I have to admit, I haven’t had the chance or the opportunity to play that many JRPGs. So when NIS America sent us a copy of Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection I was a bit hesitant and not too sure what to expect. I’ve seen a few screen shots of JRPGs before and knowing that they are pretty true to the strategy formula I was in for quite a surprise when I fired this game up. I was expecting a Final Fantasy type game but what I dove into was far beyond anything that I had expected. The opening sequence feels like it is straight out of an 80’s soap opera with its riffing guitars and heavy drum beats and a lot of timing of characters to the music, what came next threw me off a little. It was all sung in Japense and introduced you to each of the main characters, either be them “good guys” or “bad guys”. I’m pretty sure the lyrics tell you a little bit about the story and/or characters but I don’t know Japanese so I just enjoyed the high caliber opening.
Everything is spoken in Japanese so this leads me to believe that it is a straight port from there. All the text is in English, so it is easy to follow the story, my only problem is that in between battles there are endless screens of characters talking. This is where you get the idea for the story, I’m not going to divulge much on the story but I will say that the 2 protagonists are a brother and sister team trying to find their way to somewhere. Pretty basic background for an RPG. During battle sequences you start out at your “Home Base” and so does your enemy. Early on your only allowed so many of your party characters to occupy the battlefield at any one time, unless you take over/claim specific nodes on the battlefield you can then have more party members come into the battle. How you enter the battle is quite interesting, you select your home base using the D-pad and the X button, select the character you want, then pick a spot where you want them to go.
The object is to take over the enemies Home Base and anything you can get your hands on in between you and them. All the while the enemy is trying to do the same to you, so there is some sort of strategy involved, do I leave that node alone or do I go straight for the kill. When you do enter a battle with an enemy the screen changes to an attack screen and your damage is measured in timed button presses. A meter fills from left to right and there are specific points for you press the X button to make attacks. The amount of damage given is determined on how well you hit each “hole” with your button presses. When you finish in the battle screen by defeating your enemy they drop crystals close to your current character which you pick up to be able to use a “summons”. Some of these crystals land a distance from you and either your main or any other character on the battle field can pick these up. Summons do a number of different types of attacks, from healing your selected character and anyone in the vicinity of them, shown by a circle around your selected character, to damage attacks that do instant damage to enemy characters within range. Also occupying the battlefield are large cannons and/or cross bows that fire at a certain rate across the field.
They start out being a “neutral” type on the field and when you or the enemy occupies the space they are at they turn to either side to do damage to the other people on the battlefield. Even though you may control one of these, they still will damage/hurt your characters, so timing your moves through their field of fire is crucial as in some battles you need every available hit point. When traversing the battlefield, your characters move at a specific speed depending on the terrain. Say, for example, that your character is on an open field, they will move faster than if they were crossing through water, again, another element of strategy built into this part. After each battle you can either move on with the story or go into a “battle mode” where you will fight random characters, this sort of reminds me of a good way to “grind” your characters for experience. But once you finish and select to continue on with the story you cannot re-enter this battle mode, until your next chance to fight.
Graphics are your standard fare of sprites. They look clean and well suited for the game. In between your battle scenes is when you will see a comic book style presentation with a Japanese voice over, with what everyone is saying printed out in English. When your ready to continue with dialog, pressing the X button moves the voice over forward. This is pretty standard fare for a direct port of a JRPG game and is what I would have expected. I guess it is better than looking at small pixel people and reading the text dialog, this way you can get an idea of what the story teller’s vision is of each character. I’m not saying that this presentation type is wrong, sometimes you are reading this dialog for 5 – 10 minutes at a time, since most of the story elements come from here.
Aside from the cinematic opening the rest of the music in this game sounds like an orchestrated backdrop. Slow and relaxing, reminding me again of any Final Fantasy background music. During battle scenes the music picks up to the Rock-n-Roll style and then shifts back to the orchestra during the rest of the story boards and battlefield screens. During the battle scenes when you press the required button to perform attacks, the screen flashes and you hear the sound of slashing swords indicating you were successful. As I said earlier ALL the voice work in this game is in Japanese with English subtext. So a lot of reading was involved to play.
I did enjoy my time with this game. The amount of care taken to port this over to the PSP for a Western release was well done. Even thought I was playing a PSP game on my PSVita it didn’t feel like it was aged. It felt fresh and responsive. I’m not one to sit and read a whole bunch but I did find myself caring for the story after a very short time. If your tired of the same old RPG, and not a big fan of active time battle systems, this was quite the break from the norm. I feel that NIS America has done a commendable job bringing this game to our side of the Atlantic and I am not a big fan of RTS’ or ATB systems, I felt that this was a good mixture of both and kept me trying new things after every battle. This game in my opinion deserves an 8.5.
Publisher: NIS America, Developer: Idea Factory/Sting
Release Date: Feb 19, 2013 US
Platforms: PSP (Available on the PSVita) Digital: Yes
Game Cost: $19.99 US ESRB Rating: T
Single Player Only