Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic (GBA) Review

Received: July 11th, 2018 / Written: August 1st-5th/8th-15th, 2018
(As played on Game Boy Player)
Alternate Title: Frogger: Kodaibunmei no Nazo [ ]
Year: 2003 | Developed by: KCE Hawaii | Published by: Konami

Disclaimer: May contain spoilers
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and not taking another several months before writing my next review like the last two times.

Image from Wikipedia
On June 5th, 1981 Japanese arcades saw the release of a little game called Frogger which was developed by Konami but was released there by Sega as they had distribution rights, seeing a release in American and European arcades in October 1981 and August 1982 respectively (with the former localized version released by Sega-Gremlin); the gameplay was simple as you had to lead five frogs to their home at the top of the screen, one at a time, while evading being run over by oncoming cars as well stay out of the water as you maneuver yourself in the river full of hazards lest you start over from the bottom--oh, and there's a timer going against you so don't dawdle too long.

It was a huge hit on release and has been regarded as a classic from the golden age of coin-operated games; it's also done so well that it got converted to many video game consoles at the time (even in the following decades, for ports of it were the last games released for the Genesis and SNES in America in 1997 and 1998 respectively... odd choice), found itself in popular culture (among them the shortlived 1983 CBS animated series Saturday Supercade and featured a cameo in Disney's Wreck-It Ralph and Chris Columbus' Pixels), as well as influence and inspire other games with its simplistic obstacle-dodging hopping formula.
Images from Wikipedia
Some popular examples being the classic Activision games Freeway and Frostbite on the Atari 2600.
Image from Wikipedia
Frogger was also successful enough to garner a computer/console-exclusive sequel developed by Parker Brothers in 1984 in the form of Frogger II: ThreeeDeep! (aaand I'm just realizing that the subtitle may be a play on "3D")--but it's only been made available on the Apple II, Atari's 2600, 5200, and 8-bit systems, the Commodore 64, the ColecoVision, and the PC Booter.

More than a decade had passed as interest in Frogger had been renewed with the successful 1997 SCE Cambridge Studio-developed remake released by Hasbro Interactive (and would end up becoming the 25th best-selling game on the PlayStation One) in spite of its mixed reception.  Still, it did well enough to warrant an eventual sequel in its own right in 2000 courtesy of Blitz Games with Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge.
Image from Wikipedia
On November 2001 the subsequent installment of the Frogger series would debut on the PlayStation 2 in the form of series makeover Frogger: The Great Quest which would see a Windows PC conversion in 2002.  This was... not a particularly well-received game (apparently, from what I gathered, it's not very good), but it was notable for several reasons: it was first game in the series done entirely by Konami (in this case, KCE Papa Yeti Studio), it was the first in the series to be set in a 3D environment, and it was the first game to have Frogger appear as a bipedal character with clothes, so it is an important iteration in the franchise considering the next several years' worth of entries.  And, uh, yyyeah, he doesn't exactly look appealing in the cover, but thankfully Konami updated his look for the better within the following year (as those games in particular would be done by Konami's Hawaii division with a couple exceptions).

Several games after the fact--following 2001's handheld Frogger's Adventures: Temple of the Frog, 2002's Vicarious Vision's Frogger Advance: The Great Quest on the Game Boy Advance, the console game Frogger Beyond, Frogger's Adventures 2: The Lost Wand, and 2003's console game Frogger's Adventures: The Rescue--came along Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic on the Game Boy Advance, developed by KCE Hawaii, on November 4th, 2003, which would see a Japanese release in June 2004 as Frogger: Kodaibunmei no Nazo.  So let's get hopping and see what this game is all about.

