Category Archives: RPGs

Final Fantasy IX: the sweetest joy and the wildest woe

finanl fantasy 9 last thoughts roundup gd post

Well, here we are. It’s autumn 2016 and raining leaves everywhere, and I’ve now seen Final Fantasy IX to its conclusion. Well, in reality, that was a couple months back when it wasn’t as chilly in the morning and all shades of red, orange, and yellow because I’m slow to write these days.

I think it is officially the…third game in the ironically long-lasting series to get crossed off for the history books. The two others include Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy XII. I have also watched–Maker, forgive me–Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within more than once, so perhaps that should count for something. Or maybe I need to really consider never mentioning that publicly ever again. Anyways, this has been a long-time coming, and if any of you reading this blog o’ mine are frequent visitors then you’ll know I’ve been…hmm, actively doesn’t really seem right to use…futilely trying to beat this game since about 2013. Or, if you consider when I actually got my PlayStation 1 copy, then more like the year 2000.

Final Fantasy IX is an RPG that has always managed to grip me with its first several hours of action and adventure and story-telling, and then lose me by the end of the second of four discs. I will continue to stick my flag in the ground and say that this epic adventure is too epic, and that the story should have concluded once Garnet was back in Alexandria, her mother, Queen Brahne, no longer a viable threat. Sure, sure, the whole Kuja side-plot would need some rewriting to make that work, but just have the two go down together and bring on the parades of peace and happiness and Vivi not feeling terrible about his existence. Everything that happens on discs three and four is insane, and I don’t mean crazy in a good. I mean characterized or caused by madness. Honestly, I tried to follow along in earnest, but once we got to the point where we learn that Zidane and Kuja are actually Genomes, sentient soulless beings constructed by Garland for the purpose of acting as hosts for Terran souls when two parallel universes merged…well, I gave up caring. There’s a really good chance I even got some of those details wrong, and I was using an online source.

Here’s the thing. Without its cast, Final Fantasy IX is just another adventure to save the world from destruction. From a single-minded villain. I’ll go out on a limb and say its three most pivotal characters are Zidane, Dagger, and Vivi. Steiner is one note, and that note is amusing and never sways too high or low, but not enough to be top tier. Despite not caring what was happening in the overall plot in the second half of this fever dream, I did care greatly about what was happening to each and with each of these characters, as well as many of the side, almost one-offs, such as Cid and Beatrice. The characters are quirky and troubled, all trying to better themselves or find their place in the world–something I can connect with. Also, those Active Time Events I loved so much? Yeah, they are nearly non-existent in the last two discs, which was a big bummer, as it is in those side snippets that you learn the most about the cast.

As it turns out, despite the number of hours I put into Final Fantasy IX, there are complete sections and quests that I didn’t even dip my toes into, for various reasons. Such as Chocobo Hot & Cold, a mini-game that is so lengthy and involved that it might as well be its own standalone title. Related to this is feeding Kupo Nuts to a Moogle couple and watching their family grow. Now, I did keep up with delivering mail for Mognet, but was unsuccessful in seeing it all the way through; evidently, you can eventually visit the headquarters and save the post office from fading into memory. Dang, that sounds pretty good. I also didn’t fight any of the Treno weapon shop monsters or participate in many games of Tetra Master, content to simply collect the cards, though I’d estimate I didn’t even hit 50% of them by the time credits rolled. There’s even more things I didn’t do, as my focus from disc three forward was on strengthening my team–always Zidane, Vivi, Steiner, and Dagger–and synthesizing good weapons and armor in their fight against Kuja’s evil minions.

Whew. Unsurprisingly, I suspect I have a lot more to say about Final Fantasy IX, but I’d rather wait for those thoughts and revelations to emerge naturally and not force them out through my fingertips. It’s a big game. There’s a lot going on here, and I’m not just talking about mechanics and boss fights and grinding. Vivi’s “who/what am I?” story is handled with such coldness and confusion, and it gets me every time. I still love how perfect the “Dagger Tries” ATE is in Dali. That said, every love connection felt really forced, and that ending cinematic and triumphant reveal was a little too drawn out for my liking. Again, like when I went back to play Primal, I’ve discovered that there’s both good and bad to examine here; real quick, I’m not at all saying that Final Fantasy IX is anything like Primal. In fact, it’s far superior, but both of those games are ones that I played the opening hours over and over again, building them up in my brain and assuming that’s how the entire game went. Nope, nope.

I’m most certainly not ready to commit to another entry in the series at this point. In fact, the only other one I have in my grasp that hasn’t seen its credits roll is Final Fantasy VIII, and I’m missing one of the middle discs because I was young and dumb once and loaned it to a “friend” who ended up moving away with it, which really puts a nail in that quest’s coffin. I would certainly love to dive deeper and play one of the older titles; that NES Classic Edition coming out this holiday season comes packed with the original Final Fantasy, as well as 29 other retro titles. Hmm. Also, perhaps one day, far, far down the road of life, I’ll give Final Fantasy IX another swing since it is now available on Steam and has a tempting list of Achievements to pop.

Until then, I’ll just cast “Sleep” on myself and crawl under a tent as a Moogle softly sings me to safety, to slumber.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #64 – Costume Quest 2


Save your Halloween
Angry dentist, time travel
Candy corn not clutch

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Sadly, Crimson Shroud’s too difficult to grok and master

crimson shroud gd finished with the game

At long last, after years of grinding, following along with a spoiler-heavy walkthrough, then switching to a spoiler-free walkthrough, and grinding some more to defeat the final boss, I rolled a critical hit on Crimson Shroud. It is a complicated victory, one that I basically had to force myself to see because I am my father’s son and do not like to waste things, especially things I’ve bought with hard-earned digital cash, without experiencing them fully–or, to this point, mostly fully–but I am glad to have the large, 1,965 blocks-big application removed from my Nintendo 3DS. For many reasons, which I’ll get into later.

