Review by aubradley84

Reviewed: 02/20/07

I Wish I Had An Entire Galaxy Named After Me...

As the life cycle of the PS2 winds down many gamers are seeing the last games of their genre to be released. As all our old favorite Sony characters begin their migration to the PS3 the ever-so dedicated current-gen owners are sitting underneath the dinner table, hoping for a few last scraps before moving on. Thankfully, the PS2 ain’t dead yet, and Rogue Galaxy is a game to prove it.

The makers of Dragon Quest VIII have brought forth a new action RPG along the lines of Star Ocean: To the End of Time and the Kingdom Hearts series. Rogue Galaxy combines the dying tradition of random encounters with the new standard of real-time combat, with impressive results. While this game won’t revolutionize RPGs, it is a fun, well-executed last romp through the PS2 processor. With deep, complex gameplay, Rogue Galaxy is easy to learn, but truly challenging to master.

You play as Jaster Rogue, a young man living on an enslaved desert planet that suddenly comes under attack by beasts. You immediately meet a mysterious hunter named Desert Claw, who fights alongside you as you clear the village, and then mysteriously disappears after providing you with his legendary sword. At this exact moment you meet up with Simon (some sort of Scottish armadillo), and Steve (the game’s obligatory C-3PO reference) who mistake you for Desert Claw and recruit you into service of the space pirate Dorgengoa. The captain explains that they are in search of the legendary lost planet of Eden, and they need all the help they can get in unraveling its secrets. As you set out on your adventure you will meet the usual assortment of characters. From the shady mercenary, to the spunky love interest, to the grizzled war veteran, all the old cliches are here. Actually, The entirety of the games story and character development is pretty stock, and while there will be “twists” along the way, you’ll likely see all of them coming well in advance. Oh sure, there’s a small revelation here or there that may surprise you, but the majority of the story will leave you feeling like you’ve seen it all before, and you have. Actually, the only truly interesting and conflicting character is a villain named Seed, but sadly his appearance is short and his demise comes far too soon so he never reaches his true potential as a tortured soul. The story lines sticks to the tried and true formula of unlikely hero saving the universe, and it’s too bad Level 5 didn’t use this last hurrah to take a stab at a truly different form of RPG.

The gameplay itself is quite deep, and a simple combat system lends to complex weapon synthesis and item creation. When wandering around the game’s map you will engage in random encounters with an assortment of enemies. When a battle is initiated a warning message will appear, at which point your characters will unsheathe their weapons and assume battle positions. The enemies will leap out of bushes, burrow up from underground, and drop from the sky to ambush your team. You will directly control one team member, while the other two fight according to the strategy you have provided. You can attack using your primary weapon (usually a melee device) using X and fire your sub weapon (almost always a ranged attack) with square. In the meantime your allies will attack on their own merits while requesting direction for their actions. You can command them to fight independently, focus on your party leader’s target, or go all out with guns blazing and swords swinging. During combat, your teammates will give battle suggestions to either use helpful items or unleash combat abilities. With a simple button press you can either heed your allies’ calls or dismiss their requests entirely, and it really doesn’t interrupt the flow of battle at all. You can also pause the game and open up a combat menu that will allow you to change weapons and equipment and utilize abilities your characters have learned. While combat is simple, the various abilities, team strategies, and weapons combinations create a complex battle system that all but the most hardcore RPG fans will enjoy.

