Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

As much as mood is crucial to an RPG, it's hardly all there is here. The gameplay of Valkyrie Profile 2 stands a good chance of being even more compelling than the story or graphics, thankfully. Anyone who played Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (and that's a lot of you) knows that the developer, tri-Ace, soaks its games in all of the trappings of turn-based RPGs (enemy encounters, hit points, swords and sorcery, multi-character parties) but doesn't force you to wade through menus. The same holds true of Silmeria. Four characters form the party; each has his or her own specialty.

You'll fight in large, open arenas. Several enemies crowd the space; kill the leader and they all go down, but you get much more experience and bonus items for taking them all out individually. You have to be careful to avoid their attacks - a red grid on the ground shows where you'll come under fire. You can dash quickly or walk; you can even split your party into two and surround the enemies. As soon as you're in position, you can instantly launch your attacks.

Each party character is mapped to one of the four PS2 buttons - circle, X, triangle and square. Hit the buttons and the characters wreck the enemies in an instant. If you run into a powerful enemy, you can build up enough hits and damage to launch a Soul Crush - an incredibly punishing special move. Some enemies have multiple limbs. According to Yamagishi, "Unlike a lot of the command-entering, turn-based RPGs this is a lot more action. It's the same as a fighting game - whatever you strike at is what hits. Each part, an arm or a head, has its own [health]. Once that is gone, it goes off, leading to more experience points [and items]."