The game begins in Firefly Swamp where Frogger is lounging on his lawn chair by his home, but he's feeling tired of resting and wishes that something exciting would happen.  Dude, your last stint was last week (Frogger's Adventures: The Rescue came out on October 28th)!  Since when did you become Adol Christin who yearns for adventure on a constant basis?
But faster than you can say "be careful what you wish for", a biplane suddenly flies his direction which he evades in the nick of time as it wrecks his lawn.  You'd think it was piloted by Launchpad considering the not so smooth landing.
He doesn't even apologize for the property damage he just caused--uh, rude!  >=(
Emerging from the recently crashed plane is the delivery eagle Griffith who for some reason thought it was a good idea to land here on his plane even though he saw that the runway was small after the fact.  =/  Anyway, he hands Frogger a letter addressed by his archaeologist grandfather Dr. Finnius inviting him on an adventure in the distant town of Kabohti given how much Frogger enjoyed exploring the dig sites years prior.  This excites the frog because it means more adventure to embark on so he happily gets flown there by Griffith.
After landing in the harbor Frogger decides to look around for his grandfather in Kabohti, but he's nowhere in sight.
There he meets a vixen named Leona, a friend and assistant to Dr. Finnius, and gives Frogger his grandfather's memo and a keystone with magical hidden powers within, but prior to that she wishes Frogger a happy birthday as it just so happens to be his special day.  Well, that's wonderfully thoughtful and nice!  =)
19th, technically, as Namco Hometek's Pac-Man World was made in 1999
Certainly more preferable than arriving home only to find that his family and friends have been taken on his anniversary therefore ruining his big day like it happened in Pac-Man's 20th.
Leona is a little concerned, though, because Dr. Finnius left two days prior and has not returned, so she asks Frogger to look for him.  He decides to search for the dig site right next to the town on the left where he sees a mysterious door with two mysterious rocks beside it, but before he can look any further he's met by the unsubtly slimy and evil millionaire Eric von Wiesel (and two chameleon men that we never see again after this scene) who mocks Frogger and Dr. Finnius and warns against pursuing in his footsteps.  Once he leaves, Frogger's keystone starts shining which destroys the rock on the left which makes the round relic fall which he picks up.

He shows Leona the relic that he found in which she tells Frogger that he found an OPART which is what Dr. Finnius was looking for.  She tells Frogger to bring it to the Bearded Collie mechanic Dusty in the rear end of Kabohti.
As he takes it there, he fixes the OPART for Frogger which he now carries on his back.  Dusty charges him 20 Curio, but since he's not from Kabohti he's not familiar with the currency, to which Dusty says they'll be even once Frogger procures the toolbox in the basement (with the framed classic 1981 Frogger sprite hanging right next to the entrance below) which is where you learn some of the game's controls.
Now that Frogger has got at least one ability to aid him thanks to the OPART he can now explore some of the regions of Kabohti, where even more locations are waiting to be explored and more relics are waiting to be found to upgrade the OPART, and the more abilities he gains the closer he'll get to finding Dr. Finnius and learn the history of Kabohti (and the OPART) as well as put a stop to Eric von Wiesel, who's obviously up to no good.  Frogger's journey has just begun.

Look, a Country Bear!  That must mean that
Christopher Walken is nearby
Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic is a bird's eye viewed action-adventure game with elements of Frogger thrown in the mix.  Like the 1981 coin-op you can only move Frogger in a square-pattern (i.e. four directions) which is fair enough, and occasionally there are moments when you'll have to turn around while remaining in position which is done by pressing either shoulder button to turn around 90 degrees to the left or to the right.  By pressing Select you can access your OPART menu and peruse your inventory where you can assign a tool you've currently got at your disposal to either the A or B buttons.  There are eight in total.
The first one you start off with is the Long Jump which will enable you to cross single-spaced gaps by jumping long distances, and is one of the most vital tools you'll use throughout the game when it warrants it; especially when there are moving platforms (sometimes you must jump from one of those to another) so you must time your jumps properly.
The second tool is the Flashlight which must be assigned in one of the buttons to add a big light around Frogger in dark rooms (including some secret rooms).  That's all there is to that.
The third tool is the Mega Claw which can reach items from far away and pull certain platforms towards you (namely ones with the arrows pointing to where you're pulling them from).  Eventually once you get the anchor then Dusty will upgrade the Mega Claw to a Grappling Hook which has a longer reach and can grapple onto hooks and poles.
The next tool you get is the Rock Buster, which will smash anything made out of rock that's previously blocked a portion to explore.
Time Stop is a helpful tool as it stops not just enemies for a momentary period of time but also the conveyor belt-like sand, afterwards you'll get a tool called Push Blocks which does exactly as its namesake suggests.
You'd think that after twenty-plus years since his inception that Frogger would learn how to do that eventually, but apparently not.  I mean it's not like frogs are amphibian creatures that can naturally swim in the water--oh wait...
With the Scuba tool Frogger finally gets his chance to explore the depths of the water (still not swimming but he's moving around underwater at least), and as a plus should you have it equipped when falling in the water you won't lose a heart and restart from the last checkpoint but instead will be in the river's equivalent of the basement area if you fall down and miss your mark.
Finally there's the Shield tool which will help you block and/or deflect projectiles of any kind provided that you hold the assigned button down.

