The PS2 Still Has Life In It!
Level 5 brings a superb adventure of space piracy and saving the galaxy in their latest title, Rogue Galaxy. Though the game is very traditional, as far as RPG's go, it doesn't follow the Japanese style per say, trading that in for the Star Ocean style instead. In fact you will notice quite a few similarities with this title and Star Ocean III. Luckily for all involved, Star Ocean was a fantastic game and this one is just as good if not a little better. Level 5 proves that you don't have to be a big hitter the likes of Square to put out a quality role-playing game. With a mix of great implementation through gameplay and an engaging, all be it a bit predictable, storyline, rolled up in a beautiful package. Rogue Galaxy proves to be a great game to play and you will not miss those 40+ hours you sink into it.
The game follows Jaster Rogue, a small town boy who has no idea who he really is or for what purpose he is destined to fulfill. Sound familiar? It should, it has been the premise for many an RPG. Anyways, there is a war going on throughout the galaxy and up until recently Jaster's home world of Rosa has been able to stay out of it. Nevertheless, now that the inhabitance has been enslaved by the evil military faction, Jaster vows to leave and fight to end the war and free his little planet. After a case of mistaken identity, he is able to join a crew of space "pirates" (term used very loosely). One thing leads to another and eventually you find out that there is way more going on then just a simply conflict and of course Jaster is the key to it all. Even though three-quarters of this is simply recycled ideas from past RPG's, they obviously please the audience or they wouldn't be lasting this long. The story is well written and it sucks you in to the point where you really want to find out what the deal is with Jaster and his friends. Plus in true fashion, the ending is something to see including the very involved final boss battle(s).
Another aspect that is well implemented is the game's active action battle system. Much like Enix's work in Star Ocean, when a battle occurs, players are free to roam around a small battle area and attack in a hack and slash way. Along with a standard attack combo and a side weapon, characters also have abilities they can use to either enhance an attribute of one or all of the party, or cause damage to one or all of the foes in the battle. Item usage, weapon change, and switching characters pretty much round out the standards that make up an RPG. Anyone who was a fan of this style of battle system will not be disappointed here, it proves to be quite satisfying all the while still maintaining a good solid feeling.
Along with a well-written story and a solid battle system, the game itself just looks great.
The planets are beautiful, the beasts are well drawn, the characters are great, and the towns and scenery are just fantastic. The visuals really are stunning for a work of PS2 caliber and you would be daft not to appreciate good artistic work when you see it. Along with all the in game graphics, the cut scenes are simply breathtaking. They do a fantastic job of mixing look and feel and you will wish that there were more of them to see. What could be better then a good looking game? How bout seeing it all with no load times? That's right, aside from the initial loading of the game you get to see all these great visuals load-free. Everything from blooming light effects to excellent use of shadows give the game a great presentation
Of course presentation isn't everything. What would any good RPG be with out a system for learning abilities? Rogue Galaxy fills this requirement with a Revelation Chart for each character. Through filling this chart, the character will learn new abilities as well as increase his or her HP, elemental defense, and AP efficiency. Basically it works like this, each time you win a battle you stand a chance of getting some weird useless item. Coffee beans or an old sock are just a few examples. When you get enough of these items together, you can put them in a character's revelation chart. When you fill a particular section, the character has a "revelation" and learns whatever was in that section. Once a section is filled it could also open up new sections to be filled. The game does a good job of scattering items through out the game and you wont be able to completely fill anyone's chart until you get to the end of the game.
With all of this you also get a plethora of stuff to do along with the game's main story. This includes capturing, raising, training, breeding, and battling insects in the games mini-game. Every RPG has a mini-game and this one is pitting insects in blood hungry one on one combat. Luckily if that sounds completely too much like Pokemon for you, you don't have to participate in it. You won't be missing anything terribly interesting rest assured. Something that may be more worth your time however is the game's optional boss battles. It might be worth mentioning at this point that there is a list of the top 100 bounty hunters. You get points for defeating a certain number of beasts or defeating optional bosses. Jaster starts out at the very bottom of this list and, of course, there are many benefits for making all the way to the top slot. Taking on these optional bosses is crucial in claiming the top spot and they really aren't that difficult either. The game also boasts a weapon synthesis system along with an item synthesis system both of which have the ability to take up butt loads of time if you are so inclined as to dabble in them. Luckily these too are optional and will not hinder you from enjoying the story.
Much like all good RPG's, this one is not without its share of faults. The first and foremost of these problems is the games harsh difficulty level. The battles start out hard and frequent "game over" screens are to be expected along with many, many potions and resurrections. Unfortunately coupled with that is the game's lack of good training areas in the beginning and you never really get much of a chance until you are a bit into the game. A good analogy for the curve is like running as fast as you can into the side of a building. Once you climb the wall and get to the roof of that curve, the game levels out pretty well. This would prove to be a turn off to anyone who is not willing to spend the time to get to that point though. The story joins the difficulty in having a pretty slow start. There is a point where you are wondering if we are ever going to get to meaning behind it all. Luckily, much like Greg says in his review, that point is close in proximity to when things actually start happening. Some other notable flaws are the games score, which is pretty limp as far as RPG standards go, and the games use of roaming dialogue. As you are wandering around the various territories your three party members will speak their mind about whatever they feel like saying. This is incredibly annoying. At first the remarks about how long the player has been playing the game, and that they should probably save soon are a bit novel, but after a bit of that its just like, "Just shut up already!" Especially when they cycle through 4 or 5 different things and that's all. Unfortunately for us, Level 5 did not implement a way to turn this off in the options menu.
Anyone who is a fan of role-playing games will definitely have a good time with Rogue Galaxy. This title delivers on all fronts to give you an involved storyline, satisfying battles, hours of entertainment, all the while looking pretty damn good in the process. Sure the game slaps you in the face with its grueling difficulty, and rubs you the wrong way with the cycled roaming dialogue, but how many games are prefect these days? The faults don't really draw to far from making this game a great bit of fun to play and the recent price point of 20 dollars makes it a steal for the value. Those who were ready to count out the PS2 as being "down and out" have to rethink their analysis at this point, because Rogue Galaxy is a fantastic game that you will only find for the PlayStation 2.
8 out of 10 (4out of 5) --> "Exceeds Excellence"