Phantom Brave
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 02/26/2005


Waayy back in the
summer of ’03, Nippon Ichi and Atlus decided to test the American
waters with Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Demand for
this game was so high they saw fit to release La Pucelle:
, a game that had been released in Japan in 2002. This
Tactical-RPG-release frenzy continued recently, with Phantom
. Like its predecessors, Phantom
is a very fun game with a deep battle system, nearly
unlimited customizability, and a great story.
This is a story about prejudice, betrayal, and the power of kindness.
It’s the year 913, in the ocean-filled world of Iviore. Three Chromas
(Basically Mercenaries) are investigating a disturbance at the Island
of Evil, an island known for being… Well… Evil. It’s here that
we’re introduced to one of the two main characters, Ash, along with
other characters of lesser import but still important because they
happen to be the parents of the second main character, Marona. Anyways,
bad things happen, and as a result, Ash becomes a Phantom, and is
charged with protecting Marona. 8 years pass, and we find Marona and
Ash living together on an island known as Phantom Isle, working as
Chromas. But all is not well with these two, as Marona is called the
“Possessed One” and is considered evil by most, despite her glaring
innocence. This is because she’s able to see Phantoms, and can give
them physical substance, if only for a short while.

Screen Shot
No Steve, I’m sorry. You can’t come fight bloody battles
with us. You’re doomed to spend your days carefree on this paradisical
beach with the hot females.

This brings us to the battle system. Gone are the grid-filled
battlefields of the past. Free roaming is what battles are all about in
Phantom Brave. The amount of turns a character has
is determined by their speed stat, as opposed to everybody moving in
the same turn. You can move a set distance each turn, as depicted by a
red circle surrounding your character, and you can move as many times
as you want during your turn until you reach the maximum distance. It’s
very possible to move in, attack, and move away again. Of course, you
can’t very well move if you don’t have anyone on the field, right?
Players will always start out with Marona, but she is a subpar warrior
at best, and is very quickly overshadowed by most Phantoms you can
obtain. How do you use phantoms, you ask? Well, Marona has the ability
to confine phantoms to various objects strewn about the battlefield,
giving them physical substance and allowing them to fight at your side.
Through the use of the Confine ability, a row of standard bricks can
become a veritable army of soldiers, fighters, and even old men. Of
course, there are a few drawbacks to this system. One can only confine
a phantom for a limited amount of time before it disappears again,
unable to be confined for the remainder of that battle. Different
objects will also provide different bonuses for the phantom confined to
it. Rocks are well suited for a more physically oriented character,
such as a Fighter, while flowers would provide more use for a Witch.
Terrain is also a bit of a factor in this game as well. Some places
(Especially those covered in ice, for obvious reasons) are far more
slippery than others. Careful management of slippery terrain can result
in being able to move around ten times faster than you normally would.
Some terrain is also rather bouncy, and when you throw things they tend
to… Bounce. Another feature to note is what I like to call “Special
Protection,” although it doesn’t necessarily have to offer protection.
Basically, certain objects on the field will offer other objects a
special ability, ranging from doubling attack power to increasing
experience gain to invincibility. One can confine phantoms to these
“Protected” objects, and take advantage of the protection yourself.
However, destroying the object or killing the enemy that’s creating the
protection negates any abilities it offers.
Equipment also works a bit differently in this game. Instead of being
able to give a full set of armor to each character, weapons and armor
are handled by… Being the same thing. Attack, Defense, Intelligence,
Resistance, and other stats are all enhanced by objects that are either
picked up on the battlefield or bought from a merchant. More mundane
items such as rocks and weeds are obtained by confining a character to
them and waiting until their time runs out. There’s a chance that
you’ll permenantly gain the item, and you can equip it for various
effects. Otherwise, weapons such as swords, axes, and books are bought
from a merchant phantom. Confining an equipped character counts as
confining two characters, however, so you may find that you can’t bring
out that army of rock-wielding Putties as fast as you’d like. Another
thing that’s rather unique about this game is that you can essentially
‘equip’ other characters, friend or foe, and use their abilities as if
they were your own. Certain characters also get special attacks when
‘wielding’ one another. One more thing to note is that allies can pick
up enemies and throw them out of the battlefield, eliminating them.
This increases the power of the remaining enemies, but sometimes the
tradeoff is worth it.
Each item has its own set of special abilities, which can be unlocked
through the use of a Blacksmith phantom, however any enhancements made
to an item are specific to that item only. Items can level up as well,
gaining experience each time it’s used. It’s also possible to fuse
items together and combine their abilities, so you could have a rock
with the ability to use Hurricane Slash, for example. You can also fuse
characters with items and other characters, to further increase stats
and abilities. This is all tied together through the use of Mana, which
is similar to exp, only it’s used solely for fusions and blacksmithery.

Screen Shot
“Run away from the rabbit of

The graphics in this game are almost identical to
Disgaea and La Pucelle: Tactics,
which is to say, full of hand drawn sprites. The cutscenes are
portrayed with moving sprites at least. But in the end, it just feels
like the same thing. Despite the lack of a grid system, the
battlefields look rather squarish, and wouldn’t look at all out of
place in the other NIS games.
The voice acting, while not the best ever, gets the job done, although
several characters seem to be rather… lacking… when it comes to
vocal prowess. The music is also fairly decent, and sets the mood for
the scenes rather well.
Overall, the gameplay is rather enjoyable and deep. The story is a bit
cliche, but these days it’s very hard to come up with a completely
original story. There are loads of things to do after you beat the
game, which makes up for the lack of replay value. If you’re a Strategy
RPG fan at all, you probably already own this title, but if not, you

-Quinton Alexander

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Legendary
Story Good
Graphics Average
Sound/Music Very Good
Replay Value Below Average
The Verdict: 8