Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle
Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ RPG/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:
Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle is the third re-release of Phantom Brave. As with most re-releases, there's always a risk of older material not holding up to newer standards. Thankfully, the original was a quality SRPG, and though the PSP version loses some of the initial luster, it's still worth playing, at least if you haven't checked out previous versions.

Presentation holds up as well as it could for a six year old game. Not that six years is a particularly long time, mind you, but some of the threads are starting too show. Characters are sprite-based and inhabit a blocky, polygon world. The artwork is gorgeous, though there is some residual blur and spots of pixilation. It's all minor stuff, really, though it does detract from the overall appearance.

Audio, on the other hand, is top notch. The score fits the game's mood perfectly and the voicework is just as strong. Obviously, the quality of the voicework will stir up debate among certain segments of the fan base, though nothing stood out as sounding particularly annoying or off-center.

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.

As always, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle comes with the same bumps and issues related to most SRPGs. Success is all about using effective strategies in battle. The first few battles are bumpy, but if you're open to trying new things (which, unfortunately means lots of trial-and-error), after the first few hours you should have a comfortable grasp of the battle mechanics.

Yes, I said, "first few hours." I can't criticize Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle for lacking depth, but it is fairly complicated. You're inundated with Tutorials, and chances are you'll need to go through some multiple times. There's a lot going on in each battle - move sequences, turn counts, summoning limits - and it takes a while to really soak in everything. It's a slog, but the payoff is worth it.

Sound strategy is vital, though there are times where you need to drop back and gain a few additional player levels. It's a bit of a grind, but by no means a terrible one. It's hard, but that's the nature of the genre it seems.

Game Mechanics:
The mechanic for raising an army is unique, but one of Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle's most confusing aspects. Unlike other SRPGs, Marona summons phantom units during battles, but there's a catch. Phantoms can't interact with the physical environment unless they're anchored to an object first.

In principle, the mechanic is simple. There are numerous inanimate objects scattered around battlefields and Marona has a large "Casting Radius" in which to summon units. However, confining a phantom to an object comes with a lot of conditions. Here's where things get confusing. Each phantom has its own set of stats that are altered based on its host object. In other words, confining a phantom to a rock will reduce its speed, but increase its defense. Some objects will even offer new abilities, like healing.

Once summoned, phantoms remain in play for a certain number of turns, adding yet another parameter to consider when building an army. It's tempting to summon an army at the start of the battle, but with the limits, you have to figure out the best time to introduce units into battle. Additionally, you need to consider their speed statistic (which ties into Initiative), which also impacts how long they'll stick around.

Weapons absorb mana, increasing the stat and ability boosts they offer units. Eventually, you can enter dungeons to increase a weapon's level by earning "titles" for it or combine it with others to create better weapons. Units will even absorb certain weapon abilities if they use them enough. As I said, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle doesn't lack for depth, it's just a lot to take in for the first few hours.

Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle is a complex as SRPGs get, but that shouldn't keep you away. If you're willing to put the time in and give it a chance, it's an entertaining, rewarding experience.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.