Final Fantasy 2

Final Fantasy 2 took a lot of risks, that much is clear. For a game released in 1988, it had a lot of ideas that even today aren’t used often. The most obvious of which is that it is a skill-based game, not a level-based game.

As a general rule, I prefer skill-based for my Video Game RPGs. I feel it is more natural and offers some variations that level based can’t really touch. I was pretty excited by the idea of a skill-based Final Fantasy, however, the implementation is rough to say the least. So if you aren’t familiar with the base idea… if you use it, you get better at what you use. I only played the game a little bit (more on that later), but for the most part it seems ok. You don’t get like a point for each use, instead, I believe you get a greater chance of getting a point for each use. So as an example, using made up numbers, if you use a sword once in a fight you have a 5% chance of gaining a skillpoint. If you use a sword 5 times you have a 25% chance of gaining a skill point. 100 skill points and you get a level in the skill. And obviously as you level up a skill it gets increasingly more difficult to get skill points. The system is OK. the percentage chance means there are a lot of fights that you don’t get points for even if you use a skill… I find this weird. Each weapon type and spell is considered its own skill. In addition, HP and MP are use based as well… only way to get a higher max HP is to keep getting hit. But again it is percentage based on how much HP vs your max HP got hit. Even if you use most your HP in a fight… you aren’t guaranteed to gain more max HP.

The system is a bit grindy, this not abnormal for JRPGs, or even CRPGs, so is not a huge deal. The problem comes in the most natural way to grind… which is to attack yourself. I spent a couple hours in the newbie area just doing nothing but entering fights and attacking my friends. And each fight took an extreme amount of time. It was a really boring experience. I like the idea though. I have heard that Final Fantasy X returned to a skill based system and I would like to try it at some point to see if they  fixed some of the flaws from 2.

Final Fantasy 2 had a number of innovations for the series that would follow it on to today. Chocobos and the Chocobo forest were added, and really this was one of the first true unique beings within the Final Fantasy  Universe. They also introduced a rotating cast of characters. You start the game with 4 characters to name, 1 of which doesn’t play with you for much of the early game. This was really unique. They  basically set the stage for you to know from the get go that they were doing things differently here, much like in Final Fantasy 1 how saving the princess was only the beginning. Even worse, they chose the second character you named as the one to get rid of from the get go… well this was odd as I named my characters 0,1,2, and 3 because it was a Japanese game and I didn’t read Japanese and I wanted to be able to recognize my character names somewhat. Well my game went into 0, 2, 3 as my character names! Not a big deal, but kind of funny.

You then would have new party members coming and going throughout the story as required by the story  which was interesting and something they obviously decided to keep doing in future games of the series. The problem in this particular series is that many of the characters had no starting experience in any of their skills so you almost dreaded a new character being added because you would need to grind that character or just leave him be useless. Another weird thing is there was a glitch that counted each selection of an item/enemy as a use in the above system. So you would select a character to fight, back out over and over to gain extra uses in a fight. This didn’t work for the last character in the party (selecting him to fight would start the fighting round!), so grinding the last character in the party was a chore. All the new characters that got added were always the last character in your party, and unlike Final Fantasy 1, you had no ability to move people around. Oh well.

You did have the ability to move characters from the front row to the back. This is another feature that kind of continues in the series. This one in particular was more difficult though. If you put someone in the back row, it was a double edged sword. Enemies couldn’t touch them without magic or ranged weapons… but neither could you touch enemies. (And enemies had rows as well!) Was a cool feature, not a ton bad especially in a use based system. I could see this sort of restriction being a bigger deal if your person in the back row had no ranged weapons.

So as I previously stated, I was playing the japanese version of the game so I couldn’t really understand what was going on without reading guides. And so I had to trust what they told me to do and use. I can sort of read Japanese letters, but I don’t often know what the words mean. At some point the game I was supposed to take an item and throw it into an airship engine to make the airship explode… except the item the guide I was following told me to use didn’t work. I can only imagine that I either read it wrong or the guide gave it to me wrong. I looked up the word in other guides and it was spelled differently in the one other guide I could find. And I figure I must have accidentally deleted the item while trying to clean out my inventory earlier in the game. This sucked. I had no way of figuring out what exactly I was missing or if I actually missed picking up the item in the first place (which I don’t think i did).

