Dragoneer's Aria

Eying Aria

NIS America and Hit Maker are taking another stab at the this whole PSP RPG thang with Dragoneer's Aria. Deets inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: April 3, 2007
Plenty can be said about Japanese developer Hit Maker and their first project with Nippon Ichi Software's American publishing subdivision, most of which we already espoused in our review of the game, but we will say this: they aren't abandoning the idea of creating the first truly epic PSP RPG. And that's a good thing, especially considering nobody else seems really willing to try to craft a true console-style RPG on Sony's wunderportable -- at least not one that wasn't already a console RPG before getting ported over.

Dragoneer's Aria is very much a PSP-based RPG experience, one that Hit Maker hopes will be the first huge RPG on the system in Japan. Here in the States, we're even less inclined to go ape about an RPG on any platform unless it starts with the word Final and ends with Fantasy, but that's not stopping NIS America from localizing the could-be epic for the few of us RPG nuts that do own PSPs.

Chronicling both the titular dragons that hold the world in control with their six elements and a young grad named Valen who just bounced out of Dragoneer U, first glimpses of the game (and you too can see the very same trailer we're basing much of these impressions off of by clicking the link at the very top of this page under Movies) are that it looks markedly better than any RPG that's see release on the PSP thus far -- and we're not just talking about visuals. Though, yes, technically they're some of the best seen on the two year old PSP hardware, what's really got us interested is in the guts of the RPG experience itself, namely the storyline and battle system.

See, Valen is doing just peachy creamy after getting his dragoneer diploma, thus becoming the kingdom's defender of the above six elemental dragons (not to mention rider of what appear to be lesser lizards), when a big black dragon decides to roll in and create static. A huge dragon razing a kingdom is, to put it lightly, a little troublesome, so Valen sets off to put a thumping on said dark dragon all while learning valuable life lessons and making friendships along the way, we're sure. NIS is still being stingy with some of the greater details of the game, but that's to be expected, seeing as it's not exactly done yet.

Though things still sound a little pedestrian so far, it's in what you can do while traipsing through the story that's got our attention. See, there will be some form of basic item crafting, as well as an upgrade system using Dragon Orbs to power-up and infuse weapons with all kinds of extra fanciness, and Hit Maker is keenly aware that the removal of random encounters and frequent saves are both something a portable RPG needs, but when battles do show up, things get a little interesting. It's all still turn-based, but you're not locked into a pre-set order for your party, and if you happen to pick the right kind of moves in sequence, it's possible to kick off Chain Skills, which allow you to mount increasingly powerful attacks on enemies if you... well, okay, it's not entirely clear how it all goes down, but you'll find more here than just slowly pressing the X Button to kick off attacks.

In fact, when those attacks start coming your way, you can choose to defend not with a simple menu choice, but something of a light rhythm action game that lets you cut down on damage inflicted if you can pull off the button presses properly. Coupled with a separate four-player Wi-Fi Ad-Hoc ultra-hyphenated multiplayer mode that allows loot and moolah to be pulled back into the main game, Dragoneer's Aria actually looks like an intriguing take on the traditional Japanese RPG that the PSP needs so badly right now. We should have plenty more info as we get closer to the game's release sometime this Summer. Updates when that happens!