Final Fantasy Explorers

Date Completed: February 28th, 2017

Holy dull game Batman!  This game was unbelievably boring.  It’s almost not even a game.  It was really more of a tech demo than an actual game.  The game consists of exploring a continent by completing a series of missions.  Once you have completed a mission you are automatically warped back to the single town that is available in the game where you can select a new mission that let you explore further away areas.  There is no real story to follow that was discernible,  Something about crystals.  Square-Enix offered a collector’s edition of the game when they released it and I am SUPER glad I didn’t sink any money into it.  They’ve offered collector’s editions of several games now that turned out to be total duds.  I think this game could be turned into something interesting with more development effort but this release was barely a real game.

  • Is it fun: No
  • Score: 3/10
  • Length:  ~20 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG
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Final Fantasy X HD Remaster

Box ArtDate Completed : May 15th, 2015

* SPOILER WARNING! * Do not read if you care about spoilers!

When Final Fantasy X originally came out it was a huge let down for me.  I’ll always remember it as the first ‘Bad’ Final Fantasy game, and the one that marks the transition where the series started turning to Poop.  While my original impression of the game was poor the game has achieved some sort of cultural relevance that over time has tempered my feelings about the game into what I can only describe as ‘somewhat less hostile’.  I even found myself thinking about playing through the game again.  When Square-Enix announced the HD Remaster version it seemed like a good opportunity to give the game a second go.

I thought my wife and kids might enjoy watching me play this game because it plays more like an interactive movie than a traditional game.  I was right about the kids, but my wife’s feelings are summed up with comment “They need pants.” (One of the common clothing choices for characters involves thigh-high socks and bikini bottoms).  Lulu’s dress made of belts and Yuna’s shirtless sleeves in particular received more than their fair share of her scathing remarks.  My wife clearly does not benefit from the years of indoctrination into video game fashion that I have.

After winning a battle I like to celebrate by bending over.

After winning a battle Lulu celebrates by bending over.

My kids really enjoyed watching the game, and my older son kept asking when I was going to allow him to play (Never! You’ll kill my whole party!).  Both of my boys had their favorite characters (My older son preferred Yuna because her eyes were different colors, and my younger boy preferred Tidus because he was fast) and shouted out unsound battle advice that mostly consisted of insisting I swap their favorite character into battle.  Once I caught my older son walking around the house with one pant-leg pulled up as high as it could go saying “Look Dad! I’m Tidus!”

Final Fantasy X played exactly like I remembered it.  Similar to the Kingdom Hearts HD remake, this game doesn’t appear to have any meaningful changes other than to bump the resolution of the game up.  The voice acting and character animations are still the same they were in the original and in comparison to the games of today FFX seems particularly awkward.

The biggest problem with FFX are the many parts of the game that simply aren’t fun.  Back in my college days I remember watching my roommate play through the Chocobo Catcher mini-game for DAYS trying to get Tidus’ ultimate weapon.  Several thrown controllers and rage quits later he eventually gave up on trying.  I was lucky when I played through the game for the first time – it only took me three tries.  This time I spent nearly two hours and I had to resort to YouTube videos for tips on how to complete it.  Other irritating side quests include capturing 10 of every monster in the game (Some of which are rare encounters or can kill you before you get a turn), completing the sphere grid for all characters ( which takes a herculean time investment ) or playing Blitzball for Wakka’s weapons or overdrives.  I didn’t find any of these to be fun – only time consuming and frustrating.  There was no sense of accomplishment when I completed them all – only a great sense of relief that I was finally done and I’d never have to do any of them again.

After this scene my roommate in college came running to get me shouting "I think they did it!"

After this scene my roommate in college came running to get me shouting “I think they did it!”

Being the Final Fantasy fan that I am, I decided that I wanted to get the Platinum trophy for this game (The only platinum I had for a Final Fantasy game is for FF XIII-2).  Unfortunately this meant I needed to complete all of the irritating side quests including the ‘Dodge 200 consecutive lightning bolts without saving’ quest which I had never even attempted in the previous release. (It seemed like a lot of trouble for very little benefit).  I read on the internet that it was easier in a dark room so I started locking myself in the closet under the stairs and took regular breaks after 50 dodges.  It took me an entire weekend but even with children, cats (one jumped on my lap at 186 dodges) and other distractions I was able to accomplish it.  I couldn’t have done it without my PS Vita.  If I had tried to do that on the TV with people watching and laughing I simply would not have succeeded.

