Review: Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection (PSP/PSV)

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Title: Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection
Format: PlayStation Network Download (354 MB)
Release Date: February 19, 2013 (NA) / June 28, 2012 (JP)
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Idea Factory / Sting
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is exclusive to PlayStation Portable and compatible with PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation Network download version was used for this review.

For years now, developers have lavished the PSP with memorable and exciting JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) and SRPGs (Strategy Role Playing Games). Even a year into the lifecycle of the Vita, new titles are still appearing. Once such recent release is the latest entry in the Generation of Chaos series, Pandora’s Reflection. While I am not new to SRPGs, I must note that I am a newcomer to the Generation of Chaos series, so I cannot comment on game play changes from previous installments.

Gameplay:
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is, in the broadest sense, a strategy role-playing game, but Pandora’s Reflection puts a much heavier emphasis on the movement and positioning of units than the typical SRPG. Combat is turn-based and occurs when opposing units occupy the same area, but nearby units have an opportunity to assist with an extra attack round. The movement itself occurs in real-time, but is paused for command entry, forcing the player to think fourth dimensionally.

The strategy of movement is complicated by various terrains which can slow movement, as well as certain unit’s ability to either enhance party movement or hinder enemy movement. The units can be directed to simply go to a final destination, or they can be given a path to follow which is accomplished by setting various waypoints on the map. Scattered around the battle maps are checkpoints which trigger story dialogue (and sometimes item drops), checkpoints that allow either yourself or the enemy to deploy an additional unit, and artillery units which fire at set intervals to damage whoever does not control them. The player will need to balance the need of securing the checkpoints, defending already captured checkpoints, and offensive actions against the enemy. The true strategy in this game is not in the battles, but in the movement and positioning of units.

The combat itself incorporates as rhythm element to increase the damage of individual unit. However, as each character’s rhythm inputs are all accomplished through timed presses of a single button, the mechanic lacks the variety to remain interesting throughout the game. There is technically a rock-paper-scissors combat element, but as each unit can equip two weapons and choose the appropriate for each round of combat (the game even prompts you which weapon to choose), it really just means you need to upgrade two weapons for each character. The upgrade system for weapons is purely linear.

The leveling of characters is largely automatic. Experience is awarded to participants of the battle, so you will need to rotate your character usage to keep the level of your party members close. Otherwise, just as with weapons, the leveling system for characters is purely linear.

Once battle is completed, you are able to replay it to your heart’s content. However, this ability is limited to the most recent battle completed; once you move on to the next battle, you cannot go back.

Visuals:
The main story is told through static cutscenes employing character portraits. The icons during the battle scenes are in the style of 16 bit sprites overlaid on a drawn map. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the portraits or the sprite art, the character design is not distinctive enough to tell at a glance which sprite belongs to which character. Additionally, sometimes it is difficult to ascertain the terrain under the characters; given the importance of movement, this is a concern.

Audio:
The voice acting is well done, but is not translated from the original Japanese. An English text translation is provided in the form of speech bubbles. All the cutscenes are easily skippable by pressing the right shoulder button.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
There is nothing inherently broken with Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection. The story is adequate, but the characters are not developed enough to be engaging or particularly memorable. There are some interesting gameplay mechanics, but the novelty and challenge wear away quickly. There is fun to be had here for someone looking for a diversion from traditional SRPGs, but instead of being pulled into the game, you will likely have to push yourself to finish the storyline.

Score:
7.5

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