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Friday, November 09, 2007

PSP = SRPG

When I first bought a DS and a PSP I placed them down next to each other on a table. It seemed clear that the PSP was miles ahead of the DS. The gorgeous screen, the style - it just seemed like the PSP would dominate. I was obviously wrong in my initial impressions. I've spent about 90% of my handheld time on the DS, simply because the software was so much better. But lately, that percentage has completely reversed. Why? The PSP has come through with some very solid SRPG's. I've loved the strategy RPG genre since Shining Force and I find it very well suited to the handheld world. Following are the three SRPG's I've been enjoying for the PSP.

Jeanne D'Arc

This excellent game really hits all the right SRPG notes, combining challenging strategic gameplay with wonderful graphics and a solid story. There are plenty of fun combat mechanics to play around with such as the Unified Guard, the transformations and Burning Aura. I also enjoy the quick pacing of the battles, something a lot of SRPG's falter on. The setting may be a bit odd, but it is a really refreshing change from the standard fare. The story falters in points but on the whole it is a compelling drama with interesting characters. The graphics are just fabulous, both in the cutscenes and the actual battles.

All in all, Jeanne D'Arc is a great game. If I had to find a negative I'd say there isn't quite the depth or complexity of the other two titles on this list. But you certainly can have fun combining skill stones and trying various combinations of skills on different characters. As for the challenge level, it's really up to you. If you want to try to plow ahead through the story missions without leveling your characters it can be tough. But if you are having too hard of a time, simply level your force up on the free battles for a bit. I think it's the perfect game for someone new to the genre.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

I really don't understand some of the incredibly high review scores this game received. I admit I'm a little biased. I'm just so tired of ports, remakes and rehashes coming to the handhelds. And while I recognized the greatness of Final Fantasy Tactics, I always found it more flawed then most.

But I think even putting that bias aside, there is no way this game should have received the level of favorable reviews it did. I find the slowdown that occurs when using magic or special attacks completely unacceptable. This annoyance is more than minor to me when you are spending so much time battling. The fact that the clunky control scheme is unchanged combines with the slowdowns to really kill the pace of the battles for me. And while they certainly did a solid job revamping the script, almost none of the problems with unit balance or the camera have been addressed.

But of course, you are getting the almost limitless depth and complexity that Final Fantasy Tactics brings. And it is definitely a robust, exciting game that I do enjoy playing.

Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness

Yes, like FFT, this is a remake. I've only played this one for a few hours so far but I think they did a great job with the port. It's smooth, it looks good and the voiceovers are surprisingly well done. Unlike FFT, the framerates are perfect throughout. This is another one with incredible depth and complexity with the added bonus of humor. There is also an element of almost puzzle type gameplay with the geo panels. Whether you enjoy that or not is dependent on whether you enjoy that type of puzzle play. With the Dark Assembly and Item Worlds there is also more to do in Disgaea outside of actual storyline battles than in the other two games.

If you haven't guessed I would recommend the games in this order: Jeanne, Disgaea and FFT. But the real point is that these are three very sweet SRPG's available right now to PSP owners. That's why my DS is gathering dust right now. Does anyone have any SRPG's to recommend for the DS? I expected a plethora by now, especially since the stylus control seems so perfectly suited to the genre. I've identified Luminous Arc but the reviews have been pretty bad and also Hoshigami Remix which features even worse reviews.

I am making the somewhat arbitrary distinction between the SRPG genre and the turn based strategy genre. I differentiate the two genres in that SRPG's focus on individual characters in battle which you can level and carry forward into future battles while TBS's feature larger scale battles with units that you can not individualize. Does that make sense? Anyone have a clearer definition? If I broaden my scope to TBS games, there are other options. For instance, we have Advance Wars for the DS or Field Commander for the PSP. These are two very solid games hampered only by what is some of the most poorly written dialogue I have ever seen. I'm not sure what percentage of overall production costs it takes to hire a good writer but I'm constantly surprised that so many companies still don't think it is worth it.

Well, I hold out hope for some good DS SRPG's in the future. Archaic Sealed Heat for the DS sounds promising, though I'm not sure it's an SRPG in the traditional sense. In the TBS arena, Warhammer 40K: Squad Command (DS and PSP) is very intriguing. But probably the biggest one to watch for is Fire Emblem DS.

And hey, if you have to do remakes, how about Shining Force for me? And from the turn-based strategy genre, I would love to see Heroes of Might and Magic on the DS. I'm thinking the simple but beautiful art from the first three iterations of the series. Wouldn't it be great to use the stylus to move around the exploration map, position units in battle and poke at town buildings to buy units?

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time posting a comment here, but on the topic of TBS's my favorite has always been Dark Wizard. I still dream of a good version of it that doesnt have the killer CD issues the first on had. They dont even need to upgrade the graphics. I dont care about those.

3:37 AM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

Very very good call on that one. I kept my Sega CD around forever just to play Dark Wizard.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Langolier said...

Shining Force 2 is still the best SRPG ever made! Naive storyline, but a ton of charismatic characters and hard core strategy without getting boring!

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FFT > Disgaea > Jeanne D'Arc.

Okay, I'll say it out loud. Jeanne D'Arc was a crappy SRPG. Good graphics, not much else. Beauty but no brains. Total lack of depth and linear battles that discourage experimentation. A total disappointment.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I came across it looking for SRPGs on the PSP.

I just started Jeanne D'Arc last week and love it so far. It's the first SRPG I've played after staying away from that genre for fear that it would be too difficult. So far, I like it and think it's a great beginner's game.

I'll definitely check out Disgaea. Any other PSP SRPG titles you can recommend?

FFT is kinda back-burner for me right now mainly due to its technical issues.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try Wild Arms FX, I thought this was a very solid entry to the SRPG field.

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