Square Enix introduced the role-playing genre to the iPod recently, with Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes. The game is both traditional and innovative – making creative use of your iPod’s music while retaining many of the qualities of Square Enix’s most popular RPG titles (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest).
Song Summoner’s main appeal is the use of your iPod music library not only as background music, but as an integral part of the game’s mechanics. You play as Ziggy, a young man who must battle the Mechanical Militia lead by Number 42, an evil robot with a profound hate for music and humanity, who kidnapped his brother Zero five years before. Ziggy is a Conductor, or Song Summoner, armed with the ability to create Tune Troopers from the songs on your device. Read More...
The Hip-O-Drome is where you will choose the songs which will be rendered into a variety of troopers, ranging in skills, attributes and class. Certain terms, like the numbers 1 and 7 or “soul” will give you stronger troopers, if found in the song title. Each trooper receives a medal ranking (bronze, silver, gold, platinum) that you can upgrade by spending “pitch pearls” earned by defeating enemies.
These troopers make up your party and will assist you in your battle to take down Number 42. He and his minions have invaded Melodica and taken away its residents, enslaving them to achieve his evil plan.
Listening to music outside the game also plays a role in your success by letting you accumulate “groove points”. These points add up, gradually filling up to five groove levels. You can spend these groove levels to increase your entire fighting party’s attributes for one battle.
You can also increase your groove level by triggering switches on the battlefield. However, the enemy can also attack these switches, reducing your defense level. If you reach five groove levels in battle, the enemy will become confused, but if your opponents reduce your groove by five levels, one of your troopers will die.
But your troopers won’t die for good, until they run out of the deployment points attributed upon their creation. All fighting troopers lose one deployment point after a battle. But if one of your troopers dies, they will lose an additional point. “Rewind” items can be purchased at the item shop, which will let you give an additional point to a trooper, but at a high monetary cost.
The game controls using only the iPod scroll wheel and centre button, which requires some adaptation time on the part of the player. You turn the wheel left or right to search through your items or to select where you want a character to move on the map and use the centre button to enter commands. Despite occasional frustration with the wheel’s hypersensitivity, the result is effective and intuitive.
Visually, the graphics are quite nice, considering the small size of the iPod screen (I was playing it on a 3rd generation Nano.) The characters are brightly coloured and generally easy to differentiate on the battle map. The maps are well detailed, though small enough to mostly fit on the screen, with each scene presenting unique design elements. In conversation, the characters are rendered in 2D portrait art, typical of strategy role-playing games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics.
Song Summoner’s strong musical theme would be incomplete without original audio. From the title screen to the battleground, the game offers a diverse instrumental soundtrack ranging from classical, funk, mellow jazz, latin and rock. The recordings are done in midi, but feature complete orchestrations, which are pleasant to hear.
Song Summoner is a great little game with a decent story and captivating mechanics. You will find yourself spending countless minutes creating and training your troopers, when you aren’t advancing the story. The game’s run time is approximately 8 to 10 hours, which is surprisingly deep for an iPod title. It offers an excellent value for a low price and will make a great addition to any portable collection.
+ Unique character creation system
+ Lasting game play (over 8 hours)
+ RPG on your iPod
- Click Wheel controls can be awkward
Game Forward score: 4/5
Nathalie Caron > Game Forward
Song Summoner: Unsung Heroes (iPod) Quick Facts:
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy / Role-Playing
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix / Apple Inc.
Release Date: July 8, 2008
ESRB Rating: N/A