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Infinite Space (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for Infinite Space on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Nude Maker is most renowned for its work on Steel Battalion on Xbox, but has also been involved in creating a few adult PC titles. Whether or not it was the former or latter that convinced Platinum Games to hook up with that team for Infinite Space is unclear, but whatever the case the outcome is indeed an intriguing one. Whilst Platinum's first two games were of the action variety, with the stylistically bloody MadWorld on Wii and the intense, high-octane Bayonetta on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the third of its initial trio of announcements was to be an 'Epic Space Opera,' the meaning of which nobody quite understood. Cubed3's Adam Riley took a break from endless DSiWare puzzles to delve deeper into the abyss of this intergalactic adventure to see how well Infinite Space actually turned out.

The game introduces players to Yuri, a young boy desperate to travel through space, but unable to due to his planet's restrictions against space travel. The impressive introductory animé scene quickly switches to a Star Wars-esque space battle where an alluring young woman (Nia Lochlain, a 'Launcher') crash-lands near Yuri on his planet. The boy, quick on the uptake, hands over a large amount of money and asks her to take him 'through the gate' into outer-space, past the patrolling guards. Nia's ship is no match for them, however, as witnessed in the heat of battle. Taking a shine to him, giving him the nickname of Zero-G 'Pup', she offers to build him a ship, albeit from the wreckage of her own craft, in order to escape the clutches of the Ropesk Security Patrol. Soon the scene cuts to more intergalactic confrontations, with Yuri taking on a large army of actual Zero-G 'Dogs' (those that give up their normal lives for space exploration) before declaring 'I'm in space…' as a rousing musical theme introduces the title screen final.

The music side is a striking feature right from the start, and throughout the entire adventure. Whilst the visual quality has its highs and lows, the soundtrack is consistently superb, with a large smattering of dark, almost disturbing tunes that are reminiscent of Metroid's best compositions, as well as moments of emotive beauty, tying in perfectly with whatever your present scenario, proving to be real tear-jerkers, invoking a strong sense of attachment to proceedings and the slew of characters. This definitely helps players get passed the mixed visual bag on offer. For instance, whilst during the game's opening moments a large, well-built polygonal ship creeps onto the screen, and battle scenes constantly feature similar space craft models. Considering the quality of the 3D work from Nintendo, Bandai Namco and Square Enix on DS so far, the standard from Platinum Games and Nude Maker is much lower here, usually coming across as looking like an early PSone release. The main conversations in Infinite Space are also somewhat of a shock to the system, taking the form of low-detailed hand-drawn static character portraits that could well have been lifted from old SNES games. Unfortunately the font chosen for the main text is odd and cumbersome as well, making it hard on the eyes when reading reams and reams of speech (which has to be done, since only small sections of the story are voiced). Thankfully the game does not have to rely on its looks, since it is the story that keeps gamers gripped right the way through.

Screenshot for Infinite Space on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

To start with, Infinite Space gives players the chance to work through a Battle Tutorial, where it is revealed that all commands appear on the touch-screen. Two of the options allow movement of the spacecraft on the upper screen in what appears to be slight, juddered backwards or forwards motions. In fact , these launch you towards the enemy at a rapid pace, or retreating to a safe distance where their torrent of fire cannot reach you, and prove to be very useful tactical tools. There is also a green-yellow-red gauge on the left of the touch-screen, known as the Command Gauge, which is depleted as more commands are carried out. It gradually replenishes over time, building up until more commands can be used. The colours are representative of what particular moves can be used at any one time. 'Yellows' are the 'Normal' attacks. Activating one has your crew start talking amongst themselves for a few seconds, explaining the technical details of what is about to happen, before launching the actual weapon fire at your opponent(s) (complete with ear-piercing sound effects). 'Red' moves allow for 'Barrage' to be used, which takes up twice the amount of energy on the gauge when compared to a 'Normal' attack. One volley is fired in 'Normal', but a slew of attacks are unleashed in 'Barrage', meaning the cost is most definitely worth it…unless 'Dodge,' the 'Green' move, is used, though, since it can render a 'Barrage' attack completely ineffective. If using 'Dodge' when a 'Normal' attack has been fired, however, you could be in massive trouble as the enemy's accuracy rate goes sky high,; though given that 'Dodge' counter-effects the light-threatening seriousness of 'Barrage', sometimes the risk is worth it.