Before FFX came along being a ‘Final Fantasy’ title meant something.  It meant an over-world map, it meant airships, it meant exploration.  All of these traditional elements were stripped out of FFX and replaced with the FMV cut-scenes that Square-Enix had become known for.  It is impossible to get lost in FFX.  Each map in FFX is a variation on a straight line and is clearly labeled with your current position and where you are supposed to be going.  The Airship has been replaced with a menu that lets you choose where you want to go.

One of the area maps in FFX.

One of the area maps in FFX.

The only other thing I want to mention is that during the final Battle with Yu Yevon when you have to kill all of your Aeons my sons became very upset.  They had grown really attached to our summoned friends and they didn’t understand why we had to kill them.  They asked me for days after the end why Tidus faded away at the end of the game (I don’t know boys, the plot is crazy) and the whole thing about Auron being a ghost really spooked them (get it?).

In spite of all of my complaining I did enjoy playing the game (I put over 100 hours into the game, so I must have liked something, right?).  I probably won’t be playing it again but who knows, maybe in another 10 years I’ll be playing the Ultra HD remake complaining about this game all over again.

Pros

  • FFX in HD
  • Trophy Support

Cons

  • Besides the resolution, not many upgrades.
  • All the mini-games suck.

Is it fun: Yes

Score: 6/10
Length:  ~115 hours
System: Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Genre: RPG

 

Final Fantasy Dissidia 012 Duodecim

Dissidia_Duodecim_012_Final_FantasyDate Completed : February 22nd, 2015

Holy Stupid Name Batman! Square-Enix has released some games with truly stupid names in the past but the Final Fantasy series has mostly managed reasonably titled games (Unless you count the face that with over 52 games in the series the word ‘Final’ clearly does not apply).  When the original Dissidia game came out I naturally wondered what orifice they pulled the name from, but eventually I shrugged it off and got to playing the game. ‘Final Fantasy : Dissidia 012 Duodecim’ makes it really hard to shrug off the name.  If someone asked me what I was playing I usually responded ‘Final Fantasy Fighting Game’. If I did happen to try and tell someone ( such as my wife ) the full title of the game I was horribly mocked for playing it, as if the title of the game was my fault.

Having dropped over 100 hours into the previous Final Fantasy Dissidia I was looking forward to starting the sequel but a few things kept me from getting started. First – I didn’t want to play another game on my PSP.  I was able to resolve this issue by throwing more money at Square Enix and buying a digital copy of the game for my PS Vita during a Final Fantasy sale on the Playstation store.  Second – 100 hours is a long ass time to play a game.  What finally convinced me to start Duodecim was the discovery that there is an import feature.  The import process was a simple 380 step process that involved multiple virtual machines, memory card readers and a bit of hacking skill but in the end I did get it to work and I was able to import all of my maxed-out characters.

I didn’t realize it until after I was quite a way in to the game but the game is a super set of the original Dissidia. It includes the original game as well as a lengthy prequel.  The game isn’t 100% identical but if you can skip the original Dissidia you won’t be missing anything story wise.  The story follows the eternal conflict between Chaos and Cosmos (Discord and Harmony) and attempts to tie all of the Final Fantasy titles together into a cohesive whole.  It does this by confusing the hell out of you to the point that your brain decides to stop trying to process the story and accepts everything as perfectly sensible.

If I had to choose one word to describe this game it would be POINTS. There are Brave Points (BP), Hit Points (HP), Ability Points (AP), Experience Points (Exp), Kupo Points (KP) and Player Points (PP). While not technically a ‘point’ value, there is also an in game currency called ‘Gil’ which can be used to purchase various types of gear. If you think that sounds a tad bit over-complicated then you and I are in agreement. I couldn’t help but feel that some gleeful accountant with an over fascination of spreadsheets designed the game.

Battles are all one-on-one and your goal is to reduce your opponents HP to 0. You have two types of attacks – Brave attacks and HP attacks. Brave attacks reduce your opponents’ brave points and adds them to yours. HP attacks take your current brave points and inflict equivalent damage to your opponents HP. The normal flow of battle involves attempting to inflict ‘break’ status on your opponent by reducing their Brave points below zero. This awards you a huge bonus of brave points and in many cases means you can win the battle with a single HP attack afterwards.

