RPG genres seem to fall into two types. On the left, we have the American, with their gritty atmospheres, medieval armours, fantasy settings and a pretty decent storyline. On the right, we have the Japanese, chock full of bright colours, happy characters, usually aged from nine to sixteen, complete with hair dyes and sprays that money can’t buy, filled with a gripping storyline that plays out in both sci-fi and fantasy settings.
I write these things as they are because it’s true and it’s become quite repetitive. I don’t hate them but I do tire from either country presenting to me the same thing over and over again. That’s if Japan even wants to share what they are willing to distribute. Sometimes we will get a game from neither side, like Fable from my home country, England. It will be brilliant, remembered by all and the expressions some people make when you say it was not made in either America or Japan are priceless. It’s for this very reason that I have looked into OFF, a game that has recently taken the internet by storm. And it’s so French.
Released for free by Mortis Ghost back in 2011, OFF had developed such a huge following in France that fans from other countries took it upon themselves to translate it into English and release this onto the internet, to be played by a larger audience, and didn’t it work wonders.
When I first played OFF I truly did not know what to expect. I was greeted with a simple but creepy menu screen, selected a “new game” and entered my name, as you do. By then I was greeted by 8-bit sprite characters, which created a wonderful feeling of nostalgia. After going through a rather quick tutorial focused on OFF’s battle mechanics, which uses Final Fantasy VII’s ATB battle system, it then proceeded to educate me about the puzzles that would challenge me throughout the game.
As stated before, the gameplay revolves around an open world of 8bit characters and areas, much like those of Pokemon or Final Fantasy. However, the characters are shown as black and white, while the world around them is rich with colour.
The story revolves around the player, being the puppet master of a man called “The Batter” whose mission is to purify the world from evil and spectres. That is literally all I can say on the matter as the game’s storyline is so amazingly complex and odd that anything else beyond that sentence could actually be a spoiler. Although I can say that OFF is a short game, you are getting your unspent money’s worth. And that each character, though small in number, is memorable in some way and look as though Tim Burton might have been some inspiration towards their design.
The battle system may use the ATB mechanics, but unlike most RPGs, it doesn’t favour the usual four elements of magic (Fire, water, air, ice/earth), instead of “Magic” it’s called “Competence” and the elements consist of Meat, Plastic, Metal and Smoke. These tie into the game’s story as well, so it does make sense why they are used. An added feature is that the player can choose to automatically attack until winning or losing, rather than having to press “attack” non-stop, if you’re feeling confident enough. It’s even thrown away common items you would see in most RPGs. No more “Potions” or “Phoenix Downs”; you have to heal yourself with lottery tickets and slabs of meat. Another addition is the lack of companions to help you out, instead of people you’re given “Add-ons”, strange floating circles that help you combat spectres.
Overall OFF is a truly amazing game and deserves the recognition it has received. I feel this game has completely stripped down the RPG genre and stitched it back up in an artistically surreal fashion. With a great soundtrack that fits every mood, especially at night, a small cast of characters and a storyline that not only grips, but confuses at the same time. For something that was created in RPG Maker 2003, I highly recommend it for those wanting to explore beyond the norm.