Final Fantasy’s Light Warriors refuse to leave Cornelia

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First off, I’m not sure which version of Final Fantasy the above screenshot of Cornelia is from. Certainly not the original NES title, nor is it from the one I’m playing via the Final Fantasy Origins compilation, which came out for the PlayStation back in 2002, but I’m playing it on a PlayStation 3 many, many years later. Perplexing, right? It’s a compilation of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II , and these are re-releases of the remastered versions of the original classics–phew, a mouthful–enhanced to look like Super NES-era graphics, so they feel right at home with their siblings Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, and Final Fantasy VI. However, the above shot looks way too crisp and colorful; maybe it is from a PC port or fan re-imagining. If you know, let me know.

Anyways, Final Fantasy. I figured after finally beating Final Fantasy IX in 2016, I should give another one in the series a go. Well, there’s probably no better place to start then at the very beginning, with the game many of its developers believed would be their last project. Cue prerequisite link to Final Fantasy XV gameplay video with boisterous laugh track. Funny enough, I did try to play Final Fantasy once before, and it was on my mega-old Verizon Reality cell phone, the same one that I tried playing The Sims 3 on poorly. Cost me a few bucks, and my time saving the princess and crystals wasn’t all that thrilling. I don’t even think I managed to get the bridge above Cornelia repaired. Yikes.

For those that don’t know, Final Fantasy begins with the appearance of the legendary four Light Warriors, each holding an orb that corresponds to the four elementals; alas, the orbs have lost their shine. At the same time, Princess Sara is kidnapped by the evil knight Garland, and the King of Cornelia asks the Light Warriors to rescue her. After doing just that, the king restores the bridge above Cornelia so that the Light Warriors can continue on their quest. To do what, exactly? I’m not sure. Make their orbs glow again. Talk to people in ALL CAPITALS. Your guess is as good as mine because, with this one, I’m not all that attached to the plot details. I’m here for the turn-based battling, the music.

Actually, before any of that can happen, Final Fantasy begins by asking the player to select the character classes and names of each Light Warrior (the player characters) in their party. Here’s what I went with:

  • Georg – Warrior, currently rocking a rapier and chain mail
  • Vex – Thief, also using a rapier, but lighter leather armor
  • Arwen – White Mage, dressed to the nines in a shirt and wielding a staff
  • Erda – Black Mage, inspired by Arwen and wearing the same gear

It’s a decent group. The first three names are obviously references to things I like–guess away–but I have no idea where Erda came from. The party has two characters that can deal some big damage with weapons, one that is good for healing and providing buffs, and one to cast spells that set everything aflame or bring down lightning bolts from a crystal-clear sky. Also, the title for this blog post isn’t one hundred percent accurate, seeing as how I’ve totally left Cornelia behind and even managed to acquire a ship, which allowed me to find a town full of elves, obviously called Elfheim. I only said what I said at the top because, certainly for the first couple hours, I hung around Cornelia and its outskirts to gain some money and experience points before moving forward into more dangerous territory. Yup, grinding is a thing. Grinding will always be a thing.

I’m happy I’m playing this version of Final Fantasy as it has a few bells and whistles that enhance the overall experience. There’s the enhanced graphics I previously mentioned, remixed soundtracks, full-motion CGI cutscenes, and added content that includes art galleries of Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations. There’s also a bestiary, which I will always appreciate, that tells you a bit about the monsters you’ve encountered, but I have no idea if it was originally there to begin with. I’ll be moving on to some cave soon, but only after I’ve earned enough cash-money to purchase all the best weapons, pieces of armor, and available magic spells. After all, Erda and friends deserves the finest.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #13 – You Have to Burn the Rope

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The mission is clear
You have to burn the rope, duh
Do more with today

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Not sure if Professor Fitz Quadwrangle’s nephew can solve this Quantum Conundrum

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Here’s the radical truth: every time I scroll past Quantum Conundrum on my interminable list of PlayStation 3 games, most of which were acquired through PlayStation Plus, it scares the crap out of me. Not because it is from the horror genre, where jump scares and messed-up imagery reign queen, but because a song plays the fraction of a second you idle on its name. That song is this song, and, while catchy, it starts so suddenly that, depending on how high I have the volume on my TV, it’s like meditating in a quiet room unexpectedly rocked by a massive explosion. Or maybe I’m being dramatic and just whining about being scared easily. Either way, I want it gone sooner than later.

Again, this is not a horror game. It’s all about puzzles and using your noggin. You play as the non-speaking twelve-year-old nephew of the brilliant and peculiar Professor Fitz Quadwrangle. You’re sent to stay with Quadwrangle, who is unprepared for your arrival and deep in some experiment. Alas, the experiment goes sideways almost immediately, which causes Quadwrangle to become trapped in a pocket dimension. He has no memory of what went wrong before, but is somehow able to watch and communicate you. The results of the experiment leave portions of the Quadwrangle mansion stuck between four dimensions with alternate properties. It’s up to you to restart three separate power generators and bring back Quadwrangle safely.

