moxx.net http://moxx.net Blogging Like It's 1999 Thu, 29 Nov 2018 17:39:33 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://moxx.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/cropped-cropped-site-icon-32x32.gif moxx.net http://moxx.net 32 32 103329535 Space Pilgrim Episode I: Alpha Centauri http://moxx.net/2018/space-pilgrim-e1/ http://moxx.net/2018/space-pilgrim-e1/#respond Mon, 11 Jun 2018 15:53:36 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=888 Available On: RPG Maker (PC) (2015) RPG Maker Version: RPG Maker VX Ace Game Length: ~1 hour   Story, Setting & Characters — 6/10 The opening episode of Space Pilgrim starts off fairly simply — you play the part of Gail Pilgrim, the captain of the small transport starship Quicksilver. Initially being tasked to locate […]

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Available On: RPG Maker (PC) (2015)
RPG Maker Version: RPG Maker VX Ace
Game Length: ~1 hour

 

Story, Setting & Characters — 6/10

The opening episode of Space Pilgrim starts off fairly simply — you play the part of Gail Pilgrim, the captain of the small transport starship Quicksilver. Initially being tasked to locate your passengers, things quickly and inevitably go very wrong. While there are a few unexpected twists here and there, the story is largely quite simple — albeit entertaining enough — and covers about an hour’s worth of gameplay.

Aside from your passengers — and the ornery ship’s cat — there are a few other characters you’ll encounter on this short adventure. While the writing is mildly humorous, the characters are fairly basic archetypes with little surprise or variation, and the setting — at least, what can be seen in the small amount of story offered in this first episode — seems to be entirely generic and fairly bland space sci-fi.

It’s an entertaining little romp, but don’t expect anything that’ll blow you out of the water.

 

Graphics, Look & Feel — 7/10

For an RPG Maker game, Space Pilgrim Episode I looks pretty fantastic — but given the engine’s significant limitations, that’s not really saying much when comparing it to other RPGs as a whole. I didn’t spot any RTP assets used at all here, the high-tech graphics are all pretty excellent and the game world is well-designed in general, albeit consisting of a number of very small, fairly dense rooms.

The user interface consists largely of an inventory (which allows for both using and combining items), a functional yet largely unnecessary journal and quest tracking system, and dialogue boxes when interacting with people and objects in the game world. The attention to detail is nice and the overall visual experience is a cut above many other RPG Maker games, yet still distinctly average when compared to the RPG genre as a whole.

 

Sound & Music — 6/10

There’s honestly very little to say in this category — the sound effects are competent and the music is entirely forgettable.

 

Content & Sidequests — 5/10

This is, unfortunately, one of the weakest points of the game — with no combat system, the game plays more like a point-and-click adventure than anything. The story and gameplay is extremely linear, with puzzles only having a single solution which must be solved in a specific order, and aside from examining random objects and chatting to NPCs, there’s nothing to actually do outside of following the short, linear story.

Fortunately, there’s enough of a sense of urgency to keep the story rolling and to keep the player motivated, though it’s easy to finish the entire game in an hour or less, so there isn’t a great deal of content in general to speak of. What little exists is entertaining and amusing enough, but I feel like slapping “Episode I” onto the name isn’t quite enough to justify such a short game experience.

 

Gameplay & Pacing — 7/10

The actual gameplay is fairly solid, albeit rather simple and completely linear, which almost makes this game more of a visual novel than an RPG. You are free to explore a number of (fairly small) areas, solving puzzles in order to achieve various goals and progress the story. This is generally done by either interacting with NPCs or computers, or by collecting, combining and using various items in a point-and-click-adventure style manner.

The (short) story is decently-told and there isn’t any unnecessary padding here — each objective is always fairly clear and reasonably within reach, with small portions of story exposition between some of the goals. The puzzles tend to be extremely easy and take very little effort to solve, however, especially as every item in the game tends to have one single purpose.

 

Overall Experience — 7/10

Space Pilgrim Episode I shows some promise and is an amusing little adventure to while away an hour, though its lack of length, depth, and complexity certainly mars the potential it could have had to be a much better game. The low price point is extremely reasonable (£0.99 on Steam) and it’s worth trying if you want something lightweight and fun to fill a little space in your day, but don’t expect anything too deep or original.

My biggest complaint is that, unlike other puzzle-adventure games, there’s never a situation where there are multiple puzzles which can be solved in any order. At any given time, there’s one single objective or puzzle to be solved, then once that’s done, it’s on to the next. This, combined with each item only having a single use, makes for a fairly bland experience.

 

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Final Fantasy II http://moxx.net/2018/final-fantasy-ii/ http://moxx.net/2018/final-fantasy-ii/#respond Sun, 10 Jun 2018 18:52:54 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=846 This Review: PlayStation Portable (2007) Game Length: 25-30 hours Critic Rating: 63% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.   Story, Setting & Characters — 6/10 The story in Final Fantasy II is leaps and bounds ahead of the fairly simplistic narrative of the first game, and while […]

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This Review: PlayStation Portable (2007)
Game Length: 25-30 hours
Critic Rating: 63% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Story, Setting & Characters — 6/10

The story in Final Fantasy II is leaps and bounds ahead of the fairly simplistic narrative of the first game, and while fairly thin by today’s standards, it’s still moderately salvageable. The game begins with four youths — Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon — fleeing from their home city of Fynn, which is under siege from the forces of the evil Palamecian Empire. Left for dead after an ambush, three of the survivors are rescued by rebel forces and brought back from the brink of death, while Leon is nowhere to be found.

The trio joins forces with the rebel army and begins a quest across the world to acquire magical artifacts and equipment to battle the Emperor’s forces and restore peace to the war-ravaged world. It’s pretty standard magical-fantasy RPG faire, though was a great deal more original when the NES original of the game was released, compared to today with a similar plot being re-used ad nauseum by less inspired games.

The world’s setting is fairly generic high-fantasy with the unsurprising twist of the Empire being more technologically advanced than the rest of the kingdoms. While fairly varied, the game world is really nothing to write home about, nor are the characters who tend to be little more than set-pieces who barely (if at all) change throughout the course of the game.

 

Graphics, Look & Feel — 7/10

One of the stronger points of the game are the graphics — the PSP version of the game looks fantastic, with well-detailed and colourful characters, varied and attractive locations, and overall a top-notch job on updating the look and feel of the original to something more modern and palatable. The enemy sprites in battles are similarly excellent; large, colourful and well-made art that really brings the game world to life.

Unfortunately, while the art assets themselves are stellar, there are a few points which bring this score down significantly. First and foremost, the overworld map looks terrible. While the graphics may be solid, the world is simply far larger than it reasonably needs to be, consisting almost entirely of pointlessly empty wilderness with few variations. Similarly, dungeon layouts are uninspired and often fairly predictable in their design, and you’ll be facing recolours of the same enemy sprites over and over again — this can be forgiven to an extent, given that it’s a remake of a NES game, but that doesn’t excuse the poor use of such fantastic art.

The major exceptions to this rule are two of the last areas in the game — the Jade Passage and Pandemoneum, the latter of which especially is a visual treat and a stunningly bizarre experience.

