Phantom Brave: Hermuda Triangle Review

Originally released for the PlayStation 2 all the way back in 2005, Phantom Brave has returned, this time on the PSP. Aptly titled Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle, the game’s name is pretty much the only thing that has been changed.

The Hermuda Triangle is, for all intents and purposes, a direct port of the original, even lacking the additions and tweaks made for its Wii sibling Phantom Brave: We Meet Again. While this does make the game feel a little like an afterthought, fortunately it doesn’t ruin the entire experience.

Like the franchise’s previous entries, the game tells the story of Marona, an orphaned 13-year-old girl, and her phantom guardian, Ash. The story kicks off 10 years after Ash is killed fighting alongside Marona’s parents only to later find himself half-resurrected as a phantom. The game chronicles their adventures as Ash attempts to protect and support Marona while she tries to follow in her parents’ footsteps, using her Chroma profession — which equates to a type of mercenary — to try and help those around her.

While the occasional bit of dodgy voice acting or cliched writing can sully the experience, the story is functional and provides a suitable incentive to move from level to level. Yet, as is the case with most strategy-role-playing games, it’s the combat, not the story, that is central to the game, and it’s on that particular point that Phantom Brave shines.

In general, Phantom Brave‘s combat system follows many of the standard practices of its genre. Combat is turn-based and involves players moving through a pre-made combat arena, strategically placing their characters to take out the enemies. What separates it from its competitors are a few novel tweaks to the formula.

Marona is the only character to initially appear. Other characters/phantoms are summoned through various objects placed on the board. The specific object used to summon the character will effect their stats. A rock, for example, will boost their natural toughness, while a flower will raise their inherent magic ability.

Summoned phantoms don’t stay on the board indefinitely; instead, each class has a set number of turns for which they will be active and will disappear after they are used. This novel twist makes timing a key element in each battle. The boards are often long, with the boss positioned at the back, making the player have to decide whether they wish to go in strong with their best characters at the start to clear Marona’s way forward, or hold off and save them for dealing with the boss.

Additionally, movement works differently. Unlike many of its competitors Phantom Brave‘s character movement isn’t done using a grid system; character movement and placement is completely free-form. Unfortunately this element proves to be both a blessing and a curse. While the free-form movement opens the battle up by removing the rigid, by-numbers quality other SRPG’s can suffer from, it can also — thanks in no small part to the lack of free camera movement — make positioning the characters very fiddly.

Another key problem is the game’s somewhat complex character development system. While characters do level normally once they have killed enough monsters, customising them requires you to delve into the game’s combining system. The combining system, as one would expect, requires that you combine certain items or characters together to add abilities and increase statistics. While this does sound simple enough, Phantom Brave makes it far more complex than it needs to be.

The combining system is so overly bogged down with statistics and a lack of clear guidance as to which combinations actually work in the long run, that even an MIT Mathematics graduate would struggle. There is no worse feeling than leveling a weapon only to find it actually worsens the statistics of the character you intended to combine it with.

In short, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle, despite looking a little tired after its six years on the market, is still a perfectly enjoyable experience for fans of the genre. The port has managed to retain all the charm of its predecessor, adding only a few nagging camera and movement issues.

This said, the game is not for everyone. An over-the-top character development system and tendency to bombard the player with too much information at once make it distinctly unfriendly toward newbies. Those looking for a challenging, in-depth SRPG experience will likely enjoy the game, while those looking a more casual experience will likely find its spiderweb of intricacies downright frustrating. UPC: 813633011141

3 out of 5


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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