Phantom Brave is a game that was originally released on the Playstation 2 back in 2004. Since then, NIS has seen fit to port the game over to Wii, and now PSP with The Hermuda Triangle. By and large it is the exact same game with the exception of a few additional characters, upgraded visuals, and a new game + mode called “another Marona” which helps to explain the story better.
The PSP in the last few years, has been somewhat of a haven for NIS games with many titles gracing the handheld with overall decent sales. Phantom Brave should be no exception to this. It’s a fun RPG to work through; even if it will appeal mostly to the hardcore like many of NIS’s other games.
Phantom Brave has that unique colorful look like most other NIS games such as Disgaea. Like usual, all of the characters are done in a 2D sprite style, but because of the age of the game the attention to detail is noticeably less. That’s not to say that it isn’t a good looking game, its graphics just feel a bit dated like much of the game does, actually. Regardless, this is a very colorful game and definitely has an interesting world to look at.
The game centers around a young girl named Marona and a phantom named Ash. Ash helps her complete contracts as a Chroma, which is a sort of bounty hunter. Marona has the ability to see and use phantoms to help her, but because of this the people of the world come to see her as “possessed” and evil. This is the basic setup for Phantom Brave, and the story goes along at a decent pace but never develops into something special. The story is slightly uninteresting and many of the characters end up being that way as well.
Marona’s ability to summon phantoms is entirely what the game play centers around. Like most NIS games, battle takes place on a rectangular isometric board with a turn counter telling you what ally or enemy will get to act next. However, you only start with Marona at the beginning of battle and must “confine” phantoms to objects scattered around the battlefield. Objects that you use to confine have differing effects on your characters stats. Confine someone to a rock and they will have a boost in their defense but a decrease in speed. In addition, characters have the ability to pickup allies, enemies, or items and throw them. The battle system is surprisingly deep but definitely can be too complicated at times. Your phantoms, in addition to the traditional hit point, also only have a certain amount of turns that they can stay on the battlefield, while weapons have hp as well. In each battle you can bring up to 16 phantoms with you but if you don’t use them correctly you can end up completely screwing yourself over, causing battles to become more trial and error than anything else in certain situations. The complexity of battle often gets in your way, and one problem I frequently had was having a battle area clogged up with characters making it difficult for me to target enemies instead of allies.
To acquire more phantoms, it will require money to spend. In addition, the more money you spend on a phantom, the stronger it will be when you first create it. The home island is where you always return after going out to complete a job or a quest on a different island in the world. Here you can buy items, new and stronger phantoms, and upgrade items in addition to other things. Phantoms, like in battle, serve different purposes on the island as well .The merchant is used to purchase items, the medic to heal, and you can even get a phantom that will create random dungeons for you to train your characters in. The game always plays out in the same way; you start on the home island, get a quest, watch a cut scene, battle, and watch another cut scene to finish before heading back to the island. Even with all of the tutorials that teach you about battle and your island, you won’t really understand everything about Phantom Brave until you are a significant amount of hours into the game. Fans of NIS games will find a lot to like in Phantom Brave, but even hardcore RPG players may find it difficult to make it through.
The voice acting in Phantom Brave is all across the board. It ranges from good to absolutely awful, and far too many of the characters just settle for a mediocre job. Luckily the music is actually very good, not that you would expect anything else from this type of game. The soundtrack does help to draw you in to the game and gets exciting when an encounter starts. Sound would definitely be a major highlight of Phantom Brave if it weren’t for some very painful voice acting work.
Phantom Brave has an undeniably charming look to it, and even if the story turns out to be lackluster it’s still worthy of playing through. People who aren’t fans of NIS games or who are hardcore RPG players may find it difficult to get through but it still turns out to be a fun RPG experience. The slightly dated look and bad voice acting shouldn’t stop you from giving this popular title a try, especially since this version has all the extras.
*NIS America provided Slimgamer.com with a promo code for a review copy