Japanese RPGs (or JRPGs) have always attracted gamers because of their emphasis on character building, great music, solid gameplay, and entrancing environments. One such game belonging to that category is Rogue Galaxy – it had everything fans were eager to see in a video game from the genre. However, the developers weren’t aiming to make it any run of the mill JRPG.
The game was an attempt to take on every famous JRPG reigning back then, including Final Fantasy. This is not the first time Level-5, the game’s developers, set their aims this high. Their eyes were set on The Legend of Zelda back then with their Dark Cloud games. Sadly, this dream was crushed as Dark Cloud fell into obscurity. Nevertheless, this did not stop them from dreaming for a second time.
Rogue Galaxy, known as ローグギャラクシ- Rōgugyarakushī in Japan, is a Japanese action role-playing game developed by Level-5 and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for the PS2 back in December 2005 in Japan and 2007 in North America, Europe, and Australia.
Level-5 are known for games such as Dark Cloud, Yokai Watch, Inazuma Eleven series, and Ni No Kuni. Although there are other games in Level-5’s portfolio, these are some of the more prominent titles that made the developer shine among its contemporaries.
The story in Rogue Galaxy is similar to any Shonen anime. You’ve got a blonde adventurer, his cast of personable friends (and many waifus as well).
The story revolves around Jaster Rogue, a brave adventurer. It begins with Jaster coming back from a mission outside of his hometown of Salgin. Shortly after returning, a giant monster attacks Salgin and as Jaster rushes to the rescue of his hometown, he encounters a strange man who will aid him for a brief period of time. This stranger, before disappearing for good, grants Jaster a sword known to be wielded by a man called “Desert Claw”.
Later on, Jaster meets up with Steve, and Simon, two members of a space pirate ship. After the three of them manage to defeat the gigantic threat, Jaster learns about the possibility of travelling the galaxy and fulfilling his childhood dream of exploring the universe through Steve and Simon. This is where Jaster joins the pirate crew and plunges into a journey of a grand scale.
Rogue Galaxy’s gameplay focuses particularly on real-time action hack and slash similar to what you will see in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. Unlike Level-5’s predecessors, players can move freely between planets and explore vast open environments with no loading sequences, except when using the ship to travel to another planet, but this only takes a few seconds.
Enemy encounters are handled like any other traditional JRPG. In addition, players will have a set of 3 characters to fight alongside throughout the game. Players are only allowed to control one character at a time and can switch between them on the fly. Each character is unique with regard to their abilities, magic, and attacks.
Despite Rogue Galaxy having basic gameplay elements from other JRPGs, there’s one mechanic that sets the game apart, and that is ”Burning Strike”. Basically, this ability, once fully charged, allows the characters to conduct a variety of combos by following a series of buttons shown on the screen resulting in massive damage. Unfortunately, this only works with normal enemies and it doesn’t work with bosses – perhaps that’s for the best, as it would’ve made the game a piece of cake for many.
With that aside, let’s dig deep into what makes Rogue Galaxy a true Final Fantasy competitor. The game forgoes the boring path of endless grinding to gain a certain ability, item, or magic attack by introducing a mechanic called ”Revelation Flow”. In particular, this mechanic offers lots of benefits.
For example, after getting particular items, players can place them, and once all the items are set, the game either offer a health/magic bonus, a new ability, or a new magical attack. Bear in mind that the ”Burning Strike” can only be unlocked using the ”Revelation Flow”.
In addition to the Revelation Flow, there is weapon synthesis. Unlike Dark Cloud 2, in Rogue Galaxy, you can use a frog called Toady to combine weapons. However, these weapons have to be maxed out in order to be combined. One thing to note here is that sometimes the combination may fail whilst combining a high-level weapon with a low-level one. Toady does warn you about the risks of doing the same and then the game leaves it up to the players to take the risk.
Finally, there’s the item crafting system that can be accessed via the lab in the menu section after certain amount of progress has been made in the game. Basically, this factory lets the player create items for various purposes such as for the Revelation Flow. In order to craft these items, the player must talk to NPCs that have either orange or blue markers atop their heads.
This results in the creation of blueprints that allow players to craft items. One thing to note is that, at the beginning, this mechanic will confuse many, but it only takes a short amount of time to get used to.
