BRAVE STORY: NEW TRAVELER - PSP - Preview

In the past, there wasn’t much of a reason to develop RPGs for kids. Kids want action and excitement, not dialogue and character development. They want real-time combat, not turn-based battles. Though I’ve been playing games since before my sixth birthday, I did not become a fan of RPGs until I turned 14.

These days are different. Pokemon made turn-based gameplay popular among kids, while Harry Potter encouraged millions of kids to do something they may have previously dreaded – pick up a book. These and other changes have made it possible for RPG developers to persuade gamers at a younger age. At the same time, games like Brave Story: New Traveler not only simplify the task of jumping into the genre, but also make it very inviting.

 
Friend or foe?

A Brave New World

Tatsuya, our hero, is a normal boy: he loves video games and has a hard time paying attention to others while clutching his PSP. Miki, our leading lady, is a normal (if not a little crazy) girl: she’d rather admire the weather than play a video game. The two are together for about the length of time that couples are happy on TV dramas. Before Tatsuya has the chance to pause his game and say, “I think I love you,” Miki falls into the hands of evil. Tatsuya, determined to save her from an endless slumber, finds the courage to lay down his PSP and go on a real journey, one that will take him through dozens of turn-based battles – and have him explore a beautifully detailed world not unlike those featured in the PSone Final Fantasy games.

On his way to save the girl of his dreams, Tatsuya meets four inquisitive guardians. Each guardian asks which you’d prefer to have: brains or brawns. The resulting choices form your character’s strength, HP, and other functions. Every choice has a significant purpose. I only chose to go with brute force because that’s my preferred play style. I’d rather go in for the kill than raise my defenses and hope to defeat an enemy over time.

Thus far the music is sounding very impressive. It’s deep and noticeably emotional, even before the game takes a darker turn. Right now it seems that Brave Story’s version of darkness is still pretty lighthearted. The story appears to be your typical tale of boy-saves-girl, and I don’t expect anything along an Aeris death scene to occur in the final game. Then again, RPGs are supposed to be full of twists and turns. Perhaps we’re just being led to believe that the game is lighthearted, when in fact something deeply evil is just waiting to be unearthed.

 

Bam! Thwack!

Brave Story’s turn-based battles are eerily (and satisfyingly) close to the Final Fantasy series. Every menu selection gets straight to the point. If you choose to attack, Tatsuya will strike immediately. Enemies retaliate quickly – there aren’t many seconds of waiting for something to occur, or any strange moments where the game does not appear to be doing anything. The speed is enhanced through exaggerated animations, colorful attacks, and comic book-style words to signify each and every hit. It’s an eye-opening combination that puts this game above and beyond the visuals of most handheld RPGs. Though there are a couple of other graphically stunning RPGs available for the PSP, you won’t find graphics anywhere near this quality on the DS.

For further proof, take a walk through any of the level environments. They’re absolutely stunning. The lighting, textures, and overall feel and scope of each stage are really unique for a handheld game. With strange bird creatures in the opening sequence (that were likely inspired by Chocobos) and a lead character who has not yet reached adulthood, it’s easy to write this one off as a kiddie release. But the hilarious intro, engaging combat, impressive music and out-of-this-world graphics should keep those who are skeptical from scramming.

 

Traveling to PSPs on July 31, Brave Story: New Traveler looks and plays like a killer RPG – even if it does turn out to be too lighthearted for its own good. Expect hours of exciting battles, at least a few simple puzzles, and the most detailed and thoroughly designed world map ever seen in a PSP RPG.

Stay close to GameZone as we bring further coverage of the game leading up to its release.

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