Strategy RPG fans have to thank Nippon Ichi. They managed to take a genre that was almost non-existant on the PS2 and instilled some life into it. After the release of both Disgaea and LaPucelle: Tactics, the developers are on a roll with the upcoming Phantom Brave.
The Story - Set in the world of Ivoire, which is composed of islands of varying size, the game stars Marona, a young girl who has the special ability to control phantoms. Despite being ridiculed by others because of her powers, Marona is a kind-hearted girl. Along with Marona is Ash, her guardian and the two of them work as chromas, aka mercenaries.
Gameplay - As with previous titles, there is a certain pattern by which players will progress through the game. First, you receive request for help, then prepare for battle. After this you travel to the location stated in the request where you'll of course battle and hopefully complete the mission. As the game begins, you're goal is to make enough money to buy Ghost Island, where Marona lives.
Once in battle, you'll notice some changes to the standard SRPG formula. Characters have a movement radius, not unlike Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, where you have a circle of where you can move. This allows for a lot more freedom as you can move and then move a second time if you have enough "range" left. Instead of the standard turn-based aspect, battles play out much like Final Fantasy Tactics, where characters move based on their speed and get more turns the faster they are. During battle, players will have access to special moves, the ability to hold and use items in the environment and Marona has the ability to Confine objects to turn them into additional party members, even if for a short while. This allows for a lot of strategy on what objects to confine and what to use in battle.
Phantom Brave drops the grid-based field system and allows you to move characters how you like. Also present is some environmental characteristics that should be taken into consideration. Surfaces can be slippery or even cause your characters to bounce. You might wonder why this matters until you see one of your team fall off the battle map.
Visually, the game follows the excellent anime style of previous titles. Levels are colorful with 2D sprites and lots of charming detail. The character designs are great. With what I've seen already, Phantom Brave looks to be a great addition to the growing strategy RPG roster on the PS2. I am sure that Nippon Ichi fans will be pleased with this effort.