Reviewed on PSP
If you have read my article about the Playstation Portable , you saw this review coming from miles away. The PSP is home to many JRPGs; like, a serious amount of many. While I am far from having played them all, I did get a grasp of some high quality titles. Hexyz Force was one of the latter ones I played, and which I remember seeing on Youtube in a hidden gems video, probably from Metaljesusrocks . It had an interesting title, and the gameplay looked like a true turn-based JRPG. Obviously I could not pass on that, so today we’re taking a look at Hexyz Force!
Hexyz Force was developed by Sting Entertainment and published by Atlus in 2010. Obviously not in Europe because why would Atlus ever care about Europe am I right. For real though, until 2017 they did not have a dedicated European division, so games before that had to be published through other third-party publishers like NIS America. Suffice to say we didn’t get a lot of games, including Hexyz Force. Hopefully that’s a problem that will remain in the past. Sting Entertainment is a long-running Japanese game development studio, founded in 1989. They’ve made a good amount of games under their name.. of which only few made it to America, and even less to Europe. This paragraph is turning into me whining about not getting games huh. Hexyz Force received average reviews at the time, making it a hidden gem amongst JRPG lovers, and a highly sought-after collector’s game. The game is also available on the Playstation Vita digitally like many PSP games. I couldn’t find much else about how Hexyz Force came to existence, since information on this game is quite limited.
The game takes place in the world of Berge, a land split into two parts unbeknownst to the others: Light Berge and Dark Berge. The main characters from the game, Cecilia Armaclite and Levant van Schweitzer, are both from these parts of the world respectively. The lands are split up by an area called the Black Precipice, which is covered in a dark fog that humans can’t enter without facing the consequences, hence why both sides have never known of each other’s existence. The only ones that are able to cross are beings known as Hexyz; humans or other races that are essentially the reincarnations of divinities. Divinities used to be the shepherds of existence made by the Goddess of Creation Norvia, but had to sacrifice themselves to prevent the calamity planned by the God of Destruction, Delgaia. The world suffered significantly by this calamity, and would be restored on one condition: an hour of judgement was inevitable, and it is up to the living beings of Berge (or to be more precise, you the player) to choose whether Creation or Destruction will happen.
The hour of judgement forms a major plot point that you keep working towards in the game, and it is indeed your choice what side you take. Though make no mistake, the only way to influence this is through gameplay. For example, doing all sidequests would favour you towards Creation, while letting party members get KO’ed after battle would favour you towards Destruction. It’s not that you go out on a complete genocide or anything to go on the ‘’evil’’ path. The following can be seen as a spoiler (though it is pretty usual for plots like these) but just in case, move on to the next paragraph if you want to remain as spoiler-free as possible. The story will always remain the same except for the ending, which is influenced by choosing either or none of the two options. There is optional dialogue that can also grant you to one of the sides depending on which one you choose, but only the ending is influenced when it comes to the two sides.
The story takes place through the eyes of either Cecilia or Levant. They lived a relatively normal life until they were destined to become Hexyz and were involved in a plot deciding the future of the entire world. From my perspective, you could say that Cecilia’s story is the more casual, light-hearted one with a country that is at peace and doesn’t really have any problems, while Levant’s country is in the middle of a war with other races. It also reflects their character, as Cecilia is overall pretty lazy and doesn’t really have a care in the world, while Levant is a honourable knight set out to make the lands peaceful again. The way I see it, the other Hexyz that join each of them through the story also have a personality befitting of what is currently happening in their side of the world. At first I did get the feeling that their goals and relations were completely fixated on them being Hexyz, but fortunately that wasn’t the case. They all do have their own goals for going on a journey and have a shared goal in the end. I must say that I enjoyed both stories and the characters from their represented sides so if you’re looking for a solid story, you can’t go wrong with Hexyz Force.
The world of Berge consists of dungeons primarily and no actual towns. On the overworld you can select what area of the world you would like to go though, and new areas will be unlocked through story progression. This means that the game is completely linear and only seldom gives you the space to do anything else. Places that you have already visited before can be gone back to at any time however, and several of them have places of interest that could not be finished straight away. The world overall looks fine, with a lighter theme going to Light Berge and darker theme to Dark Berge, befitting of how the world is created. There is one.. miniscule problem I have that I would like to point out however. The game is split up into chapters, and almost every chapter has to end with an area known as the Tower of Judgement, which resides in the Black Precipice. It’s fun the first time, but after going through that area multiple times it kind of loses its value. Not to mention one of the absolute worst enemies is found in this area called the Force Eater, which steals your Force Points and runs away, or does massive damage. This enemy is a chore to encounter in an area that already is a chore to begin with. The areas are not big at all, but it feels a lot like filler content.
