Let me start off with a quote – “Natural Doctrine is one of the WORST RPG’s I’ve played, ever”. This game has been sat on my shelf since its release and it should have stayed there. I’ve lately been unable to do much else with my time than play games, so I began playing this with that lovely little NIS America logo proudly being displayed, and with previous titles such as Disgaea and Hyperdimension Neptunia, this game was at least made by a reputable studio. The game booted up and my fears were brought to life, as I embarked on a journey of…mostly running away from larger monsters and fighting goblins and stealing their “Pluton”? The story for this game is paper thin, with the world in which it takes place having virtually no character or appeal. It gets worse as the main cast are obnoxious sounding idiots that run in head first to fight goblins at the chance of finding more treasure. Okay, are my characters treasure hunters? Are they bounty hunters? What the hell is a Bergman, and why should I care? Apparently, these guys are soldiers who don’t have citizenship within the walls of the local city. So, instead of looking for a better place to live, they keep doing jobs for the Senate, when the same people they work for decide they need to die, because they might be involved in some revolution that is happening that you never see any effects of. Hooked? Didn’t think so. The characters really do sound ridiculous with terrible voice acting that is beyond cringe worthy, it’s unacceptable.
Moving away from bashing the non existent story in this game, we move onto the gameplay. The first mission you do is the tutorial where you learn all about linking characters to
essentially cheat gain an advantage over the AI. You know what? I take that back. It IS cheating. The way linking works is that you have Geoff move in range of several enemies, let him attack on his own, then move another character in to attack, which allows Geoff to attack again. Then you do it again, and again, killing the next AI combatant before they have a chance to react. This game plays out more like an animated version of chess than a tactical RPG, but the main difference is that you can basically cheat your way to victory. There is no challenge whatsoever, so the developers decided to put in enemies and scenarios where you are basically unable to fight (the Orc camp, virtually every encounter with the giant bugs) simply because you are “ill equipped” to deal with the situation, which means, UNLIMITED RESPAWNS for the enemies, meaning sooner or later, you’ll take a hit or two, which is all it takes to down one of your feeble characters, and guess what? One character goes down…GAME OVER – try again chief! What in blue blazes is that all about? That’s not a challenge, that’s just handicapping the player. Imagine playing Fire Emblem, and not being able to lose a character. Yeah, it handicaps you because you don’t ever get that character back, but at least you can continue, not to say that unless you’re hardcore; you’ll probably have a character go down sooner or later. Having to completely restart a level just because Anka took a critical hit is unfair. Her HP is pitiful, as is most of your squad, but hers…don’t even talk to me about Anka, she can dish out the damage, but let one guy get near her, you may as well restart, because the game will force you to anyway.
In fact, if the linking system is a little too technical to get your head around, imagine your playing Street Fighter 2. You go dizzy, and you opponent hits you but you go dizzy again as they continue to pummel you into a fine paste, with each hit causing you to go dizzy until you get KO’d. Is that fair? Hell no! Now, if you’ve ever played this, made a single mistake, oh boy – you’re in for it. The AI will punish you as badly as you try to punish it. Imagine you walk into a room, and you are faced with several enemies. 4 on both sides, 4 in front, 4 behind that which are ranged. Now they have the initiative and continuously utilise the link system. You are not coming out of that situation alive.
If you think the story would get any better, you’re wrong. It doesn’t. After several hours of tedious gameplay, and mind numbing pointless dialogue, the game never really gets going. It’s a real shame because NIS are usually good at tactical JRPG’s, and this just isn’t one of them. This is a complete disaster from start to finish. The graphics look like something half decent from the PS2, the music just doesn’t fit the style of game, the dialogue is just…you think I may be exaggerating? Watch the video below and you’ll see: