Category Archives: Reviews

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

Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – Review

Released in 2014, Hollow Fragment is an enhanced remake of the first Sword Art Online game, Infinity Moment. With updates like better graphics, arguably a better combat system, and an entire new area with its own story arc, the Hollow Areas. Though sadly, the Hollow Area feels like it should have been its own separate game, as it doesn’t flow seamlessly with the main game.

Story:

The game takes place in the virtual game of the show’s namesake, and you play as series protagonist Kirito in the climactic final battle against Heathcliff. The game takes place in an alternate timeline from the anime, where after Heathcliff’s defeat, a glitch in the system prevents them from beating the game, thus keeping them trapped in the game. The characters appear on floor 76, and find out that they are no longer able to go back to the previous floors. They then realize that they must complete the remaining floors and follow the game’s intended purpose of reaching the 100th floor.

This portion of the game is the remake of Infinity Moment, and probably the worst part about the game, especially in the story department. It’s largely non-existent up until you get to floors in the 90 region, and even then, you get random fragments of it here and there until the end.

So prior to the higher floor levels, the “story” is really just snippets of Kirito and his friends doing random things. These occur after clearing a floor, and when you are teleported back to the town, you have the choice of either talking to certain friends, or just ignoring it to go to the next floor. The majority of these scenarios are of the game showing Kirito’s relationship in his harem. These scenes either consist of the various girls trying to get in his pants, or the more humble scenes with Kirito just spending time with his wife Asuna and their “child” Yui. The group scenes usually have Kirito getting bitched at, or Klein being the group punching bag.

In this portion, they introduce Strea, who is only present in the game franchise. Not only is she the most forward with trying to get into Kirito’s pants, she’s also the only one with the story that’s relevant to the plot.

The second portion of the game involves the Hollow Area. This entire segment that’s original to the remake. This is also the part that has the most interesting story. Kirito gets transported to a forest, and comes across a girl with an orange cursor who tries to attack him (the cursor indicates she’s killed someone).

The fight is disrupted when a giant boss creature attacks the two of them, and they cast their differences aside and realize that dying is more important than fighting. After defeating the boss, the girl introduces herself as Philia, and only attacked him because she mistook him for the people who were after her. She explains they’re in a place called the Hollow Area, and she’s trapped there. Kirito decides to help her out while discovering the mystery of the Hollow Area.

This is the more interesting portion of the game. The main game of clearing floors gets kind of bland and boring after awhile, and it shows that the creators ran out of ideas for floors as the game went on. This one is more interesting, as there’s actually a story, and also has the major plus of not dealing with the harem. You can choose whoever you want for your partner in the Hollow Area, but sticking with Philia is the best bet for plot relevancy.

 

Gameplay:

The game plays in an action-RPG format, with standard leveling up mechanics. Though you start the game at level 100, and gaining levels actually takes quite a long time. So unlike traditional RPG’s where it implies that you just level up, this game makes you focus more on strategy and skill than just using brute force. You can grind, but for the early parts of the game, it takes a significant amount of time, so you might as well save your time and just take on the challenge.

You have burst attacks which lets you do significantly more damage to enemies. You can activate them by just attacking a certain amount of times to do it. When you learn more skills, you can actually attach them to hot keys to activate them whenever you want. Because of how powerful they are, they place a limit on them by having them take SP. You only get 300 SP and these skills take 100 SP. These do a lot to normal enemies, but when it comes to bosses, or when you’re at a low level with low level equipment, they start doing significantly less damage.

Bosses in Aincrad and the Hollow Areas play a bit differently. The floor bosses are conducted in a raid. So you have a large group of AI characters attacking the boss. They’re largely useless, and you’re still doing all the work, but it keeps the boss off your tail when you need to run off and heal. They also don’t really do much when it comes to attacking. They feel like the regular enemies, but with a large amount of HP.

Hollow Bosses on the other hand, are where the real challenge is. It’s just you and your partner. The bosses also feel like an actual boss, where they have multiple attack patterns. These require a lot more strategy than the floor bosses.

The game lets you go out with a partner, and partners do make the experience a lot better. They can also use burst attacks and such, so essentially adding the damage to bosses. The problem with partners, is that it doesn’t really matter who you have, as they all play the same. So you really just go out on a romp with your favorite girl and just go on with that.

One aspect of the game that’s probably the most obnoxious is dealing with the affection system. Unlike the Persona games where it gives characters advantage in battle, and also lets your summons get EXP boosts, this game doesn’t really do that. The only advantage to increasing affection is that you can change a girl’s equipment. The two ways you increase their affection is by praising them in battle, or by walking around town with them by “talking” to them. By talking to them means that you initiate a conversation in certain areas in town when they pop out a yellow word bubble. This is where you just spam a correct answer until their meter fills up. When their affection reaches a certain level, you can bridal carry them to your room, and you “spend the night” with them.

