Legend of Mana – Review

Released in 1999 as Seiken Densetsu: Legend of Mana and released the following year in the US as Legend of Mana, it’s the fourth game in the Final Fantasy spinoff series, the Mana series. Or if you’re a hardcore fan, the Seiken Densetsu series (Legend of the Sacred Sword). Even though it’s the fourth game in the series, it’s the third one to make its release in the US. Despite the SNES being a sort of “golden age” for RPG’s, it was the dark ages for non-Japanese fans because companies like Square and Enix released games whenever they felt like it, because they thought Americans would never sit through a 30 hour game, and fuck PAL regions, they got the even shorter end of the rope.

So while we got the first two games, Final Fantasy Adventure (Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden), and the highly influential Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2), they skipped out of localizing Seiken Densetsu 3. They claim it’s because they had technical difficulties translating it, and it wouldn’t fit in the American cartridges. Rumors are flying around that we also didn’t get it because we were getting a different Square game, the Secret of Evermore instead. Whether it’s true or not is left to speculation, but we’re getting off track here.

Gameplay:

Breaking the cycle a bit this time by talking about the gameplay first, but with the setup of the game, it makes sense to talk about the gameplay first.

The gameplay is a bit sandbox style, which was a pretty drastic compared to most other JRPG’s, especially for its time. A big aspect of the game is the “land make” system. The world map is a blank slate, and throughout the game you collect items called artifacts. If you place an artifact on a spot on the map, it turns into a land region. So your first artifact contains the area where your home is, and then you collect later artifacts that can create the town of Domina, mines, etc. This is a great feature for those who find enjoyment in creating the layout of their world. With 36 artifacts to collect, there’s an endless possibility of customizing your world.

Along with creating your own world, you also get to focus on things you can do at your house. There’s an extensive crafting guide to forge your own weapons and armor, or enhance the ones you have. There’s also an orchard garden to grow your own fruits. These fruits go and help out with the monster corral which serve as your partners. You can raise various different creatures in the corral to assist you in battle.

The battle system is a bit like an action RPG, you fight on a horizontal plane, and you run around smacking your enemies with the sword in real time. In the early parts of the game, there isn’t much strategy, just mash the X button until the enemy dies. As the game goes along, you learn special moves, but to use them, you must build up your meter by attacking enough times. It’s almost like a limit break. Outside of boss battles, the battles themselves aren’t very difficult as you heal after every battle.

Story:

Unlike most JRPG’s, there isn’t an overarching story, it’s mostly consisting of just a bunch of random quests, about 67 total quests in total for the game, though you don’t even have to do all 67 to complete the game. There is some story in the game, and it consists of 3 different branches, but it’ll be a few hours before you even access the story, especially if you spend your time forging weapons and the like. Some quests have prerequisite quests to accomplish to even access them, but many of them can be started in any order.

Though this is where the game gets a bit tricky. There’s much of the game that pretty much requires you to need a guide. While some NPC’s that start the various quests give you a basic rundown for what to do for the quest, some of them can be either very vague, or just don’t tell you anything. Talking to an NPC that says “I can’t find my friend” will activate the quest, and there’s times where that’s all that is said. Tvtropes sums it up pretty well with how the guide is pretty much a requirement:

In Legend of Mana, obtaining the best weapon that can be obtained without crafting (which is itself a Guide Dang It) requires you to have a save file of SaGa Frontier 2 (another Square game), go to a save point, highlight the save file in the list, and then go to a particular location (whose purpose at this point is solely to get some fairly crappy pets) and fight a fairly difficult boss fight. The “highlight a save file from another game” mechanic? Never referenced anywhere, despite the fact that it is also used to obtain a particular pet early in the game, using a Final Fantasy VIII save file.

This file is a description of the tempering (Item Crafting) system in Legend of Mana. It’s 160 kilobytes in size, and you better hope your head doesn’t explode before you grasp the basics.

Aside from the exceptionally deep crafting system and pet raising, the game is a collection of 67 side quests. Some of these quests are dependent on the placement of artifacts on a carefully selected piece of the map, with a specific order, and the quests have to be done in the correct order. Some quests require that another quest is not completed or active. In other words, if you want to be able to do all 67 quests in one run, you’re going to need a guide. It’s next to impossible for a gamer to figure out a structure for the game without prior experience playing it and a lot of mathematics and brain wracking.

