Category: Opinion


This week, two and a half years after it was released, I finally completed the final entry in the Final Fantasy XIII saga. Lightning Returned into my heart and gave me  more than a satisfying conclusion to the giant cliffhanger we were left on in XIII-2. Outside of the ending, though, I can’t really say I  really loved this game experience.

(What a tease this commercial is. She doesn’t have her OG XIII outfit in this game)

 

Lightning Returns picks up 500 years after XIII-2 where Lightning went into an eternal crystal slumber. Lightning is woken up by the God of Light previously mentioned but never seen, Bhunivelze.He charges Lightning with collecting the souls of everyone left alive on Pulse within 13 days before the world ends – and that’s where my problems with LR begin. The plot and writing are pretty bare-bones and so is the world you inhabit. In order to collect souls you need to “make people happy” which equates to doing fetch quests. Tons, and tons and tons of fetch quests. If forced to add all of them up I’d guessimate there were Infinite Fetch Quests. You talk to bland NPCs, in one  of the game’s FOUR locations, or you talk to a woman in a sexy chocobo costume and read quests off a literal quest board, and you fulfill the requirements to collect a soul and gain stats.  Outside of four or five major quests that involve characters from previous games and give large portions of plot that move events forward to Lightning figuring out her true powers and who the real enemy is, all the other quests give a few sentences of lore about the world. The bit of data the NPC gives that details the apocalypse or the people left is usually repeated somewhere in the datalog or by Hope, making it even more worthless. Most of what they had to say was so interesting I spammed X to move on to next quest.

That may seem harsh but the game itself conditioned me to rush through certain parts. The 13 day time limit Bhunivelze gave Light? It’s a real-time limit! Each ‘day’ in the game lasts one hour in real time. You are given a skill, Chronostasis, that stops time for a few minutes but that skill has limited uses. When not stopped, time will progress during dialog, when you run around so painfully slowly on the map and when you travel via train between the 4 locations in the game. I always felt rushed and pressured to be as  precise with my time as possible. It’s not like the world was so beautiful I wanted to wander around and look at it but I still didn’t like being pressured by an every growing checklist of quests or constant annoying reminders from Hope on how much time I had left.

The pacing problems of the game don’t just stop with the time management and slow running. By the last few days enemies are so powerful that I, having done almost all the fetch quests in the game, had a seriously tough time fighting them. by the Final Day every enemy has all their stats multiplied by up to 300%. Upon my first death I found the root of  the issue. In place of the enemy mob on the map was a floating crystal hourglass which, upon inspection, told me if the enemies of the area were too hard I could give up my quest and start a New Game+ right there. I’d carry over my stats, equipment and abilities but would need to do over every fetch quests I had already completed. The fetch quests would you the stat bonuses AGAIN so the grind was as endless as the quests!

What a terrifying idea! Redoing my 28ish hours of gameplay just to beat the last dungeon? Instead of balancing the enemies in some respectable way or giving Lightning some way to power up her skills that isn’t based on random drops the devs really thought “just do it all over” was a better idea? No thanks. You also get the option to start NG+ if you don’t complete those Big Story Missions in each of the four areas before the end of the world – but the game never tells you to go out and explore those areas first. I was trying to complete ALL the quests in the first town when suddenly I ran into mobs that one hit KO’d me and I was told by an IRL friend to travel to a new town.

Finally for the positive things about the game. By now if you follow video game news even a little bit you’ve seen the trailers, read the articles about her stint as a REAL LIFE model or at the very least you’ve seen THAT DRESS, so you know the major mechanic that drives gameplay in Lightning Returns is Playing Dress Up! Aside from the fact that I avoided most dresspheres that had Light only in a pair of panties and a bra, this was legitimately one of the best parts of the game. I think most fans of modern RPGs really enjoy customization of how their character looks and this game gives it to you. You can change the color of individual pieces of  an outfit, and you can add accessories to make your own look. I wish you could equip more than one accessory, like a hat AND glasses. Alas :(. There are dozens of dresspheres in the game and each has between zero and 2 abilities innately equipped. Defensive ones might have Mediguard or Steelguard, another might have Fira and Thundara and so on, with many combinations and color swaps. Later they start coming with abilities that passively boost something, like adding Quick Stagger or giving her +10% HP.

Those buffs help you in the other good part of the game: Murdering All the Things. LR places Lightning in the spotlight like never before. Your party has been reduced from three main members in the first game, to 2 + a pet to Lightning alone (for the most part). Instead of switching between 6 paradigms with multiple roles set in them (Tri-Disaster with 3 magic using attackers, Combat Clinic with attacking and healing) you switch between only 3 dressheres and each of those only have 4 skills that are mapped to the face buttons.  I felt it really reduced the amount of strategy you could achieve in previous games but the addition of a blended action RPG feel (free movement and evasion skills) felt good. One light nitpick here is you don’t gain skills from leveling up but from new dresspheres and enemy drops. Because of that I didn’t have and debuffing skills for long time. None of the enemies I fought dropped them until I had already fought several major bosses that I really could’ve used them for.

In the end, the original FFXIII is still my favorite out of the series but it was so very satisfying to take it to the conclusion. The MMO-like progression with the ton of trivial fetch quests were not engaging, the limited time rushes you to an under leveled conclusion because the game wants you to do a NG+ as early as possible. The dresspheres are a treat and the battles are fun (until the end of game when they are a chore). The CGI scenes are definitely where the money went and they spent ALOT; They’re gorgeous. Most importantly Hope Estheim, the best character in any Final Fantasy, really lives up to the meaning of his name. If you haven’t played it yet, go play dress up.

Like a Squadsighted Sniper on high ground blasting enemies on the other side of the map, XCOM: Enemy Unknown Plus hit the Vita on March 21st surprising everyone with its existence.

I’ve always listed strategy RPGs as a favorite genre of mine but before Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS the only ones I’ve ever beaten were the Fire Emblem games on the GameBoy Advance. Advanced Wars, Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force all proved too difficult for me. And yet as soon as I saw previews for XCOM: Enemy Unknown it called to me. The creepy Rosewell-y look of the Sectoids, the lifelike environments, the logical approach to strategy, “if you don’t take cover behind that steel wall you’ll probably be shot.” Getting into the Vita release, the game surpassed my expectations and I am really hooked on it. There’s a more direct logic involved in making decisions over the Weapon Triangle of Fire Emblem, but still requires deep thought. You can’t just win by running and gunning. You’ll also have to manage resources, build facilities to upgrade weapons and items and keep the people’s of the world calm by giving them jet planes with canons to defend themselves You have to play with the long game in mind and prioritize all these things.The game has depth and fun, but…it’s not a perfect port.

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As I took this screen cap off my Vita I noticed the text was fine on a normal laptop screen. Just take my word for it. On the Vita it looked terrible.

Right off the bat you’ll notice the limitations of the Vita. All in-game models look somewhere on the level of GTA3 on the PS2. I mean that’s cool, you spend most of the time in battle zoomed out, looking for clear paths to cover and loot to pic up. But it’s especially noticeable when you’re in the base going through the menus and talking to scientists. The game takes a high sci-fi approach when it comes to dishing out info. Everything is displayed on a holographic page that pops out of the background for you to read. However, due to the Vita’s small screen size as the page pops up the text phases back and forth between “illegible microtext” and “If I squint forever I can read this.”

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Why use the fire effect if it’ll look like a PSX texture? Just throw some red lights in there and we’ll still believe this plane can fly.

The controls still take some getting used to. The front screen can only be used to move the  camera around the map, while you have to go to the Dpad to change the camera direction and elevation. You can’t tap on a unit to choose them to move, only shuffle in order with L/R shoulder buttons. Once you select an ability you can’t turn the camera anymore (because the Dpad is now only being used to cycle through your ability list) so if you want a better angle you need to cancel out of the attack, change directions and go back. I only just found out how to check a selected squad mate’s abilities/perks – by double tapping the very small ! icon in the bottom left when that person is selected. It’s very necessary information, knowing who has what passive buffs when in the thick of action. It’s all a bit clunky but you can get used to it

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My #1 soldier, Nightmare the Sniper, got stuck on a table after clipping through a wall. Had to reset.

Then there’s the performance issues and All of The Lag. The game randomly and often sputters when you swap between squad mates to choose your move; there’s lag before the animation to change weapons, there’s input lag after changing weapons so you have to wait a beat before you can target an enemy or move. Small animations don’t load from time to time, like the trail showing the arc of a grenade you want to toss. Audio from XCOM NPCs randomly doesn’t play at all. Most annoyingly sometimes the life bar of your team or enemies will disappear for a round, making deciding who to shoot a problem. There are just a batch of small hiccups that slow the gameplay down but rarely does it impact my enjoyment.

xcomipiad

The Ipad port

I originally thought this Vita port was a port of the Ipad game port that came out years ago. All touch screen controls -> Some touch screen controls seemed like a logical jump to me. Nope.The Ipad version looks and runs way better. So XCOM Enemy Unknown+ seems to have been built specifically for the Vita, and even in the face of the issues, the gameplay is just as addictive challenging and rewarding as any console or PC version.

I have a very strong feeling that I came back from the future, after learning to code a video game and speak Japanese, and became the director of Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. After reviewing the evidence, and ruling out that a Dream Genie granted this one wish and overlooked all the others where I beg for a husband and a real Silver Imperium Crystal, I came to the time travel conclusion because how else can a game that so perfectly encapsulates everything that I love and put into one gorgeous, Japanese package.

As a fan of both the Persona and Fire Emblem games I was interested in this game as it was announced 4 years ago and then when we got our first actual visual of the game I was hit with a wave of excitement and video-game-desire that I haven’t felt since…Pokemon Platinum. I knew that I wanted this game in my life and I knew I would be buying a WiiU just for it but I wanted to understand WHY I needed it. So I analyzed all the things it does/has that make it like coke to me.

Elements of an RPG/anime that I love

*DRESSPHERES
Let’s get this one out of the way early. I like dresspheres. Alot. I have since I saw my first Henshin sequence in Sailor Moon up until my most recent in Kill la Kill. Explosions of light, rainbow beams colors and starscapes rolling over characters and changing them into their Battle Outfits are never a bad thing. If I could get ready for work every morning in a 25 second stock footage sequence you better believe I would.

Dresspheres

Dresspheres

SMT X FE: Dresspheres? Check

*Songstresses
Music is really important to me. I can say more things about myself with a playlist than I can with words. I can be more empathetic and sympathetic to a terrible situation in a music video than one in real life. So when music is used by a series, or even more rarely, used directly by a character in that series, to bring about change in the world then I am 100% into it. Formative examples include:

  • Myself from Full Moon Wo Sagashite Full Moon is an anime about a terminally ill girl meeting angels who try to grant her wish of becoming a pop-star. Emotional music abounds.
  • real Emotion opening FFX-2. Yuna changes her Dressphere and does a Jpop performance. There’s really nothing else that needs to be said (YES, I know it was actually Leblanc using Yuna’s GarmentGrid but that’s not the point)
  • Every song The Three Lights sang in Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars. Holy crap. Just listened to Todokanu Omoi (My Best Friend’s Love) and goddamn. I’m flooded with emotions. I want that to happen in a video game

*Dancing
Similarly to music, I think dance can be used to communicate alot of passion and emotion that words just fail to capture. But also its just hella fun! I want my characters to have fun, it makes me happy.

SMT X FE: Dancing? 2 of your party members are singing idols and you better believe they dance. Check.

*Laser Beams
I’m a simple guy. I think good should triumph over evil and Light should beat Dark (unless they can live in harmony). And the most direct expression of this, I think, are some good old fashion laser beams. Not boring, pew pew, shot from a little space pistol lasers, but spectacular light shows that blow up bad guys or transform nations.

Sailor Moon x Beryl 1

Friendship triumphs over everything

  • Beryl turned into Negadust

Beryl turned into Negadust

Nanoha Befriending Fate

Nanoha Befriending Fate

Befriending everyone in the Ocean

Befriending everyone in the Ocean

SMT X FE: Lasers? I haven’t seen any of this caliber yet but there’s magic and that kind of counts.