This feature really does nothing for the game, unless you’re going for trophies. So it’s safe to say it’s there to just please the fans to brag that they slept with their favorite girl.

Visuals:

The graphics aren’t bad. It’s definitely a bit more blocky due to it being a PSP remake, but it’s still a night and day difference. It is kind of disorienting when you get a closeup of the ground, and the texture is pixels, but it really could be a lot worse.

The dialog scenes are all in a visual novel style, where it shows a “cutout” of the characters speaking. The developers probably did this to save time and space with how many there were. It’s kind of boring seeing it this way, but it does let you speed through all the bullshit scenes.

The game does have a few FMV scenes, they could be really enjoyable, and the quality is there, but there’s significant playback issues. It’s really hard to watch a video when its stuttering. It’s like the developers thought that the video should load while its playing, instead of giving you a loading screen, which would be nice, but they didn’t optimize it at all. Luckily the later games are better optimized.

 

Music:

The OST has a style that’s typical to JRPG’s with an orchestrated feel, and it’s well done, but not very memorable. It’s very well done, but with all the different areas and floors, but with a limited soundtrack, it does get kind of redundant after awhile. Particularly with the music in the various floors.

 

Verdict:

Hollow Fragment is a pretty decent game, though heavily flawed in the story department, particularly with the story in Infinity Moment. The fact that every time you clear a floor “rewards” you with a scene of Kirito getting in trouble with one or all of the girls, or just a bullshit fanservice scene sometimes makes clearing a floor not worth it.

The Hollow Area is where the game really shines, the challenging bosses, and pretty interesting story makes this portion of the game worth playing. The entire game as a whole, is definitely catered to fans of the series. Excluding the game original characters, the game basically implies that you already know who the rest of the cast is, and all that happened before the events of the game. So unless you just want to jump in blind, it’s probably best you’re familiar with the show before you go in.

A definite plus about this game, is that there is a lot you can do in the game. It is definitely not hard to drop close to 100 hours in the game. The two main portions of the game are both pretty lengthy, along with the two bonus areas: the Concealed Area, and the Discard Area. The two bonus areas will definitely add several hours to your play time.

The game is definitely worth a play for fans of the show, but if you’re not, and if you definitely don’t like anime harem tropes and scenes, then stay far away.

Music: 6/10.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.
Story: 6/10.
Content: 8/10.

Conclusion: 7/10

Dragon Quest – Review

The grandfather of all JRPG’s, Dragon Quest is probably the most important RPG that will be mentioned in this blog. While not the first console RPG, it’s definitely the one that set the template for every JRPG to follow. With its simple menu system, turn based combat, top down view, leveling up, and even equipping items.

Released in Japan in 1986, series creator Yuji Horii wanted to bring role playing video games to a wider audience, as the genre was relegated to PC’s, which was still a niche demographic. The technical limitations of the NES posed a problem, as old PC RPG’s were very complex, and some even required a large book just to play the game. Horii got creative and created a very simple, yet very effective template for the menus, which then became the base standard for many RPG’s to this day.

The game came out three years later in North America (localized as Dragon Warrior due to licensing issues over a similarly named pen and paper RPG). With this version of the game came many differences, most noticeably technical differences. The original Famicom release utilized a password save system, but the NES version introduced a battery save function. Also the graphics were updated, as the player and NPC sprites all faced on direction, the NES version not only improved the quality of the sprites, they also gave them graphics for facing different directions.

Like many other games in the franchise, Dragon Quest was remade several times, and unlike the original Final Fantasy, did not change any of the game mechanics and were really just graphical updates. The game was first remade for the Super Famicom, and was made using Dragon Quest V’s engine, and also contained Dragon Quest II. While it looked and sounded significantly better than the 8-bit original, it doesn’t look as good as later SNES games (especially with later DQ releases like DQ6 and the remake of DQ3), and was really just a souped up NES game. Despite this, it was the best looking version of the game for many years. Sadly this version never left Japan, but English fan translations exist.

Then came the Gameboy Color remake, which also came packaged with Dragon Quest II. While inferior to the SNES version in both graphics and sound, it was still better than the NES version. Luckily this version came to North America, and was probably the best looking way to play the game. This version also sported a quick save, which made things much more convenient, as you could only save by talking to the King in previous versions. Though the quick saves were merely temporary, as loading one deletes the save.

The game was remade yet again for mobile phones in Japan. This update sported significant graphic and sound updates, but was originally never released outside of Japan. Later these games were ported to Android and iOS devices with slightly updated graphics, and touch screen capabilities. This version is definitely the best looking version of the game.

