Review by Xenon
A fantastic voyage through a galaxy far, far away
The PS2 has had a long life. Most consoles game output will start to taper off as the next generation begins and the companies successor system is released. But not the PS2. Even in 2007, after the release of its successor, the PS2 gets hits. An Action RPG set in a distant Galaxy, Rogue Galaxy combines interesting characters with satisfying gameplay to make a great RPG.
Rogue Galaxy takes place in the Wilherser system, a galaxy composed of several inhabitable planets. Jaster, our main character, starts out on the desert planet Rosa, which has been recently captured by the Longardian Empire. Forbidden to leave, Jasters dreams are put on hold. However, through a bit of mistaken identity and some pirates, Jaster is able to escape Rosa and go on a Galactic adventure. The plot is interesting enough, though there is a lack of direction in the latter half. Though this seems to not just apply to the plot. Enemies and the offense/defense balance seems to get a little wonky in the last half, so be prepared to use a LOT of healing items.
Gameplay is simple to get in to but allows for enough variety. Jaster and his crewmates will run around the dungeon guided along by a little arrow or star that tells you where to go. Along the way youll get into random encounters with a variety of enemies. Theres no separate battle screen, enemies will simply drop from the sky or burst from the ground. In combat you can attack with your primary or sub weapon, block, jump, and move freely. Additionally, you can use skills youve learned from the revelation flow. Primary and Sub weapons generally fall along the lines of melee and ranged, but there are exceptions. Lilikas main weapon is ranged, Kisala has two melee weapons, and Simon has two ranged. Since you can control any of the three characters in your party, this adds variety if you get tired of the same combat. Each character handles differently and has different strengths. With that said, perhaps it was just my nature, but I was perfectly content only using Jaster (who can never be removed from your party). The other two characters you dont control will be controlled by the AI but can be given commands and will not use special abilities or items unless prompted or the strategy is set to go all out. Occasionally the allies will give the play a suggestion that he can have them act upon by pressing either the L1 or L2 button. The two suggestions are usually a healing item or an attack ability, and as you learn more abilities more will become available. All thise is an interesting take on controlling your allies, but I must say, after playing Final Fantasy XIIs glorious gambit system, these other ways fall short. I just wanted more control, and its something I just couldnt get.
Even if you do only use one character, Rogue Galaxy takes several steps to ensure that battles will be varied. While most enemies can simply be beaten into submission with yoru weapon of choice, there a couple of special types. Some, for instance, have a shield that can only be broken by hitting them with a charge attack. Others can only be hit with a jump attack, and still others can only be hurt after being shot once by Jasters Barrier Break Shot gun. I applaud the effort, but didnt really like the execution. Special abilities were useless against these enemies until the appropriate action was taken (so for the jump attack enemies, never), and the actions you had to take were worthless except on those enemies. I had to go specifically equip that stupid barrier break shot every time and then switch it back out to actually do damage with my sub weapon. And too many of the jump attack enemies could devastate my party very quickly. These problems wouldnt be so irritating if the targeting system was pathetic and near random and if my ally AI could be a little bit smarter about those enemies. But eh. Theyre not a huge deal, but they do come up.
There are several out of combat systems to engage in as well. Characters level up with experience points, but learn no abilities that way. Rather, all new abilities are gained through the Revelation Flow board, which is a little like the license board from Final Fantasy XII. The unique thing here is that everything is gained using items you pick up in your travels. Each ability will have slots for specific types of items that you must fill in to learn the skill. Learning a skill will unlock some of the surrounding abilities on the flow (only the ones with arrows pointing to them). Items are easy to recognize and provide the player with a since of freedom that the developers actually have full control over. You wont get that higher level spell until late in the game, because the items never show up until then. The system is also easy to work with, as any time you get an item that can be used with the Revelation Flow, the icon will start flashing in the menu, the appropriate character will flash in the sub menu, and the items you have will be outlined in blue. Still, the system isnt all handed to you. Many items wont be given to you in any serious quantity and youll have to kill monsters for the remaining items (and not too friendly but not too crazy drop rates).
Dungeons with a view
Other things to do include a well-implemented Weapon Fusion system, a horribly implemented make your own items system, and a tournament for little bugs that you can collect that I dont know the implementation on because in my 40 hours, I never really felt the urge. The entry work for it isnt very forgiving, and required a dedication I just wasnt feeling. But still, its there, and it seems to be a major timesink for those interested. These serve as nice complements to the main game, but are also wholly unnecessary. Youll find yourself drawn to the weapon fusion system simply because of practicality, but there are weapons available that are nearly as strong as the best fused weapons (and for many characters the best fused weapon is made of simply two purchased weapons). The Factory System doesnt make anything that cant be outdone by store purchased items really, and the Insectron has a ton of start up work.
Length is pretty good. It took me forty hours to get through the main story, and I wasnt rushing through. Individual dungeons can take well over an hour to get through (in some cases, multiple hours), save points are scattered throughout. Save points are also quite a welcome sight because they act as transporters to anywhere else on the planet. If you run out of healing items (and you will), you can simply teleport to the store and stock up. Sidequests are scarce, only having one during the main story. After you finish the game, a new dungeon opens up thats quite difficult and long, and finishing that dungeon will allow you to take on a 100 floor dungeon that could easily take a whole work day to complete. Just for those of you who think youre extra hardcore.
+++ Solid Gameplay
++ Entertaining, well-developed characters
++ Excellent Length and even some extra stuff to do
--- Gameplay gets a bit unbalanced in the last quarter
-- Can be a bit repetitive
-- Enemy Variety can be more annoying than challenging
- The Factory doesnt work well
Rogue Galaxy tries some new ideas and generally pulls them off. Its got a flaw or two about how it implements things, but all in all, its a really good game. It tries to avoid the repetition of other ARPGs by throwing new enemy types, and while it doesnt exactly pull it off without a hitch, its still a good effort. And the myriad of worlds gives you a lot of different dungeons to explore. In total, Rogue Galaxy in a game I can recommend to anyone looking for a good RPG to play.
Product Release: Rogue Galaxy (US, 01/30/07)
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