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Hexyz Force: It's Pronounced "Hex-ease"
Company: Atlus

I've probably said this more times than anyone would care to count, but if it wasn't for Atlus, I probably wouldn't play my PSP nearly as much as I do. Not that I have anything against the system - but few "mainstream" games on the system are appealing. Oh, and there's that whole, "Control a 3D game without two Analog Sticks thing."

Hexyz Force is my current reason for picking up my PSP. Of course, playing another JRPG isn't new for me, but Hexyz Force is a bit different because it does something few JRPGs seem willing to do. Rather than trying to break the mold and bring in a completely left field mechanic like a dating sim or other bits of wackiness lurking in the hearts of JRPG developers, it pulls back and focuses on fun, accessibility and a great story.

Hexyz Force weaves the typical tale of gods, magic and a chosen one who comes from nowhere to save the world. Only Hexyz Force offers up two chosen ones and the ability to either save or destroy the world. Centuries ago, the gods of Destruction and Creation went to war. Creation was able to seal Destruction, but in the process fell to Berge, splitting it into two sections. One section is forever bathed in light and known as Lustrous Berge, leaving the other side, Dark Berge, cloaked in darkness. Between the two rests the Dark Precipice, creating a border so deep each side doesn't know the other exists.

The chosen ones in question are Cecelia, a cleric from Lustrous Berge, and Levant, a knight from Dark Berge. Each has a completely different life, but is chosen for the same destiny - wield a weapon of the gods and help create a new Berge or destroy it. Each character's story provides a different side of the story (and a 30+ hour RPG), and though their paths cross, it doesn't look like the two ever team up. At least, that's what the story thus far seems to suggest. I'm still a ways off from completing either side, so I may be completely wrong about a possible team-up, but I actually like the idea of a non-team-up. The story overlaps are fun, but so far figuring out whose path leads where is really interesting.

Hexyz Force places a lot of emphasis on its story. Normally, this is a sore spot. I'm not the biggest fan of the whole watch-and-play setup. Although the game's methods aren't revolutionary and stick to the cutscene-then-gameplay pattern, Hexyz Force at least keeps story segments short. Nothing seems to drag and is interesting enough to make you want to play a little past the save point you swore you would only play to. I also suspect there's something a little deeper going on with how gameplay and story relates to the Create or Destroy concept, but I want to wait until the full review to see if I'm right...

Combat is the only area where Hexyz Force attempts to push the envelope. Battles are menu-driven, turn-based affairs, but are built on a paper-rock-scissor style system. Characters and abilities are related to one of three Aspects: Crimson Lotus, Pearl Light or Cerulean Flame. Each aspect tops the other, or enhances itself. For instance, playing a Crimson Lotus against Pearl Light gives the Crimson Lotus an advantage. Pitting Crimson Lotus against Cerulean Blue places Crimson Lotus at a disadvantage. Aspects are aligned with both characters and moves, leading to numerous strategic possibilities. Playing two or more instances of an Aspect increases the amount of battle damage, an advantage enjoyed by both sides in battle. The trick is trying to find a way to reap the benefits while also killing it for enemies. Although I'm still trying to figure the system out, it's incredibly entertaining.

Hexyz Force is a fun bit of mystery. It looks like a "typical" JRPG, but there's enough going on in the background to suggest there's something more going that I'm not seeing. That, or it's doing a great job of making me look at the other hand. Either way, my experience has been nothing but positive so far.

Look for a full review (an hopefully, a little less mystery) in May.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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