Game Guys review - Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection

3:09 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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  • 'Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection', a PSP/PS Vita game published by NIS America.
  • 'Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection', a PSP/PS Vita game published by NIS America.

Innovation isn't always easy to come by in certain video game genres, and the JRPG realm is often considered to be hindered by the concept just as often as it is helped by it.  That stated, developer Idea Factory decided to take a less-is-more approach with the strategy JRPG Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection and the result is fresh and surprisingly interesting.

The game takes place in a magical land where dark clouds blanket the withered skies and block out the sun; cracked earth and choking fog rule the land.  This colorless world, showing no signs of life, is known as Hades.  The land is barren; blasted by chilling winds that cut to the bone.  It's too bad that, outside of the birds-eye-view players get during battles, you don't actually get to see any of it (more on this later).  This game's main heroes (Yuri, a young girl cursed with a disease draining her life away; and Claude, her protective older brother who will stop at nothing to save her) travel in search of a cure and find themselves embroiled in a conflict that will determine the fate of not just the siblings, but of the world itself.

While the game's writers mostly play it safe (there are few, if any, surprises to be had), the story really drives this game forward and dialogue-heavy sequences take place of pretty graphics and CG sequences.  It's importance is further thrust upon the player after finishing each of the game's chapters as the game recaps all of the major events of that chapter -- something that's nice in case it's been a while since the player had fired up the game and may have forgotten some of the why's, what's, and who's of it all.

When it comes down to actual gameplay, Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection features an active-time battle system, in which players can move and position their units in real-time across sweeping battlefields.  The player and the I.A. both have units (a finite maximum number of which can be deployed at any one time) and those units are given orders by their controller as far as where to go.  Are there strategic points on the battlefield that need to be captured and/or held?  Well, you'd best get your unit there before opposing units get to it first.  There are different unit types as well as different terrain types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  While it can get a bit convoluted at times, the system as a whole works so long as the player is paying well enough attention to it all.

Once actual combat ensues, things change greatly as far as what one might expect from any sort of RPG (JRPG or otherwise).  While fights are turn-based, they're not done in the way that players are used to.  Rather than choosing commands ("Fight", "Magic", "Item", etc.), the player chooses one of that unit's equipped weapons with which to attack the enemy as different weapons hold advantages over others and visa-versa.  Then, actions turn into a semi-quick-time event with the player needing to press "X" at just the right time in the right pattern as shown on the screen.  A good, strong attack could lead to the player's other units joining in on the fray by providing additional bonus attacks of their own. It's a different and novel approach and, due to the way the game's set up presentation-wise, actually works fairly well.

There are also summons that the player will eventually have access to.  Summons are done directly from the battlefield itself rather than during combat.  The different summons, of course, do different things with some healing units, others damaging enemies, and others still doing temporary status effects such as briefly disabling all of the enemies on the field of play.  Like combat itself, how Generations of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection handles summon mechanics is different; yet seems to work satisfactorily.

Alchemy is another major (and we do mean major) part of this game, though it's not like the alchemy that gamers will find in Level-5's Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch or Gust's Atelier games.  Rather, players accumulate alchemy" points" through battles in addition to traditional experience points.  Alchemy points can then be used to give characters additional experience points towards their next level, upgrading equipment, healing injured characters, and so on.  Players who find themselves a little light on available A.P. shouldn't worry, as there is always the option to grind out some extra credit by doing a "free battle".

Presentation is where Idea Factory's less-is-more approach becomes the most apparent.  Simply put, there are no towns to explore, no overland map to traverse, and nothing really in the way of CG sequences or animations.  Rather, everything is done through dialogue screens that feature nicely-done anime-style character art and text bubbles.  It might sound boring, but it works better than you might think; and older, more mature gamers will likely appreciate it better this way.  Still, it would be nice to have some sort of animated sequence play here and there to break up all of the voiced text forced upon the player.

Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection is, at its core, an nontraditional take upon a traditional JRPG game.  While it's not something one would want to see in the majority of JRPGs, Idea Factory's semi-minimalistic approach seems to work this time around.  As a title that should fit well into people's budgets (it retails on the PlayStation Store for $19.99), there is plenty of value to be had in this better-than-expected title.

22/25 17/25 20/25 23/25 82/100

Version tested: PS Vita (also available on PSP)

(NIS America supplied a copy of this game for review.)


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