Interesting take on the Smurf Village there
During the course of the game you'll play through regions divided by segments, or in the case of the river and initial cave portions a checkpoint on account that in the former you might fall on the water if you didn't land your jump properly.  All the regions of Kabohti have got basement areas in the event that you fall down because you didn't land on a platform which have got enemies below that you have to evade contact with lest you lose a heart, and only by exiting the basement do you pick up from the checkpoint and/or start of the segment entered by accessing the next screen.  Losing all your hearts will take you to the game over screen where you have a chance to continue or to go back to the title, and continuing means you must start the region you're presently in over again and regain what you had gotten last time since that will be reset too (say you began the region with, say, 300 Curio, then failure to reach the end will result in you starting again with that amount).  All these areas can be revisited again, apart from the boss battles.

Relic acquired
Occasionally you'll find Curio coins in your journey, and even Curio bags which are worth twenty, but also some health items.  Apples replenish one heart, bananas replenish all of your health, if a member of a Black Lotus Society comes into contact with Frogger or hits him with a projectile then he will hyper hop which renders his hopping uncontrollable for a brief moment which won't be fixed until he either consumes a pear or if you let it run its course, and finally there's the rotten egg which you should avoid because it will deplete one heart.  If for some reason you're having trouble on what to do or where to go next just talk with Leona or consult with the librarian in Kabohti, the penguin merchant Mohan frequently finds new stuff to sell to Frogger so keep a lookout for anytime you get to a new chapter, and to save your progress talk with the polar bear Rudy in his pub and he'll get it done in one of three save files you're presently playing.

The music for Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic was composed by In Geer Music's Stephen Geering (Scooby Doo! Classic Creep Capers, Frogger's Adventures and its sequel, Motorcross Maniacs Advance) and edited by Jaren Tolman (Frogger's Adventures, Frogger Beyond, Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced), utilizing Factor 5 of Turrican fame's MusyX sound system in collaboration with Dolby Laboratories.  The soundtrack is decent and suits the game's individual environments well, but it doesn't exactly leave a strong impression and is not one to write home about, which is a shame since Konami is known for making great soundtracks more often than not.

Venturing towards the pyramid
Kabohti has got a lazy yet inviting theme going for it, the pyramid theme is fittingly mysterious and Egyptian-sounding, Atlantis sounds seaworthy, and the Black Lotus Society's hideout has got an oriental flair given their ninja prowess.  On the bright side every boss has got their own distinctive theme dedicated to them as opposed to incorporating the same boss theme like in most games in the action-adventure genre, which in my book is good.  The game's sound design was done by Bradley D. Meyer (who's credited here as a "Rev. Dr." interestingly enough, i.e. a Reverend Doctor) and Jaren Tolman while the sound programming was done by Terry Jones, and the sound effects I find to be decently chosen.  Frogger makes appropriate croaking sounds with every hop he makes, the Curios and health replenishing items have distinctive sounds (the former has a jingle-like sound effect), and what's interesting is that there are certain sound effects that are not heard until Frogger gets close to certain elements (the fans in Rudy's pub, the watery fountain in Kabohti, enemies that circle around like the sentient fungi and bugs, et al).

Uh, oh!  Don't tell the warden Gad Hassan
there are bugs inside--he hates bugs!
Serving as the game's audio director was Jun Funahashi, who's also had audio credits in the post-2001 Frogger games up until this game.  There is some digitized audio in places, like whenever Frogger loses a piece of health, falls down to the basement area, or when he's completely been deprived of health.  When accessing the inventory for when you assign the tools to your buttons the OPART sounds like it's saying the item name but in a mechanically soft-pitched and submerged way, but not to the point where you can't tell what it's trying to say if you listen carefully.