There is also a 'Battle Gauge' atop the touch-screen that displays the size of a battle area, where your fleet and the enemy's are currently sitting (you on the left, the enemy on the right), and the Attack Range of your own fleet, represented by a small vertical green line. If weapons are fired whilst the enemy is not within close proximity of this line your accuracy will be lowered, even if your shot is within Weapon Range. This is why nudging forwards and backwards is a useful aspect, rather like in Final Fantasy titles where players can change the row their individual team-members stand in. Clearly during the heat of battle, there are many ships within an attacking fleet, meaning reaching those at the very back is much more difficult than those directly under your nose. To choose from the three different rows, though, it is merely a case of tapping on the ship icon in the top-left of the touch-screen. This means not only does the Attack Range play a large part in the success of a battle, but so does the need to actually highlight the right set of ships to despatch, similar to how in traditional RPGs, certain enemies on the back row can be highlighted, but nothing will hit them, thus wasting a turn. Strategic movements forwards and backwards, as well as switching between targets, play a large factor in the possibility of victory. This is most certainly not the sort of adventure where diving in with complete disregard will pay off.

Screenshot for Infinite Space on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

When not in battle there is no actual wandering around an overworld, as you would expect from a game of this ilk, which is why classifying it as an RPG is actually incorrect. It plays more like an old school text adventure with strategic battles mixed in. Yuri and his crew fly through space in their ship, moving to different locations by selecting them from the on-screen map, with details of each location shown on the top screen. Once a destination has been chosen, your ship will start making slow progress through the darkness, randomly encountering enemy ships. If a lot of damage has been taken during flight, landing at a spaceport will automatically rejuvenate your craft and give your crew chance to rest (no rest means fatigue quickly builds up, thus affecting the battle performance later). When docked, it also gives players the chance to save their data, change some in-game settings (such as enabling an auto-save function), battle in a local wireless VS-Mode, or merely move around in an Ace Attorney fashion, clicking on the name of a place, moving directly there and then talking to various people, again via basic text box options. There is also the chance to buy blueprints for new models of spacecraft to make your chances of survival during mid-space skirmishes higher than before, and allocate new crew members to various positions around your fleet, dependent on their statistics and how best they fit certain roles (medic, navigation, pilot, and many more positions are available to be filled).

As mentioned earlier, a lot of the charm of Infinite Space comes from its oft-haunting soundtrack, but there is also the way the story of Yuri and Epitaph, the adventurer father who left him, unfolds, and the back-story behind his little sister, Kira, as well as the mysterious beings briefly seen early in the game and how they are related to proceedings. Yuri himself will receive upgrades from time to time, such as when he gets into his first bar brawl and is helped out by Nia's 'Maser Blaster.' After seeing how bumped and bruised the youngster was afterwards, Nia offers him a bodysuit and plasmic blade for protection. However, not only that, due to the fight Yuri's 'Combat' skill increases by three points, meaning that not only is the ship's status in battles important, so is its captain's standing. These statistical improvements can prove vital later in the game, not only for the hiring of new crew from the Guild, but also for helping sway certain key encounters later down the line. Other aspects of Yuri that can be built up include 'Fame,' with the act of simply being mentioned on a newscast upping his reputation, plus travelling to previously untouched areas of space will help as well. This is another way of securing the aid of rather aloof Guild members wanting to join the right team for travelling and fighting. Your 'Fame' status can be tracked when docked at various planets, and over time Yuri will climb up the Galactic Rankings, with special rewards granted when specific levels are reached.

