Instead of the usual 'levelling-up' that most games have, although that still happens and your health & stats improve accordingly, here a challenge system is in place. What this means is that during a stage you'll unlock challenges (kill a certain amount of enemies/reach a specific area quickly etc) that once completed gifts you with unlocks. Not all challenges are shown and most will only begin once you've met a criteria for the challenge, so finding all challenges is a must to ensure your as stocked up with Skill boost & abilities. Once a stage is completed, a 6th mission is unlocked in the form of a 'Free Run'. With this you fight from the beginning of the stage to the end, fighting the end boss to complete it. The Free Run has its own set of challenges to complete with equipment & gallery items providing the main focus of the unlocks. Some abilities can only be unlocked here too so its worth going back to the Free Run, especially to do a spot of grinding. You probably wont find yourself being forced into grinding much, if at all. The games difficulty seems finely balanced, with the usual Jrpg difficulty spikes only rearing its head once or twice through the game. There isn't a huge variety of enemies, but colour does tend to show how powerful they are. Altogether your looking at about 15-20 hours if you do a bit of grinding too, so it doesn't become repetitive or outstay it's welcome in this regard. Completionists could be playing even longer than that. While the lack of the usual Jrpg offerings like side-quests & crafting system may put some off, the streamlined nature of the game ensures you spend most you time with the thing that the game does best - Its battle system.
With the game lacking some of the features found in most RPG games these days, while also going for a streamlined and action orientated structure, No doubt some people will be turned away before even trying the game. For those that do try, You'll be rewarded with a superb battle system & a novel challenge based unlock system while the story & graphics will keep improving to ensure you stick around. While its not going to set the PsP RPG scene alight, Its a true dark horse in every sense of the expression.
Who Should Play This?
- Black Rock Shooter fans
- Interesting fast paced combat & challenge based unlocks
- Numerous enemies featuring multiple attack patterns keeps things fresh
- Later stages feature nice design & graphics
- The game takes a couple of stages to get going
- story doesn't hit its stride till at least mid-point
- Motorcycle section is an odd addition