 

Sound & Music — 8/10

While somewhat of a mixed bag, the musical score of Final Fantasy II is largely pretty solid, as one would expect from a Final Fantasy title. Some of the tracks from the small soundtrack are fairly mediocre and forgettable, while others — such as Castle Pandemoneum — are every bit as epic and inspired as one could hope for. For the most part, though, it’s about on par with what anyone would expect from an early Final Fantasy — above-average, but not quite up to the sheer epic levels that later games in the series achieved.

The sound effects in the game are purely adequate and, honestly, entirely forgettable in their adequacy. They do the job well enough and there’s no real complaints to be had, but it’s hard to think of any particular praise to offer.

 

Content & Sidequests — 5/10

I’m sorry to say, but disappointment is the name of the game when it comes to the actual content of Final Fantasy II. The huge game world is largely barren and populated only by a handful of towns, castles and caves, and the gameplay consists almost entirely of visiting a town, talking to some people, then delving into a nearby dungeon to collect an item. Rinse, lather, repeat — it’s the very core of JRPG gameplay with none of the extra fluff that makes the experience worthwhile, and after exploring yet another maze-like dungeon filled with the exact same kind of dead-ends and trap-rooms, it all starts to blur together into a tedious mess.

Side-quest content does exist for the PSP version, though it’s barely worth the effort — a few optional dungeons and the like, which offer exactly nothing special compared to the already boring experience of the existing storyline dungeons.

I hope you enjoy dungeons, because that’s pretty much all this game is about.

 

Gameplay & Pacing — 7/10

A thoroughly mediocre score for a thoroughly unremarkable experience — the gameplay of Final Fantasy II is competent enough, though largely lacking in depth and variety. It’s a fairly standard side-view, party-based battle system that any RPG aficionado will have seen a hundred times before. Your heroes can equip a variety of armour and weapons — some of which offers some tangible benefit beyond its stats, but for the most part, there’s little of interest beyond Generic Sword A being slightly stronger than Generic Axe B.

One curiosity about the game is the fact that there are no levels. Instead, characters improve their stats by doing — casting spells will increase a character’s intellect and mana pool, fighting in melee combat will increase strength, being hit by enemies will boost agility and hit points, and so on. It’s a much-maligned system that many find annoying and unwanted, but I found it to be quite flexible and easy to use, albeit uninteresting. Despite their initial allocation of stats, any of your heroes can be trained to perform just about any role, but this results in a muddy mess of homogeneity.

Moreover, the lack of predefined classes means that nobody has any interesting special abilities — anyone can cast a spell if they want, but there’s no Steal, there’s no Jump, nor any other special ability you may come to expect from a Final Fantasy title.

 

Overall Experience — 6/10

The best way to describe Final Fantasy II would be like a Fabergé egg; it’s pretty enough on the outside, but there’s no real substance or depth to it. While it’s interesting from a purely historical perspective, and entirely playable for those of us crazy enough to want to complete all of the main-series Final Fantasy games, there’s just really nothing here that I’d actually recommend to anyone.

The story is thin and largely uncompelling, the characters are set pieces at best (convenient tools at worst), the gameplay is thoroughly stale and medicocre, the gameplay mechanics are easily broken and abused (not to mention atrociously poorly-balanced), and I think I’ve laid into this game quite enough already and it’s time to stop beating the dead horse and agree with what most other people on the internet tend to say — that Final Fantasy II is one of the worst, if not the weakest entry in the series, and of interest only to die-hard fans and completionists.

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Breath of Fire III http://moxx.net/2018/breath-of-fire-iii/ http://moxx.net/2018/breath-of-fire-iii/#respond Sun, 10 Jun 2018 17:17:03 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=842 This Review: PlayStation Portable (2006) Near-Identical Versions: Sony PlayStation (1998) Game Length: 40-48 hours Critic Rating: 67% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.   Story, Setting & Characters — 7/10 Breath of Fire III starts in a rather unconventional manner — you play the part of Ryu, […]

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This Review: PlayStation Portable (2006)
Near-Identical Versions: Sony PlayStation (1998)
Game Length: 40-48 hours
Critic Rating: 67% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Story, Setting & Characters — 7/10

Breath of Fire III starts in a rather unconventional manner — you play the part of Ryu, an infant dragon (yes, an actual dragon) who has been freed from a fossilized egg by a hapless mining crew. After running rampant for a few brief, glorious moments, Ryu is captured and caged, before managing to escape again where — now taking the form of a human child — he is found lost and afraid in the woods by a kind-hearted rogue and his young accomplice.

Thus begins the first half of the game, an absolutely charming experience following the exploits of the young troublemakers as they steal food, challenge monsters, and cause all manner of headaches for the townspeople and the local corrupt lord. We see the vibrant, colourful fantasy world through a child’s eyes, and this veil of optimism helps to shroud the darker nature of the game’s events.

Needless to say, it’s not all fun and games, and things inevitably go horribly wrong — Ryu has to set off on a journey across the land, meeting new friends and facing dangerous foes, many of whom wish to slay or enslave the dragon-child. While the world leans heavily towards a rather generic medieval/magical fantasy style, there are some elements of technology seen here and there, albeit mostly in the form of relics unearthed from a lost age.

The biggest paradigm shift takes place about half-way through the game, where the plot jumps forward several years and we play as an adult Ryu. With the childlike innocence gone, the plot becomes much more sombre and — in my opinion — far less interesting and far too stretched-out, with a shift towards a more post-apocalyptic world setting which fits poorly with the game’s aesthetic and feels clumsily forced into the story.

For the most part, the setting is fairly generic, the story starts off on a strong point then starts to peter out, but the characters are strong enough in themselves — each having a very distinct and unique personality — to warrant a reasonable score in this category.

 

Graphics, Look & Feel — 8/10

The graphical style of the game is definitely one of its stronger points — with a largely-fixed (allowing for some small amount of rotation) isometric camera angle, the bulk of the game world is built up from 3D polygons with decent texturing hampered only by the hardware’s limitations, while all the characters, NPCs, enemies and such in the game are rendered as 2D sprites from an isometric perspective. This allows for much more detail and customization to the sprites than would be possible if they were 3D models, and for the most part, the art style is absolutely charming and a pleasure to behold.

The world is — again, for the most part — colourful and vibrant, varied and well-detailed. While the more cartoonish approach to the visuals may not appeal to everyone, I think it fits the mood of the game excellently. The user interface is easy-to-use and similarly well-designed, with a charming simplicity that belies the more complex gameplay beneath.

 

Sound & Music — 8/10

The soundtrack to the game is excellent — not as ground-breakingly epic as something from a Final Fantasy game might be, but compared to the majority of other RPGs, it stands strong and is a worth addition to the game. Much like the rest of the setting, the soundtrack feels upbeat and charmingly innocent, fitting perfectly with the visuals, evoking a sense of wonder and adventure.

The sound effects are solid and fit well with the gameplay, with each character having a few voice lines while performing special attacks or casting spells. While this can get a little repetitive — you’ll be hearing Rei’s cry of “Itadaki~!” a great deal in the adventure — it mostly fits well with the rest of the game, adding to the generally charming experience. Attacks and magic sound satisfying and powerful, and one particularly enjoyable part is seeing Ryu’s progression from initially flailing his sword with a frightened cry, into becoming a more confident swordsman.

