Level 5, the developer of Dark Cloud and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, brings us another wonderful RPG that’s filled with quirky characters and stunning settings. In fact, if you liked DQ VIII it’s an absolute certainty that you’ll love Rogue Galaxy. However, if you didn’t get round to playing DQ VIII then you’ve got something to look forward to.
Rogue Galaxy’s story has been done before, and done better, but it’s the wackiness of the characters that drive it along and make it a delight to play. How many other games can you think of that have a purple talking toad who gobbles weapons and spits them out better than before? Or a boozy bulldog veteran soldier intent on revenge? Or a cowardly hacker/inventor who is one breath short of complete insanity? Or even a very short very fat man who carries a rocket launcher, but never takes off his spacesuit or shows anyone his face? Not many I’ll bet. And it’s precisely that craziness that makes Rogue Galaxy the astounding success that it is. But despite the wackiness of the characters, Rogue Galaxy neither becomes a parody, nor are those characters hackneyed.
Like DQ VIII, Rogue Galaxy is an incredible-looking game with sharp cell-shaded graphics and gorgeous settings. The best thing about Rogue Galaxy, we think, is that there are no loading times. None at all! Not even when moving from outside to inside buildings. As well as no loading, the cutscenes occur seamlessly, and because they use the same 3D engine as the game the weapons your characters carry and the outfits they wear appear in those cutscenes. Indeed, Rogue Galaxy flows smoothly from opening to closing credits.
Combat also occurs smoothly, from sighting your quarry to the end of fight. There are no ‘random battles’ in Rogue Galaxy. And although the combat is real-time it never deteriorates into a hack and slash free-for-all, because many enemies have different requirements in order to conquer them. Some require head strikes while others can’t be damaged until you’ve hit them with a ‘charge attack’. Several plant-type enemies need to be ‘bounced’ off, but the most frustrating of all are the foes that need a ‘Barrier Break Shot’. These guys require your character to use a special blaster to break their barrier before they can be dealt any damage dealing blows at all. But it’s these challenges that make the game’s combat so different and so much fun.
Rogue Galaxy is a little different from other RPGs, in that level grinding isn’t what will make the game easier. In fact your stat gains from level to level are minimal at best. So what will win you the game? I hear you ask. And the answer is improving your weapon’s damage dealing capacities. As in Dark Cloud, weapons gain ‘experience’ through use, and by then feeding Toady two weapons of the same type, one better weapon is the result. Although Toady keeps a ‘Frog Log’ that tells you which combinations will yield the best results, experimenting on your own can result in some excellent ‘finds’. As you move through the game, and the galaxy, you’ll eventually come to a planet that has a factory where you can manufacture your own weapons. This can be somewhat time consuming, but the results are well worth it.
Like all RPGs, Rogue Galaxy has numerous side quests which are as rewarding as they are fun to do, especially the Bounty Hunting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy watching as your name creeps higher up the ‘Battle Recorder.’ Not to mention that you’ll also receive generous rewards as you reach various levels. There are also several optional dungeons and mini games. And certainly the most intriguing mini game is the Insectron Stadium. Rearing Insectors for the Stadium has several stages: selecting a trap, choosing the best bait, catching your Insector, moving the Insector to a Rearing Cage to breed the necessary five Insectors for the competition and then improving their stats by feeding them special ‘Battle Feed’ and training them in combat. After all that is done you can then take your fighting Insectors to the Stadium and pit them against opponents in miniature turn-based strategy battles.
Learning abilities and customising your characters is done via the ‘Revelation Flow’ board. Seemingly innocuous trinkets are placed on this board to learn character-specific moves, to improve defence, unlock stat and defence boosts and to upgrade abilities. The ‘Revelation Flow’ board can be likened somewhat to Final Fantasy XII’s License Board, in that when you fill one space the ones next to it are activated and made ready for filling. So that you don’t inadvertently discard or sell the necessary trinkets, the character – or characters – main menu portrait flashes to alert you that there is an item that can be used on the ‘Revelation Flow.’ As you would suppose, some of the items needed for the more potent abilities are the hardest to find. And, sadly, there were some items that I never could find in my 130+ hours of gaming.
Rogue Galaxy’s soundtrack, although not exactly memorable, is certainly very likeable and non-intrusive. The voice acting, however, is where this game shines. The voices are an excellent match to these quirky characters and their humour is infectious.
All in all, Rogue Galaxy is an extremely well made and well thought out romp packed with loads of laughs and fun things to do.