The Side Quests:
Just like every role-playing game, Rogue Galaxy features numerous side quests beyond the actual storyline. For instance, there’s the ”Insectron Tournament” (where players have to catch and breed bugs). This allows the player to enter a tournament where two bugs will fight face to face. Subsequently, after winning, the player will be awarded, with better prizes the more they rank up.
Secondly, there’s the ”Challenge Battle” which occurs randomly throughout the game. In these battles, some conditions must be met. Such as, not taking damage, avoid using healing items, finishing the fight using only one character and so on. Once the player fulfills these conditions, they will be rewarded with a ”Hunter Coin”.
What makes Rogue Galaxy a beautiful experience is its music and the visuals. Level-5 is known for perfecting the hand-drawn cel-shaded graphics which sets their games apart from other JRPGs. Surprisingly, to make it neater, they went with something called “Tonal Rendering” for Rogue Galaxy.
Basically, 3D cel-shaded graphics for the foreground characters set against a detailed realistic environment. You can see the similarities between Rogue Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII since they both share that magical touch of cel-shading. Needless to say, both games actually feel more like an anime than an actual game.
The animated cutscenes in the game, the details, the graphics are jaw-dropping by all means. It definitely makes us want to see a full-fledged animation of Rogue Galaxy in the future – well, we can only dream.
Kentaro Motomura, the producer of the game stated that they wanted to make something new rather than sticking to their over-used ideas. “Level-5 was created for swords and magic fantasies, but we got bored with the consistently similar worlds, so we wanted to try something new”, he said.
On the other hand, Akihiro Hino, the writer, producer, designer, and director of the game said the following “As a creator, I always wanted to create a title that was as big as Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. I believe Rogue Galaxy is on the same scale. This title will be our challenge to all the RPGs in the world”.
Rogue Galaxy has a variety of musical scores, varying from simple to orchestral, smooth to thrilling, happy to sad. Something that you would search for on Youtube, Spotify, or Soundcloud once you finish the game and add it to your favorite tracks.
My speculations about Anime references in the game:
After finishing the game, I realized that the game borrowed heavily from the anime industry. For instance, there’s a link between Luffy from One Piece and Jaster Rogue Both of them carry a mark on their face. I know, this may seem a silly observation to most. Additonally, the pirate ship in the game looks similar to Thousand Sunny known as Sauzando Sanī-gō in One-piece. If you are wondering why I am mentioning this, it’s because the game follows a similar narrative arc to One Piece where Luffy’s crew keeps expanding as the story unfolds. The friendly bonds that the main characters form with others act as a central device to keep the story moving forward through the concept of Nakama is brought to the forefront.
Another observation is a collection of anime shows this time. For instance, there’s an Akira reference in the game which happens when Jaster is about to fight Seed in the last battle.
Other gamers claim that the ship wasn’t inspired by One Piece. Instead, it was inspired by Skies of Arcadia. Sadly, I don’t have the means to prove the latter, but I guess that if you have played both these games you would agree, I guess?
At the end of the day, and in my humble opinion, I think Rogue Galaxy borrows some of its aspects from shonen anime shows.
Why the game flopped in terms of sales?:
Rogue Galaxy was released in a crowded year full of awesome games. 2007 had just seen the release of God of War 2 on the PlayStation 2. Probably, this was one of those games that would make many people go back to their old PS2 before jumping to the PlayStation 3. In addition to this, with the release of the new console, things just got worse for Level-5.
We had games like Resistance: Fall of Men, Assassins Creed, Uncharted, Medal of Honor: Airborne – so many games that even Rogue Galaxy and other hidden gems such as Folklore barely stood a chance to shine. Although Rogue Galaxy’s marketing was excessive, it’s fate was sealed.
Despite the awards and the universal acclaim it received among fans, and how some called it ”FF killer”, it flopped commercially by failing to reach Sony’s expectations – only hitting revenue figures of 840.000 USD in terms of sales. If the game had reached 1 million, we might have seen an improved sequel. Maybe one day…
This game was already mentioned a couple of times on ” Cel-Shaded games”, ” Hidden Gem JRPGs ”, and ” Underlooked PS2 games ” on my page over here.