Possibly the worst example of this is the quest “Rachel”. It seems impossible to find a guide that knew for certain what the requirements for triggering this quest are.

Even figuring out how to complete some of the quests can be extremely frustrating without a walkthrough. Two of the three main story arcs don’t make it clear how to start a fair number of the component quests, and to advance in some of the optional quests you have to do things like enter a town area from a specific direction, go to a completely random different town to find a NPC you’re looking for (who isn’t generally known to be there), and repeatedly talking to the leader of a tribe of creatures who speak a one-word language until a nearby NPC happens to wander close enough that he’ll offer to translate.

Have fun pulling out your hair if you’re one of those who are big on not using a guide to play their games.

A big aspect of the game for keeping track of your quests is the Cactus Diaries. You have a cactus growing in your room, and you must talk to it after you complete a quest. If you miss your opportunity to talk to it, you’ll miss out forever until you do a New Game Plus. Tvtropes also talks about how silly this gets:

In one of your sidequests, your Cactus (who is responsible for Cactus Diary entries) runs off and you have to find him. If you finish any of your other sidequests in the meantime, they will not be recorded as complete in said Diary and you’ll have to wait for a New Game Plus to try again.

Hell, any of the Cactus Diary entries are Lost Forever if you fail to talk to Lil’ Cactus before finishing another event. This can be very irritating for first-time players due to abruptly-ending events (“Mana Orchards” springs to mind) causing the previous event’s entry to be lost, or even worse, the event “Lil’ Cactus”. Whatever you do, NEVER talk to Bud if you have a Diary entry waiting to be recorded. (Luckily, “Daddy’s Broom” does not cause this same thing: while the cactus leaves, he also comes back before the event ends. Once again, however, failing to talk to Bud LAST will screw you over: if you don’t, you’ll lose Bud when you go back into the house to talk to Lil’ Cactus, and he won’t come back until after the event.)

Visuals:

Unlike Square’s other RPG’s that went for 3D polygons on a 2D prerendered background, Legend of Mana uses 2D sprites instead on the same prerendered backgrounds. The characters and backgrounds almost look like they were hand drawn, which gives this a feeling of a children’s fantasy book you’ve probably read as a child. Even down to the colors, it looks almost like a pastel drawing. So whether or not you find the story to be a bitch to get through, you’ll at least be pleased with scenery porn with it’s beautifully drawn characters and scenery.

Music:

The music is also really good in this game. While some music matches other JRPG’s in sound, there’s diversity in there to make it stand out from the rest of the pack. So when you’re getting annoyed at where the hell you’re supposed to go, you’ll at least be looking at a nice background and hearing wonderful music. Just ignore the annoying ass theme song sung in Swedish.

Verdict:

Legend of Mana is a pretty decent game, with its gorgeous hand drawn graphics and awesome scenery, the in depth crafting guide, there’s plenty to enjoy in this game. It’ll probably turn off many for its large lack of a story, and many quests being vague. One of the biggest downfalls of the game is how much of the quests leave you very lost, or have very tricky ways of activating them. The pretty much required use of a guide makes this game much more of a pain than it really needs to be. While handholding can make a game feel watered down, making it too vague is also a problem. If only there was a certain midway for this, the game could have been executed much better.

Music: 7/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 8/10.

Story: 6/10.

Content: 7/10.

Conclusion: 7/10

Nostalgia – Review

Nostalgia was released in 2008 in Japan, where it’s known as Winds of Nostalgio, and in 2009 for the US. It was developed by Red Entertainment and Matrix Software, and shares the same producer as the DS remakes of Final Fantasy III and Final Fantasy IV. After working on remaking two Final Fantasy titles, they dubbed the game as Nostalgia as they wanted a game that likened back to games from the 8 bit and 16 bit era and shares very similar gameplay and story elements. The name is also  a reference to how the game takes place in our world, but in the past, and features many real world places that we are familiar with.

Story:

The game takes place in an alternate reality of the 19th century, and has a steampunk setting. You play as Eddie Brown whose dream is to be a great adventurer like his father, who has recently gone missing. Over the course of the game, your party grows and you gain a party of characters and somehow your missing father is tied in with the fate of the world being troubled by an evil organization.

Gameplay:

For the most part, the game is your pretty basic turn based RPG with random encounters. The turn based battle system is a little similar to Final Fantasy X where there’s a bar that shows which character/monster is going to attack next, and everything is based on speed on who gets to attack next. After completing a battle, you get graded on how well you do, and the higher the grade, the more experience you gain, and you have a chance of getting a prize. Also after battle, you gain skill points where you use them to level up your skills to not only make them stronger, but to also allow you to learn new skills.

Another feature of the game is aerial combat. All overworld travel in the game is done by airship, and all the random encounters are fought with the airship. Each character controls a certain part of the airship, and they are used to attack enemies. The annoyance factor is that your airship doesn’t really level up, and you can only increase its stats by buying airship parts, which isn’t readily available.

There is a large quest system in the game though the Adventurer Society where they make you venture back to previously visited areas to gain special items and such, while it doesn’t add much to the story, it gives you more to the game when you either finished the game, or want to take a break from the main story.

Visuals:

The visuals for the game are pretty good for a DS game. Similar to Final Fantasy III and IV, the game has an overhead view with 3D polygonal characters on a fixed 3D background. The game does have a bit of a cartoony feel to it, with the graphics and overall feel of the game. While there is a variety of environments you adventure through, a lot of the designs feel pretty bland and uninspiring. While all of the cities, and many of the dungeons are based on real places, it doesn’t really give you a feel of being there. They basically just made a generic town, or dungeon and slapped a name on it.

Music:

The music itself is good, and there’s diversity with it, as when you’re in Egypt, they give you a Middle Eastern tinge to the music, and being in Nepal gives you a more South Asian tinge, but overall the soundtrack isn’t really as memorable as some other games. Like the game itself, the music also tries to sound similar to old school RPG’s.

Verdict:

The game strives to be a sort of comfort food for those who are fond of the gameplay to 8 bit and 16 bit RPG’s, but want a new game, but it doesn’t really go beyond that and make itself its own identity. The game is a pretty generic run of the mill RPG from its gameplay down to the story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it also doesn’t try to make itself overly interesting either. It copies how older RPG’s don’t have very interesting playable characters, and even the enemy characters are pretty generic “I’m evil, hahaha, try and stop me”.

While it is cool that the game takes place in our world  and uses real place names, like mentioned earlier, it doesn’t really do much outside of saying “hey, it takes place in our world” as they could have tweaked how the map looks and created different names for the towns and dungeons and it would have been just as fine.

Nostalgia is a good game, but it’s really only for someone who just wants a game to pass time and a game to beat once, and not look back at it. So if you want an RPG that isn’t too intense, or just want to play a comfort food sort of game, then Nostalgia is a good game to buy. If you’re looking for a fantastic game, then look elsewhere.

Music: 5/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 6/10.

Story: 5/10.

Content: 6/10.

Conclusion: 6/10

Final Fantasy VI – Review

Ah, one of the big guns. Final Fantasy VI was released on the SNES in 1994, and was released in the US as Final Fantasy III to prevent confusion for American gamers as they were missing a few entrees. This is not only one of the most critically games in the series, but in the entire genre.

As with several Nintendo era Final Fantasies, this was re-released on the Playstation. This was packaged with Final Fantasy V as Final Fantasy Anthology, and the games were basically direct ports, though with added CGI cutscenes for the opening and ending. FF6 got a bit more treatment, as there’s slightly less censorship, and bonus galleries, many of which have to be unlocked by beating the game. This review is based on the PS1 version.

Story:

You play as Terra Branford, who is an imperial soldier who is sent to investigate the mines of the village of Narshe. They come across a frozen esper who kills the two other soldiers and makes Terra unconscious. She wakes up and finds out that her headband has been removed, and she is no longer under the control of the Empire. Imperial soldiers appear and her protector Locke Cole, a “treasure hunter”, takes her away and the two run off to the nearby kingdom of Figaro. They talk to the king Edgar Roni Figaro, and reveal that they are part of a rebel group called the Returners who are against the Empire. Thus your adventure begins.

Gameplay:

As a contrast to FF5 with its massive job classes, FF6 has no class system. Many of the characters are based off of existing classes, and their abilities reflect them. To compensate, there are espers to equip. When you equip an esper, you gain magic points from battle, and if you gain enough magic points, you learn the magic the esper knows. The best part, is that the magic you learn is permanent, so when you unequip an esper, you keep the magic and you can equip another esper to increase your magic pool. So if you have the patience, you can have every character have every spell in the game.