There are several AI engines of varying difficulty, the most frustrating of which either blocks dodges or reflects every single attack you make.  In once such battle I fired over 30 homing shots at my opponent and every single one missed. I’ve been in battles where my foe was backed into a corner and I blasted them with a huge attack and it missed even though they visually appeared to have no way to dodge. How do you win these battles?  It’s helps to be several dozen levels above your opponent, but if all else fails you can always resort to luck.  Eventually the AI will screw up and you’ll hit it.

Running around the map.

Running around the Over World

 

Cut-scenes were irritatingly frequent and account for a large percentage of my play time through this game. Since I was maxed out on levels, for the first 2/3rds of the game I could get 1-hit kills on all the enemies so the game consisted mostly of cut-scenes and loading screens for me. Conversations between characters tended to be repetitive and waaaaaaaaaay too long. There is a skip feature, which I recommend to any new players. Go ahead and skip – the story doesn’t make sense anyway.

Every button on the PSP (or the PS Vita in my case) is used and then some while playing this game. Many skills such as dodging, summoning and calling an assist character require you to hold a shoulder button while pressing another button. I often found my hand temporarily locked into a ‘claw of doom’ position after playing Duodecim. The controls are impossible to use comfortably. I don’t think the designers put much thought into what sort of controller players would have.

The full history of Final Fantasy outfits is on display in Duodecimo.  Characters from the more recent games retain their original their original appearance (such as Tidus’s one long pant leg and Kuja’s thong / vest / skirt combo) but characters from the more classic titles have been ‘upgraded’ to 3D models.  While I am going to refrain from an extended critique of the fashion choices in this game, I find it interesting to observe that the more evil a woman is in Final Fantasy, the more of her knockers you are likely to see (Which is the opposite of what I believed for most of my adolescence).

Mog

My roommate in college used to say the same thing.

Dissidia is clearly fan service for people like myself who are long time fans of the series and enjoy the mash-ups of characters. The game mechanics are unique and fun, although somewhat flawed. Overall I enjoyed the game, but I really hope they re-think some of the mechanics if they’re going to continue creating Dissidia games (And all signs point to yes).

Pros

  • Unique Fighting game.
  • Includes characters from Final Fantasy I – XIII.

Cons

  • Flawed mechanics.
  • Long, repetitive cut-scenes.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: PSP / PS Vita
Genre: Fighting / RPG

Final Fantasy Theatrhythm : Curtain Call

Theatrhythm_Final_Fantasy_Curtain_Call_box_artDate Completed : April 8th, 2015

I’ve already completed a review for the original Final Fantasy Theatrhythm so I’m going to try and keep this one short.  Final Fantasy Theatrhythm : Curtain Call (FFTCC) is almost exactly like the previous title and I stand by what I said before – you tap on the screen in rhythm with songs from the Final Fantasy game.  I don’t know why I like this game so much, but I’ve sunk quite a bit of time into it, and almost a month after finishing it I’m still playing it, trying to unlock more characters.

FFTCC has several upgrades, primarily the quest mode is improved and it has a BUTTLOAD more songs including songs from spinoffs and related game series.  There are even new control modes – you can tap the buttons instead of the screen if you prefer.

Like the previous game I mostly enjoyed playing the game before bed.  It can be very difficult playing with other people in the house because interruptions can mess with your rhythm.  Theatrhythm is the kind of thing you play alone in a dark corner of the house when no one is watching.

It’s a fun game and includes all of the content from the original, so if you’re in the market for a Theatrhythm game look no further than Curtain Call.

Pros

  • Superset of the original game.

Cons

  • You’ll have to hide from your kids to play it.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~10 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Rhythm

Final Fantasy VIII

Final_Fantasy_8_ntsc-frontDate Completed: December 16th, 2014

Final Fantasy VIII will always remind me of living in the dormitories back at college with my charismatically grumpy roommate ‘Willy’ ( Name changed to protect his true identity ).  I owned a TV and a Playstation memory card.  Willy owned a  Playstation and a copy of the game.  We were both playing the game at the same time, but I managed to put slightly more time into the game and was always a few steps ahead of where he was, much to his chagrin.  When I beat the game we had the volume cranked up as high as it would go on my 20″ CRT TV, which managed to earn us a visit from the RA’s.  Lucky for us they seemed more amused to find two big burly guys listening to a sappy love song together at full blast than they were concerned about any noise violations.

Willy gave up playing the game after I beat it.  It was fairly anti-climactic after that point.  The game itself is fun to play, but the story is awful.  I think Willy’s friend said it best – It’s like the game designers only created 15 years of history for the world and then built the story around that.  There is no depth to the world whatsoever.  The plot consists of an unlikely series of coincidences, random occurrences and unbelievable events (but even more so than every other Final Fantasy).

