Despite his adoptive father naming him ‘Regret’, Zenonia’s protagonist seems perfectly happy in the assumption that everything is fine with his life. That all changes when ‘Pardon’ (notice a trend here?) is killed by a marauding demon, causing Regret to set out on an epic quest to uncover the truth behind his past.
Torn straight out of the pages of ‘how to emulate a trend’, Zenonia is an adventure game in the style of the classic JRPG’s seen on the SNES and Mega Drive throughout the early 90s. Everything from the soundtrack to the colourful sprites are designed to lull you into a belief that you’ve skipped back 15 years and just picked up the latest Squaresoft title. Zenonia, of course, isn’t an old Squaresoft port, it’s actually a brand new game exclusively built for the iPhone and iPod touch. Superficially the gameplay is handled much like the classic Zelda games, with your sprite-based hero battling it out in isometric real-time. It would be easy for the more lazy developer to dish out a Zelda wannabe (which we’ve no doubt would sell in spades) but Gamevil has gone that extra mile to imbue Zenonia with many features more commonly associated with modern role playing games making it a unique mix of old and new.
Right off the bat you are given the opportunity to choose between three different classes each with their own special attacks and upgrade trees. If that wasn’t enough customisation, Zenonia also offers the opportunity to choose between a good storyline and an evil one; these are bold features we normally see on home console RPGs and you are getting them here for a meagre £3.49 (at time of writing).
The story aspects may be bang up to date but the player progression is definitely a retro experience. As with many classic RPGs the emphasis is on grinding through enemies to level up. Whilst many casual gamers may find this a bit too stat heavy, RPG enthusiasts will love the sheer number of items and weapons available. Although scavenging for new weapons and items is always a fulfilling experience, managing them in Zenonia isn’t; the menu screen is tiny, as are many of the buttons used for casting spells. When life or death situations come down to how accurately you can mash your finger onto a rice grain sized button, moments of frustration are bound to arise.
If you're after a solid JRPG experience on your iDevice then there really isn’t anything better than Zenonia. Some fiddly moments with the touchscreen UI hold it back from true greatness, but those seeking an extremely solid and entertaining App Store RPG need look no further.