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   Brave Story: New Traveler - Staff Review  

Simple, Elegant Story
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Brave Story: New Traveler
PLATFORM
PSP
BATTLE SYSTEM
5
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
3
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
4
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
20-50 Hours
OVERALL
4.0
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Since its release, the PlayStation Portable has not been overflowing with original RPG content. What few new RPGs it has received have been less than stellar for the most part. When XSEED Games announced the localization of Brave Story: New Traveler, a title developed by Game Republic, many of those who knew nothing of the Japanese version wrote it off as nothing more than another game that would likely just do "massive damage" to the PSP's "weak point." That was a mistake as Brave Story is an impressive little RPG.

   Based loosely around a Japanese novel titled Brave Story, New Traveler features the novel's world known as Vision and cameos from the novel's characters, but the story's main focus is on an entirely new cast. This light-hearted epic begins with a young boy from the real world being summoned to Vision to try to save his friend who has inexplicably slipped into a coma. Promised that a trip to Vision could gain him the power to have a wish granted, this youth ventures forth without fear into an unknown world of grand adventures. The story as a whole is not extremely deep, but what really drives the game is its cast of loveable characters. From Yuno, the curious half-kitkin (half-catgirl) that follows the main character from the very beginning, to Sogreth, the waterkin (lizard-man) father that is rough on the outside, but tender-hearted deep down; the personalities characterized within this crew is touching without being cheesy.

Under Arrest! Stop Catgirl Harassment Today

   Combat is another highlight of Brave Story. Each character features a unique selection of skills known as Bravura Skills. This includes not only the main characters but the temporary guest characters as well. These skills are well-distributed as well, with characters gaining a new one every few levels. While the game can be rather heavy with random encounters, it doesn't cause the player to have a lot of downtime thanks to some wonderful game mechanics. Points used for Bravura Skills can be gained back in combat through attacking, even with those very skills. The more efficient the attack, the more points that are awarded back to the character. Leveling up is also handled very well, as characters that are not in battle still gain a little bit of experience, so that they don't drop too far behind if left out of the main party. Another interesting feature is that characters in the main party can level up during combat as enemies are still being defeated, sometimes gaining a new skill mid-battle. Players are also rewarded for teaming up the hero with different characters by gain of Unity skills. These skills can be gained with a partner or with a group of two. Unity skills only take up one character's turn, letting that character perform a Unity skill, while still allowing the teamed character a chance to act during that round. Brave Story truly excels in combat by taking these simple enhancements and applying them to the traditional turn-based battle system to provide a fresh experience. It shows that innovation is still possible without moving completely away from this standard.

   Game interaction within Brave Story: New Traveler is a strange hit and miss combination; it is wonderful in some areas and yet lacking in others. Most impressive is the non-existent loading times upon encountering enemies or at any other point in the game. Many PlayStation Portable games have been notorious for having loading times in some of the most annoying places, so the seamless transition that Brave Story offers is extraordinary. Oddly enough, Brave Story does not allow saving on the world map, but instead offers save points at inns and within most every dungeon. Sometimes dungeons even feature more than one save point, one at the beginning and one near the end. These save points always seem to be accompanied by a healing point as well, giving players the option to recover or not.

   Even though the game is not over abundant with equipment, changing out what weapons, armor, and accessories the player finds or makes is easy enough. Item making is introduced early on, and it will have gamers searching through dungeons and fighting monsters to gather recipes and the needed items for them. Once the recipe and items have been gathered, making the new item is easy enough, but the menu doesn't sort the recipes in much of a meaningful order, so knowing what each crafted item does can be confusing. Along with crafted items, players can also participate in side quests that will help them acquire new items as well. These quests are off the main storyline, so even though the story is rather linear, the quests give a reason to revisit old locations.

Bug Attack Bugs, I hate bugs.

   Brave Story is a well-polished RPG, but it doesn't exceed any expectations for a 2007 PlayStation Portable title. Cut scenes are vividly colored and are handled with the in-game engine. In combat, enemies are full of life and will move around almost taunting the party during the command selection process. The overworld and dungeons are not extremely impressive visually, but the characters and their artwork are portrayed very well. The game's soundtrack is adequate, but not outstanding, as many tracks are used over and over with none really shining. Voice acting is quite limited, but is a welcomed addition that was not in the Japanese version. The few scenes that feature spoken dialogue are performed quite sufficiently.

   Those wanting to experience all that Brave Story: New Traveler has to offer will have around fifty hours of gameplay. This time includes what it takes to get through not only the main story, but one optional dungeon, multiple item quests, and the Bird Catching/Brawling mini-game. After completing the main quest, players can continue on to explore further with not only their main party, but with the game's guest characters now available. There is little incentive to do so however, as nothing new is accessible. The game is not difficult, but a few of the later boss battles can be more challenging, involving not only skill, but luck as well. The dungeon layouts are rather straightforward and uninspired, making exploration more tedious than problematic.

   On the surface, Brave Story might seem like just a basic turn-based RPG and it is. However this game does many of the little things right in a way that makes it seem like so much more. With innovations to the traditional turn-based combat system such as being able to level up during combat, Brave Story: New Traveler is enjoyable to play. The combat system just tops it off as loveable characters, a light-hearted story, and good quality pacing make this package a solid experience for any RPGamer.

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