Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei – First Impressions

Outside of Japan, the Megaten series is called the Shin Megami Tensei series, as the series came out after everything started being called Shin Megami Tensei. I checked out the original SMT game, a game few have played, but I decided to delve even deeper and go with the original game, Megami Tensei, a game even less have played.

Knowing this was an NES game, I knew I was going to have to deal with outdated mechanics. I personally have no problem with playing NES RPG’s, hell I even played the original incarnation of Dragon Quest. Despite my experience with NES RPG’s, Megami Tensei was kind of a different beast. I’ve almost entirely played the top-down NES RPG’s, a game that’s entirely in first person was completely new to me on the console. It kind of reminded me of the dungeons from the original Phantasy Star. Though this game does give me some of the similar frustrations to that game.

The 16-Bit or later first person games either give you an auto-map on the bottom of the screen or even have a map menu. Also the navigation was a lot less confusing. Any post-16-Bit RPG also makes it much easier to navigate, as it’s a lot easier to navigate in a 3D rendered environment in first person. 8-bit, not so much. Due to the graphical limitations, everything tends to look the same.

Due to this, I was happy to hear that Megami Tensei had a remake on the SNES, which was almost like a godsend when it came to navigation. I honestly tried the NES version, but I got so lost in that beginning town it was a nightmare for me. Now to the actual gameplay…

Megami Tensei is a first person dungeon crawler reminiscent of Shining in the Darkness, despite coming out first. There’s essentially a hub town, and you navigate through a sprawling dungeon. This wasn’t much of a drastic change from later SMT games, as healing and saving points are usually spread significantly thing. The typical frustration with the difficulty is typical from SMT games.

A welcome feature they added to the remake that was absent in the original is how you get fully healed when you level up. This is really nice when you’re really close to a boss, but your MP is basically zero. If you’re pretty close to leveling up, you can just grind for a tad bit, and now you’re fully prepared to take on that boss.

I’m looking forward to playing more of this game, a dungeon crawler is a change of pace from what I’m used to. Though this is one of those games where you have to legitimately sit down and play, and not just pick up and play for a couple of mins because of how spread out the sections of the game are.

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Time and Eternity – First Impressions

I heard horror stories about this game, and I had the chance to get ahold of this game. The only reason why I bothered picking it up was that the store was having a buy two get one free sale. Before I even heard the horror stories with how the game was, I knew I was going to have mixed opinions on the actual game due to the fact that it was released by NIS.

NIS tends to release really quirky games, quirky gameplay, and quirky stories, and this one is no exception. From the onset, you find out your main protagonist is this lecherous pervert and is thinking about how he wants to bang his fiancee’s friends. Then later he sees a guy kissing this girl’s cheek, and he’s freaking out that this guy got farther than the protagonist ever had. It’s really weird that they’ve been dating, and he’s never kissed this girl on the cheek. There’s also some really cartoony dialog in the game, sure I’m not expecting something serious, but some of the conversation and comments in the game are really over the top and cartoony.

Then there’s the actual gameplay. Navigation is really awkward. You move around in a 3D-ish environment, but then the camera is inches away from the character’s back, who’s a 2D sprite. It just looks really weird. Then there’s the battle system where it’s in real time and you can dodge attacks from enemies. The problem with the dodging, is that the timing is really awkward. If you dodge right when the attack is close to hit you, you didn’t dodge it, and you get hit. You essentially have to time before the attack actually happens or you’ll receive a ton of damage.

I might play more of this game, but honestly there isn’t much to enjoy in the first few hours of the game.

First Impressions – Shin Megami Tensei

Megami Tensei, a franchise that had a troubled start in the US, and slowly started getting more mainstream recognition during the PS2 days. That was when the franchise started appearing in the West. In Japan, it started way back on the NES with Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei (first impression on that game will come out later). The series basically pulled a Metal Gear Solid by changing the franchise name by going with Shin Megami Tensei ever since. Seeing how I enjoyed the later games in the franchise, I decided to start with the first SMT game on the SNES.

Comparing Nocturne and SMT4 to the first SMT, one of the biggest differences is that it’s entirely first person. This can make navigation a bit confusing in the dungeons, so you either have to keep pulling up the map menu, or casting the mappara spell. You could do what others did back in the day, get graph paper. If you played either the first Persona game, SMT Strange Journey, or Soul Hackers, this won’t be unusual for you, albeit with better interfaces.