Beyond combat, there are a litany of sidequests and extras in the game that create an engrossing experience. For example, after every battle not only do your characters gain experience, but your weapons do as well. Early in the game you meet a little amphibian named Toady who will eat any two weapons you have raised to their maximum potential and produce a newer, more powerful device. There are literally thousands of weapon combinations, and it adds a great new twist on level grinding. More often than not you won’t even notice the number of battles you have fought and the levels of your characters because you will be too busy concentrating on powering up new weapons and fusing them together to make the ultimate swords, missile launchers, guns, and even shoes. It’s a fun, simple method of further enhancing the enjoyment of the game. In addition to the weapon fusion system, you also eventually come into possession of a factory. That’s definitely a first; I’ve never been rewarded with a factory in an RPG before. Do I put it in a third-world country and pay my workers seven cents a day? In any case, talking with NPCs in the different worlds gives you blueprints and it’s up to you to figure out the proper alignment of materials, special equipment, and timing to turn these blueprints into new and useful items. It’s a bit daunting at first, but the factory is a really fun puzzle aspect, and definitely creates a thinking man’s experience in the game. There are a litany of other extras beyond these, including the “Revelation Flow” that uses items to teach your characters new abilities, and a “Hunter’s Record” filled with a bestiary and “Quarry” hunts; all of which is very, very similar to the Clan from Final Fantasy XII. This game is so deep that you’ll often leave the main quest for hours at a time to hunt quarries, create new items, and seek out as many weapon combinations as possible. While the main quest is your standard 40 hour RPG adventure, all the extras will likely take you beyond the 100 hour threshold.

The game’s environments are beautiful and diverse, and every planet you visit has a distinct look and feel. There are harsh deserts filled with scorpions and bees, jungles filled with gorillas and piranhas, and a gorgeous water-filled world with breathtaking waterfalls and very angry clams. Cutscenes really show off the graphic prowess of the PS2, and you can tell that the developers have pushed the system to utmost of its potential. It’s easy to marvel at the beauty of this game and wonder how on earth the PS3 can make things look any better. This is one of the rare games where I’ve caught myself stopping and just spinning the camera around to take it all in. The game looks pretty, and it sounds pretty good too. The downside to the level design is that it’s all very linear and you don’t really have much opportunity to wander off and explore the world around you. Your map is mainly filled with narrow corridors to explore and all branching paths end up coming right back to the main route sooner or later. While you may not get lost very often, it’s a bit of a letdown to be forced to stay on a very set path when what you’d really like to do is totally explore the world around you.

The game’s music and voice acting is excellent, with the music nicely setting the mood and the voices conveying the characters’ emotions perfectly. Nothing seems out of place, and it all fits very well into the overall presentation of the game. The only downside is the “Active Chat” mode where your other two party members will comment as you run around the map. This aspect is downright annoying, as each reserve character has about 4-5 stock phrases that they repeat every dozen or so steps. Mercifully, you can turn this feature off in the game settings menu, and after suffering through the inane chatter for 20+ hours you’ll find the silence to be absolute bliss. Once you’ve turned off the annoying “are we there yet” party members, it’s very easy to enjoy the sounds of the game.

One last area to examine is the overall control scheme, and it functions quite well. We’ve already discussed the basics of battle, and overall those controls work quite well. The only battle complications arise in your auto-targeting system, which will sometimes point you in the direction of an enemy on the other side of the screen instead of the one attacking you. However, the auto-targeting can be tweaked with a simple button press, or turned off entirely if you really don’t like it. That may be one of the nicest things about this game, the features that seem to cause the most irritation, can be simply turned off if you don’t like them. Navigating the menus can also be daunting, as all items are pictured rather than listed which can cause confusion until you know what heal potions and stamina extracts look like. However, in another bit of wondrous mercy, the developers have included easy commands to arrange you menus with items or equipment first. While you may be constantly using the arrange command, once everything is where it should be, life is very easy. Thank you Level 5, for reducing my headaches considerably.

Rogue Galaxy is one last hurrah in the current-gen RPG market before the old PS2 goes the way of the buffalo. While it may not be the most original game you’ve ever played, the execution helps greatly offset the lack of originality. This is a truly fun game with a lot going for it, and it will be spinning in your system for many weeks to come. Yo ho, yo ho, it’s a space pirate’s life for me.

+ Fun, engaging gameplay that will keep you interested for an extended length of time
+ Beautiful environments and gorgeous graphics that really press the PS2 to the max

- Unoriginal storyline with plot twists that you’ll see coming from miles away
- Minor annoyances such as inane character chatter and a sloppy targeting system that, while they can be turned off, should have been tightened or scrapped from the start

Overall score 9.5/10

Rating: 9

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