Brave Story: New Traveler
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Publisher: XSEED
Developer: Game Republic
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: UMD
Release: US 07/31/07
Japan 07/06/06

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That's /MY/ tail!
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We can't play American Gladiators with only two of us.
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I don't know, this doesn't seem particularly scary to me.
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Now without C. C. Deville!
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John McCarroll
Hands-On Preview
John McCarroll

Game Republic, the development team comprised of former Capcom developers, including Yoshiki Okamoto, is best known for Genji. Well, that, and giant enemy crabs with weak points that you can hit for massive damage. Released previous to the second Genji title in Japan, their PSP RPG, Brave Story: New Traveler, is making its way to the US thanks to niche publisher XSEED. Keeping in tune with internet memes, the first boss is, indeed, a giant enemy crab. I wasn't able to find any weak points to hit for massive damage, however. We had a chance to sit down and play around with the first few hours of Brave Story, and it's shaping up to not only be a spectacular part of the PSP's library, but it's getting a tune-up for the US release, as well.

The first thing that most players will notice about Brave Story is its graphics - most of the environments look spectacular. Most notable is the fact that I've yet to see a single 'seam' in the environment, something that's been entirely too common among PSP releases. The characters animate smoothly, and spells and special effects look great so far, although we've yet to receive any world-destroying attacks a la Final Fantasy VII's Knights of the Round. Character models also change based on what weapon a character is wielding, and will show that way in battle sequences, and the few story sequences where weapons are drawn. While there are battle sound effects in Brave Story, the only dialogue that's voiced are movie sequences, of which we've only seen one, but the voice acting sounds like it's headed in the right direction.

Brave Story's aesthetics are backed up by its story, which follows a young boy named Tatsuya from the modern day. Tatsuya's friend Miki has fallen into a coma for unknown reasons, and Tatsuya makes a wish for her to wake up. Tatsuya is teleported to the world of Vision, where he is instructed in finding five gems to open the pathway to the goddess of destiny. Tatsuya has become a Traveler - a guest in the world of Vision. Most, if not all, of the dialogue in the early build we've seen has been witty and well-written. The world of Vision itself is inhabited by many races: the human-like Ankha, the lizardmen known as Waterkin, cat-like humanoids known as Kitkin, and many others. Tatsuya befriends several people on his quest, all with their own unique quirks. So far, there haven't been a whole lot of twists and turns, but the story is more than competent enough for a portable RPG.

Gameplay is the meat of most any RPG, and even more so for portable titles, and Brave Story: New Traveler does nothing to disappoint. The battle system itself is reminiscent of many 16-bit titles, with all of the RPG standards of HP, Bravery Points (MP), Magic, and a turn-based system with turn order based on speed. That's not to say that there aren't a few quirks to Tatsuya and friends. First off, Bravery Points, unlike MP in most games, are re-gained by dealing damage to an enemy, and this includes special attacks that use BP. So not only would a player gain BP by using a standard attack, but it's possible later on to have certain special moves cost little to no BP and do more damage than a standard attack. Additionally, characters can team up to do attacks, which cost more BP, but are devastating. There's not a whole lot of character customization beyond equipment in Brave Story, though the main character's sword does evolve throughout the course of the game. As Tatsuya collects his gems, these gems give him different powers - the selection of the second gem gives him a resistance to a certain element, with the resistance directly correlating to the color of stone chosen.

Quite possibly the oddest part of Brave Story is its bird collecting and battling system. When Tatsuya and company enter a goalfinch habitat, they enter random encounters much like they would in the rest of the world. Instead of entering battle, however, the main character appears with a giant net and must catch as many birds as possible. These birds then all merge together, each color defining a different statistic, into a giant bird, which enters the player's arsenal of five birds. These birds can then be entered into a birdbrawl with NPCs across the map for phat loots.

Brave Story has a whole lot going for it - an entertaining battle system, good graphics and sound, and interesting minigames. What is easily its ace in the hole, however, is the fact that there is very little in the way of loading. PSP owners are used to the groaning and grinding of the PSP accessing data from the UMD, but this is virtually gone from Brave Story. While there have been a few competent RPGs on the PSP, most of them have been ports or re-makes for the platform. XSEED has a competent, original RPG for the PSP on their hands, and if the rest of the game lives up to the precedent set in the first few hours, they'll have the console's star RPG, as well.


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