Ground control to Major Fun.
is like a Thanksgiving dinner - the main course is pretty standard fare, but the trimmings make it really tasty. In other words, the game features a turkey of a plot, but a ton of side activities and small touches that really spice up the entire offering.
For this we give thanks to the game's developer, 5 Levels, the studio also responsible for the phenomenal Dragon Quest VIII
. The cel-shaded graphics are equally detailed and well animated, and there are a ton of item synthesis elements, but outside of that, Rogue Galaxy
carves its own space-faring path with a fun, action-based battle system and numerous little tweaks that eliminate (almost) all the drudgery of your typical RPG. You’ll definitely come back for seconds.
But alas, the most typical thing about the game is its plot, following Jaster the orphan as he teams up with a band of space pirates to explore the galaxy. Insert an evil corporation, a hidden planet called Eden, a ragtag group of adventurers, and secret treasure…and yawn. The writing isn’t abysmal, but the characters lack backstories, and the emotional pitch never leaves the realm of Saturday morning cartoons.
What makes up for the lackluster plot is a fluid, real-time battle system, where you control three characters at once through intuitive commands. Simple button presses fire guns, block, and swing swords, but it’s no button masher. Many enemies have weak points you must exploit, like breaking a shield, jumping on heads, or busting out a freeze gun to halt their charges.
You can also use various magic attacks that boost your party’s strength, or switch to a different character on the fly. When you aren’t controlling your party members, they’ll suggest context-sensitive actions they can perform at the touch of a button. You can set which actions will be available, but other than that there isn’t much group strategy. Big fights boil down to lots of menu pausing to keep your team standing while you try to find your enemy’s weak points and whittle them down, which smacks of the real-time/action hybrid engine of Final Fantasy XII
But where that game bogged you down with its insane level of micromanagement, Rogue Galaxy takes a more streamlined approach. Each of your characters has a large grid full of different abilities they can unlock. This is accomplished by plugging special items into indicated slots. For example, a sword skill might require a toasted salamander and a pink marshmallow. It sounds silly, but so did buying a license to wear a hat, and this is much easier.
When viewed in light of the license board of Final Fantasy XII
, it’s far less of an open-ended customization system, but it’s a bit more gratifying to find and use a unique item to fill a slot instead of spending from a constant budget of points. And the game is really good about telling you what you can use, when you can use it and where. Hear that honey? It’s called communication!
One of the best parts of Rogue Galaxy is definitely the speed involved throughout. There is zero loading time going in or out of battle, and even exploring the world is a nearly seamless experience. Also, throughout the game the save points double as a network of teleporters, eliminating lengthy treks to and from destinations, shops, and such. As any RPG veteran will tell you, that’s a damn fine thing, especially when any dungeon in the game can easily take a few hours to complete.
As things progress you’ll be able to freely fly your ship between various planets as plot and treasure lust dictate, as well as access the game’s interesting synthesis mechanics, involving a hungry frog and a build-it-yourself factory. The frog can be fed two weapons of the same type to produce a better one, but you’ll have to spend some time gaining skill with a weapon before it’s palatable to your amphibious melting pot.
The factory, however, is completely its own beast. Here you create various items by building an assembly line out of component parts, powering it up, and feeding it items. There’s a light puzzle element to the process, as any items you feed into the various parts of the machine have to hit the ‘assembler’ correctly prepared and at the same time. The drag is that placing, adjusting, and rotating parts in and out could have been a much smoother process. As it stands, it’s entertaining, but really obtuse.
Alone, these things aren’t that huge or original, but they provide fun diversions from the wimpy plot. There’s also a handful of optional bosses to take down to earn ‘hunter points’ and establish yourself as the biggest bad-ass in the galaxy.
Visually, Rogue Galaxy is pretty impressive. Most environments are filled out with lush backgrounds, and even hallway-based dungeons vary their decor quite nicely. The characters are quite varied, from morbidly obese pirates to mole-men in spacesuits, and everyone’s voice-over parts are distinct and well done. The background music varies, with some numbers that are good, and some that tire pretty easily.
So, the plot is a little dry and chewy, but the surrounding game is juicy and sweet. With a fairly lengthy, if substandard, main storyline crammed with lots of action and neat extra tidbits, Rogue Galaxy
is a taste of the holidays, with none of the hassle.