Sure enough, this is one of the most streamlined strategy games I’ve ever played - real-time or turn-based. “Casualization” is typically frowned upon in the gaming world, yet Pandora’s Reflection is so superb you won’t particularly care. Minus a few hiccups here and there, the approach is well-executed (especially considering the changes from the last game).
Pandora’s Reflection incorporates both real-time and turn-based elements from the larger strategy genre. Your focus is on small-scale warfare no larger than a single screen. Objectives vary based on the particular mission you’ve been assigned, but the general idea is to take over your opponent’s base whilst defending your own. This is aided greatly by capturing strategy points and destroying those of your opponent. Said points allow you to deploy more units into the fray or send your adversaries packing. Later levels incorporate artillery that can be captured to change the flow of battle.
Moving your units across the map is a cinch. Characters follow linear paths controlled by both the D-Pad and analog nub for two different levels of precision. The pace is admittedly plodding, but holding down the R button speeds things along.
Unfortunately, not every attempt to add depth to the gameplay is as successful. You can succeed without any real comprehension of the day and night mechanic or how each character class differs from one another. Claude can also summon some Final Fantasy-inspired monsters to the field, but these seem to be overpowered or useless. Unless you’re in a multi-level chapter, the summon that heals all of your HP can allow for some bland victories. Of course, you can always just forgo them.
The combat itself takes some inspiration from rhythm games. It’s no Orgarhythm for sure, but tapping the buttons with good timing will reward you with greater attack power and larger impact circles. If your units are arranged correctly on the map, the impact circles allow you to strike consecutively with multiple characters at no risk of getting hit yourself. If you’re a little on the sadistic side, you can hit an already-downed foe repeatedly to rapidly build up your summon bar. The timing varies depending on the weapon or character you’re using, thus preventing the whole exercise from getting stale.
Between all battles, you’ll have the option to perform human and weapon alchemy. This serves as the genre’s obligatory micromanaging, although calling it that is a tad generous. You can choose to enhance your weapons or your characters by spending alchemy points. In theory it should be sort of a trade-off, but you always have sufficient alchemy points to do a bit of both. Even the fee for healing characters between battles is scoff-worthy. Alternatively, you can just invest everything into weaponry since the characters level sufficiently by gaining experience in battle. The human alchemy seems more intended for levelling characters you forgot joined your party when you suddenly decide they could be useful.
The whole experience is rounded out nicely by a solid soundtrack and diverse character designs. All dialogue is accompanied by voice acting, thankfully done in Japanese.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection is another title that continues to breathe life into the aging PSP. It may not be the most complex strategy game on the system, but it should serve as a nice introduction to the genre. Even the hardcore crowd should get a kick out of the game’s impact-based battle system and refreshing simplicity.
- Clark A
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