Don't get pushed off
The visuals in Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic are good for the most part, aiming for a very colorful approach with each area as they've got their own sense of detail.  The pyramid areas have got a well-drawn Egyptian motif with the hieroglyphs in the wall and is one of my favorite areas in the game, and I like the sandy ground with the slightly exposed bricks you see on occasion; the town of Kabohti is well-designed; Eric von Wiesel's mansion has got varying amounts of décor going for it; the underwater portion of Atlantis looks immersive; the Black Lotus Society's hideout has got an oriental aesthetic; and the color-layering effects are utilized to good effect (like when you get below that one tree near the dig site, the sandstorm outside the pyramid, and whenever you're underwater).

Playing the waiting game
The character and enemy designs are colorful and they animate decently; Frogger has swift hopping movements whenever he makes normal steps but whenever he performs the Long Jump the animation is slower and more detailed, plus he's got a simple idle animation whenever he remains stationary for awhile when he shrugs his shoulders as he sways both directions one time each (but for some reason anytime he faces the right his eye is seen as brown when his eyes are blue not just whenever he looks elsewhere but in his profiles and the cutscenes; not quite as noticeable when played on the Game Boy Player due to the color settings on my TV but it's more apparent when played on the Nintendo DS--it was probably an oversight on Konami's part).  OPART has got a quaint design as its physical form morphs whenever certain tools are being used, and its got bright blue eyes.  In one basement area of the pyramid the only means to get out is by getting on a trampoline, and what follows is a one-frame animation as Frogger skyrockets upward as the screen gradually fades to black in the process which just looks awkward.

Pentarō?  What are you doing here?  Oh, sorry,
wrong Konami penguin character
There is a charm to its character designs, like the Black Lotus Society members whizz by with the blur effects and the moment they get in position they do a ninja pose which they do every so often, but occasionally the lack of coordination due to their speed catches up with them to the point where one or two of them trip, which is cute.  Some of the enemies you face are also porcupines who attack with their spike ability if you get too close, piranhas, slimes that occasionally stretch to form a line with hands on both ends, security robots, et al.
Maybe it's me, but I think the art team may be trying to tell us something with these shots  =3
Sherry Sasuga, Patrick Burke, and John Polidora handled the enemy designs and cutscenes, and they did a good job considering this was among their earliest (if not their first) work; not that you'd get the impression if you were to look at the character's profiles anytime Frogger or an NPC spoke as they use the same profile even if the matter of discussion were serious; the only exceptions are Dusty and Eric von Wiesel who have got one other profile shot during the final segment of the game because:
obvious villains are obvious.  But whenever the cutscenes are utilized in the prologue and ending of the journey the scenario is colorfully detailed and the use of perspective is well-chosen.

The dialogue is well-written for the most part, but there are a few moments where there are grammatical flubs, which is surprising to see in a game made from 2003, especially when it only allows up to two lines of dialogue.  In one moment a character tried to start the sentence with the word "It's" but the "apostrophe-s" was left out, there is one sentence that's never concluded because they neglected to add a period at the end of it, and in another instance there's a sentence that ended but the very next sentence begins in lowercase.  I don't know if Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic was translated from Japanese to English or if it was written by someone whose English is their strength, but nowhere in the credits is it said who did the writing for it given that it was released in North America first.

Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic was the fourth and last game in the post-2001 Frogger series, not counting the inclusion of the original 1981 game in Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced in 2002 (which was the first time it was made available alongside other titles), but it was followed up by two more iterations in September 2005.  First there was Frogger: Ancient Shadow on the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox developed by Hudson Soft several years before they became a subsidiary of Konami's in 2012, around the same time came the Konami Computer Entertainment Hawaii-developed Frogger: Helmet Chaos on the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable which was the first 3D handheld game in the franchise.
Image from GameFAQs
There was also the ImaginEngine-developed Frogger: Hop, Skip & Jumpin' Fun on the PlayStation 2 on September 2007 as a part of the educational Konami Kids Playground lineup of games, and to the extent of my knowledge was the last game to feature Frogger wearing his post-2001 trademark outfit.  There have been more games in the series since, but it's gone in a different direction than what gamers were treated to during the decade's first half (the latest game as of writing this review was the 2017 casino game Frogger: Get Hoppin).