Quantum Conundrum is a first-person puzzle game, much like Portal. That should come as even less of a surprise when you learn that it was designed by Kim Swift, the project lead on Portal. You’ll notice many more similarities between the two beasts: a wearable device to alter physics in a room, a silly yet omniscient narrator, and lots of buttons to push. By using Quadwrangle’s Interdimensional Shift Device, you can manipulate the objects around you by shifting any given room into one of four different physical “dimensions” at the press of a button. You must use these dimensions in varying ways to solve puzzles throughout the mansion and restore the power. There are four dimensions to mess with, though I only just got up to the third one: fluffy (makes things lighter), heavy (makes things heavier), slow motion (slows down objects in motion), and reverse gravity (self-explanatory). With these varying properties, pieces of furniture or safes become your best tools.

Puzzles aside, the writing is pretty funny. Every time you die, which seems to be most commonly from falling into an endless pit inside this mansion because videogames, you’ll see a darkly snarky death message about something you’ll never get to see now that you no longer exist among the living. There’s also a lot of books with punny titles to examine, as well as amusing paintings on every wall. I especially like the one of the dachshund that stretches across multiple paintings and walls. I do wish that Quadwrangle, as our constant narrator, offered more hints, especially after you spend enough time in a room and can’t figure out what to do next. I solved a couple puzzles already through sheer luck and tossing boxes/switching dimensions until everything lined up perfectly, but I know that technique won’t get me to the end.

At this point, I’ve only fixed the first of three generators in Quantum Conundrum, and I didn’t have to look up any puzzle solutions online. I consider that a great victory as I am–and I’m not afraid to admit this–not the greatest mind to ever walk this spinning planet. However, I do believe this is only because the puzzles start off slow and simple, and the more dimensions you gain access to, the more involved the solutions will become. Couple this with the sometimes wonky physics, like when a box you are carrying suddenly touches a sliver of the wall and freaks out, as well as the less-than-ideal platforming moments, and I’m worried that I won’t ever see Quadwrangle back in the real world. I’ll certainly continue to try, but this mansion might turn out to be more of a prison in disguise.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #12 – 9:05

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Bad night, worse morning
First things first–bathroom routine
Drop items, use words

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Disney Magical World 2 and the grand return of so many stickers

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According to my records, I’ve played Disney Magical World 2 for a little more than half the amount I dumped into the first game, which has the honor of being one of my most-played games on the Nintendo 3DS, bumping elbows with other critical darlings like Animal Crossing: New Leaf and…Netflix. I’m not even near a 50% completion rate. That first game was a super addictive life simulation thing with more than two handfuls of quests to constantly be working on that came out right at the time I needed it to most, and the sequel is all of that again plus more. I got it and Pokémon Moon shortly around the same time last year, and I haven’t touched the latter for more than a couple of hours in November. Sorry, my cute l’il Rowlet baby, I promise to be back shortly.

Once more, you the player, using either a custom character or the Mii that is on your Nintendo 3DS, arrive in Castleton and are magically the only person able to help everyone with their multitude of problems. These include reuniting a musical band of sea critters in The Little Mermaid‘s realm, ensuring Pooh has enough hunny for a picnic, helping those seven dwarfs clean up in preparation for Snow White’s arrival, and so on. There’s a bunch of new, big name worlds to explore–alas, still not an inch for The Incredibles–and each realm is ripe with materials to collect, characters to interact with for special items or side requests, and larger story missions that take you to dungeon-like locales to fight off ghosts using your magic wand. A couple worlds, like Lilo & Stitch and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, feature mini-games too though they aren’t worth spending a lot of hours on.

The main goal hasn’t changed beyond collecting Happy Stickers. Sure, you can grow your café, earn lots of money, tend to a garden, and find new recipes for food, furniture, and clothing, but it continues to be all about them stickers, which are earned by completing specific tasks, such as catching so many fish or clearing a specific number of episodes. Ultimately, these dictate unlockable content or areas and what quests you can take on so it behooves you collect them as you go so you can have more to see and do. Everything feeds into one another, so, no matter what, you are always making progress, which is a thing I love. At the beginning of the game, you’ll see areas locked behind a high number of stickers and think getting there will be impossible, but all it takes is time and dedication. By the end, there’s so much to juggle that you’ll think back at the lengthy opening and how little you could do then and chuckle.

Here’s what was taken away in Disney Magical World 2, much to my dismay: collectible pieces of art every day, whether animation frames or original movie posters, from characters all over in Castleton. Instead, you gather puzzle pieces, and once you acquire a full set and the respective border, you can visit the themed land in the Dream Realm, which mostly exists for silly pictures, but also gaining a bunch of “like” points in one big gulp. “Like” points buy stat buffs, special recipes, and missing puzzle pieces through random chance. I’m not a huge fan of this trade-off. Art is cooler. Also, the dungeons are much more linear with claustrophobic challenge rooms instead of open, almost maze-like corridors to run down and discover enemies or items. When you throw a good party at the cafe, you can now do a song and dance with your guests, which, again, seems to only exist for picture taking. The real reason you throw a big party is to get those characters to permanently show up on a daily basis in Castleton.

