Phantom Brave is back again, this time on the PSP, after having originally seen release on the PS2 and a port to the Nintendo Wii. Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle will certainly bring fans of the original game on a trip down memory lane, but that's not all it'll do. The game sports a couple of new additions like five new characters, improved visuals and a story that will make your heart drop. If you're the sensitive type, you might shed a tear. Okay, I kid, but Phantom Brave does indeed tackle some serious themes like fear and discrimination.
The game is set in the world of Ivoire and you play as young Marona, an orphaned child that lives on Phantom Isle with, you guessed it, a phantom named Ash, providing service to others as a Chroma, or a bounty hunter of sorts. Ash acts as her guardian, having worked with Marona's parents up until the point of their death where they expanded what little remaining life energy in order to save him. Unfortunately, they could only bring Ash back as a phantom. Marona is the only person that is able to see Ash in his phantom form and this is due to her inherent ability, the Chartreuse Gale.
Thanks to this ability, many label her as "The Possessed One," believing that she is controlled by evil spirits. This makes life somewhat difficult for her and you'll share in that experience throughout the game. There are just some points in the story where I felt really bad for Marona, the poor little thing. Even after seven years on the market, the attachment to the characters has not been lost. Marona's ability also enables her to bind spirits and phantoms to objects on the field. This is an essential concept that players will need to grasp early on in the game as it's the only way you'll be able to clear objectives in battle.
Marona, by herself, isn't much of a fighter, but thanks to her Confine ability, she can bind spirits to, say, a rock or a tree. Depending on what object she binds them to, they'll inherit a number of stat bonuses like increased attack points. A boulder usually yields stronger attack and defence, whereas a shrubbery penalizes physical attributes but rewards magic ones.
In addition, there are objects on the field that can provide additional buffs for either enemy units or your own and sometimes the only way to victory is to destroy the source of these buffs. Players will also have to keep in mind that spirits will not remain on the field forever, most of them are limited to a certain amount of turns. This places a strong emphasis on strategy and timing as time itself, on top of enemy units, becomes something you'll have to contend with.
On that note, unlike many strategy RPG games on the market, even its sister game Disgaea, Phantom Brave sports a unique battle system that employs a free roaming field instead of an isometric grid. Units can move across the field and the only limitation is the MP, for lack of a better term, that predetermines the distance and range that can be crossed. The Lift and Throw mechanics return as well, enabling players to pick up objects on the field to use as weapons or simply lift and throw a unit to gain some space.
In addition, Mana is gained after every fight and this is used to upgrade your equipment and learn new abilities. The further you progress through the game, the more you might want to consider capitalizing on the character creator. You can create as many units as you'd like as long as you have the Bols for it - the in-game currency and yes, pun/innuendo totally intended. New classes can be obtained by defeating them in battle.
More importantly, missions and quests are chosen via the Mailbox on Phantom Isle, which acts as the game's main hub of rest and relaxation. New events will bring up new islands to visit and you can always revisit each quest, much like in the Disgaea series. All things considered, the gameplay is relatively charming and unique with its unusual amalgamation of standard strategy RPG conventions and a free roaming system. However, some of it can get awfully in-depth and complicated, making it tough for newcomers to enjoy.
Speaking of charming, nothing describes the world of Ivoire better than that. While the game's visuals aren't exactly mind blowing, the colours and event backdrops are really vibrant and enjoyable. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the in-game fields as most of them are of the rather generic nature. Character sprites can be awfully adorable, but also very blurry due to the low resolution.
There is an option to swap between "Blurry" and "Vivid" sprites, but it does little difference and most probably won't even notice the option in the first place. The performances from the voice actors are quite hit and miss, with some sounding really good and others not so much. Thankfully, there is the option to switch between the English dub and the original Japanese voiceovers, which is far better when it comes to character performance. The music is also another charming point of the game, being rather reminiscent of Disgaea where most of the tracks are cheerfully enjoyable.
Fans of strategy RPGs will certainly lose themselves in this game with its enjoyable mechanics and engaging story. Those that have never touched a game of this genre before, however, will probably be put off a bit, especially since it's an updated rerelease of a 2004 PS2 game. Even so, if you're one who is interested in a fresh take on strategy RPG mechanics and a fun, likeable story, then Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle is a game for you. Fans of Nippon Ichi will delight in the five new characters available to conscript, including one Unlosing Ranger.
|A fun and charming story line.|
|Deep, engaging gameplay with a strong focus on strategy.|
|A unique, free-roaming battle system.|
|Bland and generic battlegrounds.|
|Low resolution sprites.|
|Game mechanics can become too complex and overly complicated.|