Infinity takes a long time...
So you might as well team up with a young teenager who has always dreamed of captaining a ship. First, you have to rescue him from a planet that enforces its ban on space travel with spaceships. Once you've met him, why not rescue his sister and make him captain? In fact, you should pledge your life to this teenager because, after all, it's a tough universe out there. You never know, he might be the one to solve the mystery that no one seems to know or care about much at all...
[image1]Space, as Douglas Adams puts it eloquently, is big. According to Sega, it's infinite and they did the best they could to contain that size in their latest game for the Nintendo DS aptly titled Infinite Space. Build your armada, recruit your crew, and explore the universe because, well, it's there. Be careful, though, because this universe is merciless and will chew you up and spit you out.
You take on the role of Yuri, who along with his sister, are neophytes to outer space. Enter Nia, a “launcher” whose job it is to take greenhorns and teach them the ropes. From there, your team expands to include mercenaries, scientists, bullies, cooks, and an assortment of sullen teenagers. Getting to know your crew is essential, though sometimes it leads to cross-dressing escapades with scary gay pirate rape scenarios (Yikes!). Each new teammate can be assigned to specific roles on your ship based on their abilities and stats. Get the right crew, and your ships will function at peak levels.
Speaking of ships, this is where Infinite Space truly shines. Your first step to captaining a ship is to buy a set of blueprints. With multiple ship classes, you'll eventually have a bunch to choose from. Once you build a ship, the true customization takes place using upgrade modules, shaped like Tetris pieces that you have to fit in the layout of your ship. This leads to numerous trade-offs: Do you want more powerful guns or an science department? A mess hall or a security room? Each module affects you and your crew in different ways and can easily mean the difference in the outcome of a battle.
[image2]The battles take place in space... mostly. Ship movement is basic: forward, back, standby. Besides movement, you have three main commands: Normal, Barrage, and Dodge. Normal fires your weapons at a standard, manufacturer-approved rate. Barrage fires a triple shot; however, it can be Dodged. In a bit of a cat and mouse setup, Dodge will not only avoid an enemy Barrage, but also has the chance of hurting you with a critical hit should the enemy do a normal attack. The only way to win a battle in space is to properly predict what the enemy will do.
Same goes for melee battles once you've boarded either a ship or space station. Playing like rock-paper-scissors, you have to guess what your opponent will do to win. And you don't get to only guess once. In a real-time scenario, you have to shift between the three melee commands constantly as your meter builds. Expect to play melee battles over and over again until you get it right, as they are tough even at the outset.
Actually, Infinite Space is an extremely tough game. After teaching you the basics of the game, there is no hand holding whatsoever. Like throwing a baby in the deep end of a swimming pool, it's sink or swim time... and you'll sink a lot. Many features aren't really explained to you, so you can really only learn from your mistakes. Once you think you've figured it out, things will be fine... until the difficulty takes a crazy rocketship skyward.
[image3]Like many Japanese games, grinding is required. Hours will be spent flying around to earn money so that when you hit the next boss, you aren't blown out of the sky in five seconds. And woe to the person who forgets to save. Without an autosave feature, you need to remember to save early and often. Even then, you'll end up having to view the same long dialogue events that take place right before an epic encounter.
The graphics and sound are good for a DS title, with voice accompanying many of your commands. The animation sequences do take awhile, so you will find yourself skipping them after your first four or five encounters. The character designs are good too, if a little too female-looking. Given a different outfit, Yuri could just as well be a woman. However, given the hundreds of characters you meet throughout the game, a couple of fem-looking ones isn't a bad ratio, even if they are the main characters.
Even with all these flaws, the designers were still able to make Infinite Space a deeply addicting game. Sure, there were points where I wanted to throw my DS across the room, but where there is frustration, there's also a sense of accomplishment. Infinite Space has an extreme depth of content which allows you to customize it more towards your play styles. I, for one, will never voluntarily enter a melee battle, but the game allows me to trick out my ship so that I almost never have to.
Taken as a complete package, Infinite Space is one of those “hit or miss” type games. Those who enjoy it, like myself, will spend the next few months grinding through the game. However, many others will encounter the steep learning curve and stop playing after a couple hours, if that. If you're a fan of space opera and want a game that will give you over 100 hours of gameplay, Infinite Space is definitely worth the cost of a “launcher”.