*Strong Independent Women

Lastly, and possibly most important, the connecting thread between all the things that I really love are fierce ladies. Ladies who kick ass AND aren’t afraid to cry. Ladies who dance and scowl. Ladies ladies ladies. Some very important examples

Lightning (pre-Goddess)

Lightning (pre-Goddess)

Korra fire

Avatar Korra about to wreck shit

Avatar Korra about to wreck shit

SMT X FE: Fierce Ladies? So far half of the playable party members are fierce ladies, and the manager who helps train the party to attain their idol dreams is also a women. Between Tsubasa falling out of a portal in the sky and landing on her Pegasus and Kiria being an established pop star who can cross dimensions…I think this game  has fierceness covered.

So upon analysis this game hits every single pressure point in my heart. I mean you play as a group of Jpop and Jdrama AND POWER RANGERs in training! Who WOULDN’T love this? NIow I just need to time travel a few months to the future to when this game is released so I can enjoy it.

Check out the E3 trailer below and preorder by giving me some money via Paypal

How to Create the Best FF7 Again

On Monday night, June the 16th, in the year of our lord KOS-MOS, 2015, the world as we know it came to an end. We previously lived in a world where Final Fantasy 7 was a game a treasure from the far distant past of the mid 90s. It was a game that crashed through the walls of many  American and European children who had never played a JRPG before, like a giant spiky-haired Kool-Aid Man. Then it became a legend that brought us salvation and pain all at once as we pleaded to deaf ears for its return. “It would take too long to remake this game,”  “We are focusing on new projects” and other such excuses were all we were told. And the game was lost forever in the graveyard of smartphone and PSP side stories. And other Nightmares.

Then during Sony’s E3 conference this past Monday the heavens opened up and Ragnarok befell that world, tearing it asunder and ushering in this bright beautiful world where prayers are answered and the Final Fantasy 7 remake is happening.

As a disillusioned fanboi turned believer I will very likely be playing this game in the future whenever it comes out. Until that day I will over analyze all bits of info that come out and more importantly I’ll imagine all the changes I would make to the game if I were in charge. Please follow me on this journey as we create the perfect FF7.

Everything I Want to See in Final Fantasy 7: HD Hardcore Remix

  • Tifa with Long, Insane Anime Hair

Yes, I do love Tifa’s Advent Children/Dissidia black and white leather outfit with amazing butt-cape. But more than that I love seeing long anime hair flowing in the wind or on waves of magic. Few things in this game brought me as much as joy as casting a spell with Tifa and seeing her ridiculous fish fin hair go flying out behind her as she released her energy.

I MADE THIS GIF

I MADE THIS GIF!!!

  • A Battle System Revamp, Introducing Classes

As I grew up and learned there were humans that didn’t like FF7 (weirdos) and one of the complaints they had was that there was no difference between the characters because of the Materia system. While I didn’t feel that way at the time  I can see where they’re coming from. Aside from some characters being able to stay in the back row with long range weapons everyone could kind of do whatever anyone else could do. I would love a change to this system to the point where you might choose your party based on something more than who your faves are.

A simple way to make characters feel different would be to limit who can use which Materia. Maybe Cloud can’t use Cure but he can use All the attack spells; maybe only Vincent and Yuffie and Cid can use debuffs (of course they’d need to fix all the glitches that make a lot of status effects useless);Barret can use support materia like Cover and Wall, Cid is supposed to be a Dragoon…he needs to be able to use Jump innately. Aeris could be the Jill of All Trades and use all the magics..until, well..ya know. She runs out of MP forever.

  • Materia Glowing When You Cast Magic

As a tangent to the last point, I’d love to see individual Materia radiate energy when used in battle. In Advent Children when Materia is used you can see each orb shine when activated. I think we’ve reached a point where the PS4 could do that, even change where the glow comes from when different armor/weapons are equipped.

Emo Sephie and Elvis Sephie using Materia

Emo Sephie and Elvis Sephie using Materia

  • Honey Bee Whorehouse Revisited 
Presented without comment

                       Presented without comment

Let’s be real, The Honey Bee Inn was the best part of the game. Once you get key to Midgar back by searching the Forest of the Ancients I’d love you to be able to take each party member here for some real fun and hilarious scenes. And of course let Cloud relieve some stress.

  •  Full Beastiary & Cutscene Viewer ala FFX 

Do you remember when FFX came out and Square was so proud of its graphical prowess that they put in a way for you to view all the cutscenes in the game at your leisure? I’d love for them to do the same with this remake. That scene when the party steals Shinra’s junkie car and motorcycle as you leave Midgar in Disc One, when the baby Phoenix is born at Ft. Condor and of course the most iconic scene where Palmer is hit by a truck in the middle of the battle in Rocket Town. Maybe Plot Device it so the hologram room in Cosmo Canyon is where you go to view them. Because of Life Stream, somehow.

I’d also like a full beastiary, accessible via the menu, where you can look at the models and stories behind the monsters and machines you kill for all the hours of the game. FFXIII had a great system where you got a bio and could see all the enemies weaknesses too. I think this game has some of the most interesting monster designs in any RPG and I really want to take them in and appreciate them even when I leave that area. Maybe even be able to fight powered up versions of them in the arena

Corvette_FF7

This guy (Coverette) was my favorite thing to kill in Midgar.

The guy on the left (Coverette) was my favorite thing to kill in Midgar.  And WTF is the thing on the right?!

Bunny Angel?

Creepy!

Creepy!

But why are we killing blonde women in bathing suits?

But why are we killing blonde women in bathing suits?

Giant Ostrich with hands!

Giant Ostrich with hands!

  • DRESSPHERES!!!

It’s 2015. If you show me a JRPG with no costume changes I’ll show you an unfinished game. As this entire game is a nostalgia factory I want them to just go all out with dressphere options for everyone. I want the retro outfits, the new looks from Advent Children, maybe hold a fan art contest like they did for XIII-2, cross brand that shit with some Dragon Quest outfits, pay a little extra to get Tifa a Chun-Li dressphere, Yuffie in a Sakura fuku. Imagine your whole crew dressed up like the Turks!  I want to kill Jenova dressed as Lightning and then kill Sephiroth dressed as Miss Cloud. Give me ALL THE DRESSPHERES!

