Tag Archives: jrpg

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.

Phantasy Star II – First Impressions

Sega’s original main RPG franchise, Phantasy Star II was the first for the Genesis. It’s been re-released on multiple consoles throughout the years, so it’s not hard to find a copy lying around.

Released in 1989 in Japan and a year later in North America, this game does feel a bit archaic for those used to modern RPG’s in both graphics and in gameplay. Though for the time, it was actually one of the most advanced games in the genre on consoles, especially for the North American market. Dragon Warrior came out a year earlier, and Final Fantasy came out months after Phantasy Star II. Sadly the Genesis won’t pick up steam until a year later when Sonic The Hedgehog came out, so while Final Fantasy feels more outdated, more people came in contact with it.

Despite being a 16-bit game, it does feel like a slightly souped up NES game in the graphics department. Though we can’t give it too much flack, as it was still very early in the life of the Genesis, so it won’t be until later games where developers know how to take full advantage of the hardware. Also the first Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games on the SNES were just as guilty at looking like slightly better NES games.

Also like many early RPG’s, there is a lot of grinding involved before you can really do anything. It’s one of those aspects of the genre from this time period, as it’s basically in every console RPG at the time. Also new party members will also be underpowered, and also require grinding.

All in all, this is a pretty good game so far, but keep in mind it might be a bit hard to get into if you’re used to modern games. If you’re into early RPG’s, then this should be no issue for you.

Sword Art Online: Lost Song – First Impressions

Previously I talked about the previous Sword Art Online game Hollow Fragment, and while an enjoyable game, the fanservice cutscenes were a but much. Also it was a remake of the first SAO game, Infinity Moment, with basically an extra second game attached to it, so it feels like two games in the same engine patched together.

Lost Song, while technically the third release, is the second game in the Sword Art Online game franchise. Taking place in the second MMORPG in the series, Alfhiem Online, it incorporates many of the elements from the show into the gameplay. While the gameplay, including combat, was fun in Hollow Fragment, Lost Song is a massive upgrade. You have two different sword attacks, and you also have the option of casting spells. In Hollow Fragment, you really just had one sword attack, and you kept mashing X until it goes into burst attack, and if you weren’t a high enough level, the burst attack/sword skills were really the only way to get damage on enemies. Lost Song, all your attacks do enough damage. Also it’s much easier attacking multiple enemies at once. In Hollow Fragment, battles are constrained to one on one, despite the fact that multiple enemies can attack you at once. At times it got annoying when two or more enemies attack you.

The map screens were already decently sized in the previous game, Lost Song’s world’s are massive making exploration very fun. A feature of the game in the anime was flight, and good god is it amazing in this game. On foot exploration is a bit slow, but honestly, if you have the option to fly around without any consequences, why walk when you can fly? Regular flight mode is already fast enough, but since the worlds are large enough, you can also do a burst of speed. The only downside, is that they add a stamina meter, so you can only burst for a bit until you get too tired. Though you can stop speeding right before your stamina completely depletes, so you don’t pause from being too tired.

With flight, they also incorporated flight combat which is very fun. It works very similar to on foot combat, but flight combat adds a certain level of chaos (the good kind) to battles. Also aerial boss fights are a ton of fun. More regarding battle, you can also have two partners in your party as opposed to one. If you have two characters that have a lot of long distance attacks (like Sinon), they can whittle down the health of enemies while you go and tank them. Also with your partners, the other characters actually add different experiences of combat. With the previous game, the characters were very similar, so you really just partied with your favorite girl, but this time, it actually makes a different. Another feature, is that you can play as the other party members instead of just being Kirito. For the sake of simplicity for developers, you’re still Kirito in cutscenes, but in battle, you can have your player character as anyone in your party. So if you’ve ever wanted to play as Asuna or Silica, your dream has come true.

With the story, there’s more of an actual story so far in the game. Hollow Fragment had bits and pieces very sparsely placed in the game, but so far Lost Song has more of a story going on. Sadly the fanservice cutscenes are still present, and are basically the same as the other game. There’s still some typical ones like the girls trying on cat ears and asking who the cutest one is (Philia if you’re asking), but there’s racy ones like Strea making Asuna a set of underwear and having her try it on for her darling Kirito. Sadly I doubt they’re ever going to release a Sword Art Online game without these scenes, as it’s basically part of the anime, so it’s probably something that’s never going away, but at least they have more story going on. Hopefully they don’t drop the actual story somewhere along the game and just give you wave after wave of fanservice. Also in regards to fanservice, they added in alternate costumes, including swimsuits and bath towel costumes. To add “flair” to these costumes, they added boob jiggle physics. If that’s up your alley.

