The Sol Trigger demo that appeared on the Japanese PSN in September had revealed quite a potential for this game. Potential that was no illusion.
ImageEpoch certainly didn’t fail on the graphics : character modeling is insanely good and animation is unrivaled on the system. It’s smooth, lively and facial rendering is unbelievable. Make no mistake : after Sol Trigger, all existing handheld RPGs can be stacked in museums. The character design was what drew my interest first, and I must say I am extremely pleased with it (probably one of my favorites of the year). Even the bad guys are so classy that you’d actually wish you wouldn’t have to fight them. You will like some more than others, but every character contribute to the bigger picture and to a unique and complete world. The same cannot be said about the level design though. Dark and varying little, they’re not fun to progress into. Music is far better, but it takes several hours to hear really inspired compositions.
The storyline is also pretty solid. A tribe known as the People of the Light have been oppressed and used as a source of energy by fellow humans for centuries, but some of them have decided to resist the tyranny. You play as Farel, the young leader of the group of rebels who call themselves the Soul Triggers, in reference to the Soul energy the People of Light inherits from generations. To stop the exploitation of their companions they plan a series of sabotages. The plot never falls into Manicheism : it’s not about good and evil but the decline of a society torn by its own survival and ethical problems that come with it. In a shonen style very like Xenoblade, the narrative deliver suspense, turnabouts and breathtaking sequences.
The interest is again boosted by the fact that the story is divided in two distinct parts (of 15h each). Just after the most important scene (when you traditionally have all the answers), the game STOPS. In utter bewilderment, you realize that the game gives you characters that have (apparently) no connection with the first ones. You progressively come to know the «truth» that the game had been hiding. The new characters are an excellent surprise and I must say I was delighted. Of are 3 different endings, I didn’t get the one I wanted, and believe me I will replay this.
I must point out that Sol Trigger has a strange sense of logic time to time : save points in dungeons can teleport yourself to your base to replenish your HP/SOL, but no one worries about HQ being connected to enemy command centers! There are things like that are a little puzzling, but it doesn’t dampen the experience.
Let’s talk about gameplay. Unexpectedly, Sol Trigger chooses a first person view in battle, just like good old Dragon Quest. Disappointed at first not to see my characters, I must admit this view puts the player right into the action. My worries flew away when saw the extremely stylish and extensively used skills, during which you I could admire the superb modeling. Every time you use a skill, its level goes up, and the game leaves you use which degree of power/efficiency you see fit : 120%, 140%, etc. until an apocalyptic overcharge. The game is not that hard overall (especially the second part), but some areas or boss fight really made me sweat. Let’s point out that there are no sidequests, only the main story in a very corridor-like fashion, which is too bad.
ImageEpoch wanted to make the last great RPG of the PSP, they might actually have made the greatest…