The difficulty of this game is definitely higher than the newer games. One of the reasons is because you have to have magnetite to keep your demon allies alive, and walking around drains magnetite. I’m honestly not sure why this mechanic exists, but it does get annoying when you start running out of it. Having more demons in your party drains your magnetite faster, it’s almost like its a punishment for having a party. You also lose it faster when you’re trying to recruit demons, because the majority of them constantly ask for magnetite. It essentially doubles your time grinding. You earn magnetite at the end of battles, along with your typical EXP and money. Though in some areas, you earn very little to no magnetite. I was in one area where I grinded for 30 mins straight and only earned 25 magnetite. It was ridiculous.

The press turn system the franchise is known for isn’t in this game, but what this game goes overboard with, is the status effects. It’s almost like a 90% chance of being inflicted with most of these effects, paralyze being the most annoying as it’s the most frequently used. If your party gets hit with mazio, you’d be lucky if only one party member doesn’t get paralyzed. This becomes incredibly frustration at one part of the game. Here, you get teleported to a new area, and your party gets spread out in the dungeon. Your job is to find them. This part was ridiculous. While partially it was due to me being underleveled, but I was constantly getting in the encounter with a party of demons that cast Zio. With the obnoxiously high rate of being inflicted, I got paralyzed every single time, and they continuously wailed on me until I died.

The original SMT is really good so far, but this game is definitely not one to recommend to anyone who’s only casually into RPG’s.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – Review

Released in 2016, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE is a mashup between Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei series with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series. This is notable for being one of the incredibly few JRPG’s on the system.

Story:

The story begins with our protagonist, Itsuki, and his childhood friend Tsubasa. They attend a talent search event where Tsubasa is hoping to fulfill her dream of becoming an idol. The event kicks off, and the host turns into an evil being and begins stealing energy, known as Performa in this game, and escapes into an alternate realm. Itsuki and Tsubasa enter the alternate realm and are attacked by two hostile beings. They awaken their inner Performa abilities and defeat the two beings. The beings are cleansed of their evil and introduce themselves as Chrom and Caeda, beings from another world, and became beings known as Mirages. Their role is to stop the evil Mirage Garnef from resurrecting the evil Shadow Dragon that has ravaged their world, and join Itsuki and Tsubasa to prevent another world from the same fate as theirs.

After the initial battle, they get introduced by their friend Touma to the talent organization Fortuna Entertainment. They meet the eccentric owner Maika who wants to hire them for their organization in exchange for helping her discover who is behind the Mirages and to stop them from stealing more Performa. As the story goes on, your party increases with other idols within Fortuna Entertainment.

The story is broken up into multiple chapters, and it starts off with each chapter focusing on a new recruit, and the plot slowly unfolds until the final chapters where they all work together to defeat Garnef.

Gameplay:

The gameplay is largely identical to your standard Shin Megami Tensei game, and much of the content from Fire Emblem is there for story purposes. In a way, the Fire Emblem characters replace the Personas or demons the SMT franchise is known for, and instead takes the approach of characters being based on the class of their Fire Emblem partner. Where all of this comes together is in the battle system. It largely plays off of SMT’s press turn system where you exploit enemy weaknesses. Enemy weaknesses are based off of same type of elemental weaknesses typical in the SMT franchise, but also incorporates the Weapon Triangle system in Fire Emblem with the different weapon/class weaknesses.

This system gets a further expansion where you can engage your party in sessions. When your character exploits an enemy’s weakness, they are able to start a session with the other two party members in the team. A session is where characters with aligning skills are able to subsequently attack the enemy, causing more damage. This way you can triple the damage from a single character’s turn, and can be activated in each playable character’s turn if you play your cards right. Though in typical SMT fashion, the enemies play by the same rules as the characters, meaning that the tables can easily be turned on you. If you have the wrong party combination, it is just as easy for the enemy to engage in their own sessions to decimate your party members.

The game has an altered version of equipment for your characters. Instead of equipping armor and weapons like traditional RPG’s, you are largely stuck with upgrading your weapons to increase your stats. Outside of giving your character better stats, upgrading your weapons is also how you gain new abilities. In similar fashion to Final Fantasy IX, weapons have ability points it earns, and maxing out those ability points let you learn new abilities, or can power up your pre-existing abilities. While it can seem tedious knowing you have to grind both your character levels, and your weapon levels, it’s actually incredibly easy to level up your weapons, and weapon upgrades are almost few and far between. Unless you run away from battles frequently, you will max out the ability before you get to the boss in each chapters’ dungeon. Similar to Fire Emblem, you can actually promote your character’s mirage to a much more powerful class. This bestows more weapons for your character to equip, meaning more powerful abilities to learn to decimate your enemies.

