All posts by Grungie

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.

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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

Final Fantasy II – Re-Review

I know guys, I know. I’ve already reviewed Final Fantasy II, which I’ve already stated was a mediocre game. Though that was one of my first reviews written, so it was half-assed. Honestly more could be said about the game. So this is going to do justice to my original review.

Let’s go.

Released in 1988, Square decided that based on the popularity of Final Fantasy, they were going to make a sequel. This time, the development team decided to craft a story first, and then work on the gameplay.  This actually wasn’t a bad idea, and was kind of groundbreaking for the time. They also decided to be ambitious on the leveling up mechanics, while also groundbreaking, it didn’t work so well. More on that later.

Story:

You play as four young characters: Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon, their town was attacked by the soldiers from the evil Palamecia Empire. You barely escape with your necks attached, and you wake up in the town of Altair, home of the resistance fighters. Led by Princess Hilda of Flynn, she wants to restore the former glory of her kingdom, and also stop the evil Emperor of Palamecia. You want to join the resistance, but Hilda says you’re too young and inexperienced. So you go off to find your friend Leon, who went missing in the attack. You then meet Prince Scott of Kashuan, who informs that a rogue soldier from Flynn betrayed them and has joined the Empire, he then dies. You go back to Hilda and give her the news, she decides to have a change of heart, and you are now resistance members. Thus your quest begins!

While the plot has more going on than the original game, and other RPG’s at the time, it’s still a bit archaic. The game mostly consists of reporting back to Hilda several times, and her sending you on a giant scavenger hunt. Go here and find this item, cool, now go here and do this. Oh okay, now to this place and, yeah you get it by now. I get that you’re supposed to be helping out the resistance fighters, but holy hell is this tedious and mostly pointless.

Gameplay:

This is where the game royally fucks up. Gone are the traditional leveling up mechanics of turn based RPG’s, and now there’s a progression system. It makes sense on paper, and a lot of modern games still use it, to a significantly better degree. To increase your attack, you hit things more, to increase magic, you use more magic. So on and so forth.

The problem here, is that the execution of this mechanic just doesn’t work in an old school RPG. It also makes it tedious as all hell. The game wants you to grind like other RPG’s at the time, so you have to sit there and grind EVERYTHING.

Going through all the random encounters in the overworld, your attack will be the first thing to go up. This initially seems fine, as you can start one-shotting all of the enemies on the field, that is, until you get to a dungeon. Well these enemies are much stronger and take several more hits. Well since you’ve been one-shotting enemies until now, your defense is shit, as is the amount of HP you have. Well now you’re royally fucked.

Well how do you level up your defense and HP without going to an inn after every battle? Easy, by beating the shit out of yourselves. One of the most infamous mechanics in this game, is that the fastest way to level up your HP and defense, is by attacking your own party members. The developers put this mechanic in to wake up sleeping party members, but players soon realized that this is the fastest way to level up those stats. So now instead of actually fighting the enemies in the overworld, you spend your time beating the shit out of yourselves, and healing.

Now is a good time to talk about magic in this game, and it sucks. Just like your levels, you level up your spells. Well this game decided that it wanted to be even more tedious, by having each spell have its own separate levels. All your spells start at level 1, and if you want them to not be shit, you have to grind them to at least level 5. Even then, the spells do shit damage. Your regular attacks will do hundreds of damage, but spells, even at level 5 do about 30-50 at most. I just got tired of leveling up my spells because of how much time you spend grinding each spell.

To level up a spell, you have to cast it a bunch. How much you ask? 100 times. So when you get a spell like Ultima and Flare near the end of the game, you have to cast both about 500 times each, and they still only do about 100 damage at most. Luckily like your HP and defense, this is easily exploitable. Due to a glitch in the game, all you have to do is select a spell, then a target, then cancel it. This counts as casting the spell, so if you want to waste time, you can do this about 100 times in a single battle, and your spell will level up. Hurray!

So now your spells are leveled up, but now that they’re leveled up, they take more MP, so now your MP levels are shit. Well with luck doing the exploit, your MP will increase, so after leveling up multiple spells, just cross your fingers that you now have enough MP to cast heal enough times.

One thing you should keep in mind, is that you can never escape a battle. To escape a battle, you luck and evade stats need to level up. Though don’t expect this to level up at all, as this is all based on luck, and it randomly appears. So even by the end of the game, your evade and luck will be obnoxiously low, so you will have to fight every single battle.

This wouldn’t be too bad, if this game didn’t have a ridiculous random encounter rate. I’m not sure if this was fixed in later versions of the game, but in the NES and PS1 version, you can get an encounter with only about 2-10 steps. This is exacerbated when many dungeons have multiple doors that lead you to an empty room. Thanks for wasting my time. It doesn’t help when you enter these empty rooms, you’re teleported to the middle, and you’re guaranteed a battle before you get to the door to leave. I’d recommend using a map to not waste your time.

