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Gems from the Sun

Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

I miss LA. It was awesome to get to play all of those upcoming RPGs and truly get a feel for them. In case you missed all of the discussion, RPGamer took at Run to the Sun just a few weeks back to visit multiple LA-based publishers. It was an eye opening experience in many ways, but I doubt that people care for my personal insights, so let me get to the meat of the subject... the upcoming RPGs.

While we were in LA, we were met with over a dozen upcoming RPGs to either view or get our hands on.

Some of these games were just what I expected, though not all of them. Sometimes you get letdown when you have your hopes too high, but other times you might just find a hidden gem or two.

I've found it doesn't matter how much you read or how many clips of a game you get to see, there is nothing quite like getting a feel for a game yourself. I don't take many recommendations to heart, because I've found my tastes aren't always the same as others, so I must judge for myself. Just take some of the upcoming Square Enix titles for example. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Heroes of Mana, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions, and Dragon Quest Monsters - Joker are some of their upcoming games that I've been looking forward to getting, so it was nice to get a feel for them just to make sure. I knew that FFXII: RW and Heroes of Mana were not going to be your typical RPGs, and I even knew that they were focused toward real-time strategy, but I just didn't know exactly how they would play. Would they be like a fast-paced tactical RPG or would it play like Starcraft? The answer is the latter. These two titles are heavily real-time with a strong focus on creating buildings and making units to attack the enemy. Sure they both have their story elements and character development, Revenant Wings seemingly more so than Heroes of Mana, but they just didn't feel like I was hoping they would. There was nothing wrong with the gameplay, they seemed smooth and user friendly, but both just weren't exactly what I was expecting. And to top it off, while they were both enjoyable, they seemed perfectly developed for multiplayer combat. But guess what? Local only. Stupid Fragophobia.

I guess that wasn't too much of a shocker there, just a disappointment. At least there was still DQM - Joker and FF Tactics to look forward to. Joker looks awesome and just seems like tons of fun. Like a more mature Pokémon title for Dragon Quest fans, addictive and fun. It's still at the top of my list even though it has been hit by the Fragophobia bug as well. Local play only. So sad. Finishing things off is the remake of Final Fantasy Tactics. It was impressive and knowing that the English version will contain voice acting in the new FMVs. Yes, Balthier is going to be in it and that means the return of Gideon Emery. At least that is one thing that didn't disappoint. By this point, I didn't even ask about multiplayer though, because the pattern was a little too obvious. Oh well, at least I know.

Of the rest of the games, most were as expected. Hoshigami Remix, Disgaea PSP, Luminous Arc, and Wild Arms 5 were not big shockers. It was nice to learn about the updates they were receiving, but I was not swayed from my convictions on any of those. Dungeon Maker seemed fine, but didn't greet me with any huge revelations. The same can be said of Dragoneer's Aria. There were only a few that really caught me off guard. Those were Soul Nomad and Brave Story. With Soul Nomad, I was expecting yet another cookie-cutter tactical RPG. What I got instead was a game that reminded me of Dragon Force. It's not a basic, one unit per square grid-based RPG; it's much deeper. I could go into further detail, but Mikel did a fine job with that, so just go read his impression. I'll just say that it was unique and looks good.

Finally, the game that inspired me to even write this editorial: Brave Story: New Traveler. As I said in my impression of the game, it completely caught me off guard. I remember thinking going into the meeting with XSEED that I was going to get to see yet another dull RPG for the PSP. I'm glad I was wrong. This has quickly become one of my most anticipated RPGs of the year. I don't want to sit and explain everything about the game again, since that's what the impression was for. What I do want to do is to let people know just how impressed I was with this title, so that they don't ignore it. I'm not saying that this will be a flawless epic, but if there are other people out there like I was, this game will not likely be on their radar either. Do yourself a favor and don't just take my word for it, read up on it. If there is one thing I want people to come away with, it's not a burning desire to rush out and preorder Brave Story. I just want people to know about this and all of the other games that I had a chance to try out. Gems are sometimes found when and where you least expect them.

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