Rogue Galaxy Review

The makers of Dragon Quest VIII are here to wow us again, with a new cell shaded epic adventure. I immediately have to mention Dragon Quest VIII (and Dark Cloud 2), because if you’ve played the games then you will be excited about a similar title recently released by the name of Rogue Galaxy. Much like its predecessors, it features artwork styled by Dragon Ball Z creator Akira Toriyama, including cell shading in the best way it’s been used to date. It even has a sweeping storyline that remains whimsical throughout! In theory, its a lot like Dragon Quest — but does it improve, or is it just the same thing over again?

Well, it would be difficult to improve on DQ, but I think Rogue Galaxy stands on its own. We start out with Jaster Rogue, who’s talkative and good-natured personality quickly become apparent. While I don’t like my characters extremely upbeat (unless it’s comical), it’s a nice change of pace from the seemingly endless plethora of mute and/or extremely broody main characters in RPGs. Jaster lives a quiet life as a slave on a desert planet (*cough* Star Wars), but his life is rapidly turned crazy by a bounty hunter named "Desert Claw" who helps Jaster fend off a giant beast that attacks the city. Desert Claw hands you his sword and goes off in another direction…just as a party seeking the infamous "Desert Claw" shows up and mistakes you for the badass that just bailed. Since you basically live a life of horrible servitude, a trip into space with your new bounty hunter buddies sounds like a great idea, and you take off for greener pastures — or space, whatever.

It would take a while to delve any deeper into this plot, but suffice to say you quickly form a party of cohorts and start battling it out on different planets, which are basically themed levels, such as a Jungle planet and Desert planet. There are some definite Star Wars references here (like an effeminate robot and the aforementioned desert planet scenario), but the game brings its own charm and innovative characters into the mix fairly quickly, and you’ll soon move past this comparison. The characters are all excellent both in look, mannerisms and voice acting, with a broad range of accents and personalities.

Graphically speaking, this game is a step forward, if anything, from the previous titles using this same cell-shading technique. Immediately you’ll notice the "Living Cartoon" look that this game brings to the table. And while some of the environments in Dragon Quest were a little flat, RG seems to up the ante by adding more features, foliage and detail into the mix, along with some higher res textures for the levels. To put it plainly, I didn’t think they could do it, but it actually squeezes more performance out of the aging PS2 platform with hardly a frame hiccup anywhere. You will notice a bit of repetition — in that each area is either endless jungle, grass, sand, etc. — but it’s really no bother, because this game looks fantastic.

Combat is where the game takes a turn — not necessarily down a dark path, but a different one nonetheless. As opposed to pure turn-based fighting or pure action, RG twists both of these into a blend that seems strange and familiar at the same time. In the style of Grandia III and some other semi-action based titles, you can run around like a maniac throughout the whole battle. The battle itself doesn’t change screens; the encounters are random, but take place where you’re standing. You immediately can go into battle swinging by bashing the attack button, with no loading for anything. As a result the battles are fast, frantic and frequent. However, you can pause the action at any point to select healing potions, items, abilities/magic or to switch control of characters. You will need to do all these things occasionally when the battle heats up, as your party is controlled by AI and at times oblivious. To keep the flow going, the characters offer suggestions in the heat of battle, which show as a command at the bottom of the screen. So if you need a potion badly, someone will (eventually) suggest it, and a quick tap of the L1 button gives them permission to do it on their own. The AI isn’t flawless, but it does a better job of taking care of itself and not making you the constant healer than many other titles.

Your ability to attack is governed by a blue gauge called the Action Gauge where each ability, attack or item takes away from this bar. When it’s empty, you have to run around or block to build it back up and then start in again. It sounds annoying, but you quickly get used to it. There are a few frustrating times where you can’t even use a potion because you blew out your action gauge too soon, though. There is also a ranged attack (guns, throwing knives, shurikens) that you can use for difficult to reach enemies, but you have a limited number of shots per battle. While most of the abilities are special attacks, all gained through the Revelation System, which is a large grid that uses items to unlock abilities, attacks and even defenses against certain elements (like fire resistance). You’ll constantly be picking up new items and seeing where they fit in your revelation grid, which points you in the right direction anyway, removing most of the guesswork. The effect of the rapid battles, tons of items and the revelation system is that you’re constantly being rewarded and improving, which keeps the pace of the game brisk.

The sound in the game is also well done, but not perfect. The score is occasionally stirring or action packed, although by no means stand-out in any particular way. You will find certain exploratory areas where the same short loop of music goes on endlessly without EVER letting up. The soundtrack is generally always in the right tone/genre for the area you’re in, and never seems too out of place. The voice acting is top notch, however, with a talented cast bringing all the colorful characters to life (especially the rocket-launcher wielding Scottish lizard guy). The effects are also appropriate and well done, but nothing you haven’t heard before.

Once you get into the swing of things and start pursuing the plot wholeheartedly, there’s a lot of things to get you distracted. You can take on bounty missions that have you traveling to and fro to find a specific enemy. You can go to a factory and make new items that show up in stores around the galaxy (and further your revelation grid). You can trap and collect bugs — called insectrons — which are collectible creatures that you can use in their own tactical mini game. There are a lot of things to keep you busy, as well as a lengthy and extremely well done plot. This game is surprising in its vastness. The main plot itself is plenty of content for an epic sized game, but with the fun and addictive mini-games thrown in, it becomes huge.

Rogue Galaxy plays like a large number of Japanese inspired/created RPGs that we’ve had countless iterations of over the past years. But much like Dragon Quest, it takes some ‘old school’ and re-invents the genre. It isn’t about doing something totally new: it’s about doing what you love and doing it extremely well. This game is about as polished and lovingly crafted as any Final Fantasy title, without the angst-ridden storyline and boring combat system. The game is both plain fun to play and watch. If you’re a fan of RPGs on any platform, this is one to add to your collection. It will keep you busy and engrossed long into the night, for many nights. The only reason this didn’t garner a super high-score is that it’s been done before to a large degree — but this game still stands in a class of its own.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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