Tag Archives: RPG

Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei – First Impressions

Outside of Japan, the Megaten series is called the Shin Megami Tensei series, as the series came out after everything started being called Shin Megami Tensei. I checked out the original SMT game, a game few have played, but I decided to delve even deeper and go with the original game, Megami Tensei, a game even less have played.

Knowing this was an NES game, I knew I was going to have to deal with outdated mechanics. I personally have no problem with playing NES RPG’s, hell I even played the original incarnation of Dragon Quest. Despite my experience with NES RPG’s, Megami Tensei was kind of a different beast. I’ve almost entirely played the top-down NES RPG’s, a game that’s entirely in first person was completely new to me on the console. It kind of reminded me of the dungeons from the original Phantasy Star. Though this game does give me some of the similar frustrations to that game.

The 16-Bit or later first person games either give you an auto-map on the bottom of the screen or even have a map menu. Also the navigation was a lot less confusing. Any post-16-Bit RPG also makes it much easier to navigate, as it’s a lot easier to navigate in a 3D rendered environment in first person. 8-bit, not so much. Due to the graphical limitations, everything tends to look the same.

Due to this, I was happy to hear that Megami Tensei had a remake on the SNES, which was almost like a godsend when it came to navigation. I honestly tried the NES version, but I got so lost in that beginning town it was a nightmare for me. Now to the actual gameplay…

Megami Tensei is a first person dungeon crawler reminiscent of Shining in the Darkness, despite coming out first. There’s essentially a hub town, and you navigate through a sprawling dungeon. This wasn’t much of a drastic change from later SMT games, as healing and saving points are usually spread significantly thing. The typical frustration with the difficulty is typical from SMT games.

A welcome feature they added to the remake that was absent in the original is how you get fully healed when you level up. This is really nice when you’re really close to a boss, but your MP is basically zero. If you’re pretty close to leveling up, you can just grind for a tad bit, and now you’re fully prepared to take on that boss.

I’m looking forward to playing more of this game, a dungeon crawler is a change of pace from what I’m used to. Though this is one of those games where you have to legitimately sit down and play, and not just pick up and play for a couple of mins because of how spread out the sections of the game are.

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Time and Eternity – First Impressions

I heard horror stories about this game, and I had the chance to get ahold of this game. The only reason why I bothered picking it up was that the store was having a buy two get one free sale. Before I even heard the horror stories with how the game was, I knew I was going to have mixed opinions on the actual game due to the fact that it was released by NIS.

NIS tends to release really quirky games, quirky gameplay, and quirky stories, and this one is no exception. From the onset, you find out your main protagonist is this lecherous pervert and is thinking about how he wants to bang his fiancee’s friends. Then later he sees a guy kissing this girl’s cheek, and he’s freaking out that this guy got farther than the protagonist ever had. It’s really weird that they’ve been dating, and he’s never kissed this girl on the cheek. There’s also some really cartoony dialog in the game, sure I’m not expecting something serious, but some of the conversation and comments in the game are really over the top and cartoony.

Then there’s the actual gameplay. Navigation is really awkward. You move around in a 3D-ish environment, but then the camera is inches away from the character’s back, who’s a 2D sprite. It just looks really weird. Then there’s the battle system where it’s in real time and you can dodge attacks from enemies. The problem with the dodging, is that the timing is really awkward. If you dodge right when the attack is close to hit you, you didn’t dodge it, and you get hit. You essentially have to time before the attack actually happens or you’ll receive a ton of damage.

I might play more of this game, but honestly there isn’t much to enjoy in the first few hours of the game.

First Impressions – Shin Megami Tensei

Megami Tensei, a franchise that had a troubled start in the US, and slowly started getting more mainstream recognition during the PS2 days. That was when the franchise started appearing in the West. In Japan, it started way back on the NES with Digital Devil Story Megami Tensei (first impression on that game will come out later). The series basically pulled a Metal Gear Solid by changing the franchise name by going with Shin Megami Tensei ever since. Seeing how I enjoyed the later games in the franchise, I decided to start with the first SMT game on the SNES.

Comparing Nocturne and SMT4 to the first SMT, one of the biggest differences is that it’s entirely first person. This can make navigation a bit confusing in the dungeons, so you either have to keep pulling up the map menu, or casting the mappara spell. You could do what others did back in the day, get graph paper. If you played either the first Persona game, SMT Strange Journey, or Soul Hackers, this won’t be unusual for you, albeit with better interfaces.

The difficulty of this game is definitely higher than the newer games. One of the reasons is because you have to have magnetite to keep your demon allies alive, and walking around drains magnetite. I’m honestly not sure why this mechanic exists, but it does get annoying when you start running out of it. Having more demons in your party drains your magnetite faster, it’s almost like its a punishment for having a party. You also lose it faster when you’re trying to recruit demons, because the majority of them constantly ask for magnetite. It essentially doubles your time grinding. You earn magnetite at the end of battles, along with your typical EXP and money. Though in some areas, you earn very little to no magnetite. I was in one area where I grinded for 30 mins straight and only earned 25 magnetite. It was ridiculous.

