Final Fantasy IX – Review

Released in 2000, Final Fantasy was created as a reflection on the Final Fantasy series, and creator Hironobu Sakaguchi claims is also his favorite in the series. After creating two games set in a more futuristic setting, this game was set back in the medieval high fantasy setting from the older games in the franchise. Also the game jettisons the concept of using any character you want and allowing them to learn every spell, and bringing back characters who have fixed classes and characters having a limited number of moves.

Story:

You play as Zidane Tribal, a thief who is a member of bandits from Lindblum called Tantalus who also double as a theater troupe. The game begins with an big event happening in the kingdom of Alexandria where Tantalus is going to perform a play.You then play through a perspective of multiple characters leading up to the actual performance. Later it is revealed that the play is a ruse to kidnap the princes of Alexandria, Princess Garnet. You find out Princess Garnet is willing to be kidnapped, as she is wanting to escape the country to figure out Queen Brahne’s erratic behavior and wishes to go to Lindblum. You then attempt to escape Alexandria and you are attacked by the Alexandrian forces, and the airship you are on crashes into a forest. When you finally reach Lindblum you discover that Brahne is trying to cause a war and the characters become intertwined in world affairs.

Gameplay:

Gameplay for the most part has been unchanged from the previous games. Like mentioned above, the characters are in fixed classes, meaning they can only learn certain abilities, even when you have two characters in the same class. You do learn abilities differently in this game than previous titles. You don’t learn abilities just from leveling up, to learn abilities from your equipment. Each equipment item lets you learn a number of abilities, and when you battle with those items equipped, you gain ability points. Initially you can only use those abilities when you have those items equipped, but when you max out the ability points on an ability, it is now permanent on your character.

Those are the action abilities, meaning they’re pretty much moves in battle like magic and summoning. You can also learn support abilities. Support abilities basically let you learn things like immunity to certain ailments and doing extra damage to certain monster classes. These abilities take up a number of  stones, so you have a limited number of supports to equip, but the higher the level you get, the more you can equip.

Visuals:

Similar to many other Playstation RPG’s (especially from Square), the game uses 3D polygonal characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. Seeing as they mastered the technology by Final Fantasy VIII, there are no issues when it comes to navigating.

The game does have a very steampunk medieval fantasy theme and also very cartoonish style for the game in general. This gives the game a very unique look to it, and caters to the “fantasy” part in Final Fantasy. They throw in a lot of anthropomorphic animals as characters giving it even more of a fairy tale feel.

Music:

The game features a very strong soundtrack, and goes back to the style of music from the older SNES titles. It’s a lot more upbeat compared to the previous PS1 titles.

Verdict:

Final Fantasy IX is a fantastic game, and the more “traditional” out of the Playstation Final Fantasy trilogy. It’s interesting picking up references to previous titles. The strong gameplay, story, and even the artstyle all fall together giving you a fantastic journey.

Music: 8/10

Visuals: 10/10

Story: 8/10

Content: 8/10

Conclusion: 9/10

Dragon Quest VIII Mobile – First Impressions

Ah Dragon Quest VIII, what a fantastic game on the PS2. Many have dreamed of playing this on the go and now their dreams have fulfilled, or would be if it wasn’t on mobile. Does this game hold up against its console brother or is it an abomination, let’s explore this title.

One of the first things you’ll notice is the lack of voice acting. This is one of the biggest complaints in the comments section for the reviews on the iOS market, but it is a bit pathetic to give a game a three star rating with your only complaint being “there’s no voice acting!”. Maybe I should just stop reading reviews on the iOS app store, they’re as bad as Youtube comments… While it is a bit odd not having voices after playing the game for years with voices, it doesn’t take away from the gameplay at all. Hell the Japanese version of the game didn’t have voice acting. Maybe Square thought that Americans couldn’t play a game without voices? So for a bit of purism, this is a closer experience to what the original Japanese audience experienced.

Speaking of closer to what the Japanese experienced, the music is also different, well… sort of. The second biggest complaint you’ll see over this version of the game is that all the music is midi, not performed by an orchestra. Similar to the voice acting, it’s also weird when you’re used to an orchestra. Though unlike the voice acting, if you’re not really paying attention, you’ll probably end up forgetting about it anyway, or you even just get over it. This happens a lot when you get a port or remaster of a game and the ost is arranged a bit different.

Well instead of lollygagging around, let’s talk about the actual gameplay. Unlike the NES trilogy that they ported to mobile, this one can be a bit easier to fuck up when it comes to gameplay. In a top-down 2D game, you have to try to fuck up navigation, when you’re playing a full 3D game, you have to be creative to come up with how to navigate around the world. For the most part, they got it right. It was initially awkward, but after a few minutes of playing around, I got a hang of it.

The game is only played in portrait mode, so you can play the game with one hand. With this, you can’t control both your character and the camera, but for the most part, the camera kind of follows you around, so you really only need it when you’re inside buildings and such. They also found a way to compensate it, you can use the auto-walk button and then use your finger to simultaneously move the camera and steer the character. This is more useful in wide open places, like the overworld, or just large spaces in towns. When you’re walking around inside houses and such, this is where it tends to be awkward.