Avoid contact with the cuddly ninja squirrels
My first recollection of playing Frogger was when I stumbled upon the Game Boy Advance compilation Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced sometime in 2003 when I was either eleven or twelve in the game section of a store, but it wasn't exactly because of that game in particular that it caught my attention.  Rather, the thing that did catch my attention regarding the compilation was the inclusion of Yie Ar Kung-Fu, of which I played the Famicom version on one of my cousins' plug-and-plays in Italy which included lots of NES and Famicom games when I was younger (long before I found out those were actual games).  I asked my parents if I could get the compilation, and they said "yes".  I enjoyed all six individual titles in the compilation when I played it at home, especially after learning about and utilizing the famous Konami code on all of them which either enhanced the experience and/or gave you extra lives.  I'll always have a fondness for the compilation for introducing me to several of Konami's arcade classics from the '80s.

The only versions of Frogger I played up to this point was the one on the aforementioned compilation and the Game Boy port years ago (and if I recall correctly I think I played the original coin-op version at an arcade long ago), and for a long time was the only game I played from the series.  Although here's the bizarre thing: I knew of the 1997 remake, and the Parker Brothers sequel Frogger II: ThreeeDeep!, but I do not recall during the early to mid 2000's when I was into the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance ever seeing a copy of the post-2001 venues let alone know of their existence, which gives me the impression that those iterations came and went.  In fact, I only found out about them just recently by accident over a month ago, and the more I considered it when learning about those individual titles, the more I was curious albeit with expectations kept in check.  So for my first foray to Frogger's post-2001 titles I decided to check out the series' Game Boy Advance swansong Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic, and for what it was I liked it and thought it was fun.

That crabs' pinchers look like faces

The reason I chose to try this game first was because I was genuinely curious how this action-adventure game mixed with Frogger's trademark controls would work as it seems like an odd mix at first, but after playing it for myself I found that the two elements meshed well.  I think what made the gameplay work was the varied tools courtesy of OPART which helped you get to new segments that you couldn't before being upgraded, and I do like that you can assign them to any face button of your choice.  There is a lighthearted charm in the proceedings, but I'd be remiss if I didn't wonder on a few occasions if it was being self-aware and having fun with that knowledge like WayForward does with Shantae and its sequels (albeit not anywhere near the extent of that cult favorite series).
Of all the games to search for a strategy guide...  If this game is any indication, such a thing is unnecessary
Early on when you first arrive at Kabohti and talk to the NPC walking back and forth by the bookcases inside the library she mentions the preceding Game Boy Advance game of the series Frogger's Adventures 2: The Lost Wand, which is one instance where I thought this game was being self-aware (despite standing right in front of her, Frogger makes no comment regarding what was just said here).  There's also the framed 1981 Frogger sprite inside Dusty's workshop whenever you visit him which I thought was a nice, subtle touch.
At one point there's an earthquake taking place in Kabohti, and when talking with one of the patrons in Rudy's pub he says that it's nothing compared to the big one from three decades prior.  I wondered if this was an in-joke on how long Konami's been around; yeah, they were founded in 1969, but it wasn't until 1973 (thirty years before the existence of this game) that they changed their name to what we recognize them by today.
I don't know if in a different instance he was retorting to the other patron who talked about digging for relics or if it was an in-joke on Frogger's age...  Although all things considered if this game were made in recent years that remark towards him would make a bit more sense; I mean, is twenty-two years enough to warrant being called a relic?
In the latter portions of the first part of the river area Frogger will have to progress through a path of logs on the water where every odd log flows in one side as every even log flows in the opposite direction, for you must time your hops properly.  I thought it was a nice callback to the 1981 arcade classic, minus the alligators and turtle platforms.
Finally during the course of the game you'll occasionally fill Dr. Finnius' home with furniture that you either buy from Mohan, get from an NPC, or locate inside a treasure chest (where sometimes there's a frog icon to augment your health capacity) in the places you could access thanks to the new tools you got, and the last item you get is a widescreen Frogger TV that has its eyes opened or closed depending on if it's powered on or not (which is kind of creepy) where on the floor beside it is a Nintendo GameCube with a Game Boy Advance connected to one of its controller slots.