My choice was simple. Restart or end it. The thought of going through hours of really  boring grinding did not sound great so I decided to end it. So my end story  that I cam up with for my  adventure is this…

My friends and I lived in a small town that started being attacked by  the imperial army with t heir giant flying warship. They began attacking all the neighboring towns as well. So we underwent a mission in which we snuck onto their airship, started throwing random shit into the engine in hopes of it blowing up. After this failed, we shrugged our shoulders and swore our fealty to the empire!

Hopefully Final Fantasy 3 works out better!

Year One of This Generation’s Consoles.

Today, December 19th, 2014. The Xbox One, from here on out to be referred to as the Xboned, has a sale price at target for $350. You get the xboned, Assassin’s Creed 4, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and a $70 gift card. Which puts the system plus two games at the astounding price of $280. Really good price for a system that has only been out for a year. Now I have been considering shelling out the $$ for a previous gen system now that prices have died somewhat. 360 is currently sitting at $200 and the PS3 is sitting at $250. Both come with games, generally I’ve only wanted the games that come with the PS3. In retrospect I think the PS3 ended with the best games of the system but that is a conversation for another post. But this did get me thinking of whether it is worth the price… even at $280 to buy an Xboned, and this relates to the issues that Wii U had after its first year of selling systems. Certainly the xboned has sold more systems in its first year than the Wii U did, though the Wii U sold more in the first couple of months. After one year, the xboned has sold 9.4 Million units globally while the Wii U has sold just 8 Million Units after two years. That’s bad for the Wii U. PS4 is sitting at 16.6 Million Units after one year. That’s bad for the Xboned.

The biggest complaint about the Wii U after a year was that it had no games. This was undoubtably true, but after a year, the xboned seems to suffer from the same fate. So I kind of wanted to compare the two. I will probably leave PS4 out of this discussion. As a Nintendo fan already I can say that PS4 has more games out now than the Xboned does, and has a very strong lineup coming. I think the PS4 will likely be the console to beat throughout this generation and the numbers are hard to argue. For this comparison. I am going to completely ignore anything that is not exclusive. Why? Because cross-platform games are completely irrelevant when it comes to comparing consoles. I don’t care that Xboned has Assassin’s Creed 4, so does the Wii U. Sure the latest version of Madden is not on the Wii U, but I don’t care about games which require yearly updates with little changes in them  in order to maintain some sort of relevance in the game space. I may count a game which is limited time exclusive but it’ll lose points for eventually losing said exclusivity.

Looking at the best games of the Wii U through their first year…

  • Nintendoland was the launch title they went with that would hopefully sell the system like Wii Sports did, it didn’t. Nintendoland is OK, but not great and I probably wouldn’t have bought if it wasn’t included even at $20 it would have been a questionable purchase.
  • Little Inferno has largely been hailed as a great game and though it has since been released on other platforms, I have heard tales that it isn’t nearly as good without the gamepad functionality.
  • New Super Mario U… It is hard to argue that the game is super fun. it is one of the best of the retro Mario games with really good design. It’s expansion-esque Super Luigi U, which I will not count as a separate game, was a nice though expensive addition to elongate the life of the game.
  • Scribblenauts Unlimited – A cute addition to the series. I like it better than the Unmasked game, but not as well as previous incarnations of the series. I wonder if this series has gone the course, but it still was a pretty good game.
  • Tank! Tank! Tank! – I hear this is a super fun game if you like multiplayer. I haven’t the crowd to play with so I never bothered to pick up the game.
  • ZombiU – I loved the dynamic of starting a new character everytime you die. Very roguelike and cool for a zombie survival game. This game puts survival back in the genre and is overall really good for a launch title. It doesn’t get as much kudos as it should.
  • Pikmin 3 – Amazing addition to the series. I fear the series continues to not sell well and I’m not entirely sure why. I kind of like 2 a little better but this game ranks a close second. Definitely worth a buy.
  • Wonderful 101 – A great idea, unfortunately that has largely been reviewed as a meh game. I have yet to have enough time to really play it.

I did decide not include remakes on this list like Zelda: Wind Waker. And I also tried to stay clear of indie titles because there are a lot and I haven’t played a lot of them. So yeah, overall not great library, especially if  you consider not many people have even heard of Little inferno and tank tank tank.  There were also a few more but not really even to the meh level that wonderful 101 and Nintendoland get.

On to the Xboned.

