It’s a crying shame…

…that I played Deus Ex earlier this year.

Because, well, I can’t come right out and say that Brave Story : New Traveler is the best game I’ve finished this year.

It even does harm to my old-school Sega-fan cred to imply that Brave Story might be the best RPG I’ve played this year, since I beat both Panzer Dragoon Saga and Shenmue a few months back.

So let me stick a couple qualifiers on here: This is the best 2007-released game I’ve finished this year. How’s that?

That’s pretty solid, anyway. Let’s talk about why:

1 ) A script that actually made each of the characters seem like, well, people. Watching Ropple change from a god-I-want-to-strangle-this-brat into someone who actually seemed kind of personable: wow. Leynart was still kind of boring at the end, though. That’s why he wound up warming a bench in the wagon while the interesting characters went off to kick arse and take names.

2 ) Lack of loading times. That is to say, when you changed from the world map to a dungeon, or from the world map to a town, there was a short loading pause. Apart from that, it seemed like the game was keeping all the enemies for an area in-memory so it didn’t need to hit the disc much if at all. This made for random encounters being a quick “woops! monsters!” thing instead of “damnit, monsters, now I’m going to load the battle scene, kill the first level slime that jumped us for no reason, watch all my characters do a little victory dance, load the field map…”

3 ) Speaking of random encounters: Giving the main character a “Stealth” spell that stopped random encounters with lower level monsters happening was an awesome thing – so when you wound up backtracking, you could run unmolested through dungeons. It seems like every review I read of Brave Story bitches about the random encounter rate, and nobody ever mentions this spell. Admittedly you don’t get it until late in the game, but you also don’t need to do much backtracking before then.

4 ) Item crafting (Tradeskills!) and a quest log, both awfully nice for us recovering MMORPGers.

5 ) Catgirls, of course. And the little “Yuno leveled!” animation. Really, all the animations were impressive; I loved the way one of your characters would dash up to attack one monster and the other monsters would turn their heads to watch you.

6) The resolution of the “Rei” story. This won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t played and finished the game, and I don’t want to spoil it, but if you’ve played it – wasn’t that a damn cool way to wrap him up?

7 ) An enemy called “GIANT ENEMY CRAB”

8a ) Hey, look, it’s the as-expected-halfway-through plot twist where we find out who the real bad guy is!

8b ) Uh, OK, so it’s the 90% through plot twist I didn’t see coming at all. Woof. How the heck are we going to wrap THIS up?

9 ) GIANT ENEMY FROG!

I’ll stop there because that’s dangerously close to a “Top 10” list.

Anyway, PSP appreciation project: Brave Story edition complete. The PSP is starting to feel a bit more like a console and less like a portable media player and web browser. 🙂

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