Phantom Brave is a turn-based strategy role-playing game developed by Nippon Ichi Software and localized by NIS America. They are the same people responsible for the critically acclaimed Disgaea series.
Mixing and refining many of the staples of RPGS, Phantom Brave is a very complex game with at least a hundred hours of gameplay to explore and a lot of secrets to find. Due to its complexity, much like other Nippon Ichi titles, Phantom Brave may only have niche appeal to hardcore RPG players.
An enhanced port for the Wii was released on August 14, 2009.
There is a main base called Phantom Isle that Marona and the Phantoms live on. It is the place where you can heal, buy items, forge, fuse, equip, and a couple of hidden items to acquire. After a short combat tutorial at the beginning of the game you start here and return to Phantom Isle after going to random dungeons and story missions. You navigate on the island very similar to combat and can talk with any of the Phantoms and interact with any of the items you've bought or obtained. You can only have fifty items and Phantoms on the island at the same time so it's important to either store items/phantoms by talking to Marona or fuse/sell them.
It is very important to interact with the other phantoms on Phantom Isle. The most important ones are discussed below.
On Phantom Isle talking with Marona allows you to store items or phantoms. Since the max amount of items you can have on Phantom Isle is 50, storing them can be valuable. There is also limit of 120 objects Marona can store. In addition, Marona can create phantoms at the cost of Bordeaux (or BOR). At the start of the game Marona can create a few different types of phantoms but after defeating new human classes once, on special maps, or defeating 20 of a certain type of monster Marona will get a new class of phantoms she can create.
The merchant class holds the ability to buy or sell items by talking to her and spending BOR. The merchant will earn you a little BOR during each battle you win that she is not in. Like the merchant, others phantoms will trigger special events for each battle you win that they remain on the island.
Another one of the starting phantoms you can create is the Blacksmith. By talking with the blacksmith he grants you the ability to buy new skills for weapons and items and introduces you to Mana. Mana is handled differently than other RPGs and is more a type of currency rather than a source of Magic. For the purpose of the blacksmith's forge skill mana is spent for varying amounts dependent upon strength and rarity of skills. The skills you can buy are dependent upon the item you are forging and it's level. You can also spend mana to level up items through the blacksmith. This cost to level gets higher depending on the current level of the item. Items also do not level up on their own, once you gain enough exp for the item you must return to the blacksmith and level each item manually for the cost of 1 mana point.
The Fusionist has one of the most powerful abilities in Phantom Brave. She is gained a few story mission into the game. Talking with her allows you to Fuse items and Phantoms together. Fusion works where one item is consumed to make another more powerful. Fusion uses Mana to get the most beneficial effects of the ability but it is not required to have some effect. Since Phantoms and items (like swords and various weapons) have different abilities they have different benefits of using fusion.
Fusion allows the following:
- Combining of Mana
- Increasing the max level of the object
- Increasing SP amount (phantom to phantom only)
- Transfer of skills
- Increase of item stats (item to item only)
- Increasing the Confine bonus (item to item only)
Bolded skills cost Mana to use, the more powerful the skill or effect the more the mana cost. The other free benefits of fusing two items happen automatically.
Any object you have can be fused into another except for Ash and Marona since they are fixed main characters, the rest are for the most part expendable. Every object can reach a max level of 9999 which takes a really long time to reach. Phantoms start out with a max level of 100 and it's only through fusing do you open the option of maxing reaching 9999 levels.
The Titlist is a phantom you encounter not too far into the main battles and you can create him after defeating him just once. He has the unique ability to switch titles on objects. Titles are a predetermined list of names that effect the stats of every object and even randomly created dungeons. The titles can vary in name like Snobby, Lazy, Idol, and even Failure. All titles raise and sometimes lower stats accordingly.
The combat is very similar to the very popular turn-based RPG Final Fantasy Tactics and it's sequel except that, instead of being confined to a grid, the characters are allowed to move anywhere within a certain radius.
Combat begins with an isometric view of a field with assorted enemies, items in play, and one little girl called Marona. Fear not for Marona for she is powerful and has the ability to summon Phantoms. These phantoms can only be summoned by binding them to items (the ability is called confine within the game). So, for example, in the first battle there are two bushes, two types of trees, and a rock in the battlefield. You can then confine one of the phantoms you have to each of those items.
Turn order is shown on the battle screen at all times. This is very useful when trying to decided who to attack and who to run away from. The display uses a small image of the character or monster and is only 8 turns long. Moving the cursor around the battle field and hovering over a person or enemy will cause one of the turn images to shift left if their turn falls in the turn order. It can be a bit tough when trying to locate which of the 15 owl men, that all look the same, goes next.
