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Hands-on Preview -
Rogue Galaxy
Previewed on 12/14/06

Rogue Galaxy, due out in late January, is looking alright.

Battles in the game play out similar to other games like the .hack series and Final Fantasy XII, in that free movement is allowed, and the player controls one character directly while the other two run on AI. During the fighting itself, the feel seemed a little more like the former of those two, but with obvious, big differences. One such difference is the combo system, in which an ally will yell the name of the party leader to suggest a combo, then a few options will pop up. The player selects which combo to perform (if there are options) and a skippable mini-cutscene takes place in which the special is performed.

These battles occur through a seemless transition when the party gets a "Warning" signal, then enemies appear out of nowhere. So the battles are random, but there's no transition to a separate combat screen or taking of turns. Each character has a primary weapon and secondary weapon, used with the X and square buttons, respectively. Jumping is also possible, for high-up or flying targets. Overall, the combat felt pretty chaotic and it seemed a bit hard to keep track of all that was going on at once, but that may have simply been because it was new.

The demo played for this preview has two sections: "Hunt Down the Quarry" and "Departure from Burkaqua Village." The former is simply a short trip towards a boss battle. The fight is pretty challenging, but made far easier by the fact that the party comes equipped with several very powerful healing potions.

"Departure from Burkaqua Village" is a small sample of what gameplay in a town would be like. The party can roam about, talk to the village people (ask them where it's fun to stay), open treasures, and eventually move on out onto a trail towards an alter. All of this is completely seamless, which is quite cool. It should also be noted that the hero has a cut on his face: a fashion trend among budding rescuers of the galaxy these days.

Party members follow the leader around on-screen, though not always intelligently. More than once in this demo experience, a party member ended on top of a treasure chest, meaning one would have to walk in a circle to get him/her off of there so as to open the thing instead of repeatedly talking to the other party member. That was a minor annoyance.

The graphics and music provided darn good atmosphere during the exploration, but what really gets annoying is the random outbursts from party members. Some of what they'll doesn't even make sense; the party will be cruising down a trail and one of them will just perk up and go, "There is such a thing as being TOO kind, you know." What the hell are you talking about? We're in a jungle with no one else around, just running. Is there supposed to be context to this comment? Other such talking got pretty annoying.

Two different promo trailers are also included. They mostly showed off bits of the story, which seems to be built around the search for a legendary lost planet of Eden and a lot of intergalactic politics. Sadly, there's no word on remixed versions of any certain Beastie Boys songs to appear in the soundtrack. What music was played, however, was pleasing. The trailer made note of features to be found in the final product, including a sort of chesslike insect battling minigame and the ability to synthesize ones own items by jamming them into the mouth of a weird frog and by building a custom-made factory.

So far, judging by what's in this demo, Rogue Galaxy feels pretty average. Demos can be misleading though, as has been seen with FFXII, so some things are still up in the air. But if this is indicative of the final product, Rogue Galaxy will be an RPG to watch, but probably won't end up on a lot of "favorite ever" lists.

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-Heath Hindman