 

Content & Sidequests — 7/10

The main game’s story is quite hefty in length — at least 40 hours long, likely more — and progresses through a fairly interesting variation of locations. Early-game — largely during Ryu’s childhood — the game features a variety of events and activities, ranging from raiding a nobleman’s mansion and fighting ghosts, to fighting in a gladiatorial arena. Unfortunately, the latter half of the game descends largely into the less-interesting trope of trudging through fairly large, maze-like dungeons, more for the sake of doing so than for any real story necessity.

As far as side activities go, there isn’t a huge amount to speak of here — there’s a fairly enjoyable fishing mini-game which can be skipped entirely but can offer some decent rewards (and is quite fun for its own sake), a rather stilted and poorly-explained village management ‘simulation’ where you must guide a village of faeries towards rebuilding their wrecked settlement (which can result in being given gifts or offered items for sale that are not available elsewhere), and some other minor content such as hunting powerful monsters, or playing hide-and-seek with kids in town.

For the most part, though, the game is largely linear and focuses more on telling a story rather than letting the player off the leash to wander too far. You’ll frequently find yourself constrained to small portions of the game world, and while the fishing and faerie village can be accessed from many locations, side content is definitely treated with low priority.

 

Gameplay & Pacing — 7/10

The gameplay in Breath of Fire III is largely average as far as JRPGs go — it’s competent and enjoyable, but doesn’t really stand out in any particular regard. One particularly nice point is the way combat is handled — while wandering around the game world, getting pulled into a random encounter will actually have the battle take place right where you are in the game world, rather than transitioning into a separate ‘battle screen’.

Combat has an intuitive and well-designed, icon-based interface for attacking and using items or special abilities, most characters can learn both spells and also learn certain special moves they observe from enemies, and Ryu in particular has the ability to combine a number of ‘dragon genes’ together to transform into one of several different types of dragons, each with its own unique characteristics and abilities.

The pacing is best described as questionable — as mentioned above, I felt as though the child-Ryu parts of the game were fantastic, but once we get to the adult-Ryu storyline, things feel as though they’re dragging on a little longer than is strictly necessary. It’s a minor complaint and may not bother everyone, but I feel it’s worth another mention.

 

Overall Experience — 7/10

For the most part, Breath of Fire III is a competent and enjoyable JRPG with some interesting and original twists, and an absolutely adorable aesthetic that’s hard not to love. It’s a far cry from perfect and certainly has its fair share of flaws, but as an overall experience it’s something I’d recommend at least trying to see if it appeals to you — after all, there aren’t many games where the main character is a literal dragon.

If you’re looking for a super serious storyline, full of emotional rollercoasters and jarring surprises, then Breath of Fire III is certainly not the game for you. But if you’d like to experience a more light-hearted, vibrant, colourful and charming world with well-written characters and entertaining dialogue, then you can’t go far wrong by giving this one a fair try.

While the PlayStation Portable version is slightly improved over the PlayStation original — particularly in terms of a slightly improved soundtrack — both versions are solid and competent, and near-identical experiences.

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Ghost in a Bottle http://moxx.net/2018/ghost-in-a-bottle/ http://moxx.net/2018/ghost-in-a-bottle/#respond Sat, 06 Jan 2018 09:48:21 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=793   Ghost in a Bottle Deciding it was time for another RPG Maker game review, I thought it could be fun to browse the list of games on rpgmaker.net, but set the sorting to random and pick the first item on the list. What could go wrong, I thought. It could be fun, I thought. […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

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WiiU · Xbox 360 · Xbox One

 

Ghost in a Bottle

Deciding it was time for another RPG Maker game review, I thought it could be fun to browse the list of games on rpgmaker.net, but set the sorting to random and pick the first item on the list. What could go wrong, I thought. It could be fun, I thought.

After all, it couldn’t be much worse than Eternal Destiny, right?

Well, as it turns out…

 

Essential Information

Available On: RPG Maker (PC) (2009)
Author: TFT
RPG Maker Version: RPG Maker 2000
Game Length: <1 hour
Download Link rpgmaker.net

 

Grave’s Thoughts

I knew this was going to be terrible from the screenshots alone, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the levels of sheer bizarre awfulness present in this mercifully short game. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the amount of effort that seems to have gone into making this strange joke of a game — while the music is blatantly stolen from other games (mostly in the form of bad MIDI files), and I can only assume the art is mostly lifted from other sources (aside from a few exceptions, such as a very poorly-drawn, human-sized penis), some amount of effort seems to have been put into the map construction and ‘cutscenes’.

Don’t let this fool you into thinking that Ghost in a Bottle is anything beyond an absolute train-wreck, however — the extremely short game (about half of which consists of scripted cutscenes) has a largely-incomprehensible plot, due in no small part to the plethora of what I can only assume are intentional spelling errors strewn across the bizarrely lengthy dialogue. Playing the role of a wheelchair-bound kid and apparent Ghostbuster-wannabe, you are thrust into a 4chan-esque convoluted mess of memes, in-jokes, and what can only be described as the worst Ghostbusters fanfiction ever written.

If this sounds even remotely interesting, like something you might want to download and try for yourself just for a laugh — trust me, it’s not. This hectic conglomeration of meme-like content seems to be trying its absolute best to be both offensive and amusing, and fails spectacularly on both counts. The combat system is random, poorly-cut-out JPEGs set to an awful MIDI mix of Butterfly, the questing is as complicated as talking to a few nonsensical NPCs and pressing a switch, and the whole thing looks like something that a 12-year-old probably thought was the height of hilarity and originality.

But hey, there’s a silver lining, at least: surely the next RPG Maker game I play can’t be any worse than this…

 

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Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky http://moxx.net/2018/loh-tits/ http://moxx.net/2018/loh-tits/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 07:29:03 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=732   Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Until a few months ago, I’d actually never heard of the Legend of Heroes series before, let alone any particular LoH game, and yet the internet seems to be all abuzz lately regarding Trails in the Sky: the first part of a trilogy of RPG games by […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

Game Boy Advance · Nintendo 2DS/3DS · PC · PlayStation · PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4 · PlayStation Portable · PlayStation Vita · RPG Maker · SNES · Switch · Wii
WiiU · Xbox 360 · Xbox One

 

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Until a few months ago, I’d actually never heard of the Legend of Heroes series before, let alone any particular LoH game, and yet the internet seems to be all abuzz lately regarding Trails in the Sky: the first part of a trilogy of RPG games by Nihon Falcom, also known for making the Ys series. Originally released in Japan in 2004 (though the Legend of Heroes series as a whole dates back to 1989!), Trails in the Sky was more recently released to Western markets, and seems to have been a pretty big hit.

