Phantom Brave was first released for the PS2 in 2004 by Nippon Ichi Software (NIS). You might know NIS from the Disgaea strategy RPG series which released one year before. Over the years, Phantom Brave saw a remake on the Wii (Phantom Brave: We Meet Again) in 2009 and again in 2011 to the PlayStation Portable (Phantom Brave: the Hermuda Triangle). In 2016, Phantom Brave PC was released on Steam which includes all content from We Meet Again and the Hermuda Triangle. This Steam version is the one I’m playing.
I picked up Phantom Brave PC along with a couple other games either developed or published by NIS. There was a sale you see and I was really into JRPGs that day….I was actually surprised to find how many of their older titles have been ported on to PC over the years. While this is my first time playing Phantom Brave, I have played more than a few hours of Disgaea 4 on the PS3 so I have some familiarity with NIS’s flavor of SRPGs. Even so, Phantom Brave is it’s own variant of the Disgaea formula.
For one, instead of choosing units at the beginning of the fight, Marona summons units out of objects on the field which affect the stats of the unit. You want to summon fighters out of objects that will increase attack and HP and magic users out of objects that boost intelligence.
There’s a speed based initiative system as opposed to a back a forth player turn then enemy turn system. You can see the turn order which helps to plan out your attacks. Phantom Brave also replaces the grid based movement of Disgaea with distance based movement. Each unit can move in any direction up to its move distance and you’re able to see just how far an enemy unit can move. With these combined features I feel like I have a lot of control over the battle. I can prioritize knocking enemies out that are between my characters turns and make sure to move my units out of the enemies range before ending their turn.
Finally, units only last for a set number of turns which leads to some interesting choices on when and where to summon your units throughout a given fight. So far I’ve found the whole battle system very engaging.
Our story starts on the Island of Evil. We see Jasmine, Haze, and Ash in the middle of battle with a bunch of monsters and it doesn’t look like it’s going well. As the group retreats, a big, powerful monster appears and proves too much for the group. Haze uses the last of his powers to save Ash as the rest of the party is wiped out.
Then this guy shows up, easily kills the monster and absorbs it. He doesn’t have a name but he sure looks like the bad guy…
From there story focuses on Marona, the 13 year old daughter of Haze and Jasmine, who just so happens to be have the ability see phantoms. Turns out, this is super useful because Haze’s magic didn’t exactly save Ash from death but rather made him in to a phantom. Ash takes it upon himself to watch over Marona in absence of her parents.
With Ash’s help, Marona works as a Chroma, a kind of adventurer/ bounty hunter that people hire to solve problems. Thanks to her ability she’s pretty good at it but she’s not so good at the whole requesting a fair payment thing which Ash constantly reminds her of.
The story in Phantom Brave takes place over a series of Episodes. It has the sort of structure of a Saturday morning cartoon: Morona and Ash get a request via Sea Mail for a job, they go and talk to the requester, check out the location of the job, there’s some sort of twist, they fight a big bad guy, and then return to complete the job. There’s some overarching story points along the way but you could watch any episode in isolation and get a complete story from start to end.
This is a a game where I can start it up and time just seems to melt away. Maybe it’s the novelty of playing an SRPG which has very different mechanics from games I would usually play and it will wear foff eventually. Or maybe the systems in this game just click in a brain pleasing way. Only time will tell. One thing I know for sure is that I have been enjoying my time with it. I’m about 20 hours in and haven’t finished the first chapter yet….I never claimed to be good at strategy games!