Rogue Galaxy PlayStation 2
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by: Level 5
Release Date: Out Now
The PlayStation 2 has been a tremendous console for those who like their console RPGs. Whilst the Xbox and GameCube had simply a handful of RPGs between them; the PlayStation 2 has had many. Of course it's not just about the quantity of RPGs that have appeared on the console. The amount of quality RPGs that have been released for the PlayStation 2 is truly impressive and it's not just the Final Fantasy titles that stand out with games such as Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Dark Chronicle, Suikoden V, the Kingdom Hearts series to name but a few truly memorable games. The console may have been superseded by the PlayStation 3 but it is still providing great games in the shape of Rogue Galaxy, another RPG classic.
Rogue Galaxy tells the story of Jaster Rogue, an orphan who has this strange mark on his face, who has grown up on the desert planet of Rosa. One day Jaster's town is attacked by a gigantic monster and Jaster is determined to defeat it. As he makes his way to where the monster is situated he's aided by a man named Desert Claw. Desert Claw doesn't stay with Jaster long enough to confront the monster however, but he does leave his powerful sword for Jaster to use. It's this sword that leads to Jaster being mistaken for Desert Claw, who as it turns out is believed to be the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy, and recruited to work for the Space Pirate Dorgengoa. With the monster defeated and Jaster enlisted by Dorgengoa, Jaster and his new acquaintances leave Rosa and head off into the galaxy for the multitude of adventures that await them.
If you've played any of Level 5's previous RPG titles you'll know that they like to provide plenty of diverse and colourful characters and Rogue Galaxy certainly has plenty of them. You'll have quite a few in your party (although only three at any one time can be involved in a battle). As well as the 17-year old Jaster you'll have Kisala, the 17-year old daughter of Dorgengoa, Zegram, the cynical bounty hunter, Steve the robot, Lilika, the Amazon warrior like lady from the Burkaqua Tribe and many more. The characters all have their unique personalities, abilities and fighting styles.
Battle systems are all important in an RPG and the battle system in Rogue Galaxy is rather unusual. Essentially, the game uses a real-time battle system in which you'll control one of the three in your party who are involved in the combat with the AI taking control of the other two. Although you'll only control one character at a time, you won't feel that you have no say in how the other characters behave. To begin with you can set tactics for your party choosing whether all of the characters attack the same enemy etc. Level 5 have also included a 'Battle Suggestion' system whereby the characters you're not controlling will inform you when they need a health item or can use a special ability. To give the character in question permission to use the items or abilities in question you'll simply press the relevant button (a button icon appears next to each suggestion). This suggestions system basically means you can keep your focus on the battle without constantly having to keep an eye on your other characters' health. Although only three party members can take part in a battle, all party members gain experience from the battle. Those who don't participate don't earn as much experience however.
The game may have a real time battle system but the game isn't simply reduced to being a button basher. Every action you perform uses action points and simply bashing your primary attack button will eventually put you in a situation where you have to wait a few seconds for your action bar to refill. If you hold down the R1 button the action ball will fill slightly quicker and your character is put into a slightly defensive position. Your characters have a primary and secondary attack. Jaster for instance has a sword as his initial primary weapon and a gun, of sorts, as his secondary weapon. As well as using special abilities you can also perform charged attacks (performed by holding down your attack button for a short duration). Some enemies have defensive shields that can only be broken by a charged attack. Your characters can also jump to perform attacks and with certain enemies you'll need to jump and attack in order to inflict damage. The battles in Rogue Galaxy are random encounters and you'll be warned a second before the battle begins. Some battles are challenges for which you'll get special rewards if you're successful. The boss battles are actually quite tricky. Thankfully the save points (which also act as warp points) are well scattered around so you'll never have too much to redo should you be defeated.
