Say hello to Song Summoner, the first iPod RPG

I’ve never been a fan of the “Swiss army knife” philosophy of electronics. I’ve always felt that a gadget should do one thing perfectly instead of a million things awkwardly. Why shoehorn a swath of features in when they’re not that necessary or beneficial? Is it really that hard to carry around a digital camera, a cellphone and an MP3 player separate from each other? I don’t think so. Accordingly, I use my cellphone to make phone calls, and my iPod is for playing music. That’s it, and that’s the way I like it.

The games that have popped up thus far on the iTunes Store haven’t convinced me otherwise. Sure, Bejeweled is a fun time-sink in the vein of Tetris, and Phase is an interesting novelty from the rhythm game masters at Harmonix, but none of these titles have any real depth. You know, a fleshed-out world, characters, plot, et cetera. All style, no substance. But this news might just change my mind.

Yesterday, Square Enix announced and then immediately released Song Summoner: The Unsung Heroes, a turn-based, tactical RPG for the iPod, available for $4.99 on the iTunes Store. In the game, the Mechanoids, evil, transhuman half-machines, want to destroy the people of Melodica for not embracing their way of life, and only the Conductor Ziggy and the Superstars – yes, it’s a little cheesy, eh? – can defend the land from the cold, bitter tyranny of the Mechanical Militia.

It’s apparently a lot like my much beloved Final Fantasy Tactics. You maneuver your warriors on a grid and issue orders, the enemies do the same. Rinse, and repeat until victory. The intriguing part of the game is how you get those warriors in the first place. You visit a place called the Hip-O-Drome and create your so-called “Tune Troopers” from the songs on your iPod, their types and abilities decided by what song is used. The more you listen to a certain Trooper’s song (outside of the game, of course), the stronger that Trooper becomes. Naturally, they still grow and develop as a result of battles and general gameplay, but it’s nice to know that your character gets beefier every time you hear “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Not too much else is known about the game, but you can buy it right now for less than your average Xbox LIVE Arcade offering. Oh, a note to all those iPod Touch and iPhone owners: sorry, but this one doesn’t play nice with your particular devices. Song Summoner is meant for Nanos (third generation), Classics and iPods (fifth generation) only. I happen to have one of those primitive things, so I’ll certainly check this out!