Regarding menus and UI, so far I haven’t found anything worth complaining about. It looks more compact due to screen real estate. It’s easy to navigate and move things around. Further among the topic of visuals, the game has an HD texture on it. It looks really good for the most part, but sometimes characters and objects sticking out, like buildings or posts/trees etc, look superimposed and stick out too much, it’s like they used a PS2 emulator and weren’t able to get the backgrounds and whatnot to look amazing. Also the cutscenes tend to be a bit grainy. They recycled the video footage from the PS2 game, but probably weren’t able to get it in a higher resolution, so they just blew it up and made it a bit grainy. It’s similar to how you’ll notice picture quality difference on PS1 games when cutscenes happen. The final visual complaint is during battle, the numbers indicating damage look squished. I thought they would just cut off the sides to fit the portrait screen, but I didn’t expect them to squish it together.

All in all, Dragon Quest VIII is pretty good on mobile devices. It feels more comfortable on a phone rather than on a tablet. It seems tablets are better for landscape style rather than portraits. It makes more sense that way, seeing as portrait games seem to be designed to play with one hand. If one has never played DQ8 before, this is not a bad port. Though if you were a fan of the PS2, it might be a tad bit awkward and take a bit of getting used to, but still a great experience.

It’s strange how this is much better than the mobile port of Final Fantasy VI. You’d be worried for the full 3D game rather than a 2D game, but FF6 has more fuckups. Shows that Enix knows what they’re doing in the mobile department more than Square does.

Final Fantasy VIII – Review

Released in 1999, Final Fantasy VIII was the highly anticipated successor to the very successful Final Fantasy VII. It’s the first game in the series to have a more realistic look to it, and was seen as a departure in the franchise with its jettisoning of traditional mechanics towards a more experimental nature. A trend Square would use in later Final Fantasy installments.

Story:
You play as Squall Leonhart, a SeeD in training who is getting ready to attend a field exam to graduate as a full fledged SeeD member. He later passes his final exam and becomes a full fledged SeeD member much to the dismay of his rival Seifer Almasy, due to his disobedience during the final exam. At the coronation ceremony he meets Rinoa Heartilly, who he soon finds out that she is the client for his first mission as a SeeD. Rinoa is a member of a resistance faction in the town of Timber who is occupied by the aggressive nation Galbadia. After a series of missions, you discover that the culprit of the aggression is the evil sorcerress Edea and your new mission is to defeat her. Through this mission, you uncover the truth behind the world affairs, the secrets of SeeD, and who this mysterious Laguna Loire is.

Gameplay:
In core facets, the overall gameplay of FF8 is unchanged from previous Final Fantasy games. The series signature Active Time Battle system is present, as is traditional experience points and leveling up. Though this is where the similarities end, as the game introduces the Junction System which has mixed reception with fans.

The core of the Junction System are the Guardian Forces (called GF’s), which are the game’s version of summons. After equipping them, you will gain ability points to level up the abilities of the GF’s. In the initial stages of the game, you will spam summon them, as they do much more damage than conventional attacking. Once you gain further abilities, you gain the ability to junction magic to certain stats to increase their levels. Magic is gained either through drawing them from enemies, or from certain spots visible on the ground, and you have an inventory for each individual spell. Your stats increase for every 10 you have of that spell, so for max levels for your stats, you must have 100 of each spell.

With this, the game more or less has you ignore your normal level and forces you to focus more on collecting magic and gaining ability points for your GF’s. It is also advised to get as many GF’s as possible, because if you want all of your stats to increase, you need to equip multiple GF’s. Critics view this system as broken, as you’re able to have incredibly high stats (such as having 9999 HP), despite being at low levels, early on in the game, allowing you to pretty much steamroll everything. Other critics of the system claim that the in-game tutorial confuses new players with its complexity, and causes them to not know how to effectively junction. While correct junctioning is unnecessary to advance through much of the game, it does end up as quite punishing once you get to the late portions of the game when some battles become incredibly difficult without a properly junctioned party.

Visuals:
Just like Final Fantasy VII, and many other RPG’s at the time, the game uses 3D characters on 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. Luckily Square mastered the nature of this style, so they were able to effectively use this to their advantage, and make the world much more immersive than the previous game. The paths your character could walk on are incredibly obvious, as are doorways or points that lead to new areas. While FF7 somewhat explored other camera angles, it was still largely top-down like its sprite based predecessors. FF8 on the other hand further expanded on this, giving the game a much more three dimensional environment.

Just like FF6, FF8 uses the same character graphics for both the field and in battle. Gone were the days of playing the majority of the game with deformed sprites, and only seeing your character full sized in battle and choice cut scenes. This is also the first game in the series to use more realistic looking characters, a trend that would continue on in later titles. They would also explore this with other aspects of the game, such as vehicles and monsters. This is a title that showcases the capabilities of the original Playstation.

Music:
FF8 has a very strong soundtrack and has more variety than its melancholy predecessor. It’s also the first game in the franchise to have vocals for a track in the song Eyes on Me.

Verdict:
Final Fantasy VIII is a great game, and one of the best RPG’s the PS1 has to offer. The story is a hit or miss with others as is the gameplay. This is a game where you either get it or you don’t, and if you don’t, you’re not going to have a good time. If you’re in the camp that does get it, you’re in for a ride.

Music: 9/10.

Visuals (Or Graphics): 9/10.

Story: 9/10.

Content: 9/10.

Conclusion: 9/10