Brave Story New Traveler (2nd Opinion)
Playstation Portable
Reviewed: 08/03/2007

This opening paragraph really isn’t an appropriate place to make a filler joke or remark about PSPs and RPGs anymore, is it? Brave Story: New Traveler is pretty much the final nail in that coffin.

Clichés are often inevitable in RPGs, and Brave Story has a plot that’s got them in spades. It is rare to see clichés used well, and even though the game’s story is pretty RPG-typical, it gets the clichés right. The plot is whimsical and not too serious, and the base concept is pretty unadorned: fight the bad guys, get the gemstones, meet the goddess, save the girl. A story so basic is only as good as its translation, and Brave Story‘s localization treatment is top-notch. The speeches of Ropple alone are often enough to provoke a chuckle or two, but the game has plenty of clever dialogue for every character (excepting the Hero, as he is silent), and menus, item descriptions, monster names and encylopedia entries have the works: self-reference, pop culture jokes, wordplay, and other such devices to spice things up. Basically (and ironically), Brave Story is not a game that one plays for the story, but the enjoyment provided by the humble plot and sharp translation is genuine.

If only two words could be used to describe Brave Story‘s battle system, they would be “simplistic” and “traditional.” In Brave Story‘s case, neither of these are bad things, as the fights are generally fast-paced and not so frequent as to annoy. Since BP is refilled upon doing damage, it also adds some strategy to boss fights and to leveling up or trying to find ways to get through fights as quickly as possible while conserving BP. Unfortunately, the “survival” aspect of the game is utterly ruined by the frequency of healing and save points, which occur several times a dungeon, and by the cheapness of healing spells. Even the final boss will do damage that can be healed by a 2BP healing spell, which grows overpowered through the course of the game. Nevertheless, the ease of the game doesn’t prevent its battles from being good old-fashioned fun. The only thing that the battle interface was truly lacking was an “Auto Battle” option to speed up the easier battles.

Screen Shot
The same three characters you see in promo shots. Seriously, there are other awesome characters. Forget about the catgirl for a minute.

The game’s interface does a generally good job, and the two-by-three menus are easy to navigate. The main menu has a tendency to get cluttered, though, as the menus seem reluctant to fill the right side of the screen. The crafting menu in particular is frustratingly tiny, given the large list of available accessories, and requires much trigger-scrolling. In battle the small, left-oriented menus are important for seeing the battlefield, but on the map, there isn’t much need to see the scenery. Regardless of the menu size, though, the simplicity of the interface helps to speed the game along. The encylopedias are useful, the crafting system encourages plenty of experimentation without complicating things, and item management can’t get much easier.

Brave Story‘s graphics look good, at first glance–and the second, for that matter. The world of Vision is filled with detailed character and NPC models, and wonderfully styled and textured monsters. Where the graphics fail, however, is often in implementation. Many environments have nice textures and objects, but as soon as story sequences begin and the camera zooms in, they become blurry, blocky or grainy, and often boring-looking as the elements are oriented the same way over and over again. Some strange graphical glitching also occurs when moving around area maps, where some objects leave streaks behind as the camera moves. Character models also suffer from blurry close-ups, but to a lesser degree: as the best looking part of the game, they are also the best implemented, with smooth and expressive animation. Overall, minus a few sloppy or weird-looking areas, Brave Story is a game that is easy and pleasant on the eyes.

Any players that play handheld systems without headphones will want to reconsider after popping Brave Story in their PSPs. It contains the typical sort of RPG beeps and bangs in the sound effect department, but goes above and beyond these in battle. Turn up the volume. Pig demons huff and snort, skeletons rattle, armored knights clank as they shift around. These and a host of other sounds give the monsters extra flair, and make encountering new foes interesting aurally as well as visually. Some minor voice acting is present in a few story sequences, and in battle. English and Japanese voices are available, and are both equally good (or equally annoying, for those half-empty people). The battle voices are not fixed for specific skills, which helps turn down the irritation when the player uses the same skills frequently. Some of the voice clips sound fuzzy or poorly recorded, unfortunately. The musical score itself is consistently well-done, with no particularly bad tunes, and many great ones. The tunes range from catchy, to quiet and powerful, to dramatic and adventurous. While there is a lack of an overall theme to tie the songs together and make the soundtrack really memorable, the orchestrated music really raises the bar for handheld RPGs.

Screen Shot
What’s gonna work? TEAM-WORK!

Since Tatsuya’s story has no player choices within it except occasional dialogue selections (which achieve identical results), Brave Story winds up being a very linear game. Fortunately, it is packed with enough side quests and similar material to flesh out a single playthrough, and is short enough to encourage a second spin at the game, unlike some monstrous 60-hour storylines. In the spirit of the rest of the game, the bonus dungeon’s design is meandering and a disappointing two floors, but still manages to be a fun and challenging diversion from the main quest, and contains difficult bosses to complete the player’s monster encyclopedia. There’s also a bird-brawling mini game, which is a bit of a mixed bag, as the birds bumble about randomly, and matches will often result in losses from time expiration.

Brave Story is in no way a perfect game. No element within the game is without some sort of flaw, and some aspects feel lackluster. And yet, the game just works. There is really no other way to describe how the pieces come together to produce a package that is refreshing, fun, and perfect for portability. Players looking for something new, innovative and off-the-wall should look elsewhere for their RPG fix, but those looking to get back to their roots should pick up Brave Story: New Traveler, which turns out to be one of the best “typical” RPGs to hit a portable system.

-Janelle Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Good
Graphics Very Good
Sound/Music Great
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: Great