Visuals:

Final Fantasy VI is one of the best looking SNES rpg’s. The sprites are incredibly detailed, and the world looks fantastic. They utilize Mode 7 for the entire overworld instead of just having it for airships. Personally not a fan of Mode 7, but it does make the world seem a bit more expansive and three dimensional. This is the first game where the sprites look the same in and out of battle, also with the larger and more detailed sprites, it makes the little movements and reactions one step closer to being more realistic like later games..

The overall shade of the game is pretty dark, and it does fit with the nature of the second half of the game. Also as a contrast to the medievial nature of the previous games, this game has a steampunk theme.

Music:

Final Fantasy VI has one of the best soundtracks on the system, with many memorable tunes and including the infamous 3 part Dancing Mad, the final boss tune.

Verdict:

Final Fantasy VI is a classic that lives on and raised the bar for future RPG’s, and took a niche genre even farther into the mainstream light. The PS1 version is probably the easiest version to get ahold of (aside from the mobile version which kind of looks like ass and costs more). The PS1 version does suffer minor loading times, but it’s very minor, and more people make up a fuss over something that’s not very noticeable. So definitely snag a copy of this game and enjoy it.

Music: 8/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 9/10.

Story: 8/10.

Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 9/10

Final Fantasy V – Review

Released in 1992, Final Fantasy V rocked Japan. Sadly this was yet another Final Fantasy game to not be released outside of Japan. Originally planned to be released as Final Fantasy III in the US, Square decided to pass up on it, as it was considered too difficult for the American gamer. Luckily thanks to the massive popularity of Final Fantasy VII, Square decided to re-release most of their back catalog on the Playstation, and Final Fantasy V was ported alongside Final Fantasy VI as Final Fantasy Anthology. This collection is pretty much a direct port with added FMV cutscenes for the opening and ending of the games. This review is based on the Anthology version.

Story
You play as Bartz Klauser, an adventurer who sees a meteor crash near him. At the crash site, he discovers an unconscious girl. The girl awakens and says her name is Reina (Lenna in later versions of the game), and she says she was on her way to the Wind Shrine, as her father has taken off to it, and hasn’t returned. They run across an old man named Galuf, who has amnesia thanks to the crash. All he knows is that he too has to visit the Wind Shrine. The three take off and explore a nearby cave. They run into a gang of pirates, and the captain Faris. Faris offers to lend them the pirate ship, and accompany them to the Wind Shrine. After reaching the top of the Wind Shrine, they come across the Wind Crystal, and Reina’s father tells them to save the other crystals, or else the seal on the evil Exdeath is going to be broken. They set off on their adventure.

Compared to the other SNES Final Fantasies, FF5 is a bit lacking in the story department. It’s reminiscent of the FF1 and FF3 where your goal is to protect the crystals and the story isn’t much deeper than that.

Gameplay

In the gameplay department, FF5 hasn’t necessarily progressed much from FF4. Battles are basically the same, except the ATB has a bar to see when it’s your turn. This will be a standard for future installments. What this game is famous for, is its class system. In some ways, it’s similar to FF3, but with a much larger roster. Also you can equip two abilities, so when you level up your job class to a specific level, you can equip that ability when you change classes. So you can start off leveling up a black mage, and then change to a white mage, and have a white mage who knows level 3 black magic.

Visuals
For an early SNES game, it’s pretty decent. While not a drastic difference in FF4, there’s still improvements. When you’re walking through the trees, you can at least see your character’s feet behind it. In FF4, your body was just cut in half.

Music
FF5 has a pretty good soundtrack, and has some of the best songs for towns. The more relaxed pieces are probably the highlights of the OST.

Verdict:
While FF5 is weak in the story department compared to FF4 and FF6, it makes up for in gameplay. If one enjoys a game that focuses on adventure, then this is definitely one for you. Also it’s a great addition to anyone who loves 16 bit RPG’s.

Music: 7/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 8/10.

Story: 6/10.

Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 8/10

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 – Review

Think that life simulation, dungeon crawling, and supernatural murder mystery solving all go together? Then Persona 4 is for you.

Released in 2008 by Atlus on the PS2, the latest entry into the subseries of the Shin Megami Tensei games known as Persona, Persona 4 takes the template set up by Persona 3 and adds a few tweaks to the system incorporated with an all new story and cast. Persona 4 also seems to break the cycle of the series being redesigned from the ground up as the predecessors have, which may have angered a few hardcore SMT fans, but the rest of the gaming world seems deeply satisfied.

