|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: PlatinumGames||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Kyle B. Stiff
Every once in a while a game that I wasn't looking forward to comes out of left field and makes me proud to be a gamer. Through some combination of low expectations on my part, compelling character-driven story, and well-crafted gameplay mechanics, Infinite Space has made its way onto my short list of "DS game of the year" nominees.
The story of Infinite Space is epic, interesting, and is completely free of the annoying cuteness that bogs down many anime space sagas. Yuri, the protagonist, grew up bound to a world ruled by a petty baron. He dreams of exploring the "sea of stars" and, once he escapes his homeworld, his journey is tempered by the fact that the galaxy is a lawless place filled with bloodthirsty pirates, corrupt law enforcers, and bottom line-oriented feudal lords. And the animated introductory sequence is an amazing, high-quality production, though it is a little confusing because it chops and mixes events from the first chapter.
The general idea that drives the game is that you get to command a fleet of ships. There is a huge variety of ships and ship modifications, so you can outfit your small fleet as you see fit. You fly from planet to planet, and from system to system, in a journey of discovery where you will face off against enemy fleets. There are a lot of interesting characters to meet, many of whom will join your fleet; half the fun is matching the various strengths and weaknesses of each character to the many positions available within your army. You aren't immediately thrown into the role of Fleet Commander, however, as the ability to control multiple ships must be earned over time. And that's a good thing, as Infinite Space's unique combat system takes time (and frequent failures) to master.
Infinite Space doesn't just have good graphics. The entire package is presented in a truly creative and professional manner. It borrows some of its look from anime, but the colors are muted, everything is cast in shadow, and the tone itself is dark without being overly morbid. The characters and their interactions are interesting, without being sentimental and embarrassingly "heartwarming" like a lot of anime and Japanese games that are, let's face it, marketed towards children rather than adults. A mature tone makes sense, because some sequences are so difficult that I can't imagine too many children playing Infinite Space for very long. It's an adult game and, while it may wear an anime shell, deep down it caters to anyone who has ever watched a battle between large spaceships, just like in Star Trek, and later fantasized about sitting in the captain's chair and spouting off some futuristic technical jargon before shouting, "All guns... FIRE!" Even random battles are spiced up with dramatic camera angles and tense, simple, expertly-delivered dialogue.
The controls make complete sense - that is, after you've gotten them down pat. Unfortunately, Infinite Space is so unique that, if you don't have an instruction book, it will take some time to piece together the puzzle of which feature does what, when, and why. Thankfully, the pace is set in such a way that different aspects of gameplay are introduced slowly: first you control one small ship, then one large destroyer, then ship boarding and hand-to-hand combat is introduced, then you gain the ability to control multiple ships at once, and so on. This does not occur within the first fifteen minutes after a dense tutorial, but rather, each element is introduced through several hours of gameplay, as the story naturally allows.
The music is amazing, some of the best I've heard on the DS. Of special note is the battle music, a shifting piece that goes from bombastic and frenzied to low-key and tense, and creates a perfect atmosphere for facing off against an enemy fleet. Jockeying for position, trying to get off a barrage before the enemy does, drums pounding in time to the dramatic, changing camera angles, all of it adds up to an incredibly intense experience.