The Nintendo 64 was great for kart racing games and 3D platformers, but if you were a role playing aficionado, particularly anything resembling a Japanese role playing game, the system often left you wanting and disappointed.
Developed by the now-defunct THQ, Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage is a cult classic role playing game for Nintendo’s Nintendo 64 system that was blasted by critics at the time of its release but which as since gone on to become one of the more appreciated efforts from THQ and H20 Interactive for Nintendo’s first 3D gaming console.
Players assume the role of Alaron, a young squire that has a chance encounter with a goblin while searching for a missing farmer named Kendall. After waking up from a terrifying dream, Alaron finds himself in the house of a healer, Oriana, and here begins his quest to overcome his poison and save the kingdom from darkness. Typical RPG fare, really, but a rarity on the Nintendo 64, something that it seems many of the reviewers of the game forgot at the time. Featuring characteristically chunky polygon graphics, Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage features epic music and an engaging if somewhat rote storyline.
Combat in the game is turn based although it might appear to be more action-oriented as the game’s exploration mode is free roaming and reminiscent of other open world maps at the time. Players can increase their stats after a battle if they have acquired the requisite experience to do so. Skills and spells typically take more experience to upgrade – alternatively towns often featured trainers that can give the player the same enhancements for a nominal gold fee.
The menu features your journal and inventory. The game incorporates some elements later popularized in the survival mode of Fallout games for example such as gaining more health from sleeping in an inn versus sleeping out in the forest.
In many ways the game is way ahead of its time conceptually, but the technology does glaringly hold it back in places. One of the biggest complaints from game reviewers was the gameplay system’s attempt at adding deep strategy elements to the turn-based combat system, an effort that marred an otherwise workable scheme. Users take a different tact, pointing out that the flaws in the combat system can be easily overcome and that the is best appreciated as a slow moving experience. Gamers expecting something quick and easy will be confounded by the game’s systems, mastery of which takes some time and consideration on the part of the player.
Overall the Nintendo 64 was a system starving for competent role playing games outside of Nintendo’s marquee Legend of Zelda series. It is not secret that a large component of the Playstation’s success was Sony’s ability to snag Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy series from Nintendo’s machines and, while scarcity does not generate relative quality, in the case of Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage it seems that a second look is indeed in order.