The Biggest 3DS RPG You Didn’t Know About: The Mystical Journey
A Massive 3DS Community
Danny Gump, known by his online nickname HullBreach, is the ‘overlord’ of a massive online community. HullBreach Online, DSi Paint, and 3DS Paint, are all part of his eclectic network of sub-divisions. To date, nearly 100,000 gamers have signed up to Gump’s virtual community and there are an impressive 45,000 members still actively participating as their dedicated collective of fans continues to grow.
It is the largest community of its kind. Other online Nintendo communities and sites are optimized for interaction via PC or possibly even a mobile phone. However, this Nintendo community is intended for interaction specifically via Nintendo’s hardware, whether Wii, DS, 3DS, and soon, Wii U.
What originally brought them together was a sci-fi space MMO called Hullbreach Online for the Wii browser created by Gump himself. As the Wii owners chatted together and grew friendlier within the MMO, Gump eventually extracted the chat functionality and ported it to DSi. This chat became extremely popular and led to the creation of an entire community on the handheld, complete with a painting application, forum, homebrew games, multiple chat rooms, and an openly available Browser SDK. When the 3DS was released, it was only natural for the community to extend their reach to the 3DS browser with a 3D painting application, similar to Colors! 3D, which, incidentally, also had its humble beginnings as a homebrew application for the DSi.
The many talented programmers and artists in the community, with Danny Gump at its helm, have been able to consistently grow and develop new features and software. But, all this was the antecedent to Hullbreach’s most ambitious project to date, The Mystical Journey. With all the latent talent surging in the community, it was only natural to put all that creativity and skill to use on a game for their beloved handheld. And that’s what I had a chance to talk about and discuss with Danny Gump recently. Throughout our Skype and email conversations I was given the chance to take a closer look at what makes this RPG so impressive and what the game is all about.
An Unconventional Gaming Engine
Like Square of the 90’s
So, what about the game itself? Why take the time and trouble to discuss the “coming-of-age” of this online community and its game, if the game itself was nothing special? As you can surmise, this RPG is incredibly ambitious and, from what I’ve seen so far, you have every right to get excited. But, let me warn in advance: if a deep, lengthy RPG that finds its appeal in the retro RPGs of yesteryear is not your thing, then you may as well move along to the next attraction. This is a game that is built upon simple browser technology, relying on a depth of character to find appeal. The test would be if you can play a game like Final Fantasy VI in today’s day and age and still enjoy yourself.
It’s no coincidence that I mention Final Fantasy VI, because that is the inspiration for the single-player campaign in the game. When I initially saw screenshots of The Mystical Journey, I almost wrote it off. Compared to the 3D advances made on the 3DS, these 2D sprites looked simple and out-of-date. But, when I watched my first tearjerker cut-scene, as a young boy is orphaned while watching his parents brutal murder, I realized the personality inherent in the game. The graphics adequately convey the emotions and depth, just as we once felt the sprites of Chrono Trigger, Earthbound, and Final Fantasy VI weren’t too rudimentary to create a game that can be called “art”. Give the game a chance and it will begin to impress you. You’ll momentarily forget about words like 1080p or Unreal Engine 4.
So, let’s dig deeper into the storyline and backdrop. Everyone is familiar with Greek mythology, as the Greek Gods have played countless roles in our current media, whether Movies, TV, or Video Games. However, besides for the overall Viking Culture, Norse Mythology has been notably absent. It seems the one place we are familiar with it from are the comics and movie of the superhero, Thor, which portray a reinvention of the Norse Deities. The names Thor, Loki, Odin, and Asgard are somewhat more recognizable due to Marvel Comic’s popular series. In video games, the landscape is even more bare. Save for some Norse inspiration in the world of Skyrim and the game Ragnarok, you won’t find much to work with.
The Mystical Journey, however, decides to make heavy use of the rich heritage of Norse Mythology and it pays off. But don’t count out the Greek Gods just yet. There will, in fact, be a colliding of the two mythologies as two separate threads of the storyline begin to coalesce. However, the Greek mythology remains a sub-plot, whereas the Norse deities take center stage for most of the game.
In an early cut-scene you learn that the jealous God Loki uses Hoedr as a pawn and has him framed for killing Loki’s own brother, the heroic and beloved God Baldur. The Gods are livid and begin rampaging and destroying the human world in their quest to find Hoedr. The party that is in your control attempts to bring the God back to Odin for judgement to calm the raging Gods.
A Rock from Olympus
In the sub-plot, a mysterious rock with unexplained properties has crash landed and it seems everyone is desperate to to use it for their own devices. Murder won’t stop some of them from trying to get their hands on it. The rock, called “hephaestusite”, fell from Mount Olympus of the Greek Gods and has the ability to float on water, self-repair when scratched, mimic its surroundings, emit an audible hum (it sings!), and repel magic attacks. Without giving too much away: expect one character to go down the path of the dark side due to the transformative effects of being exposed to the rock.
This mysterious shard of rock and others, discovered later, combine to alter the entire flow of Norse mythology. The Greek god of time, Chronos, can foresee aspects of this future, but he is outside of his own realm, so his power of seeing the future is hazy. He can see who has a big part on both sides, like a chess master anticipating moves, but he can’t see the endgame. Chronos has disguised himself in Midgard to monitor the resolution so that he can retrieve all the hephaestusite and return to Mt. Olympus with the Norse timeline restored. While everything unfolds with the hephaestusite subplot, the party is taking Hoedr back to Asgard so that he can willingly turn himself over to Odin. He chooses this fate so that the killing of mortals stops, as the other gods demolish entire cities in their search for him. Many of the party members join after they have lost loved ones or whole kingdoms at the hands of the gods, so they can guarantee the delivery of Hoedr and the end to bloodshed.
Epic in Breadth and Depth
As you probably have begun to sense from reading this brief glimpse of an overview, the game is rightfully epic in scope- both in breadth and depth. Breadth? The RPG will span 7 continents and 100+ villages. You probably have never encountered a single-player RPG that was released episodically but The Mystical Journey’s seven continents will be released one after another in episodes as the small team works tirelessly to realize their complete vision. Instead of sacrificing some of the scope in order to release it all in one shot, they will take the time to flesh out the world with everything they had in mind from the start. Because of this, while the first continent, Mannheim, should see release in the first quarter of 2013, the final continent of Asgard won’t be released until the end of 2013, in the best of circumstances. While you wait for each new installment, there will also be an MMO aspect that will allow players to battle in the Mt. Hildar coliseum for prizes, and they can meet in taverns on each continent to chat. This extended experience should give you more time to appreciate the entire universe they’ve so carefully and lovingly crafted.
And that is the depth I previously mentioned. The lore, side-characters, and mythology of the game is what is so impressive. I’ve seen some of their reference pages where they list characters, NPCs, sub-plots, and locations. It would make any fan of fantasy novels or RPGs grin with anticipation. Don’t expect a light-handed approach to this fantasy universe. It’s ready to unfurl in front of you over the course of a year. And it’s all being done for free, as a work of love. Love of Nintendo handhelds. Love of fantasy worlds. And love of the RPGs of yesteryear. If any of those themes resonate with your gaming sensibilities, The Mystical Journey is a game that you will be wise to bookmark and track until its due release.
Thank you to Arch_Enemy/Twiilight_Prince (TMJ’s sprite artist) for assisting in bringing this feature to publication