Then there’s the final fight with the Emperor. Your attacks and defense are high enough to one-shot every enemy in the final dungeon, but once you face the Emperor, you only do 50-100 damage, because his defense is incredibly high. If you have the blood sword, it drains 1/16th of his health, and does a lot better than your other weapons. Just hope you didn’t get rid of it based on your limited inventory space, and it being weaker than the other weapons you’ve obtained. Luckily your defenses are really high, so he also does pretty piss poor damage to you. For me it was just an endurance run, that lasted an entire hour, and after all of my MP was finally drained, he died. Holy fuck was that a schlog.

One feature of the game that’s added, is that you have a rotating fourth member in your party. This isn’t exactly unusual in Final Fantasy games, but I really wished that most of your extra party members weren’t useless. Outside of Minwu, they’re all weak. So now you’re stuck leveling up those characters that are rotated in and out of your party. How much does this game want you to grind?

Music and visuals:

Not much needs to be restated, as nothing has really changed since the old review.

Verdict:

This game is more of a chore than an actual game. Unless you really really really love grinding. Trying to play this game legitimately is not recommended in the slightest. It’s not good game design where you’re pretty much required to abuse exploits in the game. Playing this legitimately would have all your characters incredibly lopsided. I have no idea who thought it was a good idea to have you cast spells multiple times in a legitimate fashion to have it level up to a normal level? Are the spells that significantly weak to compensate for how many times it has to be casted to level up? Why Square why?

This game really only exists for curiosity’s sake, so only play it if you want to see where many of the Final Fantasy tropes got started.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song – Review

Released in 2015 as a sequel to Hollow Fragment on PS3 in Japan only, but was released on the Vita and PS4 outside. This game takes place in ALFheim Online, the second MMO in the anime franchise. Just like Hollow Fragment, this takes place in its own alternate timeline from the anime, and features characters that only exist in the game franchise, such as Phillia and Strea.

Story:

A new expansion to ALFheim Online, this means new areas to explore, and new challenges. Kirito and friends decide to go check it out. Prior to this, Kirito is interested in a professor who goes by the name Seven, and is interested in her studies regarding Virtual Reality. Seven happens to be a player in ALFheim Online, and is the head of the Shamrock guild, the biggest and strongest guilds in the game, especially with her bodyguard Sumeragi. As the game goes on, you meet a mysterious girl named Rain who is following you and Shamrock’s movements.

While the plot initially seems interesting, it’s like the floor clearing portions of Hollow Fragment where the plot is largely non-existant, outside of random parts here and there. Even then, you have no idea what the hell is going on in the story until literally the very end of the game. Right before the final boss fight, the entire plot is revealed. Sure some really great games have done that, and it worked, but the poor execution of the story really has you not caring, especially when it’s almost non-existent until the end. Kirito’s motivation for following Seven? “I’m interested in her experiment”. What does Seven do throughout the game? Nothing. Well she likes hiding from Sumeragi, and popping her head into Agil’s tavern to eat cake and flirt with Kirito.

Spoiler alert: Seven’s the final boss of the game. She becomes evil… kind of… at the very end of the game. Why does Kirito want to stop her when he finds out about her experiment? Because he wants to beat the game. Saving people? NOPE! Is the experiment bad? NOPE!

In a very similar fashion to the previous game, when you complete certain dungeons or events in the game, you are “rewarded”, with random non-story related cutscenes. These cutscenes are really just fanservice to see Kirito dealing with his ever-growing harem. You are treated to scenes like, Kirito hiding a porn mag from Asuna. Strea making Asuna try on underwear, and a swimsuit scene complete with giant tentacle action. Riveting.

Gameplay:

The game feels more like an action RPG than Hollow Fragment. You have a choice between weaker melee attacks, or a stronger melee attack. They give you a limit on your stronger attacks by having it take up stamina. You also have a special attack that takes up SP, and most of these are significantly more powerful than your strong melee. You also have a choice of using magic spells, and in typical RPG fashion, they’re either attacks, or support. In regards to gaining new abilities, this is one of those games where you learn them by using your specials or spells more and more.

Venturing out with a party is significantly upgraded from Hollow Fragment. In that game, you really felt like a one man show, you really only went out with a partner, because you either have to, or you might not want to feel lonely. Here, you get to go out with two party members, and it actually feels like your party members make a difference in gameplay experience. Having two long range attackers, like Asuna and Sinon, can whittle down an enemy from a distance before you go in for the kill. You also have a choice of not even playing as Kirito, or having him in your party at all. This can help change up your gameplay experience, as many of the characters play differently than Kirito, as they have different spells and weapon abilities. Sure you can just have Kirito equip a two handed sword like Strea, but what’s the fun in that?

