Hexyz Force Review

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Title: Hexyz Force
Developer: Sting, Atlus (Publisher)
Game Type: PSP
Download: 563 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Turn-based RPGs are a brand of RPGs that is more often seen as nostalgic than the normal field of gaming.  When you think of turn-based RPGs that are not Strategy RPGs, you think of the old Final Fantasy games or games like Chrono Trigger and Legend of Dragoon.  A lot of the most memorable games are those that came out 10 or more years ago, rather than games that have come out more recently.

The trend with many RPG franchises lately, is going more towards Action RPGs.  Let’s take a look at some of the more recent Vita RPGs that have released lately.  Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.  Freedom Wars.  Child of Light.  Natural Doctrine.  Only half of those are turn-based and if you take out Strategy RPGs, that’s only Child of Light.  With the years going by, more RPGs are going into the Action RPG genre than the classic turn-based genre.

If we want something to throw back to those older titles, we can go back to the PSP library.  Sting, one of the companies whom Atlus has been known to localize games for, made a turn-based RPG not that long ago.  This game took an older formula for RPGs and brought some nostalgic gameplay with 3D visuals to the handheld market.  Being a PSP exclusive, here is our official review of the Sting RPG, Hexyz Force!

Story

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The story of Hexyz Force takes place in the world of Berge.  Long ago, a goddess known as Norvia descended from the heavens and purified the chaos that had laid Berge to waste along with the help of beings known as the Divinities against the god of destruction, Delgaia.  This brought life and prosperity to the world.

Many years later, a time known as the Hour of Judgment has arrived, where the descendants of the Divinities would take up the power known as Hexyz and ultimately help the world decide whether it deserved to stay at peace or to be returned to the Void in destruction.  As this hour is at hand, there are two people from the world that are thrown into the mix and ultimately are forced into helping this hour and the judgment that would come to pass.  Cecilia, a priestess from one of the Divinities’ temples, and Levant, a Knight from an underground kingdom.

The story of Hexyz Force plays out much like an anime and a classic JRPG, bringing people together in a “Let’s Save the World from Destruction” plotline.  It is very cliché for the genre, but it works well, once it gets its footing.  The story also goes in two branches, with the two connecting to one another, giving someone two plays through the game before they will understand the complete story behind the world of Berge and the people plotting its destruction.

The characters, themselves, can go either way.  Cecilia starts off as a bratty and lazy girl that wants nothing to do with the responsibility that is handed to her, and Levant is a knight that is cast out during an interracial dispute from his kingdom..  Neither of them have incredibly strong characters, but they grow as the game progresses forward.  It’s not a bad story to experience, but it’s not the best, either.

Gameplay

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At its heart, Hexyz Force is a turn-based RPG and a dungeon crawler.  As you progress through the game, the majority of your time will be spent in dungeons and in turn-based battles between your party and an opposing party.  The game has everything an RPG needs, though you will be exploring dungeons more than anything else.

There are two story scenarios, but both lead to the same ending, but from different perspectives and different areas to be explored.  But in both scenarios, there are towns, dungeons, and side quests to do.  The story’s Hour of Judgment plays pretty heavily into the story scenarios as well.  As you play through the game, there are certain things you can do to tilt the world towards Peace or Destruction, which can affect what ending you get when you reach the final dungeon of the game.

There is no Open World for you to explore, but there are central areas and you can teleport to each area of the game as you progress.  So instead of a World Map, you have a list of places you can teleport to and explore, each of which acts as either a town or dungeon, filled with people to talk to, enemies to fight, and items to collect.

As you progress through the dungeons, you’ll have to fight off enemies.  When you go into a battle, you will have a party of characters to use and a party of enemies to defeat.  All characters play in turns and you have various commands you can do, like attacking, using skills, defending, using items, or using powerful Burst attacks once you’ve fought enough to build up your Burst Gauge.  Every action takes part of your Skill Points, so you have to watch those totals to make sure you don’t run out right before taking on a boss.

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After winning a battle, you earn Experience Points that can be used to level up and increase your stats.  You can also earn Force Points, which can be used to customize your weapon/artifact.  This can be done in three different ways, and each one has different point requirements.  You can use the points to either learn new skills to use in battle, increase the Attack power of that weapon, or lower the amount of points skills require to be used.

All in all, progression is a mix of dungeon-crawling, scenes, and doing specific quests and objectives to advance the plot to get to the next area.  Each of the two scenarios will likely take you about 15-20 hours to complete, resulting in the full story being about 40 hours, more than your standard RPG.

Controls

Controlling Hexyz Force is no difficult task.  Since this game mimics more classic RPGs, it takes on a simple control scheme.  You won’t be using all of the buttons on the Vita, and there will not be much incentive for you to swap some buttons out to put them on the touch screen.  One last thing to note is that the game controls the same on the Vita and the PlayStation TV, so there isn’t any confusion with going back and forth between the two.

Controlling your character around the map and dungeons is done with the D-Pad and the Left Analog stick.  There aren’t a lot of directions to go, so either of these feels comfortable as you play the game.  You can also use these controls to navigate the menus.  The camera controls for dungeons are handled by the L and R buttons (L1 and R1 on the PSTV).  The rest of the controls are handled by the face buttons.  X lets you choose an option in a menu or talk to an NPC.  Square lets you use your “Search” ability to find secrets in dungeons.  Triangle pulls up the menu.  Finally, Circle lets you cancel your current option or exit a menu.

All in all, the controls are pretty easy to understand and learn.  If you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, it should be pretty easy to get a grasp on.  There are also on-screen prompts for many controls, in case you forget which button does what.

Presentation

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The presentation is one thing that makes the game unique, but also what brings the game down quite a bit on the Vita.  Visually, the game sported a 3D game engine.  This was far from the normal thing for this type of RPG.  However, on the Vita, it doesn’t do the game justice.  Expanded on the Vita’s screen, almost everything is stretched and full of jagged and blurry edges.  From character models to walls to doors, it all looks very distorted as you are playing through the game, outside of the renders in battle.  This does look better on the PlayStation TV, but it doesn’t look good.

Performance, however, is good for the game.  The load times are short, and the transitions into battles is very clever, making the entire stage seamlessly flow into the battle screen without taking you to a loading screen.  The game run and plays well, just as it did on the PSP.  If you can look past the visual distortion, the gameplay is smooth and runs very well.

Summary

Hexyz Force is a unique throwback to classic turn-based RPGs.   On the downside, the story takes some time to get its footing and the visuals have taken a sizeable hit when stretched on the PS Vita’s screen.  Past that is a fun, nostalgic RPG that will last longer than most Vita RPGs on the market and sports a skill system that will keep you customizing well past the game's ending.

7/10

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