Nippon Ichi is known for quirky Japanese fare that often times involve exploding penguins. However, they do have a serious side, and that was showcased in their PS2 release known as Phantom Brave. Fast forward to 2009 and the Wii is severely lacking an RPG that owners of the system can enjoy. Phantom Brave: We Meet Again is in essence the same game that released on PS2, but with some added missions to make a second trip worth the investment. Phantom Brave is one of the best candidates seeing as most have never heard of the series, and Wii owners looking for an RPG will likely take notice thanks to the lack of titles on the console. Thankfully they are in luck as Phantom Brave is essentially a serious version of Disgaea with enough originality to make it stand all on its own.
The story in the game is on a more serious note than other titles from Nippon Ichi, so try not to search for humor in the underlying narrative. You take on the role of Marona, a troubled girl who lost her parents at a very young age and has the ability to channel phantoms. This is known as Chartreuse Gale, and it becomes the building block for the combat system. You see Marona can control phantoms causing them to merge with other objects to fight in battle. It is an interesting concept and one that plays out through the story fairly well. The writing is well done and the characters are likable, which is about the most important thing you can ask for in an RPG.
The battle system is very unique thanks to Marona’s ability to merge phantoms into combat. Instead of the traditional grid-based system, Phantom Brave uses a circular area that allows you to maneuver around freely. There are always objects littered around the battlefield, and these are what you will use to spawn your phantom battle partners. There is also a mixture of Pokémon in there as you will only have access to each phantom for a limited number of turns. This makes strategy all the more important before each battle. It is best to learn what objects create the best phantoms for the task at hand, and which ones to save for the harder foes.
Using phantoms in battle is a unique way to keep players interested from battle to battle. You can also use them to manifest new weapons and items in much the same manner. All of the typical RPG clichés are present and accounted for such as item fusion and the ability to level grind to ridiculous amounts of power. Unlike Disgaea though there is very little reason to max out except to dominate everything in your path. I highly suggest taking the time to play through the tutorial levels to get a firm grasp of the combat system. Even being familiar with titles like La Pucelle and Disgaea, I still needed a refresher course before I could fully appreciate what Phantom Brave had to offer.
For anyone who already ventured through this dreary tale on PlayStation 2, you will be thrilled to know that NIS has added in a brand new chapter to the story that expands the game substantially. Instead of rehashing the main character, you get to play as Corona (no not the adult beverage), which is basically Marona from another dimension. Don’t you just love the way RPG storylines work out? The complimentary content is nothing to scoff at, and is accessible right from the beginning, so you don’t have to play through the entire game again just to get access to it, which is nice. The slip cover edition also comes with some sweet artwork that you can download to your PC. NIS America is quickly becoming the masters of sweet packaging.
We Meet Again is precisely what you would expect when it comes to visuals. This being a port of a PS2 game, and a low-resolution sprite-based one at that, there isn’t much to see here. Characters pop out of the screen with their blocky and grainy appearance while the backgrounds, which do improve on it a bit, don’t offer much in the way of redemption. Animations are solid, but it is hard to appreciate this game now, considering it was still lagging a bit when the original launched on PS2. Thankfully none of that interferes with the gameplay, and the classic 2D look will likely appease the core audience it is aimed at.
When all is said and done Phantom Brave: We Meet Again is a solid, if not predictable RPG for Nintendo’s motion controlled console. If you have already played the PS2 original the extra missions are fun, but not necessarily worth double-dipping if you still own the original. However, if it has been a while the fresh mechanics and engaging story are enough to get hooked again. Overall if you want a good RPG for your Wii, and frankly who doesn’t, then this is your best bet so far. Everything works great and outside of some visual deficiencies this is one solid entry to the console’s library.