The above ad (taken from Femme Fatales) wraps up the Sudeki experience so well I'm tempted to just leave it at that. Unfortunately that's not going to be good enough for you people. Oh no, you've come to expect "reasons" and "explanations" before you're satisfied. Well fine, I'll tell you exactly why Sudeki is flatly average in execution and downright insulting by design – but it's not going to be pretty.
To preface this review I have to say that I couldn't slog my way past the ten hour mark with this game. I knew another eight hours or so would have seen me through but I just couldn't shake the feeling that I'd wasted enough time already. I don't care if it turns out to be better than sex after ten hours, no one should have to slog through this much schlock to get there. That's not to say Sudeki doesn't have its merits, they just make it really hard to enjoy thanks to a few key issues.
Graphically you'll be hard pressed to find a better looking RPG on the Xbox. Climax did a great job building a fully 3D engine that allows for some vibrant colors and large, detailed areas. Every NPC and character also features full voice acting and, unlike many games, it usually does a passable job of it. The base of the whole combat system is dynamic and real-time which allows for blocking, dodging and a good amount of different combos to pull off which keeps things fun and interesting. It all gets more cumbersome once you have to control more than two characters but we'll get to that soon enough.
The general world and character design is actually quite good. There are some very diverse environments to discover and some of the NPC's look just great. I'm a big fan of the robot workers you encounter around the six hour mark, very cool. I'd also like to make special mention of the intro movie to the game, it's done as a sort of shadow puppet show that really gets your hopes up and raises your interest level right off the hop.
The fact that I'm sitting here idly brushing the keys on my keyboard trying to think of other aspects of the game that are actually "good" is very telling I think. Oh! The spell effects are very sparkly and fairly quick so you're not stuck watching two minutes worth of canned animations every time you need to heal someone. Good show!
Damn near everything else about Sudeki is average. Climax pulled design ideas from Eastern and Western RPG's and combined them into a mix of the most annoying elements from both worlds. A poorly written, slowly paced story with forced romance and lame soap opera side plots are only the beginning. From the West we're given a more "action" style combat system that has you fighting in real-time while the other three characters in your party rely on their own A.I to take care of themselves. Often you can't track what everyone is doing because they're all off camera fighting god knows what. The only thing you can do is fight your own battle, keep an eye on your allies' health meters and switch to them when they need the human touch. No one will cast without direct control by the player and aiming their respective spells is very difficult in the small amount of time they give you before they're set off.
To offset the awful team management, the game is very, very easy from what I've seen. If you have each member of your team casts their respective "buff" spells you can haste, shield, regenerate and protect all members for every fight you encounter. I've never lost a single battle in Sudeki, I've never even come close in the ten hours I played. Maybe it gets harder as you go. The ability to directly control a character from the first person perspective, circle enemies and hit them with fire balls shots out of your staff makes it very easy to handle the monsters on your own too. They simply are not equipped to fight human controlled characters.
You'll notice I haven't spent much time discussing the world, the plot or the characters so far. The reason being I could hardly bring myself to care about what was going on as I played. You've got the sassy princess, the sassy warrior with father issues, the slightly arrogant scientist guy and the token furry female character. The plot itself starts with you collecting crystals which I assure you is exactly as much fun as it sounds. Ten hours in and I still haven't finished collecting them so we can get on with the damn plot, such as it is.
The last average element that needs mentioning is the linearity of the game. There's almost no room for exploration and barely any side-quests truly worth mentioning. You're shoved down a path and by god that's what you'll follow to the bitter end. I put this down as "average" because quite frankly some gamers prefer it this way.
Every time one of the two main female characters are on screen it's like being slapped in the face. Their manner of dress is so outlandishly whorish you'll wonder if they will randomly be approached by dirty hobo NPC's asking for $5 dollar rubs. When you contrast how slutty the princess dresses to the fashion sense of rest of the world's female population (pants AND shirts) you start to think maybe she has some sort of mental condition that everyone tries to politely ignore. Don't get me started on the invisible thong wearing furry woman with her naked, dual-globe ass swaying in front of you all the time. I don't mind attractive player characters since I do have to stare at them the entire game but come on people. The women's asses and breasts look like they use the exact same basketball shaped polygons! Climax, you need to give gamers more credit, such obvious and poorly designed pandering is flat out insulting and it takes you right out of the game.
Barrels. Crates. Vases. That's right, if you want to collect stuff to sell and potions to drink you're going to be kicking a lot of randomly placed containers to do it. You're wandering through the forest with your slut animal woman and look, crates! You kick them and what do you get? Why, furs of course! It makes perfect sense. I'm sure in the world of Sudeki the animals don't simply die, they skin themselves and have relatives box them up for the good of man kind. Kicking things to get stuff is possibly one of the worst clichÃƒÂ©s anyone can do in a game these days. We deserve better than this!
The puzzles almost fell into the average category but I've decided that pushing boxes, throwing switches in a certain order and climbing blatantly obvious spots on walls is lazy game design filler at best. Even the moments when Elco gets to use his jet pack aren't any fun.
Sudeki feels like it could have been a good game but they cut out a lot of the neat stuff, layered in a bunch of filler content and threw some tits in with the desperate hope that no one would notice how limp the experience is. I know I haven't given you the minutia on the weapons (each character gets one type) the armor (each character gets new armor at key points in the story) or the augmentations you can do (add damage, poison, health drain etc.) to them but I think I've already wasted enough time playing and writing about it.
What ultimately disappoints me about Sudeki is Climax had a chance to make a really great RPG and they blew it. They only had one console to develop for, they had Microsoft backing them up and they opted for clichÃƒÂ©d game play instead of something truly innovative. Damn, damn shame.