Contact is a role-playing video game developed by Grasshopper Manufacture for the Nintendo DS handheld game console. It was published by Marvelous Entertainment in Japan on March 30, 2006, by Atlus in North America on October 19, 2006, and by Rising Star Games in Australasia and Europe on January 25, 2007 and February 6, 2007 respectively.
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akira ueda is a guy with quite a resume. at square he would do background/map design for secret of mana and super mario rpg, then at love-de-lic in the same capacity on moon (contact gets understandably compared to earthbound/mother alot but this is perhaps the most relevant 4th wall breaking rpg to talk about with respect to it) and ufo: a day in the life, and then grasshopper manufacture in varied roles on games like flower sun and rain, the shining soul series, no more heroes 2, michigan report from hell, and this. his mixing of charming, plasticky 3d renders and richly detailed 2d art all baked by sunlight for his backgrounds is his distinctive touch, easy to spot in most of these games.
he directed both shining souls and michigan before it, but contact is without a doubt more representative of a total style he has developed. it injects "retro" pixel art into his own more "photoreal" style in a way that mustve been incredibly fresh for 2006 and still looks really slick. the battle system is essentially automatic turn-based like in mmos, with player positioning, item use, and deploying of special skills being the only real tactics on your part. levelling up happens not through winning battles or quests by itself but by simply practicing; use blades to raise your blade stat, cook alot to raise cooking, just run around and your running stat increases, etc. its also full of quirks like a digestion system, in which you cant eat too much food items at once until a set time passes for food items to digest.
the game itself is.... unfortunately kind of a mess with all these elements in it? a bunch of nice ideas that dont add up to much. i dont mind the auto battling itself but you wind up only ever caring about a few stats most of the time and ignoring the majority of the rest, making it feel one note and not encouraging much experimentation. digestion is bypassed almost entirely by buying or cooking potions (which you will rely on a LOT of for bosses and late game areas). side quests are also kinda boring, and areas only allowing one quest at a time made them too annoying to deal with after a certain point (on this note, once you get the core at ft eagle do NOT talk to the guy and girl that appear at the campfire near the start until youre sure theres nothing left in the area to do). id be ok with a lot of this if the story was compelling but it wasnt really...things feel too disconnected and i left it not really understanding the urgency of much of what happens.
i dont think i liked it but it is interesting in certain ways. the music is the best part i think, very underrated work from masafumi takada & jun fukuda and maybe my favorite from the former outside of his suda collabs--if only the battle/sneaking/running away music didnt constantly interrupt the area music. if nothing else contact is intriguing enough that i badly want to try sakura note, the last and only game ueda directed after leaving grasshopper. especially since nobuo uematsu and kazushige nojima were involved too!! but idk if it will ever be translated : (