It’s not just the plot that sucks.  All of the characters are total losers.  The main character Squall (who my kids recognized as Leon from Kingdom Hearts) is completely unlovable EMO a-hole.  The other five characters were similarly terrible.  Willy especially hated the Selphie character.  He was particularly offended that she was trying to make the word ‘booyaka’ happen.

I started replaying the game over a year ago, well before Bravely Default came out.  I hadn’t played a classic style RPG in  awhile and while the story in FF8 is a lame duck, the mechanics of the game play are quite enjoyable.  It has a lot of content to get through, but I made a good pace through the end of disc 3 (of 4) and then I took a 14 month hiatus from playing so I could avoid the side-quests.  There are several side-quests that must be completed prior to moving on to the disc, and such is the nature of my OCD that I felt compelled to complete them all.  Unfortunately one of those quests is collecting every card in the ‘Triple Triad’ collection, which is a mini game that can be played with many of the NPC’s in Final Fantasy VIII.

The rules for Triple Triad start well enough, but each region you visit has it’s own set of rules.  Horrifyingly, some of these rules make the game nearly impossible to win and completely impossible to enjoy.  To add a little extra insult, some of your card playing opponents play extra slowly, just to make sure you feel the burn.  Worst of all, the rules can be spread between regions ensuring you’ll be banging your head on the wall for hours.

I remember thinking the graphics were amazing at the time, and they still look pretty good, for a 15 year old game.  I’m not sure I’d feel the same if they were blown up to the size of a 50″ TV, but I was playing on a Vita and I found the graphics to have held up quite well.  Some of the animated cut-scenes leave a completely different impression than they did years ago.  The much hyped ballroom dance scene now seems completely unremarkable.

So, the game is still fun, but the story is still crap.  I was in the mood for a RPG, and this pretty much fit the bill.

Pros

  • Fun RPG game mechanics.
  • Lots of content.

Cons

  • Story is so, so bad.
  • Irritating, unlikable characters.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  ~50 hours
System: Playstation Vita (PS1 Originally)
Genre: RPG

Bravely Default

BDFF_LogoDate Completed : October 1st, 2014

FINALLY.

Bravely Default came to North America last February, and now, almost 8 months later I have finally finished the game.  It wasn’t an easy road to completion.  The poor ergonomics of the 3DS combined with my Tendonitis forced me to give up on the game for several months.  After a few months of physical therapy to cure my Tendonitis, completing moving in to my new house and the birth of my daughter I was able to find the time to complete the game.  After picking up the game however I had forgotten where I was in the game and what I was doing.  It took some time to get back in the swing of things.

The game plays like the previously reviewed Bravely Default Demo but is much, much, MUCH longer.  I put about 90 hours into completing the main quest and I did an additional 10 hours of post clear content.  Not all of this felt strictly necessary – the game has a nasty habit of making you repeat playing through previously completed areas which gets old fast.  In fact, to get the best ending you must repeat the primary four dungeons five times each.  I’m OK with a little repetition, but FIVE is beyond excessive.  (For reference 3 is the most that is acceptable, and 4 is excessive)

I played the game mostly on the hardest difficulty which may have been a mistake.  I found towards the middle of the game that I wasn’t doing much damage to my enemies, even though I was at quite a high level and had decent equipment.  It appears that the developers intend for you to abuse the game mechanics to the point of breaking the game entirely.  For example – using a specific skill you can poison yourself to gain additional actions (Brave Points), and then you can attack four times in a single turn.  Later in the game when you start maxing out your character classes (jobs) you can make yourself virtually invincible and put the battle on auto play.  At that point the game plays itself and you don’t need to input any battle commands at all.

To defeat the ultimate boss in the game on hard mode I found that it was nearly impossible to win in a fair fight.  After one 45 minute match which I ultimately lost I set my team up to use a cheap “You can’t hit me so I can’t lose” combination and set the game on Auto.  Every hour or so I checked on the game to see how it was going and after several hours I did eventually win.  Least fulfilling win ever, but yeah, I won.

When I explained to my wife why my 3DS was on all day running a game she thought it was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard.  Based on Internet forums I think several other people agree.  There are threads dedicated to finding ways to beat the final boss legitimately, but most of them are for the ‘Normal’ difficulty and did not work on ‘Hard’.  I found that after nearly 100 hours of game play I was ready to be done and I didn’t care how I beat him.

