Brave Story New Traveler
Playstation Portable
Reviewed: 07/13/2007

Along with help from a few good titles recently released, and others forthcoming, Brave Story: New Traveler is bringing the PSP into a good light as an appealing platform for RPG lovers.

Brave Story: New Traveler is part of a group whose other games (one one PS2, another on DS), based on an anime and graphic novel, have not received English translation. This is somewhat unfortunate for the new audience, because they won’t recognize the cameo appearances of characters from previous titles, including the Traveler Wataru. This however, does not interefere with the enjoyment of the game for North American players.

It’s a tale that is quite laden with cliché and predictability, but has such an enjoyable cast of characters and a wonderfully written script that it doesn’t matter. Everything seems to say, as a reviewer, one should mark this part of Brave Story: New Traveler somewhat low…but it just doesn’t deserve it. It uses old tricks, but uses them in the way that made them so popular to begin with; it simply gets the formula right. This is no doubt helped along by XSeed’s excellent localization. The team really went above and beyond what would have been considered passable and pushed to make a quality product here. Mission accomplished. As well, the story itself does get progressively more entertaining, like everything else, and ultimately satisfies.

Screen Shot
The Hokey-pokey minigame was sadly removed during beta testing, due to none of the testers actually playing other parts of the game. XSeed did not respond to my voicemails asking if it plans to localize Brave Story: New Dancer.

Battles start with a very traditional turn-based RPG system with a few twists including character-unique specials, “Bravesoul” skills (an innate ability, varying depending on the character), team moves, and a few other things. Characters can do the usual RPG stuff, though if using a special move, it will consume Brave Points, which function like traditional MP, but are regained by dealing damage. The combat starts out incredibly basic, but as the player gains more abilities–particularly Unity skills–and encounters more difficult bosses, things become much deeper and need for a bit more strategy manifests. Overall, the game is easy, but gradually gets more difficult, and there are some memorable, challenging bosses (including some optional bosses and a difficult optional dungeon), which is good.

Dungeons in New Traveler suffer from a bit of over-simplicity. They tend to be very expansive, with some occasional wide-open areas, but the general pattern is that it’s all for show; there is just one entrance and one exit to most rooms of a given dungeon, so it’s not much of a challenge to navigate. With the battles being fairly easy most of the time, perhaps a presence of some puzzles would have been a nice addition of challenge to the game. As it stands, there are no puzzles to be found within the dungeons here, with the exception of the final one. There are a lot of long, winding paths, but they don’t serve to make the dungeons any more mazelike, they just mean there’s some walking to be done before fighting the boss players know is coming.

Load times and lag that have plagued other PSP releases are absent from Brave Story. Transitions into battle are almost instant; the longest load time in the game is a town-overworld transition, which can take around four seconds–clearly nothing to be alarmed about. It’s about time PSP games got over this loading crap, so Brave Story earns props there.

Screen Shot
When a standard attack proves fatal to the target enemy, there’s a chance the attacking character will strike again.

On top of that, Brave Story is set up near perfectly for a portable RPG. The main quest can be completed in about 20 hours, which is short for console standards, but there are also a great many players who don’t want a handheld RPG to require Dragon Quest VIII-type timeframes to complete. There are also some optional things to do in Brave Story, including an extra dungeon, some optional bosses, and other various side quests, which can be done before or after the official endgame. It might be called short by some, but really, that’s great for a handheld game.

This game also accomodates the portable gamer in its interface. Everything is laid out very well, menus are simple, and at any time, the player can simply press a button to have a party member remind him/her where to go and what’s next on the agenda–perfect for those who might go a long while in between short play sessions. Their game also automatically keeps track of every monster the player defeats, what spoils they drop in all situations, and where they can be found. Other proceedures that might have been complicated, such as accessory crafting and battle bird management, are kept very simple, so the player won’t forget how they work if they aren’t used in a while. Again, great.

Its music and sound are okay. Like most handheld games these days, the music seems alright in the game, and there might be an occasional catchy tune, but it’s ultimately forgettable. Voice acting appears only in battle and a scant few cutscenes; what’s there is decent, but not remarkable and not very frequent outside of battle. The graphics look good overall, and the world of Vision is very colorful. However, characters’ faces and area backgrounds can get blurry when too close up, and some textures look slightly out of place. Also detracting somewhat from the visuals mark is the inability to turn off the comic book-esque “THWAAACK” messages that appear when attacking. They didn’t take away from my experience, but for some players, it might have been nice if the devs had included a way to turn those off.

Brave Story: New Traveler is getting a great rating, despite the various flaws. There are a few of them, but they are trampled by what is simply a fun, enjoyable game. It’s got a solid battle system, entertaining story, good characters, and other RPG ingredients done very well–thoroughly enjoyable.

-Heath Hindman

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