Franchises like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics are typically the ones synonymous with the strategy-RPG subgenre. Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection does not try to satisfy that itch, however, but instead employs a much simpler version of traditional SRPG mechanics into an accessible portable offering. Does all of this simplification translate into a better game, or does it get caught somewhere in between? The Generation of Chaos franchise isn't a new one, but Pandora's Reflection still offers some unique facets that attempt to break away from the norms; for better and for worse.
The story involves a brother and sister on a journey together, at first, to retrieve precious alchemical ingredients the brother has been using to create medicine for his sister. As expected, one thing leads to another and they find themselves in the middle of a large conflict with tons of betrayal and surprises in store. Overall the plot is fleshed out well and fairly well executed, with some surprisingly well done localization and translation.
However, there is a lot of reading if you don't speak Japanese. While the writing is very well translated, all of the dialogue is spoken in fully voiced Japanese. Don't get me wrong - the quality is top-notch, but it would have been nice to at least have the option of hearing English voice-overs. The amount of reading required is extremely dense, especially given the contrast of the gameplay to the dialogue scenes.
Dialogue for the story unfolds in a very simple, yet beautiful facial portrait + words scenario, with no gameplay or visuals accompanying the words. This isn't a big deal between missions, but I'd wager to say that very well near or more than half of your time with this game is spent reading. Now, this is a stark contrast to the gameplay style. The game is not that difficult at all (until the very very end) and is actually quite laid back and simplistic - which is not necessarily a bad thing. But when your gameplay is sort of casual and laid back and your plot points require you to read hundreds of lines of dialogue between battles - you have an issue. It throws off the pacing significantly and often feels like a chore.
The levelling system between fights is well done as well. After fights character's gain their typical experience points, but then based on performance you get a well of bonus points as well. These points can be used to do alchemy and create items, upgrade gear and even contribute to characters levelling up further. There is a solid amount of detail put into this system and it works well.
Actual combat takes place on maps that are laid out in different ways offering a significant amount of variety for battles, with a simple, but pretty, classic sprite-based art style. Each field displays different types of terrain - some your characters move through fast, some slow. Gameplay involves selecting units and setting their path on the field via waypoints. Your characters begin to move towards the specified locations and this is where things start to get interesting.
If they collide with an enemy, a battle takes place. Their collision determines who "attacks first" and a short timing/QTE-esque event happens. You have to time your button presses to pull off the best attack and the QTE varies based on which weapon is equipped. Generation of Chaos also employs a rock-paper-scissor battle system among weapons types, adding an extra layer of strategy to encounters.
Each battle is either won or lost according to the victory/defeat conditions. It starts off incredibly simple, but after a few hours battles can get very intense. Different points on the map can be taken to offer bonuses and both you and the enemy could have several units on the field moving around simultaneously. However, the battle system can very easily be exploited. I quickly realized I could stand on control points and literally just wait for enemies to approach me, knock them back, rinse and repeat until only the boss was left (usually standing on their stronghold) and attack him with all of my units.
Generation of Chaos: Pandora's Reflection isn't a bad game, it's actually quite fun in some of its best parts, but a lot of other issues weigh it down for me. The dialogue is so dense that it's often unenjoyable and combat is overly simplistic at times and easily manipulated. However, for the cheap price tag, it's not a bad choice if you're after a simple SRPG experience.
This review is based on a downloadable copy of the PSP game using a PSVita, the code was provided by NIS America.