Still, Rogue Galaxy triumphs in many other areas. For a start, it is not in thrall to the most of the more tiresome traditions of the Japanese RPG. Like FFXII it has dispensed with turn-based combat, with real-time sword swinging like you’d find in an action RPG, but with the option to pause the combat at any point to use items or special abilities. Actions aren’t totally free – you have a gauge that runs down the more you attack or use items, and you need to wait while the gauge recharges once it’s spent – but this certainly makes for a more accessible breed of RPG.
As with FFXII, the game has also found a new approach to handling a party. You still have characters who follow you around, but they are basically AI controlled unless you give them specific instructions. You can give them general strategies to follow – though there’s nothing here as detailed as FFXII’s gambit system – and generally leave them to do their own thing. Cleverly, they will actually request orders during combat: you’ll hear a spoken prompt followed by a couple of options, selected by pressing the L1 or L2 buttons.
Thanks to the space theme, you always have a choice of ranges or melee weapons, and using each you’ll have special attacks, plus spell-like defensive capabilities, which characters can access either when you use the paused menu in combat or when you follow the L1 and L2 suggestions in the heat of battle. This adds a little more of the traditional Japanese RPG flavour to the action, and stops it from being all hack and slash.
Nor do the gameplay innovations end there. Firstly, while Rogue Galaxy does have a form of character class system – only certain characters can use certain weapons – there is a degree of flexibility in the system of abilities. The game uses a Revelations grid, which acts a bit like the License Grid in FFXII. Here, finding certain items and attaching them to a particular character’s grid opens up new special abilities. These in turn open up slots for new or upgraded abilities, and these can be equipped by finding the right item for that slot. Added to this, the game has a cool weapons upgrade system, where this bizarre frog-like creature swallows two weapons and spits out an improved model bearing characteristics of both. There are some limitations – Froggy won’t eat weapons of different types, and will only eat a weapon once it has been seasoned in combat – but it means that, on top of the usual experience point system, you have a solid, flexible way of getting your characters more and more powerful, and so more satisfying to play.