it’s one of the most mesmerizing things we’ve ever played. Plus, every minute of those anime mini-movies that wowed your (Japanese) dad in ’89 has been crowbarred onto a cart the size of an airmail sticker.
For the Far East of Eden veteran, the battles have a new DS twist: slapping your enemy with a whip of the stylus once, twice or - for very naughty hamlet-razing fanged plant-monsters - three times. It’s a sliver of an “update” that won’t make the old-old-skool, animation-free fights any more palatable for those weaned on the TV-exploding magic madness of, say, Final Fantasy VII. But there’s some depth applied to the system. You get to select “techniques” that target more enemies at the expense of speed, strength or success, and later areas see you chucking torpedoes from submarines or flambéing enemies from the cockpit of a giant clay robot. Oh, and you can have a dog in your party.
Perhaps this is a game that would really be more at home as a Virtual Console download. But as far as cute, cheerful retro RPGs go, it’s certainly worth heading Far East for.