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Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection (PSP) artwork

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection (PSP) review


"Developers these days often try to pack as many features into their games as possible, but, for the most part, those features wind up feeling half-assed. In contrast, Generation of Chaos: Pandoraís Reflection emphasizes a single feature and streamlines everything else to accommodate it."



Developers these days often try to pack as many features into their games as possible, but, for the most part, those features wind up feeling half-assed. In contrast, Generation of Chaos: Pandoraís Reflection emphasizes a single feature and streamlines everything else to accommodate it. I wouldnít normally fault a game for intentionally leaving out some elements in order to focus on others, but in this case thereís such a dearth of content that the overall experience canít help but suffer for it.

The gameís crown jewel is definitely the battle system. Though combat isnít perfect, itís refreshingly different from the norm. Seldom will you find a tactical RPG in which strategy plays as important a role as it does here. You could get through Final Fantasy Tactics and most Fire Emblem titles by playing them as a series of standard battles on a chessboard, but in Pandoraís Reflection youíre required to pay attention to all of your units at once.

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection asset


Such careful coordination is necessary because conflicts take place in real time. Each time a new one begins, youíll only be able to dispatch two or three initial units. Capturing strategic map points increases that number, so youíll have to spread your heroes across the map. The tricky part is that any points you claim can be retaken by enemy units, and some can even be destroyed. Losing this valuable resource immediately reduces your usable unit count by 1. If you were already maxed out, one of your active little sprites is about to die. Youíd better hope the last dispatched unit wasnít itself defending a crucial map point. Enemies will keep sending out their own units, too, especially if you let them gather too much strength. Things can go bad very quickly if you arenít paying enough attention, and that added pressure makes Pandoraís Reflection more exciting than a number of other tactical games.

The management aspects of the battle map deserve praise, but combat becomes overly simplistic once two fighters actually engage. Individual encounters really just feel like a mini-rhythm game. You pick one of your two or three equipped weapons, then press X repeatedly as circles light up across a silhouette shaped like an axe, sword, or some other weapon. In theory, your choice of weapon is supposed to be a strategic highlight, but you have so little control over everyoneís equipment that in practice it doesnít much matter. Player and enemy units alike carry several weapons at once, and thereís no way to know ahead of time which one an enemy will defend with. Even if you did have that information, you still wouldn't be able to anticipate where an enemy might move, but player characters need to be sent out to guard map points ahead of time (especially the ones inconveniently located closer to the enemy base). The game has a ďweapon triangleĒ similar to those in the Fire Emblem series, but because of all those variables, itíll rarely affect your decisions.

Sadly, outside of the conflicts, there isnít much going on in Pandoraís Reflection. There are no towns, shops, skills, or abilities. Character classes do make an appearance, but you canít change a given unitís class and thereís no option to create new recruits from scratch.

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection asset


The one important thing you CAN do to customize your party members is distribute Alchemy Points. When you win a battle, the game awards you with experience points that are tied to individual units, plus a shared quantity of AP for the overall group. The alchemy system lets you upgrade weapons, heal characters, and allocate more experience to whoever you wish. If youíre like me, though, youíll spend most of those points upgrading the charactersí weapons, since combatants tend to gain more than enough experience already by routinely slaughtering foes. Unfortunately, the alchemy system only looks like itís giving you a bunch of options; in reality, itís just a fairly linear way to increase your weaponsí power, one point at a time.

The lack of customization hurts, but the gameís complete lack of visual environments is perhaps its most obvious oversight. When your characters are walking around town, trekking through a dense forest, or getting attacked by vicious monsters, you donít get to see any of it. There are always just two large text windows on the screen, and some accompanying music. I canít imagine why the artists didnít throw in some background scenes of buildings or fields orÖ SOMETHING.

The lack of visual splendor is a real shame, because Pandoraís Reflection otherwise has a dark and intriguing atmosphere. You begin the game in charge of two orphaned siblings--a boy and girl--who are traveling aimlessly through the world while the brother continually makes medicine for his ailing sister. Wherever they go, all they find are corruption, poverty, and mysterious poison rain. The soundtrack is full of sad violin melodies, and even the world map looks bleak. I wasnít expecting any of this, so it caught me off guard in a good way. There was definitely some potential here, but the gameís intense focus on its battle system means that the atmospheric world isnít as fleshed out as it should have been. Characters are introduced and join your team too quickly for you to have the chance to really grow attached to them, and the plot often feels like a transparent machination that exists mostly to facilitate an ever-increasing number of skirmishes. I like where the writers were headed, but the poor detail and lacking complexity donít support their apparent aspirations.

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection asset


Itís also worth mentioning that this game feels very Japanese. Clearly it was made with a niche audience in mind. Iím cool with that--I am part of that audience, after all--but if you find that sort of thing bothersome, youíll have a lot of trouble getting into Pandoraís Reflection. The artwork is all anime-styled, with well-drawn character portraits and pleasant menu layouts (as they ought to be, since youíll be seeing so much of them). Sometimes, people youíll meet are actually humanoid cats or frogs, and no explanation is ever offered. Often with games like this, publishers outside of Japan will end up only including the English dub (for various reasons), but Pandoraís Reflection actually offers the original Japanese voiceovers as the only option. The voice work is good, and every spoken part is accompanied by text anyway, so itís not like the lack of English audio hurts the game in any way.

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection left me feeling conflicted in the end. I donít want to come down too hard on it for leaving out so much stuff, because itís clearly trying to zero in on the battle system. At the same time, though, the developers could easily have put in background drawings and expanded the storyline without negatively impacting everything else. Itís ultimately a fun game with excellent intentions, but at the end of the day, thereís not quite enough to it.

Rating: 6/10

Whelk's avatar
Freelance review by Kyle Charizanis (February 18, 2013)

Lifelong gamer and unabashed nerd. Not even a little bit bashed. He was originally drawn to Honest Gamers for its overall high quality of writing. He lives inside his computer which is located in Toronto, Canada. Also, he has a Twizzler (@Whelkk).

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