  • Crimson Dragon – I admit. I was kind of excited by the game. Panzer Dragoon is a very highly regarded game, though really the RPG is what gets the regard, not the rail shooter. It got pretty bad ratings, generally sitting at 50%, but still kind of want to play it anyway.
  • Dead Rising 3 – A good solid game… Good Exclusive. I probably wouldn’t buy it personally but that’s me, to be honest i wouldn’t likely buy ZombiU if it hadn’t come with my system, I’m not a scary game guy.
  • Forza Horizon 2 – Honestly out of all the games before Sunset Overdrive, this is the only one I had heard about that I really wanted to play. Not sure why, I haven’t really been interested in racing games for years.
  • Ryse – This was supposed to be one of the biggest games going into the launch but never really panned out. I would put it in the Nintendoland column.
  • Titanfall – A good solid game, though the amount of hype before versus the amount of talk after is a little disturbing. Probably their biggest game during their launch period.
  • Project Spark – Wonder how much the failure of this game led to the purchase of Minecraft?
  • Sunset Overdrive – To date, the biggest game that gives you a reason to buy an X-Box One, and really the only reason I would seriously consider buying one. The game looks fantastic. Mad props to Insomniac Games.

And that is pretty much their lineup. I guess I could probably include Killer Instinct in the meh column as well, but their free to play method annoyed the crap out of me more than anything. I don’t care if the game is decent, that was bullshit.

Overall, personally I liked the games more on the Nintendo side, Xboned had a few good ones worth going after but just to me not as many. I realize this opinion will be different for those who disregard any game that doesn’t have mass murder as not a “real game,” but I just have a hard time caring about said people. I very much enjoy violent games, why can’t those people enjoy fun games that aren’t violent? It doesn’t make sense to me.

To me the more concerning part is the next year of the xboned. With the end of the first year, you were starting to see production of games ramping up for the Wii U with Bayonetta 2, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, and more on the next year. And we were already hearing rumors of Xenoblade X and the next Zelda. With Xbox One… the only thing in the future I have heard about is the next Halo, and I just don’t care.

People, I feel, overrate the games of the first year. In modern consoles, the first year is almost uniformally crappy, even with the PS4. I can excuse that. It’s what that follows that REALLY matters. And both the Wii U and the PS4 have solid lineups planned for next year.  And Nintendo had a good lineup this last year and it was announced at this point last eyar too. That Microsoft has nothing planned but Halo 5 is extremely disturbing and I think even at an amazing price of $280 for the Xbox One. I’m sorry Microsoft… I will pass. I’d rather pay $250 for a PS3 with The Last of Us…

To Those Who Have Inspired and Saved Me…

Video Games are an extremely important part of my life. I mean, as regular of a blogger I may not be, I do blog about them and that sort of proves the point of just how much they mean to me. I picked up on video games at a very early age and though I would never admit it at the time, and still have a hard time doing so, games offered me something that the world could not in so many ways… interactivity. This is extremely ironic to be sure, games do nothing but to try to emulate the real world in many different fashions. But for me, I could not be in the real world like others could physically due to my hemophilia. I take pride in my ability to conquer my disease and not let it stop me from doing what I want to. But the reality is, that I cannot do what others do in the same way that others do. This becomes painfully more clear to me with each passing year. I become less and less able to do what others do, but video games offer me an out. I can do what others do in games. I can be who I want to be without the pain that follows suit.

And maybe because of hemophilia, maybe because I’m too smart for my own damn good… but I have not been able to interact with other people in the same way that I know other people interact with each other. I feel very little empathy and it makes it difficult for me to go and reach out to friends or family when I maybe should have in the past. It makes it difficult for me to know when or how to help others who have needed my help in the past. But yet in games, I can helps others without issue. I mean I get to rescue princesses, rule an empire, or even start a family. Yeah, all these experiences are extremely simple compared to real life interactions, but they offer me an ability to interact in a way that I can’t in real life all the same. Even in MMO settings, I  have the ability to interact with people on the other side of the screen in a much more “normal” way than I can in real life. Maybe it is because games are MY world, when people play with me, they are playing in my home turf. Maybe without being face to face I don’t feel as judged, even if I am.