Story:

Many years ago the legendary hero Erdrick (Loto in the Gameboy version) defeated an evil creature and gained the ball of light and restored light to the land. Erdrick handed the ball to the king of Alefgard who held onto it, as it brought peace and prosperity to Alefgard. There was a man who shunned the ball of light, and stole it. He man then met up with a dragon and then tamed it to obey his every command, and the man is later discovered to not only be a dragon himself, but is the Dragonlord. The Dragonlord later became corrupted by learning magic, and then began to wreak havoc across the land of Alefgard. Erdrick returns to defeat the Dragonlord, but is never heard from ever again.

Several years later to the present time, a mysterious warrior appears in Tantegal Castle, and the king tells him that a dragon has appeared and kidnapped Princess Gwaelin, and you are tasked with saving her. Thus your adventure begins.

Gameplay:

The game is a very bare boned and textbook RPG, though it also wrote the textbook for the core template. It plays like every other top down RPG with random encounters. It definitely feels incredibly archaic compared to later JRPG’s (or even later Dragon Quest games), though the genre had to start from somewhere. You play as one character the entire game, and you never gain any party members.

Battles incredibly simple. You fight one on one with every enemy in the game. Compared to later games which introduce strategy in battles using different skills or classes, this game lacks any of that. The only thing one must do to progress through the game, is to just level up. The only way the game slightly deviates from that, is that you can also buy or find better equipment that gives you a better chance in battle.

The game also doesn’t necessarily deviate far from the only two objectives in the game, save the princess, and defeating the Dragonlord. The first half of the game is really just you grinding your ass off to not only get a high enough level to beat the dragon who kidnapped the princess, but also to collect enough money to have the equipment to survive it. The second half slightly deviates from that, with you collecting items that gain you access to the Dragonlord’s castle, but you still spend a large chunk grinding.

Visuals:

Like every Dragon Quest game to follow, characters and monsters are designed by famed Dragonball artist Akira Toriyama. While the NES version does retain that for the monsters, the graphical limitations do hinder it. Though compared to other NES RPG’s, this one looks very comparable. Like mentioned above, the various ports are all graphical enhancements that all look very nice for the platforms they were designed on, which the mobile versions being the best.

Music:

While not having very many audio tracks, the game still has very iconic music, ranging from the series fanfare, to towns and battle music. The game also is the origin of the famous jingles for when you level up and even when the battle ends.

The music is very good, and like every other Dragon Quest game, has its soundtrack performed by a symphony orchestra. Definitely worth a listen.

Verdict:

Dragon Quest is a classic game, but not one that’s very recommendable to a modern audience. While an incredibly important game, it hasn’t necessarily aged well, and is really only there for players who are either hardcore Dragon Quest fans, or just hardcore RPG fanatics. For today’s gamers, it’s definitely worth a play for curiosity’s sake.

Music: 7/10.
Visuals: 7/10.
Story: 5/10.
Content: 5/10.

Conclusion: 6/10

Pokemon Red/Blue – Review

The original versions of these games were released in 1996, and two years later were released in 1998 in the US. Pokemon quickly became a success and is one of the biggest selling video game franchises, starting off a gigantic fanbase, and a myriad of spinoff games and an anime series.

Story:

Red (or whatever you decide to name your character), is now 10 years old and is old enough to finally become a Pokemon trainer. You and your neighbor/rival Blue are given your first Pokemon by Blue’s grandfather Professor Oak. Professor Oak’s only mission for you is to fulfill his dream of filling out the Pokedex by collecting every Pokemon in the region. While you journey through the land of Kanto, you visit the various towns and cities to become stronger and challenge the various gym leaders to become the Pokemon master.

Gameplay:

Pokemon shares many similarities to other top-down JRPG’s, things like leveling up, random encounters, status effects, and even going to towns and collecting information and healing. The main aspect everyone knows from Pokemon is the aspect of capturing and leveling up the titular creatures.

The player character never participates in the actual battle, and it is all conducted through the Pokemon. The battles are all done one on one, and you can switch out the current Pokemon with one in your reserves, as each one has different stats and abilities that can abuse the weaknesses in your opponent. Random encounters mostly happen when you step into the grass, but when you enter a cave or similar environment, it becomes the typical random encounters seen in Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest.

The aspect of the individual Pokemon you capture is what made the series a success. While there is a set pool of moves in the game, each Pokemon can learn different ones, while many within, say water type, learn similar moves. You battle the Pokemon to gain EXP and level them up to learn stronger moves. Some of them can also evolve into stronger Pokemon by hitting a certain level. There are other evolution styles, like collecting items, or even via trading with friends.

The biggest reason why each main Pokemon installment always releases in two games, is that the game emphasizes you to trade with your friends. You are unable to fill the Pokedex with only one game, you must cooperate with a friend (or if you just buy both). Along with linking two Gameboys for trading, you can also pit your Pokemon into a battle against your friends.