LR_Garbs

I want them to finally acknowledge that Cloud is just a male version of Lightning

  • A More Clear Explanation of…Well, The Whole Damn Plot

I have played Final Fantasy 7 to completion at least 3 times. I’ve played it to the point where I lose interest about midway through another 4 times. Each time going through I learned another fraction of the plot that made me go “Ohhh! that’s why that happens later on.” I’ve never gotten to the point where I feel I understand the full story even now, 11 years later. It wasn’t until last winter talking with PunkRawkBbob that I even understood what Sephiroth himself even was! Just make it clear when we’re dealing with clones vs people who just have Jenova Cancer. Really hit home that all the crap happening in the plot is happening because Jenova is controlling everyone. Maybe focus more on that fact that Jenova is A FUCKING ALIEN and Aeris is HALF ALIEN! She can be all cute and call herself a Cetra but nah girl, you from space.

  • Make Crisis Core available ASAP, for PS3 and PS4

After this E3 I finally understand that EVERYONE including SONY understands that the vita is dead. I get it. I will happily buy my P4D and never need to buy a bigger memory card for the system. So I know that porting FF7:Crisis Core to it isn’t viable. But it’s still a game I want to play and I’m sure many others would love to pay money for it. Don’t redo the graphics the way you “upgraded” Type0, just do the bare minimum amount of work needed to make it a PSN game on the PS3 and PS4. We all know we’re looking at at least 2 years waiting for the HD redo of 7 and so this would be a great way to keep hype up, keep us happy and get some money, Square.

  • Some Shout -Out/Tribute to Monty Oum

This last one is definitely a personal request that will neither make nor break the experience of the game as a whole but it would certainly warm my heart. Monty Oum, before turning Red vs Blue into the kick-ass action series it became and before getting his own webseries, made a set of unofficial videos, called Dead Fantasy, that pitted the women of Dead of Alive against the ladies of Final Fantasy. Tifa makes quite that entrance in the second episode where she beats down 3 DoA stars mostly by herself.

On Feb 1st of this year, after being a in a coma for a week, Monty died. While he didn’t do any work with SquareEnix themselves he was definitely a fan of their work and I’m sure many younger fans of his learned about the games from his work. It’d be very nice to see some reference in the game to him.

These are things I think would make our return to Midgar the best. What are some changes, omissions or additions you all want to see?

distant_worlds_logo Last week on April the 24th, I embarked on a journey to celebrate the music of Final Fantasy. I traveled from my hometown, battling giant bugs and goblins, boarded a Mystery Train where I gained more party members, my bros Matt and Rachel. Together we took on the slightly cliché but always necessary JRPG Ghost Ship as we took a ferry to the far off continent of Massochiechie.  We battled the usual mobs like Angry Old Men Why Won’t Let Us Get On The Boat and Seasickness.Finally we reached our destination, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We bolstered our ranks with more party members, Jon and Courtney, and let ourselves feel the Real Emotions of the concert.

I was excited as a Final Fantasy fanboi could be to be able to attend this concert. The concert hall was packed, maxing out the capacity of three mezzanines. The sound of styluses tapping  3DSs filled the air until the conductor, Arnie Roth, took the stage and a hush fell over the crowd. The night took off like a golden Chocobo right out of the gate as the performers played FFVII’s Bombing Mission and bits of the games’ opening sequence were projected into a large screen as accompaniment. A crowd-pleaser for sure. Soon FFVI’s Character Medley shined some light on each of the characters by playing a small piece for their themes.Balab Garden: Ami calmly reminded me of my of my pre-teen crush on the chicken-wuss and just how cool FFVII was before disc three.  Closing out the first half with as big a bang as the opening the orchestra hit us with a one-two combo of J-E-N-O-V-A and one of 200 bird-centered ditties, Swing de Chocobo. The montage of sassy chocobo tail swinging, flapping around the world map and jumping out of afros on Gran Pulse was incredibly adorable and matched the hilarious up beat music.

Let me take a second here to just air something out. I’ve only had one Encounter  with any other video game concerts before, the Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses back in February. I can’t say I have much experience with them. But I have plenty of experience with other concerts and with being a human being so I can say with authority that the conductor, Arnie Roth, is kind of a douche.

He oozed this sleazy air of false platitude and condescension, like he was a used car salesman who thought his car was too good for you. He named dropped working with Uematsu as many times as he could and humblebragged about “working directly with SqaureEnix every day!” But he just seemed like another otaku. He also seemed like someone’s dad who had just looked at all the trending Final Fantasy hashtags and wanted to let us know how hip he was: “I would love to play some FF15 music IF IT WOULD EVER COME OUT, AMIRITE?”  “Final Fantasy IV, aka the game with the MOST characters in ANY GAME EVER IN THE WORLD, LOL”

But most revoltingly, he was a total ass! First off he stops playing FF5’s Main Theme four seconds in, turns to the audience with the biggest shit-eating-grin and says “Let’s start that over. And this time the [guy on the drums] will try to come in on time.” Then when the song starts over he stabs at the drummer with angriest gesture for him to begin. Later he chastises the pianist is if she were a child when she starts to play the notes she knows he’s going to ask for because she knows the goddamn game he is going to play with the audience because they’ve done this show before and rehearsed it. “NO, Listen to me then play”

Yes, messing up is not something the performers should be doing when the show is live but yelling at them like dogs should definitely never ever happen. Sounds like The Extreme but you gotta believe me unless Maybe, I’m a Lion…(I’m not)

After intermission they brought FFIX to the forefront with a very touching and beautifully performed Roses of May, theme of Garnet Queen of Alexandria. I was introduced to FFXIV with an operatic theme and footage of MMO players battling huge Eidolens  I was hit with sucker punch as they played The Theme Love from FFIV. I remember rolling my eyes as I played the game with the spoony bard, the love triangle between Totally Not Gay Cecil, Kain and Rosa, and the annoying twins who got stoned. But when I heard that theme I felt my heart swell. FFIV was one of the few Final Fantasies on the SNES or younger that I played to completion and LIKED! Apparently its deeper in my heart than I remembered.

FFX’s To Zanarkand brought a hush over the entire building. Everyone felt the burden of the Summoner as the scenes of  Yuna Sending all those who died in Kilika  when Sin attacked. The tone shifted towards a triumphant rise as a Battle Medley and series theme medley rounded out the night….or it did until Roth came back out for his ONE AND ONLY encore, One Winged-Angel (where the aforementioned pianist yelling occurred).I was honestly hoping for Eyes of Me or Liberli Fatali or anything from FFXIII-2 but the rest of the audience went wild for it. Everyone loves Sephiroth…I guess.

