Summon Night 6: Lost Borders review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also on: PS4
Publisher: Gaijinworks
Developer: Media Vision
Medium: Digital/Vita Card/Disc
Players: 1-2
Online: No

Seeing as Gaijinworks was trumpeting the fact that localizing Summon Night 6 was roughly equivalent to translating five novels from the original Japanese, it should come as no surprise that this is a pretty text-heavy game. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without scrolling through pages and pages of dialogue first, and it often feels like you get about one battle for every half-dozen (at least) cutscenes.

There are three downsides to this, as far as I’m concerned. First, most of the Summon Night games haven’t been localized, which means it’s a lot of dialogue between characters that the game assumes you know, but who will be completely foreign to you (pun not intended) unless you’ve been importing all the other games from Japan. I’m all for figuring things out through context, but Summon Night 6 takes that to the next level. It’s not a game-breaking flaw, but it is, at the very least, a little challenging.

The second downside to all the text, by contrast, is a lot harder to handwave away.. Summon Night 6’s plot, as far as I can tell, is loosely tied around creating reasons for characters from all the previous games to come together. While I have no doubt that this story is a lot more engaging if you know all the Summon Night characters to begin with, I don’t think it’s impossible to imagine that, handled in the right manner, the story could’ve even been interesting for newcomers like me.

However, it’s not handled well. Instead, it’s handled in the most boring way imaginable: a new character arrives, the already-introduced ones find him or her, and they all proceed to have multiple conversations about how hard it is to believe that this inconceivable thing has happened. It runs contrary to the heart of good storytelling: rather than simply presenting something as having happened and going from there, Summon Night 6 thinks it’s much more interesting if the conversation goes:

Character A: “Wow, I can’t believe this happened!”
Character B: “Me neither, it’s crazy!”
Character A: “It certainly is hard to believe that this crazy thing happened!”
Character B: “This world is so different from my own.”
Character A: “This thing that happened is so crazy, it’s hard to believe.”

And so on…for many, many hours, in many different situations, with many different characters. That kind of dialogue would have been cumbersome and repetitive if it happened a few times. For it to happen as much as it does here is just plain boring.

The biggest drawback to all the text, however, is that it takes time away from fighting — and fighting is one thing that Summon Night 6 does really well. It’s generally your standard turn-based combat, with all the usual JRPG trappings: parties, grids, and so on. However, Summon Night 6 lays out the grids really nicely, and allows your characters to run around as long as they stay within their maximum areas. The actual combat may not differ all that much, but at the same time, it all feels a little more free-flowing and less constrained simply because of a few visual changes here and there.

However, you won’t get to experience that combat nearly enough to make the game worth your while — not unless you also have a deep and abiding love for the Summon Night franchise, and you’ve imported and translated the rest of the series and need to know what happens next. While there are lots of cases of “newcomers need not apply” when it comes to JRPG franchises, I’m hard-pressed to think of any where it works quite as well as it does here. Summon Night 6 is geared towards fans of the first five games, and seeing as the first four of those never made it across the Pacific, that should tell you everything you need to know.

Gaijinworks provided us with a Summon Night 6: Lost Borders PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: C+