Which teleporter to take?
The biggest strength Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic has got going for it lies in the gameplay, which I feel slightly makes up for the shortcomings it's got, particularly due the fact that it's intuitive to play after accustoming to its controls.  Okjoo Chang did a good job with the area designs throughout, none of them feel cheap or unfairly laid out; especially as there are platforming moments when you must move quickly on account that some won't be stable upon stepping on them (and if you have to jump on a platform in a different direction you have to press either shoulder button to turn quickly and jump from the spot) and there are certain key moments when you have to move and/or hop from moving platform to moving platform with proper timing.  Quick reflexes and ingenuity are key.

Non-swimming fish
And speaking of ingenuity: in later phases of the game you'll have to use all the OPART tools as you'll find yourself alternating between them frequently.  There are different moments that keep the game fresh during the journey: for instance, one time Frogger gets the OPART snatched away from him from the Black Lotus Society and he has to get it back in their hideout without any tools.  Later you infiltrate Eric von Wiesel's maze-like mansion after hearing that he found a relic, and the only way to move forward is by picking the right path otherwise you'll be sent back to the start (of the checkpoint).  Immediately afterwards Frogger goes back to the Black Lotus Society's hideout because he's under the impression that Leona was taken by them when she goes missing, resulting in a big brainteaser as you must push blocks to fill the correct gaps in order to proceed, with each room being more complex than the last.
Once you clear the last puzzle room you'll be taken to a room where the Black Lotus Society leader challenges you to four or five rounds in a similar vein to Three Cups and One Ball, only there are five cups in this instance which makes it a bit complicated for choosing wrongly will electrocute Frogger which will cost him one HP.  First the pacing of the cups will be slow and moderate, which is simple enough, but during the last round they move in such a blur-like speed that it's hard to pinpoint the correct cup unless you either choose correctly by accident or use the pause-unpause trick with the Select button (a trick usually reserved for shoot'em ups).  I know squirrels are known for their agility, but this is impossibly fast even for them.
In the case of Argonaut Software's Croc: Legend of the Gobbos the boxes move at a moderately reasonable pace in the couple instances you partake in it
There's a reason the cups are limited to three in these kinds of games, it makes it easier to pay attention to the correct one anytime it's being moved as you lock eyes on it as opposed to five which is a bit scattershot by comparison.

Gathering Curio bags
The game is largely linear in nature, though you can still revisit the areas you've been in if you feel the need to explore more with your newfound tools, or essentially money farm just in case.  There are a few exceptions, like the aforementioned maze segment of Eric von Wiesel's mansion, but in the second part of the river area you visit there are shortcuts that lead to a certain part quicker (but only take that route after you get the shield tool) and in the underwater segment of Atlantis certain paths are blocked by an obstacle which must be removed by stepping on a switch which involves some backtracking in the underwater current, which means carefully maneuvering around the enemies in the way especially if they go around in a circle (not just here but elsewhere, luckily they are pattern-based so it is possible to get by them without sustaining damage after some practice and learning their movements).

Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic is a likable game, but I feel that it falls short in areas (nothing major, just personal nitpicks); for instance, there are moments when Frogger is brought to certain places for the first time by either Leona's adoptive guardian Atiniui or Griffith in the map screen, and we're just told how the ride was instead of being shown, though it was probably a moot point because once you have access to these areas you can go whenever you please (though to be fair it was probably developed on a small budget).  I also think the game is light on story; sure, you learn some new information here and there regarding the OPART or otherwise, but for an action-oriented adventure game you kinda expect more from a narrative perspective.  It pales in comparison to the likes of Quintet's incredible Gaia trilogy, Matrix Software's virtually forgotten inaugural classic Alundra, or even Shade's underappreciated The Granstream Saga to name some which all had deep, insightful, and thought-provoking narratives behind them, but I acknowledge that this game isn't trying to be any of that and is just trying to be a fun game with light adventure elements and it succeeds in that regard, but I would've appreciated a bit of narrative depth.

