Rogue Galaxy – PS2 – Preview 2

It’s
the year 2000 all over again. Six years ago we were waiting for the release of
PlayStation 2. As its debut drew closer, game developers launched their final
major RPGs for the current PlayStation. Though ’98 had some biggies, it was
’00 that took the world by storm. At that time I predicted that we would not
see another period like it until the PlayStation 3 was scheduled to arrive.

 

I was
right.

 

Kingdom
Hearts II, Grandia III, Disgaea 2, and Valkyrie Profile 2 are already in
stores and the year’s not over. The long-awaited Final Fantasy XII is just
around the corner, as is the newest chapter in the .hack series. 

 

Level-5’s latest
masterpiece-in-the-making. 

 

On
January 30th, 2007, Sony Computer Entertainment America will release an
all-new RPG series: Rogue Galaxy. The game is incredibly entertaining,
combining elements of Dark Cloud, Kingdom Hearts, and the yet-to-be-released
Final Fantasy XII. The former should come as no surprise — Rogue Galaxy comes
from Level-5, the studio that created the Dark Cloud series.

 

The
latter is probably a coincidence, but the similarity between the Rogue Galaxy
and FFXII upgrade systems is still worth noting. Both use a checkerboard
layout where, once a new skill has been learned, that skill ventures off into
multiple directions. For example, one skill could open the door to four other
potential skills. In Rogue Galaxy, you’ll need to drop specific items into the
skill slots to learn the new moves. FFXII uses points to unlock skills, not
items, but the concept of skill-branching is very similar. Every skill leads
to additional offshoots, creating a tree of skills that will continue to
branch out till the end of the game.

 

Rogue
Galaxy’s gameplay is like a faster, more refined version of Dark Cloud (hence
the comparison to Kingdom Hearts II). Battles are real-time, in full-3D, and
offer full action/RPG attack options. Menu selections allow you to power up
your characters and unleash special attacks. But the majority of your actions
involve physical weapon-to-monster’s-flesh combat. You’ll literally run up and
perform the necessary actions, just as you should in an action RPG. 

 

 

 

The
controls are high-quality, reliable, and easy to use. Automatic targeting can
be turned on and off with the press of a button. Leaving it on is a simple way
to annihilate less difficult monsters. They approach, the battle begins, and
they’re automatically within your sights. You don’t have to adjust the camera
— which is fully controllable and works very well — because the game keeps
the view where it should be focused.

 

As a
diehard fan of the Dark Cloud series, I loved every minute of these battles.
They’re exciting, challenging, and happily familiar without feeling like a
clone. Jumping is typically a pain in these games, but that’s another area
Level-5 has nailed. This was essential to the success of the game, and when
you enter a battle for the first time you’ll know why: Rogue Galaxy features
aerial combos. Some monsters can only be damaged by hitting a specific area of
their body. Thus, you may need to jump and slash the heck out of their upper
half.

 

Weapons
can become infused with elemental powers, greatly increasing the strength of
every blow (for a limited time of course). And while all this is happening,
the player will slowly notice that the graphics are in no way representative
of the genre’s norms. Rogue Galaxy is gorgeous. Most locations look and feel
enormous. Each stage is made more eventful by the graphic style — a
combination of effects that have to be seen.

 

The
character models are top-notch, moving fluidly in and out of battle. I’m also
enjoying the voice acting, which in turn makes the characters very likable. A
skip feature lets you bypass any unwanted story sequences, allowing you to get
back in the game almost immediately. This is not the kind of story you’re
going to want to ignore, but all games need to have a skip function in order
to accommodate the needs of every potential player. 

 

 

 

Coming to a galaxy near you this January, Rogue Galaxy
is a must-play RPG for anyone who loves the Dark Cloud or Kingdom Hearts
series.