Gameplay:

Like Persona 3, Persona 4 is a mix between life simulation and dungeon crawling, and the game progresses day by day. The days are separated into morning, afternoon, and night; each with different actions being available. The mornings largely consist of you being in class, the game usually fast forwards through this, but occasionally you’ll get quizzed on random trivia and if you get it right, you’ll increase certain stats. In the afternoon, you get either a choice between progressing into the TV world to complete the various dungeons, or to hang out with various students (or get a job) to increase your social link levels (more on this later). At night, there isn’t much to do but study to increase your knowledge, read a book to increase other stats, or go to sleep to go to the next day. Occasionally there’ll be mandatory story events at night.

For the dungeon crawling, you are tasked with reaching the top of the tower and defeating the boss by the specific deadline, or risk having a game over. Unlike Persona 3, the dungeon layouts aren’t randomly generated, and you also have the ability to go down to lower floors if the enemies are getting too tough for you. Dungeon navigation is done in full 3D, and you get to see your character, and your party members following you around. The monsters (called shadows) are visible on screen, so there’s none of the annoyance of random encounters. You are unable to tell what kind of shadows you’ll fight, as they are displayed by a generic shadow sprite. You are also able to swing your sword at the shadows to initiate the battles, if you successfully swing it, you can have an initiative at the beginning of battle. If you fail, or just touch the shadow, you just have a regular battle. The shadows are also able to chase after you, so if they catch you, they get the initiative. Though if you are above a certain level in each dungeon, you are able to scare off the shadows.

The battle system is largely your traditional turn based battle system, but most of your abilities focus on you summoning various Personas. Personas are what the series calls the various monsters you summon into battle. Many of them are based on various mythological characters from various cultures around the world. Each Persona has their own stats, abilities, and weaknesses, and the hero is the only one with the ability to have multiple Personas while the rest of your party only has their own special Persona. To gain more Personas, you get an event after certain battles to collect the cards with Personas on them. They briefly flash you the cards and you have to get the card right, the penalty will risk you leaving empty handed, and possibly losing all the experience you got from the battle. For your party, you have a choice between having the rest of your party under tactics to let the AI do the thinking for you, or for full manual. Luckily the AI in this game is fairly smart, and you can go through the game with tactics with no problems.

The big deal with the Personas is fusion. While the ones you gain from battles have their abilities, they are fairly weak and only know one or two moves. Your task is to go to the Velvet Room and fuse Personas together to gain stronger Personas with more, and stronger, moves. You are also able to save Personas into a compendium to recall them later if you want them back, but they cost money.

Your character has two different sets of stats: one for battle, and one for social. The battle stats are your basic RPG stats, but the social stats can help you along with the social aspect of the game. Allowing you to be able to talk to certain people, or to initiate certain story events.

The beauty of Persona 4 is how the social aspects of the game, and the dungeon crawling aspects are fairly dependent on each other. The social links are corresponded with a certain tarot card arcana, one social link for one arcana. The various Personas are also categorized by tarot card arcana. If you hang out with the social link people enough, the corresponding link will level up, this in turn gives your Persona an experience boost when you fuse to make them even stronger, and saves you grinding time. Each of your party members also have social links, so if you max out a party member’s social link, their Persona evolves into a stronger one.

With the social links, you basically hang out with a person and help them through their dilemma. You get to watch various people work through their life problems, and you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when you help them out. The girls’ social links have a slightly different ending, if you max out a girl’s social link, they will ask you out and you can start dating. The problem with this is if you have a bunch of girls around a certain social link level, they’ll start to get jealous and leave you with a broken social link that you must then mend! If you do time everything right, you are able to have multiple girlfriends in the game, and end up dating all of the girls in your party (and then some What a stud!)

Story and Cast:

The protagonist has no default name, but if you watched the anime, or played Persona 4 Arena, he is known as Yu Narukami, and for the sake of this review, we shall also associate him as such.

You play as Yu Narukami as he has to spend a year of high school at a new school in the small town of Inaba. Your parents are going to be working for the entire year overseas and you must live with your uncle Dojima and your elementary school cousin, Nanako. As you enter the school, you soon befriend 3 students: the goofy Yosuke, tomboy Chie, and the elegant Yukiko, who are all friends.

