Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection Review

It’s always nice to be introduced to a game that’s completely unique to what we’re used to seeing in here in Western culture. Other than a niche audience, even the concept of a JRPG is usually enough to get some curious looks from the general gaming public these days.
How in the world do I describe a game like Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection? It’s one part JRPG, one part strategy, and one part “timed button press” game, almost like what one would expect from a classic music game like Parappa the Rapper. Throw all of those components together, and you get GoC.
The story of GoC follows the journey of Yuri, a young girl afflicted with a fatal disease that is slowly draining away her life. Her older brother Claude does what any loving brother would do; accompany her on a journey to find a cure. Along the way, the siblings find themselves thrust into a conflict that could have far reaching effects for the fate of the world.

Yeah, not the most unique story ever told, but in GoC, it fits the overall tone nicely. The thing about the siblings is you can feel how overprotective Claude is (for good reason) and how feisty Yuri is, even with her affliction. Sick she may be, but she is still not going to shy away from battle. Sure she has her moments of “Woe is me, I’m weak!” but luckily she doesn’t fall into the annoying , squeaky anime stereotype too often.
[quote_right]The first thing you’re going to notice is there is a LOT of reading to do. The game does not have an English voice track.[/quote_right]I have to be honest about GoC; the gameplay will either completely turn you off or you’ll find it to be a fairly unique system. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this review, it’s made up of a mish mash of different gameplay styles. The first thing you’re going to notice is there is a LOT of reading to do. The game does not have an English voice track (something that should please the true otaku), so unless you don’t care at all about the plot, you’re going to be forced to read every text bubble pretty intently. I would go so far as to say the bulk of the game is taken up by reading text. It’s not a bad thing necessarily, since the story is pretty interesting, but it does run into the danger got becoming a tad too tedious.
Next you have the segments that resemble a traditional SRPG. You have the typical player movement around a battle map, vying for position; or in this case, trying to overtake strategic points, destroy enemy bases, and just simply trying to get to your enemy before they get to your bases. GoC tries to differentiate itself from other SRPGs by eschewing the grid-based system of other strategy games in favor of a “point and click” system. You select your base, select a character, then click on a location or enemy. Your character then starts moving towards its objective, while the enemies do the same from the other direction. When you and an enemy meet, combat begins.
Remember how I said that there were elements of this game that reminded me of an old music game, like Parappa the Rapper? That’s the combat mechanic. The combat involves picking a weapon (the pre-battle menu will let you know which weapon is best suited for the situation at hand), then engaging in some turn-based button pressing. You’re presented with a gauge running down the center of the screen. Along this length of this gauge are a number of circles. When combat begins, the gauge begins to fill from top to bottom. As the filling reaches a circle, you need to press a button. This initiates an “attack,” and the strength of the attack is based on how accurate your button press was. Hit all the button presses correctly, and you’ll unleash the pain. After your opponent does his thing; you’re up again.
[quote_left]It’s a clever system and I appreciate Idea Factory’s attempts at making a simple weapon/armor upgrade into something unique, but there were times when I felt the system was just redundant.[/quote_left]Even the concept of collecting weapons is done slightly differently in GoC. Called Alchemy, the system involves collecting Alchemy Points by defeating enemies in the battle. With these Alchemy Points, you can break down the gear you collect throughout the course of gameplay and use the points you gain to upgrade your characters and their weapons/armor. It’s a clever system and I appreciate Idea Factory’s attempts at making a simple weapon/armor upgrade into something unique, but there were times when I felt the system was just redundant. Perhaps it’s just me, but at times, the Alchemy Points system just seemed unnecessary. Sometimes, the game just flows better if I can jump in, upgrade what I need to with a few buttons presses, and move on with the game.
Don’t get me wrong; Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is not in any way a bad game; it’s just “different” enough to throw some people off. It presents a number of different gameplay mechanics that make things pretty interesting from the get-go, but the long text-based story sequences break up the flow a bit too much, and after a short while, you realize that despite the mish mash of different gameplay mechanics, the game actually follows a pretty set sequence. It’s usually story, battle, upgrade, repeat.
I enjoyed my time with GoC, but it’s not something I would likely play a second time. I’m happy to see some attempts at different gameplay; I mean really…I can only run and gun for so long before that gets old. At least Idea Factory had the courage to do something totally different, especially this late into the PSP’s lifecycle. Bravo to them for that, and if you’re yearning for something unique and you happen to be a fan of JRPGs, it wouldn’t hurt to give GoC a shot.