One common complaint I saw online around the time the game launched was about the pervy old dude that mentors your crew.  He certainly was a total perv, but he seemed consistent with the tone of the rest of the game so I hardly feel it is fair to pick on him.  The costumes for the lady characters (such as the ‘Bravo Bikini’) are certainly not anything I’d like to see my newborn daughter wearing into battle in the future.  I understand that the costumes were ‘tamed down’ from their original Japanese versions for American audiences, and even adjusted the ages of the main characters to be more appropriate.  One forum post I read summed the difference up as ‘In Japan: 15 year olds in Lingerie, in America: 18 year olds in short skirts.’

This review may sound very negative but the game is quite enjoyable.  You don’t put 100 hours into a game you don’t enjoy, and while this game is far from flawless it has a lot to like.  The music is top notch, the battle mechanics are fantastic and the job/skill system is as in deep as any I’ve seen.  There are a ton of memorable characters, and lots of extra content.  Streetpass is featured heavily and friends you’ve met on Streetpass can even be summoned into battle to help you out.  Even with its flaws, Bravely Default is a lot of fun and can be enjoyed by any fan of traditional RPG games.

Pros

  • Lengthy, Traditional RPG.
  • Top Notch Music.
  • Battle Mechanics (Brave / Default system).

Cons

  • Repeating Dungeons.
  • Repeating Dungeons.
  • Repeating Dungeons.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  ~90 hours
System: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: RPG

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 remix

KHHD COVERDate Completed: October 16th, 2013

I had a pre-order of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 remix on file at Amazon immediately after I heard about it.  Not only does it come with a HD remaster of the original (and the best) Kingdom Hearts game, but it also comes with Kingdom Hearts : Chain of Memories, and the movies from Kingdom Hearts : 358 / 2 included on the disk.  Plus it was being sold for cheaper than a normal full PS3 disk release so it’s essentially a no-brainer.

Kingdom Hearts is a bit violent than most games I expose my kids to (the main character bludgeons enemies to death with a giant, blunt key) but I figured that since most of the enemies looked more like shadows than cuddly animals it would be safe to let the kids watch.  With the exception of my two year old boy telling me he could fly like Sora and jumping off his bed (which he probably would have done anyway) they appear to have survived the experience unscathed.

My kids were still begging to play more ‘Pikmin’ so I had to force them to sit through the first few hours of the game.  After we made it past the initial world and started visiting locales based on Disney they decided Kingdom Hearts was fun after all.  It’s been a good excuse to re-visit all of the movies that Kingdom Hearts worlds are based on.  We even wanted to watch ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ which I thought would be too scary but they seemed to enjoy.

The game itself is in HD but the upgrade wasn’t as drastic as other HD upgrades I’ve seen.  Everything looked sharper but besides the higher resolution it was essentially same as before.  Gameplay felt identical to what Kingdom Hearts felt like including crappy camera control and the in-battle menu system.  I consider the biggest benefit of the HD remake is that I can now run the game natively on my PS3 (which sadly can not run my old PS2 copy of the game).  Plus all that other crap on the disk.

Kingdom Hearts as a game doesn’t really manage to do anything particularly well.  The game play sucks, camera control is terrible and the plot is completely unintelligible.  I’d have given up on any other game with these failings however Kingdom Hearts is able to make up for its failings with liberal use of cut-scenes and cameos.  Every time the boys recognized a new character they’d be bouncing all over the room cheering (especially for Peter Pan).  I must admit that when Sephiroth drops into the Coliseum I feel like bouncing around the room myself.  The characters in the game manage to make up for any failings the game has and as a whole Kingdom Hearts is a very enjoyable experience.

Since finishing the game my oldest boy has been asking when we can play Kingdom Hearts 2, which is the highest praise he can offer any game.  I don’t intend on telling him about the other games on the disk.  KH : Chain of Memories is fun exactly once, and KH : 358 / 2 day is never fun.

I intend to put a little more time into the game to finish off the final few super-bosses but I’m not going to play it around the boys any more.  The level grinding and synthesis ingredient farming was way too boring for them.  They’ll have to wait for Kindom Hearts II HD 2.5 remix.

Pros

  • HD remake of Kingdom Hearts.
  • KH : Chain of Memories and 358 / 2 Days are also on the disk.

Cons

  • Same crappy camera and controls as the original.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 30 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action / RPG