Another aspect of the game is that to progress to the different towns, one must defeat the gym leader of the town you visit. If you don’t defeat them, your progress is either hindered by someone stopping you from going through the exit to the next town, or the gym leader allows you to use a field move that allows you to traverse different obstacles. Gym leaders serve as the bosses in the game, and also increases the level cap of your Pokemon. If you pass the level cap, the Pokemon will not listen to you.

Visuals:

While rather crude compared to later games in the franchise, and the fact that they were released on the black and white Gameboys, the graphics and character sprites are pretty good for the timeframe. You can tell all the Pokemon apart, and even the moves are nicely animated. The only gripe is that the Pokemon on your team in battle have blown up pixels, so they look horrible compared to the enemy Pokemon. While there are some crude aspects to this, there’s a certain timeless charm to the visuals.

Music:

The music is a large highlight in RPG’s, and especially in this game. Many of the tunes in the game are considered classics, and fans fondly remember the soundtrack and can remember the tunes very easily. Each town has its own individual tune and gives you a characteristic of the town.

Verdict:

While not as polished as the later games in the franchise, and can feel archaic at times, they’re still solid games. They’re still fun to play to this day, and have this charm to them that never seem to go away. Even almost two decades later, there are many fans of these games. If you were introduced to the later games first, this is definitely a game for curiosities sakes, as some of the elements have more polished aspects, but if you’re there for the adventure, it’s still there to enjoy.

Music: 10/10

Visuals: 7/10

Story: 7/10

Content: 8/10

Conclusion: 8/10

Parasite Eve – Review

Released in 1998, Parasite Eve is a detached sequel to the novel of the same name and is considered by many to be Square’s answer to the Resident Evil series. It does divert from Resident Evil in terms of gameplay mechanics, largely with its  battle system and RPG mechanics as well as random encounters.

Story:

You play as Aya Brea, an officer of the NYPD who is attending an opera. During the play the entire theater starts to spontaneously combust, and you find out an actress by the name of Melissa Pearce is the culprit. Melissa mentions to Aya that her mitochondria is going to awaken and Melissa transforms into a beast. Melissa declares that she is now called a creature named Eve and then escapes to cause trouble around New York City, and Aya declares it her mission to stop her.

Gameplay:

Navigation is very similar to how the Final Fantasy series on the Playstation are, with a three dimensional character interacting with a two dimensional environment made with pre-rendered graphics. Certain parts of the areas you traverse through have “hot spots” where there’s a chance enemies can randomly appear. This engages you into battle mode where you can either clear the area by defeating all of the monsters, or by fleeing.

With the battle system, Square brings back the Active Time Battle System where you have to wait for the action bar to fill to perform an action. Where this game differs from Final Fantasy is that you can run around to dodge enemy attacks while you wait for the ATB bar to fill. The actions limited to the ATB are attacking and using items. Later on in the game, you will gain Parasite Energy, which is this game’s version of magic. Parasite Energy has typical types of spells you see in RPG’s such as healing your health or status ailments, or powerful attacks. When you press the X button when your ATB bar fills, the game pauses and brings up a sphere, this is your attack range. This sadly doesn’t appear in later Parasite Eve games, but does make a return in Vagrant Story, another Squaresoft RPG.

Another aspect of the game is weapon and armor customization. Like most RPG’s throughout the game you’ll find various armor and weapons, but in this game, you can collect tools that can take attributes from previous weapons to power up your equipment, either by adding special effects, or by increasing their effectiveness.

Visuals:

Graphically it’s fairly similar to Final Fantasy VIII, except not as good seeing as it came before. Though for the time this game came out, it’s pretty good for its time. They’re definitely not as blobby as Final Fantasy VII or Wild Arms, and they definitely start looking more and more like actual people. The monster designs are all pretty good, they definitely look the part of typical survivor horror monsters, and some of them definitely look like deranged versions of typical animals. Square definitely knew what they were doing in this department.

The pre-rendered backgrounds are all pretty good. The American arm of the development team did a great job getting the images of New York City in, and you feel like you’re actually there.

Music:

The soundtrack is pretty good, it does have a melancholy horror movie feel to it, probably to add to the horror aspect of the survival horror genre. There’s a lot of bass heavy instruments and ambient elements in the music.

Verdict:

Parasite Eve is a pretty solid game. It’s a nice change of pace from typical Squaresoft RPG’s and combines enough elements of both RPG’s and survival horror to cross fans of both genres. The game can be a challenge at times, but the majority of the game adds enough difficulty to make it fun. Also luckily the game is pretty short for Square standards, taking roughly 8ish hours to beat the main game, it’s definitely not super long to scare off those interested in it compared to other RPG’s with their daunting 30+ hours of gameplay.

Music: 8/10

Visuals: 10/10

Story: 8/10

Content: 8/10

Conclusion: 9/10

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