The press turn system the franchise is known for isn’t in this game, but what this game goes overboard with, is the status effects. It’s almost like a 90% chance of being inflicted with most of these effects, paralyze being the most annoying as it’s the most frequently used. If your party gets hit with mazio, you’d be lucky if only one party member doesn’t get paralyzed. This becomes incredibly frustration at one part of the game. Here, you get teleported to a new area, and your party gets spread out in the dungeon. Your job is to find them. This part was ridiculous. While partially it was due to me being underleveled, but I was constantly getting in the encounter with a party of demons that cast Zio. With the obnoxiously high rate of being inflicted, I got paralyzed every single time, and they continuously wailed on me until I died.

The original SMT is really good so far, but this game is definitely not one to recommend to anyone who’s only casually into RPG’s.

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

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.

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.

Lunar Silver Star Harmony – First Impressions

The fourth iteration of the original Lunar game, Lunar: The Silver Star Story (there’s currently 5, but it’s really just a mobile friendly version of the second “Complete” version). This game is fondly remembered, not only for being one of the few quality games on the ill remembered Sega CD (or Mega CD for those outside of the US), or even one of the few traditional RPG’s on the console add-on. It’s just a quality game all around, and the remake on the original Playstation helped bring it into a larger audience (it’s also just a better version in general).

Before talking about this iteration of the game, it does beg the question of why Lunar 1 is the only game in the franchise that got so many iterations, and the second one only got a single remake. It’s a quality game in its own right, and depending on who you talk to, can be considered the better of the two. Maybe I’m just preaching to the choir, because I really enjoy Lunar 2. Aaaaanyway

Silver Star Harmony looks like an even more updated version of Complete, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s the superior of the three previous versions, complete with all the cutscenes and completely revoiced with new actors. The new voices sound pretty competent, and do sound less “Speed Racery” in the cutscenes. They did find a girl that sounds similar to Luna, and she can sing pretty well. Some of the new voices do take a bit of getting used to, but that’s just because they sound different instead of being bad. Most notably Nall. I’m used to him having a squeaky voice from the original CD and the PS1  versions, but his new VA seems pretty competent.

The graphics look really good compared to the older games, mostly because of it being on a more powerful system. It’s in an isometric view, so some of the new layouts of the towns and such will take a bit of getting used to, but it does give the game a bit more of a new feel to returning fans instead of just feeling like yet another rehash.

The music sounds really good as well. It’s still midi, but who cares if it still sounds good. The only major complaint I have about the soundtrack, is that the music fades out every time you change screens and starts up again when you get to a new screen. I’d understand if you were going to a spot with a change of music, as it’s kind of expected, but it’s really jarring when you’re going to a different screen in a town or dungeon (or enter a house), and the music stops, then starts back up again (at least it’s from where it left off). You’d think it’d be a simple thing to program to have it continue, as even basic programs like RPG Maker are able to do it. Who knows, it’s not game breaking, but it’s still an annoyance.

The gameplay and battle mechanics are largely untouched from the PS1 version. You can still move around the field and attack monsters based on your range, and Alex can still attack twice in a row. They even kept the aspect of being able to see the enemies on the field if you want to avoid them, though sadly they can still follow you around. It does make the concept seem null and void when many of the enemies are basically unavoidable. At least they didn’t bring back the random encounters from the Sega CD version. The biggest feature they added to this version, is that the characters basically have limit breaks. So like in Final Fantasy, the more you attack and such, your limit meter builds up. It also follows the FF10 model where you can save it for later, like Luna’s super heal when you’re in a tight spot in a boss fight.

Now a gripe, which is how the cutscenes are in a fairly low resolution. The 4:3 ratio is ignorable, as they most likely didn’t make those cutscenes in a wider screen format, but the low resolution videos seems like an odd choice. It looks really pixelated in many of the scenes, and was probably just copied straight from the PS1 game, and it’s not a PSP limitation, as other games have better video quality. It’s possible that those are the only versions of the cutscenes available for the staff.

Another possibility is that I’m playing it on the Vita, and on the PSTV, so it could make it more noticeable, like playing a PS1 game on the PS3. It does make the character images look more pixelated and the text more blurry, though some of the other PSP games I’ve played on the Vita don’t look like that. Who knows.

A gripe I do have with the game is the added intro to the game. While it does give some backstory to the game, it feels like a drag to go through a boss fight (which plays more like an interactive cutscene). It’s somewhat long and kind of annoying when you just want to get to the damn game.

Anywho, Silver Star Harmony so far is a very good remake of the game, and personally the best version of the game out there. Some might have nostalgia glasses on the older versions, or just prefer the top down nature of them, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless.