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Game Review

by Andrew Yoon,

Rogue Galaxy


Rogue Galaxy
Jaster Rogue has lived a simple life on the sandy desert planet of Rosa. One day, a beast attacks his hometown, and Jaster attempts to stop it. With the help of a mysterious hooded man, and gifted with his weapon, Jaster defeats the creature. His feat leads him to be mistaken as the legendary bounty hunter, Desert Claw. And so, Jaster joins a ragtag team of space pirates onboard the Dorgenark. Under the guise of Desert Claw, Jaster sets out on a journey that takes him across the galaxy.

What makes a game perfect? Good graphics? Great story? Fun gameplay? Name the elements that make a game worthwhile, and you'll find it in Rogue Galaxy. This new RPG comes from Level 5, famous for their work on the Dark Cloud series, and more notably, Dragon Quest VIII. This talented team clearly has a knack for developing RPGs, and it's clear that Rogue Galaxy is their finest yet. The great graphics and truly compelling gameplay combine to create an experience that is nothing short of sublime: Rogue Galaxy is one of the best RPGs of this generation.

Surely, that must be a difficult accomplishment, especially so soon after the release of Square's behemoth Final Fantasy XII. It's easy to try and compare the two as they share a great deal of similarities. They both feature real-time RPG combat, AI-controlled partners, and a massive, days-long quest. They both draw from the same influences: Star Wars, in particular.

However, as easy as it would be to compare Rogue Galaxy to Square's beloved franchise, one just has to look at what Rogue Galaxy has to offer in order to see how much it succeeds on its own merits. Visually, it ranks as one of the better looking titles on Sony's aging platform. Like the rest of Level 5's catalog, the game features cel-shaded graphics. However, the graphics engine has matured quite a bit: the character models are attractive, but the environments are even more stellar. Level 5 has packed in quite a large amount of detail in the game: there are tons of NPCs, and the backgrounds are littered with objects. Although the game is cel-shaded, the copious amount of detail makes it feel alive.

The animated look of the game works so well that the transitions from the pre-rendered movies to real-time gameplay feel almost natural. While it's obvious that the pre-rendered movies feature a greater level of detail, it doesn't feel as jarring of a change as other games in the genre. Considering how beautiful the cinemas are, this is a great compliment to the game's graphics. Stylistically, the game doesn't feature too much originality. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer variety. If the title didn't clue you in, this game spans quite a great deal of (literal) space. The various planets that the player will explore each feature a distinct look and feel, which is translated not only through the environments, but the characters as well. The way NPCs are presented range from styles inspired by Osamu Tezuka, to Akira Toriyama. Expect to experience the anime archetypal gamut through the characters and the environments themselves: you'll journey through a futuristic city with the requisite flying cars, a jungle with an indigenous tribe, etc. Once again, although it may not be original, the game certainly covers a great variety of material.

Of course, having such a wide range of planets to explore won't mean anything if the story isn't compelling. Like its visuals, Rogue Galaxy's story proudly ventures into well-explored concepts and themes. Try to see if you can think of a popular story that resembles Rogue Galaxy's premise in any way: an adopted boy lives in a desert planet, covered in sand. An evil empire has been enslaving his people, and the boy dreams of nothing more than to leave, and explore the galaxy. Eventually, he meets a robot with a European accent, and so his journey begins: to uncover the truth behind the empire and learn of his origins. If you guessed Star Wars, you get a gold star. While the game's premise may seem to come from the mind of George Lucas, other inspirations find their way into the story as well. Most notably, one can see Hayao Miyazaki's influence in the game. Certainly, the giant flying ships have a hint of Nausicaä.

Criticizing Rogue Galaxy for its heavy reliance of clichés and archetypes is a little unjustified, especially considering the genre it finds itself in. Regardless of the familiarity of the story, the execution is still flawless. The story is broken up into distinct chapters, each featuring a fairly specific problem to overcome. In many ways, the game plays like an anime series: each chapter continues the larger story, but it mainly focuses on the problem at hand. The episodic nature of the game's storytelling allows players to experience a huge variety of events, each with a satisfying conclusion. It's great to see how the characters you journey with react to each scenario, and how they grow and develop over the course of the game's dozen chapters.

Ultimately, the game's story is driven by its characters, and all of them are quite likable. The incredible script and voice acting certainly makes the process of relating to the characters far easier. Having an interest in the characters not only makes the story more compelling, but makes the gameplay that much more enjoyable as well. The battle system relies on your understanding of your character's abilities, and because you'll always have three members in your team at all times, you'll have to understand their unique attributes to truly succeed.

The player always has direct control over one character. Players can then use their weapons in real time, switching between enemies. The basic melee combat, although simple, is a lot of fun. Simply button mashing the sword will produce satisfying results, but there is far more depth to the combat. Jaster has both a melee and long-range weapon, and understandably, there's a reload time with his weapon. Enemies will be more vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks, which the player will want to keep in mind when planning out a strategy. There are also environmental considerations to take into account: there might be boxes, or other items, lying on the ground which can be picked up and thrown at enemies. Certain enemies will need to be frozen, or stepped on, in order to be vulnerable to damage. Other enemies may have armor, which can only be destroyed in a specific way. There's a lot to think about in each battle, making each enemy encounter fun, challenging, and satisfying.

Of course, that only scratches the surface of the battle system. The player must also manage the behavior of his computer-controlled partners. There are simple commands which affect both your AI teammates, but there are other considerations as well. During the battle, characters will ask for suggestions, and you will be able to press the corresponding button to tell them what to do. Of course, if you're more of a hands-on person, you can also simply switch control to that character. It's executed incredibly well in the game, happening on the fly. Each character has a truly distinct feel, which is surprising considering how the button layout is exactly the same. It's a startling change, and some may be unable to use other characters besides Jaster effectively.

There's still more to the battle system that simply won't fit within this review. A variety of special moves are learned over the course of the game, each with unique attributes. Some will require extra button presses, and others are simple spells that can be used at any time. There is a great deal of complexity, but it is incredibly easy to understand and manage. The game does a great job of slowly introducing new elements, making battle seem fresh all the time. By the time you reach the first boss, your repetetoire has expanded quite a great deal, but it's miniscule compared to what the game will ultimately offer.

Every aspect of this game is massive: from the gameplay possibilities, to the actual locales themselves. Each world that you visit could house a game in and of itself. There's miles upon miles of places to see, and simply exploring would take hours. Thankfully, Level 5 has smartly placed save points all over the place: each save point also acts as a teleporter, allowing you to seamlessly and easily jump from one point to another. You won't ever be more than ten minutes away from a save point, which gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace, and easily access any significant area quickly and easily: there's no boring backtracking whatsoever.

There's more than six planets to explore, which will undoubtedly provide countless hours of fun. Even after clocking 40 hours into the game, you'll feel like there's still so much more to do, simply because there is so much more to do. Thanks to the real-time battles, multiple characters, and incredible levels of customization, the main adventure never gets repetitive or old. But, the game offers so much more: you'll be able to create your own weapons, partake in a unique insect-battling game, create your own items for sale, and more. The countless distractions you can find in your journey can easily make Rogue Galaxy a lifelong game. Even beating the game opens up a whole new world of adventure (and I mean that literally).

With great graphics, a fantastic battle system, and an enjoyable storyline, Rogue Galaxy offers more than what a gamer could possibly want from a great RPG. Even this review only briefly touches upon the incredible possibilities hidden within the game. Don't be afraid, adventurer. Pick up Rogue Galaxy and expect to never leave your TV for weeks, no, months, to come.

Overall : A-
Graphics : A-
Sound/Music : B+
Gameplay : A-
Presentation : A+

+ Great graphics. Engaging story with solid voice acting. Fun, frantic battle system. Gargantuan levels and gameplay features. Almost no load times.
No widescreen support. Partner AI lacks the precision of Final Fantasy XII.

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