Perhaps the best way to describe the game would be to say it’s “every broken promise of Space RPG combat that Star Ocean failed to deliver”. Okay, I am exaggerating, the game is hardly an RPG to begin with and it isn’t quite absolutely stellar, but it IS a pretty nice change of pace.
Basic plot is that you are Yuri, a dude who lives in a planet where the residents are forbidden by the local feudal lord to go into space, so he hires a Launcher (Basically, a smuggler) to get him out. He wants to go to space to figure out what the hell’s the deal with his Epitaph, a cube of supposedly huge value that his dead father left him. Stuff happens, he gets a ship and thus becomes a Zero-G Dog, a space cowboy, so to speak.
Not very original premise, huh? Well, let me just get all the bad stuff I’ve encountered so far out of the way:
-The game makes extensive use of the DS’ capability to render fully 3D polygons and environments. Which is to say, it kinda looks like ass.
-Ship battles are pretty simplistic. There’s some wit to it involved, but things are really decided by how well you built/modified/positioned your ship/assigned your crew. Once you are actually fighting, it’s 20% strategy, 70% preparation, 10% hoping the enemy barrages you while you use dodge. I DO admit I have not tried boarding, which supposedly brings up melee combat, but from what I’ve read, that one’s a glorified rock-paper-scissors. STILL MORE INTERACTIVE THAN FINAL FANTASY THOUGH OH SNAP ZING.
-On that note, while I have not actually seen it being used yet, Yuri is handed a weapon for melee. After demonstrating the clear superiority of laser guns over close-quarter weaponry, your smuggler/guide/crewmate Nia hands Yuri… a fucking sword. Okay, BEAM sword, big fucking whoop.
-By GOD, read the fucking manual, because the game really doesn’t go out of its way to explain anything at all to you regarding mechanics.
With THAT out of the way, some vindication:
-Yuri is… actually fairly nice. He’s, despite the setting, not an overenthusiastic greenhorn setting out on adventure to be the very best, like no one ever was, to catch them as his test and train them as his task. He just wants out of his shithole planet and to figure out what the hell’s the deal with the mystery rubix cube. He’s very good at not pulling the typical hyperactive teenager shit I loathe so much in many recent games.
-Ship and crew customisation are extensive as bloody hell, so it makes up for the relative simplicity of combat.
-Holy FUCK this game is huge. Don’t get fooled by the somewhat fast way in which things are resolved in the first chapter, this thing is gigantic.
-While the plot is still linear, there’s some freedom as to what and when to do a lot of stuff or whether to do it at all, and there’s some important choices along the way… or so I’m told.
Overall, while it doesn’t blow my mind, it’s still pretty fun to play, especially in spurts so combat doesn’t turn too repetitive.
By the way, tiny curious detail… Yuri’s romantic interest appears to be… his sister. No, not in the “Ramza never has a romantic subplot, but a lot of the game is about saving his sister so let’s make jokes about that”, it’s painfully obvious to everyone that his sister has feelings for him. If there’s a “non-blood related” twist along the way, I haven’t seen yet. It’s not like the game’s subtle about it, literally the first scene between them has an astonished Nia asking if they are seriously blood siblings.