I play this game on the PSP Go. The graphics look great. They have a real depth to the 3D elements while walking through cities or even during a battle. It sticks to the traditional looks of japanese RPGs that we are use to (titles like vagrant story, or Xenogears). The game looks great! The anime style still shots and cut scenes are cool as well. If you're into super computer generated cinema scenes then this might disappoint you a little but dont let it be the deciding factor for whether or not you play the game. Monsters aren't the coolest looking things in the game but they do fit into the world you play in. Looks are also not a measure of how tough they are. sometimes the smallest little beatle like creature can still take a few attacks to defeat.
So far from what i have played the story is absolutely everything you should expect in playing any RPG game. The story starts off SIMPLE. there's not too much back story to try and understand. You dont find yourself confused in the very beginning. The story steadily picks up pace as you become a part of something called the Bracer Guild. Its almost like a medieval FBI group that investigates and takes care of problems people couldn't normally do themselves. It is true that some of the missions are a little childish but i will say that doing the little side missions gives you a sense that you are a part of this small community and are somewhat responsible for its well being. Later on missions get more intense and important as you climb up a tier of levels until you are a full blown Bracer. This is quite the accomplishment and you feel pretty powerful when you get up to this level. Not to mention on the way you pick up more playable characters and the characters don't seem to me very static they are dynamic and most are pretty memorable. This is a very refreshing story unlike recent stories like final fantasy XIII where you find yourself mostly confused when trying to really get into the story.
The gameplay is fun and very strategic. There are lots of little quarks to keep you immersed in the battle system. The battle system mechanics are easy to pick up on and strategies are easy to put together. Up to 4 characters can be controlled in a party and the overall scheme is turn based with little random upgrades you can sometimes get when its your characters turn to attack. The boosts can also occur on the enemies adding a bit of challenge to a given situation. The real star is your special craft attacks that build up when you attack and enemy or are attacked. once you reach 100 points you can release a powerful attack that can even interrupt an opponent's attack (there's even a bigger attack that you get later when you get 200 points). This is fun especially because some of the battles can get pretty close and HP can become an issue even just walking through the games various environments of cities, roads, forests dungeons, etc. It is satisfying to unleash a special craft knowing that you will kill your opponent right before its about to kill you. Regarding magic; this is done very differently with using bits of magic rocks called septium and making powerful crystals with them and placing them in your orbment. I will not go into too much detail with this since there are great tutorials in the game to show you how to use these methods. I will say this to anyone familiar with FFVII. It is almost like making custom materia.
The game play is kept steady for the many jobs and extra quests you can get while being a Bracer. It is definitely nice to take a break from the stories main quests and do some side quests for extra money and prestige. Whether it be taking out a specific monster on a road no one wants to go near, or just running around the city looking for a lost cat. These little things can off a good change of pace to the gamplay as well as the story and more often than not you come away with some memorable moments to chuckle at. Grinding is a bit difficult in this game and i would just avoid trying. Monsters (excluding bosses) dont really leave a substantial amount of experience and it can take forever. The best thing to do is run side missions.
As far as accessibility goes this game has done this in a masterful fashion giving you books upon books to read at your leisure and learn the games many intricate mechanics. You dont have to read it all but if you have a question about the game you can most certainly look it up in one of the books. The magic section is especially useful when you want to know what kinds of combinations of septium yield what results. There are various tutorials throughout the game giving you great knowledge and they are all very useful. The recipe book is a new approach to healing your party on the go. You eat certain foods from restaurants or gifts and the ingredients are kept in a recipe book. From there you can recreate the meals using field acquired ingredients or ingredients purchased at a shop. This saves from having to always go and by the same healing items because they are expensive and some of the recipes have other effects attached to their healing abilities.
The map system in the game works well but there is no world map that you get to roam freely. its mostly roads you walk on to get to certain other cities or areas. When an area or city is mentioned in your dialogue it is then saved to your map so that you know where the place is great because you dont get lost easily. The lack of a free world map however, kind of takes away from the experience of roaming a world map and feeling the ability to explore the world on foot or even riding some mythical animal or vehicle, rather than linearly going from place to place. Still you get use to it and it doesn't become a big deal but one does hope they will fix this in a sequel.
One of the best features of the game is the Bracer Notebook that you receive in the start. This comes in handy especially because you can save anywhere but sometimes if you put a game away for too long and want to pick it back up you forget what to do. The notebook saves everything so that all you need to do is look in the notebook at a quest that you want to complete and it will tell you what your next step is. This is extremely convenient when you are playing this on a portable device. Oh yes and its true you can save anywhere which is also quite the convenience itself. The save anywhere feature is always a good idea in my opinion its one of the things i also loved about Ys Seven. The notebook also functions as your magic guide and is filled with all sorts of knowledge so definitely take a little time and look through its features.
Very easy to pick up. I really like to feature where you hold the triangle button and your literature features come up. As far as anything else its just as good as any other RPG. The controls are nice and simple very easy to master.
Replay Value: ???
The only reason i say this is because i have not beaten the game but i hear there are some fun things to go find after the game is completed such as the chests say different things or may contain different things. I really dont know but the game is super long and intricate anyway so its still worth the money.
Bottom Line: 9/10
This is a strong RPG with solid mechanics and memorable characters. This truly is a game that every RPG fan should take for a spin and even if you're not interested in RPGs and you just want to see what the genera is all about this is a good starting point because not many people have made a more accessible RPG especially recently.