Screenshot for Infinite Space on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

As an aside to the main journey, there are also opportunities to undertake small jobs, such as carrying cargo from one planet to another, which helps to break up the main story slightly, as well as building up your money reserves so remodelling work can be done to whatever ship you wish to upgrade (add a Radar Room, meatier engines, somewhere for the crew to relax, a hold for prisoners, and so on), as well as actually purchase new ships from the blueprints you collect. Battling is fortunately not quite as chore-like as it is in some other role-playing adventures, which is a massive relief given that grinding is required to ensure progress can be made at certain stages. As well as the standard outer space encounters, however, where placing the various ships in your fleet in numerous formations is a fundamental strategic step for key victories further into the journey, there are times when an enemy vessel will actually pull alongside you and a crew member will have to take part in a 'Melee Battle' where three attack types can be used: 'Leader,' 'Slash,' or 'Shoot,' with them acting in a similar manner to 'Rock, Paper, Scissors.' 'Leader' is weak against 'Shoot,' whilst it is strong against 'Slash.' Following on, 'Slash' is weak compared to 'Leader,' but strong against 'Shoot,' and so on. These can either take place between the Commanders of two battle ships or your entire crew, and are probably one of the weakest elements in the game, simply because you merely have to wait until the enemy's gauge has filled up, check what option they picked and then simply change your tactics to suit, then rinse and repeat. Still, they are in the minority compared to other features during the adventure, and do not tarnish the overall experience too much.

Finally, there are some negative points that need addressing. Whilst the massive length of the adventure is indeed a favourable aspect, the lack of any sort of quest or mission log is a glaring omission and one that will cause many gamers to no doubt give up eventually, since if you happen to miss something that was said in an important conversation, there is no way to re-check the information, leading to endless flying around at times. Additionally, Infinite Space suffers from the age-old issue of no recap option when you start the game once more, meaning that should you have not played in a few days, you must wrack your brain to recall exactly what you were meant to be doing. Unfortunately as well, there are definite avenues where players can get stuck. This is not some sort of game-breaking bug or glitch, but more of a design flaw in that you can get yourself into situations where winning is nigh on impossible, and having saved just before that particular event occurs, there is no backing out. If you have not made a back-up save in the second slot, then frustratingly it may be a case of simply starting from scratch and sacrificing however many hours have already been poured in so far. With a little forewarning and careful planning on your part, awkward situations like this can be avoided. It is not ideal, but again the overwhelming quality elsewhere will help the majority overlook this oversight in game design, as Infinite Space is one of those rare treats that simply has to be played.

Screenshot for Infinite Space on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

General battling is simple enough to prevent boredom when grinding levels, yet the ship customisation aspect is so in-depth that players could be messing around with it for weeks. It is Infinite Space's story, though, that keeps gamers glued to the screen right to the very end.

Graphics

Quite a mixed bag, with decent enough 3D modelling and some wonderful animé stills, yet extremely out-dated character portraits.

Sound

Simply outstanding, with something to fit every aspect of the game's atmosphere perfectly. This is easily one of the most impressive videogame soundtracks in a long time.

Value

A superbly lengthy and riveting story, an epic soundtrack and an overwhelming sense of attachment to the characters and how their stories develop, mixed with a whole host of side stories, extra quests and a wealth of ship customisation options means it will be hard to prise that cartridge from its DS slot!

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

About this score
Rated 8 out of 10

Platinum Games has had massive critical success with MadWorld and Bayonetta, whilst Infinite Space flew somewhere under the radar. However, this space journey is a splendid combination of old school adventuring and strategic battling, complete with an absolutely engrossing story and sublime soundtrack that all adds up to an unforgettable gaming experience on the humble DS.

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02.04.2010

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Developer

Nude Maker

Publisher

SEGA

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Awesome. Platinum, JRPG, great impression, seems right up my street. Smilie I think I'll get it!

Thanks for the review guys! I was wondering what was happening with this.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

It's not quite what I'd call a typical JRPG, though. I likened it to the old adventure gamebooks, with some strategic battling, heaps of story and some tic-tac-toe fighting mixed in. There are some parts where you're inside a location and have the choice of 'Go left,' 'Continue on,' 'Turn back.' I felt it was a bit like the Fighting Fantasy books in those sort of sections.

