I may be dating myself, but a really great period of gaming for me was back when the Sega Saturn was trying to maintain some sort of foothold in the industry, and began pumping out some really solid Japanese-based RPGs, revamped in English so I could understand what was going on. I remember fondly staying up entirely too late during the week, playing games like Mystaria, Lunar, Magic Knight Rayearth and the Shining series. These games all featured the stereotypical manga-style characters with furry creatures, despicable evils and wild, colorful hair. Maybe this is why I felt good about Hexyz Force – there is much for a gamer like me to enjoy.
So, the game starts out with a back-story involving human, non-humans (think animal/human hybrids) and powerful creatures called Divinities all teaming up to stop the ultimate evil (sarcasm) in the form of the God of Destruction. Ultimately, thanks to the Divinities, the God was defeated but with this victory came an ominous warning of the coming of impending doom. Now I know, we are really pulling the clichés out in full, but go with me, the game does have a decent payoff.
Fast forward and the game splits between its two main protagonists, a junior cleric named Cecelia, who is tapped to be a future Divinity, and Levent, a soldier in service to the emperor. What made this title a bit more engaging to me was that you play as each of these characters individually (apart) with their intertwining stories occasionally coming together and ultimately coming to a final, climactic head with the God of Destruction. I say this, but understand that each character has his/her own team of adventurers with them fighting and, well, helping complete the tasks at hand. It’s not anything new, but the well fleshed-out characters of Cecelia and Levent add much credibility to the game. These individual stories are almost complete on their own with enough questing and storyline to fill a full-blown console RPG. In fact, the game has more than 30 hours of gaming in it, if not more.
And it’s the little things that make the game engaging. Levent is not fond of the non-humans in the game, and of course he is ordered by the emperor to work with them towards a greater good. throughout this course Levent has his eyes opened and you can see the thought process and the character development from a cocky, elitist soldier to battle-worn warrior. I liked it. Again, the game is not reinventing the wheel; there are many things that are well-worn plot devices, but it’s when a solid game developer takes on a game and does things right, it’s such a pleasure to play.
The game has an interesting take on the turn-based battles. Meaning, it is pretty standard stuff, keeping an eye on your characters power meter to dish out regular or special attacks or managing the characters in-game magic is all run-of-the-mill stuff and while not completely unappreciated, it certainly could have used a dose of modern imagination. I know, you can’t have it both ways, a throw-back classic turn-based RPG with new, creative magic and battle systems. Hey, a player can dream right?
The cut scenes are always appreciated and I hate to admit how well our heroine is drawn; the full-blown anime is cool to see and drives the story forward. I always wonder if these game have full anime series in Japan and the scenes are pulled from it. The in-game graphics, while not as smooth and full as the cut scenes, are full of quality production value. Bright, colorful sprites light up the PSP when magic is unleashed. Well made and designed locations with interesting looking characters all prove that the developers graduated top in their class.
I can’t help but feel the game would have a real good run on a console and I hope to see it on the PS3 soon, available for download at the store.
Now what kind of game would this be if it didn’t have top-notch sound effects. Yes, the thundering magic that looks so good, also sounds pretty good. I have been championing the PSP’s ability to pump out decent sound ever since the game Pursuit Force. Here is a game that manages to push the system in the right direction. No, it is not perfect – far from it, but it does a good job of adding a certain element to the game’ gravitas. Regardless, the game possesses a decent soundtrack that does change with the mood and tempo of the game. This complements the better-than-average sound effects.