Torneko: The Last Hope

   What happens when you combine the ever-popular randomly-generated dungeon concept with Japan's most successful RPG series? The result might be the charming Game Boy Color title Dragon Warrior Monsters -- or it might be Torneko: The Last Hope, a PlayStation title critically acclaimed in Japan but ultimately underwhelming.

   Torneko: The Last Hope adopts the same premise as most dungeon RPGs: working from a central town, you battle your way through a series of randomly-generated dungeons, collecting treasure and building up your stats. Like Azure Dreams, Torneko features a turn-based movement system that prevents the game from dissolving into a button-mashing fest. The monsters move one space for every step Torneko takes and remain stationary as long as Torneko does. While most enemies can be fairly easily dispatched, you'll sometimes have to devise a strategy to overcome unfavorable odds.

 Never send a gopher to do a weasel's job
Torneko the Merchant: Now with ONSTAR!

   Torneko: The Last Hope does much to streamline dungeon exploration. An auto-map superimposed over the game screen keeps track of the level layout, treasure spots, and monster positions, while a helpful run button allows Torneko to race through completed areas at near-instaneous speeds. The catchy and upbeat, albeit somewhat repetitive, score sends an adventuring mood. These features alleviate much of the "dead time" found in other dungeon RPGs; most of the time you spend adventuring is in exploring new areas, not retracing your steps through old ones.

Rally ho!
A pumice ball -- wait, that's crystal

   The title also incorporates many of the gameplay features now standard in the genre. As the player progresses, new features (such as the ability to meld items) and locations become available in town. A book in Torneko's house tabulates various statistics -- such as the highest level you've attained or the most monsters you've slain in one dungeon visit -- and the game keeps track of the highest-scoring dungeon visits you've achieved. A "mystery list" of special mini-events also awaits to be completed. To fill out the list, you'll have to see all of the game's possible scenarios, such as getting Torneko killed in every way imaginable, springing various traps, and even robbing a shopkeeper.

   Despite these interesting quirks, The Last Hope's core gameplay remains terminally unrewarding. Torneko loses all his experience points and much of his loot whenever he leaves a dungeon, meaning there's little opportunity for character advancement. The records that the game keeps provide only the most superficial sense of accomplishment; for the most part, Torneko: The Last Hope lacks any sense of progress. Not only does Torneko never get more powerful, the challenges he faces remain essentially the same throughout the entire game. Indeed, it's not clear at all what's supposed to be the meat of the game.

 Clay fighter, clay clay fighter
Kick 'em, punch 'em, they don't care

   The game is successful in at one least one venture, establishing a fresh art style that isn't neon anime super-deformation or plastic-like CG. The Last Hope's clay graphics are both likable and memorable, and the comical opening FMV is actually the game's brightest point. Dragon Warrior fans may also enjoy the numerous homages to the rest of the series -- though Dragon Warrior Monsters offers a substantially more rewarding game with its tribute.

   Torneko: The Last Hope isn't offensively bad in the way that The Legend of Dragoon is; it just fails to be entertaining. While the game isn't completely without enjoyable moments, the amount of unrewarding repetition between them makes them far from worth effort to reach. Games are supposed to be fun, but Torneko: The Last Hope isn't.

Review by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Torneko: The Last Hope
Developer Chun Soft
Publisher Enix
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium CD-ROM (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation
Release Date  09.15.99
Enix confirms Torneko: The Last Hope release date
39 screenshots
11 designs and models / 7 scenes
North American box art