Although previous generations of Nintendo hardware have hosted a myriad of superb role playing experiences, the Wii’s library is glaringly deficient in the genre. Beyond Super Paper Mario, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and Rune Factory: Frontier, RPGs on the system have either been Virtual Console retreads, or mediocre efforts like Opoona or Baroque. Even when including these antiquated emulations and middling works, the quantity of RPGs is dwarfed by the number of racers or fighting games.
Luckily, NIS America’s inaugural Wii title looks to remedy the situation. While the recently released Phantom Brave: We Meet Again is a port of the similarly named 2004 PS2 title, there enough enhancement and additional content to warrant a double-dip for fans of the original title. Strategy RPG fans who have never experienced the previous game should hunt down a copy of We Meet Again; the disc holds enough tactical enjoyment to easily justify its cost.
Brave Phantom’s prologue establishes the overall melancholic tone for the title, as a young married couple and their stalwart companion meet a tragic fate. With death imminent, the husband begins to cast a spell to protect the escort, but his magic is interrupted by the strong opponent. This places their guide- Ash, in a purgatorial space between worlds, transforming him into a phantom. Years pass, and the player is introduced to the couple’s surviving daughter, Marona, who has the uncanny ability to interact with phantoms. Sadly, this attributes makes her an eccentric, young, outcast and shapes the title’s forlorn tenor. As such, Phantom Brave mines a weighty emotional terrain seldom explored by most RPGs.
Fans of Nippon Ichi’s turn-taking combat should immediately comprehend We Meet Again’s battle system, even though the title dispatches the distinctive grid-based mechanics typical for the developer. As Marona enters a battlefield, she has the ability to confine phantoms to the environment’s natural resources- rocks, trees and boulders. Each conjured combatant’s statics can be augmented by a tactical choice- stones add power to soldiers, while trees add intelligence to spellcasters. Additionally, Phantoms only survive a limited number of turns, adding to the game’s strategic depth.
Once players have ‘confined’ a phantom, the entity’s movement is confined not by steps, but by a circular range. The system eliminates the grid-based estimations of range, instead viewing the environment as a three-dimensional space, especially when utilizing wedge-shaped special moves. While the concept is novel, its execution can be nit-picky at times. Periodically, players will have to make small adjustments to their teammates locations, so that an attack can be executed. The title shuns the use of Wiimote pointing, wisely offering Classic Controller, Gamecube as well as horizontal and vertical-oriented controller positions.
While Phantom Brave’s environments have been given a high-res upscaling, resulting in some marvelous hand-drawn backdrops, the title’s plucky characters remain amusingly pixilated. While this might deter some visual connoisseurs, other might bask in the game’s retro-charm. Fortunately, each hero and foe is animated admirably, and some of the more robust attacks produce vibrant, eye-grabbing displays. With the ability to have the game’s voice-overs in English or Japanese, along with a wonderfully varied soundtrack, We Meet Again will certainly please player’s ears.
With an elegant slip case, nifty art disc, eighty-hour playtime and lowered MSRP, role playing game fans will find the deal of the summer within Phantom Brave. Owners of the original PS2 title should find the additional chapters (playable from the start of the game), and renovated art to be incentive enough to be reintroduced to We Meet Again. The title’s distinctive atmosphere coupled with its engaging tactics assure that this will undoubtedly become a cherished addition to the Wii’s RPG library.