Rogue Galaxy
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 01/24/2007

Ah…the much anticipated Rogue Galaxy. Does it live up to the hype?

Rogue Galaxy‘s story isn’t going to win a Pulitzer, but it has some charm nevertheless. To sum, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed protagonist Jaster Rogue and his compatriots travel around the galaxy after being chosen to complete an unspecified task for the famous space pirate Dorengoa. As a whole, the story is fairly light-hearted, and this mood is complimented well by the game’s colorful cast. Each character has a very distinctive personality, and none of them are unlikable. That said, the story doesn’t really stand out among the crowd; the mood is nice, but the story isn’t particularly engaging.

To experience this story, players will have to guide the crew through the six planets (it’s more like a solar system than a galaxy, really), and whack baddies with the help of the game’s real-time battle system. Veterans of the Tales and Star Ocean series will feel at home when playing Rogue Galaxy, though the system is rather shallow in comparison. Regardless, the battles remain consistently enjoyable throughout the game, and even if battles start feeling tiresome, the player can go into the menu and choose to control one of the other eight characters. The different characters all have distinct fighting styles; Jaster wields a sword and a gun, Lilika uses a bow and a throwing hatchet, and Kisala uses daggers and hand-to-hand combat, for example, so it’s easy to switch to a different character to keep things somewhat fresh.

The battle system does have problems however, with the biggest one being the strength of some of the game’s attack magic. Having trouble with the “beasts” in a dungeon? Just cast Desert Wind or Starshine as soon as a battle begins and they’ll be gone in a snap. Refilling AP following battles is easy as well, since full-heal potions are a dime a dozen. This tactic becomes less effective later in the game, but it’s still easy to spam attack spells since the “recharge” time isn’t very long.

Screen Shot
Checkin’ out Verdan

The gameplay is complimented by the game’s seamless transitions and low load times. Unlike many RPGs, entering and leaving areas doesn’t require any loading times that distract from the gameplay. When a battle ends, the transition back to travelling is seamless as well; after the characters do their victory poses, the player can immediately start moving the characters around the area. Even when the post-battle status screen is still displayed.

What would a battle system be without abilities? Abilities are learned in Rogue Galaxy by placing items on the “Revelation Flow Board.” This system is really similar to the “License Board” in Final Fantasy XII, only instead of spending points, abilities are unlocked by placing items found in treasure chests, stores, or after battle into certain tiles. Different characters will have different abilities to choose from on their tile boards, which causes the characters to become sort of distinct from one another. There is little in the way of customization, however.

Players do have more options when customizing weapons, even if the system still isn’t very deep. When used in battle, a weapon’s power grows until it reaches the “max” level. When two weapons of the same type are maxed, they can be combined to form a new, more powerful weapon. Some combinations will produce more powerful creations than others, and some will decrease the power of the weapon, but the game will display a warning if the product is going to be a downgrade.

There’s also the factory system, which allows players to combine things to make new items. To get this to work you have to find blueprints that tell you what items you need. Following this, the player must build a production line in a Sim City-esque fashion to make a prototype. But items one creates aren’t automatically available, though. The prototypes are sent to shops, where they will be purchasable later.

The dungeons are all long. Very long. The typical dungeon will take at least an hour to complete, but many will take much longer. This wouldn’t be a problem by itself–some like ’em big, some like ’em small–but the thing about the dungeons is that nearly all of them will use the same room designs over and over again, making the player feel like he or she is running around a freakin’ Flinstones cartoon. There will be subtle differences occasionally, be it in lighting or something else, but for the most part it’s like “hey, I’ve seen pillars that have fallen against walls in the exact same way about 40 times already. What are the odds?!”

Screen Shot
The jungle planet Juraika

Many were impressed by Rogue Galaxy‘s visuals when it was first announced. While the character designs and animated sequences live up to the hype, area designs aren’t nearly as striking. They’re not ugly by any means, but they aren’t very memorable either. The game’s music is similarly forgettable; it’s not ear-shattering, but it’s not something you’ll be humming in the shower, either.

Unlike most games that make it to our shores, Rogue Galaxy‘s localization entailed more than a script translation. Indeed, many “improvements” (I haven’t played the Japanese version, but I’ll take their word for it when they say “improved,” since even Sony’s PR-laden reviewer’s guide makes the Japanese version sound like a beta test) were implemented for the North American version. For example, the game’s Burning Strike system was totally revamped, PvP was added to the Insectron mini game, new dialogue was added, the Revelation Flow board was totally redesigned, lag was shortened, and an all new planet was put in, among other things. The translation itself is good. There are a few mediocre performances and hiccups, but nothing too major.

Like many RPGs in this day and age, Rogue Galaxy offers many different side quests and mini games that can still keep players busy once they finish the main quest. Bonus dungeons, new items, and the Pokémon-esque Insectron Stadium await completionists and Rogue Galaxy lovers alike.

It’s probably not going to be the definitive RPG experience of 2007, but Rogue Galaxy is still a fun game regardless of its flaws. The cut-and-paste dungeons and the exploitable battle system are definitely problems, but these issues don’t keep it from being an above average RPG that will be enjoyed by many.

-Phillip A. Clayton

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Very Good
Story Good
Graphics Good
Sound/Music Average
Replay Value Good
The Verdict: 6