Pretty much every hardcore gamer in Japan knows game studio Level 5 by now. It rose to national prominence last year for developing the latest installment in Square Enix's best-selling Dragon Quest role-playing series. The studio is once again hoping to heat up the holiday season with Rogue Galaxy, a new sci-fi role-playing game to be published by Sony Computer Entertainment. In the latest issue of Famitsu, Level 5 president and Rogue Galaxy producer Akihiro Hino revealed the first details on the game, which is slated for release on the PlayStation 2 in Japan this December.
As the main character, Jester Rogue, players will travel the galaxy and its numerous planets with various party members. Images from Famitsu show that each of the planets in Rogue Galaxy has a unique theme. For instance, one planet is overrun by forests, and another is heavily populated with mechs. The screens also showed planets containing cities filled with modern-looking skyscrapers, endless stretches of desert, and a pastoral countryside with windmills.
Level 5 is confident that the total volume of areas to explore in Rogue Galaxy will surpass any RPG to date. When Hino first announced Rogue Galaxy during Sony's presentation last month, he revealed that the game has been the most massive project that his company has worked on, including Dragon Quest VIII. Although Level 5 has only shown off pictures of a single region for each planet thus far, president Hino comments that there will be multiple locations for players to visit on each planet. Hino explained that he originally intended to feature a "virtually uncountable number of planets" in Rogue Galaxy, but he decided to reduce the number of planets, adding multiple areas to the existing planets instead.
Hino also commented during last month's presentation that Rogue Galaxy will be his greatest challenge in the RPG genre. One goal of Rogue Galaxy is to implement a feature no other RPG running on disc-based media has been able to accomplish thus far: zero loading time. Technically, Rogue Galaxy will be reading data from a disc, but Level 5 is hoping to eliminate any recognizable loading time when players enter a building or move to a different planet. Hino told Famitsu that he understands the difficulty in developing a seamlessly playing game since he was originally a programmer, but it was something that he always wanted to attempt.
Rogue Galaxy's graphics feature a unique mix of anime-style, cel-shaded 3D for the characters and detailed, realistic 3D for the backgrounds. Hino says that Level 5 has been using anime-style graphics since 2001's Dark Cloud, emphasizing that his company knows the best ways to handle the technique.
The main character in Rogue Galaxy is an energetic, short-haired 17-year-old boy named Jester Rogue. Born and raised on a desert planet named Rosa, Jester has always dreamed of flying out into space. That dream becomes a reality when a famous space pirate named Dorgengore recruits him into his group. The huge sword strapped to his back belies Jester's gentle nature, and a birthmark on the side of his face is said to be a key point in the game's storyline.
Rogue Galaxy will feature a total of eight possible party members. Three of the characters, Kisara, Zegram, and Luluka, were also revealed in Famitsu. Kisara is a 17-year-old girl and a bit of a tomboy, which is understandable since she's actually Dorgengore's daughter. Zegram, a pirate with medium-long hair, an unshaven face, and a red eye patch, is said to be a troublemaker among his crew of pirates. Luluka is a strong female warrior from the forest planet Juraika, adept at using a bow and arrow.
Hino commented that the four characters revealed thus far are all human, but other species will be included in the game. Pictures from cutscenes showed some other races in Rogue Galaxy's world, including fishlike people, robotic characters, a feline admiral, and a purple ogre being. Hino says that although Rogue Galaxy's storyline is serious, the variety of races will give it a mood that's easy for kids to get into.
Battles in Rogue Galaxy progress in real time and are fought with a party of three members. Players will control a character of their choice, while the other two characters will be controlled by the computer. Players will be able to give basic orders to their party members, which will be important when fighting against bosses. Each party member fights with two unique weapons, giving the game a total of 16 unique weapons. Rogue Galaxy will also feature a battle support system similar to Final Fantasy VII's materia system. Players will be able to collect items that can be placed like a puzzle on a board, and doing so will allow their characters to gain new abilities.
As has become standard for a product by Level 5, Rogue Galaxy will include minigame elements. According to Hino, players will be able to capture certain creatures on one planet and use them to play a game similar to chess. While Hino didn't reveal details on how the minigame will play, he said that it will be fully featured, and players will be able to collect and level up their game-piece creatures.
Rogue Galaxy will also feature a new "invention" system like that of Dark Cloud 2. Players will be able to obtain their own "factory" at a certain point in the game, which will allow them to assemble a production line and produce products.