So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Level-5 Rogue Galaxy
An excellent RPG
- Everything you'd want in a console RPG
- The battle system is not as deep as it could be
The game has a few minor annoyances -- the battle system needs work -- but Rogue Galaxy truly stands on its own, and is a game that every RPG gamer should experience for themselves.
Price$ 79.95 (AUD)
Most of you are still probably fighting your way through the world of Ivalice, but some of us have already climbed to the top of that particular mountain. Although the memories of our time with Square-Enix's latest opus is still fresh in my mind, the need for the next great RPG game has been building ever since the ending credits began to roll.
A quick scan of the RPG landscape turned up a few promising titles on the distant horizon but nothing really jumped out at me — at least, not until I put a copy of Rogue Galaxy into my PS2.
Talk about having your prayers answered. Rogue Galaxy is nothing short of excellent. It's the little sibling to developer Level 5's previous successes, Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon's Quest VIII, and it does just about everything right. Although it doesn't stray far from the tried-and-true RPG formula or genre conventions — the story, for example, follows the "restless youth must rise up to save the world/universe" formula to the letter — Rogue Galaxy is so brilliantly designed and paced that it's less a video game and more a genuine adventure.
The rippling muscle of cel-shade
Traditionally, RPG gamers have been the most forgiving when it came to a game's graphics. Take a look at some of the early efforts on the PC, if you need proof: games from that era relied on simplistic pixels and blocks to represent monsters and treasure chests. Of course, the emphasis was on the story and the experience more than the graphics — it was the video game equivalent of the old adage, "It's what's on the inside that counts."
However, thanks to a little title called Final Fantasy VII, console RPG gamers have become accustomed to a certain visual standard. Rogue Galaxy clearly has the chops to reach that lofty peak. The game has some of the finest graphics seen on the PS2. With smooth outlines and vivid colour, there is so much detail in every character you can actually see the definition in their muscles. (Sorry Vaan, those tattooed on six-pack abs don't quite cut it.) The quality of the cinema are also amazing; it's no exaggeration to say that they bring to mind the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the critically acclaimed director of such movies as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke.
Adding to the richness of the storytelling is the superb voice acting, which gives every character, no matter how minor, unexpectedly rich personalities. Your party members will constantly talk to you, lending advice as to the task at hand, or simply to fill the quiet spaces with chatter. It's a nice touch, and one that really fleshes out the gaming experience.
Oh, mighty Auron
I was also pleasantly surprised by the lack of loading times in Rogue Galaxy, a feature that lends a sense of cohesiveness to the game. When it is time to battle, monsters appear organically creeping out of bushes and shadows to confront your forces. The battles are random, but due to the lack of load time, they feel anything but. They come at an even pace, and are never overwhelming or tiresome. When the battle finishes, a screen comes up displaying stat increases and items gained, but you can continue to play as this is going on.
Bear in mind that Rogue's battle system feels limited and clunky, especially when compared to FFXII's Gambit system, but there is enough depth to keep you on your toes. Battles are fought in real-time with the typical party of three. You control one of the characters, while the other two fight according to pre-set orders. Party members shout suggestions on how to act next, as special moves and healing only occur by selecting them from the menu.
When this happens, info on what buttons to push to initiate actions appear. This crowds the screen, especially while battling in tight corridors making it hard to see what's going on. Special attacks in the game, called burning strikes, happen much the same way. After beginning the attack, specific buttons must be pushed in sequence to deliver a powerful blow.
It's the girth that counts
Rogue Galaxy isn't the longest game out there, but it is filled with entertaining extras that will keep you coming back for more. The story line should take somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 hours, but factoring in all the side quests and mini-games doubles that number.
Rogue Galaxy is what every RPG should strive to be: an immersive experience that places you in a new world populated by intriguing characters. It's backed by an engaging and accessible story, possesses an intuitive control scheme and maintains a sense of depth will have you gladly coming back for more.
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