Bravely Second Demo – The Ballad of the Three Cavaliers

Date Completed: January 16, 2017

Not much to say about this game, it was just a demo.  I normally wouldn’t write about a demo but this demo was over 10 hours long so I figured it warranted a mention.  Even so you can probably tell by the fact that I’m posting this almost a year late that it wasn’t a high priority on my list of things to write about.  I highly approve of the strategy of creating demos that are separate and supplementary to the full version of a particular game.  I enjoyed the original Bravely Default Demo quite a bit and I found this one similarly enjoyable.  I’ve been playing the full version of Bravely Second off-and-on since beating the demo and if I ever get to the end of that I’ll do a proper writeup.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Advertisements

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

Pokémon Yellow

pokemon_yellow_cover_art_by_comunello76-d4xfrr5Date Completed: December 28th, 2016

One day one of my college roommates said unto me “Mike, you should try playing Pokemon.  You may think it’s just a game for kids, however I think you will be surprised to find that is is a surprisingly good RPG.”  I trusted my roommate’s opinion so went off to the store to purchase a copy.  The nearest used video game story was a place by the name of ‘Funcoland’ (Since purchased by GameStop) however due to several bad experiences there we usually pronounced the name without the first ‘n’.  My roommate owned Pokemon Blue so I decided to purchase Pokemon Yellow.  After buying the game we went to the adjacent store and found Pokemon Yellow on sale BRAND NEW for 10$ cheaper.  So I bought Pokemon Yellow again and returned the first copy.

 

wvw69jf-vxkgqmmkox

Pro Tip : Never type ‘Misty Cosplay’ into Google.

I was surprised to find that Pokemon was a surprisingly good RPG and I played the crap out of that little cartridge.  With my roommate’s help I managed to catch the first 150 Pokemon ( I didn’t know about the Mew glitch so I sadly never caught 151 ).  I really got into Pokemon after that.  I bought Pokemon Gold when it came out, and we had copies of Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap in the apartment.

wvw69jrqtbwsgtc5gi

Morbid much?

I don’t own my original cartridge anymore so when Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow came out for the 3DS virtual console I jumped at the opportunity to take a walk down memory lane.

wvw69jtngpcnhqedcm

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad…

Something I learned about the past is that you can never go back.  Pokemon Yellow has not aged well.  Lots of frustrating mechanics have been ironed out in the many, many games released since generation I.  I forced myself to play all the way through to the end, although I ended up taking many breaks.

wvw69jftnmqis69fmt

I remember these guys…

I had taken my kids to one of the Pokemon card events at Toys R Us and overheard a portly nerd in the line in front of my discussing the recently released Pokemon virtual console games.  “Of course I bought all three of them!” he explained to another portly nerd.  I’m happy to say I’m not that guy anymore.  I enjoyed the nostalgia but I’m only going to stick with just this one game.

wvw69j7nryy_b3ifse

Charizard FTW!

 

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 5/10
  • Length:  ~20 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG

Xenoblade Chronicles 3D

91bfa0z2jl-_ac_sl1500_Date Completed: September 24th, 2016

Holy Long Game Batman!  I was one of the few who owned the original version of the game when it was released on the Wii console.  I had started the game a few times but I never made it very far in and eventually I traded my Wii in for a Wii  U and lost my save.  I tried the game again on the Wii U but I never made it very far there either.  Eventually it came out for the ‘New’ 3DS and the portable form factor finally made it possible for me to sink the hundred hours into the game that were needed to beat it.

The ‘universe’ in Xenoblade consists of two massive titans (The Bionis and the Mechonis) who killed (or did they?) each other after some sort of timeless battle.  Several races of beings live on the bodies of these titans and naturally the beings on the Mechonis are at war with the beings on the Bionis.  Without giving too much away, the game will take you on an epic journey across the body of the Bionis.

