Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle
offers a slightly more traditional SRPG experience, though it still manages to toss in a few new tricks. Well, they were "new" in 2004 at least. Although some of the elements have found their way into other SRPGs with some refinement, they still shine.
As with nearly every NIS SRPG, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle centers on an unlikely hero with a unique problem. Enter Marona, a 13 year-old girl with a knack for speaking to the dead. Although people seek her out for her abilities, they're still considered creepy, making her an outcast. Her only friend is Ash, a mostly-dead spirit who acts as her protector and sometimes mentor. Eventually, the duo is pulled into a bigger plot involving a newly risen evil that may have something to do with the deaths of Marona's parents.
From here, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle splits out into a fairly standard SRPG, but with a few significant differences. The first is the lack of a familiar grid-based movement system. Instead, all movement is based on a movement radius. The system offers more freedom than the standard grid, though without the cleaner, set positions afforded by a grid, it is easy to lose your position on the field.
Movement is further complicated by an initiative system. All units have a speed stat, which determines how many turns they get. This is incredibly important since phantoms only stick around for a set number of turns. This forces you to really think about when to summon certain units. It's different and will cause some problems for players. Even though this was my second play-through, I ran into numerous problems trying to get the play tempo just right.
For anyone who played the Wii re-release, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle won't offer much of a replay reason outside the option to take the game on the road. For PS2 players, however, you get the chance to play "Another Marona," a sort of "Expert plus" mode. The mode takes place after the events of the first game, but drops you back to level one. Battles are a challenge, but if you like the core game, it's a great addition.