Kingdom of Paradise, which I obviously first noticed because of the name, was hailed as the first unique direct-to-PSP role playing game, and has remained one of the best. Unfortunately the last part there is due to the limitation of the console itself. The PSP held so much promise: With a crisp, wide screen, built-in joystick, its own little optical storage and upgradable memory stick, it seemed poised to rule the handheld battlefield. Alas, the memory stick is treated as a hard disk or barely even that, unable to buffer any game data during play. The limited RAM soon reared its hidous face: Ambitious games (such as Sims 2 for PSP) were stuttering from the constant loading and simply did not offer the game experience they promised. The better you make your game, the worse it runs, so to speak.
KoP chose to accept the limitations and roll with them, so to speak. The background is pretty but static, with no camera movement allowed. The characters are 3-dimensional and crisp but tiny, which is actually a benefit during the frequent fights as you get a larger tactical overview. Larger images are loaded for the many cinematic sequences. In addition, the world is composed of many zones where all the loading is done during the zone transition, so you don't find your game stuttering just as you prepare to release your Soaring Dragon spell.
The game's two most maligned features are actually the best: The static camera saves memory and gives a more responsive game while still having a beautiful, detailed background, and the overpowered magic system allows the player to effectively set his own difficulty level. Want a quicker, easier game? Rely heavily on magic. The Chi attacks improve with use, and relying on them also make your mind get more of the points on each level up, making you even more powerful. There is still some tactic since there are five elements of magic, but it is fairly simple and should suit the novice player. In contrast, the advanced player can simply ignore the Chi attacks or use them only sparingly (in which case they never grow to godlike power). It is probably no coincidence that it is the sword attacks that have by far the most tactical depth. You can make combos using around 150 different attacks, some of them directional, all of them slightly magically enhanced. By ordering the attacks by the magic power source behind each, you can cause a formidable build-up of magic enhancement during the execution of the combo, creating an ever stronger impact and a devastating final blow. But this is only available far into the game as it requires you to pick up a lot of different attacks. The sense of accomplishment from this will not be understand by the hobbyist breezing through the game using only Chi attacks and enjoying the pretty cut scenes.
The game was first sold only in shops but can now be downloaded for $10.99 at the Playstation Store.
Also: Happy St Gluttony's Wake to my American friends!