Brave Story: New Traveler
We all know what it takes to make a good RPG. It’s really not that hard. Make the character models look unique, the dungeons varied, and throw in some level grind goodness but don’t make it too tedious or too frequent. Take this, coupled with a story that captivates the game playing audience, and you’ve got something that will satisfy most RPG nerds.
That being said, the question to ask oneself is, “How can we manage to improve upon this cookie-cutter design and make the player feel more a part of the game – more like he or she is actually playing this role that we’ve created for them?” The answer is quite simple, really. Simply add massive amounts of character to each and every protagonist, antagonist, and villain that you throw about your game world. Not only that, but have the characters converse with one another throughout the game’s progress, making the player feel that much more connected to these “people” they are fighting alongside.
Few companies out there seem to “get it” when it comes to this, however; JapanStudio (of Genji fame) seems to have hit the nail on the proverbial head with this Brave Story. The graphics are beautiful, the game mechanics are tried and true, and most importantly, I cared about the non-player characters’ stories and wanted to see them resolve as well as whatever was in store for my character’s ending.
Brave Story does an excellent job of captivating the player once your journey actually gets to a start, but as with nearly everything, it’s not perfect. Very early on, the game forces you to go through some less than useful tips about playing the game. For even an upstart, these tutorials will seem unnecessary and dull. What’s more, the game has a “feature” known as Bird Brawling. Basically, this seems to be a tacked-on extra solely for the purpose of multi-player support as this is the only aspect of the game even remotely multi-player friendly.
Bird Brawling, and the actual catching of the little guys is something one can avoid entirely without missing anything pertinent to the story. The idea here is that you have to wrangle up little birdies with a bug net and some gigantic birdseed. Once you finish catching them, they fuse together into one bird with combined stats. This will be the bird you send into battle. As you find more bird catching places, you will accumulate more and more birds (if you choose to do so). The more you have, the more likely you’ll win the random Bird Brawl fans that are hidden in the various dungeon areas.
As stated above, Bird Brawling is unnecessary and thus, the mandatory tutorial for this aspect of the game is quite frustrating and entirely boring. Once you get past it, be sure to save ASAP so you don’t have to do it again upon dying (if you choose to do so).
I guess I should start telling you a little bit about the actual game now, huh? Brave Story takes many great elements from some very well-known classics in the genre. The battle system reminds me a lot of Suikoden and Dragon Quest while the graphic style seems to be a cross of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy VII.
The visual similarities are quite obvious right off the bat as it begins with your main character (Default name: Tatsuya) and the leading lady (Default name: Miki) are sitting on a park bench (much like the scene with Cloud and Tifa at the playground) having a conversation about him playing his video games too much. Tatsuya looks very similar to the main character in Kingdom Hearts, both in the way he is dressed and the basic art style. Lighting has a lot of similarities to Kingdom Hearts as well.
It’s not until later that you’ll see the other similarities in the battle system as this game isn’t one of those RPGs that starts you out fighting a boss with ultra-high level characters just to show of the battle system. In fact, the way the story begins, I didn’t think that this game would turn out to be as traditional of an RPG as it is.
The story is really a break away from the average RPG that we get in the US. Basically, after Kratos gets fed up waiting for you to walk him, he runs off and your fed up girlfriend/best friend chases after him. Of course, you don’t think much of this, but when Kratos comes back alone acting like he wants to show you something, you start to wonder and go see what happened. It turns out that Miki had fallen down or fainted while chasing after Kratos.
The story shifts to Tatsuya in the hospital, eavesdropping on the doctor telling Miki’s mom and dad that she may never wake from her coma. Feeling that it’s all your fault, you run to the rooftop and have a little breakdown where you hear a female voice tell you that beyond the door you can make any wish come true. Seeing that you believe that everything lies on your shoulders, you enter the gate only to awaken in a fantasy world called Vision. Here, you will be tested to find 5 gems that will allow you to see the goddess and get your wish.
Along the way, you’ll encounter quite a few allies and a handful of enemies as well. The first of which is Yuno, a young Kitkin female (Catgirl) who is in a bind, trapped by a bunch of gimblewolves. After helping her, she takes you to her village and your quest really begins.
Seeing that this is about the point in the game where you will encounter your first real battle, I think I’ll mention the battle system now. While battling, you may notice that your party has a maximum of 3 members at a time. Later on, you can switch among allies before and after a battle but not during. The reason you may want to do this is because depending on who’s in your party, you will have different unity attacks, much like those in Suikoden. Other than that, the battles function much more similarly to the more traditional Dragon Quest style. One thing that is unique is the Extra Attack ability that initiates when you overkill an enemy with still more on the battlefield. Essentially, this is just an added strike to another opponent, but in actuality you can use this as an awesome tactic that can help dispatch of more than 4 enemies in one turn with only three attacks.
Before I end this excessively long review, I want to reiterate the sense of companionship the game puts an emphasis on. As you go from town to town, there are numerous in game cut scenes that propel the main story as well as each of your fellow travelers’ individual tales. There are even special abilities called Brave Souls that each character can learn if you pursue their respective stories a bit. These range from being able to resurrect yourself to always firing an extra shot to simply extra magical prowess. As you can see, each has a unique, character specific use and you’ll appreciate the story of the game that much more if you make an effort to obtain them.
I found this a great change of pace in the genre and an especially welcomed addition to the PSP library. Some could even call this game the system-selling RPG that people have been waiting for. Sadly, I don’t think it will get hyped nearly as much as it deserves and will likely remain what some call a cult-classic. At any rate, if you are an old-school RPG fan who happens to own a PSP, this is what you’ve been looking forward to.
-Originally Posted by Bloodspoor