As many expect in a SMT game, there is a good bit of difficulty to the game. The game does start off a bit easy in the beginning, as sessions do incredible damage, but as the game goes on, it’s pretty much a requirement to engage in sessions to defeat your enemy, as it’s significantly difficult if you don’t. Luckily at that point in the game, it does feel like it’s almost impossible to not engage in a session with all three party members, as you learn enough skills to be able to always access it. The game does force you to start rotating party members around, as they start sending out enemies that can punish you if you stick to the same characters over and over. Luckily you can easily swap in characters to engage in sessions.

Visuals:

Visuals are pretty nice in the game, there isn’t really much that can really be improved on when it comes to anime graphics in video games nowadays. The game does start to colorswap enemies as the game goes along, but it’s not an uncommon practice, so it’s really not that big of a deal. Though minor detractor is that the story bits can sometimes look and feel like a visual novel.

Music:

The soundtrack is pretty good. Unlike many SMT games, it’s not guitar heavy, but more synth heavy and sometimes can sound like a deranged night club, which mages the whole idol theme of the game. The individual songs for characters in their idol singers can be a bit hit or miss, there are a few that are actually quite enjoyable.

Verdict:

This game is really good, especially for those looking for a challenging turn based RPG to add to their collection. It’s definitely something to recommend for any SMT fan, and FE fans who enjoy turn based RPG’s. If you have a Wii U, this is definitely a must have. The Japanese idol theme can be a bit silly at times, but it doesn’t detract from its great gameplay, and enjoyable cast.

Music: 7/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 9/10.
Story: 8/10.
Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 8/10

Tales of Vesperia – First Impressions

Tales of Vesperia is a bit of an anomaly. It’s similar to Tales of Symphonia where it’s one of the better-known games in the franchise and is considered one of the best the franchise has to offer. It’s entirely possible that a big deal of the hype surrounding the game is just like Symphonia where most of its praise and hype were due to it being exclusive for a console that’s somewhat void of JRPG’s (outside of Japan). Due to this, the game sticks out like a sore thumb unlike, say an RPG on a Sony console, like the vast majority of the franchise. This is largely speculation, as I’m not far enough in the game to cast a real judgment if its worthy of its praise amongst the rest of the franchise. Onto the game itself.

I’ll start off with the biggest criticism I have with the game itself, it’s still at a fixed camera angle. It’s definitely weird that JRPG’s are one of the last genres to really become fully three-dimensional. It is a genre that’s fairly slow to break away from tradition, as it took awhile to really break away from random encounters, and being stuck in a fixed camera angle is also probably a style that the genre got stuck in. It made sense that the genre got stuck in the style because of the limitations of the PS1, and early knowledge of how to program for the PS2 (Final Fantasy was guilty of this with X and X-2). Though seeing that other big name RPG titles on the PS2 got full 3D games, it took Tales until Xillia, a later PS3 title, to transition to 3D. You would think that developing a game on a more powerful console would allow you to create a JRPG in full 3D, and Blue Dragon (a game that came out 2 years earlier) was able to be a 3D game. It doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the game, but it’s weird that RPG’s on the seventh gen consoles took awhile to be fully 3D.

The game feels very similar to Tales of the Abyss, which isn’t a surprise, as it’s the game that came directly before it. The Tales Team probably felt it was safe to just take the engine and make it with better graphics. So if you’ve played Abyss, you’ll feel at home with Vesperia. Overall battling feels like your typical Tales venture, not much to really comment on here. The only weird thing is how attacking feels weird. The A button is used to confirm menus and such, but it’s the block button, and the B button, used to cancel menus, is the attack button. It’s possible that the buttons fit how it is in Japan, as those button placements match how PlayStation games are in Japan, and Nintendo games in general, and they forgot to program the battles to fit with the North American placement of buttons. The only other game in the franchise I’ve played to this point that has this reversed button placement for battles and menus would be Zesteria.

So far the characters are pretty fun and entertaining. Yuri is a fun protagonist to play as, especially with his IDGAF attitude towards things. Estelle is an entertaining foil for Yuri’s personality, as she’s a prim and proper princess type character, and her overall ignorance of the outside world is cute and fun. Then there’s Rita, who’s the quirkier out of the initial main party members, and her quick to set people on fire is great. Repede is a badass dog, what more needs to be said? Karol is the only character who’s kind of a letdown, but we’ll see how he progresses as a character.