As well as the exploration aspects of the game, which are enhanced by the amount of side quests and optional areas that can be explored at your leisure, there are other aspects of the game that add to the experience. To develop your characters' special abilities you'll have to place items in the available slots on each character's Revelation Flow chart. Each ability requires a certain number of items to be placed in the relevant slots on the chart. For instance, Jaster's Flash Sword ability requires that just a Thunderstone be placed into the available slot. Other abilities can require as many as six items. As you acquire an ability, other abilities (adjacent to the one you've acquired on the Revelation Flow chart) will be made available to acquire. Later in the game you'll have access to the game's fusion and factory systems. The fusion system essentially allows you to fuse different weapons together with the idea of creating a new, stronger weapon. The factory system allows you to create weapons and items from plans that you'll acquire from the game's NPC's. Both systems are useful additions and help to bulk out the game's already impressive longevity. The game keeps track of your battles and you are awarded points for killing a certain number of an enemy type and your current hunter rank is shown. The idea here is to become the number one hunter in the galaxy. You also have the option to collect insects and battle them in competitions. With all this taken into account it's quite possible for the game to last well in excess of 60 hours.
Rogue Galaxy is a very good RPG but there are some elements that could have been better. The story, especially in the early part of the game, doesn't do the game justice. Eventually the story picks up and by the latter stages of the game becomes pretty engaging. It's disappointing that a more well rounded, and less clichéd storyline hadn't been used though especially as many other aspects of the game are very impressive. The combat, whilst enjoyable, does become very repetitive after a while. To a certain degree having to endure random battles also makes this more annoying as you don't ever have the option to avoid a battle as you do in quite a few of the recent RPGs that we've seen. The characters in the game could have used more substance to them. That's not to say they aren't interesting characters however, because there certainly are. You may also find it strange that you can only heal through healing items and the save points (which automatically heal your characters). There are no healing magical spells here so you're forced to carry many healing potions at all times.
Previous Level 5 RPGs have had a cel-shaded look to them and Rogue Galaxy also follows this trend. In many respects the game is impressive because you get to explore these rather large areas in the game without running into any loading times. In fact there only a few times in the game that you'll notice any load times, which is an impressive achievement. The camera can be a little cumbersome at times but for the most part it's not problematic. The game's cutscenes are actually quite impressive and a number of them use the in-game graphics. One of the things that particularly impressed me was that you don't have to wait for a battle screen to load. The battles take place in exactly the same environments that you explore, which is both a refreshing change and technically impressive.
Whilst Rogue Galaxy does have subtitles, the game isn't fully subtitled. The cutscenes are subtitled so you'll be able to follow the game's storyline without any problems. The important dialogue between the characters is also subtitled. Whilst you're exploring, the two party members who are running around with Jaster will make comments and these comments are not subtitled. During the battles your party members will make comments and again these are not subtitled. Zegram likes to needlessly swear a little during a battle, which is something to consider if there hearing youngsters around whilst you are playing. All tutorial messages are shown in text. Any challenge battles you'll face show the challenge condition in text and a countdown timer is displayed to show how long you have left to complete your challenge. On the whole the game is OK for deaf gamers but it's a shame there's some dialogue that's not subtitled, even if the content of this dialogue is unimportant.
The PlayStation 2 may have been superseded but on the evidence of games such as Rogue Galaxy, it's going to be a long time before both sales of the console and its games are in dramatic decline. Level 5 have given us another quality RPG with Rogue Galaxy. I honestly wouldn't say the game was as enjoyable as Dark Chronicle but I have really enjoyed the game nevertheless and would definitely regard the game as being amongst the better RPGs to have appeared on the PlayStation 2. I've also managed to play the game on the PlayStation 3 without any problems, which is something to consider if you want to play a new RPG on the PS3 (although this will only apply to those with PlayStation 3 consoles that support backwards compatibility). I for one certainly can't wait to see what Level 5's first game on the PlayStation 3 will be. For now though, Level 5 have given us their last great PlayStation 2 game with Rogue Galaxy.