It’s now 6am and I’ve been up all night trekking through the last few morsels of the game, exploring dungeons and battling foes, and finding myself rather taken aback by some suddenly unexpected plot twists at the very end of the story. It’s time to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Essential Information

This Review: PC/Windows (2014)
Near-Identical Versions: PlayStation Portable (2011), PlayStation 3 (2012, Japan-only), PlayStation Vita (2015, Japan only)
Game Length: 42-50 hours
Critic Rating: 85% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Grave’s Thoughts

Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky — the first part of the Trails in the Sky trilogy — is a charming, colourful, exciting, and only somewhat flawed coming-of-age story. It follows the adventures of Estelle Bright — a spunky tomboyish type always looking for a fight, the daughter of a renowned and well-respected member of the Bracer Guild — and her adopted brother, Joshua, a more serious and thoughtful boy with a mysterious past. The story starts fairly slow and simple, with the brother-sister duo finishing their training and joining as junior Bracers, performing odd jobs around town and helping the citizens with missing pets and lost property. Think of the Bracers as a combination civilian police force and lawful-good mercenaries, and as the most junior members, Estelle and Joshua set off on charming yet low-key adventures as they try to get their bearings.

Right off the bat, you can tell this game is very strongly anime-inspired, even moreso than your average JRPG. Not that I mean that as a bad thing, mind — the world is absolutely charming and quite attractive to behold, with memorable and likeable characters and sinister villains alike. The game seems to lull early on, with little sense of urgency or depth to the plot as our heroes travel from town to town across the kingdom, but I’d implore anyone willing to try the game to give it a fair try — “play until the play” is a phrase I’ve heard a number of times regarding Trails in the Sky, and it’s an apt suggestion. While the story may seem fairly low-key and simple early on, it unfolds into something more interesting and sinister as time passes, with some truly unexpected twists near the end, leaving the story open for the sequel to pick up where it left off.

Let’s talk game mechanics: Nihon Falcom are no strangers to experimenting with existing formulas, and the Trails series is no exception. Combat takes place on a two-dimensional grid similar to something one might see in a Final Fantasy Tactics or Fire Emblem game, albeit with a great deal less complexity. Positioning and turn order are both important aspects of the gameplay — particularly the latter, something which can be manipulated to take advantage of randomly-occurring buffs which can apply to either the player’s or enemy’s turn — though this system can honestly be overlooked in the majority of battles, with only a few boss fights where proper positioning is an absolute must.

As well as learning various abilities through levelling up, the majority of special abilities your characters use are in the form of Quartz (think Materia from Final Fantasy VII) mounted in a device known as an Orbment. The system is a little difficult to understand at first and would take far too long to explain in this review, but in a nutshell, you can customize the spells and adjust the stats of your party pretty much at will, though certain limitations nudge some characters in different directions. It’s a system which feels clunky and confusing at first, yet will become second-nature by the time you’ve spent a few hours battling.

Speaking of battling, a couple of extremely welcome features — first of all, the lack of the much-maligned ‘random encounters’. Instead, you’ll actually see every enemy in the game world as you run around, and you must make physical contact to initiate battle. That’s not to say the enemies won’t try to chase you down, but it’s still a breath of fresh air compared to random encounters out of thin air every few steps. Secondly, if you fail any battle — boss or otherwise — the game will allow you to retry from the beginning as many times as you like, with an optional feature to make the encounter slightly easier each time you fail.

Aside from this, a rudimentary fishing system which is barely touched upon (and yet expanded further in the later games), and an extremely simple cooking system, the game is a little bare-bones as far as extras go — it’s heavily focused on telling a story and ushering the player through said story, and while the storytelling itself is excellent, it feels a little hand-holdy, offering little freedom beyond limited-time side-quests (the vast majority of which are issued from the regional Bracer Guilds) to explore beyond the scope of where the story wants to go. This shouldn’t be seen as too much of a negative point, however, as it means the important focus of the game — the story and character development — are almost constantly front-and-center.

Without giving too much of the plot away, the story focuses largely on the journey of Estelle and Joshua — and friends they make along the way — throughout a sort of post-magic-industrial-revolution kingdom, doing odd jobs and good deeds along the way while uncovering an ever-deepening political conspiracy, along with trying to get to the bottom of their father’s mysterious disappearance. The story is competent, propped up largely by the extremely good writing and well-rounded characters, and does a good job setting the stage for the future games in the trilogy, while still being able to stand fairly firmly on its own two feet.

Overall, Trails in the Sky is a solid and enjoyable game which should appeal to both veteran and new players alike, though aside from its rather unique battle system, it feels as though the game tries far too much to paint inside the lines, and can feel a little bland in parts as a result. Just about every aspect of the game can fairly be described as being very good, though no particular area really stands out enough to truly excel.

 

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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim http://moxx.net/2017/elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/ http://moxx.net/2017/elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/#respond Mon, 25 Dec 2017 21:21:07 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=689   The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Oh man, where to even start when trying to review what is likely my favourite game of all time? And for that matter, who hasn’t heard of Skyrim, one of the most successful and popular RPGs of all time? Originally released in 2011 (with the rather iconic release date […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

Game Boy Advance · Nintendo 2DS/3DS · PC · PlayStation · PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4 · PlayStation Portable · PlayStation Vita · RPG Maker · SNES · Switch · Wii
WiiU · Xbox 360 · Xbox One

 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Don’t mind me.

Oh man, where to even start when trying to review what is likely my favourite game of all time? And for that matter, who hasn’t heard of Skyrim, one of the most successful and popular RPGs of all time? Originally released in 2011 (with the rather iconic release date of 11-11-11), Skyrim — the fifth entry in the long-running Elder Scrolls series — was such a massive success that it was re-released multiple times with various improvements, ported to additional platforms, and still sees a great deal of popularity even today — six years after it was first published.

 

Essential Information

This Review: PC/Windows (Special Edition, 2011)
Near-Identical Versions: PlayStation 3 (2011), Xbox 360 (2011), PlayStation 4 (2016), Xbox One (2016), Nintendo Switch (2017)
Game Length: 24-130 hours
Critic Rating: 93% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Grave’s Thoughts

“Skyrim belongs to the nor–aaagh!”

As mentioned above, Skyrim is the fifth entry in the long-running and popular Elder Scrolls series — while the first couple of entries (Arena and Daggerfall) were decent yet hardly mainstream DOS games, the third and fourth games — Morrowind and Oblivion, both of which are worthy candidates for future reviews on this site — were hugely successful and popular, and helped The Elder Scrolls become a well-known name in the gaming world. Skyrim managed to surpass its predecessors and then some — but why is this game so damn popular?

Let’s step back a little and look at the big picture. The Elder Scrolls series are set in the high-fantasy land of Tamriel, and one of the biggest selling points of the series is its open world — from very early in each game, the player is free to do with the world as they wish, whether that be following the main story and completing quests, or simply venturing off and exploring, stealing, murdering — pretty much whatever they like. The world is truly your oyster in The Elder Scrolls, and Skyrim is no exception, giving the player free reign of around 37.1 km² (14.3 square miles) of landscape in the snowy northern lands of the titular land of Skyrim.