So far Vesperia is a pretty fun romp, and definitely a great game to pick up on the RPG starved Xbox 360.

Digimon World 3 – First Impressions

Digimon World 3 was a game I haven’t played in years. Deciding to dig up some nostalgia of my childhood, I decided to procure a copy. While this isn’t inherently a first impression, it does feel a bit like one after not touching the game for over 15 years.

In essence, this game feels a lot like a Pokemon game in concept. You are given a team of monsters, and your job is to be the best tamer in the Digital World by defeating all of the gym leaders. Sound familiar huh? As unoriginal as it sounds, it’s a fairly underrated game. While this isn’t, say Final Fantasy IX levels of awesomeness, this one is definitely not an insult to play. The game sticks to a standard tried-and-true battle system, which is turn based. You have to really try to mess up a turn based battle system. Though instead of battling with your full party, like most other RPG’s, Digimon World 3 decides to go down the Pokemon route by having your mon’s fight one on one, and tagging them out when they die.

The two biggest gripes I have with the game are: backtracking, and grinding. They tend to go hand-in-hand as they make you walk back and forth between several areas throughout the game, with no fast travel. In the initial part of the game, this isn’t so bad, as you just destroy any enemy that comes your way. You steamroll the gym leader, and then you reach the second area. Uh oh, all the enemies are MUCH stronger here. No longer are you one-shotting enemies.

I found it really unnecessary that when you reach the area with the second gym, they make you walk ALL the way back to the beginning town, and then trek all the way back again to the second gym. This feels like they’re dragging out the game to make it feel longer than possible.

The only positive out of grinding is finding out what Digimon you can get from which level combination. Your rookie Digimon level up very slowly as that’s their base stage. Their digivolved forms level up significantly faster. This way, it doesn’t take significantly long to have multiple forms for your team.

Digimon World 3 is a pretty fun game. While definitely not groundbreaking or original, it’s still a fun game for those who love very basic JRPG’s, and find fun with what Digimon they can customize for their party.

Quest 64 – Review

 

Released in 1998 on the Nintendo 64, Quest 64 was the first RPG released for the console in North America. The SNES was a goldmine for RPG’s, and everyone was starving for an RPG on the dry N64 library.

Story:

You play as a young boy Brian, and after hearing that your father has gone missing from his search for the Eletale Book, you begin your quest to find him and retrieve the book. During your travels to various countries, you find out that the four elemental orbs were stolen by thieves. This has nothing to do with the story whatsoever, and the only purpose it serves is to give you something to do in the game. Neither you collecting the orbs, or what purpose the Eletale Book does is ever explained in the game. This is also as far as deep the story gets, as it’s almost non-existent.

Gameplay:

Quest 64 differs from many RPG’s at the time, as it lacks an experience point system. Taking inspiration from Final Fantasy II, Quest 64 has a turn based battle system where you raise your stats from performing certain tasks in battle. Hitting things with your stick increases your attack, casting more magic increases magic, and getting hit a lot increases your HP. This can be counter-productive, as it increases the time spent grinding.

Your magic system is somewhat interesting, as you have four elements, and you increase it with gems to level up each element. There are two ways to gain gems: 1 – by grinding in battle until you are rewarded one, 2 – by finding them in hidden locations. Each time you gain a gem, you can select which element to apply it on. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to max out all four elements, so the realistic approach is to focus on two elements. The two most important elements are water and earth. Water is where your heal spells are, and earth has the most powerful spells, and the game breaking magic shield. Practically all of your enemies use magic to attack, and the magic shield makes you immune to magic. You could play the game normally, or reduce frustration by being a cheater, your choice.

Visuals:

This is probably the best part of the game. Unlike the majority of RPG’s on the PlayStation (or even a good bit on the PS2), Quest 64 is a full 3D game. It actually looks pretty nice running around in full 3D fantasy villages and castles. Even outside of town, the draw distance is actually fairly impressive for its time. Do keep in mind, that like other games from this time period, expect cardboard cutout fences/walls, and 2D trees. The only complaint with the visuals is that some of the towns and dungeons are kind of mazelike, and the shoddy camera controls don’t help.

Music:

The music is just okay. There are some decent tunes, but some of them seem uninspiring, or just bleepy. Don’t expect anything memorable.

 

Verdict:

For hardcore RPG fanatics, the lack of any kind of depth is going to put you off. The game itself is incredibly mediocre. You could ignore the lack of a story by having very entertaining gameplay, but that also is lackluster.

Music: 5/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.
Story: 5/10.
Content: 5/10.

Conclusion: 5/10