Believe it or not, The Hermuda Triangle is the third (and final?) update to Nippon Ichi Software's Phantom Brave adventure. The original game was released seven years ago on the PlayStation 2, followed up by a well-intentioned Wii update a few years later. Now comes the PSP port, which lands with a low price point and some added content. Even after all these years, Phantom Brave remains an engaging adventure game worth suiting up for ... assuming you haven't played it before.
Phantom Brave tells the story of Marona, a young girl with a dark secret. Don't be fooled by her upbeat exterior, this unlikely hero has become an outcast amongst her own people. It turns out that her neighbors may have good reason to be worried, seeing as she is possessed and able to see invisible spirits. Marona travels around with her mostly invisible guardian named Ash; together the two make money by taking on quests and fixing problems.
It turns out that Marona can summon phantoms that are really good at clearing out unwelcome monsters. Unfortunately this power comes with a twist -- she must "confine" these spirits into inanimate objects. I'm talking about trees, weapons, rocks and anything else that isn't trying to kill Marona. These various objects have their own properties, something that will impact the character you summon. These phantoms will leap into the real world and take on the foes. But don't get too comfortable, because these summoned fighters will only stick around for a few rounds. Once they're gone it's up to the lone mortal to finish the fight.
Confining characters to objects is an interesting way of twisting the generally straight-laced strategy RPG genre. This is not one of those games where players can simply load the level with strong fighters from the start, when and where you summon your allies is vital to winning. This is the type of game where you may want to hold off on bringing in your best characters, saving them to be your all-important closer. Even though it's a little confusing at first, I came away impressed with the changes Phantom Brave made to the genre.
Outside of confining characters to rocks, The Hermuda Triangle feels a lot like many other turn-based adventure games from Japan. Although the game isn't laid out like a chess board, players are still told how far they can walk and what they can do. Each turn is about moving the character into place and either attacking or using items on fellow teammates. Anybody familiar with Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre will feel at home with Phantom Brave.
I was surprised at how shallow the combat engine was compared to other NIS America games I've played. With the colorful graphics, whimsical heroine and dumbed down combat, I get the feeling that Phantom Brave was intended for a younger audience. I don't say that pejoratively, there's a place for the so-called "starter" adventure game. It's important to work up to something like Aedis Eclipse: Generations of Chaos.
Phantom Brave is a charming little adventure game from people who know a thing or two about the genre. Unfortunately, the intriguing quest is marred by shallow gameplay and some pacing issues. If you're already bored of the newer role-playing games, then give this seven year old port a good long look!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!