After the build up that I had for this game, I have to say that this was quite the disappointment to yours truly. While many RPGs arrive on handhelds, not many have the fortitude or the ability to be portable and still a great RPG. Where does this game fall?
Story Having only played one side of the game (the dark side, what self respecting RPG head would want to play the Luminous side?), the dark side boils down to a forgetable, generic style game that reminded me a lot of Jeanne D'Arc more than anything. You are Levant von Schweitzer, who is betrayed by your beloved Emperor and friend after his love is slain by dark, mysterious forces that... that... *yawn* Sorry, I was just so bored by the set up that it translated into my writing. Levant finds out that he is the weilder of one of the mysterious Hexyz and off he goes to find himself, about true love and tolerance of others... As you can see, quite epic (notice the sarcasm here).
Gameplay Your standard turn based RPG with a little twist that really did kill this for me personally. Instead of having standard actions like attack, defend and magic/abilities, everything is tied into action points (lovingly renamed into something generic that I cannot recall because its power of genericness made me forget) which will allow you to do basic attacks, grand attacks, great combos and powerful custom tailored moves. While that is all and good for some strategy games, this really does fall flat on its face when it comes to a straight RPG. Really, when was the last time you were in a turned based RPG and had to defend three times in a row because you ran out of action points? Not very many and if there were, they weren't very good.
Menus are standard fare as well, leaving little to the imagination though that is actually a good thing when it comes to a handheld RPG. Equiping items is very standard, go get something more powerful and replace weaker item, though having an unheard of four accessory slots seems almost overkill in the long run. Perhaps they are there to really point out how weak these characters are, perhaps that is just the standard they went with but really, too much. As you play though the story, the game sets itself up with a few choices here and there to give the raw illusion that you are affecting something greater in the long run but really, do not be fooled in the slightest.
Graphics and Sound Not bad at all for a PSP game, thought the rigid character portraits over the gameplay sprites seems a bit overkill as well. Don't get me wrong, the artwork is fantastic and I loved looking at them when they were on my screen but there is something to be said about losing yourself in the medium. As in Jeanne D'Arc, I was drawn into the limited and limitless emotions of the sprites as they delivered their lines while Hexyz certainly distracted me and kept reminding me that I wasn't really supposed to be paying attention to the sprites while they talked, which is a shame because on a PS scale, they are quite beautiful to look at.
Sound is standard for an Atlus and Sting game, great music for battles and standard actions and voices are good fits for their characters (except for Irene who sounds like she could be working on a severe case of emphysema at this point in the game) which makes for some believable parts and great moments.
Portability RPGs rarely translate well in the portable form simply because going through dungeons or over land without having access to save points makes for a long gaming experience. Hexyz does well to try and combat this problem but in the end, it just seems that this should have been a PS2 title/PSN title direct download mini game instead of a PSP game.
Overall Really, this isn't even the greatest game from STING, much less the greatest Atlus game on the PSP. I am sure there will be people who will like this game but there is just something a bit off about this little guy. He might not do everything well but he means well and wants to make sure you are happy. If you can get into the game that deep, then I am sure you will find a pleasurable gaming experience... Just make sure that your PSP charger is ready to go because it will need it every time you burn through another dungeon while trying to manage your action points...