As a role-playing game that Level 5 built on the foundations of Dark Cloud and Star Ocean, I’m calling Rogue Galaxy an unqualified success. But as a freewheeling space pirate adventure, Rogue Galaxy is a huge disappointment. It has a lot for me to like — you run around hitting things with swords and shooting bad guys in the face — but it also has some things I’d like to ignore.
Stuff and Nonsense
Rogue Galaxy’s plot is kicked along by extended cutscenes full of clumsy exposition, terribly chosen words, and abruptly introduced plot threads that go nowhere. The story would be completely baffling if it didn’t rely on so many well-used RPG cliches, and a lot of time is wasted on elaborate character backstories that are swept aside as the action unfolds. Rogue Galaxy ends up similar to a Saturday-morning cartoon: the plot is shallow, but it strings together exciting topics so enthusiastically (Lasers! Treasure! Outer Space!) that its entertaining.
Lots to Do
As jewelers, skateboarders, and love-struck high school students already know, grinding serves an important purpose. You will die and/or burn through a ton of recovery items while trying to figure out how to fight new groups of monsters in Rogue Galaxy, so it pays to spend a lot of time building up your characters. Luckily, the game provides you with plenty of monster-hunting and item-finding sidequests that do an effective job of entertaining you while backtracking over ground you’ve already covered.
I’m not a fan of Rogue Galaxy’s music. Each area has a distinctive theme, but they’re all repetitive and just a few minutes of exposure can get one of them stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Members of your group also talk to each other while you explore the map — it seems more realistic than having them run around in complete silence, but hearing the same few lines over and over gets annoying as hell. The game is most fun on mute, and you can always pause things and turn the sound up in plenty of time to hear plot development when it’s thrown at you.
Rogue Galaxy is JRPG that likes to pretend it’s a space pirate adventure; it helps to think of your spaceship as a hub and each of the game’s planets as individual dungeons to visit. If you can put aside your disappointment about this game not being the second coming of Escape Velocity, then the dungeon crawling can be pretty fun. It may not be the Port Royale in outer space that you wanted, but Rogue Galaxy is the interplanetary Final Fantasy (you didn’t realize) you needed.