Review by Lord-Spencer
Infinite in Scope and Passion
There is so much to this little package, you could scarcely believe its on the DS. Infinite Space somehow manages to tell a fully engrossing Space Opera tale, one that spans numerous galaxies and a significant passage of time.
Simply put, this is one huge, expansive game, and it tells one of the best stories on the DS. It wears its 80's space Anime influence on its sleeve, and it would make that genre proud. It proves again that the DS was probably last generations bastion for RPGs.
"Sometimes I wonder if it was good that people discovered how to travel faster than light"
The opening anime scene basically tells the entire plot of the opening chapter. Your hero, Yuri wants to go to space against the rules of the frontier planet he live in, and through meeting a Launcher (person responsible for getting people into space) Nia, he eventually manages to not only go to space, but also overthrow the system's ruler.
From then, the game truly tarts, as Yuri and crew travel the various galactic systems, both for the simple sake of traveling as "Zero-G Dogs", and to search for the meaning behind a mysterious artifact that Yuri owns.
Earlier, I described the game as a Space Opera, and it fits that description well. While it starts as a simple adventure, the plot soon kicks off as the 16 year old Yuri is embroiled in political intrigue between rival nations, battles against space pirate, the ever growing ambition of an expansionist empire, and the quantum existence of the universe.
Before you say this is too much for a 16 year old to be involved in, remember that Alexander the Great started his invasion of most of the known world at that age, and nearly completed it before 30. In comparison, Yuri, who grows significantly over the course of the plot, only acts as one of the major actors. As Yuri, you have a little impact on the story, as you are regularly asked to choose between tow missions, which sometimes have major repercussions. In fact, one of the best scenes in the game only happens if you choose to support A instead of supporting B, and you only see that cut-scene way near the end of the game, 30 hours after making that decision.
There is a lot of meat to the story, A lot of intrigue, mystery, and a host of great characters. While there are many characters that simply fill in their well established tropes, the great majority of characters are well developed, even those with limited screen time. Besides the main cast, Yuri can recruit a huge variety of people to his fleet, which is similar to how Suikoden operates but with a little less depth.
These characters might not be as well developed as the main cast, but they still have their lines of dialogue, and they do give a universal feel to our crew. They include people fro mall walks of life, and serve to underscore the Zero-G philosophy of Yuri's crew.
It is surprising how many times I lay down in bed, way past my bedtime, engrossed in the intergalactic tale of Infinite Space. Always, it manages to stay interesting, surprising, and always plays by its established rules. Like another famous Space Opera game, the ending might not satisfy a lot of people. However, it is an ending by the rules of the game, and it fits well with the entire narrative.
To get there, you might get attached to a lot of characters, and I actually felt their sacrifice each and every time. Every time, I felt how nearly infinite in scope is the game. Easily one of the best stories on the DS.
"A desperate, all-out battle for survival"
Initially, I didn't think much of the battle system in the game. You control your fleet, as you battle another fleet, and you need to keep track of three things. First, the distance between your fleets and the respective range of your weaponry. Second, your own command gauge, which when filled allows you to issue commands such as firing and dodging. Finally, the enemy's own command gauge, which tells you exactly what moves they can make. It employs a rock-paper-scissors mechanics, where dodges work against barrages, and regular fire is weak but cannot be dodged.
It first, it was simple matter of firing regular shots, and dodging when the enemy's gauge is red (indicating that they can use a barrage). However, once the difficulty ramps up, and fighters are thrown into the mix, the system actually becomes more engaging than I first thought.
Battles become nearly psychological affairs against the computer, where you debate when to use the stronger barrage command, or wast your gauge in dodging. Many times, after repeated failures, I was really glad at getting a winning hit just at the brink of death.
However, the battles sometimes are really unfair. Many battles follow each other in rapid succession, before you get to the boss battles. In some of those cases, you can retreat and heal (which is WAY AGAINST THE FLOW OF THE STORY), but it often forces you to be always on your toes.
