This weeks budget game is a tactical strategy game (I sense a theme to my playing habits). I picked this one up on the heels of completing Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for the DS and was looking for another turn-based strategy game for the DS when I came across Rondo of Swords.
The first run I gave at this game, I thought I would end up discarding it as I did Disgaea DS (just couldn't get into it), but after figuring out a few things, I played this game well over 150 hours and enjoyed 85% of that time. I add that qualifier because this game kicks your ass. It has many of the trappings of turn-based strategy games in as much as you have a group of characters that level up with you, you spend skill points to make them more powerful, find better equipment for them, stock each of them with items to use, etc. Where it differed was in the difficulty, which was high (until I figured a few things out, anyway) and in the way you have to attack.
Every turn for each character, they can move, use an item, use an ability or cast a spell. Melee characters deal damage to any enemy they pass through on the path you draw for them to take, and any character can get a buff from any ally they pass through. One of the tougher aspects of the game is keeping your group together when your casters can't move and cast in the same turn, but your melee can deal damage and move at the same time. Archers can move and then shoot at the end of the move, but of the two in the game, they are stupidly over powered and ridiculously underpowered respectively. This play style takes a lot of getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it has a sort of flow two it that can become cathartic.
The trick to this game that I mentioned earlier is that the game has a mission based structure and you can repeat the missions as many times as you want until you beat them. Once you do, that mission is gone. What I didn't realize is that if you leave a mission when things are looking grim, you lose all the items you gained, but retain all the experience your characters earned. I had just been playing until I died and then starting over from my last save, making the game much harder than it had to be. The only way I discovered this aspect of the game was by trying to exit the battle one time, just to see what happened. The game never told me I could do this in any of the tutorials. In fact, if I'm remembering this correctly, there is no tutorial in game. You have to go to it from the main menu on your own. Hardcore.
To sum up, you can get this game for about $7 at Gamestop (used of course) and it is worth every penny is you like turn-based strat games and are up for a challenge. Enjoy!