Welcome Time Wasters!
I don’t know how many of my readers are RPG fans, but it’s a genre that I absolutely love. I specifically love classic JRPGs from the 16-bit era of gaming. However, I never get to talk about them much because they often don’t fit with the Time Waster. That changes this week with Machine Knight.
Machine Knight is a mobile JRPG that does its dang best to emulate the genre as it was in the mid 90s. If I’m to be honest, it still doesn’t feel like much of a Time Waster when I’m playing it, but I’m giving it a pass because I can play it on my smartphone. See, I don’t really play longer games on my smartphone. It’s a glorified web browser first, a communication device second, and a gaming platform third. The lack of a controller and larger games are what keep it from really moving beyond this status, which is why Machine Knight is such a strange case for me.
Machine Knight puts players in the role of Frain. He is a young knight from a world that has dedicated itself to scientific advancement. Unfortunately, this world is also beginning to die. In an effort to save his world, Frain uses a strange machine to travel to a world of magic and seeks their aid.
That’s the basic setup behind Machine Knight, but there is more to it than just that. This includes a bit of dating sim elements concerning Frain’s two female companions: Aulin and Bell. Depending on how the player reacts to the two characters, their relationship with them will change. This means that players can get a couple of different endings while playing through the game.
When it comes to the characters and story of Machine Knight, it’s all a bit standard. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the characters or story, but neither really stuck out to me. Part of this is due to the stiff dialogue that feels like the result of a rough translation.
Gameplay in Machine Knight is that of a turn-based RPG. The game uses a Dragon Quest style where the enemies appear on screen and the players don’t. Defeating enemies earns players experience points that will level them up. There is also SP that is earned from battle. This lets players buy and upgrade abilities on the Machina Board. It’s a bit like a class system that lets the player chose how they want to move forward.
I said that Machine Knight tries hard to be a 90s JRPG, and that’s no lie. On top of the main quest in the game, players can also take on several side missions. These aren’t exactly anything special, but they are a nice distraction from the main narrative. Players can also use the game’s crafting system to create better items for their party.
Machine Knight offers players a couple of different control options. The first lets them simply tap their screens to move around and make menu selections. The second has a virtual gamepad appearing onscreen. Players can adjust the opacity of this gamepad. I found myself using the gamepad while running around the world, and switching to taps for menus and battles.
Machine Knight’s visuals are a delight for any lover of retro gaming. It has the spite art down well enough to look like something I might have played on the Super Nintendo some 20 years ago. The user interface is also simple and easy to navigate. The only thing that really stick out as weird to me are some of the animation choices in the game. When players talk to certain characters in Machine Knight, their portrait will appear. The mouths of all these characters move when they are speaking and it looks incredibly silly. It’s basically just a red triangle growing and shrinking on their faces over and over again with no real attempt at making it look like actual speech.
When it comes to audio, Machine Knight is wonderful. The sound effects for navigating menus and attacking monster all sound perfect. It also has a solid soundtrack that matches those of older JRPGs. Sure, it isn’t something that compares to, say, Final Fantasy V, but it is still good.
Machine Knight is a free game. It does have some additional content that can be purchased in-game, but it isn’t required to reach the end. It is actually one of many JRPGs for mobile devices made by the same developer. The fact that its free seems to be a way for the developer to hook in retro JRPG fans so that they will buy their other games. Honestly, I can see this working. The game offers an incredibly solid JPRG experience, especially on a mobile device. Sure, there are ads when the player goes to save, but that is only a minor concern.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time with Machine Knight. It wasn’t a game that I felt the need to rush through. It’s actually been sitting on my smartphone for a couple of months now and I get it out when that JPRG itch starts up. The game is a real treat for fans of older JRPGs, but I doubt it will really appeal to the average person playing games on their smartphones or tablets.
Machine Knight earns 3.5 GiN Gems out of 5!