One of the better real time combat based RPGs on the PlayStation 2 is Summoner. Coming fairly early on in the life of the PS2, the game was popular with those who just couldn't bring themselves to like the turn-based combat found in the Final Fantasy games. Of course the game had it's faults but on the whole it was entertaining. Now the sequel has arrived and fans of the original expect something very special indeed.
The game isn't one of those that likes to start you off at a gentle pace. You control Queen of Halassar, or Maia as she is known and the game begins with you onboard a ship in the middle of a storm. Suddenly you are under attack and immediately the combat begins. The game pauses from time to time to give you tutorial messages in text and in fairness to it the game never leaves you in the dark about what's going on and what you have to do. For those who are new to this type of game though you'd be well advised to equip yourself with healing potions as this small introduction to the game does not allow you to save, although you can save at any point later in the game, and if you are killed you'll have to do the whole thing again.
Maia is a summoner who has the ability to temporarily transform herself into various forms. All of these forms have very different abilities and as your ability grows the number of forms you can take begins to increase. Of course this gives you tactical options later in the game where you have to decide which form is best to take for the given situation. Maia is not alone in the game and can have a party total of six. Like Final Fantasy X you can only fight with three in a party at one time so although you have six members you'll only have three onscreen.
I don't usually prefer real time combat in my RPGs but to be honest I quite like the one in Summoner 2. Holding down the L2 button activates a lock-on so as to make targeting a cinch. If there's one flaw with the combat system it's that you cannot give orders to your party members. If you remember a game we reviewed for the PC a while ago, Throne of Darkness, you could give tactical instructions to your party members which really helped your cause. Of course there are certain AI scripts that you can assign to your party members but this doesn't seem to prevent them from behaving like idiots at times and getting themselves hacked to ribbons. That's not to say that the party members aren't useful, they are, but at times you'll find yourself having to make up for their inefficiencies rather than the other way around.
The biggest disappointment for fans of the series will undoubtedly be the graphics. They are not poor by any means but they do not look as good as any other recent titles such as Onimusha 2. One positive aspect of the graphics not pushing the abilities of the PlayStation 2 though, is that the framerate is never troubled and throughout the game it is constantly smooth which is very important in a game such as this where quick reactions are a must in hectic combat. The camera is also a bit suspect at times and you'll find yourself having to adjust it with the aid of the right analogue stick.
Provision for deaf gamers in Summoner 2 is very good indeed. Before you start the game be sure to enable the cutscene subtitles in the game options though. During the game all tutorial messages are given in text and the game remains paused whilst you read these and won't continue until you press the X button. Icons are well used throughout the game too. Icons appear over your characters head when an action can be performed. An eyeball for instance appears when objects can be looked at and an opening box icon appears over a box when the box can be opened. In fact the game always makes it clear exactly what can be done. Your character icons that are situated on the bottom left of the screen will have a sort of blue smoke around them if the characters stats can be increased. Quests etc., can be recalled at any time by pressing the start button and choosing quests from the menu.
Summoner 2 is ultimately a very good sequel to a good game. The graphics are not the best on offer and there are one or two areas that could do with improvement but on the whole it is a joy to play. If you are at all interested in real-time RPGs then this should be high on your wanted list. The game offers a lengthy story and with literally loads of side quests it will keep you busy for ages.
Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10 Not all great PlayStation RPGs have to be turn-based. Summoner 2 proves that a real-time title can be equally as enjoyable.
Deaf Gamers comment: Cutscene subtitles have to be enabled but otherwise superb.