As this game takes place in ALFheim, the game introduced flying. This will most likely become your preferred method of travel, as flying is significantly faster than walking. Flying has its hit and misses. Aerial combat is a fun gimmick at first, but as the game goes on, it actually starts losing its fun pretty quickly. Especially when enemies start knocking you down from the air. This gets annoying when you’re near a hoard of enemies that you’re trying to kill to complete a hunt, and even more annoying during aerial boss fights. Particularly during the boss fights, there are times where you get knocked down, then you fly back up, and it hits you down again.

Gone are the dating mechanics of the previous game. This is actually a good thing, as it really didn’t add anything to the game, besides saying you banged your favorite girl, and all the trophies you get from it. Instead, at certain points in the game, you’ll see glowing dots in the central hub, and that’ll trigger an event with a girl.

Visuals:

Unlike Hollow Fragment, which was a remake of a PSP game, this one is made from the ground up on the PS3. Thus the graphics do justice to the anime artstyle of the series. Outside of a relatively few FMV cutscenes, much of the story scenes are told through a visual novel style, where the characters are displayed in a cutout style, where you see them talk.

One of the biggest disappointments, is the lack of enemy diversity. The majority of the enemies you see in the first area, are recycled in every single area, but with different color pallets. While a lot of RPG’s like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest recycle do this practice, they at least have a large cast of enemies. In Lost Song, there’s really about 20 or so enemies, and they’re recycled in every single area and dungeon. The overall area maps look different, but all of the caves and dungeons look almost exactly the same, so it does feel pretty redundant after awhile.

Comparing the two non-Japanese releases, the PS4 version is clearly the better of the two. While the character models aren’t a vast improvement, the overall textures and visual effects look better. Caves have fog on the ground, and there’s blades of grass and more enemies on screen. That’s not to say that you’re getting a poor man’s version on the Vita, as it’s still visually impressive on the handheld.

Music:

The music is pretty decent, yet not very memorable. It’s in a similar style to the anime, and to Hollow Fragment.

 

Verdict:

Lost Song is a pretty decent game. Though unless you’re a fan of SAO, or just looking for a decent length RPG on the PS4 or Vita, you’re most likely not going to get inspired to go and pick up a copy of the game. The game expects you to know who the main cast are, and that will off-put a lot of newcomers.

While combat and lack of dating mechanics make it a step up from Hollow Fragment, it does feel like a significantly shorter game, due to the large amount of things to do in Hollow Fragment.

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

Conclusion: 6/10

Dragon Quest VIII 3DS – First Impressions

Previously I’ve talked about the mobile version of Dragon Quest VIII, while visually more impressive than the original game on the Playstation 2, the touchscreen nature of a 3D game was kind of awkward. On top of that, it seemed like the text in the battle sequence was squashed together to fit the aspect ratio of the phone screen. Now we have a “true” handheld port of this game on the 3DS.

For those who were salty over the lack of voice acting missing in the mobile version, the voices are back in this version. My only confusion is that they couldn’t get Jessica’s actress back, though maybe the actress from Dragon Quest Heroes is the new canon actress. It’s sort of like how the voice for Chie Satonaka in Persona 4 got replaced, and they’re sticking to it.

Another missing feature, is the beautiful orchestral music. This is probably due to the space limitations of the cartridge format, and also the original Japanese game never had it. While definitely not a deal breaker, it would be a nice feature, but we’re happy that Square actually wanted to release a Dragon Quest game in the US based on the delayed release of both DQ7 and 8.

As for the actual gameplay, it plays very comfortably on the 3DS. The game does play better on a New 3DS, as the second stick makes camera control a lot more at home. Using the trigger buttons are fine when you just rotate the camera left and right, but using the D Pad for camera control is pretty awkward.

They did take something from the mobile port. They took the exclamation points for interactive items. While not a necessity, it’s probably there to easily identify for new players what you can and can’t interact with. While a neat feature, veterans probably won’t pay it any mind.

One of the biggest features in this port, is something Enix has been using in the series since DQ9, is that random encounters are replaced with enemies generated on the field. While the original game didn’t have a crazy rate of random encounters, like say Final Fantasy 2’s PS1 version, or Digital Devil Saga, it does encourage exploration more when you don’t feel bogged down with random encounters. It definitely isn’t an unwelcome modern addition to this game.

Another change taken from DQ9, is with the alchemy pot. Instead of having to walk for a certain number of steps, waiting for your concoction to be done, it not instantly creates your items. A feature that I highly doubt much of anyone is going to complain that’s missing.

One new feature unique to the 3DS version, is that they added in a feature where you can take pictures. Probably added in for the Street Pass feature of the 3DS, it adds a social aspect to the game. Also with this, a guy named Cameron Obscura (real clever Enix), asks the player to embark on a series of picture related missions. You earn stamps, like when you partake in quests in Ni no Kuni, and you might earn some items from it. Not sure really, as I haven’t gained enough stamps, or care about the feature much.

