Many next-generation Japanese role-playing games are finding homes on Xbox 360, with "Valkyrie Profile" and "Star Ocean" developer tri-Ace now arriving to the party.
"Infinite Undiscovery" contains many of the standard trappings of Japanese RPGs, and while it does offer some fresh ideas within its game play, those fresh ideas are buried underneath a disappointingly uneven presentation.
This fantastical world of swords and magic revolves around Capelle, an unassuming flute player who just happens to look exactly like the strong and revered hero Sigmund. Needless to say, their facial similarities put far more public attention upon Capelle than he'd like.
Because players will be controlling Capelle exclusively, they'll have to get used to his unlikable personality. He is, for the lack of a better term, a sissy, always complaining about having to fight and never able to think for himself. This demeanor stands in stark contrast to the way he fights during game play, where he suddenly becomes competent with swords, striking down armored guards in two blows.
Every other character Capelle encounters and befriends, regardless of how unique or interesting he or she may be, still falls prey to the awkward pacing of the dialogue. Lines exchanged between characters typically share a 2-3 second gap of dead silence, making the conversations feel stiff. The embarrassingly unsynchronized mouth movements don't help their cause, either.
The game also doesn't look that hot. Nothing terribly offensive, but despite being developed exclusively for Xbox 360, nothing really screams "next-generation."
Outside of the cut scenes (and there are quite a few - this is a Japanese RPG after all), "Infinite Undiscovery" offers a surprisingly accessible and satisfying combat system. "Random battles" are nonexistent, everything happens in real-time and running up to enemies and mashing two buttons to slash them to bits doesn't get any simpler.
Of special note is the artificial intelligence of your allies - that is, they possess more of the latter and less of the former. Rather than requiring players to micromanage each character's action pattern, the allies act of their own accord, performing whatever action is most beneficial to the party at that particular moment. They rarely require babysitting at all, and no greater compliment can be bestowed upon AI than that.
"Infinite Undiscovery" takes a while to get off the ground. The slow, plodding pace of the first handful of hours may turn off even the most open-minded gamers, and I can't blame them for walking away.
Those patient enough to progress beyond this never-ending sequence of tutorials, on the other hand, shall have their patience rewarded. Once the game stops holding your hand every step of the way, "Infinite Undiscovery" becomes a truly enjoyable experience. Capelle evolves into one of the most dynamic lead characters in recent memory; little touches like the fluctuating tone of his voice during battle help make his changing personality tangible. By the end, you'll be rooting this kid to victory.
Some later moments depict a legitimately interesting, and dare I say, charming story. The script that tri-Ace crafted clearly deserved a better delivery than the one given in the final product.
Despite lasting a shorter length of time than what is expected of the genre (anywhere between 20 and 30 hours), this a meaty and ultimately satisfying adventure. The latter two-thirds definitely deserve the attention of fans of the genre, but unlike a good book or DVD movie, games still don't let you flip through the pages or hold the fast-forward button to skip right to the good stuff. Whether "Infinite Undiscovery" deserves your time and money depends on your patience as a gamer.