Brave Story: New Traveler / 2007 XSEED Games / $39.99 / For: PSP / http://www.bravestorynewtraveler.com / http://www.xseedgames.com/
RPGs are obviously my favorite genre of games. I typically shy away from RPGs created by companies I am not familiar with, but after digging a little, I realized that XSEED is a company founded by former members of the USA branch of Square Enix. They are relatively new, but have been attached to games such as Wild Arms (4 and 5), Shadow Hearts: From The New World, Valhalla Nights, and Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground. Brave Story: New Traveler is a 2006 Japanese game that was modified and edited for an American audience by XSEED. The premise of the game is a little goofy. The lead character, Tatsuya, is too immersed in playing eir PSP to see that eir friend Miki has taken a turn for the worse and passed out. After playing/wishing/hoping that Miki can get better, a disembodied voice sends Tatsuya into the world to collect 5 gems, in order to place them in eir travelerâ€™s sword and give Miki a new lease on life, and generally make things better.
Knowing that the story is a little bit funky, XSEED has pushed the little PSP to itsâ€™ limits, creating beautiful landscapes, graphics, and art that should just not be this good on a portable system. Where it is the tendency of RPGs like Oblivion and Two Worlds to melt into a bland pile of earth tones and medieval buildings, XSEED here has beefed up their pallet and made RPGs exciting again. The fighting system does not feel clunky, does not feel dated in the slightest. Individuals that may be more into a Zelda brand of fighting may not be the biggest fan of the more turn-based style of Brave Story, but coming from a Phantasy Star / Shining Force tradition, the turn-based style is a sight to behold.
The inclusion of this vibrant world into a RPG genre that has largely fallen to the hyper-realistic styles of the aforementioned Oblivion gives me hope that more games will go in this direction. Individuals will not feel slightest by the amount of game play present in Brave Story; I know I was still working on the game even after 40 solid hours of play. XSEED has made the game into something that American audiences can identify with, while still providing enough of a Japanese flair to truly make individuals feel as if they are in another world.