Generation of Chaos Hands-On - Strategy Role-Playing Hits the PSP (for 9,999 hp)

We've been having a good time trying to wrap our brains around a playable build of Generation of Chaos, the forthcoming strategy RPG from the makers of Disgaea.

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If you're a fan of strategy role-playing games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem, or Disgaea, then Generation of Chaos ought to be on your radar. We recently got our hands on an English-language version of this upcoming PSP game, which features both a board game-style strategic layer as well as some near-epic-sized battles between opposing generals and their armies. So, it's quite unlike most of the other strategy RPGs we've seen lately, which is one of the most refreshing things about it. Of course, the highly complex gameplay and the tremendous amount of replay value doesn't hurt, either. In short, we're very hopeful for how this one's going to finally turn out.

Though it's easy to quickly lump Generation of Chaos in with those other games we mentioned before, conceptually it has more in common with the Sega Saturn classic, Dragon Force. And that's because Generation of Chaos lets you wage war on a bigger scale, rather than command a handful of units through turn-based tactical battles as in most strategy RPGs. You command multiple generals, each of which has his or her own army. When two opposing generals meet on the battlefield, their forces collide and the generals on each side help dish out serious punishment, while occasionally letting loose with a powerful spell or special ability of some sort. The battles unfold in real time, though you may pause the action at any point to change orders. It's an interesting system that ultimately makes for an experience that's more strategic than tactical, meaning the choices you make on the battlefield are somewhat less important than the choices you make before you go into battle.

The board game-style strategic layer in Generation of Chaos takes some getting used to, since you have numerous menu options that aren't immediately clear. Terraforming the land, reinforcing your strongholds, shopping for new equipment, maintaining the loyalty of your forces--these are all considerations as you take turns marshaling your troops in an effort to take out enemy generals and claim their land as your own. The controls involve using the D pad for fine movement and the analog stick for navigating the map more quickly. However, we found the system to be somewhat awkward on first impression. Fortunately, since there's really no time pressure, we could take our sweet time fumbling with the controls until we figured things out. One thing that we know for sure is that this game seems very deep. There's a lot of data to consider, and even in the very first beginner scenario, you've got multiple generals to control and numerous types of opponents to fight.

Oh my God! They killed Kenny!
Oh my God! They killed Kenny!

There are a whole bunch of different character classes for your generals, including predictable stuff like knights and wizards, as well as less conventional types like Vikings and gunners. You've even got some monsters and beastlike characters for good measure, and all are drawn in a distinctive anime style that gives the game some personality. As you'd expect, some characters favor close combat while others prefer ranged attacks or magic. Some character types can naturally wipe the floor with others, so presenting your foes with a well-balanced allotment of generals seems to be the key to success. Also, having your generals travel in small groups is a good way to mitigate getting ambushed by forces that would normally have the upper hand. There's definitely a lot to consider on the world map, especially since you might be facing opposition from all sides.

We haven't delved far enough into the game's storyline to be able to give you a really meaningful description of why all the fighting's going on. But what we can tell you is that a militaristic empire decides to throw the first punch in what becomes a world war. From the get-go, you're able to choose from one of two different countries to control. One of them is intended for beginners, while the other puts you into a much more dangerous fight right from the start. Other kingdoms apparently become available as you play through the opening campaigns. Plus, you can customize your generals from among all the different character types, which will provide tons of variety for strategy RPG fans to sink their teeth into.

The game's presentation is reminiscent of Nippon Ichi's other games, so you can look forward to plenty of nicely rendered anime artwork as well as isometric terrain graphics featuring cutesy-looking superdeformed characters. During battle, some flashy screen-filling special effects are fairly common as generals unleash their strongest powers, though some of these effects (in true RPG fashion) are so excessive that they seem to drag on for what feels like forever. In particular, some of the main characters' special moves burst into full-on anime cutscenes as all kinds of crazy energy rains down from the sky, damaging everyone on the opposing side.

Big battles like this one are par for the course in Generation of Chaos.
Big battles like this one are par for the course in Generation of Chaos.

Generation of Chaos is already available in Japan, and the English-language version we've played seems like it's close to being complete. The English text is a little difficult to read right now, so we're hopeful that it will be cleaned up. However, it does appear that the translation of the dialogue is complete, except for some of the signature Nippon Ichi humor in a few of the item descriptions and such. The game is less than a couple of months away from shipping, so while you wait, check out our new screens and videos that show off more of what you can expect from this large, involving game.

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