Zenonia fuses SNES era Legend of Zelda with Diablo-esque RPG elements, creating a content-rich action RPG worthy of a 16-bit console release. The protagonist, Regret, can be one of three classes – Paladin, Assassin, or Warrior – and choose from talent trees with both active and passive skills. Each level up offers both stat and skill points for distribution. While the amount points to dole out might turn off the casual gamer, it only extends the content available to the action RPG fanatic.
An on-screen d-pad and action button control the bulk of the action, but two sets of smaller buttons act as quick slots for items and abilities. Arguably, the combat has depth; depending on your class, you have a handful of active skills at your disposal. As a Warrior, however, I found myself simply pressing the attack button ad infinitum. Even when special moves outclass your basic attack, the miniscule quickslot buttons require a level of finger precision not meant for active combat. If you can manage it, there’s a satisfying feeling from sending a monster reeling backwards with a critical strike, dashing forward, and unleashing a devastating special attack. The problem is, you never need to.
The game offers varying gameplay speeds, the lowest of which grants you a feeling of precise control. Unfortunately, the consequence of this is sacrificing your ability to speed through the often dull sections of grinding that Zenonia requires to keep up with the level of the story monsters. Even the directional pad lends itself to finger slip-ups; considering the hardware offers no tactile response, 360 degree movement would have been a blessing to Zenonia.
Gamevil clearly designed the game with traditional action RPGs in mind, which is both its greatest asset and liability. From the cliche story to the perfunctory dialogue, Zenonia leads the player into a shallow and non immersive world. During story sequences, I found myself yerning for the awkward, single-button combat. Regret even occasionally pitifully shatters the fourth wall, as if begging for reprive from the drudgery of living inside a generic RPG world.
Despite the cliches, Zenonia is incredibly fleshed out. Most gamers will feel a tinge of nostalgia as they guide Regret on his quest to find his father. Throughout the course of his quest, you’ll be faced with several choices that define you as good or evil. Your alignment changes the story path, but certain choices aren’t distinctly good or evil in the players eyes until after they’ve been selected. It offers literally hundreds of items with varying rarities, several story paths, and dozens of hours of gameplay.
If Zenonia shines anywhere, it’s here. The vibrant and varied environments are crisp and clean on the iPhone. Visual effects from special attacks actually give you the feeling that you struck a monster ferociously. Even the monsters themselves are well designed. Gamevil delivered top-notch visuals while retaining the essence of 16-bit graphics.
The music is standard for the genre; I found myself listening to my own music while playing more often than not. The sound effects are clean and appropriate, somehow managing to not be obnoxious after the thousandth sword swing.
The ability to save anywhere is a nice touch. While the game certainly has its flaws, it stands out as the premier action RPG for the iPhone and will keep you busy for longer than you could ask for the price.