It’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect of a high-fantasy world — swords and sorcery abound, a land populated by the hardy men of the north along with a smattering of elves, Argonians (lizard people), Khajiit (cat people), and of course a plethora of monsters, undead, demons, and — naturally — dragons. This is the central core of Skyrim’s plot, in fact — the return of the dragons, a race thought to be extinct for thousands of years. Naturally, the player character has a destiny intricately bound to this plot — he or she is known as the Dragonborn, a mortal born with the power to absorb the souls of slain dragons and learn their ability to ‘shout’ words of mystical power. If you’ve played any previous Elder Scrolls game, you’ll know the drill here — you are the chosen one who will save the world from a great evil, and so on. It’s a bit of a tired and predictable plot, yet the open-world freedom of the game keeps things fresh and entertaining.

The game’s bugs can often be humorous.

The freedom is one of the biggest things that sets Skyrim apart from other RPGs, providing a sort of single-player MMORPG experience, the world itself dynamically adjusting its difficulty level to match that of the player character, ensuring that you’re free to wander just about anywhere, and do just about anything you want, at any point in the game. You can charge off through the (not terribly lengthy) main story quest, join one of the several factions in the game (including the usual warrior, thief and mage guilds), or just strike out on your own and wander into the wilderness, plundering dungeons and defeating bandits and the undead. The choice is yours, and the sheer amount of freedom and flexibility offered by the game is refreshing, as well as incredibly addictive. It’s easy to lose yourself entirely in Skyrim for hours at a time, forgetting that the real world exists at all.

The sense of freedom also applies to the game’s skill system — rather than choosing a class at the start of the game, you simply start off life as a generic adventurer. Any skills you use — for example, wielding a battleaxe will increase your two-handed weapon skill, or casting various spells will increase your aptitude in that field of magic — will increase over time, and after enough skills improve, you can level up and invest a perk point into one of numerous skill trees — one for each skill in the game. This way, you can choose to specialize, to mix and match a few different skills, or simply be a jack of all trades and advance your character in whatever direction seems fun at the time. There’s a strong overlying feeling of “the choice is yours” to almost every aspect of the gameplay, even down to how you approach obstacles in the world — do you charge into the bandit-infested tower with heavy armour and a greatsword, or maybe take the stealthy approach, sniping individual bandits from afar with your bow? Perhaps raise corpses to fight in your stead, letting each slain foe add to your undying legion?

This is not a happy place.

As if that wasn’t enough, we come now to the greatest strength of Skyrim, and likely one of the major reasons why it became so popular: modding. The game fully supports player-made mods, and at the time of writing, there are literally tens of thousands of different mods available for the game, allowing you to customize and extend the world in ways that you may have never thought possible. Everything from gameplay overhauls to DLC-sized expansion packs are available, most for free, and allow the freedom to customize an already incredible game into something that perfectly suits your own style of gameplay. Graphics overhauls can make Skyrim rival games released this year in terms of visuals, fans of magic will be delighted by the plethora of extra spells made available by fans, and the list goes on, and on. In lieu of rambling too much on the subject, I’ll list some of my personal favourite mods below.

Overall, Skyrim is an experience like no other — a massive open world where the player has the freedom to be whatever they want, and do whatever they want, be it good or evil — or maybe somewhere in between. It’s a world you can truly lose yourself in, and with the huge amount of mods available from the community, it’s a game that will never be the same twice.

 

Recommended Mods

There are so many amazing mods for Skyrim, it’s impossible to really know where to start — but here’s a few of my absolute favourites. Bear in mind that mods made for the original Skyrim may not be compatible with Skyrim Special Edition, and vice-versa, though many have been ported to both games. The links below are for the Special Edition (SSE) and the Legendary Edition (SLE).

There are many mods to add new unique treasure.

Unofficial Skyrim Special Edition Patch (SSE) / Unofficial Skyrim Legendary Edition Patch (SLE) — These are must-have mods which contain an absolute host of community-made bug-fixes for the game, correcting a staggering amount of mistakes Bethesda never officially fixed.

Alternate Start: Live Another Life (SSE / SLE) — Tired of always starting the game as a prisoner in a wagon, having to sit through the same long scripted sequence every time? No longer! Now you can start as a hunter in the wilds, a necromancer in a secret lair, a bandit in a den of thieves, or one of plenty of other alternate starting points to the game.

Frostfall (SSE / SLE) & Campfire (SSE / SLE) — Feel like adding some realism to your game? Frostfall and Campfire make the cold and snowy landscape of Skyrim into the perilous land it truly is, a place where the unwary could freeze to death in the icy wastes. If survival mods are your thing, these are the absolute kings of Skyrim survival.

Ordinator: Perks of Skyrim (SSE / SLE) — The vanilla perks system is excellent, but Ordinator takes a great system and turns it into something incredible. This mod allows for an unprecedented levle of flexibility when it comes to building a character, with everything from a fully-featured unarmed combat tree to various forms of necromancy, spellswords, rangers, and even bard abilities.

Apocalypse: Magic of Skyrim (SSE / SLE) — The essential spells pack for Skyrim, adding over 150 new spells to give a massive amount of new gameplay options both to dedicated magic-users and those who just use a spell or two on the side.

Imperious: Races of Skyrim (SSE / SLE), Aurora: Standing Stones of Skyrim (SSE / SLE), Thunderchild: Epic Shouts and Immersion (SSE / SLE), Sacrosanct: Vampires of Skyrim (SSE / SLE), Summermyst: Enchantments of Skyrim (SSE) / Wintermyst: Enchantments of Skyrim (SLE) — A number of other mods from the same author as Ordinator and Apocalypse, overhauling and extending other elements of the game with the same level of excellence.

SkyUI (SSE / SLE) — Primarily of relevance to PC players, SkyUI overhauls the interface (especially the inventory) into a much less “console-ized” and much more PC-friendly layout, as well as being a framework that many, many other mods rely upon.

 

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Eternal Destiny http://moxx.net/2017/eternal-destiny/ http://moxx.net/2017/eternal-destiny/#respond Sun, 10 Dec 2017 23:37:28 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=668   Eternal Destiny I make bad decisions a lot in my life; I’ve electrocuted myself (unintentionally) at least once, almost blinded myself with battery acid (unintentionally), and then there was that one incident with the potato salad that still haunts me to this day. Among this series of bad decisions was a whimsical idea to […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

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PlayStation 4 · PlayStation Portable · PlayStation Vita · RPG Maker · SNES · Switch · Wii
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Eternal Destiny

I make bad decisions a lot in my life; I’ve electrocuted myself (unintentionally) at least once, almost blinded myself with battery acid (unintentionally), and then there was that one incident with the potato salad that still haunts me to this day. Among this series of bad decisions was a whimsical idea to include reviews of RPG Maker games to the site, since they are not only numerous and varied, but also very difficult to actually tell the wheat from the chaff without investing a great deal of time wading through bucketloads of the things.

Behold, your new hero: I stand ready to dig through the mountains of garbage, looking for the few diamonds hidden in the acres of rough. To begin with, I picked a game entirely at random with no real thought behind my decision, settling on Eternal Destiny.

 

Essential Information

Available On: RPG Maker (PC) (2011)
Author: Rose_Guardian
RPG Maker Version: RPG Maker VX Ace
Game Length: <1 hour
Download Link rpgmaker.net

 

Grave’s Thoughts

The regrets began almost immediately.

