In 2004, Monster Hunter producer Noritaka Funamizu left Capcom to form his own development company, Crafts and Meister. Some of Funamizu’s other works include producing such highly regarded games as Street Fighter II, Resident Evil 2, Breath of Fire IV, and even Nintendo’s magnificent Legend of Zelda Game Boy Color games, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. Since the forming of this new band, Craft and Meister have released just the one game on a Nintendo system; the Japan-only Mizuiro Blood on the DS, but they doubled this in June by introducing the Land of the Rising Sun to Earth Seeker, an original single player Wii RPG that has been co-developed with Kadokawa Shoten. What makes Earth Seeker so different to the plenty of other RPGs out on Wii at the moment, though?
The chronicle of Earth Seeker goes that mankind was on the brink of extinction and forced to flee Earth after a black hole threatened the planet. Humans created thousands of huge ships, some the size of entire cities, and loaded them with everything they deemed precious. Groups of ships set off for various star systems to find a new place to call home. Disastrously, one group of ships met with a terrible fate when a gamma ray burst killed everyone onboard. Despite this, the ships’ computers still operated and managed to find a habitable planet. Upon entering this new Earth’s atmosphere, though, the ships did not react too well to it and everyone was forced into emergency landings. The computers attempted to execute their Earth Regeneration Programme to create a suitable environment, but due to the damage sustained in the emergency landing, they ended up creating monsters instead of the Earth creatures they had originally planned. Earth Seeker begins a thousand years later.
Mankind was recreated by the computers as a new species called Earthnoid; it is one of these new types of humans that you control. You are not alone on this planet, however. A race of creatures called “guardians” inhabits the land and they have not been very fond of humans after what their ships’ computers did by producing monsters on their home planet. However, the guardians have a strong craving for the alcohol that humans make and by giving them some they will help you out during the adventure. The little guys have managed to advance beyond their primitive state by using the technology of the ships and use “Energy Balls” to fight. The overall goal in Earth Seeker is to find the cargo that has been scattered all over the world after the crash landings of the ships in the past.
Earth Seeker has been designed as an action game that can be played by anybody. Noritaka Funamizu stated that light users complained that his action games were too tough for them to play, so he decided to create one that appeals to everyone. The key feature in Earth Seeker is its Time Stop Battle system, which combines real-time and command elements. Upon spotting an enemy, players will engage it in conflict. By working together with six guardian support characters, enemies can be fought together using a unique battle mechanic. With a press of the ‘A’ button the action can be frozen so that time can be taken when picking what commands to issue to the guardians, having them fight in a Pikmin-style, performing elemental and group magical attacks. The main character also partakes in the action by whipping out a giant sword (it would not be a fantasy RPG without one, right?).
To give the guardians actions, Action Cartridges are needed. A meter at the bottom of the screen shows how many are currently in possession, and the amount can be expanded through the course of the game. As long as you have cartridges in stock, commands can be issued. There are also different power levels of these actions to choose from and stronger attacks will require more cartridges. In addition, the Earthnoid character’s weapons arsenal can also be augmented by obtaining materials to create new ones.
Of particular interest are the crazy enemy designs encountered during the journey over the “new Earth.” Due to bugs in the computers caused through the crash landings, they created some rather messed up creatures that come off as sort of biological and mechanical hybrids. For example, there is a panther-like animal with a power plug for a tail and a glass shell through which its internal organs can be clearly seen. Others include a crossover between a grasshopper and a rail gun, as well as a dragon and a light bulb. These bizarre creatures reside in specific environments and have their own special attacks. Some monsters prefer dark locations and move around underground. There is somewhat of a Monster Hunter feel to the fiend designs, but that comes as little surprise considering the ex-Capcom talent working on Earth Seeker.
The use of real-world objects and landmarks, spread over a world that has merged the city-like areas from the voluminous spaceships and the greens of what was already on the planet, make for a detailed and refreshing world to explore. Players will be seeing such famous manmade creations as the Eiffel Tower and a broken Statue of Liberty. The colourful and detailed graphics and character styles are very appealing and reminiscent of Phantasy Star Online, although it does not quite live up to the extremely high standards set by Xenoblade. There are a variety of destinations to explore on top of the traditional fields, including ruins in a lightning storm and buildings surrounded by lava.
The game’s soundtrack is handled by a duo called Unique Note, comprised of former Capcom audio director Tetsuya Shibata, who worked on the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil series, and vocalist Yoshino Aoki, who was involved in Breath of Fire III and IV. The latter sang a few tracks for Earth Seeker, and judging by the people involved, you can be sure the game’s score is impressive.
A DSiWare mini game called Odekake! Earth Seeker was also released at the same time as the console version, which allows you to create new items to take into your main game, as well as clean artefacts you find on your quest. This is a welcomed addition as progress of some kind can still be made whilst away from your console. The console game itself is apparently no pushover in the longevity stakes either, with it taking around 20-to-30 hours to clear and 60-to-70 to complete fully.