Sometimes, when I visit used game shops, I like to pick stuff off the shelves simply because I've never heard of it. It doesn't hurt if they only cost a few pounds. This game is one of those.
Astonishia Story for the PSP is actually a remake of some 90s Korean PC RPG. Amusingly, the title screen specifically bills it as an "easy RPG for beginners". If you were expecting an experience akin to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, you might be slightly confused. This game has a tactical battle system like Fire Emblem. It's closer to Shining Force in execution, though, as all the characters will get their turn according to their speed, rather than each side taking turns. There's also an elemental system which I honestly could not understand the effects of, despite the manual explaining it.
So, the story starts off in a rather standard manner. You're a knight, you're protecting a convoy, it gets attacked, everyone except you dies, etc. The entire rest of the game is spent trying to get this for-some-reason-important staff back from the guys who stole it. One of the last things you do in this game is pick it up and leave. In-between these two events, you are drawn into a series of vaguely-related side-quests with a cast of almost two-dimensional characters. Instead of going the route where you slowly build up your strength and get to know how well you can proceed through experience, Astonishia Story instead constantly throws people at you then takes them away a dungeon or two later.
Infuriatingly, the developers knew they were making a thoroughly average game and decided to try and spice it up with (ugh) humour. This takes many forms, though usually the slapstick kind. At one point some shady character offers you a hacked item, and if you accept, some guy appears and punishes you for not playing the game properly. Between this ill-fated attempt to make me smile and the consistently dreadful translation, it doesn't win many points on this front.
The graphics are generally not bad, late-SNES/early-PS1 in appearance. There are a few scripted fight sequences which are done with care. The music is pretty bad.
Now, about that "easy RPG" thing. While it's true that the game is not particularly complicated, it has a difficulty curve like a roller-coaster. Partially this was because of my usual unease about using consumable items, but the main problem is spell-casting enemies. On any given turn, they could walk up to you and smack you on the head with a stick for five damage, or cast any number of bizarrely spelt/named spells and hit everybody for three hundred. It's maddening! The last boss gauntlet is the pinnacle of this, which necessitated many resets. There were also a number of boss fights which require whittling down over the course of perhaps half an hour.
As you might be able to tell, I don't think it's a very good game. Thankfully, the battle system is fine and the menus are nice and responsive, so it goes on my "speedrun this when I'm retired and I have no cares or worries" pile.
My next two games to beat are Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne (might take me a while) and Motocross Madness (haha avatar racing game). Woo!