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Reviewed: Brave Story: New Traveler
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: September 5th, 2007
Page: 2

Brave Story starts out a bit tongue-in-cheek; the hero Tatsuya is playing a game on his PSP, ignoring his girlfriend Miki. She wanders off after his dog, gets injured and sent to the hospital, and Tatsuya wanders up to the roof, where a magical talking frog gives him the chance to become a "Traveler" in an alternate world, fight monsters, and work to obtain the blessing of the "Goddess" to have his wish granted and Miki's health restored.

The end result is a game that attempts to be both silly and serious at once, and doesn't quite succeed at either. The world pallette is light and bright, with cheerful-looking enemies (including, at early levels, bunnies wielding giant carrots). Every combat attack is accompanied by a visual sound effect, such as "Krakoom" or "ZZZap", that wouldn't look out of place in the old '60s Batman tv series. The game's dungeons carry uglier monsters, darker palettes, and a generally gloomier mood.

The bad guy steals the girl...

Your full party, for the viewing.

Leynart demonstrates his spear prowess.

In total, there are six party members; a cat-girl, a giant lizard, something resembling a halfling, a female fighter, and a spear-wielding fighter with horns. They're slowly acquired throughout the game in various plot points; in an ordinary game, this might not be an issue, but in the game's setup this poses some problems. 

The combat system is based on "Bravery" and "Friendship": in other words, the mana bar ("BP") fills up by making attacks, and the "Friendship" factor both unlocks team attacks (attacks that use BP from both characters, but have larger effects than ordinary attacks) and increases the chance that a team member will attempt to shield another from attack. Certain monsters also will shield each other, call for help (adding more monsters to combat), or occasionally turn into a super-powerful "crazed' version of themselves, but for the most part no monster or group is powerful enough to take down the heroes; in 30 hours of play, I counted only two deaths, one against a dungeon boss.

Outside of combat, Brave Story suffers from its own attempts to be as deep as possible. Each town has progressively more powerful weapons and armor available for sale, but not at prices high enough to make players wonder about purchasing them. Add-on trinkets for various effects are constructed by finding templates and then crafting them from items world enemies drop; the basics are easy to make and more than enough for normal play, leaving the finding of the rare pieces for game completists only. Side quests are pretty much limited to hunting down NPC's in the game, and hunting "crazed' versions of normal monsters.

Graphically, while the character models and monsters are great, the in-game landscape is somewhat lacking, and the dungeons themselves are locked to the isometric perspective; one imagines the PSP can do a lot more than the game lets on. Dungeon areas are also very small, usually involving at least 2-3 load zones before the end. Musically, the tracks are nice, but get repetitive and old quickly; the English voice acting is also terrible, but thankfully the Japanese was left in as an option.

Meladee, with twin swords ready.

The side-game: fighting Peeps.

Most conversations happen in towns like this.

Brave Story also suffers from the obviousness of programmers who may not have realized they were making a portable title; there is no in-dungeon map (making it easy to get lost), there's no ability to save from the world map and perhaps 1 or 2 save points per dungeon, requiring players to be able to play for at least 15 minutes to save if they need to close out.

The mini-game is also annoying; players must run around the world catching birds, and then run to spots deep in each dungeon to fight them against other bird-fighting NPC's; the NPCs generally have more powerful birds, and even more of them (while the player's limited to 5 birds, the enemy has no such limit). There's also no way to control the bird-fights, leaving players to just sit and watch as their birds are beaten down each time.

Brave Story shows a lot of potential; at the core, if you step aside from the side quests and the bird-brained minigame, it's a reasonable RPG story and decent classic-style fighting system. The actual combat is very similar to Final Fantasy titles, if a little less customizable in terms of which characters have what attacks available. If you're a genre fan who likes to pick up every RPG, it might be for you. If you're looking for a way in just to have an RPG on the PSP, you could do worse.

Added:  Thursday, September 06, 2007
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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