With all this in mind, Lost Song is a very fun game. If you enjoyed Hollow Fragment, then Lost Song is a guarantee like. It still has some of the flaws from the previous game, and they’re still catered towards people who have actually seen the show. Though if you can get over fanservice cut scenes, it’s still a very fun game, and aerial combat makes it almost worth it.

Sword Art Online – Hollow Fragment – Short Review

Ah, Sword Art Online, an anime I have mixed opinions over. With it’s interesting premise and world, yet questionable storywriting, it’s a fairly polarizing series. You either love it or hate it. Personally I’m in the camp that thinks it’s just okay and needs a bit more polishing.

Anyone can argue over the quality of the series, but you can’t deny that it’s an incredibly popular series. Like many anime series before it, it becomes a cash cow franchise spawning off all kinds of merchandise and media, and now an almost requirement, a video game spinoff. Though unlike other anime, like say To Love Ru, that gain a video game spinoff, this one on paper seemed the most promising.

Like the .Hack series before it, it’s a series based on characters playing a role playing game. So unlike other anime that either just make a visual novel or a fighting game, the series is already a video game with an established world. So all the developers have to do is just come up with an interesting story and do their best not to fuck up the gameplay. Hell they went to Bandai Namco who’s famous for their Tales series, so how could it go wrong?

Hollow Fragment starts off on the right foot, you (playing as series protagonist Kirito) and as part tutorial, and part technical show off, you fight a gigantic monster. It does give you a great feel of how gigantic the bosses were in the anime, and you get to experience it first hand in the game.

After quite a few hours of playing the game, I can say that while the game is quite enjoyable, it does have quite a few flaws. For the actual game itself, I wouldn’t call it directionless, but for the most part, there isn’t necessarily a large point or much direction in the game.

For the main section of Aincrad, your whole goal is to get to floor 100. So you basically just run around a floor, find the boss’s location, then you warp back to town and complete a quest or two (or if you’re smart, activate the quests right before you explore a floor), as the quests give you the boss info. Then go back to the teleport center, and your girlfriend Asuna gets together a group of fighters to take on the boss of the level. Once you defeat it, the floor is cleared, off to the next floor! Rinse and repeat!

The Aincrad part of the game doesn’t deviate from that so far, at all. Occasionally you’ll receive a message from random players asking for help to ask you for help in defeating monsters, but they’re just random field monsters, not boss monsters, or even high level monsters. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is quite fun exploring the floors, and they at least change things up by having new mechanics to overcome while you explore. It’s not just wandering around and “oh shit, I found the boss!”.

The other big section of the game, the Hollow Areas, are the new feature of the game. It’s almost like two games in one. Your new friend, game original, Philia asks you for help in exploring the secrets of the Hollow Areas. Basically she gives you a point on the map that you have to traverse to, and it happens to be a dungeon to explore. This basically plays similar to the Aincrad levels, just with larger areas to explore, and tougher enemies. As you start the game at level 100, Aincrad has weak monsters that give you shit for experience points, so if an Aincrad boss is giving you trouble, just run around the Hollow Areas to level up Kirito (or just gain more skill points) to wipe the floor with him.

Combat itself is pretty decent. You gain skill points that boost the power of your sword abilities. After awhile, you’ll literally kill enemies with a single sword skill attack. You also get to travel with a partner, which basically consists of Kirito’s ever-growing harem and Klein, but fuck Klein if you can have cuties/badasses like Asuna or Sinon travel with you.

From what I’ve noticed, none of your partners have a noticeable difference in battle, they’re just at different levels. Characters like Asuna and Philia are initially stronger, as they’re close to the same level as Kirito, while Sinon and Silica are on much lower levels. Though if you run around with the lower level characters enough, they’ll level up quickly and make the gap between the higher level partners null and void.

The only story required partner is Philia in the Hollow Areas. Basically your job is to get her out, and magically she’s the only one that can use the items you find to unlock doors and stuff to progress. Other than that, you can pick whoever you want.

Now for the flaws of the game. Largely the flaws have to deal with the “story” and dialog. There isn’t necessarily an overarching story and after completing certain events, they unlock cutscenes for the characters which is the biggest flaw of the game. These cutscenes pretty much just serve as fanservice bits. With bits like following Silica and finding out that she works at a maid cafe, or sparing with Sinon and she falls over and gets wet and shows off some butt action. These bits feel very unnecessary and just shows off the cuteness of Kirito’s harem.