The game itself plays like a turn-based Role-playing game with three playable characters at a time. Enemies walk around and you can run up to them from behind for an advantage, while they can do the same. Every turn is displayed in the top right of the screen, and also when the next turn of the current attacker will be after his/her current turn. The skill button allows you to use any move of your currently equipped weapons. Depending on if they’re physical however, it will only be able to target the enemies in the front row until they’re defeated. The second option is for when the Burst meter is filled, and allows the selected character to do a special attack, stronger than your regular attacks. The other buttons include flee, formation changes (like enemies, there are multiple rows for allies to be placed on) and defend, which does what it expects to do as well as regain some Ragna Points. RP for short is Hexyz Force’s equivalent to MP from other JRPGs. Every attack from a Ragnafact—the weapons Hexyz get when they are chosen—consumes RP, so when the RP meter hits zero, you’re unable to attack with a Ragnafact. Instead you’re able to use up to four Spirifacts at a time—weapons that have a set amount of skills, but have a low durability and will become useless after a short amount of time. Enemies can inflict status elements on you but I personally feel the game doesn’t let you know enough about them except for a brief tutorial in the beginning of the game.
Finish a battle and you get experience. The sky is blue, dolphins are the best animals, what else is new? Well, other than experience and drops you also get Force, another major plot point of Hexyz Force. Force is basically the lifeforce of the planet, and is used for.. almost everything. Need to heal your party outside of battle? Force. Want a new weapon? Force. Want to go to the toilet? Definitely force, in multiple ways ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°). Like I said earlier, the world of Berge consists only of dungeons. As such, there are no shops and the like. Weapon, armour and almost everything else—when not found in chests—are thus created with Force and dropped materials. Ragnafacts can also be upgraded with Force in attack stats, RP reduction and learning new skills, giving you the choice on what to focus first. Other uses include functioning as an Inn when a restore point isn’t nearby to heal your party members, and several spots in dungeons that could lead to new materials, hidden areas in dungeons or spots that will bring you closer to the Creation or Destruction path. Force spots in dungeons are usually found by a Force scan, executed by your animal mascot. The only way to get Force is through battle and converting materials and armour you don’t use. I wish there were more ways to get Force since aside from battling and a few distractions, there isn’t a lot to do. Minigames usually have a frequent appearance in JRPGs, but none to be found here. If you for example wanted to do a pacifist run and kill as little as possible, you won’t be having a lot of force. But of course, this isn’t the kind of game where you’re playing the pacifist.
I am going to delve into spoilers again, but I feel like this is important to mention as it may or may not have made the game better. It’s going to be about story progression and how it’s handled so yet again, skip to the next paragraph if you want to remain spoiler-free. You can pick one of either characters, but they will go through the same dungeons, just in a different order. It’s understandable they did this because of the story, but in the final chapter the two different protagonists and their companions team up for the Tower of Judgement. What I do appreciate is that after you’ve beaten the story of one protagonist, you can use New Game+ to start the other. However, what I would have preferred to see is to have each protagonist have their own story with a final boss that does conclude the story somewhat, and after beating the two of them, have them team up for the final tower. I know this might be a controversial opinion as you’re now forced to beat the two stories instead of just one, but ultimately playing as the second character comes down to whether you really like the game and want to see the story through the other protagonist’s eyes. Don’t let this make you think I didn’t enjoy the game as it is, because I did. It just might have made the second playthrough much more different instead of only having a story seen through other eyes. Despite that, if you liked the playthrough of one character, it’s definitely worth it to play the second one as well.
As a whole the game isn’t too difficult if you know what you’re doing, but there is a higher difficulty available after beating the game for the first time. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that there’s even some form of combat triangle and a charge combo for it that makes attack even more powerful but really, I didn’t feel the need to pay attention to this in a normal playthrough. It isn’t a very long game either, as a single playthrough takes around twenty hours. Add the other character to that and make it a little bit less than forty because of previous experience. Surprisingly a main complaint back in the day was that Hexyz Force is too short. I mean what. Twenty hours is a perfect length for a handheld JRPG. And this is the reason my reviews are truth and all the others are a lie, shaking my head. Because of multiple characters and endings, there is quite some replayability depending on if you liked the game or not. You can fortunately skip through the dialogue and speed up battles significantly with the push of a button at any time if you so desire.
The game looks really good on the eyes. The models are crisp and clear, the attacks have nice animations and cutscenes are easy to understand as well. There are also a few anime cutscenes in the game with good quality, and the characters all have anime portraits. The same goes for the menu interface and the map, with an extendable one on the select button and a mini-map always present in the top right. The OST is very solid overall with some high points, like Fight of Connection. This is a theme that plays during certain boss battles, and it represents the situation you’re in very well.
Did I sound negative this review? I hope not because truly, I enjoyed this game quite a bit. Every time I had to put it down because travelling, I just.. didn’t want to, but I had no choice. But despite that, I did want to mention some criticism that could have made the game even better in the end. Regardless, the gameplay of Hexyz Force in particular is really solid with its combat system revolving around divine weapons and durable weapons made through a crafting system. You don’t have to play as both characters either to enjoy the interesting story, but it will of course give you an advantage in the end by being more knowledgeable about the characters and world. I did have my issues with revisiting the same dungeon constantly throughout the game, but the areas are short overall so it isn’t too bad. And with that, here is my final verdict for Hexyz Force:
Hexyz Force is available physically on the Playstation Portable, and digitally on the Playstation Vita. If you’re planning to get it physical however well.. prepare to empty your wallet. This is an Atlus game after all, and will most likely cost you more than 40 bucks. That isn’t too bad, but for Playstation Portable standards it’s on the higher end.