I’m not gonna hide the fact that I don’t particularly like Final Fantasy XII. It was too much like an online game to me; the running around just went on and on and on and it pretty much sucked all the fun out of exploring. Fortunately for me, there is a game out there, that I wished had been FF XII, but is a game of its own. Rogue Galaxy from Level 5.

Plattform: Playstation 2
Utvecklare: Level 5
Utgivare: Sony Computer Entertainment
Släppdatum: 30 januari 2007 (US)
Köp här: eBay

The adventure starts on the desert planet Rosa. Here lives Jaster, an orphan who wants to become a space pirate. And he gets his chance sooner than expected. The planet is under forced Longardian rule. In a mix of events he is mistaken for the legendary hunter Desert Claw and is taken aboard the infamous pirate ship – the Dorgenark. This is when he first meets the ship’s crew; the robot Steve, Simon – a short, tubby fellow, the pirate captain’s daughter Kisala and the dark and mysterious Zegram. Since they all believe him to be Desert Claw, Jaster sees no point in telling them otherwise since this is his chance of getting to explore the vast galaxy.

Now here’s something that actually disappointed me a little. I’ve read so much about this “vast galaxy” and how the US-version of the game would get one more planet to explore, that I honestly thought this universe would be huge. But it’s not, really. There are like five planets to visit and although their dungeons are gigantic and fun to explore, I kind of expected something more. Not that the lack of planets makes RG a bad game, but it sort of leaves you with this “is this it?”-feeling.

Like I said, the dungeons are huge. Prepare for a lot of running around and prepare for many fights to come. The battles are a lot of fun in this game. Before a struggle is about to begin, the word “warning” starts blinking on the screen and then the enemies appear. Some might think that this is just old fashioned random encounters, but I disagree. There’s no wait time for the fight to start, there’s no shifting of scenes or other annoying things, and everything takes place right where you stand. It’s like a happy blend between Final Fantasy XII and Chrono Trigger.

You control Jaster (unless you’ve chosen someone else) and you use the X-button to wield your main weapon (in Jaster’s case a sword) and the square-button to make use of the sub weapon (something similar to a gun). Hack’n’slash! My favorite battle style. There’s no need to worry about the other characters. They have amazing AI and you can of course control them some through the strategy menu. None of that complicated Gambit stuff as in FF XII, thank god… Ever so often your comrades will shout Jaster’s name, and on screen you will see suggestions of actions they can perform and that you are free to choose. Use these suggestions wisely, as they almost always come at the right time (healing items, strong attacks, etc).

Your characters have an action gauge and if the gauge drops to zero they cannot use items or fight. Then you can either run around waiting for it to refill or simply press R1 to block and if you’re hit during that time, the gauge will magically be recharged in a split second. One big surprise is, seeing as RG is an RPG, that there is no magic to be used. There are abilities of course, and I love using them. They occur instantly. And, instead of magic, you have to completely rely on items, but that’s not a problem because there are so many good ones. If you don’t want to fight, you can just run down the path you were going and you will eventually be asked if you wanna keep on fighting or run away.

Exploring the huge dungeons is fun, there are lots of treasures to be found, but there is one downside to this. Rogue Galaxy has some really amazing graphics; cel-shading complementing the characters, surroundings, architecture, nature and the universe itself. But after a while, you start noticing how it’s all repeating itself. It is unfortunate but RG is a victim of copy-paste graphics. Of course, it’s pretty to look at, but in some places, when everything looks the same, you start to wonder if you’ve been down that path before. Luckily there are great maps to help you along your way and something even better is that once you find all the save spots on a planet, all the treasures will be marked with a bright yellow dot on the map. As you can imagine, you spend a lot of time treasure hunting, just as the game suggests you should, since you’ve taken on the role of a space pirate.

The characters are really a colorful bunch. Later into the game you recruit the lizard-like Jupis, the bulldog Deego and the amazon of the jungle – Lilika. She’s everything I wish that Fran in FF XII would have been. The voice actors do an OK job, some better than others, but overall good. The soundtrack, composed by Tomohito Nishiura (Dark Cloud 1 and 2), is a very nice one. There are several beautiful songs like “The Ruined Castle”, “Shadow of the Sun”, “The Prison”, “The Cave of a Mine”, “Wandering Way”, “Le Marie Glennecia”, “Enormous Threat” and the breathtaking and sorrowful “The Holy Valley”. Perhaps Nishiura is no Uematsu, but this soundtrack has the potential of becoming a classic.

What I like most about Rogue Galaxy, is how much fun you have when you are playing it. There are mini-games, secret bosses to find and to fight, a very easy and smart synthesizing system for weapons and something similar to a sphere grid for your characters to learn new skills. Making it through all the dungeons and visiting the planets never feels like a hassle. I was enjoying myself the entire time and ran away from no more than five battles. The fights are so much fun that you should hardly ever run, they really are hard to get tired of.

The game lacks a little in story, but it wins my heart with its accessibility. It’s hard to stop playing once you get into it. I think Level 5 have really outdone themselves and I can’t wait to see what kind of RPG they will create to top this one off. In the meantime, I think it’s in every RPGamer’s best interest to give this game a go.



Skriven: 2007-05-10