Chie tells you of a rumor flying around school about something known as the Midnight Channel, where if you watch TV at midnight when it’s raining, you’ll see your destined lover on there. As the game goes on, you discover that the people on the channel show up missing, and appear dead a few days later, and you and your friends begin to notice something suspicious, as clearly you can’t have a Shin Megami Tensei game without murder victims. You then discover that there’s a hidden world inside the TV and there’s a strange bear known as Teddie who tells you about a stranger throwing people inside and you find out that those people were the kidnapped victims.

Most of the game cycles around you seeing a person on the Midnight Channel, and jumping into the channel to prevent them from dying. All while trying to figure out who the culprit behind the murders and kidnapping. They also tend to mix in stories revolving around your high school experience which tends to follow some typical tropes from anime school shows like: summer vacation, school camping trip, school festival, swimsuit scene, etc. While the story may have a dark demeanor in it, there’s also a mix of comedy into it to lighten the mood. While the game can feel a bit repetitive after awhile, the story events can be quite enjoyable and give very nice breaks away from the grinding. While there are plot twists in the story, you won’t have to worry about M Night Shyamalan style twists like a few Final Fantasy games, and the story is a bit straightforward.

The game is largely voice acted, with only the social links not being voiced. There is only the English voice cast, so if you’re a Japanese voice purist, then you will be disappointed. Though if you’re okay with English voices, the voice cast is very well done and has some big names like Johnny Yong Bosche of Bleach and Code Geass fame and Ali Hillis from Final Fantasy XIII and Mass Effect.

There is a fairly large cast, but each of the main characters get their time in the spotlight, and thanks to the social links, your party members don’t feel underdeveloped and paper thin like some other RPG’s. They don’t throw a large cast at you in the beginning, since you slowly accumulate more as the game progresses.

Visuals:

The art style is largely anime based, and Atlus also doesn’t disappoint with the graphics which are quite good for a late PS2 title. Everything is rendered in 3D polygons, and the characters are full sized (none of that super deformed nonsense) and very closely resemble the anime graphic they show when they’re talking. Even the anime graphic has different facial expressions when they’re talking, to add to their feelings.While you are only able to rotate the camera while you’re in a dungeon, or at school, you still feel like you’re running around in a small town despite the limited exploration you can do. Occasionally there are full anime cutscenes, but they are fairly rare.

A few screenshots:

Music:

The game comes with a CD of the soundtrack, luckily it’s a fantastic soundtrack. Persona 4 follows the steps of Persona 3 by having a more J-pop influenced soundtrack with vocals sung in English. Luckily, unlike 3, the Japanese vocalist has a much better English accent and you can understand what she is saying, whereas with Persona 3’s vocalist, you’d think she’s singing in Japanese until you look at the lyrics and it’s supposed to be in English.

While some of the songs have a J-pop twist, it’s not that fluffy and cute stuff that some people associate J-pop with, and there’s several instrumental tracks to keep with the mood of the game when it starts to get dark.

Verdict:
As typical of a Shin Megami Tensei game, this is quite a monstrous game and will be quite lengthy. Luckily there’s plenty to do in the game to break from the mundainty, and you will be kept on your toes over who the killer is. With its colorful cast and great story, Persona 4 is perfect for those who want to dedicate time to a lengthy RPG that doesn’t crush under its own weight.

Music: 9/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 9/10.

Story: 9/10.

Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 9/10

Final Fantasy IV – Review

Released in 1991 in Japan, Final Fantasy IV is considered a landmark in RPG’s. It’s considered one of the first RPG’s to have a story-driven and complex plot. The original US release on SNES confused gamers, as it’s called Final Fantasy II, because it was the second FF game to come to the US. Despite being completely butchered in the localization process, it was also praised. Though now in retrospect, and after several more faithful ports, it’s kind of frowned upon. In 2008 a 3D overhaul was released on the DS. Along with new visuals, this has many surprise updates, and this version is what this review will be on.

Story:

You play as Cecil Harvey, captain of the Red Wings, and the game begins as you return from the city of Mysidia after stealing their water crystal. Disturbed by the actions he just committed, he voiced his concern to his king, and the infuriated king  removes Cecil’s rank and sends him off. His close friend Kain Highwind speaks up for him, and the king gives them both an order, to deliver a ring to the village of summoners.

The next morning Cecil and Kain head off to the village, and when they finally make it, they realize that the ring contained a spell that then destroys the entire village. Cecil realize the farce and then proceeds to do what he can to find out what’s wrong with his country.