The size of the game world is absolutely massive.  The scenery is breathtaking.  There are rivers, mountains, valleys, forests and swaps all magnificently realized with some amazing views.  The design teams plays fast and loose with gravity and there are tons of spots where it is possible to step right off the Bionis.  In fact, there is even an achievement for doing so.  This is the only game I can think of where I frequently found myself accidentally jumping off the world.

xenoblade-landscape

The true test of the quality of an RPG is of course the story.  I’m happy to say that I enjoyed the story and it reminded me of back in the day when Final Fantasy games used to be good.  It was a wild and insane ride, but it all made enough sense that I didn’t have to hunt down a Wiki that explained anything.  The main characters were all interesting, realistic and likable.  Overall I’d say this game is a job well done.

wvw69jpwkemy73pwkf

Like many other RPGs this game has way too many things to fiddle with.  There are weapons, armor, gems, skills, abilities, affinities and bonuses that make the whole system a little overwhelming.  The tutorials are vast but I always felt lost in the menus.  The FAQS I read online didn’t really help either.  I HATE paying for strategy guides but this certainly seems to be the type of game that needs one.

If you are the type of player who expects RPG characters to wear body armor that isn’t likely to protect you from a butter knife then Xenoblade may be the game for you.  While some of the armor available looked functional quite a bit of it could have doubled as swimwear.  The game isn’t sexist though!  The gents and the ladies both get the swimwear treatment.  In fact, I’ve seen the male character ‘Dunban’ referred to as the ‘Nekkid Ninja’ in forum posts.

Totally Functional...

Totally Functional…

Xenoblade Chronicles features a bazillion little side-quests in each area that took most of play time. The completionist in me hates missing anything but I found questing to get old quickly so I’d often push forward with the main story quest early.  It was always clear where the main story quest objectives were located, unfortunately I often found myself out classes when I arrived in a new area. I found that if I took the time to complete all of the quests in an area I was usually ready to go when I moved on.  So much for speed runs.

New Quest

Clearly more important than saving the world.

The graphics seem a little dated on the Wii, but they were more than passable on the ‘New’ 3DS.  It sucks that it’s not compatible with the older 3DS consoles but there were some occasions when the frame rate dropped and I doubt the older model would have been able to push as good an experience.  I thoroughly enjoyed the game and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has the means to play it.

  • Is it fun: Yes
  • Score: 8/10
  • Length:  ~100 hours
  • System: Nintendo 3DS
  • Genre: RPG

Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix

911khmDJL3L._SL1500_Date Completed: October 18th, 2015

Two years and two days before finishing Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix finished with Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix.  I had vague memories of beating Kingdom Hearts 2 when it originally came out but I remembered almost nothing of it except Sora gets a little bigger, and there was a 6 hour unskippable introduction sequence before the game really gets under way.

The game re-visits several of the (mostly Disney themed) worlds from Kingdom Hearts 1 and throws a few new ones into the mix.  The story this time around is a lot thinner.  I was never entirely sure why I was revisiting the worlds from the first game except I had a space ship and there were places I hadn’t been yet.  After visiting all of the worlds you get to visit all of the worlds AGAIN, then the final area unlocks which you can access from the WORLD YOU STARTED ON.  It all feels a bit like you’re walking in circles.

The game itself plays mostly like it’s immediate predecessor with the addition of ‘Drive Forms’.  Sora can use a ‘Drive’ to transform into a ‘Form’ that has upgraded abilities.  Each form has unique abilities and if you keep leveling up the forms you can use these abilities without transforming.  To make the game more fun attempting to transform will randomly transform Sora into a useless form called the ‘Anti Form’ which almost always results in Sora getting killed by whatever happens to be near.  Leveling up all of the forms is not something you’re likely to accomplish without hefty amounts of level grinding.

I realized something while playing this game.  Kingdom Hearts is awful.  Almost everything playing this game is frustrating from the story to the battle mechanics to the leveling system.  Lengthy cut-scenes had an irritating habit of popping up when I was looking for a save spot so I could turn the game off.  The story doesn’t make any sense and clearly wasn’t meant to be thought about too much.  The only redeeming quality is the lovable cast of familiar characters

My kids loved the game.  It’s very watchable and I think I would have preferred the game more if I was watching someone else play it.  I took several lengthy breaks from playing the game because I was rarely in the mood to put more time into it.  I told my wife while I was playing it that I was ready for it to be over.  I generally feel this way after playing Kingdom Hearts games and I am forced to wonder why I keep coming back to them.

I admit I’ll probably buy Kingdom Hearts III when it comes out but over the last few years I’ve rapidly lost enthusiasm for the series.  I don’t have as much time to play games as I used to and Kingdom Hearts won’t continue to make the cut if it doesn’t do something to shape up real soon.