The most surreal and best-looking boss
fight in the entire game
The good vital NPCs are likable enough but you don't learn too much about them, only a little.  I suppose the bright spot is that they have more character than the villains comparatively speaking.  Eric von Wiesel is a completely one-dimensional villain; from the first moment you meet him he makes his evil nature immediately apparent and doesn't attempt to hide it with subtlety and nuance and complexity, and he's only seen in a handful of instances for he's MIA during most of the game.  Then there's Dusty, who doesn't seem like he'd be affiliated with Eric at first as he's helpful despite being gruff and charges Frogger anytime you bring a new relic to him (and yet still you know nothing about him), then all of a sudden he doesn't charge you which is suspicious--immediately confirmed the moment he steps inside the puzzle portion of the Black Lotus Society's hideout when suddenly three-quarters of OPART cease to function.

So why would Dusty betray Frogger?  Maybe he did it because he was blackmailed, maybe a relative of his was held ransom, maybe he was coerced to stab him in the back because he had no choice.  Maybe he felt remorseful when he did that...
...orrrrr he's a one-dimensional mercenary devoid of conscience or guilt!  -_-  Really, of all the clichéd motivations you could've went with, you had to play that card, KCE Hawaii?  As for his employer Eric von Wiesel, he is evil for the sake of being evil, which is not a compelling motivation and/or reason to be a villain.  And with that, the nitpick section is complete.

Which way, which way...
The game is on the normal-ish side of the difficulty but manages to maintain a fairly consistent sense of difficulty through and through.  Whenever you beat the game you're given your stats regarding how long it took you to reach the end, whether you got all seven health capacity power-ups, all ten pieces of furniture for Dr. Finnius' house, or all 147 Curio bags or not, and how many hearts you lost during the journey--so there is a sense of replay value.  On my first playthrough I beat it in 6 hours-2 minutes-23 seconds and lost 249 hearts; on my second playthrough I beat it in 4 hours-49 minutes-51 seconds but lost 238 hearts (slightly better); and in my third and most recent playthrough I beat it in 5 hours-8 minutes-33 seconds and lost 194 hearts.  So the game is roughly four-six hours long depending on how you play or if you decide to get everything, which makes it easy to replay.  And I enjoyed this game enough to make me curious about trying another post-2001 Frogger, which is a plus (if turns out to as good, if not better, than the franchise's Game Boy Advaance swansong, even better).

You can be secure in the knowledge that
this game is quite decent
If you're looking for a fun action-oriented game then this game fits the bill fine, if you're a fan of the Frogger franchise or if you're curious how a game of this sort can work with Frogger elements, then I recommend it.  Whatever expectations you have, though, be sure keep them in check, or you may become disappointed.  If you're looking for a plot-driven game rich with themes or one brimming with character development then this game is not for you, but if you're looking for a lighthearted action-oriented adventure game with fun gameplay and occasional challenges then you may find Frogger's Journey: The Forgotten Relic to be enjoyable.

My Personal Score: 6.5/10
d(^-^)bTO EACH THEIR OWNd(^-^)b
P.S. Next game I'll review will be a simpler one to talk about, hopefully...

P.S. 2 At one point Frogger remarks to Leona that he and OPART are "like buddies" which I found endearing because in a way they kind of are.

P.S. 3 Recently I saw Jon Turteltaub of National Treasure fame's The Meg in an IMAX theatre, and I thought it was a fun ride.  Silly at points, sure, but it didn't make some of its scenes any less suspenseful, and Jason Statham was a great lead.  Between John Krasinki in A Quiet Place (really good movie, by the way, genuinely intense) four months ago and Rainn Wilson in The Meg, it's great to see some of my favorite actors from The Office on the big screen this year.  =)

Happy 15h Anniversary, Frogger's Journey!!!  =)

Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think (neither spam nor NSFW language will be allowed on my blog); hope you have a great day, take care!  =)
Because I'm generous (and because you don't see these kinds of shots in Game Boy Advance titles often), I'm going to upload this image, one, more, time!