Infinity is a new retro game that is actually a real retro game that was released newly, recently, but is a bona fide 90’s RPG from the golden era of JRPGS. Which is also new. Ahem.
Basically, having a troubled development process, the devs, after almost 20 years decided “what the hell” and tidied up the code, and released what they had to serve as a demo of sorts that covers around 25% of the whole game.
Despite its true blue retro heritage and troubled development history, Infinity is a bit more than a time capsule curio – it brings some of its interesting new ideas and twists on the conventions of the time and is worth a play to see into the mists of what could have been.
While pretty much blatantly a derivative of classic JRPGs, Infinity still had a few surprises in store. Like all good JRPGs, early on you, the stoic knight type, are issued a quest by the king that you won’t refuse. Which I of course by “won’t” I mean “being blackmailed by the king and telling him in return that he was an asshole”. Wait, what?
Infinity pulls no punches in setting the scene in its own way, and thankfully it’s not through edgy juvenile cursing or lovable chibi mascots or anything mundane like that. The game makes no attempt to hide the fact that you’re pretty much screwed over into doing a task for a megalomaniacal king that you have no love for. Charmed, I’m sure. Your first companion isn’t a plucky young girl or mysterious knight, either, but rather a greedy prick who refuses to do shit for you until he gets a fat paycheck first. In a world filled with generic JRPGs (both now and when the game was developed), Infinity at least makes for some refreshing storytelling.
Speaking of story, Infinity’s development has quite a storied history in itself that, in some ways, is more interesting than the game itself. As mentioned before, it was a real commercial project, in the days before “AAA Indie” was a thing. Developed by a group of 17 year olds back in 2000, Infinity is clearly a passion project from impressionable youths who wanted to make the dream RPG. Who among us didn’t? The project initially had interest from a publisher – which is damn impressive for a group of teenagers before the internet era. Alas, its timing was ill-fated thanks to the untimely release of the Gameboy Advance; interest in releasing a Gameboy Colour game diminished and the project eventually dropped. Decades later, the band got back together again and decided to realease the game itself plus the source code to the public.
On the flipside, games developed so late in a console’s life tended to push what the unit can do. Infinity is no exception here – with impressively detailed and colourful graphics for a Gameboy Colour. Of course, combat is the real heart of most JRPGs and – since there tends to be so darn much of it – can make or break a game just on how tedious it can get.
Infinity’s combat is certainly not perfect, and is far too frequent, but it does have a few interesting ideas. Combat is semi-tactical, allowing you to position your characters (but only one step at a time), which adds some welcome depth to combat. It’s reminiscent, albeit simpler, than the combat of Treasure Hunter G, or perhaps an imaginary version of Chrono Trigger‘s battles where you could actually have some control over where your characters stood.
There’s the usual variety of special and elemental attacks, from fireballs to waves of water, and, thankfully, it all animates fast enough so as not to drag on too long. Battles also tend to start in relatively close quarters too, meaning you don’t have to spend multiple turns positioning, and can usually get right into it. This gives the frequent battles a decent pace – something that can otherwise be the death knell of many a JRPG (retro or otherwise).
There are some oddities with the combat, though. For one thing, it’s not at all immediately obvious that you can move in battle. This is because although the normal maps and battle areas look like a standard overhead view common to games of the era, it’s actually all treated like an isometric view, meaning you can only initiate a move by holding diagonal directions or.. up and down… but not left nor right – why? Who knows, but it’s all a bit wonky and unintuitive, at least until you realise what’s going on.
There were also some emulation bugs in my emulator (Visualboy Advance) – causing graphical glitches in the menu borders. It didn’t affect the text itself but was still unpleasant on the eyes. More importantly, for some reason, my characters were unable to execute a move or attack in diagonal-downright or diagonal-topleft directions for no apparent reason.
The developers, Afinix Software, are currently toying with the idea of reviewing the project. They estimate that Infinity’s source code is around 90% complete, and said that if they don’t finish the game anytime soon, someone else can. Regardless of what happens, the demo is enough to soak up a few ours of lost retro goodness, so why not dust that old (virtual) gameboy off and plug in (load) that cartridge (ROM)!
Infinity | download demo
The developer recommends playing Infinity via the RetroArch or OpenEmu (with Gambatte core) emulators.