ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat
Developer(s): Mistwalker, Racjin
Release Date: October 4th 2007 (Japan exclusive)
Despite the relatively unchanging formulas that run throughout the genre, turn-based, grid-based strategy games have consistently managed to retain their popularity across every generation. With newcomers such as The Banner Saga joining long running series such as Civilization and Fire Emblem in leading the charge, it’s easy to find a game suitable for scratching your strategic itch on almost any platform. The DS in particular played host to a wide and diverse range of RPGs of every type, with Japanese-made titles in particular thriving in the console’s heyday. ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat fits nicely into the varied roleplaying lineup the system had to offer – it may not be quite as polished as its better-known DS strategy counterparts, but this Japan-exclusive release has a lot to offer for those looking for something original, in more ways than one.
Released exclusively in Japan in 2007, ASH was one of many titles developed by the then-new Mistwalker, a development studio founded by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. Following his departure from Square-Enix, Sakaguchi has remained involved in the JRPG scene, with the likes of Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon and The Last Story being met with varying levels of commercial and critical success. However, despite collaborating on development with the experienced Racjin, as well as Nintendo taking up publishing duties, ASH failed to garner widespread attention.
At face value, the game’s setting is that of a relatively simple fantasy story. Shortly after becoming Queen, heroine Aisha (sometimes translated as Aisya) finds her kingdom on the receiving end of an attack by an evil demon, with the vast majority of its populace unable to stand up to its ferocious power. However, Aisha soon discovers she wields the remarkable power to return some of her fallen allies to life using their ashes (hence the origin of the game’s unique title). From here, a fairly standard adventure begins – a ragtag group of heroes come together to push back the darkness and save the world. While the scenario itself fails to offer anything particularly fresh, well-written and amusing interactions between a likeable cast of characters help to supplement the plot.