I’ll cover the good parts first: The game begins in a fairly dank and sinister-looking shrine, where our two heroes have been sent to investigate some strange goings-on. While the map design is fairly lackluster, the lighting effects are fairly attractive and add a nice, brooding atmosphere to the area. The combat system is mercifully revamped from the RPG Maker defaults, with a fairly pleasant though unremarkable side-view battle system. The character art, while not the best I’ve ever seen, at least seems to be original and an effort has been made, which is certainly welcome for an RPG Maker game. There’s also a quest system, including side-quests, which tracks the progress of quests in a novel and convenient way.

Okay, so that’s the good. And now… deep breath

I mentioned the dungeon layout was lackluster; while some effort was made for the initial (very small) dungeon, the rest of the game is far more lacking — the towns are about as awkwardly blocky and dull as one might expect from a zero-budget game, the forest area is several screens of what looks like grass with handfuls of bushes and small trees farted randomly onto them, and — perhaps the most egregious of all — it’s impossible to leave the weapon shop in the second town after entering, because there isn’t an exit door. Yep.

The writing is best described as poor, yet passable — the amount of spelling errors (including menu entries such as “wreapon”) is horrendous, the dialogue is awkwardly stilted and reads like a bad fanfiction, and the story — what little exists of it — is as thin and unremarkable as supermarket own-brand tissue paper, the entirety of which seems to boil down to being the errand boys for meaningless tasks issued by the queen.

The gameplay is a mixed bag — the side-view battle system is fairly competent, yet the battles themselves are all over the shop in terms of difficulty. The game actually offers a set of six difficulty options at the beginning — ranging from Very Easy to Very Hard, natch — and while this does affect the stats of enemies, the balance still seems far off. A couple of the boss fights were nigh-impossible on Normal, while even on Very Easy, many random-encounter enemies are damage sponges able to take almost as much abuse as I’m dishing out right now. Boss battles were a tedious slog and tended to end up being a case of the ‘swordmaster’ Sergal — sorry, Sengal — being the heal-bitch, while the warrior Balagan beats faces to a relentless pulp with his axe.

One major complaint I had — despite the game’s short length — is being railroaded with no free will. Upon arriving in the second town and asking around for Brueta Swamp, the game immediately kicks the player into a dialogue and boss battle with no warning. Once the battle is over, we’re suddenly pushed onto a ship and sent across the ocean to… well, to nothing, because that’s where the game ends. But it’d be nice to at least have the option to go back and hand in side-quests or get hopelessly trapped inside the weapon shop, rather than being forced to move on despite there being no real urgency in the story to justify such a rush.

Overall, I feel this is a game which could have potential, but the seemingly rushed approach, lack of proper testing, and generally sloppy construction drag it down pretty hard. Apparently, this ‘demo’ has been abandoned in favour of remaking the game in the newer RPG Maker MV, so perhaps some hope exists for its future.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

 

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Xenogears http://moxx.net/2017/xenogears/ http://moxx.net/2017/xenogears/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 22:16:26 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=626   Xenogears It’s honestly difficult knowing where to even begin with a review of a game of this magnitude. Originally released in 1998, hot on the heels of the more famous Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears is nothing like its cousin despite both being made by the RPG giant Square. The most important two things to […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

Game Boy Advance · Nintendo 2DS/3DS · PC · PlayStation · PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4 · PlayStation Portable · PlayStation Vita · RPG Maker · SNES · Switch · Wii
WiiU · Xbox 360 · Xbox One

 

Xenogears

It’s honestly difficult knowing where to even begin with a review of a game of this magnitude. Originally released in 1998, hot on the heels of the more famous Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears is nothing like its cousin despite both being made by the RPG giant Square. The most important two things to bear in mind about this game are the following: the plot is dense and complex enough that it could easily have been a standalone anime series the likes of Gundam, but despite this, the pacing is so atrociously bad, the real meat and bones of the story don’t open up until the last quarter or so of the game. Xenogears is a game that demands patience and pays it back in spades, but may seem disappointing to those who don’t give it the story proper time to bloom.

 

Essential Information

This Review: PlayStation (1998)
Near-Identical Versions: PlayStation 3 (2008), PlayStation Portable (2008), PlayStation Vita (2012)
Game Length: 55-65 hours
Critic Rating: 88% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Grave’s Thoughts

I’ve been a massive fan of RPGs — JRPGs in particular — since the days when the Super Nintendo reigned supreme. My appetite for RPGs was best described as voracious, and the advent of the PlayStation and its fantastic array of now-classic JRPGs was like a cornucopia. Unfortunately, living in the UK, I was stuck with the European market for RPGs — which is to say, despite being an English-speaking country, we’d only ever see games that had also been translated into French, German, Italian, etc. for the European market. A fair handful of RPGs never got translated outside of Japan and America and thus were never released in the UK, despite there being little good reason why we couldn’t be allowed the American versions of the games. Xenogears was one of these, and for the longest time I had a bitter resentment towards Square for never just allowing us Brits the opportunity to play the game which had already been translated into English for the Americas.

In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t get to play through the game fully until more recently — largely because the game’s story is so complex and multi-layered that I doubt I’d have been able to properly appreciate it as a kid. This is a game which rivals many anime series in terms of sheer complexity of plot, which I can best describe as a mix of mecha anime sci-fi, theoretical physics, Jungian psychology, and religious mysticism — all of which somehow manages to tie together and make perfect sense in the story. Unfortunately, one of the game’s most major flaws shows its face here: the pacing is absolutely terrible, and trying to get to the meat of the plot is like eating a pie with the most delightful filling, but a crust that just keeps going and going.

Another flaw of the game is that it feels unfinished in parts — the combat system is clunky and offputting at first, though later seems fairly simple and lacking in depth, and while the game’s complex and flavourful story really comes into bloom after the first forty or so hours, the sheer amount of slower-paced setup can seem offputting and boring. I’d wager there’s a great many gamers out there who never even got to the real core of the game, thanks to the glacial pace of the early-game plot. Unfortunately, the latter portion of the game is much the opposite — while the many, many mystery threads of the story are tied up and explained in the end — including the exciting opening cutscene, which actually seems to have no connection to the game whatsoever until close to the end — due to time constraints during development, large portions of the second disc had to be cut from the game entirely, replaced by scenes describing the events that the player would have taken part in.

That’s the bad, so let’s take a look at the good — this is a fairly lengthy JRPG with an incredibly original and complex story, blending together both science and religion, along with some of the most original world-building I’ve ever seen in an RPG, albeit most of which is merely hinted at until the plot unravels in the late game. Both in its look and feel, it seems to be trying hard — and largely succeeds — to emulate the style of a mecha anime, helped especially by a handful of fully-animated, anime cutscenes. The characters (and villains) all manage to largely avoid the usual stereotypes and are fairly complex and original, all having their own varied goals and desires, even though in some cases this leads to ruin.

