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Critical Reception: SCEA's/Level 5's Rogue Galaxy

Gamasutra examines online reaction to Rogue Galaxy, a universe-spanning RPG from Dragon Quest VIII creator Level 5, and featuring intriguingly mixed feedback, despite the game's overall quality - more inside.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Rogue Galaxy, a universe-spanning RPG from the developers of the acclaimed Dragon Quest VIII. With a portfolio that includes hits like Dark Cloud 2 and Jeanne D'Arc, Level 5 has earned a dedicated worldwide fanbase during its five years in developing RPGs. Its latest U.S. release, Rogue Galaxy, has been one of the most anticipated titles in the genre in recent months, thanks in part to a number of key improvements and additions the game was said to have undergone during its localization. It appears as though these tweaks have paid off, as Rogue Galaxy has accumulated an average review score ratio of 85% at Gamerankings.com. Patrick Joynt at GameSpy contributes one of Rogue Galaxy's highest recorded scores. Even though it earns an impressive 4.5 out of 5 stars, however, Joynt admits that the game is not without its faults. "Like a Hollywood blockbuster, Rogue Galaxy looks great and is technically stunning," he says. "It's packed utterly full of the standbys of the genre - combat, exploration, personalization, and sub-games that are too huge to be called "mini-games" - which are all executed well." "But like a Hollywood blockbuster," Joynt continues, "the characters themselves seem entirely secondary to matter at hand." Joynt criticizes: "They're as engaging as cardboard cutouts, largely because they're so predictable. Seen Metropolis? You've got a good idea where Steve's story is going. Seen any anime with an orphan in it? Well, you've got a great lead on what happens to Jaster and the cast's other orphan." According to Joynt, these faults only seem magnified in the face of an otherwise excellent RPG. "I salute you, Level-5: your new game has ruined my life as well as any MMO ever has," he summarizes, "but like an MMO, I wish that Rogue Galaxy's story and characters were more engrossing." However: "Rogue Galaxy's greatest triumph, the brightest gleam in its eye, is that at sixty hours of play I've got another sixty I could easily pour in." GameSpot's Greg Kasavin is also bothered by Rogue Galaxy's imperfections, and moreso by its failure to distinguish itself from similar fare on the PS2. "Like [Dragon Quest VIII and Dark Cloud 2], Rogue Galaxy features a beautiful cartoonish art style as well as lots of imaginative characters to meet and places to visit," Kasavin praises. "Its frequent battles are much more action oriented than the traditionally slower, turn-based combat that Japanese RPGs are known for." "Yet in spite of all this," he states, "the basic flow of the game can get monotonous, making a few too many parts of Rogue Galaxy feel more like a grind that weighs down on the otherwise rousing, upbeat adventure. Fortunately, it's easy enough to look past these parts." Awarding the game an 8 out of 10, Kasavin feels that Rogue Galaxy remains a worthwhile experience in spite of its faults and its similarity to other RPGs. "The PlayStation 2 has delivered an almost countless number of high-quality Japanese role-playing games," he explains, "so all the past competition is really the main reason why Rogue Galaxy doesn't come off as a stunning accomplishment." "On the other hand," Kasavin admits, "this is a game that does enough differently or better than most of its PS2 predecessors that it's still well deserving of your consideration." Andrew Fitch of 1UP.com also thinks that Rogue Galaxy more than sufficiently differentiates itself from many Japanese-born RPGs on PS2. "[Rogue Galaxy has] three very important points going for it," he begins. "The men have facial hair, the women are the ones with the bare midriffs, and the robots are decidedly nonsexy." Fitch elaborates: "That might sound corny, but it's the perfect way to illustrate that while Rogue Galaxy may be Japanese in origin, its mythology and mindset aren't based on Eastern conventions, but Western ones. Specifically, American sci-fi -- and even more precisely, Star Wars." Rating the title at 7.5 out of 10, Fitch explains that several problems lurk behind Rogue Galaxy's refreshing premise. In particular: "Combat-balance problems and excruciatingly long dungeons -- both supposedly improved from the Japanese release -- are still noticeable in the North American retooling." "Rogue Galaxy does a lot of things very well, and it's an enjoyable, recommended RPG trip," Fitch says in conclusion. "But in the end, it feels like it's missing the intangibles that make up a true masterpiece." As the first major console RPG to debut in the wake of Final Fantasy XII, Rogue Galaxy is poised to do brisk business at retail, despite its flaws. If these flaws are as easily ignored as critics say, however, Rogue Galaxy could become fondly remembered as one of 2007's best.

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