Review by damagedude
Don't you ever try to show off in front of me, you damn beast.
I bought this game out of simple curiosity because I'm a big science fiction fan and thought the parallel to Captain Harlock might be fun. What I discovered is a game that is completely engrossing and has everything that I was looking for. I tend to prefer stand-alone games, rather than online play and I'm also a big fan of RPG's. So for me, this has been a pretty good experience.
I feel I should mention that I'm 70 hours into the game and only on chapter nine (there are thirteen chapters overall, and a bonus dungeon). This game's strength is its addictiveness and how much I was willing to be patient for things to develop over time that with other games, I might simply have given up on.
Here are the elements of the game broken down:
Story: The story itself is pretty typical of what you'd find in any Japanese anime. The protagonist joins a band of law-breakers for the purpose of finding treasure and discovering that his past is more complicated than you might think. Nothing can be simple in a Japanese plot, which is part of the reason that makes it so addicting. The twists that inevitably show up make the story that much more fulfilling. I will say, however, that the story is not the game's strongest point.
Characterization: The characters aren't given little sidequests of their own after you get them. You basically have one chapter that dwells on them and for the most part, whatever characterization occurs is the result of the random vocalizations they put in while you're running around an area looking for treasure boxes or trying to complete your monster quota. This, however, is plenty as the characters tend to stay within themselves and I haven't found any inconsistencies in what they have to say. The supporting characters in the game don't have a lot of depth, but that's been a typical experience for me with anime as well.
Battle System: The Battle System reminds me of Kingdom Hearts. Monsters will show up and you have to fight them in real-time. After so many attacks, your meter runs out and you have to stand around and defend until it gets full again. This prevents one super-powerful character for clobbering everything in sight. At first, the spells you get are powerful enough to destroy groups of monsters right away, but as the game progresses, there are different features that monsters have which prevent this. Some have a shield (for which you have to charge your energy and then attack), some have a barrier (which requires a special kind of gun) while others can only be damaged by attacking their heads. The frequency of the monsters changes from area to area as well, so you can't have any one strategy in mind. Generally, I've found it best to give Jaster the most powerful weapon I can and have him cut through all kinds of enemies while the other two characters have weaker weapons for the purpose of filling up the Frog Log. Suffice it to say, in a lot of cases, one character is enough to win.
Boss Fights: The bosses in this game are all very different, and they reflect the different things that happen in the normal fights. In some rare cases, you'll have to take out a certain part of a boss before attacking its main body. There are no healing characters in the game, but the trade off is that shops have unlimited quantities of powerful healing potions and you can use one you get after a battle if it puts you over the limit. So bosses are actually difficult to lose to, because in the worst case scenario, you can just pull Jaster away from the action and let him heal everyone and then go at it again. During a lot of boss fights, I found that I could only use Jaster's gun so much. But if you really like long-range fights, you can just hit the boss with spells or use the Illusion Sword. There are a number of optional bosses called quarries, most of which are easy once you understand the battle system. A few are actually difficult. One of the things that irked me a little bit is that you can't defeat the bosses outright if the game doesn't want you to. Even if you keep shaving away its HP, it will reach a point where you can't take off any more and you're forced into doing the plot action or letting the time limit run out and watch a cut scene declaring how the battle ends. I would have liked to have seen an alternate result be possible, which seems as though it can happen when you have ample opportunity to develop the more powerful weapons in the game before you're supposed to have them.
Side Quests: There are a number of side quests in the game, most of which boil down to completing a list of things that MIO wants you to do (this becomes available in chapter 6). The quests feed into each other generally. If you're going to get your monster quota, then you will also get items to fill the revelation spots as well as maxing out weapons. Running around looking for monsters also gives you time to beef up your insectors so that they will do better as the ranks increase. Money and monster coins can also come from this practice. I would say getting all the certain types of one monster killed is the backbone of this game, and that's fine because I find that to be quite enjoyable. The game gives you an option to turn off the random chat by the characters if you don't like them saying the same things over and over. (ie, Jaster: "Popping up like crazy.") The other side quests are a beach planet and a ghost ship. Some of the prizes you get in the game aren't really all that great, but the point is that you can complete a lot of things all at once and while my playing time is rather high, I wouldn't like to have to do those things all separately.
Costumes: This was a first for me. The costumes are the same in most cut scenes. I even had a scene where Zegram threw something at Jaster and what he threw was the secondary weapon I had equipped at the time. The game apparently paid a lot of attention to what was currently equipped, which means you get to choose what the characters look like the majority of the time. This was one of the features that I really liked.
Worlds: There are a few different worlds in the galaxy. I suppose the argument that can be made is that there simply aren't a lot of habitable planets around. Just because Gene Roddenberry invented 20 million worlds in which Captain Kirk gets to have the girl, that doesn't mean it's actually so in reality. I would have liked to see the world list look less like a solar system and more like a list of planets that you can go to at random. The idea that all these worlds are clustered together sort of takes away from the notion that the galaxy is vast- which it has to be, if we're talking about the Milky Way. Estimates are that our galaxy has anywhere between 200 and 400 billion stars. I can accept the fact that only 5 or 6 worlds out of all of that are habitable. What I can't accept is that all those habitable worlds share the same star. But this doesn't really take away from the gameplay as a whole. One of the things I would have liked to see was actual travel through space, with things that can happen depending on where you go. I'd love to see a game that had the non-linear play of Final Fantasy X-2 but which required you to travel through space and wait until you got to your destination.
Items: The item system is pretty good. You can combine your weapon once a certain purple frog joins your party (but you have to max them out first). As I kept engaging in battle, I kept acquiring more and more items which meant I had lots of stuff to sell. Not that I ever did sell any of it. I have yet to try out the factory feature, and I'm a little leery of letting go of anything before I give that a shot.
Overall: This game is fantastic. The biggest selling point is its gameplay. I'm not sure how much replay value it has because I don't know if I would enjoy doing the monster hunts over and over. However, for a game that you play the first time through, it's great. There is enough to do to keep you occupied for a very long time, provided that you're patient or willing to listen to something like an audio book while you hunt down random monsters.
Product Release: Rogue Galaxy (US, 01/30/07)
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