The songs hit all the special places in my garment grid. When I hear those songs from my computer I am transported back to that particular game’s most memorable moments. experiencing them from a live orchestra took that nostalgia to another level and even made me think about some of these games I’ve known for years in brand new ways. But from the technical issues (the  percussion in Man with the Machine Gun was almost the only thing audible) and the attitude of Mr Conductor, and the length of the performance! (Symphony of the Goddess cost the same amount and was twice as long, didn’t have any flubs and the conductor was amazing and gave four encoures!!) I probably won’t be going to another of these Distant Worlds any time soon.

I just wanted to take some time out things I can’t wait to spend money on in the coming months. Please have your ticket ready and climb on board the HYPE TRAIN!

FE Hype

HYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYPE

First up on the Hype Train is Fire Emblem: IF! The sequel to the groundbreaking 3DS title that I gleefully sank about 70 hours into, FE:I was first revealed back in January and besides starred a beautiful yet pitiful blue-haired Songstress. A lot of typical Japanese themes were found in that first trailer: using water as a portal to another world, what appeared to be body doubles. I concluded that this game would piggyback off the idea of the Future Children from Fire Emblem Awakening and provide new units based on this songstress jump back and forth between possible reality. (ie. If you had lost this battle this NPC would have been abducted by the enemy and turned into an assassin who you can now recruit from the other world).  The following trailer gave us the first real details on the game.

I wasn’t too far off! In this game you choose one of two kingdom’s to back and you can’t take that choice back. I bet ya dollars to donuts that a third GREAT EVIL appears forcing some units from the two armies to work as one. I will obviously choosing the black-clad Nohr. Because those dudes have sexy long hair. My only disappointment here is that the main character ISN’T the blue-haired songstress.

The long-rumored-to-be-cancelled SMT x FE. A collab between the teams behind the most popular strategy RPGs of the current gen. What are my thoughts on this post-apocalyptic high school dating sim Jpop idol contest with flying, mecha Pegasuses?  Looks like I’m getting a goddamned Wii-U

Persona 4 Dancing All Night! Go home, Rise. Yukiko is here.

A game that was just recently promised to be localized is the Attack on Titan 3DS game. It’ll be in NA next month. I am more than ready to protect the walls.

Next up is a game I’m probably going to hate and never play again but I’ve really been drawn to the Binding of Isaac since the re-release added new levels, and updated a ton of things. Despite the news breaking on April Fool’s the game will be hitting the 3DS some time this year Bc_isaac

As I have just figured out I need to buy a Wii2 I also need to add a game I already had my heart open to but didn’t expect to get my hands on anytime soon: Xenoblade Chronicles X. Thanks to Chuggaaconroy I was exposed to the Truth that is Reyn’s abs – uh I mean the original game. The accents, the fighting the Noppon and the crazy japanesey plot. It was such beauty. The sequel excites me but this game sort of looks more like PSO2  to me. The customization of the player character really gives me that feeling. Not sure if it’s a good or bad one yet.


(A quick rundown of other Wii2 games I am excited to get my hands on include: Hyrule Warriors, Slayonetta 1 & 2, Wonderful 101 and Earthbound – which for some godforsaken reason isn’t in the 3DS Eshop.)

P4 Dancing all night Kanji

What are you all excited for coming up?

The Zelda Univserse is a pretty convoluted one, with canonical time travel, reincarnations and parallel dimensions all existing and connecting each of the games into one story. Even so, a direct sequel revisiting the same kingdom from an older game isn’t thing that happens frequently. The Phantom Hour Glass and Spirit Tracks were all sequels to, and took place in the same instance of Hyrule as Wind Waker. Similarly to that trio of games, A Link Between Worlds brings us to the familiar world of A Link to the Past, and has us confront a new danger in a new time.  The characters are chibi and have puffy cheeks, the map is overhead and the woods are to the north of the castle and town like the first game. But pretty much everything else in the game is different and I think I that’s why this is the first Zelda game I’ve enjoyed playing since Minish Cap.

 

If I were friends with The Legend of Zelda on Facebook we wouldn’t even be in a “Complicated” relationship. I would probably unsubscribe from seeing all its post and block it from seeing most of my pictures. I just haven’t really liked most of the games in the series. The gibberish squawking that characters make when you speak to them  in “voiced” games drives me nuts; the writing takes itself far too seriously during most important story segments and I often lose interest in the long dungeons and puzzles.  I don’t have the nostalgic love for the Hero in the Green Tunic that could keep me interested in the lackluster gameplay and repetitive dungeons. When I tried to play A Link to the Past as a youth I gave up pretty quickly.

Luckily for me ALBW changed up the formula in a way that really brought out the fun for me. The game ditches the traditional “did you find this item in this dungeon? Well you’re going to need it to complete this dungeon” model of exploration for  a more open ended “Rent (or buy) whatever weapon you want whenever you can afford it and go where you please” system. Of course there are hints telling you what item you’ll need to take on which dungeon, but it feels really nice to blast enemies in the earlier part of the game with ice rods and giant bombs. There is a ton more Rupee to be found in this game as well so grinding through one dungeon can typically get you enough to buy one weapon out right, which lets you keep it even after death. The dungeons are, for the most part, very short and I was able  to complete 2-3 per sitting. A major positive this version of Zelda had over the others were the inclusion of the Hint Ghosts. Essentially, by paying Play Coins, players can get hints from nerdy looking ghosts that populate the dungeons and overworld. The hints range from useless tidbits like “There’s an entrance around here” to very specific clues like “Use the arrow when it’s eyes are glowing.” It really helps in those moments where you could spend ANOTHER 14 minutes trying to figure out a puzzle by retracing your steps and using all your items and hitting your sword against all the walls, or just talk to a ghost and move on.