It’s almost impossible to describe the story without delving into spoilers, so I’ll just say that while things start fairly slow — with the oft-used trope of a tranquil country village and a protagonist with a mysterious past and a lost memory — it isn’t long until the shit hits the proverbial fan, and the reluctant hero Fei is forced into a conflict he barely understands and wants nothing to do with, even though it seems as though everyone else knows far more than they’re letting on. It’s a tale of mecha, ancient religions, politics, and a huge mystery to slowly unravel — albeit one that is mostly still a tangled mass of obscurity until the closing hours of the game.

The visuals are for the most part excellent, though due to the limitations of the PlayStation’s hardware and the game’s reliance on rendering everything in three-dimensional polygons (no pre-rendered backgrounds here), it’s not quite as visually impressive as it could have been on more capable hardware (or if tricks such as pre-rendered backgrounds were used, as seen in the PlayStation Final Fantasy games), and it feels as though the designers tried to do too much, hindered too heavily by the implementation. The only exception to this rule are the character models, rendered as strangely-scaled two-dimensional sprites, though the somewhat jarring effect is easy to forget after playing the game for a while.

Despite its niggling flaws, however — many of which I fear are the reason Xenogears isn’t nearly as well-known as it could be — it’s a mostly solid experience which is ready to richly reward any with the patience to slog through the laggard pace of the early game. If the opening cutscene and the idea of a mecha-based, anime-style RPG are intriguing, then by all means, find yourself a copy and give it a try — if you can forgive its flaws and missteps, this may very well be a game you’ll come to love.

 

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Final Fantasy VII http://moxx.net/2017/final-fantasy-vii/ http://moxx.net/2017/final-fantasy-vii/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 14:02:06 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=617   Final Fantasy VII Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to deny the place Final Fantasy VII has in RPG history. With its impressive visuals, slick gameplay, immersive story and fantastic soundtrack by the legend himself, Nobuo Uematsu, it played a huge part in popularizing the JRPG genre in the West. It’s hard to […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

Game Boy Advance · Nintendo 2DS/3DS · PC · PlayStation · PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4 · PlayStation Portable · PlayStation Vita · RPG Maker · SNES · Switch · Wii
WiiU · Xbox 360 · Xbox One

 

Final Fantasy VII

Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to deny the place Final Fantasy VII has in RPG history. With its impressive visuals, slick gameplay, immersive story and fantastic soundtrack by the legend himself, Nobuo Uematsu, it played a huge part in popularizing the JRPG genre in the West. It’s hard to imagine there are any JRPG fans who haven’t heard of this game before, but for the sake of completion, it deserves a place in this humble review blog. So with no further ado, does Final Fantasy VII live up to the hype? Let’s find out!

 

Essential Information

This Review: PlayStation (1997)
Near-Identical Versions: PC (1998), PlayStation 3 (2009), PlayStation Portable (2009), PlayStation Vita (2012), PlayStation 4 (2015)
Game Length: 40-60 hours
Critic Rating: 94% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Grave’s Thoughts

Cast your mind back to the late 90s — bad music, worse fashion, and the internet as we know it today was still in its infancy. Picture a younger, more innocent and less cynical version of myself — terrifying, I know — an RPG fanatic, I’d not long since cut my teeth on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and I was hungry for more, devouring whatever RPG faire I could get my grubby hands on. I didn’t know what was good or what was bad — I willingly put money down for a copy of Drakkhen, for example. One of my pastimes was scurrying on down to the local used games shop in the market, a place filled with lingering stale cigarette smoke and irrevocable wonder, and badgering the beleaguered owner with my requests for RPGs.

I didn’t care what it was, I was like a prisoner who’d grown up eating bread and water and never knew the impossibly diverse rainbow of food existed. I’d chew through atrocities such as The Immortal and classics like Secret of Mana with equal fervour, and without fail, my pocket money would be slapped down upon the counter of that dingy little shop as I’d once again clumsily enunciate a request for any new RPGs that Dave — dingy market shops are always run by someone called Dave — had in stock.

On one such fateful day, someone had sold their copy of Final Fantasy VII — an original, no less, not the Platinum re-release that most folks have in their dust-gathering collections today. Despite having never heard of the Final Fantasy series — this was back when my internet connection was limited to brief spurts of low-speed browsing at the local library — I was immediately intrigued. The box art was like nothing I had seen before, and the rear of the box spoke of an adventure the likes of which I’d never seen. Of course, it had to be mine.

From the moment I slapped the disc in my console and started playing, I was hooked. The stunning opening cutscene blew my socks off so hard they left permanent holes in the wall. The graphics, the music, the… everything! Thus began a whirlwind adventure into a world I previously knew nothing about, a game which — at the time — was completely new and unheard of to me. I followed Cloud’s adventure with rapt attention, I was in awe of the infamous villain Sephiroth, I was terrified of the monstrous Jenova, and as the story unfolded and expanded into deeper layers than I’d ever before seen in an RPG, I was dumbstruck. Every gamer can tell you the tale of the one game that really changed it all for them, that one moment that shaped their gaming hobby forever — and for me, this was it.

But enough reminiscing — let’s get into the meat and bones of the matter. While some may consider the game over-hyped — largely, I suspect, due to the folks like myself for whom this was their first taste of a Final Fantasy game — even by today’s standards, this game is still worthy of its legendary standing. While the graphics haven’t aged as well as some other games of its era (particularly the rather blocky character models seen outside of combat), the soundtrack is still one of the finest in RPG history, the visuals — if you can forgive the dated graphics engine — are flashy and memorable, with pre-rendered backgrounds full of intricate detail, and the gameplay is absolutely top-notch.

The story begins with a bang, with the protagonist Cloud — a mercenary fighting with the eco-terrorist group AVALANCHE, and former member of the elite military force SOLDIER — beginning a mission to bomb a power plant in the industrialized city of Midgar. The first chunk of the game takes place within the rather grim confines of the city’s slums, though the story soon escalates into a chase across the world following the infamous villain Sephiroth and — naturally — a struggle to save the world from total destruction. It’s a pretty no-holds-barred ride, with plenty of variety and a great deal of action and excitement, along with strong character development and world-building.

Let’s talk about the gameplay a little bit here. For the most part, it’s pretty standard Final Fantasy faire — exploring a beautifully detailed world while on a quest to save the planet with ever-increasing urgency, featuring a side-view battle system with much in common with just about every other FF game from 1 through 10. There’s also the inclusion of a number of mini-games, some of which are actual main-story events which are later turned into replayable arcade games in the Gold Saucer — a sort of casino-arcade entertainment complex — while some are purely optional yet surprisingly complex, such as capturing, breeding and racing Chocobos, a sort of large, brightly-coloured, ostrich-like bird.

There’s never a lack of things to do in this game, and despite the ever-increasing stakes in the main story, you’ll rarely feel forced along a track. There’s usually plenty of room to wander off and explore, enjoy side-quests and mini-games, and generally take in the depth and breadth of the fantastic world at your own pace. Speaking of the world, the setting is a refreshing change from the norm — while earlier FF games experimented with a blend of technology and magic, VII takes things one step further. Much of the world wouldn’t seem out of place in a medieval fantasy RPG, and the rampant industrialization is a strong central point in the game’s story, a tale of greed and misuse of science threatening the very life of the planet. Magic is still a strong inclusion in the game, albeit in the form of Materia, crystallized pieces of the planet’s life-force which grant the ability to use special moves, cast spells, or even summon mighty beasts to lay siege to the battlefield. It’s just not Final Fantasy without the inclusion of crystals in some shape or form, after all.

