Hexyz Force does a lot of things right, but most of all it is designed with portability in mind. There are no overlong cutscenes, not multi-hour tutorial, and a quick, efficient battle system that keeps you in the action but still manages to feel strategic.
A single playthrough of Hexyz Force will run you between 20 and 25 hours. That feels right to me for a portable RPG. Once you’re through with your first playthrough though you’ll want to start a second because Hexyz Force is two games in one. With two main characters and two quests you’ll have something to do after you complete Rafael’s story that is more entertaining than replaying the first narrative, and easier to get into than starting a whole new game.
Story-wise Hexyz Force is nothing special. A great evil looms in the distance, and it’s up to you to stop it. In order to do so you must climb the Tower of Judgment slaying monsters along the way. Where Hexyz Force differs from the run-of-the-mill RPG is its streamlining. There are very few random NPCs begging you to find their lost cats or liberate their cities that are ancillary to the main quest, and there are no shops where you need to try on every tunic in the place to maximize your dexterity skill to make it past the next encounter. Everything you need can be crafted on the fly, and the pace of the game is better for it.
RPGs live and die by their battle systems, and Hexyz Force has a very good one. Each hero can equip one ragnafact (primary weapon) that requires RP to use. Each ragnafact has an elemental attribute, and exploiting an enemy’s weakness is key to victory. In this regard, Hexyz Force feels a lot like Skies of Arcadia. Using RP allows you to use your ragnafact, but ragnafact usage must be rationed as RP can only be replenished by leveling up or visiting a force site (like a mana fountain in Torchlight). Since RP is a finite resource you’ll need to create secondary weapons from random enemy drops using the game’s crafting system. There’s no need to seek out a workbench or run back to town – simply open the menu and get cracking. Created weapons have a limited number of uses, but drops are plentiful enough that as soon as one weapon deteriorates you’ll have the necessary parts to create a new one.
The graphics are serviceable, but you’ll never forget that you’re playing a 3D game on a system less powerful than a PS2. Most models are serviceable, but you’ll occasionally run across some very low poly-count models. Enemies are color-swapped quite a bit so get used to seeing that wolf because you’ll be seeing his green comrade in the next dungeon and his blue one in the dungeon after that. There’s a surprising amount of music in Hexyz Force, and the boss tune is catchy and warns you of a big encounter coming up where it’s okay to spend every last RP you’ve got.
Hexyz Force doesn’t feature an epic narrative, but it hits all the right notes in terms of mechanics. Battles are fast-paced and strategic, crafting is fun, and since enemy drops mean new and better weapons grinding is its own reward. If you’re looking for a JRPG to play on the go and don’t mind a forgettable story then look into Hexyz Force.
Plays Like: SNES-era Final Fantasy, Riviera: The Promised Land
Pros: Great crafting system, fun battles
Cons: Throw-away story, color-swapped enemies