Brave Story: New Traveler
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-08-18 PSP RPG E10 (Everyone 10+) XSEED Games / Game Republic

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Tetsuya is a boy with a thing for videogames. As he sits in a bench playing something on his handheld, his friend Miki runs off after her dog. Tetsuya hears a scream and rushes to find an unconscious Miki. At the hospital, the doctors can't figure out why she won't wake up.

A voice comes to Tetsuya's aid and tells him that there is a way to help Miki, another world where he can have a wish granted and thus cure Miki. But getting his wish won't be an easy task.

Tetsuya arrives in the world of Vision as a Traveler, and as you will eventually find out, there have been many before him, and some are still around trying to complete their quests. The main goal is to collect the five gems through certain acts - although you don't know what they are - to unlock the path to the Tower of Destiny, where you will be able to get one wish granted by the Goddess.

Your first acquaintance is the cheery kitkin girl, Yuno, but throughout the adventure your party members will change in certain situations, and at some point you will have "spare" party members that you can swap in and out of battle. Those not in battle will still gain experience and level up.

Battles are your traditional turn-based RPG combat. Your party has regular attacks, Bravura attacks and Unity skills. Bravura are special attacks and they use BP (Bravura Points), which you get by attacking enemies, and everyone's skills are different. Some are more powerful than others, some are pure attack while others have specific effects like poisoning or being always a critical. Tetsuya won't be able to use Bravura until he finds his first gem though.

Unity is actually a pretty cool system, but the skills cost quite a bit of BP. Your party members learn Unity skills as they fight together, and they work a bit like a combo attack: two party members can perform special attacks that hit all targets, boost party's defense or attack, and so on.

You can also change party formation while in battle (switch positions or swap members in and out) and use items.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the onomatopoeias during the battles. Just like a cheesy old Batman episode, you will be seeing "thwang! pow!" and other even weirder sounds written all across the screen.

There are other goodies packed into the gameplay. One that I quite like is bird catching and bird brawling. The bird catching is a really fun mini-game where you run around with a net catching birds of different colors. Each color means a particular attribute for your bird, so the bird's stats at the end of a catching session are determined by what you caught. Don't get the black bird, that decreases all your stats. Any birds you catch can enter bird brawling matches. Bird brawlers are spread out all over the world, and you can fight them with the birds you have. There are also bird traders who will take a bird in exchange for something useful.

The only downside of the whole bird catching and brawling process is the little tweets, they're very sharp and fairly annoying when there are that many birds together.

Crafting is another interesting concept. The diagrams you find while exploring or as the result of a quest are used to create accessories such as rings and necklaces with special properties. Each diagram uses specific materials to make the accessory, and the catch is trying to find all the materials to make the best items. You can also dismantle accessories you don't need anymore, and each character can equip three of them (unless they are "guest" party members that leave after a short while).

I especially like the overall look of the game, and couldn't get over how cute Yuno's ears are with the little occasional twitch. Every character is extremely detailed and the animations in battle are very well done. The world map is actually fairly simple, but the towns and dungeons have interesting designs and textures. And the monsters are fairly original too and stray from the usual giant rats and giant spiders that we see in every other RPG.

The music is pleasant and contrary to some games, the battle theme doesn't get on your nerves. The characters voices aren't bad during the cut-scenes and even in their battle cries (Yuno manages to be cute even then), but you will still be reading a lot of text. The dialogs are well-written, with some comedy mixed in, and the story is presented gradually, introducing many new characters in unexpected ways and strange situations.

Brave Story: New Traveler is a great adventure for any RPG enthusiast. It's quite refreshing in a sea of "save the world" storylines to see a story about a boy just trying to cure his sick girl friend.

The strong and lovable characters, great presentation and simple gameplay make it all even more worthwhile. If you own a PSP, you really shouldn't miss out on this one.

Special thanks to Jimmy Soga and Xseed for providing a copy of this title.