While we all anxiously wait for Disgaea 4 to make its way out of Japan and into our greedy little hands, you may want to consider distracting yourself with Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle. Originally released on the PS2 simply as Phantom Brave, was ported to the Wii with the subtitle We Meet Again and has now been ported again for the PSP. If you missed this game the first two times, now is your opportunity to hop on board and play this charming tactical RPG. You’ll be glad you did.
Phantom Brave stars a 13-year-old girl named Marona who is protected by a brave and dashing young phantom named Ash. Thanks to her special sixth sense, she is able to see and interact with Ash as well as other phantoms. More interestingly, she is able to temporarily “Confine” them to various objects, allowing them to roam freely in the physical realm. It’s a bit like Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, but the phantoms actually get to use their own bodies instead of taking control of toasters and shopping carts (although that would be ridiculously fun). If there are enough trees, rocks, weapons, and other objects in the area, you can summon yourself a little army of phantoms.
Of course, in order to summon a phantom, you must first create it back at Phantom Isle. This in itself has a lot of complexities to it, but all you really need to know (for now) is that different phantom classes are obtained by killing enough monsters/people of that type. This may even involve killing random innocent people who happen wander onto the battlefield. It’s brutal, but sometimes people have to be murdered in order to build a phantom army and save the world from evil skeleton monsters.
While similar to Disgaea (to the point of even featuring some characters) and other tactical RPG’s, there are several key differences that make Phantom Brave‘s battle system stand out. Unlike the aforementioned, you don’t play on a strict grid. Instead, you play in an open terrain with a radius that determines your movement limitations. How you move on the terrain also depends what kind of terrain it is and whether or not there are objects such as bushes to move through. Slippery surfaces, for instance, can be skidded across to achieve greater distance in fewer moves.
Another difference is that characters can be thrown or hit out of bounds, knocking them out of the fight. This can create some interesting strategies because when an enemy is knocked out of bounds, the other enemies level up to compensate for the loss. It’s up to you to decide if you want to deal with several weak enemies or a single powerful one. This may also be useful when trying to decrease the mobility of your characters because like I said earlier, they are only temporarily confined to objects. After so many turns, each character will disappear, so you’ll have to plan your attacks wisely. Unfortunately, a character’s hands must be empty in order to hold or throw enemies, which can be somewhat annoying at times.
There are plenty of other features that make battle—and the overall game—a robust experience, but trying to go into details about it all would take forever. While this is a relatively simple game, it also has a lot of complexities. And figuring them all out and using them to your advantage are part of the fun. You could easily spend hours developing your characters and weapons in order to move on in your adventure. If you’re the type of person who just wants to jump into action and not worry about all of these fancy features, you’ve probably picked the wrong game, but it is designed to accommodate new and impatient players.
Phantom Brave‘s story isn’t nearly as deep and engaging as the game’s features and options, but it’s interesting enough to keep things moving along smoothly. I could have done without some of the strained voice acting, however. Of course, that is not important in the grand scheme of things. What is important is the sheer amount of replayability. Aside from having an incredibly large number of possible team combinations to try out, there is also ability to create random dungeons where you can explore and level up. The game can get difficult fast if you are not accustomed to these types of games, so this is an important feature that you will want to use over and over again. Veterans, on the other hand, may actually find it to be a bit too easy.
Also, aside from the main story, there is an additional “Another Marona” storyline—first introduced in the Wii version—that takes place after the events in the main game (although you don’t have to complete it first). It essentially starts your progress over back at square one and it is quite a bit more challenging. If you can’t get enough of the combat system, you’re in for a real treat here. With a game that already lasts about 80 hours on its own, additional content such as this (as well as new characters) really puts the cherry on top of what is already a tasty treat.
It’s unfortunate that the voice sounds so forced at times because it can be rather distracting. Thankfully, we are given the option to switch to the original Japanese dialogue, which is an option we don’t see nearly enough in Japan-based games. Graphically, the game is fine, but it doesn’t look quite as nice as I expected. I can understand it looking a bit dated, but I really thought the transition to a smaller screen would make the game look amazing. Instead, it just looks decent and we still have to put up with lag and screen tearing.
Where Phantom Brave might suffer most is its difficulty. Despite being complex and full of customization options, it is easier than what most Nippon Ichi fans are used to, so it runs the risk of being boring for hardcore fans of the genre. It is a great starting point for beginners, however, and can easily provide a hefty challenge for them. And regardless of which group you fall into, it’s worth taking a look at solely because of the content. Besides, most games these days are created with the intent of being widely acceptable to a number of audiences. I personally think the difficulty level is just fine.
Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle isn’t a perfect game; it is starting to look its age and it doesn’t include enough new features to make it a must-buy if you already own an earlier version. It is, however, technically the best of the three and is the most desirable version to purchase if you are a newcomer because of its forgiving difficulty and portability. If you are a diehard Disgaea fan who will go on a rampage if the newest game doesn’t come sooner, this may make the wait a bit easier. It’s very easy to get into, and once you do, you just may find yourself sucked in far longer than expected.Pros :
- Works wonderfully as a handheld game
- New characters and features
- Original Japanese dialog available
- Mediocre English dubbing
- Graphics look dated, even on a small screen
- Doesn't quite fill the void of Disgaea