Along with those changes to the series’  systems, the addition that sets this game apart from the others is the use the Merge mechanic. A bit less than halfway through the  game an Evil Clown (no, not that one) tries to destroy Link by trapping him in  a 2D painting. Thanks to the power PLOT Link not only survives the magic assault but gains the ability to walk along all walls as a 2D painting for a limited time. Most of the game’s puzzles revolve around, finding a point to become a painting to get to another location. This is not just reduced to something as obvious as using a wall to cross a path when the floor has been destroyed. There are plenty of smart puzzles involving moving platforms and perfectly timed wall merges.

 

ALBW_paint

I think the painting art is secretly my favorite thing about the game

 

 

Other Zelda titles I’ve liked were Link’s  Awakening, Oracle of Seasons and Minish Cap. I played Phantom Hour Glass up to defeating the last dungeon and going back to the MAIN one but soon became completely disinterested in the game that just wouldn’t end and wouldn’t stop with the filler material (I’d even gotten used to the silly stylus-only movements). I completed  A Link Between Worlds in about 3 weeks of casual play. With the exception of the Desert Fortress/Dungeon I always felt a sense of progression, of accomplishment. Whereas is the past with Zelda games I begin feeling like I’m climbing up a steep hill very quickly. The open-ended structure and constant positive feed back of being able to complete dungeons and dispatch of enemies how I see fit was such a rush.

 

A Link to the Past is a pretty good answer when guessing the favorite childhood game game of a 26 – 34 year old video game enthusiast (Battletoads x Double Dragon 4 Life) but this sequel is my favorite game, so far, set in that version of Hyrule.

 

Keep on Truckin, Lil Hero

Keep on Truckin, Lil Hero

Yesterday, January 14th, Nintendo held their first Nintendo Direct of 2015 and barreled their nuclear-powered Hype Train right into the laptop of every eager boy and girl at work. The internet was abuzz with rumors and predictions of what they’d be announcing and showing off. I wasn’t able to watch it live but there were a few key terms I kept my eyes on the twitterverse for: NEW 3DS, ‘Xenoblade‘ and ‘Free Lunch‘ And boy, two of those fantasies became reality.

Good Heavens, look at those arms

Good Heavens, look at those arms

I’ve never owned a Wii or and don’t own a Wii2 so I was never able to play the three amazingly clever and loved games that Operation Rainfall’s hard work got localized from EU to the NA territories. So like any well-to-do, red-blooded American, I watched someone else play these games on the internet. I watched EmiruHD run through the Ico+Castlevania hybride Pandora’s Tower, and saw him play Fashion Souls Light in the very chic action RPG (with stealth sections that aren’t terrible and puzzle solving that might be) The Last Story. But when it came to Xenoblade Chronicles, I saw that European YouTubers had uploaded runs of the game that had playlists that were 120-200 parts long. It was just too vast for me to get into. There’d be 20 videos in a row of a random assortment of Homs just running around a green field picking up blue orbs with no dialog and no commentary. Context is very important in a JRPG otherwise you’re just pressing X until the text stops and you have all the loot. Then, by the grace of angels, Chuggaaconroy started doing an LP of this game some time last year and that man knows how to give a game some context. I was immediately pulled in by Chuggaa’s excitement  and by Reyn’s muscular arms. Incredibly vibrant fields with dynamic weather, a battle system that required positioning and strategy and a setting that wasn’t Fake!Old England falling into the onslaught of an Old Evil.  I began contemplating borrowing an forgotten Wii from friend just to get my hands on this game. But just 2 months after this LP began Nintendo announced that Xenoblade Chronicles would be coming to their handheld. I was so ecstatic until I realized that the game would be exclusive to the NEW 3DS hardware upgrade that they had just announced in the same Direct.

So yesterday, all of the stars began to align: The Direct confirmed what leaked scans foretold, the NEW 3DS IS coming to the EU and NA in a few short weeks and Xenoblade will be following it with a release date in April. I got everything I wanted except for a free lunch but I am not quite ready to express my devotion to the console in the only way publishers these days recognize, and Pre-order the console. I still am holding on to resentment because Nintendo is essentially forcing me to give up my perfectly good 3DS XL just 1 short year after getting it by locking Xenoblade to the NEW.

Besides my backlog of unplayed games and uninstalled Steam data, I am not a collector of video game paraphernalia. No action figures, no Prima strategy guides, no Amiibos, and only the buttons I wont at GaymerX last summer. I also grew up in a Sega Genesis and then Sony PlayStation household so I don’t have much blind nostalgia-based loved for them. I have owned 4 Nintendo handhelds in my life, and played each one to the point of it becoming non-functioning: My brothers and I shared a fat, gray, OG GameBoy back in the day. I got an upgrade to a black GameBoy Pocket just months before the GameBoy COLOR was released. I replayed Pokemon Blue and Link’s Awakening on that for years until I bought a Zelda themed DS from a kid in college. When the shoulder buttons stopped working on that, and my cousin stole my Acekard with a dozen games on it I finally gave in and got my current 3DS on a Black Friday sale.

My Perfectly Fine 3DS XL (and a selfie)

The sticker I got when I bought Gears of War 3 that I saved for 2 years to put on something special. And a photo of me in the background

I know people who have ordered a new 3DS (or two!) a year, for that special Pikachu edition or that really bland Mario and Luigi bundle, or the Japanese-only Charizard. That doesn’t appeal to me, I only get a new console when I need one. When mine falls apart or when technology makes a great leap. Nintendo is notorious for repackaging and re-releasing one product, but at least they usually offer some clear advantage in the new generation. GameBoy Color made that insane leap to from greens and blacks to hues of white, blue and red on the screen. The upgrade to the SP from the Advance gave us the clam shell that has mostly stuck around to today. The DS, obviously, brought the second screen and the 3DS brought 3D that no one really wanted and that many developers completely ignored after the first year. In fact, the big budget and in-house game Pokemon XY had such horrible 3D coding it would slow the game down to a crawl whenever you enabled it. The 3DS, thankfully, also kept the upgraded wifi settings that the DSi brought.  Now this NEW 3DS…adds another stick….and is thinner…and bigger. This feels like what the 3DS should’ve been from the start and honestly that turns me off from buying one even further.

Xenoblade Chronicles seemed to be the Killer App, not gonna buy a Wii and a $60 disc from Amazon for it now, and all I need to do is jump on the NEW 3DS hype train… but then today I saw some screen caps from the game and really, I am just not impressed.

xenoblade comparison

These first comparison screens from last year were vague enough to give me hope but…

NewN3DS_XenobladeChronicles3D_011415_Scrn02_thumb,jpg

But then this picture came out with the Nintendo Direct and…ick.

