by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Rogue Galaxy Rated Teen: Playstation 2 & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & ach time I stand on the shores of a planet, dreaming of finding freedom in the sky, I know I'm in for a space pirate game. True to form, Rogue Galaxy starts me on a boring backwater planet where there is nothing better to do than attempt to liberate myself. As soon as I've buckled the space boots of Jaster, the pie-faced, globby-eyed hero of the game, I know my destiny is to board my first interstellar galley and glide sails-unfurled among the stars.

Rogue Galaxy was created by Level-5, the game design company responsible for Dark Cloud 2, another PS2 action role-playing game from a few years back. Like that game, Rogue Galaxy is populated by 3D characters drawn with a broad black outline when viewed from any angle. This cel-shading effect worked to enhance the whimsical, steam-punk setting of Dark Cloud 2, but its blatant cartoonishness taints the piracy of Rogue Galaxy with too much


Characters spend a substantial chunk of the game speaking to each other in cutscenes. The cel-shading visual style coupled with the broadly pan-ethnic voice acting makes Rogue Galaxy eminently watchable, although the camera moves as though it were operated by a computer programmer -- traveling from point A to point B in X seconds.

Combat occurs in real time, allowing me to press buttons to my advantage until the action gauge runs out and I'm forced to take a short defensive break. Jumping, slashing and shooting my way through the game is how I express myself, and I eventually have a handful of different characters to accompany Jaster. Aside from styles of combat, however, there is little with which to distinguish them. In today's videogame market, even neurotic robots and sensitive dog-men need some more edge.

Aside from the monsters that live on the game's various planets, most creatures I meet seem like extras from a humanoid casting company. Worse still, the assorted combat maneuvers that become available to me are meted out by the game as I collect various items from different planets. This makes character development seem more like a scavenger hunt for interstellar odds 'n' ends. Hardly the life I was dreaming of back on the shores of that planet long ago.

THE GOOD: That old videogame trick of springing monsters on me from nowhere is relieved by my ability to take a swing at them as soon as I see them. Combat is active, with leaping and sword-swinging all around the screen, plus a handy handgun attack for those battles when I've smacked my enemies out of reach.

THE BAD: Despite the libertarian life of a space pirate, Rogue Galaxy keeps folding the game back onto its chapter-driven storyline. Games like Final Fantasy and Pok & eacute;mon lavish detail on the creation of intricate environments and complex societies so that I can chart my own course, discovering side-quests and superfluous environments. In Rogue Galaxy, each planet is more like a dungeon to be unlocked and scoured.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Even with vivid anim & eacute; style and dynamic combat, Rogue Galaxy can occasionally make outer-space piracy seem like a pedestrian planet-hop.

3/5 Stars

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