Thursday, 24 February 2005
We give you the verdict on the latest must-have RPG for the PS2. Head on in.
I think that we’re all in agreement that Disgaea has been quite simply the most impressive and pleasurable RPG gaming experience on the PS2. Perhaps even going as far as to say the greatest across all the current next generation formats. We've not been to blessed in recent years with quality RPG action. Final Fantasy X disappointed as much as it pleasured, and the less said about Suikoden IV the better. Nippon Ichi (the developers behind Disgaea, and the subject of this review, Phantom Brave) have only recently found their creative talents finding themselves to our shores. And by golly, aren’t we glad they have.
Disgaea was popular among many gamers due to the sheer vast number if things that you’re able to do. The game could quite literally take 400+ hours of total game time to actually fully complete each and every avenue that Nippon Ichi saw fit to include. I mean, not many games can claim that they give you the opportunity to battle inside the world that exist inside each weapon and item in your inventory in order to up the particular items stats. But offer that Disgaea did.
On first glances, you’re expecting nothing more than a straight sequel of sorts when you pop Phantom Brave into your PS2. The simple (but gorgeous) 2D graphics are there in abundance. The ability to progress your party to incredible levels of power. The fantastic voice acting that fits each character superbly.
But with the aesthetics being merely 2D, you’d be somewhat forgiven if you’d expect a poor graphical display. Admittedly, the in game graphics aren’t anything particularly special. The animation and detail on each character is very impressive, but the overall affect doesn’t equal something that’s going to cause your pals who aren’t into the pursuit of gaming to let their jaws drop to their feet. But the special attacks, oh the special attacks are something else. Your treated to an astonishing graphical feast for your eyes to peruse over when you have the opportunity to make use of one of these more outlandish moves. But for once, the feats doesn’t stop with merely your eyes. Your ears get as big a treat. While the Prinny’s of Disgaea may be sadly missed, the voice acting, and the subtle humour it’s filled with is something else. Plus us PAL gamers are treated to a bonus soundtrack CD with the game, so we can replay our favourite musical moments time and time again.
In a change from Disgaea, the grid based movement system has been completely removed. You know have a certain number of points with which to move with at each turn, and a certain area you can attack into at the end of each turn. Despite the confusion at first thanks to the removal of the stabilisers that is the grid based system, it becomes quite the fantastic way to move around the area of each level. It's one of those features that you can fully compare to another game currently on the market. It's sort of a mixture of aspects, ranging from sources such as Grandia II, to Final Fantasy.
The game itself plays across as a number of scenario’s (20 to be exact). That may not sound like too great a number, but be assured that Phantom Brave will last you a fair old while. The story itself is somewhat, odd shall we say. Marona is a 13 year old with a special ability. She has ability to communicate with phantoms. Utilising this strange and unique ability, she traverses the land with “Ash the Phantom” in order to “resolve disputes around the world”. Okay so it may be the most wildly in depth storyline, but the simple fact is that not only is it enjoyable, it does encourage you to keep progressing. The subtle humour thats much abundant throughout the entire length of the game, as well as the well structured characters that have a suprising level of depth add greatly to the overall package.
But it’s during battle where the real pleasure takes place. The area your placed in to which you’ll make bloody war is a simple sand box of creativity. You make good use of each and every single object (with your Phantom’s, or in a literal sense) to give you an advantage. The huge depth of strategy that you can employ during each battle is somewhat immense, and you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself quite weighed down with ideas in your head and how you think they would play out. With the random generated dungeons in which you’ll make battle, you’ll never have one battle pan out the same way. Plus the fantastic tutorial you’ll be offered with allows you to get the grips with the games basics straight away, giving more time to coming up with grand strategic plans.
Just like Disgaea, Phantom Brave is an innovative, and superb gaming experience from start to finish. While building up characters to obscenely high numbered levels may not be to everyone’s taste, the simple enjoyment gathered from taking Phantom Brave for a whirl is difficult to beat. Hopefully a few more of you will look past the “cutesy” appearance, and fall in love with a game that doesn’t star some cookie-cutter gritty hero. Just give Phantom Brave a chance. You may need to put in a great amount of effort to gain true understanding to the deep complexities of the game itself, but I do urge you all to give Phantom Brave at least a chance between more higher profile purchases. You’ll thank me for it.