The fields and structures in the background just look…terrible. Super pixelated and muddy. The bottom screen is a boring black space of nothingness where a map and character portraits were cut and pasted. We haven’t heard of any sort of upgrades in the port that might persuade me even further. With things sitting this way I really don’t see a reason to act against my instincts, so that NEW 3DS will probably just be sitting on the shelf at Nintendo World.

*Update*

One more bit of information came to my attention that has nearly killed any chance of me getting the NEW 3DS.

1)I was reminded that only the non-XL models of the 3DS would have changeable plates.

There are so many different colors and special editions for the 3DS that there’s bound  to be one cute enough to break throught darkness of any hear and bring a smile to any grump. The swappable plates offered even further cuteness and personalization. But, for reasons unexplained, this feature was limited to the small model. As NA is only going to be getting the XL, we will be missing the entire  face-plate craze! For now, unless you’re getting the special Majora’s Mask or Monster Hunter version, you can just get plain Red or Blue NEW 3DS. The EU region is even getting a super cool bundle with faceplates and a Mario DS cradle.  What  a NIntendont.

This post will be a bit different. In that I will honestly just be talking to myself, trying to understand the plot of Dark Souls 2. I was anticipating this game since last year, finally got it before the summer and even more finally beat it a few weeks ago.  The Souls series is known for having very a difficult to understand story that is told for the most part, indirectly. Sure, there are NPCs that talk but not in a traditional sense where there’s a pre-rendered  cutscene  where the camera pans and the music swells under the important parts of the speech. There are a lot of unreliable narrators across the games, and merchants who tell you where they come from and why they’re there. A lot of the  story is told via item descriptions. Just as important as what the item says is where you find the item. The corpses you find in a lab? Probably experimented on in by some whack job. Religious garb found near the entrance of a dark deity of death? Maybe…that church had some back alley bargains going on that its constituents didn’t know about.

I write all that to say, despite all the confusion I am about to display I know *how* to understand the plot of a Souls game. But I seem to just have huge gaps in the story of this one.

My issues with the Dark Souls 2 story pop up right at the beginning of the game. You begin the game with a super generic Undead, after seeing them jump off a cliff to their apparent re-doom? You wake up in an area called Things Betwixt and are eventually asked if you remember who you are. That question leads to the class choosing and character creation screens that are common to these types of games, but right away you begin the game not knowing who you are, where you are and why you are there. This mystery plagues the rest of the narrative because nearly every NPC tells you that they too were drawn to this place and don’t have a clue why. Overtime everyone develops a more severe amnesia and forget where they came from. This isn’t new to the series. Characters in Dark Souls went Hollow without a specific goal to achieve, and become mindless husks who attack you on sight. But then we knew who we were and why we were going around Lordran.

In the next area we are told by a random woman, known as the Emrald Herald, that we, the Chosen Undead must seek powerful souls and seek the King. Who is this woman? Why can she l use souls to increase our power? How does she know we’re the Chosen Undead? Who knows? She kind of explains it before the final boss fight but even that just confused me further.

We set out and even thought we are only instructed to collect souls we also have to light and connect “Primordial Bonfires” to progress in the story. Linking the bonfires was essentially the entire goal of the first game, at least that’s what most of the NPCs of the game told you. So the idea makes sense..except there’s no explanation of why the fires need linking again in DkS2.

After incidentally linking the fires and absorbing the 4 (a number that has been of great import since the King’s Field series)  great souls you gain access to Drangleic Castle where you learn a bit about the King whom, by the way, you are to succeed and take the throne. The King has been lost, that is he passed (but isn’t dead) and for some reason that lead the kingdom to fall to disarray even though the Queen is still seemingly fine and sitting motionless and speechless on her own throne. Before they wed, the queen came to King Vendrick and told him about the approaching threat of giants that were to soon overtake his lands. At her heed the King went off to make war against them before they came upon him. He didn’t quite win and the giants, lead by their Giant Lord, brought war to Drangleic. I don’t remember where the info comes from but we learn that Vendrick took something from the giants in order to fight them off.

Then we go to the Shrine of Amana, kill a bunch of crazy cultists and a Demon of Song, get to Vendrick’s Tomb to find he is now an Undead and has hollowed, use his ring to talk to a giant dragon, get a item that let’s us travel through time and for some reason fight the queen, who until she attacks us, never says a goddamned thing to us! We kill her and claim the REAL throne, which is under the castle and..does something…….?

I couldn’t make heads or tails of the ending, or anything that happened after the Looking-Glass Knight to be honest.

There is an entire section devoted to the Songstresses who keep the Dark Ones under control. Except that’s all we hear about them! One songstress says they’ve been around “since before it all,” yet we surely never met them in Dark Souls 1. They show a talent for subduing the twisted creatures around the Shrine but who are those creatures!? Do people who sucumb to the Dark now become lizardy beasts? What is their point to the story?

Speaking of Dark, why did that change definitions between games? In the first Dark Souls, the Dark was literally the absence of Light. The Lords of the first game,  Gwyn, Nito, The Witch of Izaleth, found power in the First Flame and gained great souls that let them elevate themselves above the other “beings” that lived with them in the Dark, under subjagation to the immortal dragons. With that power they fell the dragons and spread though out the world. The last person to gain power was the Furtive Pygmy who gained power from the Dark Soul. Not only could he survive still in the Dark, not needing to fight off dragons, his power split off and divided itself amongst his offspring, (mankind).

In DkS2, the Dark seems to have become an element of power, opposing the likes of the lightning of the Faithful and the Spells of the Intelligent. The Dark now breeds Demons or creepy monsters, like the lizard men at Amana. Previously demons came from the power of Chaos, the power of life, which the Witch of Izaleth incidentally created when trying to copy the First Flame.  According to what I understood of the ending, Dark and Undeath are now just the inevitable link in the sequence after Life and Light. As Lordran rose and fell and Oolacile before it, it is time for Drangleic to fall. The Emerald Herald wants to to take the Throne of Want so you can bring about and rule over the next Age of Dark.

