Today's game review is of the Playstation 2 title Phantom Brave. Released nearly four years ago (let it never be said I'm not on the cutting edge of the hottest new games) Phantom Brave is one of those games that's a little hard to parse.
In Phantom Brave you play a chroma, a person with ties to the spirit world who uses them to fight. But your chroma isn't like the others who use their spirit energy to blow crap up and do cool stuff. Your girl's power is to summon the spirits of the dead to fight for her.
On paper, this is a good game. The spirits you summon can be merged with other spirits (typically you would merge items onto characters to give the characters new attacks) and upgraded, allowing a good deal of customization.
Phantoms, once created, are summoned into battle by confining them to pieces of the environment, which will alter their stats based on what you confine them to. For example, summoning onto a rock will give the character increased HP and attack, but decreased speed, wheras a flower might give increased speed and intelligence, but decreased attack. This, along with a limited summon time for all troops, means you'll end up needing to use a lot of strategy.
Better, a random dungeon feature allows for extended gameplay beyond the end of the game.
Unfortunately, without spending dozens of weeks building your party you will find most fights completely impossible. Phantoms, dungeons, and equipment are all created randomly, so you'll have to go in and out of the menu option dozens upon dozens of times to get a good one. And oh yeah, customization takes a LONG TIME. Even the simplest of customizations will cost hundreds of mana and bordreax (the game's currency) and, oh yes, you won't GET mana much faster than maybe 20 or 30 a battle and after healing you'll likely end up with no money left. So unless you have the willpower to keep playing this game for years and years you'll pretty much be stuck with a lame party for the game.
The random dungeon feature, while described as "the best way to get money and mana" actually COSTS more money than it earns, since you'll have to pay thousands upon thousands of bordreax JUST TO LEAVE WHEN YOU'RE DONE.
The storyline, of course, WILL piss you off. Your main character catches more crap than a port-a-potty from every single other character and the game through no fault of her own and JUST SITS THERE AND TAKES IT. And even when you finally get to beat up the people who hurt you, they just sort of ignore you and walk away. This is just because the game is apparently not allowed to let you feel any satisfaction with the story at all.
This game has a good premise and can be a good game, but when every single element of the game seems purposely designed to piss you the fuck off it's really hard to care.
KR Rating from The Future:  GOOD
Again, I gave the game crap, but when I look back now I think a lot of it might just be the fact that I didn't understand the system. As I said, it is a really cool idea and the spirit merging system provides an amazing amount of customization. For example, you could merge the spirit of a fire-elemental sword onto a character spirit in order to give him increased strength and fire-based attacks. You could even go so far as to merge a potted plant onto a character to give him plant-element moves.
Really, though, the storyline is extremely frustrating nonetheless, and is the one reason this game just can't receive a 5 no matter what.