Preview: Rogue Galaxy (PS2)

Title: Rogue Galaxy
Genre: RPG
Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: Level 5
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: December 2005 (Japan)
Official Japanese Website: Rogue Galaxy (Japanese)

In 2000, while the Playstation 2 was still relatively young, a new company called Level 5 produced a game called Dark Cloud. While not the greatest game in the world, it was one of the first good RPGs for the console, and had a good story and the unique Georama system. It was popular enough to merit a sequel. So at the end of 2002, they released Dark Chronicle (Dark Cloud 2 in the States). The same basic premise remained, but it had a deeper story, a more evolved Georama system, the really cool golf mini-game Spheda, and of course, the incredibly awesome camera and invention system. In addition, it was their first foray into cel shaded graphics. Superior in every way to the original, I feel Dark Cloud 2 really put Level 5 on the map.

Apparently, Square Enix and Microsoft agreed, because both companies hired Level 5 to produce games for them. Microsoft tapped them to make True Fantasy Live Online for the Xbox. That game has since been cancelled, but there are rumors that it’s actually in limbo and may be released for the Xbox 360 in the future. But Square Enix saw so much promise in the company that they gave them the reigns to one of their two most cherished series, Dragon Quest, and had them develop the next game in the series. Both True Fantasy Live Online and Dragon Quest VIII feature cel shaded graphics, and as such, it has become one of Level 5’s trademarks. But during the development of those two games, Level 5 posted a teaser image on their website of their next game. There was much speculation as to what it was, many of course thinking it would be the third of the Dark Cloud series.

Then at this year’s Playstation Meeting conference, which showcased new and upcoming games, Akihiro Hibino lifted the veil and announced the next game they would be releasing. It was called Rogue Galaxy. It has been in development for the past two and a half years, coinciding with their development of Dragon Quest VIII.

Hibino-san has some very high hopes for the game. He stated that he basically wanted to make a game that would become as popular as a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest title. Another large order he wants to fill is for the game to have no (or at least unnoticeable) loading times. These are two big things to wish for, especially wanting to compete against the FF/DQ titles, so my own personal best wishes for both.

The premise of the game is that you play a young 17 year old man named Chester (or perhaps Jester, I’ve seen both names used) Rogue, who has grand dreams of becoming a pirate. There must be no ninjas in this galaxy, because then he’d want to be a ninja because they’re cooler. Then he’d have to change his name to Chester Ninja, which just doesn’t sound right.

Anyway, he was born on a desert planet called Rosa, but a pirate by the name of Dorgengore enlists young Chester to join his crew of merry pirates. Other pirates (and party members) include Kisara, a cute 17 year old tomboy (who just happens to be Dorgengore’s daughter), the scruffy troublemaker Zegram, and the Amazonian sounding Luluka, from the forest planet of Juraika. While these 4 will likely be in your party early on, there will be a total of 8 party members later, including some non-human types like a fish-dude (eat them up, yum!), a robot, a cat-girl, and an ogre of sorts.

Graphically, the game looks simply incredible. From the work on their previous games, Level 5 has completely raised the bar on cel shaded graphics. They look simply beautiful. They’ve gone with their standard anime style of character designs, and while the characters are cel shaded, the environments are standard 3D (though VERY high quality), and the effect of the two together is simply astounding. This has the looks of being one of the best games (graphically) on any current generation of consoles. In my opinion anyway.

The battle system sounds reminiscent of the Star Ocean system. You can have 3 members in your party at once, and battles are real-time where you control one character while the computer controls the other two, though you can give certain commands and strategies to the additional units. Each character will have 2 unique weapons that do different types of attacks (possibly a short range and a long range attack, but that’s just speculation on my part). And there will also be a support system that has been compared to the Materia system used in Final Fantasy VII where you arrange pieces on a board in a certain way, which determines your skills.

Level 5 loves their minigames, and so do we! Apparently, the big minigame in Rogue Galaxy will involve capturing animals and using them to play a game that resembles chess. You can also level them up somehow, but few other details were released on that. All I know is that Game Freak is sooooo pissed that they didn’t think of making a Pokemon Chess game.

And Dark Cloud 2 fans, rejoice! Rogue Galaxy will apparently feature an improved version of the invention system (though I don’t know if it will involve taking pictures, unfortunately), and you’ll even eventually be able to get a factory with an assembly line to produce items.

Level 5 has a good chance to produce a hit here. The game has a lot of markings of becoming a winner, and the scope of the game is enormous. There will apparently be a ton of different planets you can venture to, with all sorts of different planet types, including deserts, forests, and more hi-tech and modern type planets. Plus, each planet will feature multiple areas you can visit. It has been stated that the game world is much larger than even Dragon Quest VIII was, though I haven’t played it so that frame of reference doesn’t mean much to me.

Level 5 has come a long way in the past 5 years. They have truly got a knack for the Playstation 2 hardware and have made some top tier games. And they don’t appear to be slowing down. This group is great, and they are only getting better. So it’s my bet that Rogue Galaxy will be a very fun game and while it may not reach the popularity of a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game, it sure has the potential to.

The game is set to be released sometime in December in Japan, yet there is no word on an American release, but I’m sure we’ll get it several months afterwards.

Oh, and if you’re interested in viewing the trailer for the game, you can get it here:
http://anon.sce.speedera.net/anon.sce/roguegalaxy/roguegalaxy0805_2500k.wmv
(Right click and choose Save Link As)

Credit: Famitsu, Gamespot, Games Are Fun