Nowadays, developer Sting is most known for their complicated, but extremely immersive RPGs such as Riviera: The Promised Land, Yggdra Union, and Knights in the Nightmare. But long-time fans know that the developer has also worked on old-fashioned RPGs, such as their Evolution series of games. Hexyz Force, their latest PSP title, follows this pattern, replacing complex and intricate game mechanics with something that RPG fans are more used to, but still keeping the charm and secrets that Sting games are known for. Will new fans of the developer find Hexyz Force an enjoyable deviation from the developer's latest games, or should the company stick with what they've become known for?
Hexyz Force takes place in a world where a war was waged against the god of destruction. To overcome the god, both humans and non-humans fought alongside divinities called Hexyz. Thanks to their power, good prevailed and peace returned to the world. However, it was stated that a promised Hour of Judgment would come, where the world would have to decide between creation and destruction. A unique twist in the RPG formula comes with the player being able to guide that decision through their actions in the game. The game is presented in a 3D world with chibi-like sprites and nice hand-drawn portraits during story events. Various animated cutscenes are also present at various points throughout the game, which are incredibly lush and detailed for a portable title.
In an unexpected move for RPGs on the PSP, Hexyz Force gives players two separate storylines, which intersect with each other during various points in the game. They end up merging together into one unified storyline near the end of the game. One side follows a cleric-in-training named Cecelia, who finds out she is supposed to become a Hexyz, which is now used to label people who have inherited the Force of the Divinities. In the game, Force is a term for a life force, or a soul, which is present in everything, not just living creatures. When a force comes from a living thing, it retains some of the will of its original owner, similar in concept to a soul. The other storyline revolves around a soldier of the emperor, Levant, who detests non-humans. Not unexpectedly, due to the return of the evil from long-ago, he finds himself forced to work with them via an order from the emperor.
Unlike Sting's recent games, Hexyz Force's battle system stands very firm in the expectations of the traditional role-playing genre. Characters can attack with weapons and use magic, similar to most RPGs. However, the game also includes the ability to move characters around on a grid to relegate damage output/defense. Moving a character closer to opponents increases their damage potential but leaves them more exposed to damage, where as moving a character farther away does the opposite. A meter is also present that can deal special attacks after enough regular damage has been dealt during a battle. There's nothing unexpected here, but it's nice to see another Sting game that doesn't overly penalize the player because they didn't realize and exploit every gameplay mechanic that was present, one culprit being Knights in the Nightmare, which at times was too complicated for its own good.
Taking advantage of the PSP's portable factor, Hexyz Force also includes a bevy of features that makes playing the game on the go much more enjoyable. While the game was made to lessen the loading times from the UMD, Sting has provided an option to install the game to the Memory Stick, reducing the loading time of the game to almost nothing. In battles, the R button acts as a way to increase the battle speed in-between rounds, which isn't that important in a console RPG, but makes all the difference in a portable RPG where most players wouldn't have as much time to wade through long, unending battles to get to the next save point.
Hexyz Force isn't going to set the RPG world on fire, but it appears that Sting's latest game is going to satisfy gamers who are looking for a full-on console RPG experience with the features one expects from a portable title. The Force is definitely strong with this game.