Then there’s the times where the various girls get Kirito in trouble. I shit you not that when you first leave the Hollow Area (aka the game tutorial), you first get bitched at by all the female characters for being missing for several minutes, then immediately get bitched at AGAIN for mentioning that you met yet another girl. As more cutscenes appear in the game, so increases your times of getting bitched at by either a girl, or multiple girls. Not even 5 minutes later, another game original character, Strea appears, and starts hitting on Kirito, then the ever-so-clueless Kirito takes her to a bar. The girls then walk in on Strea sitting on your lap, and then you get bitched at a third time. Gotta love that don’t you?

Let’s not talk about the silly scene where they all get jealous of your sibling relationship with Leafa, and then all pretend that they’re all your little sister. Sigh

Then there’s the relationship portion of the game. If the cutscenes weren’t enough fanservice for you, then all bets are off on this one. From what I’ve noticed, increasing the girls’ affection towards you serves pretty much no purpose. The purpose it pretty much serves is that you get to walk around town holding hands with your favorite girl, and if you increase their affection levels high enough, you get to bridal carry them to your room and “share your bed” with them. Yes you get to be a manwhore and fuck every girl in the game. I shit you not.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see why the game has either mixed reviews, or just rated lower than it should be. Unlike other JRPG’s like a Tales or Final Fantasy, the game really just caters to fans of the show. Instead of introducing you to the world, or even the cast, the game pretty much implies that you not only know who everyone is, but what’s going on. Especially when this game seems to take place after both seasons of the anime (or if it wasn’t for Sinon, after the first season). The game expects you to already know who Heathcliff is, or the events of the anime.

If the game wasn’t unfriendly enough to newcomers, the copious amounts of fanservice sure as hell isn’t helping either. While a flawed game, it’s definitely got its merits and is quite enjoyable. The combat is fun, and the graphics definitely give justice to the artstyle of the show. It’s obviously catered to a niche audience who consists of fans of the show who also happen to be fans of RPG’s.

Conclusion: 7/10

Breath of Fire IV – First Impressions

Prior to this, I played Breath of Fire 3, and while it’s a very slow game, it’s getting more fun since the last I’ve played it. Breath of Fire 4 on the other hand, is a much more interesting game from the get-go. So far the story is much faster paced, and you start off with two different stories going on at once.

The game seems to be an improvement in all aspects compared to 3. As a later release, the graphics are really nice. The only minor gripe is that the times they show polygonal monsters looks weird side by side with the 2D sprite characters. There’s a lot of fluid animation from the characters moving around. The characters, environments, and monsters look fantastic.

Controls are also an improvement, and instead of using the weird camera control from 3 where you hold the square button and use the D-pad to look around, they copy the camera controls from other games where you use the shoulder buttons to rotate. The only silly thing they did was that the camera is at a 45 degree angle, so even when rotating the camera, you only keep it at a 45 degree angle.

Definitely enjoying the game so far. Looking forward to seeing how the game progresses.

Star Ocean: First Departure Review

Released in 2007 in Japan and 2008 in Europe and North America, First Departure is the remake of the first game in Tri-Ace’s Star Ocean series and is published by Square Enix. The original game was titled Star Ocean: Fantastic Space Odyssey, and was released in 1995 on the Super Famicom (SNES). It was developed by the group Wolf Team, and they previously released another RPG on the same console called Tales of Phantasia. After several creative disputes with their publisher Namco, after the released of Tales of Phantasia much of the development team left and started Tri-Ace and ran to another publisher, Enix. this is the reason why the Star Ocean series and the Tales series both share many similarities, and even the early games shared some of the same spells. They decided to stay way from some aspects of the typical high fantasy setting of many RPG games and focused on a heavily Star Trek influenced story and follows it up with science fiction elements.

The original version of Star Ocean was considered ahead of its time, and completely pushed the limits of the SNES. Sadly this game never saw the light of day outside of Japan, largely due to Enix closing it’s North American market, and also due to it being a late SNES release, and Nintendo of America pushing the then new Nintendo 64. There is a fan translation available of this game.

