Rogue Galaxy English Hands-On

Level 5 will provide a sprawling RPG space opera to PS2 owners early next year, and we got our hands on an early localized version of the game.

If you think the PlayStation 2 is finished now that its hulking successor is on the market, you'd better think again. With over 100 million units sold worldwide, Sony is understandably still throwing its weight behind the ubiquitous system with games like God of War 2, coming in 2007. Stalwart PS2 owners also have at least one more epic role-playing game to look forward to in Level 5's Rogue Galaxy, which was recently pushed to an early-2007 release. Eager RPG fans are likely still sinking their teeth into Final Fantasy XII for the time being, and when they hear about all the changes and improvements being made to the US release of Rogue Galaxy, they probably won't mind waiting a few extra months anyway.

But let's back up and detail what the game is all about. You'll take the role of Jaster Rogue, a 17-year-old orphan who was raised by a kindly priest on the backwater desert planet of Rosa. After a series of calamitous events involving a gigantic dragonfly-like monster, Jaster is whisked away to a life of adventure by Simon and Steve, respectively a squat, tough-talking alien and an effete, British-accented android. That might sound a little too Star Wars for you, but there are a few twists thrown into the mix. For one thing, just before meeting this dynamic duo, Jaster encounters a mysterious warrior who gifts him with an epically powerful sword. Steve and Simon subsequently use this apparently legendary sword to identify Jaster as the Desert Claw, a famous monster hunter. So Jaster joins the pair's ragtag crew of space pirates under false pretenses, which we're pretty sure will lead to some sticky situations down the road.

Fans of previous Level 5 masterpieces like Dark Cloud 2 and Dragon Quest VIII will likely find themselves feeling right at home when jumping into Rogue Galaxy. For one thing, the game simply looks a lot like those other games, with its mix of artfully designed, cel-shaded characters and detailed background environments. The game's combat feels like a Level 5 trademark, too, what with its interesting mix of traditional turn-based RPG trappings and action-oriented attack structure. There's also a healthy dose of item-based character customization through the "Revelation Flow" system.

Level 5 has spent the last year polishing, tweaking, and refining various aspects of Rogue Galaxy to produce the definitive version.

You'll encounter enemies in the same environments that you explore and interact with NPCs in; the camera doesn't cut away, but rather the enemies simply fade in when a battle begins. At first, Rogue Galaxy seems like an action RPG, since you can jump, swing your melee weapon in combo attacks, and even use a long-range sidearm like a pistol all in real time. But all of your combat moves will deplete your action meter by a small amount, and when it's emptied you'll have to wait for it to refill before you can start attacking again. In this way, the game's combat feels a little as if it uses a turn-based real-time system (as oxymoronic as that sounds). You'll control only one character at a time out of a party of three, but your other two characters seem to do a good job of taking care of themselves. Our favorite thing about the artificial intelligence companions is that rather than wasting all your healing items, they'll actually ask permission before performing a heal move, and you only have to hit a shoulder button to confirm the action they want to take.

The Revelation Flow system reminds us a little bit of Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid. Each character has a unique grid of squares laid out somewhat like a board game, and a particular item must be inserted into each square to open up surrounding squares. When you unlock certain squares, you'll get a new special attack, a buff to one of your stats, and so forth. Some abilities require multiple items to unlock, so the more powerful abilities will likely take a good amount of work to acquire, but at least you can choose which path you take through your grid to tailor your character's advancement to your taste. On the upside, each battle you complete usually yields a pile of random items, so it won't be long before you can start plugging the right ones into your grid and start unlocking new powers.

Rogue Galaxy has actually been out in Japan since December of 2005, when it received a respectable score of 36 out of 40 from Famitsu. But that hasn't stopped Level 5 and Sony from spending the last year improving on and adding to the game, to make it closer to what the team originally envisioned. (In fact, so many changes were made that Sony actually sent over a page-long list of what's new.) A new, fifth planet will be available for you to visit, and while it's entirely optional, it'll impart some extra items and so forth for your party. The combat has been rebalanced and enhanced with new special moves and an improved interface, and the presentation has been spruced up with new outfits for the characters and more animations.

What we've seen of the game's presentation so far--from the cel-shaded characters to the solid voice acting--has been quite impressive.

But wait, there's more! The original game's insectron tournament minigame, in which you collect and pit tiny combatants against each other, has been almost totally overhauled with new insects and a bunch of new features. As you'd expect, more weapons and monsters have been scattered throughout the gameworld as well. Finally, the game will now ship on a dual-layer DVD, effectively doubling its storage capacity over the Japanese release. This has allowed the team to include higher-quality versions of the numerous impressive video cutscenes, as well as a full English voice track (the quality of which has ranged from decent to very good, from what we've heard so far).

Spend a few minutes looking at Rogue Galaxy and you'll realize that even as a "last-generation" machine, the PlayStation 2 has a lot of life left in it. From what we've played so far, this is one of the nicer-looking games we've seen on the hardware. The cel-shaded characters animate in the typically expressive, exaggerated style you'd expect from a Level 5 game, and the game engine is even pulling off some impressive effects like high-dynamic-range lighting and so forth. Obviously, the PS2 can't stand up to the more powerful new consoles now on the market, but for a 6-year-old machine, it's doing a pretty impressive job of holding its own with games like this.

Rogue Galaxy has been impressing us so far with its variety of unique gameplay, good looks, and appreciable level of charm. Will it hold up to scrutiny once its presumably grandiose adventure is done? We'll have the final verdict on that when the game hits shelves early next year.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

112 comments
Kyuso84
Kyuso84

This is a must have game.....