Pros

  • Cast of familiar, lovable characters.

Cons

  • Insane story.
  • Awful battle system.
  • Repetitive level progression.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action / RPG

Pokemon Y

Pokemon Y Version BoxartWhen I started collecting vintage video games off eBay I briefly had an infatuation with Pokemon games.  I bought up the N-64 versions of Stadium and I had copies of Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Gold that I could play on them.  I also had versions of the Gamecube era games including (but sadly not limited to) Pokemon Colosseum, Pokemon Ruby and Pokemon Emerald.  I eventually reached a point in my life when I realized that you actually don’t have to catch them all.  After a brief stint in Pokemon rehab I sold all my old vintage games and I stayed clean for a few years.  Then one fateful day in February my kids got sick and I introduced them to Pokemon cartoons on Netflix (My wife was not pleased).  The kids enjoyed Pokemon so much that I started thinking the latest generation of games might be something fun to play with them.

Over the years I’ve collected many rare Pokemon from various events, either at GameStop, Toys R Us or Online.  I didn’t want to loose any of them, or the time I had invested into previous titles so I spent several days with two DS’s on my lap transferring Pokemon.  Almost all Pokemon games have had some mechanism to transfer from previous generations of the game, if you’re willing to jump through several hoops.  This generation requires the Pokemon Transport application, which is included with Pokemon Bank (which is a 3DS application available from the eShop and costs 5$ / year).  Transport can transfer 30 Pokemon at a time but it only works with 5th generation games.  Most of my Pokemon were still sitting in Pokemon Platinum which is a 4th generation game and is not compatible with the Pokemon Transport application.  First I had to transfer all of my Pokemon from Platinum to the copy of Pokemon White I still had laying around, which is a much slower process and is limited to 6 Pokemon at a time.  I spaced the transfer process out over the course of a week and while I didn’t keep detailed records I’m sure it took at least 4 hours.  There is something seriously wrong with you game when you spent more time managing inventory than you spend actually playing the game.

Eventually everything was transferred and I was finally ready to start playing the game.  Last year my third and final child (and my first daughter) was born.  This is relevant because for the first time in Pokemon history I played as a female trainer and I named her after my daughter.  I’ve named all the Pokemon trainers I’ve played since my first son was born after my children and now the trend has continued.

8db73a60-124f-11e5-b345-068eb5990048

Lady ‘L’ on her Pokemon journey.

The game itself has gone through a visual upgrade but plays basically the same as it always has.  You wander around catching Pokemon and forcing them to battle each other.  Your goal is to collect 8 gym badges so that you can challenge the Pokemon League and become the ultimate champion.  Along the way a ‘Team’ of bad guys is up to no good and you have to defeat them.  The motivations of the ‘Team’ you face in these games has become progressively more insane over the last six generations.  Team rocket started as a Pokemon stealing ring and now, 5 generations later, Team Flare wants to use the ULTIMATE WEAPON TO ELIMINATE ALL LIFE EXCEPT TEAM FLARE.

Some strange stones...

Lady ‘L’ investigating some strange stones…

I’ve actually liked how the last few generations of Pokemon games have tried to portray a more complicated villain than the first few games.  Each team functions as a cult – they feature a charismatic leader who gathers followers that want to improve the world in some way.  They want to correct some perceived flaw in the world although they resort to extreme and illegal means to achieve their goals.

I thought my kids would enjoy watching me play the game as much as they enjoyed watching the show but they were only interested in small sub-sets of game play.  They basically didn’t care what was going on in the game unless I was naming a recently captured Pokemon, catching a Legendary or involved in a Gym battle.  The rest of the game didn’t hold their interest for very long.

Lady 'L' enjoying the scenery.

Lady ‘L’ enjoying the scenery.

I could talk more about new features such as the new Fairy type and Mega evolutions but these didn’t really do much to change the overall feeling of the game.  If you’ve played, and enjoyed a previous Pokemon title then there will be no major surprises in this game.

Pros

  • More New Pokemon
  • New ‘Fairy’ type
  • New ‘Mega’ evolutions

Cons

  • Transfer process from previous generations sucks (and costs 5$)
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 7/10
Length:  22 hours
System: 3DS
Genre: RPG

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