I was reminded of all this over the last few days as I lay ill, not from hemophilia, but just a random virus that has been going around our office. I laid down on my couch and picked up FInal Fantasy 1 to play again for the first time in some time. And was reminded of how ground breaking this was to my feeble 12 year old self. It caused me a great many fines from the local rental store but I just had to play it more. Or how, my grandfather was the first one to give me a console and really introduce me to games at home. Though for the rest of his life he never seemed to understand my obsession with video games, for one glimmering moment he changed my life for better or worse with a pong machine that he likely picked up at a garage sale. Or at Christmas at my Aunt and Uncle’s house while everyone else was socializing, I would leave the chaos of the party behind in order to go play Pitfall on my cousin’s Atari, thinking how amazing it was because we didn’t have one at home… one of those cousins recently gave me his PS2, somehow seemed very fitting but I don’t think he understands why.  Or after bowling, me and a whole bunch of kids would sit and play the TMNT arcade cabinet as we waited for our parents… though we bowled with each other, I didn’t entirely feel like one of them until we started playing games together. Or when I was hospitalized in second grade, it was an Apple II that comforted me with Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, and some weird game where you hunted monsters that got loose in the town based on clues about the monsters… if someone knows what game I speak, please for the love tell me, haven’t been able to figure it out. And all of the people that I have met over the 20+ years of playing MMOs, every which of one I wish I was still in contact with on a daily basis but life has torn us a part.

And my mother, whom somehow for some reason understood what video games meant to me without saying a word and would bring home her work computer with Karateka so that I could play with it, enrolled me in summer school to learn how to program a Commodre 64, and bought our family a Radio Shack Computer for similar purposes. And honestly never minded a whole god damn much that I sat downstairs playing video games. A lot of people may have called her a bad mother, and am sure she didn’t like me playing that much either. But she dealt with it. Ya know what? I never once have killed a single person, never stole anything of greater value than baseball cards, never done drugs or cigarettes, didn’t have any alcohol in my life until 23 and even still have never binged. All thank you to my mother and video games. I am 36 and I grew up on video games and a better man for it.

For all that and more. Thank you mom, grandpa, Nolan Bushnell, Richard Garriott, Hironobu Sakaguchi, Shigeru Miyamoto, Sid Meier, Chris Sawyer, Will Wright, Satoshi Tajiri, Notch, Yuji Horii and the thousands of other video game developers that have created video games over the last 4 decades. Without you, I would not still be here. Don’t stop doing what you do. Thank you.

Lego: Marvel Super Heroes Review

I definitely have the feeling that there are too many Lego games at this point. Lego Star Wars was an amazing game. It made you say FINALLY, there is a good Star Wars game. But it also made you say, OMG this is a good Lego Game. Traveler’s Tale Studios did what any good company should… they made more… a lot more. At first it was just a couple of sequels to Star Wars, but then they started branching out. And now we have lego versions of Indiana Jones, Batman, Harry Potter,  Lord of the Rings and now Marvel. The problem is that though they have changed licenses and the graphics have advanced. The formula has maintained largely the same. Break some bricks, build some stuff by holding “a” and find secret areas to unlock secret characters for freeplay. It has gotten old to be sure. Continue reading “Lego: Marvel Super Heroes Review”

10 Pokemon That Need New Evolutions

Pokemon X has a very strong Red/Blue vibe to it that makes me think back about Pokemon of yore. I really feel that there are a number of Pokemon who have long needed new members to their evolutionary chains. This seems particularly true now that Game Freak has added Mega Evolutions, which are essentially a forth line of evolution, albeit temporary. I think one of the things that many people liked about Gold & Silver was how it brought new evolutionary chains to the old Pokemon, this is something that hasn’t been done as much since. With that,  I thought I’d come up with 10 pokemon that are in pretty big need of new evolutions, most of which are older, but there might be a couple newer ones as well. Continue reading “10 Pokemon That Need New Evolutions”

Franchises Nintendo Should Bring Back

At long last, Nintendo will finally be releasing a new version of Pikmin in a couple of months. It’s about freaking time. Now Pikmin isn’t exactly the oldest or most ignored Nintendo franchises, but it was a series that seemed to me to be made for the Wii platform (and the remake of Pikmin 2 proved this). So I’m glad they decided to bring it back because this is easily one of my favorite newer franchises of Nintendo’s. Over the last few years Nintendo has brought back a lot of old franchises including Kid Icarus, Punch Out and heck even Fire Emblem finally seems to be getting its due. But this only got me thinking… what other franchises long forgotten should be brought back? This is what I came up with… Continue reading “Franchises Nintendo Should Bring Back”