If Tear of Vermillion seems like a painfully oldschool throwback to the 16-bit era ... that's because it is a 16-bit era game! The game was originally released in 1996 for the PC Engine (Turbografx) CD, meaning its contemporaries were the last handful of RPGs being released for the SNES (Star Ocean, Tales of Phantasia) and the very first handful coming out for the PS1 (Wild Arms, Suikoden, Beyond the Beyond). A little graphical polish was done for this PSP re-release, but the fundamental engine wasn't tweaked very much, so it's at the same general mid-90s level of development and sophistication.

Another thing to know about it is that it's another one of those Falcom series that were very popular and have tons of entries in Japan ... but not so much in the West, where only a handful of titles got translated sporadically over the years. Thus, the numbering system and naming is confusing here. Tear of Vermillion is actually the 4th overall game in the series, but it's the beginning of a new story trilogy, so the story is fairly self-contained and doesn't really require any previous knowledge to play.

Even by 1996 standards, however, Vermillion is a little clunky and a lot cliched. The game gets off to a very slow start with about an hour of unskippable dialogue / cutscenes / inane fetch quests before you even get into a battle. The story also leans on trope after trope - evil wizard attacks village to capture magical child of destiny, main character gets orphaned and grows up wanting to find his missing sister, evil religious cult threatens world, Powers of Elements have to be invoked to save everything. Nothing new or surprising here, the writing is no great shakes, and the translation is a bit clumsy to boot.

Movement about the game world is a bit of a problem, with a loose and clumsy feel to it. Your characters just sort of run right over most obstacles awkwardly, movement has a strangely loose feel to it, and the game is really finicky about being in the right position to talk to someone or investigate something. Combined with its sedated pace (too much pointless mandatory dialogue and unnecessary fetch quests, even after you get out of the opening area) it quickly becomes something of a chore to move through.

Battles also initially look promising but quickly disappoint. You're given an open battlefield with some ability/need to move around it, in a style roughly comparable to Chrono Trigger. Like Chrono, however, characters move on their own based on what attack/spell you've selected, with no ability to tell them precisely where to go. So any sense of deeper strategy is out the window. Really, it ends up being no different from your standard rigid menu-based battle system of the period.

A boringly rote and overly familiar experience for anyone who lived through the 16- and 32-bit eras of Japanese RPGs, about the only thing Vermillion does well is look fairly nice.
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