Now I don’t normally feel inclined to review a game unless I’ve beaten it completely, but today I’m going to make an exception because, in this case, I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. Take this review however you will, but keep in mind that it’s based on the portion of the game that I could stomach before throwing in the towel for good.
Eternal Poison is a strategy RPG developed by Flight Plan and released by Atlus for the Playstation 2 back in 2008. Originally titled Poison Pink in Japan, EP is presented as some sort of gothic Pokemon experience that allows you to capture and use demons to fight by your side. Unfortunately this only sounds good on paper once you realize that the demons are generally weaker than other mercs-for-hire scattered across the HUB world. Thankfully you can destroy captured demons for gold, items or new spells, but that doesn’t forgive the entire niche of the game from being obsolete. I catch and raise Pokemon to fight them, not to put them in a blender in hopes for gold or a new hat. EP is played through three different perspectives of five separate parties which are selectable after completing the prologue tutorial and each will last about 10-12 hours.
Generally, I like the SRPG genre, mainly for their intricate combat systems that seem to differ from game to game & I also really enjoy their deep job class customization. Outside of the Disgaea & Fire Emblem series, there really isn’t a constant flow of SRPGs hitting the market, so after finding a copy of Eternal Poison I was eager to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it ended up being a very bare bones adventure with an uninteresting storyline, simplistic combat and a very lackluster character customization feature that only allows you to pick one of two specializations once you reach a certain level (just like the original Vandal Hearts for PSone).
The story of Eternal Poison unfolds between battles with 2D drawn character models, text boxes and your typical over-dramatic spoken dialogue, which I would have been fine with had the plot been even remotely interesting. The translation team must have messed up somewhere along the way as well because an obvious female character in my party was constantly referred to as “he” or “him”. Now before you question my argument, as there are tons of JRPG characters of questionable sex (I’m looking at you Ion from Tales of the Abyss), this character has breasts and a female voice yet the North American voice actors still refer to her as a man for the remainder of the campaign. WTFM8?
Generally when I see the name Atlus on an RPG (even though they’re just the publisher), I expect it to be punishingly difficult, yet enjoyable. Take the Shin Megami Tensei series, Tactics Ogre & Kartia for example. Eternal Poison, surprisingly, is actually quite easy unless you get burdened by underleveled mercenaries that join your party.. but I’ll get in to that a little later in the review. It’s a very simple design that fails to break any new ground or take any risks. You have melee, casters and archers that all deal a specific type of damage although there aren’t that many types to begin with. At any time during your turn you can hit the triangle button, highlight a target and see exactly what their weakness is so you know how to approach the battle before you even move your first character, removing any sense of danger, tactical approach, trial and error or fun from the game.
But wait, there’s more! Each time an action is performed in battle, you’re greeted to a 5 second loading screen that segues from the 2D sprite battle grid to a 3D cut-scene that can last all of two seconds. This is the same concept that got old really quick with Fire Emblem and thankfully you can turn this feature off in the options menu. Your party will consist of the 3 or 4 characters shown on the chapter select screen but you can recruit pre-selected mercenaries by talking to them in the world’s HUB. These characters have no backstory, most have no reason for even being there and existed solely to fill a slot as you deploy your team on to the next battlefield. As forgettable as they were, they still wound up being more useful that any demon I captured for later use. You are also awarded zero XP for completing a stage, but instead must rely on making actions during combat or risk gaining very little from each battle. I found myself wasting turns casting buffs or unneeded healing spells just to drain out as much XP as possible since there is absolutely no way to go back and play previous levels to grind it out instead.
Now with all of this complaining, there has to be something interesting about Eternal Poison, right? Well, sure, I guess. Each enemy has what is called an Overkill meter which is basically an extension to their health pool, but not in a sense that it allows them to take additional damage. For instance, if Poorly Designed Enemy A has 100 HP and 10 Overkill health, they will still die if dealt 100 damage. However, if you deal the killing blow and it deals 10 damage more than it needed to, rather than die, that enemy will become “bound”. Bound enemies can then be captured by any of your party members and later used back in the HUB world to destroy in exchange for a random item, spell or gold. The concept that sold me on Eternal Poison was the ability to use minions I capture on the field but more often than not I found myself selling them off for better equipment. Once you take that concept away, Eternal Poison is just a shell of an SRPG that is equal parts uninteresting and forgettable.
The Verdict – E-
As much as I want to give Eternal Poison an F, it did have an interesting art style and the soundtrack was halfway decent (and included with the game as a bonus disc). If this had come out on the PSone 15 years ago, I probably would have had more fun with it, but unfortunately there are far better SRPGs on the market that offer a hell of a lot more than this. The story isn’t very good, the combat is entirely too cut and dry for my liking and the “bind” concept that sets this game apart from any other is pretty much just a cheap way to make extra gold. Unless you’re new to the SRPG genre and want something easy to get your feet wet, or you’re a big SRPG fan looking for something else to play, I strongly suggest staying away from Eternal Poison. But hey, that’s just my opinion.