In 2007 the game was finally remade for the Playstation Portable and released in the West. This version uses an updated version of the engine for Star Ocean: Second Story, and was developed alongside the enhanced port of that game, now called Star Ocean: Second Evolution. With this remake, they had help with the animation company Production IG, famous for Ghost in the Shell, and more recently Attack on Titan. There are many updates compared to the SNES version, as they added a few bonus characters, new soundtrack, and updated character designs and cutscenes. Despite all these changes, the story and gameplay is pretty unchanged.

Now for the actual review:

Story:

You play as a young warrior named Roddick Farrence who lives in the small town of Kratus. He runs a Defense Force team with his friends Dorne Murtough and Millie Chilette, and together they defend the village from robbers and thieves. They’re young Fellpools who are a race of humanoid beings who have tails and pointy ears and live on the planet Roak.

After a day’s work, they receive a letter that a nearby village has been plagued with a contagious disease causing everyone to turn to stone, and Dorne has the disease. They hear of an herb that is claimed to heal the stone sickness, and head off to Mount Metorx. Once they reach mount Metorx, they see a flash of light and two beings appear in front of them. They introduce themselves as Ronyx J Kenny and Illia Silvestri, and are part of a Galactic Federation, and are from the planet Earth. They have to bring the sad news that the herbs they seek won’t cure the disease and bring the trio aboard their spaceship.

After Dorne is placed in medical care, the federation discovers that a rival group are supposedly creating a bio weapon by using the people on Roak. They realize that the only way to stop the disease is to find the host, but the host has been dead for 300 years. So Ronyx and Illia take Roddick and Millie to a planet that carries a time gate, and they travel 300 years to the past to find the demon Asmodeus to receive the cure for the disease. Thus the adventure begins.

Gameplay:

Largely a fairly traditional RPG with random encounters, the battle system is what sets the game apart from other RPG’s. The battle system takes place in real time, and is similar to an action RPG where you can mash the action button to attack the enemy. You can assign special skills to the shoulder buttons What separates this from a real action RPG, the battles take place in another screen, and there are still menus to cast other spells, or use items. It’s like a pseudo-action RPG with menus.

The rest of your party runs on AI and you can’t really control them outside of setting tactics. So if you’re tired of that character for always wasting their SP, you can set their tactic and tell them to save that shit up.

There’s also a skill system where you can customize characters with various skills. While some of these help in battle, like increasing speed or recovery time, these skills are mostly for other aspects like item creation, via cooking meals, or creating items you can’t find in stores.

There is also a feature called Private Actions, where when you enter a town, you can have the party explore the city on their own, and you can talk to them individually. This is an optional feature, and helps a bit with character development. This can also alter what happens in the various endings.  Luckily the game takes roughly 20 hours, so it’s definitely shorter than some other RPG’s from the same time period, or of today. There’s apparently about 80 different endings, which is definitely a task if you want to see each and every ending.

For your party, you can recruit a total of 8 people, with 4 active for battle. There’s a total of 13 playable characters, and only 4 of them are compulsory, that leaves you a total of 9 optional characters to choose from. Some characters are really easy to unlock, and others have specific requirements that practically require a walkthrough to unlock, as you have to have/don’t have a specific character in your party, and then talk to them under a private action after completing some other task. Is it worth recruiting these pain in the ass characters? Who knows?

Visuals:

Since it uses the engine from Star Ocean: Second Story, with its 2D sprites on a pre-rendered backgrounds, the game looks like a game from the original Playstation. While not as graphically impressive as other PSP titles, it at least gets the job done like many other PSP ports of PS1 games. The game does feature a portrait of a main character’s face in the dialog, and their face changes to depict their emotions.

Unlike the original version of the game, it does have a traditional overworld, and if you’ve played the original version, this gives the world a much larger feeling.

Music:

Like everything on this remake, the soundtrack was updated. It does sound a lot better than the SNES version, so while the original had a really good soundtrack, an updated version is much nicer. It does have a typical JRPG style soundtrack, but there are a few memorable tracks. The opening of the game even features the anime tradition of having a J-Pop theme song and it’s a fairly likable track.

Verdict:

Star Ocean: First Departure is a pretty solid JRPG, and is a very recommendable title for those who are fond of the older RPG’s from the SNES and PS1 days. The voice acting is decent, while not the best acting, and is patchy at times, it’s definitely not something to cringe over. This game does show some of its age, so it may not appeal to those who want a more modern approach to their RPG’s, but for those who either like RPG’s in general, or want to play a lost classic, this is a very solid game to add to your collection.

Music: 7/10

Visuals: 7/10

Story: 8/10

Content: 8/10

Conclusion: 8/10