I'm not new to the world of SRPGs, but sadly to say, I am new to the world of hex-grid-based space SRPGs. Wow, that's a mouthful. All I know about R-Type was that it was a shmup, but I guess that tidbit doesn't apply now that it's branched out to an SRPG.
Always one to scoff at reading manuals, I just booted the UMD up hoping for a short and informative tutorial. I like that the tutorial missions are actually built in to the main story line so I didn't feel like I was wasting my time doing tutorials when I could be playing the main game.
At the start of battle, I was allowed to deploy my troops — space ships to be exact. I was given a small portion of a hex grid where I could place different types of ships: attackers, resuppliers, and my main flagship. Even though this is the first hex-grid SRPG I've played, the mechanics of moving around and attacking were easy enough to pick up. The fact that the ranges for each attack are displayed in the attack selection screen really helped me in planning where to move each ship.
I was surprised that launching an attack doesn't mean you just see some rinky-dinky bullets being fired at the enemy. You're treated to a full-screen cut scene with explosions, lasers, all the works. This might get tiresome to some players such as me, which is why I was glad there was an option of getting rid of the full-screen scenes entirely or just delegating them to a small window on the screen. What's a bit annoying about all the fancy graphics is that a simple attack sometimes takes a second or two to execute while the animation loads.
What I thought was confusing at first was that different units have different types of HP. If it's just a single unit, it shows an HP bar with something like 120 HP. But if the unit is comprised of 5 ships, it just shows the number 5. When the HP or the number of ships reaches 0, that unit is destroyed. It doesn't seem to make sense on paper, but it somehow works in the game. I still find it confusing to, for example, gauge just how damaged a unit is if it shows just 4 ships. I would have preferred regular HP for every unit.
When I play an SRPG, I don't expect to hear award-winning music, but the constantly repeating battle music started to get on my nerves after the fourth or fifth phase of a battle. Luckily, the music changes to something more intense during the final phases of battle, but I wish the regular music weren't so repetitive.
I only have a few types of units unlocked now, but I can't wait to get more and see how a full-scaled battle feels like with lots of units littered across the battlefield.
Images courtesy of Atlus.