This Way Madness Lies is a retro-inspired title that combines JRPG elements with a Shakespearean narrative. It may sound like an odd pairing, but whether you’re a budding thespian with anime aspirations or a Sailor Moon aficionado who dabbles in the classics of William Shakespeare, this unique combo has you covered. And yep, it totally works. Hey, to thine own self be true.

This adventure has a lot going for it. Let’s start with the story. It’s pretty bonkers, but it’s also charming, funny, and very tongue-in-cheek. You play the role of Imogen, a student at Stratford-Upon-Avon High. She wields a magical scepter that grants her magical powers, including the ability to teleport between dimensions. She also happens to be part of the school’s drama society. Between rehearsals for their next performance, her crew of wannabe actors forms a superhero-esque group. They go into action by suiting up in classic anime style; hence the earlier Sailor Moon reference. 

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There’s a fair amount of dialogue, but it’s fast-paced and humorous. There’s also less ye olde English than you might expect, though it’s certainly present. The best part is, if you don’t understand a lick of Shakespeare, a quick tap of a button instantly translates it for you. Not only does this help out anyone struggling with those tricky phrases, it’s also translated in such a clever way that I found myself flicking back and forth every time just to see what they would say in modern English. It’s a unique mechanic that’s cleverly used.

The graphical style is another huge pro; it’s right up my alley. If you, like me, enjoy the 16-bit styling of titles like Secret of Mana, you’ll find yourself equally enamored. It’s not quite as stunning as that 1993 title, but it’s lovely to behold as you traverse various realms. The music is just as enjoyable, with catchy, fast-paced tunes that blend an upbeat anime style with older twinklings reminiscent of Shakespeare’s era. It’s very well done.

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The turn-based gameplay is another treat for players of classic titles. Your team attacks or defends by using weapons, magic, or items, then the enemy phase begins. The fun lies in testing different offensive strikes to see what works, with plenty of on-screen stats available to assist. You can also rest your character to replenish any depleted moves. The best part is a special team-up ability that combines your teammates in unique moves that deliver more damage. They’re also just fun to watch. 

There are plenty of options to keep players fulfilled in the accessibility department, too. You can save the game at any point, with multiple save spots available. This gives you the opportunity to revisit a previous save state and try a different path. The in-game menu also allows you to change your party’s items and weapons, or even let them have a short conversation. You can also adjust the difficulty setting at any time. One notable absence, though, is a map. It’s not always necessary, but I occasionally found myself wandering in circles during some scenes.

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If this sounds amazing, well, it kinda is. And it comes at a budget price, too. Of course, at $9.99, there is a compromise on game length. This isn’t the type of JRPG that will keep you going for weeks or months; it’s more likely to be over within a few nights or over a weekend. That said, it’s an enjoyable time while it lasts.

Overall, This May Madness Lies uniquely blends JRPG elements with the world of William Shakespeare. It has everything going for it, from a humorous story to a wonderful 16-bit styling that smacks of classic ‘90s titles. It may not be the toughest or longest title, but if you’re a fan of anime, Shakespeare, or JRPGs in general, you’ll find enjoyment here.