Phantom Brave: We Meet Again [Wii]
ESRB Rating: T
Number of Players: 1
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: NIS America
Release Date: August 14th, 2009
Phantom Brave We Meet Again originally hit the PlayStation 2 in 2004. As of now, Wii owners are lucky to have the definitive version. The game has seen a visual upgrade, and a few newly added chapters. SRPG fans should definitely be looking for this release, while casual gamers are encouraged to stay away. Yes, this is one of those not-for-everyone, hardcore games. If titles like Stella Deus or La Pucelle Tactics are your cup of tea, then there’s plenty to love here for several weeks.
Phantom Brave’s narrative is an unfortunate weak point. The main heroine Marona can summon ghosts (aka a Chroman). Orphaned at a young age, she must use her powers to find work and help others. She is aided along the way by her parents’ friend Ash; however, Ash is a ghost himself. While he can help Marona in battle, interacting with regular people is impossible. The story has some promise, but it feels a tad too childish for this author’s taste. There are some pretty interesting twists along the way though, so it’s not a total loss. Still, many may have a hard time enjoying the adventure because of its slow plot and mostly dull characters.
The game’s biggest draw is an innovative battle system. Unlike most SRPGs, Phantom Brave doesn’t employ any grids. Your characters enjoy freedom of movement on the battlefield, provided they have the necessary points to do so. This new setup is very entertaining and forces you to think outside the box. It’s vital to rethink the whole ‘strategy’ element as a result. It’s refreshing to not feel restricted by a square grid for movement and commands. I hope that other SRPG developers take notice and take inspiration for future games.
Another cool concept is the confine system. Marona can summon all the ghosts you want during a single turn, with the catch being that said specters last only five rounds. Most maps require more than five turns to achieve victory, so you’re better off reserving stronger ghosts until the end. Adding to the game’s strategic flair are the destinations in which ghost confinement is possible. Marona must capture ghosts in various elements like rocks, trees or flowers. Then depending on confining object, the ghost enjoys different bonuses. For example, a rock increases a spirit’s defences, but is balanced with reduced speed. The different object types are important in light of what ghosts you summon. Most fields also make protective and offensive items available. Phantom Brave’s deep battle system can only be mastered if studied well. Another great aspect lies in the option to customize characters: names, attributes, jobs and more.
Undoubtedly pleasing to the hardcore, Phantom Brave isn’t easy. On the flipside, this often requires replaying earlier chapters just to gain levels for your characters. We appreciate a challenge, but having to constantly return to previous areas simply to increase your overall strength is a little cheap.
There’s also nothing impressive about Phantom Brave’s visual appeal. The effort gets the job done, but don’t expect anything spectacular. The static backgrounds are extremely detailed, while the character sprites come off as dated. The battle animations are also simplistic. The game looks and sounds like a last-gen SRPG. The worst of it is the new voice acting, because the actors fail to inject emotion into the script. When they don’t, it feels forced. At least there’s the option to turn it off or switch to the Japanese track, which is truly the better option. The music complements the game well, but the voice work was a big missed opportunity.
Phantom Brave can span 20 to 40 hours depending on SRPG skills, and in typical fashion, a New Game+ option opens up after completing the main quest. There are enough fun times here to satisfy most core gamers. PB also supports every control type, though I recommend Classic or GameCube controller.
Phantom Brave is an excellent addition to the Wii’s library, though not for everyone. SRPG enthusiasts would unsurprisingly love every minute. The battle system alone is worth the price of admission. The plot may disappoint and the game employs cheap tactics to prolong the adventure. Yet when all is said and done, Phantom Brave is a solid game. For fans of the genre, do yourself a favour and check this out.
Final Score (Not an average): 8/10