Reviews

Record of Agarest War Zero

The "dating" system consists largely of improving scores so that your descendant will inherit better stats. I seem to recall doing something rather similar in Final Fantasy VII, only with chocobo, not human women.


Record of Agarest War Zero

Publisher: Aksys Games
Rated: Teen
Players: 1
Price: $49.99
Platforms: Playstation 3, XBox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: Compile Heart
Release date: 2011-6-14
URL

The Agarest series, such as it is with its relative obscurity in the West, bills itself on three essential premises: that it is a tactical RPG, that it possesses a unique and engaging take on dating simulation, and that it is fun to play.

Unfortunately, all three of these are terribly misleading. The last is patently false. Record of Agarest War Zero is not tactical, is hardly about romance, and is so tedious I'm more inclined to think of it as a sleeping aid rather than as a game.

Most charitably, we could call Agarest Zero a title for a particular niche market, the kind who like their 2D women underdressed, underaged, and with the emotional maturity of ten-year-olds. But complaining about the jailbait (even lolicon) underpinnings and demeaning objectification of women in Agarest is a little too easy. Shooting fish in a barrel seems more sporting. No, the truly offensive thing about Agarest Zero is that for a game so blatantly about producing heirs with your infantilized brides, it puts you through the most boring of RPG hells to get there.

As mentioned, gameplay is barely concerned with tactics. There are several grids, all of which are terribly small, which the player can select and from which the system rarely deviates. Yes, that's right: you will be fighting on the same tiny, identical grids, often against identical backdrops, for virtually the entire game. "Random" encounters scarcely involve any measure of thinking power. Arranging party members to maximize linked attacks is perhaps the most exciting part of battle, if "exciting" is even the right word for it, but the rest is so bland and uninspired it manages to suck even this trace element of flavor out of the broth.

And if you aren't in battle, you are running on a predefined path on some map. And if you are doing neither of those things, you are watching distorted, swelling caricatures of anime portraits talk and talk and talk. I say this as someone who quite enjoys the Metal Gear Solid series, but cutscenes in Agarest Zero are too long and too pointless by half. Yes, I get it, she's cute and she has the brain of an emotionally abused five-year-old. Yes, I've noticed her gravity-defying breasts packed in her improbable outfit. Yes, she has little untranslatable vocal affectations that make her so moe desu. It seems every little incidental event in this game down to a stubbed toe merits a cutscene and more "adorable" pouting from identical-sounding Japanese voice actresses.

It isn't as though I hate moe games on principle. But the insidiousness of moe is its overreliance on stock types and cliches so dry and predictable you really do need to have a fetish for pigtails, lacy chokers, elf ears, or god knows what in order to derive any pleasure from this sort of blatantly shallow character writing. Moe is as stale as it is cynical.

Even the infamous breeding mechanic can't breathe life into a game as lazily generic as this. As a friend put it, "The application process for artificial insemination is surely more exciting and less of a hassle than Agarest games." The various young girls you mold into your brides-to-be all just about throw themselves at your feet the instant you meet them, obviating any sort of rom-com tension and going straight to the sociopathic seduction stage, in which the "dating" system consists largely of improving scores so that your descendant will inherit better stats. I seem to recall doing something rather similar in Final Fantasy VII, only with chocobo. Unfortunately, the mechanics of that 1997 game are not much improved upon with more than a decade of distance. I suppose I should at least be glad I can pay an oracle to foretell my future son's stats without having to press X and reset for five hours to get something with gold plumage.

So, yes, there is no question abourt this game's obscene level of objectification. The girls in your party are nothing more than a means to an end, rendered into numbers and attribute slots with breasts attached. But the entirety of Record of Agarest War Zero is so tedious, so routine, so lumpy and misshapen that I can't even bother to care terribly much. Anyone who plays this is already being punished enough.

3
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of the Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he could shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means the brightest star in the power-pop universe has suddenly gone dim.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of the Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he could shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means the brightest star in the power-pop universe has suddenly gone dim.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.