I bought Saturday Morning RPG because I knew that I would hate it. I saw it on steam and expected a game that was poorly designed and poorly written. After a bit of research I found that it was actually a Kickstarter game with 10,000 dollars behind it. At this point I was interested to see what a 10,000 dollar RPG looked like. What I found was worse than a game that was easy to hate: a game that I desperately wanted to like. Some aspects of it are really well designed, but the rest of the game is so bad that it just ruins any enjoyment that could be had from it.
The combat system is absolutely fantastic and I can only wish that other games take note of it. Combat is turn based, like most JRPGs, but the game avoids or fixes many of the issues I usually have with the genre. There are three moves available: a basic attack, special attacks, and a combo charge. Each action usually has some kind of minigame, such as timed hits or mashing a button to charge your attack. The amount of damage you do is the base damage of your attack multiplied by the combo meter, so you’ll generally want to charge your combo meter before doing an attack. Charging up your combo meter consumes magic, but your magic bar can be recharged by using the basic attack (as the basic attack is the weakest attack available, you’ll generally only use it for this reason). Special attacks are much more powerful and versatile, with some having special effects such as causing poison damage. However, each special attack has a set number of uses, usually between 1 to 4, so you can’t just repeat the same attack each turn. This means you need to strike a balance between charging your combo and doing attacks.
Attacks have three stats: power, speed and accuracy. Power is the amount of damage the attack does, speed effects the turn order and accuracy reflects how likely it is for the attack to miss. An attack with low speed will give the enemy more turns than an attack with high speed, so the weaker attacks can be used to damage or even finish off an enemy without giving up your turn. In one particular battle, I used a high speed attack to ensure that the enemy medic wouldn’t get a turn, and thereby wasn’t able to heal the unit I was attempting to kill. There’s a good balance between all the special attacks; I’ve very rarely found myself just following a basic attack pattern that I’ve used before. While this does happen, it’s offset by the tight pacing. It won’t take long to learn a new special attack, or encounter a new enemy type. As such, you’ll always be changing your tactics and trying out new attacks. There’s also a set amount of enemies that exist in each level, they appear on the main screen, and they never regenerate, so it’s quite impossible to grind. The game is fairly well balanced too; weaker attacks will have some kind of bonus to offset it such as having more uses before it disappears, or having a very high speed.
Where the game falls apart is with the horrible writing and humor. The game is split into four episodes, each with a different writer and they’re all consistently terrible. It follows the story of Marty, a regular high school kid. However, he meets The Wizard (yes, from the Nintendo movie), and gets magic powers that now allow him to fight. At its best, the writing is simply bland, generic and boring. Hearing high school girls talk about which boy is the cutest is as shallow and painful as it sounds. The protagonist mulls over his crush, and how she could be his if only she stopped dating the school bully. The basketball players all are fairly stupid and talk about nothing but sports. High school clichés are bad enough, but it actually gets worse by including obvious parodies (if you call lazy plagiarism a parody) of 80’s culture. The main enemy is a clear knockoff of G.I. Joe and later you get to meet a group of not-Transformers that fight the not-Decepticons. Shia Labeouf is a dog for some reason, and he extolls the virtues of avoiding drugs. It’s ok for a story to be unrealistic, but it at least needs to be logical within the context of the world it’s presented in. It just seems random for the sake of being random. The story is so terrible that I can’t tell if it’s some kind of stealth parody, or if the writers just assumed everyone else’s sense of humor was as terrible as theirs.
The bad sense of humor even hurts the gameplay. Many quests are parodies of cliché quests from other RPGs, but without any kind of twist. The game is just filled with pointless fetch quests, although they usually provide a good reward. Some of the special attacks are some kind of thin reference, such as being able to do the carebear stare or a Rick Astley special attack. I purposely avoided using any attack that attempted to make a bad joke.
I’m fine with a game having a simple plot and some one-dimensional characters if it helps create a certain tone, or if the story isn’t a main focus. However, there are long, albeit skippable, dialogue scenes. The main characters feel the need to justify or explain their actions, even though they’re all extremely simple. It’s especially bad with the villains, who keep reiterating that they can’t be beat and their evil plan will come to fruition. So much of the text doesn’t move the plot forward or is interesting in any way. Cutting out two thirds of the text would have been an improvement. I’m baffled by how a game with great pacing in the gameplay has such terrible pacing in the story.
Saturday Morning RPG is a prime example of all the inherent flaws with kickstarter. Promising to make a game “just like the old classics” isn’t new to kickstarter, but the end result is usually more than just including as many references as possible. I feel like I’m being a bit too harsh on the game, but only because I could see how it could have been great. Saturday Morning RPG isn’t just a bad game, it’s a disappointing waste of potential.