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Rogue Galaxy - hands-on

You might have thought Final Fantasy XII was the last hurrah for PS2 role-playing games, but if the upcoming Rogue Galaxy is any indication, the aging black box still has plenty of fight left in it. The space-pirate saga hits the console at the end of January, and if FFXII's hands-off combat left you cold, then Rogue Galaxy might be more your speed.

Created by the minds behind Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy is the story of Jaster Rogue, a young orphan trapped in an oppressively dull existence on a backwater desert planet. Starry-eyed and longing for adventure, Jaster couldn't be more of a classical hero archetype if his name was Luke "Harry Potter" Skywalker. A few minutes into the adventure, his inevitable escape arrives in the form of a giant monster that flies in and starts stomping his hometown. Killing it (along with a whole slew of smaller baddies that rode in on it) convinces a pair of comical space pirates that Jaster's actually a famous bounty hunter they've been sent to hire, and they offer him a job on their captain's star-sailing galleon.

Suspiciously familiar plot aside, Rogue Galaxy plays like a cross between a traditional RPG and an action-RPG. You'll wander around huge, seamless, semi-linear environments on different planets, get sucked into inopportune random battles and then mash buttons like crazy to unload bullets and slash combos into squads of baddies. The neat thing about these fights is that there's no real transition between wandering and fighting; unlike, say, Dragon Quest's turn-based battles, you'll be talking to folks, barging into homes and opening conspicuous chests, and then all of a sudden a warning buzzer sounds and all that stuff is replaced by a half-dozen unbelievably furious monsters.

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