Another point of concern is that phantoms can only remain confined for a certain number of turns. Some abilities allow phantoms to remain confined longer, but when the allotted turns run out, the confined phantom leaves the battle and cannot be reconfined again in the same battle. Generally, this is only a problem in longer battles. Once the time runs out the Phantom has a percentage chance of taking the item they were confined to with them. The chance of this varies depending on the phantom.
When selecting the move command in combat a red circle appears showing the possible movement of the character within a radius. Moving over objects and monsters/people/terrain is not a problem unless it is really high like a cliffside. The characters have the slight ability to jump most obstacles (at the cost of dm) and will attempt to go around the really high ones on their own. Due to the increased cost of jumping over obstacles it is important to throw them over whenever possible. Moving the cursor over any creature or player will display its moving distance when it becomes their turn.
Attacking, just like moving, is done with the left thumbstick while in control of the free moving cursor. After selecting attack and the skill to use you can select a target provided they are in walking and the skills range. All manners of attacks, skills, and magic fall under the attacking command. Some skills can only target one object while others have an area of effect. All skills have a blue 3D grid showing their area of effect, it's just the single target ones must rest entirely on one object. Skills that can hit multiple targets are shown with varying shapes like cones, spheres, or cylinders. The size of the 3D grid also varies upon the skill used. All objects within these 3D grids that are subject to the skills effects are shown with a red triangle which helps out when trying to make sure that a cone attack hits all the targets you want.
This ability changes depending on certain conditions. When nothing is equipped or held this command is called lift. Lift has two uses, picking up objects including people, and stealing items from other characters or monsters. When taking an item from your own characters it is an automatic success while enemies give you a percentage chance. This chance varies depending upon the character trying to steal. Using lift to take items from your own characters can be very powerful. For example if Marona attacks with a sword and Ash attacks next, on Ash's turn you can then steal the sword from Marona and then attack again with the same sword.
If a character has a item equipped or a person picked up this ability is called throw. Selecting the throw command pops up a yellow circle exactly like the movement command does. This circle shows the distance the item can be thrown. You can use this to get a weapon to a character that is further away. Picking up your characters and then throwing them can allow them to travel long distances across the battle map.
It's important to note that once you attack you can not throw but can still lift. So attacking with a sword and then trying to throw it to another character will not work. You will have to attack with the first and then have the second character steal it and then have them the second one attack for this to work.
The most important skill in the game. Marona is the only character with the Confine skill and it cannot be taught or learned by anyone else. The ability confine is simply a skill to summon phantoms into battle. From there it only gets more complex. To use confine you must have an object to confine to on the battlefield. You must select an item within range (handled just like with Movement and Throwing). Each item grants bonuses to whatever phantom is confined within it. For example, a rock raises the strength and defense stats while it lowers your intelligence and magical resistance. A bush, on the other hand, raises the intelligence and magical resistance stats while it lowers your strength and defense. This makes it important to be aware of who you are confining to what item. Marona always takes the first action so littering the field with phantoms from the start is not usually a problem unless the field only has two or three items.
Items equipped and dropped either through throw or after being removed can then be confined to. There are no ill effects by doing this. It is a good strategy to bring phantoms into a battle where there are not enough beginning items and throw their weapons so more phantoms can come into combat. They can still obtain the item you already own, it just leaves play and goes back to Phantom Isle.
There is a limit of fifteen confined objects in play. This includes all weapons, all phantoms, and any weapon carried by Marona. So for example, fully equipped you can have at maximum 7 weapon-wielding phantoms and 1 equipped Marona at the same time. If one of your items are laying on the ground it still counts towards this limit so either confine to it or throw it O.B..
Out of Bounds
Out of Bounds (within the game called O.B.) is interesting gameplay feature where objects and people can be thrown off the map. Since anything can be picked up, including enemies, you can also lift them up and throw them off the map. Enemies thrown off of the map will be out of play for the combat, they give no exp, and in addition the level up all other enemies in play. So it can be good to throw enemies out of play but don't abuse it.
Most enemies don't actively try to throw your characters out of play. It can happen with attacks that have a knock back ability but the type Out of Bounds you have to worry about is from your own movement. Maps randomly have a bouncy and slippery aspect. The effect can be from slightly to very in both ways. When moving your characters can slide off of the map.
After a certain amount of turns each Phantom will leave combat and can not be reconfined. This number can vary upon what class the Phantom is. Once a Phantoms remove number reaches zero Obtain and the Obtain rate comes into play. Obtain rate is the percentage chance that the Phantom will take the item they are confined to with the back to Phantom Isle. Depending on the level and class of the character and the level of the Dungeon, the chance to Obtain can vary greatly. Obtaining items can be a very great way to gain rare or profitable items.