Dragon Quest VIII on 3DS is definitely a great port on a portable device, and you’ll definitely enjoy it for fans new and old alike.

Sword Art Online: Re Hollow Fragment – First Impressions

I know that this is my third post on Hollow Fragment, but strolling around on PSN, I saw the Bamco anime game sales. I saw that this game was on sale for $5, so I figured why not. I beat the original game, so why not dick around in the remaster?

To be honest, I’m not completely sure why this remaster exists. Is it because they were going to make more money with a PS4 version, because the Vita has fairly lackluster sales? Is this game really popular enough to remaster a remake of a PSP game? If it really was that popular, why is it still only available as a digital download? Hell I might have actually paid $20 for a physical copy. They really should have released this alongside the Vita game, like the other two games, and have it cross compatible.

I was initially content with how the game looked on my Vita screen, and it still looked fairly well on the PSTV (or is it the Vita TV?). Not dogging on how it looks on the PS4, I expected it to look better. Though if you owned the original, don’t get your hopes up that much, as it’s really just a much higher resolution version of the Vita game. I will give Bamco credit for having the decency to not have the lower-resolution Vita cutscenes just upscaled to 1080P, like other remasters have.

The game plays pretty much exactly the same, just ditching touch screen features. Though the game does play at a higher framerate, so grinding affection at dating spots doesn’t feel quite as long. If you own the Vita game, you can transfer your save, and play it as a new game plus. It’s sadly not cross compatible like Lost Song, or Hollow Realization.

The game is supposed to be a director’s cut of sorts, I just haven’t researched into what extra stuff was added. In all honesty, if you own the Vita version, you’re not missing out much. It just feels like a game that should have came out a lot earlier, instead of later. If you didn’t, check it out if you want a lengthy JRPG to spend time on.

Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – First Impressions

Bamco has released the third (well technically fifth) game in the popular anime franchise, Sword Art Online, and this time they decided to go back to the style of Aincrad. While these games have been mixed on a critical level, it must be selling fairly well if Bamco is cranking out a third game, with one of them having been remade, and getting a remastered port, because apparently people want to re-visit Aincrad over and over.

Anywho, this game takes place after Lost Song, and we are graced with the game called Sword Art Origin. A world based off of Aincrad (now called Ainground), and the mythology is that it’s the origin (shocking!) of the world of Sword Art Online. Unlike the previous games, this world is entirely non-canonical with the original franchise (I’m basing this on the fact that I haven’t read the light novels).

The developers seemed to have mixed what people liked from the previous two games, and they decided to mix the two together. The combat plays a lot like Lost Song, but the overall way the game plays is very reminiscent of Hollow Fragment. For those who were sad that the dating mechanic was missing in Lost Song, it’s back in full swing in Hollow Realization.

This time maxing out your favorite girl’s affection is a lot more time consuming. I will give them some credit, that with one of the updates, they sped it up significantly. You get to run around town with your favorite girl, and like Hollow Fragment, you take them to special “date spots”, indicated with a heart. Then you can chat them up, and you can either nod or shake your head depending on their questions.

This is actually pretty time consuming if you’re just trying to grind affection (which doesn’t seem to add anything to gameplay, besides trophies and bragging rights). Before the update, maxing out the level 5 affection was obnoxiously long. I grinded the affection for about two hours straight, and I barely saw any progress. Now you can grind a girl’s affection to max in about 45 minutes. Still pretty long, but beats sitting for several hours to max out one level. Don’t worry perverts, you can still bring a girl to bed and sleep with her, I mean “pillow talk” with her. Wow, my head went to the gutter there, because a girl spewing hearts of affection, and wearing sexually suggestive clothing, is going to just share a bed with a guy and not have sex. Hopefully Kirito can’t get virtual HIV from Yuuki. Sorry for the dark joke guys, won’t happen again.

So far the story here is actually kind of interesting. You meet an NPC named Premiere (minor spoiler), and her position in the game is very confusing. She comes off like a defunct NPC, but as the game progresses, you slowly discover her purpose. Also there’s something about NPC’s becoming more humanlike, kind of like Yui and Strea, but for the entire game. Also when they die, they die forever. Hopefully this is actually explored in a good way, because Seven’s experiment in Lost Song was incredibly lackluster.

So far I’m enjoying the game, the goofy cutscenes aren’t as frequent as Hollow Fragment, and so far aren’t as ridiculous. It’s also nice seeing Argo getting a bit more spotlight, as she’s very humorous, and is the only girl (besides Yui for obvious reasons), that isn’t trying to get into Kirito’s pants. Though SAO fans, don’t worry, your hero Kirito is still dimwitted when it comes to girls.