Gameplay:

This game is the first appearance of the Active Time Battle system that the series would continue to use for several installments. It’s largely a turn-based battle system, but with a timer to make it more similar to a real-time battle system where you have to act in real time to make decisions. There’s two gameplay options regarding this: there’s active and wait. Active is the full extent of the system where scrolling through the menus waste time, while wait pauses the battle during the menu screens. The SNES versions of FF4 do not show a time meter, but later installments, including this one, have a bar like the later games.

A new feature specific to this version is the augment system, where you can find augments lying around the game and you can give your characters extra abilities.

Another addition to this game is the increased difficulty level. Square wanted to surprise veteran fans by not only increasing the difficulty, but also changing the strategies needed to kill some of the bosses. While this does make the game more challenging, but it also increases amount of grinding done in the game. The bosses have increased stats and you have higher level requirements, but at the same time they forgot to give you more experience in battle. So later on in the game when you have to grind 3 or 4 levels, it takes ages.

Visuals:

This game uses the same engine as the DS remake of Final Fantasy III, but they learned from the previous game that they needed to utilize the second screen more, so it’s no longer just left black through much of the game. The graphics are updated from FFIII, so it’s not like the Dragon Quest remakes where they look exactly the same. The 3D graphics do breathe a lot of life into the game, finally seeing more detailed characters than the previous versions is definitely a plus.

Music:

List most FF games, the soundtrack is very well done, and the DS sounds a lot better than the old 16 bit versions of the SNES versions.

Verdict:

Final Fantasy IV is a great game, though while some aspects of the game haven’t aged really well in the SNES versions, the DS does spice it up to keep it relevant. Though the enhanced difficulty can get annoying, and grinding can be a massive pain, but if you can shovel through the bad parts, there’s a very enjoyable game underneath.

Music: 7/10

Visuals: 8/10

Story: 7/10

Content: 8/10

Conclusion: 8/10

Terranigma – Review

Released in 1995 and published by Enix and developed by Quintet, Terranigma is an Action RPG that’s very reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda series. Sadly it was never released in North America, but it was released in PAL regions, so there is an official English translation available. Quintet is known for other games like Soul Blazer and The Illusion of Gaia and shares similar gameplay with the two.

Story:

You play as the protagonist, the troublemaking Ark who lives in the village of Crysta, the only known village and nobody enters or leaves. There is a forbidden door that is closely guarded by the Village Elder, Ark finds the opportunity and opens the door and discovers a strange box. The box then casts a curse on the entire village freezing everybody but Ark and the Elder. The Elder informs Ark that to lift the curse, he must be the first to leave the and defeat the masters of the various towers strewn across the world. Defeating each tower breaks the seals on one of the various continents of the world (they’re the same as our continents) and makes them reappear in the world.

Gameplay

The game is your typical top-down SNES game like the other RPGs and The Legend of Zelda. Like the Legend of Zelda, the various dungeons and caves have various obstacles and puzzles that hinder your progression. Combat is also very similar to Zelda, but you have a few extra moves and you can perform magic. Like RPGs, killing the monsters give you experience and you can gain money.

The various dungeons strewn across the world either have tricky puzzles to figure out, or you go through a lengthy terrain and there are tricky obstacles and tough monsters to get through. Much of the game is difficult enough to make it not an easy stroll, but you can end up getting confused on what to do or where to go. While a walkthrough isn’t required, it’s very helpful.

Visuals:

Terranigma’s graphics are pretty good for a SNES game. As it’s a later release, the game takes advantage of what the SNES is capable of and the graphics are pretty comparable to Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. While some of the dungeons at the beginning of the game are pretty sameish, after the world is unlocked, a lot of the game’s various regions are very well detailed.

Music:

As typical SNES RPGs from Enix and Square, the soundtrack is symphonic MIDI and there’s some pretty good tracks on there. The initial gameplay feels a bit repetitive, but after the world opens up, the soundtrack also diversifies to give you a more diverse experience with the various regions you now have to explore

Verdict:

Terranigma is a great addition to anyone’s collection who is fond of Zelda type games and looking into healthy alternatives. If you like challenging puzzles, fun boss fights, and a great story, then Terranigma is a great addition to anyone’s SNES collection.

Music: 7/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.

Story: 8/10.

Content: 7/10.

 

Conclusion: 7/10