Ys: The Ancient Omen – Review

When it comes to 80’s RPG’s, only two prominent games come to mind: Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Not hard, seeing as those two are continuing franchises, and are landmarks in video game and RPG history. Another RPG from the time period that ones can name would be Phantasy Star, for the few people who owned a Master System outside of Europe and Brazil. An often overlooked and forgotten game from this era (or hell, a forgotten franchise) is the Ys series.

Originally released in 1987 on the NEC PC-8801, and, like its contemporaries, was ported to a million different consoles, with the first home console release being on the Sega Master System. This version was also the first version to be released outside of Japan, where it was well received. Also like its contemporaries, it was also remade several times, with most future releases also being available outside of Japan. The Master System version was also the last time the game was ever a standalone release, much like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy almost always being packaged with its sequel. The particular version we are going to look at today will be the remake on the PSP, as part of the YS I & II Chronicles. Maybe in the future we will look at a review of the Master System, NES, and Turbo versions, but we’ll stick with the PSP version for now.

Story:

You play as an adventurer name Adol Christin who has stumbled into the town of Minea and meets a fortune teller named Sara. Sara informs Adol that there is a great evil in the land and to stop this, he must collect the six books of Ys. After proving his worth to her, she instructs him to meet with her aunt in the village of Zepik. She has the key to one of the books, and thus your quest begins.

Typical of other RPG’s from the time period, the plot is really thin and mostly exists to give you a purpose from point A to B, or why you have to go and collect a set number of MacGuffins to achieve a goal. This is before the days of story driven RPG’s, so it’s a bit harsh to criticize the lack of a story when this type of story was the norm. Final Fantasy IV was quite a ways away.

Gameplay:

What sets Ys apart from many RPG’s is the battle system. Instead of using a turn-based battle system, or a Zelda style action system, Ys uses a strange “bump” system. You attack your enemies by running into them. It’s a bit weird, and takes a tad bit of getting used to, since bumping into enemies usually gets you hurt in other games. You can and will receive damage when you run head-on into enemies. The key to surviving is to either bump into them off-center, or from the side or back. You can recover health by just standing still outside of a dungeon.

This battle system is fine and simple, but it gets really boring. Regular enemies take no strategy, as you just… run into them. Bosses, if you’re the correct level, can be a bit challenging, but it really just involves you running around the boss, then bumping into the boss. Once you learn the boss’s movements, it gets really easy.

The biggest annoyance is the beginning of the game and the final dungeon. The beginning is sort of typical of most 80’s RPG’s where you have to grind before you can really start. With other games, it’s sort of implied when you start dying when you stray a bit too far away from the starter town, in Ys, it’s in the story. Before Sara tells you what you really need to do, she pulls a Mido from Ocarina of Time and says you need armor, a sword, and a shield. Well you only have enough money for two of those items, so you have to collect 700 gold to buy a shield, and you only get two gold per enemy. You see where this is going.

The final dungeon is a test of your patience. It’s over 20 floors long, and there’s enemies galore and some even have puzzles. It’s kind of interesting at first, but after your 5th or so floor, you just want to get it done with. Sure final dungeons are supposed to be a test of your skills, but when you have a 20+ floor tower, it’s just ridiculous.

Visuals:

For a 2D PSP game, the visuals look good enough. There isn’t really much to say about it, it looks good.

Music:

The music is pretty good. Some of the tunes like for the overworld and town music is really memorable. A feature in the PSP remake is that you have the option of which soundtrack you want to listen to. The original PC-8801 soundtrack, the 2001 Windows arrangement, or the version for the PSP.

 

Verdict:

The game is a classic, but the bump system takes a bit of getting used to. Typical of RPG’s from this era, it would really only grasp the attention of someone who really loves their RPG’s. The lack of depth to the story and the game being a giant fetch quest would make this hard to recommend to newcomers to the series or RPG genre. It’s still quite fun for anyone looking to play a retro classic.

Music: 7/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.
Story: 5/10.
Content: 6/10.

Conclusion: 6/10

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Dragon Quest XI – First Impressions

It’s been 9 years since Dragon Quest IX and even longer since Dragon Quest VIII for a DQ game to come out on a console that wasn’t an MMO. So far everything in the gameplay and story department is just as enjoyable as most of the DQ games. The only real downfalls are in the battle system and music. It’s only minor for the battle system, but it feels really pointless when you can move your party around the battlefield, but it does absolutely nothing. The music also is a bit disappointing. It’s not orchestrated, and also half the soundtrack is recycled from the rest of the franchise. It’s not unusual starting with DQ8 for Koichi Sugiyama to recycle a couple tracks, but it feels like half the songs I hear are from almost every other game. I wish that Sugiyama was able to write more tracks.

Can’t wait to finish the game and write a full review on it.

Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – First Impressions

The fourth (well technically sixth) game in the Sword Art Online franchise, Kirito and the gang ditch their swords and enter the world of Gun Gale Online. For once the game features character creation that actually matters. Previously, the game allowed you to customize an avatar, but you always played as Kirito. It felt incredibly pointless allowing me to design and name a character, but ultimately get called Kirito by every player. So this is the first time where I actually created a character. You also get to design a robot waifu, figured I might as well make her a loli.

Like the other SAO games, the story is sort of non-existent for awhile, though it also probably doesn’t get much development like the other games. I personally never played these games for the story, but for the fact that they’re all pretty lengthy games that take up a lot of time, and also have pretty decent combat systems. The game plays like a third-person shooter, and you can swap to first-person mode to take out some long distance enemies. It follows the other games where you go take out enemy-filled dungeons until you get to the final boss.

I’m not expecting a whole lot out of the game, but it’s been quite fun so far.

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.

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