Graphics:
7.0
Gameplay:
7.3
Sound:
7.4
Control:
6.8
Replay Value:
7.0
Overall Rating:
7.1
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Nippon Ichi Software
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Strategy/RPG
Release Date:
March 8, 2011


If you weren’t aware, Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle has been available for several years on both the PS2 and Wii. This new handheld iteration is basically the same, although it does boast 5 new heroes and more refined visuals that add some luster to a pleasing palette. Of course, like most Nippon Ichi productions, the game thrives on a crazy amount of depth and enough micromanagement to keep fans absorbed for weeks. But in many ways, The Hermuda Triangle is needlessly complex and the clunky control interface speaks to this title’s age. It all depends on whether or not you consider yourself a hardcore strategy/RPG fan: if you do, you’ll likely lose many, many hours to this long, immersive adventure loaded with lots of trail-and-error. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with this style should pass and even some avid role-playing followers may be given pause…

Recently, I’ve enjoyed many of the NIS games on the PSP; they have a very clean, colorful, and even distinct look that never seems to grow tiresome. Character design in Phantom Brave isn’t quite as intricate and detailed (again, this game is older) and some of the effects are a little lacking, but the presentation is consistent and undeniably appealing. Disgaea fans will appreciate the look and style, despite the obvious visual drawbacks. However, one aspect of the game that didn’t age well is the battlegrounds: they’re surprisingly dark and devoid of vibrancy, and they tend to contrast sharply with the brilliance of other World Map locations. It’s not that there’s a lack of environment variety; it’s just that too much of it looks the same when in combat. Outside of this, provided you make some allowances for the fact that this isn’t a current production, you’ll realize there’s little to complain about.

Sound-wise, it’s all about the expected soundtrack quality and the sharp special effects that punctuate our strikes and spells. The voice acting ranges from poor to decent, with too many performances settling for mediocre, although the female narrator is actually quite good. For the most part, these developers rarely let us down in terms of music; we’re always fans of the fitting, original compositions heard in titles of this nature. It makes for a fun, engaging experience, especially when the soundtrack kicks in for epic confrontations. The effects get substantially cooler as your skills grow in effectiveness and technically speaking, the sound doesn’t often waver. The balance is just about right at all times and if it weren’t for some painful voice acting and times when that great music slips away, the sound would be a huge highlight for this game.

Strategy/RPG aficionados will know what to expect in terms of gameplay, but even a few of the most accustomed may be surprised at some of the clever mechanics found in The Hermuda Triangle . Typically, these turn-based quests take place on a board of sorts; the characters move square by square, and various elements like speed and ability dictate movement on that board. But here, we get our first twist- rather than marked-out squares, the battlefields are open. One can move in any direction he or she desires, and the only limitation is in terms of distance, as characters have a meter (i.e., distance traveled) restriction. But I just haven’t decided if I like this yet…in some ways, it offers more freedom – which of course is the purpose – but in other ways, I kept thinking we sacrificed some strategy. Know how we always want to be occupying the square behind when attacking to insure the best success…?