It’s hard to elaborate further without giving away key story elements and plot twists — all of which are much more enjoyable when experienced without any prior knowledge. With this in mind, the story is complex, varied and highly entertaining, the characters are — for the most part — a lot more deep and flawed than they appear on the surface, and getting invested in the story is like riding an emotional roller-coaster, never knowing what’s lying around the next corner. It’s hard not to get drawn in, and while some moments are a little marred by the less-than-stellar translation from Japanese to English, for the most part the writing is solid.

Does Final Fantasy VII live up to the hype? In my humble opinion, absolutely. The engrossing visuals, deep story, well-polished gameplay and phenomenal soundtrack all combine to create a truly unforgettable — albeit somewhat dated — experience. If you’ve never played this game before, you owe it to yourself to give it a try — there’s a lot to love here, and there’s a good reason many people consider it one of the greatest JRPGs of all time.

 

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Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest http://moxx.net/2017/final-fantasy-mystic-quest/ http://moxx.net/2017/final-fantasy-mystic-quest/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 05:46:22 +0000 http://moxx.net/?p=305   Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest A spin-off of the popular Final Fantasy series, released between IV and V, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (known in Europe as Mystic Quest: Legend) was intended to be an entry-level JRPG for Western audiences, with simplified gameplay and story to help ease gamers unfamiliar with RPGs into the genre.   […]

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Grave's RPG Reviews

  

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Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

A spin-off of the popular Final Fantasy series, released between IV and V, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (known in Europe as Mystic Quest: Legend) was intended to be an entry-level JRPG for Western audiences, with simplified gameplay and story to help ease gamers unfamiliar with RPGs into the genre.

 

Essential Information

This Review: SNES (1992)
Near-Identical Versions: Wii (2010), WiiU (2014, Japan only)
Game Length: 12-15 hours
Critic Rating: 73% aggregateThe aggregate critic rating is based on independent review scores from several other websites.

 

Grave’s Thoughts

It’s about as bland as it looks.

Imagine all the most generic and over-used elements of the early Final Fantasy games — a world in peril, a lone hero who can save the day, a mysterious wise old man, crystals of power attuned to the elements, and an evil villain whose sole purpose in life seems to be to wreak destruction and mayhem, and wishes for naught but to end the world as we know it. That, in a nutshell, is Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. The poor story can be forgiven to an extent since the entire intent of the game was to be something basic and entry-level, but the storyline is so thin and uninspiring that it’s hard to even care about the fate of this crappy, generic little world. And oh, generic it is — there’s a fire town near a volcano, an ice town in a snowy tundra… you get the idea.

The characters in Mystic Quest are two-dimensional set pieces at best, usually providing the hero with either a companion in battle, a way to bypass a certain obstacle, or — usually — both. Need to get through a forest with the path blocked by trees? No problem, here’s a companion with an axe! There’s absolutely no character development, and everyone becomes the hero’s best friend pretty much the very moment they meet.

I’ve intentionally chosen some of the better-looking screenshots for the sake of this review, but make no mistake: this is not a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination. The graphics are functional enough, but the layout of many areas is barren and haphazard, with almost no effort made to disguise the frankly ugly use of limited tile-sets.

The user interface follows suit, being the bare minimum of acceptable without making even the slightest effort to excel in any way whatsoever. In the case of both the UI and the game graphics themselves, the actual art in the game is decent enough, but it’s employed in such a barren and utilitarian manner that it lacks any character or personality whatsoever.

One small saving grace is that the enemy sprites in the battle system — none of which are animated, mind you — actually have several different states depending on the enemy’s current health. Regular enemies tend to only have two or three, but bosses can have up to four or five each, which is a fairly unique feature that I wish had been employed in more RPGs of the time. The more beat up an enemy becomes, the angrier and more injured they look, often in a cartoonishly amusing manner.

Combat is like Dragon Quest, but simpler.

In terms of audio, at least, the game has some small measure of positivity. While the sound effects — much like the rest of the game — are utilitarian and adequate at best while being neither terribly offensive nor particularly noteworthy, the music is a step up from the rest of the game. Most of the game’s soundtrack is fairly decent — not up to par with other Final Fantasy titles, but certainly good quality for an RPG of its time. It does a good job filling out the game and bringing the otherwise soulless world somewhat to life, a soundtrack which would have served a superior game much better.

Of particular note, the battle theme is energetic and badass (though you may get sick of hearing it after a while — see below), and the Doom Castle theme, which plays in the last dungeon of the game, is absolutely killer. Why a soundtrack of this quality was wasted on such a weak game is beyond me.

The first hour or so of gameplay seems absolutely charming and adorably simple compared to other RPGs of the SNES era and beyond, but the feeling fades very quickly into one of tedium and frustration.

The game takes place in three main screens — the world map is a fairly linear affair where you can move from place to place on rails, unable to explore beyond the path intended. There are no random encounters, however various ‘battlefields’ are scattered across the world — these are sites where you can choose to fight a series of (usually very similar or identical) foes, and after ten victories, are awarded with either an item, some money, or a handful of experience points.

Secondly, dungeons and towns are on a rigid grid-based system — totally expected of an RPG of this era — with an unexpected action-RPG element allowing the player to interact with the environment with various weapons, such as using an axe to cut down trees or a claw to climb up walls. It’s a cute little addition which works in the game’s favour at first, though becomes somewhat tedious when faced with a huge room full of mushrooms blocking the way.

Rather than random encounters, enemy positions are fixed and visible in the world until defeated. This is both a blessing and a curse — most of the dungeons are arranged in a frustrating, labyrinthine design, so being forced to deal with random encounters while trying to find the correct path would be incredibly frustrating. On the other hand, there are generally far too many enemies blocking every critical path in the game, forcing the player into a seemingly endless stream of entirely uninteresting encounters.

Thirdly, the battle system — it’s like a blend of early Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy I, and about as simplistic and boring as the screenshots above should imply.

Gripping dialogue!

Given that Mystic Quest was designed as an entry-level JRPG for beginners to the genre, does it stand up to the task? Would it be a good starting point for novices interested in dipping their toes in the water?

Absolutely not. If I wanted to turn someone away from ever giving the genre a fair chance, I’d suggest they play this travesty. The gameplay is an exercise in both tedium and frustration — it’s impossible to lose, as death in battle simply results in the game asking if you’d like to try again from the start of said battle, but the over-reliance on frustrating status effects such as petrification and confusion often lead to states where the entire battle will be lost in a single turn, resulting in having to try again and hope for better luck.

The dungeons are intentionally maze-like and obnoxious to explore, with forced battles around every corner and nary a single doorway without another tedious set of foes guarding the entrance, and the gameplay is such a bizarre mix of far-too-easy and sometimes completely unfair.

Seasoned RPG veterans will gain absolutely nothing from the experience, while there are a plethora of other games more well-suited to beginners. I can appreciate what Square tried to do, and perhaps at the time of its release, it was a viable option for a novice — but not so much anymore.

 

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