Review by Gylgamesh
Rogue Galaxy tries to do too much and stumbles where it counts.
Rogue Galaxy is one of those RPGs that snuck out onto the market without anyone really noticing, which is kind of strange because the games developer, Level 5, has a number critically acclaimed hits under its belt. Rogue Galaxy remains in the same vein as the companys previous titles (Dragon Quest VIII, Dark Cloud, etc) and actually carries over many innovations (and flaws) of those games.
The game begins with Jaster Rogue, an orphan on the desert planet of Rosa. The planet is under the control of an evil empire and Jaster wants nothing more than to leave the planet and help release Rosa from the control of the empire. Sound familiar? Ignoring the obvious Star Wars influences, Rogue Galaxy is jam-packed with typical JRPG cliches. This continues throughout the entire game and becomes the first of its flaws the story is just downright boring. If youre a veteran of RPGs, youve seen all this before, and even if youre not, chances are its still not going to engage you a whole lot. It doesnt help that the characters are equally as bland. For some odd reason, no one in your party of rag-tag bounty hunters and robots has any sort of personality. Even Jaster, who is supposed to be the main character, shows no emotion no personality through most of the game. The secondary characters are even worse, if thats possible. The story doesnt even reach a satisfying conclusion in the end, so theres no redeeming to be done if you stick with it the whole way.
The gameplay, on the other hand is tough to pin. Battles can actually be good fun when at times. The real-time battle system was designed very well and has a lot of cool features, which is a shame because its often brought down with other problems, the first of which is poor AI on the part of your allies. By default, you dont get a lot of control over them unless you actually go ahead and make them your controlled character. Otherwise, youll find them running headlong into enemies that will murder them in two shots. Which brings about what is probably my biggest gripe with this game battle difficulty, or more specifically the difficulty balance of the game. There are times when youll mop up battles in seconds, and other times where youll spend minutes wasting items because youre getting your ass kicked, often in the same dungeon, or even in consecutive battles. When normal enemies KO your characters in two hits, something it wrong, and this kind of decision makes me scratch my head. Boss battles suffer from the same problem, and in addition, a lack of creativity. The very first boss battle in the game showed incredible promise. Multiple parts to the fight, and different strategies for each part it seemed like the boss fights would be fun. Unfortunately, they quickly felling into the same old pattern of hacking away and healing. What happened?
The rest of the game isnt quite as negative as its other parts. Dungeon design is nothing special (as it is in every Level 5 game), and though some dungeons are overly long, I never found myself dreading them. On the positive side of things, the graphics are pretty amazing, both environments and character sprites, and the cut-scenes are downright beautiful. Its a shame theres only a few of them. Again, drawing from previous Level 5 games, theres some quirky customization you can partake in with your characters weapons, but it doesnt feel as fleshed out as it was in, say, Dark Cloud 2. The skill system is pretty nice and plays out like some kind of alternate version of Final Fantasy Xs Sphere Grid. The music is also a mixed bag, with tunes ranging from ear grating, to quite enjoyable.
Overall, Rogue Galaxy feels like a lot of lost potential. Theres a bunch of neat ideas in here, but none of them are implemented very well. It feels like the developers had big plans for this game, but just couldnt quite pull it off, which is a shame because it could have been something great if the writing was a bit better and if the battle planning was well planned better. Its a fairly long game (30+ hours) and a lot of people probably arent going to have the stamina to keep up with it. Rogue Galaxy isnt a horrible game by any means, but you can do a whole lot better on the RPG front. Leave this one on the shelf it sneaked onto and give it a rental if youre really curious.
Product Release: Rogue Galaxy (US, 01/30/07)
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