The Queen wanted that power for herself but the King locked her out of the throne room. Why she couldn’t just go get his ring from his tomb? Why was the Emerald Herald created and HOW? She tells us she is “of dragons” or like a dragon, so is she like Priscilla? Half Dragon Half something? Why did the Undead, or any one, come to Drangleic? Why did the Ancient Dragon help us? Where the hell was the Horse boss I saw in all the trailers? Who is that cat in Majula and why is she unkillable? Who are the songstresses? What became of the bonfire keepers? What do they know of all this? Does the Throne of Want control time?

Those are the questions the game left me with and I hope to find the answers from the great gurus of Souls Lore on Youtube, TerraMantis VatiVidya and ENB. Also from anyone who sees this and wants to comment with some answers they came up with.

Pt II will come when I get some answers.

Let’s be Happy for SquareEnix

A few weeks ago the Internet gathered its pitchforks and torches and formed an angry mob around the spooky manor outside of town. Two star crossed lovers, Square Enix and Microsoft, had been found in the middle of…forming an union of sorts and this did not please the simple people and so they made their feelings known. I am willing to be lone outlier and am here to say we should be happy for these two because many good things could come of them getting together.

Well if you haven’t heard, The sequel to 2013’s critically acclaimed, multi-million unit-selling Tomb Raider, entitled “Rise of the Tomb Raider”, was announced as an Xbox exclusive during the Microsoft conference at GamesCon. Or….was it an XboxOne exclusive? In a flurry of mixed messages, double talk and slow responses to angry consumers the Crystal Dynamics team posted a clarification in the formed of numbered list.

TombRaider2

Timed Exclusive to both Xbox consoles next year at Christmahaunakwazna

An unusualy clear message after a giant shit show of horrible PR and fear to commit to a statement and acknowledge that Microsoft bought themselves a timed exclusive which will surely spur many many sales for all the people who have to play  a game the moment it is released or those who want the yet-to-be-named Pre-order bonuses (I’m hoping for a really comfortable sweatshirt for Lara).

Consumers took the news like a blow to heart. Cries of betrayal from Squeenix, of Microsoft acting desperately and hurting the industry by continuing the Great War of  Timed Exclusive Content filled the blogs and clogged the YouTubes.

Ishnaxover at Destructoid now chooses to never buy the game in response to this news.  Otaking Mikohani felt betrayed be Squuenix directly because the were seemingly abandoning its Playstation home altogether (even though the original game debuted on the Sega Saturn and wasn’t a SONY game). And Eric Hickman tells Joystiq readers that even people with an Xbox should be upset, like he is, that Microsoft mismanaged their by paying for this timed exclusive.

I think people are missing the bigger point here. If Microsoft drove a truck filled with money over to Squeenix headquarters that means Squeenix now has a TRUCK FULL OF MONEY! Think of all the things  they could do with a truck full of money. Or actually don’t bother, I thought of some for you;

Things Squeenix Should Do With Their Truckload of $$$

  • Well the first item on this list is going to be a bit less speculation than the rest as  Squeenix posted a recruitment page seeking developers for a new initiative they are beginning. The Focus the new staff will be to create new console game(s), as Siliconera reported. So I’m gonna go ahead and thank that tugboat full of money for this new development
  • Porting all their PSP games to the PSV/PSN. I bought my PSV 2 years ago confident in the fact that Squeenix would transfer their UMD-only PSP games to the PSN network to make easy bank on people repurchasing the games and people with PSV’s wanting to play something that wasn’t a terrible port of a console game.  Since then Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep has been ported to the PS3 and Final Fantasy XIII Agito   Type-0 was FINALLY given a translation and localization…but for Xbox1 and PS4 consoles. As a non-next-gen owner that news pissed me off greatly but that’s a post for another day. Now Squeenix has the money to digitalize that…terrible Parasite Eve Third Birthday game and whatever else they made for the PSP.
  • On that note they can re-acquire the rights to use the title Parasite Eve. Parasite Eve, the game, was based on Parasite Eve, the novel by Hideki Sena. SquareSift paid for the rights to use the mitrochondrial plot points and title but that was only for a limited time. They lost the rights to use both and so the next game involving officer Aya Brea was called “Third Birthday,” had nothing to do with Mitochondria or Mitochondria Eve and instead was about time-traveling mutant aliens that Aya killed by having her clothes disintegrate and showing off her almost nude body. Use that money to make a proper Parasite Eve 3 now that Survival Horror is making a come back and will be less of a risk.

PED1

  • Make my Threads of Fate Sequel! This was an amazing diamond in the rough from the PSX. An action game with two protagonists, Rue who changed into monsters and Mint who learned elemental magic. The ending left the game wide open for revisiting as Rue finds a boy who looks just like him trapped in a temple right after the credits roll.
  • A sequel/spinoff to Vagrant Story. Another callback to the time when Square took chances and made games that might appeal to a select few instead of large games with general controls and a mixup of genres. This game on the PSX had a plot as intricate as its battle scheme but only half as deep as it’s weapon and armor crafting component.
  • …Maybe give me a refund for buying Dragon Quest IX? (Talk about a bare-bones RPG)
  • A standalone Blitzball game.  I think we can all agree that besides Wakka, the best thing about FFX was the hours and hours we all spent playing Blitzball. Trying to recruit those crazy cheating Guado, Jecht Shotting all in fool’s faces just as the clock ticks down, running out the clock when you score a few points on the Al Bhed, tackling some guy and giving him severe poisoning. You know, classic sports strategies. Set a game in the time before Sin, where there were a dozen teams and I’ll spend all my time in it.

Wakka

  • Ensure that they hire someone to  write the last half of Bravely Default: Bravely Second. I love the original game but literally doing the same 4 things for about 20 hours is not how you conclude a game.
  • Lastly with that 747 filled with gold and jewels Squeenix could finish up dev work on Final Fantasy XV some time before 2020. Just buy an entire company full of coders and artists and dump them into the building where FFXV is being made.

These are but a handful of  things Squeenix could get done and get done sooner with this moon-full of money that they are getting from Microsoft. Keep them in mind if some negative feelings start to bubble up over the situation

And of course you could just remember it’s a timed exclusive and the Tomb Raider will rise on other platforms some time after it launches on the Xboxes.