SEGA’s Infinite Space is a title so bustling with ambition that Nintendo’s wee DS often seems as if it is on the verge of buckling under the sheer weight of it. The fact that the game never falters technically is a testament both to Nintendo’s covertly stellar platform, and to dual development teams Nude Maker and Platinum Games, who have crafted an uncommonly engaging and forward-thinking RPG, and somehow managed to make its gargantuan hand perfectly fit into the silky glove of Nintendo’s sleek handheld machine.

It is also a refreshingly adult piece of work. It isn’t unacceptable for younger gamers by any means, but the overall seriousness of tone, the shadow-drenched Anime visuals, and the vastly cerebral challenge offered up by the latter half of the campaign, all serve to make Infinite Space stand well apart from the competition. It is one of the few Nintendo DS games to utilise a 256 MB cartridge, and the sheer size and scope of the game is frankly rather shocking. Infinite Space is an epic in every possible sense.

The story is a familiar but impeccable coming-of-age tale, with your character Yuri making the Luke Skywalker-esque transition from innocent farm boy to ruthless starship commander. On your journey you end up encountering all sorts of oddball characters, all of whom are well drawn and all of whom are in possession of deeply individual skill sets and combat statistics. Taking all of these factors into account, and assigning each person to a specific role in your fleet (to which he or she is most perfectly suited) will result in a fearsomely tight band of brothers, who’ll all assist in making your ships function at full tilt.

Customisation is key at all times here, and the amount of tweaking and modifying that you’ll do is emblematic of how strong Infinite Space is as an RPG experience. The battles, which at their most fundamental bear comparison with bouts of rock/paper/scissors, are ingeniously structured, and involve a great deal of countering and informed guesswork. After being shown the ropes the hand-holding is over, and you’re thrown straight into the deep end. All of the game’s battles, particularly during the latter stages and even when you’re just grinding for extra cash, represent a formidable and hugely enjoyable degree of consistent challenge.

This is, without any shadow of a doubt, the most ambitious (and best looking) RPG yet seen on the Nintendo DS, and fans of the genre should make sure that they definitely do not miss out. The production values are spectacular, the soundtrack is an all-time great, and the game’s primary ambition – which appears to have been to craft a handheld RPG adventure capable of standing proudly alongside its home console brethren – has paid off in spades.

It may not be cute, and it may not be easily approachable for younger audiences, but this is exactly the kind of software that people buy consoles just to experience. 2010 has been a pretty exceptional year for RPGs, and Infinite Space is more than equal to a comparison with any one of them. No mean feat.

 

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