As for this going up tonight, 1.) There were other things to go up first, 2.) Poor Mike had to read through my essay-like review and try to cut it down a bit Smilie

I wonder if this will do better in its second week of release here in the UK...It entered at No.26 on the DS Top 40 on Monday, which is better than some other big releases that didn't even break into the 40 (like Kirby Super Star Ultra, for instance). Won't find out until Tuesday because of the Bank Holiday, though...

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

jesusraz said:
It's not quite what I'd call a typical JRPG, though. I likened it to the old adventure gamebooks, with some strategic battling, heaps of story and some tic-tac-toe fighting mixed in. There are some parts where you're inside a location and have the choice of 'Go left,' 'Continue on,' 'Turn back.' I felt it was a bit like the Fighting Fantasy books in those sort of sections.

Even better! I love games that do things differently. Which reminds me I have to get TWEWY.
Adventure gamebooks are awesome.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

You'll also like the Ace Attorney-ness of it as well then, since once you've gone to a new planet, it's a case of navigating through menu screens to travel between areas.

Just heed the warning about making good use of that second save slot, since once or twice the potential dead end situation threatened to ruin the game for me, to be honest.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
dksman (guest) 09.04.2010 06:43#5

I'm guessing you don't like 80's anime character designs, as that's the kind of look they were going for.

I myself find them a little strange (for example some people who are 33 look older than people who are 60) but I still appreciate the designs; maybe if you looked at it that way the Graphics may have gotten a better score.

The "visual novel"-ness of this game makes it enjoyable for me, so if you're someone who enjoys games like that then you should probably try it out; there are so many characters you can talk to and recruit as basically anyone you talk to you can recruit, you just need to keep following their actions and look out for them (or their well-being). Also you may find the ship battles boring in the beginning (as I did) but they become more exciting further on in the game; you won't even notice that you're fighting the same ships with the same tactics over and over again.Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

dksman (guest) said:
I'm guessing you don't like 80's anime character designs, as that's the kind of look they were going for.

Well, I don't really expect to see such regression in a game that then tries to look 'futuristic' with its 3D spacecraft, and includes gorgeous cut-scene images! Bit of an odd contrast...and one that I thought detracted from the whole visual nature of the game.

I myself find them a little strange (for example some people who are 33 look older than people who are 60) but I still appreciate the designs; maybe if you looked at it that way the Graphics may have gotten a better score.

Well, perhaps it comes down to simple personal opinion... Smilie

The "visual novel"-ness of this game makes it enjoyable for me, so if you're someone who enjoys games like that then you should probably try it out; there are so many characters you can talk to and recruit as basically anyone you talk to you can recruit, you just need to keep following their actions and look out for them (or their well-being). Also you may find the ship battles boring in the beginning (as I did) but they become more exciting further on in the game; you won't even notice that you're fighting the same ships with the same tactics over and over again.Smilie

Folks - listen to this guy, he's spot on Smilie

Now, why did this drop out of the UK chart in just its second week? Aren't more people interested in this? Personally I prefer it to Bayonetta! Smilie

( Edited 09.04.2010 20:21 by jesusraz )

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Mike (guest) 24.05.2010 10:14#7

I heard that this game got its inspiration, partially, from a pair of games known as "Astroseries". Especially with the unusual plot and Russian names and so on. Combat system are very different however.

Starman94 (guest) 08.06.2010 21:26#8

LOL I actually got to play Astroseries Millenia on the web. The game was incredibly bad, but at the same time it was also good, I really can't explain it. Yes some of the situations feel a bit like Infinite Space, the protagonist motives and even the "Void Gate" at the end of Astroseries. Comparing both games is unfair, though. Infinite Space is a super epic game and I am loving it and still got more to play before finishing it.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

We have an interview with both Platinum and Nudemaker going live very soon, so anyone that has been enjoying this, please look forward to the interesting article! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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