As someone who leans heavily towards video games with complex and interesting stories, I was completely blown away by my first experience with a game from the mind of Yoko Taro. Nier Automata stands out as a truly unique experience with very few games that it can be compared to. Taro himself is a unique individual with a strange sense of humour that comes across right away if you’ve ever seen him do an interview in his trademark Emil mask, a nod to one of the characters from the original Nier. That sense of humour was on full display throughout the story of The Isle Dragon Roars, the first Voice of Cards game.
A far cry from the high paced action of Nier, Voice of Cards instead leans heavily into presentation featuring brilliant writing and an absolutely fantastic musical score all set to rather elementary RPG mechanics. The attention to detail is obvious, each and every card has a gorgeous design and even the sound effects of dice rolling and gems crashing into a wooden box stand out as impeccable. The Isle Dragon Roars in a lot of ways feels like a Shakespearen comedy. The main party heads out to complete an impossible task they’re clearly under-qualified to take on but through sheer determination and a bit of dumb luck, the party rises to the occasion. The Forsaken Maiden has much of the same DNA as its predecessor. The simple RPG mechanics are used once again, as is the game board where the battles take place. In the Forsaken Maiden however, Taro follows in the footsteps of Shakespeare by following his masterful comedy with a breath-taking tragedy.
Only a few months removed from The Isle Dragon Roars, The Forsaken Maiden arrives with a familiar presentation and a much different story. Instead of the wit and comedy from the first title, Forsaken Maiden takes a much more somber tone in the telling of Laty, the girl once destined to save her island from destruction. The story follows a heroic boy who wants to help Laty reclaim her destiny and the many people they meet that help her growth. The structure is broken down into four separate stories that come together into an epic finale. Initially, the complete lack of comedy that made the original so compelling feels disappointing. The outset of Forsaken Maiden feels quite slow as the story is developed and really doesn’t pick up until the conclusion of the first chapter. The heartbreaking ending however, sets the stage for what is to come.
The different tone of the second title is certainly jarring, but not unexpected given the previous work from Yoko Taro and his team. The writing ultimately accomplishes what it sets out to do, and that’s to cut deeply into your heart and make you feel the pain felt by each character. Themes of parenthood and friendship really hit home, with more than a few moments that will likely bring tears to your eyes.
The story might be brand new, but the overall aesthetic and RPG mechanics are largely untouched from the original, for better or worse. The visuals are just as impeccable, and the musical score is perfectly suited for the tone. This also means that the original’s shortcomings are still present. Namely, the overly abundant random encounters that are far too frequent and the long animations that feel even longer because of them. The total playtime is around 12 hours and far too much of that time is spent watching the battle animation begin, only to then run from an unnecessary battle.
Releasing The Forsaken Maiden so soon after The Isle Dragon Roars is an interesting proposition. The unrelated story means that folks that passed on the first can come into Forsaken Maiden and enjoy it without needing prior knowledge. At the same time, fans of the morbid humour of Yoko Taro may be bitterly disappointed that Forsaken Maiden has almost no comedy whatsoever. As a fan of the original, and a loyal follower of the work of Yoko Taro, I still recommend this new entry into the series to anyone looking to enjoy a touching story.
- Fantastic visuals and musical score
- Well written tragic story
- Good pace and length
- Missing the trademark Yoko Taro humour
- Too many random encounters
- Animations can feel long