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   Rogue Galaxy - Reader Review  

"Arrrrrr" Wars!
by omegabyte

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Progressively Easy
COMPLETION TIME
40 to 50 hours
OVERALL

4.5/5

Rating definitions 

   "An eternal voyage through the murky blackness sprinkled with billions of points of light, each with its own history written there in the dark. This is a story inscribed on one such point of light - a story of heroes." These words begin your voyage into the world of Rogue Galaxy, an adventure that spans six planets, each diverse in its cultures, customs, and environments. Plus, you get to be a space pirate, and who could say no to that?

   The story begins on the desert planet of Rosa, where local boy Jaster meets up with a mysterious hooded figure. When a vicious monster attacks the town, the man gives Jaster the legendary Seven Star Sword, the Desert Seeker, with which to defeat it. One dead monster and case of mistaken identity later, Jaster finds himself on board the Dorgenark, the ship of famed space pirate Dorgengoa, playing the role of the legendary hunter Desert Claw. From here your journeys through the solar system are catalogued through thirteen exciting chapters that will bring you in contact with friends, foes, and even long lost family.

Climb aboard, me hearties, and welcome to your new home! Now get to scrubbin' the deck! Climb aboard, me hearties, and welcome to your new home! Now get to scrubbin' the deck!

   Unfortunately, while the story manages to be entertaining throughout, it fails to be anything more than average, and the real story of the game doesn't even start until the sixth chapter, the first five being used to develop the characters and their reasons for being aboard the Dorgenark. There are many rather unbelievable coincidences that drive the plot, but thankfully the excellent character development makes up for the weak story. Every character, whether it be hero or villain, has his moment to shine, and learning more about the characters themselves is more likely to keep you playing than learning what happens next.

   In the game play department, Rogue Galaxy is a huge success. Much like the Kingdom Hearts series, battles take place on the dungeon map, without awkward, screen-shattering transition scenes, and they all take place in real time. Each character has a ranged and melee weapon, which can be fired/swung with the square and X buttons respectively. Characters can also guard and jump and the battle menu can be brought up at anytime, pausing the battle while you select items and special abilities to use. You are also given an action gauge, which goes down with every swing, shot, and ability you use. When it runs out, you can no longer perform any offensive actions until it refills, which takes a few seconds, but can be instantly restored by successfully guarding against an attack. Ranged weapons are doubly affected by this, as they also have an ammo gauge that acts in the same way.

   If mindlessly swinging your sword gets boring, there are other options available to you. You can pick up debris and even enemies and throw them around, and many enemies have special guards that require specific strategies in order to defeat. For example, exceptionally large enemies can only be damaged by jumping and striking them in the head, and some enemies have shields that must first be broken by a power attack, performed by holding and then releasing the attack button. There are even some enemies with barriers so strong that they can only be broken by Jaster's Barrier Break Shot gun, which is acquired midway through the game. All these elements, and the ability to control any of the eight characters in battle, ensure that they never get boring, and often times can be more life-threatening than boss fights.

I'm not sure where the captain went, but there's a good chance this guy ate him. I'm not sure where the captain went, but there's a good chance this guy ate him.

   Speaking of boss fights, Rogue Galaxy's are all extremely well designed, and it is one of the elements of the game that really stood out for me. Most of them require special tactics in order to defeat, and some of them even make fiendishly brilliant use of the battle environments themselves. For example, at one point you will be fighting a giant, electrified frog in a shallow lake. However, if you try to fight it while standing in the water, the creature will electrify it, quickly sapping your health. Instead, you need to make sure to fight the beast on dry land, where your characters are grounded against the vicious attack. Most of the boss fights play out like puzzles rather than actual battles, lending them a very Legend of Zelda feel that action RPG fans will adore. However, a few of the fights in the middle stages of the game lose this quality, which is unfortunate, but as the game reaches its conclusion you will find one of the most exciting marathons of a battle you've ever experienced.

   Aside from battles, Rogue Galaxy has a number of features to keep you occupied, including two methods of item creation, an insect-battling mini-game, and the Revelation Flow, which is used to develop your characters skills and abilities. The Revelation Flow bears a striking resemblance to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid, but is not nearly as open ended. Using various items you find on your journey, you can place them in each character's Revelation Flow to teach them new skills and unlock further ones. The items required increase in rarity as the skills get more powerful, and many can't even be found until the final chapters of the game, which ensures that you'll never unlock skills that are too powerful for the area you're exploring.

   Visually, the game seems to take a page from another of Level 5's well-received creations, Dragon Quest VIII. All the characters are wonderfully cel-shaded, and the world environments are lavish and detailed. The science-fiction elements of the game somehow manage to convince the player that there is no science fiction involved at all, featuring space ships in the shape of schooners rather than rockets, and characters wielding swords and other primitive weaponry, creating a world that is both fantasy and sci-fi at the same time. Each character also has five collectable costumes each, allowing the player to select their favorite appearance for each one, and these costumes appear in all cut scenes aside from the breathtaking prerendered ones.

   The voice acting is excellent, with virtually no performances that could be considered less than superb. The music has a very epic feel to it, featuring melodies played with low brass instrumentation, as well as very opera-esque chanting vocals. Each planet also has a very distinct feel to much of the background music, but none of it is as memorable or impressive as the main themes that are repeated in key parts of the story.

   Rogue Galaxy is unusual for a party-based RPG in that there are no healing spells in the game, forcing you to rely on items for its entirety. This leads to a very unusual difficulty level, where the game can be quite challenging in the early areas where monetary funds are low and balancing between healing items and equipment can be difficult, and later in the game, where money is easy to get and you'll spend most of the time with a full stock and cash to spare. In fact, by the time I reached the eighth chapter, I had a surplus of about 100,000 zehn. By the final chapter I was sitting on 700,000 zehn with nothing to do with it. The whole game takes between 40 and 50 hours to complete, but you can spend a lot longer if you take time out for mini-games or the three major side quests, one of which is a breathtaking water planet added exclusively for the North American release.

   While the strange, backwards difficulty curve is a bit underwhelming, Rogue Galaxy manages to be an enjoyable, exciting game filled with memorable characters, epic battles, and lots of wholesome piratey fun.

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