In the PS2 era developer Level-5 established itself as one of the more reliable teams when it came to delivering console RPG goodness. Dark Cloud and its sequel were well received by critics, and the talented team was chosen to help flesh out Dragon Quest VIII for the PS2. In 2006 they released what will probably become known as perhaps their most complete product in the last decade in Rogue Galaxy, a game that pays homage to both their Dark Cloud lineage and to Enix’s Star Ocean.
PRODUCTION VALUES GALORE
As perhaps the very last (or at least one of the very last) great epic RPG for the PS2, Rogue Galaxy doesn’t disappoint in its looks, cell shaded polygonal characters populate colorful worlds, that include lush jungles, desert lands, futuristic cities with a touch of steam punk, and even outer space.
The game ‘s sights can be fully appreciated thanks to a 360 degree camera and even a first person view. Yeah the game has problems with blurry textures and anti aliasing but so does FFXII and that title is generally regarded as the best looking PS2 RPG there is. All in all having played this game in 2011, I can attest that Rogue Galaxy is still pleasant to the eye.
The Art Work is pretty good even though it kind of steps more into the generic territory than it does into innovation, but it works here as Rogue is a huge game with huge dungeons and it places extensive emphasis on random battles.
The CG work is great though for some reason my PS2 would freeze on some occasions during the FMV cut scenes. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is the best looking RPG in the PS2 as FFX to me at least looks better and perhaps that’s because it has a fixed camera but even then as I said Rogue Galaxy doesn’t really try to break any new ground with its generic anime art style.
TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING IS A BAD THING
Gameplay wise Rogue Galaxy follows the modus operandi of most modern era RPG’s in which a lack of world map and linearity are mainstays. Your party of characters move a lot like in the Grandia series from one point to another and while there are towns and shops there are no inns (as health is automatically recovered at save point). Considering that the game moves fairly straight forward, town exploration goes by fairly quickly, even though there are treasure chest to be found.
Most of the time in the game is spent “dungeon crawling” and in that regard the game doesn’t differentiate itself much from the Dark Cloud 2. While the dungeons are there in order to advance the plot forward, the dungeons are pretty much areas in which you are forced into a marathon of battle after battled in order to level up and gain valuable items and money.
I can’t remember when was the last time I had to battle this much in a game, perhaps in Star Ocean 2 more than a decade ago. The fighting in Rogue Galaxy is action based much like Star Ocean, you can attack at the press of a button, utilize special attacks and there is even a block button. Like in Star Ocean success in battles depends mostly on what items you have equipped on your characters (and their special attacks) unfortunately while battling is fun at first, the battles can become cumbersome after a while thanks to a number of factors.
Some of the dungeons are a little too long for their own good, including the final one which is borderline ridiculously massive. I found myself for the most part just wanting them to end, and that is a problem when every 5 seconds you are forced into a random battle. My main complaint here is that levels eventually as the game progresses take a little too long to gain, and that you don’t see any mayor improvements from gaining such levels except small amounts of gained HP.
Star Ocean has made this mechanic work before, but Star Ocean even its second installment felt much more fun, and even though success also depended in the creation of items, leveling up did make a difference. Rogue Galaxy suffers from long stretches of boring dungeon crawling while battling with zero to little character development in these sometimes multi hour endeavors, one thing I have learned from Level-5 is that while they can craft a solid playing RPG, they can’t tell a story to save their lives.
Gameplay wise this is Star Ocean lithe which makes it a good game, in terms of battling and exploring, but the cumbersome item development system stinks, and thankfully it is not needed to finish the game as I managed to successfully defeat the last boss fairly easily without the use of created items.
The long dungeons and the frequency of the random battles will negatively affect the final tally in this category, then again at least you can run away from every encounter (expect from the mimic treasure chests) so that being said the game doesn’t deserve anything less than a seven here, if you love battling Star Ocean style this game will most assuredly please you. However as good as fighting in real time is too much of it made me long for the credits long before I got to the credits.
A STORY WORTH FORGETTING
One thing Level-5 has never managed to do in their Dark Cloud series or the game subject of this review is creating a captivating and engrossing tale. Rogue Galaxy’s problems on the surface are very basic: Cliché ridden plot + Uninteresting Posse of characters = Boring
The Plot is very uninspiring in the sense that us seasoned RPG buffs have seen the tale of an orphaned boy join a party of characters (in which there is a love interest) in order to save the world too many times before. Daytron Corp. (the bad evil empire) is the main Villain for the most part, and one can see from the very beginning of the tale how Rogue Galaxy will end.
Planet hopping is a bad thing indeed if you want a deep story line, because the worlds feel segmented and it is hard to care about any planet that you know you are in for just a few hours before you move into the next.
This is perhaps part of the reason Star Ocean 2 and 3, didn’t not feature a lot of planet hopping if any at all, as SO2 for example featured two fully realized planets with cities and their own internal conflicts. In Rogue Galaxy’s half a dozen or so planets, there is only one city to explore and they don’t have very interesting subplots in them. Most of these planets feature a small conflict in order to introduce you to a new party member for the most part.
The story uninteresting as it is moves at a snail pace because of the random battles, and there is no character development, there is never a sense of unity in the party and the characters very rarely have something interesting to say other than the usual jibber jabber. Jaster and Kisala are the main couple in the game and I could care less for them, it is very hard to play a game for 41 hours without having any interest in the story or its protagonists. From a game that borrows much from Star Ocean and some from the Tales’ series it is disappointing to see amateurish character development, FFVI from 1995 has more character development in spades.
Rogue Galaxy features a planet hopping quest to save the universe but there is nothing going on in its universe to make care one way or the other.
The voice acting is merely okay, but the tunes are well done I enjoyed the ending song a lot. The characters talk from time to time will running around the game worlds, and surprisingly it never got annoying even though they kept repeating some of the same lines over and over.
Most if not all of the dialog in the cut scenes is spoken, which is a nice touch, all in all the soundtrack like the rest of the game isn’t memorable but it does the job.
CRITICALLY WELL RECEIVED BUT FELT AVERAGE TO ME
Rogue Galaxy was received really well by critics everywhere, but aside from the pretty visuals and solid gameplay I fail to see where all the hoopla is at. That said today in an era where the console J-RPG is all but extinct, and at 9.99 on gamestop if you don’t own the title it is worth a purchase and a play-through Rogue Galaxy is an average PS2 RPG but it is better than FFXIII any day of the week.
Gameplay: 7.5- Fun battle system, but long dungeons and high frequency of battles hurt the score. The item creation system stinks, and the beast hunting mini quest isn’t really fun, because gaining levels takes long and doesn’t have much of an impact you can finish the game easily with characters on the lower 50’s.
Graphics: 8.5-Poor if generic artwork, lame texturing but still technically impressive. The excellent animation makes this a fair looking PS2 game.
Music: 7.5-Average, but gets the job done, not FF material, but not many games are.
Story: 6.0-Dissapointly simple and zero character development really hurts the score a great story might have helped the gameplay story by making the dungeon battle stretches worth going through.
Addictiveness: 6.0-There are two gigantic dungeons that open after ending the game and there are plenty of things to do in the game aside from the main quest, but I found them not enticing enough to follow through. Completists however might disagree with me on this.
Overall: 7.0- A bit better than average, not a memorable RPG, there are better choices in the PS2 but RPG buffs shouldn’t pass the game up as there are also many much worse alternatives out there.