Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Portable.
In a world full of portable strategy RPGs, one has a lot of great titles to choose from. Generally, however, most of them tend to be fairly long and complicated, making them more of a play-at-home experience. Enter Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection (or simply GoC), a newly released PSP game from Idea Factory and Sting Entertainment. Not only does the title deliver a great deal of entertainment, but it does so in a generally simple matter – in a way that’s great for the gamer on-the-go. What makes the title worthy of praise? Read on and find out!
The tale behind GoC is a mixture of traditional RPG themes and original ideas. Our first scene opens on two siblings, Claude and Yuri, as they make their way through a dark and ominous forest. Yuri is deathly sick, plagued by a butterfly-shaped mark on her neck, and her brother Claude is an alchemist who dabbles with forbidden tomes and mixtures. His steps towards the dark arts are all justified, however, as every unnatural infraction he undertakes is dedicated to healing his sister. His research has led him to create several helpful concoctions, but a cure for Yuri’s plight still eludes him. Believing that the rare and powerful gems known as snowdrops (physical concentrations of pure magic) to be the cure, our protagonists set out on their quest – eventually coming to a large city.
In this town, Claude and Yuri happen upon a class struggle. Apparently, the nobles of the land have been taking all of the resources from the lower classes, leaving them in a state of poverty. This has sparked a radical cult uprising, bent upon bringing down the nobility and restoring the poor citizens of the city back to their prosperous state. It’s this clash that Claude and Yuri get sucked into, as they search for a cure to Yuri’s sickness.
Not everything is as it seems though, as players will quickly find out. Yuri’s illness is more than just some throat infection – she is showing supernatural signs, such as glowing and reacting to different events and climates. More than the fate of the city is apparently at stake as well, as our protagonists start to uncover a dark and mischievous plot. What began as a simple desire to find a cure for the disease that ails Yuri eventually escalates into a battle to save the world! Although the game features some cliché ideals here and there, the plot is deep and original enough to keep gamers from feeling like they’re reliving a previously played game – while delivering the script in short, mission-based snippets to maintain portability.
Gameplay in GoC takes the form of short skirmishes using simple maps and character sprites, where players control their units in real time, as opposed to the usual turn/command style found in most RPGs. Each side of the battle has a starting base, where they can dispatch different units. The number of units that can be dispatched is determined by the specific mission, as well as the number of strategic points held on the field. For every extra base taken, another character can take the field – and should you lose a building, you’ll also lose a unit. Once deployed, you can select a combatant and direct it where you see fit by either having the unit head directly towards a location or moving along different plotted stops. When the destination has been selected, your characters will move towards it, with their movement speed determined by which terrain they’re traveling across. Each unit handles the given terrain differently, such as a human will travel well across pathways but are slow through forests, or winged beings are able to traverse mountains faster than others.
Should your unit come into the proximity of an enemy, a battle will commence. Combat is very simple, requiring very little in terms of input from the player. Only two units may engage in combat at one time, each taking their turn attacking, with the character with the highest agility taking the first swing. At the start of the conflict, the player selects which weapon to attack with (which can be based on the weapon type the foe has chosen first). Different tools do well against some, and ill against others in a “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock” sort of way: Slashing weapons (swords/axes) beat out Shooters (daggers/guns), which in turn work well against Thrusting tools (spears/fists), which end up defeating Slashing items. However, Casting weapons (spell books/wands) beat all three, but are beaten by Slicing Tools (sickles), which in a final twist of fate are weak against all Slashing, Shooting, and Thrusting weapons. Sound a bit complicated? Well, it actually isn’t, as the game will visually show how well your weapon fares against your opponent’s – leaving out the necessity to use your memory or guesswork.
However, players don’t just sit back and wait for units to kill each other in combat. A mechanic called Attack Chance plays a large part in it. In each face off between characters, you’re able to boost your unit’s attack power by using this feature. During your character’s attack, a meter dotted with several circles will start to fill. As each circle is reached by said meter, players simply need to press the X button – with every successfully timed press adding a bit of extra power to your onslaught. Now, some clever readers out there may be thinking: “Pffft, I can just spam the button and never miss!” Well, you’d be wrong. If your timing within the circle isn’t dead center, you’ll miss (trust me, I tried to cheat it).
Two other factors play into combat: Artillery and Summons. The former are placements fixed on the map, like ballistae and cannons. Once taken by a side, they will automatically fire at set intervals, with their shot frequency and direction determined by the weapon type itself. For example, once controlled, a ballista will fire generally quick but weaker shots in the first direction that the capturing character heads after gaining control of it. Summons, on the other hand, require a bit more effort to use but can turn the tide of a battle. As you attack enemies, they’ll drop crystals that fill your Summon Meter when collected, and when a specific tier is reached, players are able to summon powerful entities capable of both malevolent and benevolent effects, such as dealing heavy damage to nearby enemies or healing all allied characters.
Outside of battle, players actually have fairly limited options. Gameplay is completely linear: at the beginning of each chapter players are given a short recap of the current situation – cutting out any and all additional play brought on by exploration. Afterwards, you’re treated to plot progression, presented in a very bare form: the screen is split in half horizontally with lines of text on a simple background, read by the original Japanese voice actors (no English in this one, unfortunately). Each speaking character also has a hand drawn anime character portrait, which displays that person’s general expression and emotions. After the scene is done and dusted, the next battle begins. Once combat’s finished, players are brought to another screen, where they can change or upgrade equipment, heal any injured allies, and save the game. Should you wish to gain some extra experience, you can relive the last battle, but without all the story elements involved. Absent are any elements of exploration, buying, or selling items – everything is kept devilishly simple, which may upset some gamers who look for these elements is SRPGs.
Now, under normal circumstances with a game like this on console, I would have a distaste for the title due to the lack of depth and gameplay. However, in this case it ends up making GoC insanely more accessible as a portable title – although at the cost of making it feel less of an RPG and more of an RTS. Due the short nature of the levels and the simple-to-understand gameplay, pretty much anybody can pick up and play a round or two of the game in a matter of minutes – meaning you can get in some play on the bus or on a lunch break, or sit down and go on long sessions for a lengthy car or train ride. Personally speaking, I had just as much fun with GoC in short, occasional bursts as I did in lengthy play sessions of other titles – such as Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice or Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions. While some gamers are going to find it watered down and possibly lacking, the sheer simplicity of it makes it one of the best portable strategy titles you’ll find.
Whether you’re looking for a new story to enjoy, a good but simple test of your wits, or something to do while your instant noodles cook: Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is a brilliant choice for all of the above. While it may not be the most advanced, detailed, or intricate adventure, it does exactly what it says on the package: give you a quick and entertaining experience on the go. With fun and easy to understand gameplay wrapped in an enjoyable story, this is one title you definitely need to try!
Final Score: 4.00 / 5.0 and a cure for all your portable ailments.
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