The game follows the typical RPG blueprint. The countryside through which you wander contains friendly towns and hostile places, like forests and dungeons. You advance the plot by interacting with NPCs and gaining quests, which take you into monster-filled locations. Quests are usually easy to come by, but occasionally you'll find yourself wandering about looking for an NPC with an exclamation point over his head, indicating he has an errand for you. Quests include finding objects, killing bosses, rescuing villagers... you know, the usual tasks.
The game shines brightest when it's creature slaying time, with melee and ranged weapons, plus special abilities that can be queued by assigning them to dynamically programmable buttons. In a minor balance issue, ranged weapons like crossbows and throwing daggers aren't as effective as swords, axes and maces, as enemies usually close the distance between you and them before you get more than a few shots off. When close to a monster, all you have to do is press the attack button and you'll automatically face the right way and attempt to strike a blow against its hit points. Rinse and repeat, and beware: sometimes the monsters (of which the game boasts more than 100 types) respawn before you leave the dungeon.
All is not rosy in the lands of DS. The game is plagued by long load times - even for the PSP - whenever you enter or exit an area. That makes those times when you're faced with a lack of quests extra tedious, because in searching for some way to advance the plot you'll want to check out a few towns and other locales.
The hackin' and slashin' starts to get old about halfway through the game. At least, that's when your button mashing thumb will probably start to get sore. With about 14 or so hours of gaming plus serious replay value (thanks to the character development paths), you'll be pressing that attack button enough to test the very endurance of the console itself, much less your thumb knuckles.
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