The Bard’s Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled for the Playstation Vita (also available on PS4) is a re-release of a PS2 and Xbox title which in itself was a reboot of a classic RPG franchise I used to play back in the floppy disk days.
I haven’t played the PS2/Xbox version of The Bard’s Tale, but I knew it wasn’t like the text and graphic stills-based adventures from back in the day – the first of which probably was my very first dungeon crawler/RPG title. I didn’t get very far because I was too young, but I was mesmerized by a genre that was so different from the typical arcade-like games I used to play. The reboot, which came about 20 years later, was much more of a Diablo-style action RPG – but as I was a PC player at the time I never got to play it.
On the Vita, this is a genre that hasn’t gotten much love. Very early on we got Dungeon Hunter, and although you could try to throw Bastion into the same pile I’d say we haven’t had a Diablo-like title for years – if I missed one I’d love to know. The Bard’s Tale gives players more control over the camera than Dungeon Hunter does – which I’m sure is fueled by the fact that Dungeon Hunter originally came out for mobile and The Bard’s Tale is a console game.
A few control scheme tweaks were added to the Vita version, making good use of the handheld’s touch capabilities. Interacting with the front display cycles between three different map modes – large, small or disabled. Cycling through weapons can be done by either pressing the left shoulder button or touching the rear touch pad in the top left corner – each of which houses a different set of weapons. The top right corner of that same touch pad activates your magic amulet, which is used to summon a princess to your aid. Later on in the game, it also becomes possible to summon former bosses to come fight by your side, turning them into partners after defeating them earlier. You can only summon when you’ve collected enough special stones to do so, so you’ll want to be careful about when you use the ability.
The game’s strongest point is undeniably the writing and delivery of the plot. With a narrator and a main character (the bard) who frequently interact with each other, there’s a fantasy adventure full of personality and wit here. Quite often, the game will poke fun at its own genre, and when the bard responds to a snide comment by the narrator it’ll leave onlookers bewildered as the narrator’s voice seems to only exist inside the head of the bard. Of course, historically speaking, a bard is closely tied to music as well – so songs and instruments also feature throughout the story.
You can carve out specialties for your bard in the character creation screen, and when you level up you can add additional skills to your repertoire as well. These are referred to as talents, and allow you to wield new weapons or use different attacks. You’ll also unlock more and more creatures available to summon as the story goes on – from a variety of categories and with different strength levels. Once summoned, these can also be dismissed again – useful when you want to reclaim the stones you used in order to summon a different type of help. All of the summons can also be issued basic commands, which include attack, hold and defend options.
Gameplay is fairly standard action RPG fare, with simple basic combat in which the ability to unlock new weapons and summon different characters adds a little variety to the mix. Better weapons can be found and purchased, but the upgrade system is a simplified one that doesn’t require you to think long and hard about replacing a current weapon. It’s either stronger or weaker than your current one, without a lot of variation in range, attack power, magic perks and some of the other stats you’d usually expect when playing an action RPG.
Unfortunately the game is held back by its fair share of technical glitches, which includes dialogue and sound getting stuck, as well as NPCs (including your summons) struggling with their pathfinding or getting stuck completely. I’ve also noticed that I lost the automapped overviews of dungeons I had explored after defeating its boss character, forcing me to re-explore. Could be a design decision and not a glitch, but I could never figure out what the reasoning behind it could have been. I hope the other issues get fixed some day though, although it’s rare to see game updates on the Vita.
I really liked the audiovisual presentation in The Bard’s Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled. The 3D engine works well and I’d say this game looks better than Dungeon Hunter did on the Vita. The audio track is good, I enjoyed the music, and the voice acting is excellent. The strong writing behind the game comes across well because of it, and makes the game worth playing despite the bugs that plague it. I sure hope these will get squashed, because that would elevate the version of The Bard’s Tale to one of the best games in the genre available for the Vita.