Gungnir is a strategy RPG in the same vein as Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Tactics Ogre: Let us Cling Together. The story is concocted of pretty much every fantasy trope you can think of. As Giulio, you're a bandit and a rebel against the Empire. While on a typical mission to ransack a noble carriage for money and food (for survival, of course), you accidentally kidnap a young girl named Alissa who you decide to hold for ransom, until she decides she'd actually rather be with you. Keeping this noble woman in the Esperanza Slums where you live and fight indirectly reignites a war between the upper and lower classes that the rebels are sure to lose, until you are chosen by the legendary spear Gungnir, whose presence allows you to kick a lot of ass. It's all pretty standard stuff, but the story is written very well; the dialogue flows, the characters are well developed, and there are many twists and turns that will keep you interested.
That is, if you have the patience for it.
While the story and dialogue are very well-written, there's no getting around the fact that there's twice as much exposition as there is gameplay, and the pacing is horrid. For every ten or fifteen minute battle, you have to sit through 20-25 minutes of cut scenes. For almost every one of the game's 26 chapters, there's trash talk before and during the battle, post-fight talking, and at least half a dozen scenes and event sequences to help flesh out the story and characters. The issue is compounded by the fact that the words spoken crawl across the screen at a painfully slow pace and the only way to speed them up is to mash X or hold the R button, which makes the dialogue come and go faster than any normal person can be expected to read it. This game's narrative is clearly designed for a console; it's meant to be enjoyed in hour-long chunks at a time, not snappy sessions where you get maybe half a cutscene at a time before finally getting to a battle. This is why Gungnir had a hard time keeping my attention; I tend to play portable games a bit at a time on the bus or during commercial breaks when watching TV with my family, meaning that I'd play a half dozen sessions before finally getting to see any action.
Despite the horrendously overplayed exposition, Gungnir has pretty good production values. The animations, sprites, and backgrounds aren't as good as Final Fantasy Tactics or Disgaea, but they do the job, and for 30 dollars, it's priced well. The game's sound effects and score are all decent, even if they're unspectacular. All in all, the game looks and sounds tolerable, but it's nothing that stands out as particularly positive or negative; it's just kind of 'there'.
That said, the game itself, once you get to the actual gameplay sections, is decent. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's memorable or expertly crafted, but it's more than competent and easily a great addition to any hardcore strategy RPG enthusiast's library. Those who don't have a penchant for stats, numbers, and reams of on-screen information should probably skip this one, though - I found that in virtually each chapter of the game some new function or stat would be revealed or explained and keeping up quickly became a tedious chore.
The formula is pretty basic, but prettied up with all sorts of little tweaks that make it complicated. Instead of a typical battle system where each enemy and ally gets their turn, the game counts down on a clock timer until one of the teams is statistically able to make a move. From there, you get to pick one of your team members to act, assuming that person has been waiting long enough to have enough tactical units to proceed (if not they suffer a temporary max HP reduction). From there, your chosen character can advance and perform an action, such as attack, or a support spell. It's pretty simple on paper, but in practice, when the game does little to explain how the various functions and features work, it's confusing as hell and resulted in a few battles in the beginning where I had no idea what I was supposed to do, or why I could only move Giulio, or why none of my allies were helping me, etc.
Gungnir uses a location-based strategic fighting style, where your location relative to your enemy decides how accurate your moves are or how frequently the enemy will block or counter. If you're directly in front of an enemy, they are more likely to dodge or counter your attack, but if you're to the side (or ideally behind and/or above them), your ability to inflict more damage and hit more accurately will be greatly improved. Additionally, if your allies are nearby, you can opt to perform group attacks to increase damage at the expense of your tactic points. There's also a nice feature where your characters have a 'mastery' stat that increases with repeated use of your weapons; this makes your chosen weapons stronger and more versatile. This has always been a quirky gameplay mechanic; you'll likely end up with some simple weapon that's a dozen points or so ahead of the new, 'better' weapon that you're expected to equip. It's a double-edged sword, literally.
Gungnir isn't an inherently bad game, but there's no denying that it just doesn't work. While it will likely last you 45 hours or more in total, you'll feel like 30 of them were spent reading and waiting for the next battle to commence. Gungnir has more dialogue and exposition than it does gameplay, and even the most eager RPG players are likely to find themselves tiring of the extremely lengthy cutscenes, long before the actual fights start. This game certainly has its place, but it's not in my PSP.