Last console generation, the PlayStation 2 was king of the JRPG scene. With exclusive series like Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, and Suikoden, if you were a fan of the RPG genre during the PlayStation 2’s heyday, you had plenty of options open to you. One such option that went largely unnoticed was Phantom Brave. This title, created by NIS (the same people behind the blockbuster Disgaea series), certainly gained attention from the NIS core fanbase, but didn’t go on to much notoriety farther afield. Luckily, it has been ported over to the Wii for a whole new generation of gamers to enjoy.
The story in Phantom Brave revolves around a small girl names Marona. When Marona was five, her parents, along with a travelling soldier named Ash, were killed. However, with her father’s dying breath, he cast a spell to heal the travelling soldier and bring him back to the world of the living. But because her father did not have enough strength left in him to complete the incantation, the soldier ended up as a phantom, stuck between the world of the living and the dead. The game picks up several years later. Marona has grown into quite the young woman, and as a “Chroma” with magical powers, she has built quite the business for herself helping the sometimes distrustful locals with their problems. Ash has appointed himself as Marona’s protector, and the two of them go off on a job that ends up taking them across many lands in search of an evil power known as Sulfur.
The story in Phantom Brave is multi-faceted, and though it progresses in a very linear fashion. The story has plenty of surprises in store, and it takes a surprisingly dark turn towards the halfway point. The game also has a multitude of characters that are all very interesting and make for plenty of memorable moments. It is clear that much time was taken with the original release’s story, and I am happy that this port has done nothing to alter it.
One of the biggest strengths of Phantom Brave: We Meet Again is the changes that have been made since the PlayStation 2 version. Though the core story and battle mechanics have not been altered, this new port of Phantom Brave has updated graphics, an updated menu system, and some additional story elements. This expanded content helps flesh out this port and makes it feel more like a Wii game rather than an old PlayStation 2 port.
The biggest feature is probably the bonus story content. The new bonus mode, entitled “Alternate Marona,” is not available through the regular story mode, and it’s only playable when you select it through the menu. Interestingly, this mode does not need to be unlocked; it’s available right from the start. This is great for fans of the original who want to pick up this title just for the new content, as it allows you to play through the “Alternate Marona” dénouement without needing to play through the entire story mode again just to get to the new content. However, if you have not played Phantom Brave before, you should definitely avoid entering this mode initially, as it will spoil the plot of the entire game.
Another specific area that has been greatly improved since the original is the graphics. The game still uses old-school sprite models for the characters, but the backgrounds have been updated to a higher resolution, and the character animations have been smoothened out for the Wii release. Although a current-gen gamer would probably describe the look of Phantom Brave: We Meet Again as “dated,” its style definitely has a sense of “retro cool” about it.
The sound has also been improved for the Wii release. Phantom Brave already had a great soundtrack, which featured plenty of simple yet moody themes. The core of the music has stayed the same, but like the visuals, it has been remixed slightly so that the sound is a little bit clearer coming through the speakers than it was in the PlayStation 2 version. Although the vocal track was not altered for the Wii version, it bears mentioning as it too is of great quality.
Despite all these changes, the most important aspect of Phantom Brave has not been changed at all: the combat system. Phantom Brave has a very interesting combat system, as it is tactics-based, but does not use a standard tactics grid. Instead, the game’s battle system allows you to roam free on a map using circular ranges. Characters can attack others using a variety of attack and power-based ranges. The size and scope of these ranges depend largely on your characters individual stats, and the game encourages lots of targeted character development to develop either the strength or breadth of each character’s ranges.
Aside from the way the battle system treats the playing field, it also does a few other things differently. For instance, instead of having all the characters file onto the battlefield at once, the game requires you to use the main character to summon all the phantom warriors. But there’s a catch: the phantoms can only be summoned using inanimate objects. These inanimate objects can be everything from rocks to shrubbery, and each object has its own bonuses that can be given to the phantom if they are chosen to be summoned there. The game features plenty of tactical choices that can supplement or complement each character’s development, if used wisely. Even though I did miss the familiar grid system of other tactics-based RPGs, Phantom Brave really stands out because of its unique approach, and as such is worth checking out for tactics fans.
Although Phantom Brave: We Meet Again can best be described as a port of an old PlayStation 2 game, this is one “Wii-Make” that stands out among the competition. If you’ve never played Phantom Brave before, the game is worth checking out for its memorable story and unique combat mechanics. Additionally, if you have already experienced the game, it is worth picking up again for the new content and technical upgrades. This title was definitely overlooked last generation, and to miss it again would be a crime indeed!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Pixel-based sprites have a cool nostalgic look to them. Environments are nicely detailed but stoic. 4.1 Control
With two control schemes (Wii-mote on its side or Wii-Mote and Nunchuk) you can control this game any way you want. I personally found the Wii-mote only option to be a little more user-friendly, but both are easy to master. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Background music features simple, pleasant melodies that have been remixed slightly to improve quality for the rerelease. Voice acting is also of very good quality. 4.4
With 80+ hours of content and an engaging story, you can stay immersed in the world of Phantom Brave for quite awhile.
4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.