Rogue Galaxy (PlayStation 2) review
"It also doesn't help that the two companions you can have at your side at any time are idiots. I didn't notice those guys going for charge attacks when necessary, leaving me to do that myself while they ineffectively flailed at the monsters. They also didn't seem all that keen on blocking attacks or any sort of evasive action. Instead, they'd occasionally request to use a healing item or ability when they felt that'd be a good change of pace from blindly running at monsters and attacking with all the grace and style of a drunken berserker."
Almost immediately after putting the finishing touches on Final Fantasy XII, I found myself picking up Rogue Galaxy. With this game, I found myself quickly giving Level 5 all the credit in the world for their amazing ability to make arguably the most awesome-appearing cel-shaded graphics out there. I was utterly hooked by them right from an early-game scene where my hero, a lad named Jaster Rogue, was being pursued by gigantic sandworms across a desert in a desperate attempt to reach the vessel of the space pirates which will become his hub of operations for the rest of the game. Under Level 5, jungles seemed lush and alive, while mines felt claustrophobic and eerie. I couldn't complain one bit about this aspect of the game.
Complaining.....that's what the rest of this review is for. Much like Final Fantasy XII or Level 5's own Dark Cloud 2, Rogue Galaxy wants to drown you in excess, giving you so many things you CAN do that the possibilities seem endless. This time, however, I found it easy to avoid even dipping one toe into the waters. After all, who wants to initiate side quests and do tons of optional things when it takes all of one's effort to muster the willpower to even mess with the main quest for an hour or two?
Jaster lives on a desert planet, where he dreams of one day exploring the galaxy. Due to being mistaken for a famous bounty hunter by a crew of space pirates, that dream becomes a reality and due to more contrived situations, finds himself in one of those "destined to save the galaxy" situations heroes tend to gravitate to in this sort of game. Along the way, he gains a bunch of companions, ranging from a hot Amazon chick to an alcoholic dog-man -- each of whom have their own uses in battle. All in all, a pretty generic plot, but I wasn't really bothered. Level 5 put in a number of environments that vastly differed from each other, as well as some nice comedic touches that kept the story from becoming stale.
The problems tended to begin when the story stuff stopped and the playing stuff started. While the dungeons in this game have a definite lay-out unlike the Rogue-style ones used in Dark Cloud 2, you wouldn't know it by navigating them. You'll be traveling through one place consisting of rooms connected by long, winding corridors that all look the same followed by another. These places tend to be linear and, at times, excruciatingly long. That gives you plenty of opportunities to get into fights.
Battling is done in a real-time action style. Jaster (or whomever you're controlling) can whack at foes with both a primary and secondary weapon until his action meter runs dry. At this point, the meter slowly rises again or you can completely replenish it by successfully blocking an attack. Blocking is very important in this game. It didn't take me long to realize that a lot of enemies can cause a good deal of damage in a hurry if I didn't get proficient at parrying their blows. Unfortunately, I still got the crap beat out of me due to the nature of many monsters. Some are tall and can only be damaged if you jump and strike them in the head. Others are protected by a shield that needs shattered by a charge attack. Still others can only be hurt after you shoot them with a special barrier-removing gun. Heck, a couple need to be jumped on before they become vulnerable.
It also doesn't help that the two companions you can have at your side at any time are idiots. I didn't notice those guys going for charge attacks when necessary, leaving me to do that myself while they ineffectively flailed at the monsters. They also didn't seem all that keen on blocking attacks or any sort of evasive action. Instead, they'd occasionally request to use a healing item or ability when they felt that'd be a good change of pace from blindly running at monsters and attacking with all the grace and style of a drunken berserker. Meanwhile, I'd be spending about as much time using healing items on them as swinging my sword or shooting my gun. And this process would repeat itself seemingly a million times each dungeon before I'd......get to go to the next one.
While not fighting, I'd be popping items I'd found into the Revelation Charts (Final Fantasy XII's license board on a smaller scale) for each character to unlock their abilities. This was just one of the many ways I found this game derivative of either that one or Dark Cloud 2. There also are opportunities to undergo a number of bounty hunts, create items using a factory and combine weapons into superior ones. And some bizarre mini-game where you capture insects to raise and have them compete in an arena. All of these optional tasks are great and all, but when I was finding the main quest to be tedious and boring, there was no way I was going to go out of my way to experience every little facet of Rogue Galaxy.
I wouldn't call this game a total failure as it looks beautiful and does have a few moments that brought a smile to my face. I have fond memories of attempting to renew the pirate vessel's travel visa on the highly technological planet of Zerard. In a whimsical scene, take-no-shit Amazon Lilika completely flipped out over the flippant attitude displayed by the "awwwww, ain't I cuuuuute" receptionist as she rambled on about various problems that made renewal an impossibility at that time. However, the good times came to an end, as that scene led to my party being thrown into the city's jail, which was a long, dull dungeon where I spent an eternity trudging through a bunch of corridors and rooms that all looked the same while fighting legions of creatures. And that's Rogue Galaxy in a nutshell -- a game with potential and the capacity to entertain that's let down by boring dungeons and annoying fights.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (December 30, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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