Hexyz Force is a solid RPG, balancing a middling story and graphics with a very good soundtrack and competent combat. But while its traditional approach is welcome, it's unlikely to leave much of an impression.
- Very good soundtrack
- Well-balanced combat
- Traditionalists will find the familiarity welcome
- Graphics are relatively simple
- Story relies heavily on genre cliches
- Voice acting ranges from average to irritating
Between Knights and the Nightmare and Yggdra Union, developer Sting has picked up something of a reputation for designing Japanese RPGs with baroque mechanics. It’s a strange turn to see the team release a game like Hexyz Force, which features a far more traditional take on the genre. Nevertheless, it’s a solid RPG that traditionalists will welcome with open arms. If you’re looking for anything more than mere competence though, prepare to be disappointed.
Two for the Road
Hexyz Force’s main hook is its dual protagonist system, which splits the plot into two parts. Cecilia and Levant van Schweitzer have very different backgrounds, but they’re both tasked with thwarting the conspiracy to bring about the return of the God of Destruction. They just go about it a bit differently.
Each campaign lasts roughly twenty hours, occasionally offering a glimpse of what the other side is up to. Of the two, Levant’s campaign is the more interesting, as it sets up the mystery of why his empire has suddenly become hostile and aggressive. By contrast, Cecilia starts off as a spoiled brat, making her a bit unbearable in the early stages. Both characters are more or less one-dimensional, but Levant’s character benefits from better protagonist and better voice acting.
No matter who you choose though, the arc of the quest demands that you travel from monolith to monolith, attempting to restore balance to the world. Consequently, the areas tend to overlap between the two campaigns. The dungeons tend to move quickly, but if you want the "ultimate ending" that can only be unlocked by completing both stories, prepare for a little repetition.
Simple but Solid
Aside from the relatively brief dungeons, Hexyz Force’s relatively quick pace can be chalked up to its fusion system. Rather than having to visit towns or shops to obtain new weapons, it’s possible to synthesize them on the spot. It’s quick and easy, though many of the necessary materials are in short supply in the early going.
That scarcity plays into Hexyz Force’s approach to player equipment. Each character has a primary weapon that never breaks, and a number of secondary weapons with limited lifespans. These secondary weapons typically have powerful abilities, but it’s best to save them for boss encounters. With that in mind, the best strategy is to reserve your limited resources for a few of the most powerful orbs, then spend the rest on armor, accessories and other equipment.
The battle system is likewise fast-paced, featuring mechanics that should be familiar to most Japanese RPG veterans. Each character has a unique set of abilities, all of which are divided between Crimson, Cerulean and Pearl aspects. The aspects lend the battle system a Rock-Paper-Scissors quality, as each one has a specific strength and weakness. They have a relatively limited impact on the battle though, especially compared to the more obvious Burst Attacks.
These are the ultimate attacks of Hexyz Force, accessible only after the party fills up a shared gauge. The gauge fills quite quickly, so it’s relatively easy to ignore the more intricate aspect system and simply slaughter foes with Burst Attacks. Like the secondary abilities mentioned earlier, they’re best saved for more important encounters, but they’re hardly scarce. What keeps them from dominating the entire battle system is the fact that they can often only hit one enemy at a time, limiting their utility against groups of foes.
The ability to hit groups of enemies is actually what ends up balancing the entire system, as many attacks cannot hit the back row. The ones that can tend to cost more points than usual, so you’ll have to weigh expediency with the need to save energy. It’s not a deep system by any means, particularly given the lack of weight to the Rock-Paper-Scissors element. But it does move quickly, and JRPG fans will likely find it enjoyable.
Competence is a Virtue
It’s difficult to take a definitive stance on Hexyz Force. It’s about as middle-of-the-road as an RPG can get, bringing very little to the table in terms of depth or innovation. The best I can say is that it’s a competent RPG with a well-balanced battle system and a good soundtrack. Everything else, from the graphics to the story, is middling.
However, dedicated Japanese RPG fans will appreciate its more traditional approach to the genre. It some ways hearkens back to the genre’s halcyon days in the late 90s, when RPGs like Hexyz Force were a dime a dozen. There are better alternatives on the PSP, but you can also do quite a bit worse. In this case, competence is a virtue.