Yet, that is only half the battle, as the skirmish actually starts much earlier in your preparation of your fleet. Actually preparing your fleet is the core of the game's battle system. Using the money you earn in building ship to add to your fleet (a max of five ships), is what you will always need to do if you hit a wall. Its akin to an experience system, but with actual physical models.
There is actually a lot of depth to the acquiring of ships, which come in more than 60 models, and I can imagine stat-crunshers have the best value for money figured out, but you can figure it out at a glance as well. There are many stats which are never explained, but the in game helm menu is more than adequate. Each ship then can be individually customized as well, with modules, weapons, and fighters.
This all makes the combat system much deeper than you would initially think, and the difficulty of the game will force you to learn it if you want to succeed, because buying stronger ships is not always the best option, as they are too expensive, and sometimes you can make a weaker ship stronger through intelligent usage of modding
"Peace or Virtual Enslavement, two faces of the same coin"
Since the battle system is all about the ships in your fleet, and the customization option for that, what good is your crew? They are actually one of the preparation aspects for your fleet.
Among the broad section of crew characters, you assign each to a job on the fleet according to their abilities. With each crew member on the job, your entire fleet functions better according to the various stats involved. Firepower improves, healing is faster, and your gauge fills quicker as well. If you remove all your crew from their jobs, you will notice a considerable dip in performance in battle.
However, the more noticeable aspect they add is increased sense of scale. With the crew collection aspect to the game, your quest FEELS more important, as they add more voices to your crew. That is not to say that the lesser important characters add much to the plot, but their collective mini-stories does make it better.
In the game, a lot of things add a sense of scale, even if it doesn't really make much of a difference. Take visiting planets for example. There is little difference in each planets, but the fact that some offer quests, while other sell stuff, and even some doesn't ofer anything of note, all makes you have to visit each planet to see what they got.
One thing that I found markedly annoying however is when you choose to talk to your crew. In most taverns, there is a "talk to your friends" option, which opens a conversation with one of your crew. However, it opens up any one of possible conversations at random. You cannot choose which crew member to talk to, and as a result you have no idea what conversations are possible, and you just randomly choose the option in the hope of getting a new conversation with a crew mate. Meanwhile, you might get the same conversation time and time again before you discover something new.
Thankfully, there is a fast-forward button, which works great in skipping those conversations, as well as whenever you are defeated in battle.
"I aim to travel all over the sea of stars"
Unfortunately, with the sheer size and scope of Infinite space, it suffers in its graphical presentation. For instance, there are less than 30 unique backgrounds for the entire game, and all 3D models are lacking in resolution. Similarly, character portraits locked in one expression, and the edges look a little washed out.
Its not a pretty game, but the visual design helps make up for it. For instance ,while you can complain about the resolution of the character portraits, you cannot complain about their design. They look like characters out of an 80s Space Anime, and are wonderful in their variety and design.
As for the 3D models, they don't look too good, but the huge number of ship models and their distinctive design makes up for it in some ways.
Then there are the anime stills, which are simply 2D drawings in an anime style, acting as highlights in important story scenes. While these are simple still,s they are drawn in such a dynamic way that you can practically imagine the sound and actions happening, especially if you watched any Space Opera.
Sound however maintains a consistent quality, with a pretty good soundtrack. The battle music is OK, and the track lends a lot of atmosphere to everything from the military power of the empire, to the mysticism of ancient religions. Of course, the wide assortment of laser sound, thrust engines, ans warp points are all what you expect fro ma Sci-Fi event.
One particularly great vocal track unexpectedly starts at the beginning of one of the most epic battles in the game, and because of that track, I now consider that boss battle among the best I played.
Infinite Space is one of the biggest, most ambitious RPGs on the DS, and it miraculously doesn't unravel under that conceit. Instead, it delivers one hell of a Space opera, and an engaging battle system to boot.
Under that, there is an extensive collection of ships, crew members, and planets to visit. It is only the icing in top of an already excellent cake. Simply put, Infinite Space is one of the best RPGs I ever played.
Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Product Release: Infinite Space (US, 03/16/10)
Got Your Own Opinion?
Submit a review and let your voice be heard.