ILikeGames001
ILikeGames001

It looks like both of the previous generation consoles will go out with a bang. GC has its Zelda, and PS2 will have its FF12 and Rogue Galaxy.

yugimasa9999
yugimasa9999

This is like a .... Final Dragon Fantasy Quest KOMBO !!!!

eminem_trick_01
eminem_trick_01

its look good ididnt ever played a level 5 game i will play this shortly

lougs
lougs

ive been waiting 4 this game since ive heard about it cant wait 2 play it if it s from level 5 pretty sure its a great game!

Doolum
Doolum

i have learned to love RPGs a long time ago.Having fun time playing Dragon Quest 7 The Journey of the Cursed King.So no saying that am looking forward to Rogue Galaxy.

TimmyUnrated69
TimmyUnrated69

This game looks pretty bad a$$! i can't wait to play it!

thegameface
thegameface

I cant wait to get this i heard its pretty good

KikoJones
KikoJones

Wow, the PS3 is out yet the PS2 keeps getting great games. I wonder how Xbox owners feel since M$ left them out to dry when the 360 came out?

Rickioh
Rickioh

I want this game! Damn, cant wait to next year.

legs1986
legs1986

Looking good; pickin up a demo from EB tomorrow.

Abed_1990
Abed_1990

i'm defenitely gonna buy it!!!

nywled
nywled

Looks cool! Nice Level 5! =)

junk1e
junk1e

Looks good cant wait to play another fine level 5 game

MindTricked
MindTricked

I just got a demo disk for this in the mail today - I'm thinking I'm going to enjoy it. The demo for DQVIII hooked me and, if it's anything remotely like that quality-wise, then I'm going to want this as well. (Really - who needs a PS3 this/next year? Not me.)

trigundam
trigundam

This game riminds me off the cel-shaded look of Appleseed Sweet!

-KinGz-
-KinGz-

Creators of Dark Cloud!? bring it on!

pRuE028
pRuE028

Why does it looks like a cartoon?..peace out!

Sandman80_basic
Sandman80_basic

I've been keeping an eye on this since it's announcement... looking forward to it!

Nawras
Nawras

Awesome - I am looking forward to getting this!

RuneCraft22
RuneCraft22

NOOO!!! HIS NAME IS JESTER!!! NOT JASTER!! I'm not buying this :(

lazynerd
lazynerd

Sounds like it's shaping up to be real good! Very glad to see all the work they're doing for the localisation process.

tidusmen
tidusmen

hahah in Europe this game is from at least 2 months

Tanardin
Tanardin

He DOES look like Xaihou Dun from Dynasty Warriors! Thats so cool! Hope he is a playable character. Anyways, this looks like another great anime RPG for the good ol PS2. Can't wait to play it.

ryanwh
ryanwh

"Am I the only person who thinks the guy up top looks like xiaohu (something along those lines) dun from dynasty warriors?" No, he looks almost exactly like Xiahou Dun from Dynasty Warriors. More than a coincedence, it can only be considered a ripoff because the DW design was rather unique. Carrying over so many things, the exact same weapon, same color for clothing, and same facial hair/eyepatch(over the same damn eye). Its clearly overinspired to put it nicely, and plagiurism to be blunt. Still, this could be a fun game and as a whole its merely an amalgomation of other ideas to begin with.

slayerv2
slayerv2

i tought it wasnt turned based :P

sphinx-shadow
sphinx-shadow

Just pre-ordered this game paid it in full can't wait to play it.

Chrono66
Chrono66

Am I the only person who thinks the guy up top looks like xiaohu (something along those lines) dun from dynasty warriors?

undox
undox

Looking forward to playing this game myself.

gabwa007
gabwa007

Japanese sci fi /space opera is bad :( , they always have to mix fantasy things and weird animals, it s not real sci fi , it s always very colourful too, not gritty enough . I was thinking more something like Isaac Asimov, western . I guess there s EVE Online to play, but can t be bothered to pay the monthly fee.

saiyuki2
saiyuki2

level 5 is producing quality games.. Not much is known about White Knight for the ps3 but im already excited about it already.. this game must be a blast too

Nova7686
Nova7686

This game sounds really awesome, looking forward to it.

Hellisunreal
Hellisunreal

am REALLY excited about THIS GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

KikoJones
KikoJones

Talk about going out with a bang! With FF12 and the upcomng GoW2 and Rogue Galaxy who needs Gears of War, Resistance or Wii-games. Pretty graphics and gimmicks are no match for a good story and great gameplay.

nanometric
nanometric

@EikoAtoride Who said that I haven't. Nocturne all the way, the best rpg game on PS2, only lacks a the story, although the idea is great! I have 4 megaten titles(Nocturne, DDS1&2, Devil summoner) Haven't started the last one, in FF-12 for 65h, now. But that all there is, just megaten... I want a more wast vareaty of M rated rpg's :D

joeymew
joeymew

I agree with nanometric, I'm getting tired of RPG w/ a teen cast. More M-rated (or at least darker) RPGs please.

speedracer216
speedracer216

this actually sound pretty good. final fantasy is stale. it has turned to lame gimmicks at this point. level 5 was brilliant to jump on board with dragon quest, the greatest rpg series of all time. yes, all time. so while i wait for DQ9, i think rogue galaxy will satisfy me nicely.