Review By: Jared Black
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Starting with the company’s first project, Dark Cloud, developer Level-5 has basically mastered the cel-shaded, 3D, action-based RPG. In a short amount of time, the company has won tremendous respect from its peers and gamers throughout the industry, even being hand-picked by Square Enix to develop both Dragon Quest VIII (PS2) and Dragon Quest IX (Nintendo DS). Working on the best-selling Japanese RPG series is certainly a sign that the company knows its stuff, and that knowledge shines through in the outstanding PS2 RPG Rogue Galaxy.
Essentially, Rogue Galaxy is a fine mix of the ambiance of Star Wars, the spirit of Skies of Arcadia (one of the most underrated RPGs ever), and the look of Dark Cloud. A space pirate themed RPG, Rogue Galaxy’s main character is Jaster Rogue. Growing up as an orphan on his home planet of Rosa, which of course has a desert climate, Jaster dreams of leaving the planet and exploring space. Then one day, a chance encounter with the legendary hunter Desert Claw leads a duo of space pirates (which look a lot like R2-D2 and C-P3O) to believe that Jaster is in fact the real Desert Claw. Since the pirates are looking to hire the Desert Claw to work for them, and the Desert Claw himself isn’t interested, Jaster naturally seizes the opportunity and leaves Rosa to work as a space pirate and finally explore the galaxy.
I won’t go into a lot of detail regarding the plot and ruin it for you, but naturally Jaster and friends run into a lot more trouble than they initially bargained for, and even routine tasks turn into something much bigger and complicated than they expect. The cast of characters you’ll meet throughout the adventure are colorful, and I thought fairly original for an RPG. Sure, you’ve still got your gruff bounty hunters and your strong and scantily clad tribeswomen, but they’re presented a little differently from what I’ve seen in other RPGs in the past. Rogue Galaxy also takes the Star Wars route and features a number of different races as you travel the galaxy, although having a cat as a first mate is the kind of wackiness I haven’t seen since the Shadow Hearts series (in fact, From the New World features a cat gangster as a playable character). As if that wasn’t enough, a mutated toad called…Toady…joins the party early on, and can swallow items and mix them together while they’re actually inside of him to form more powerful ones. That’s typical Japanese wackiness at its finest, folks.
Despite the wacky elements though, Rogue Galaxy plays things straight and treats the main storyline with the proper level of seriousness it needs, so in the end it draws you in like all good space epics do. The game takes a Star Wars like approach when it comes to the setting, as you won’t be hopping from planet to planet the entire game. Instead, the game features only a few main planets, on which you’ll spend a number of hours exploring just one small part of each world. This allows you to get to know the inhabitants of each planet, which is a better approach in my opinion than simply hopping around from planet to planet. However, on the whole, the storyline is just a tad weaker than what you’ll find in most RPGs. Character development for the main characters isn’t nearly as deep as you’ll find in something like Final Fantasy, but that’s primarily due to the fact that you spend a good portion of the game hacking your way through the seemingly endless dungeons. In fact, dungeons can take several hours to complete, with the areas in-between sometimes seeming superfluous.
So while the dungeons themselves can be tedious at times, oh what fun you’ll have while hacking and slashing! Rogue Galaxy’s battle system is refined to perfection, as it's simple to navigate, and yet deeper than I’ve ever seen in an action RPG. Although battles are random, they’re seamlessly integrated into the main world (no going to a sub-screen to do battle) with zero loading time. In fact, load times in general are minimal, with seamless transitions thanks to intelligent background loading from one section of a town to the next.
Combat takes place entirely in real-time, although things will pause temporarily if you open the menu to use an item, activate a special ability, etc. Each character is equipped with two weapons, and can be controlled by the player at any time. So while you’re controlling one character, the others that are controlled by the CPU act logically, and can be set to one of four different A.I. settings (such as everyone fighting independently or ganging up on one enemy) to do exactly what you want them to. The CPU-controlled characters will also periodically yell out to the character you’re controlling, with suggestions on what they should do next. By pressing the corresponding shoulder button shown on the screen in tandem with the suggestion, the character will then carry out that action. If you don’t press it within five seconds the option disappears. This gives the player even greater control over each battle at the press of a button, without having to worry about taking direct control of each character.
One of the things that make battling in Rogue Galaxy so fun is the fact that virtually all enemies in the game need to be approached differently. Some will simply bash your skull in, while others will take a more tactical approach and try to stun you first or swoop down at you from above. Then there are the ones that start out with barriers that need to be knocked down first, which is easier said than done when four or more are swarming you at the same time. In addition to basic attacks with your primary weapon, oftentimes your sub weapon will have a secondary function, such as freezing an enemy temporarily, or creating “steps” you can use to climb up on a large boss and attack a soft spot from above. There are also challenge battles that present special parameters such as defeating all enemies in a certain number of seconds, or doing so without taking any damage, that reward the player with hunter coins and bonus goodies if they’re successfully completed. These help to break up the tedium somewhat of battling through several hour long dungeons and keep you on your toes.
Posted: 2007-03-28 21:00:13 PST