3am: Brave's new world
TomChick - News - 09/12/04 - Link

I like Phantom Brave. A lot. I like how the freeform movement makes it play faster than counting out ranges on a grid. I like the way each character can only have one item at a time, so I don't feel like I'm dressing RPG dolls. I like all the detail, I like the leveling, I like the unit/skill fusion, I like the random dungeons, I like the pacing, I like the way titles work, I like Doublejump's superlative strategy guide. But in the end, I might prefer Disgaea over Phantom Brave.

Phantom Brave has titled my quirky-meter off the scale so that it almost feels like it was made for someone else, someone weird and Japanese who would get jokes I don't understand and likes games I might not normally play. Phantom Brave's central concept -- imprisoning phantoms in material objects ? is great in theory. But in terms of execution, it's just a contrived excuse for each character to leave the battle after a few turns. And although this adds a new dynamic to the strategy, it doesn't sit well with my 'suspension of disbelief' threshold. It's simply a bald gameplay limitation. I can only use my favorite fighter for five turns. I can only use my favorite witch for three turns. Plus I have to make contrived choices about which skills will be modified, based on who gets imprisoned in what object: plants make them smarter, rocks make them tougher, and god only knows what weapons will do.

I understand Disgaea. I equip a sword, I kill something, I get experience, I'm more powerful next time I try to kill something. Cool. I know that one. Then there's all the quirky stuff that float around the periphery for me to examine at my leisure, digesting at my own rate: prinnies, bratty demonic princes, infernal senates, angelic assassins, geomods, dood! But the central concept doesn't make any demands on my rigid sensibilities.

Maybe Phantom Brave will eventually break down my resistance and absorb me into its weird little gameplay mechanics so thoroughly that they become second nature. Maybe I'll think it's weird next time I play a turn-based battle and my units don't disappear after a few turns. Maybe I'll look at an inventory item in an RPG and wonder what skills or how much mana I can leach from it. Maybe it'll just take another ten hours.

Because I do like Phantom Brave quite a bit. Just maybe not as much as Disgaea.

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