So, spoiler territory here–and yeah, I consider this spoilery because if it was something I had known about beforehand it would have definitely lessened the woah factor for me when it happened–but credits roll in Disney Magical World 2 immediately after you earn all 100 stickers and return to the castle square. However, just after that, you are presented with another bunch of quests to keep working towards: pro stickers. These consist of more of the same (build X many pieces of furniture, wear X number of Ace Ensembles), but there are a few others that do demand some time and effort to unlock. Each of these stickers comes with a special item too when you earn it, such as new themed wands and Easter clothing/furniture. I figured the game was mostly over, but nope.

Speaking of Easter, that’s the next time the game will switch over in terms of look and events, starting on April 1. So far, it changed for Halloween and Christmas. I was hoping for at least something for either Valentine’s Day or the month of leprechauns, but alas, no. I wonder if Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh‘s realm will play a prominent role during this upcoming time. Either way, even with the new pro stickers to go after, I won’t be playing this as much until the seasons alter and offer some new outfits/items to enjoy. I really have to get back to Pokémon Moon and then there’s the upcoming remake of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #11 – Disney Magical World 2

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Back to Castleton
Farm, help, dress, build, dance, profit
Even more stickers

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

In the end, Earthlock: Festival of Magic is amicably middling

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Well, I was dead wrong with my assumption that Earthlock: Festival of Magic was like Costume Quest 2 and Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness in terms of its length. I was expecting an eight- to ten-hour adventure, but ended up seeing credits roll after something like nearly twenty-six hours. Eep. I mean, yeah, part of me is to blame, as I simply had to see everything and pop all the “rare” Achievements, considering I saw them all as potentially achievable, but much blame can go to the developers as well, as some of their decisions unnecessarily padded out content. Like giving you two under-leveled party members late into the adventure or locking garden recipes behind difficult side bosses. More on that in a bit.

I beat Earthlock: Festival of Magic the other night, and I still really don’t know what the plot was or why this diverse range of colorful characters were working together. It’s real simple to say they were trying to save their planet Umbra, but things get more murky beyond that goal. From who? Not sure. Why? Well, because. It begins plainly enough with a journey to rescue desert scavenger Amon’s uncle from an ancient cult that is after some even ancienter gizmo. Basically, there’s a magical doodad that evil-minded people want for evil-minded means, and us, the good guys, which consists of a mythical hogbunny called Gnart and Ive, the daughter of a famous general from the House of the Great Wave, and a few others, must do everything to stop this. Because we’re the heroes, dang it.

Look, I didn’t come here for the story. I was initially intrigued by the game’s art style and heavy influence from classic RPGs from the late 1990s, such as Final Fantasy VII and Wild Arms. I’m a real sucker for turn-based combat, though I prefer it when taking turns becomes more than just that, with extra mechanics tossed in to liven things up. Like button prompts in Paper Mario: Sticker Star or enemy location manipulation in Radiant Historia. There’s some of that here, though not enough to get me gushing. Actually, let’s dive into the combat, since a major chunk of the game is spent with you commanding your party to attack, heal, buff, and wait against enemies.

I already told you it is turn-based. The turn is order affected by individual character speed stats, as well as whether or not you have initiative when entering the fight. Your party of four battles in two pairs. For me, my go-to pairing was Amon with Gnart and Ive with Taika. You might find other pairings better to your liking. Basically, each pair gets special stats and buffs as their bond together grows. When damaged by enemies, they accumulate support points, which can be used to activate special moves once the bar fills up. These include healing your entire party or attacking every enemy with a magic spell for big damage. Other than that, each character has two stances, which affects their attacks (range versus melee, healer versus soldier, etc). I think I maybe switched stances less than five times total; my suggestion is to find a style that works for you, and double down on it. You’ll be fine. There’s some fun to be had early on with the combat as you begin learning who can do what, but it quickly grows mundane and repetitive when you have to grind later to get all your party members up to level 20. Thankfully, you can kite more enemies into a single fight because the more you battle at once, the bigger the XP gains.

Other than that, I spent a lot of time gardening in Earthlock: Festival of Magic. Not like I do in Stardew Valley or Disney Magical World 2, but enough to see my thumbs turn green. This is because, as mentioned earlier, I mained Ive and Amon, two characters that use ranged weapons, and those need a bunch of different element-based ammo to get through all them repetitive fights. Gardening isn’t tough, and you can easily fall into a hypnotic rhythm of harvesting, watering, harvesting, watering, and so on. I still feel like Plumpet Island was severely underused; there are areas that seem like they’d be accessible or eventually open up to offer more things to do, but that never happens. Basically, you have a garden, a place to craft ammo, a place to craft talents, a shop, and an inn to rest for free. Considering the amount of time you spend there and the fact that towns are few and uninteresting, I was hoping for more interaction. Something like from Dragon Age: Origins, where you can chat with your party members.

Even if I had finished Earthlock: Festival of Magic back in December, it would not have made my top five games list. It’s not a terrible RPG, nor is it going to blow you away. It hits the average mark and does not waver. The ideas are there and staples of the genre, but that alone does not make an astounding adventure.