Allow me, one more time, to tell the tale of Crimson Shroud, as best as I can remember it because, for me, the last third of my progress on this game has been nothing but turn-based battle against goblins, one after the other. There was a short scene before the finally boss fight that was probably supposed to be revealing and satisfactory, but I had lost the narrative thread long before then for it to matter. Anyways, you control a party of three people as they make their way through the palace of Rahab. Giauque is a money-driven mercenary hired to retrieve the Crimson Shroud, the game’s titular McGuffin. He is joined by Frea, a Qish-descended mage, and Lippi, a stellar archer despite only having one eye. You might as well forget their names and know them by their classes: Tank, Healer, and Range.

It’s perhaps telling that I’ve actually never played any of Crimson Shroud‘s writer and director Yasumi Matsuno’s work, namely Ogre Battle 64, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Vagrant Story. After Crimson Shroud, I’m not sure if I would or will like them. The systems in this one really do sound great, on paper, such as creating combos through similar spells or rolling to clear away some accuracy-reducing fog, but I found their implementation confusing and clunky. For instance, you want to find gear you like and then grind out for more of those same items, feeding them into the one you have equipped so it can grow stronger. Fine, fine. I’m all about feeding. However, finding those same items is–excuse me for the saying–a roll of the dice, because the loot is random, and the fights take a very long time to get through, even when you seemingly have the upper hand. The way stats are shown is also difficult to decipher, and I eventually gave up trying to compare weapons and armor and stuck with what seemed okay, leveling it up as much as possible.

Crimson Shroud has been described as a bite-sized RPG. Perhaps it is too small. Not in scale, but in screen. All the combat action takes place on the top screen of the Nintendo 3DS, with menu selection and dice rolling on the bottom, where touching matters. Still, cramming all the fight details and characters in just the one screen above with a lot of text on top made it extremely difficult to follow who was doing what and the turn order. I often simply waited until the enemy finished attacking to see who was next in line for commands and went from there. I also never really understood why, if you killed all the enemies before they got a turn, the fight would be over, but if you didn’t then replacement goons would show up, making the whole ordeal last even longer.

Yes, the combat is strategic, but it is also immensely slow, as well as occasionally random. There’s also an unseen element of luck–obviously not just when rolling dice to use spells–that gives off the feeling that you are never truly in control of things. By the end of it all, I still did not have a strong grasp on what weapons and skills and spells worked against what type of enemy, or how new spells and skills were getting added to each character despite there being no XP won after each fight. Instead, you pick through a list of loot to take back to your inventory, but are limited in what you can take by some number cap.

After taking down the final boss and watching the credits do their thing, I was prompted to start everything all over again in New Game+. Curious, I tried to look up if anything greatly changed on a second playthrough, and enemies seemed tougher. No thanks. Anyways, I really do hope this is the last time I have to search for a usable screenshot of Crimson Shroud that can be manipulated to meet Grinding Down‘s strict standards because it is slim pickings out there, if you ask me.

With Crimson Shroud removed, I was finally able to download updates for Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo Badge Arcade, and Mii Plaza, as well as the freemium Pokémon Picross puzzler, so there’s a plus in all of this. I even have room to spare for more stuff. See you never again, big, blocky game that, I guess, in the end, I really didn’t like all that much. I’ll think of you the next time I roll some dice.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #54 – Crimson Shroud


Grind for better gear
In this cramped, crowded dungeon
Table-top tribute

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #51 – Final Fantasy IX

2016 gd games completed final fantasy IX

Princess kidnapping
Turns to saving source of life
First two discs better

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

To live in Final Fantasy IX is to give life meaning

gd update on ff9 end of disc three pandemonium

Bet you thought I gave up on Final Fantasy IX, seeing that the last time I spoke of it was back in January 2016 when I was stuck endlessly grinding my knees into the dirt against the Earth Guardian boss. I wouldn’t say I gave up, but rather stepped away for a bit. Well, several months. The idea of grinding with a two-party team made up solely of Zidane (cool) and Quina Quen (less cool) was really off-putting. I have good news though–I soldiered through it and was able to take down the Earth Guardian and get back to a much more substantial adventuring company of four. Speaking of four, I’ve also moved on to the last disc, which hopefully means that the end credits are in sight.

Look, I’ve had my copy of Final Fantasy IX for about half my life. Loyal readers should know that I’ve been trying to see this game to completion for a long while, and my track pattern used to be playing a good way into the second disc of the game and then abandoning the quest for…well, something else. I still believe that everything involving Kuja that happens after Dagger’s mother buys the farm feels like sequel material, but whatever. Here’s what I’m getting at. 2016 is the year that I, for the very first time, took disc four out of its place in the game’s jewel case and into my PlayStation 2. There are some light scratches on disc two from wear and tear, but disc four is as smooth and pristine as compact discs get. I found this to be somewhat surreal, but then again, if one was to take a look at my physical collection of games, there are a lot that I haven’t taken out of the case yet. Hmm.

Anyways, the areas after defeating the Earth Guardian weren’t difficult in terms of fights thanks to all that earlier grinding, but are story-heavy, and I’m not interested in spilling all the spoiler beans here. Also, not going to lie, a lot of what happened in Terra and Bran Bal went over my head. This is the part of Final Fantasy IX–and to some degree Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII–that I lose interest in. When lengthy conversations about life and death and souls and the universe and everything being connected take center stage. Please, no. Not again. I just want to watch the boy with the monkey tail fumble his way into telling a girl he loves her, as well as Vivi deal with self-identity.

I did end up referencing an online walkthrough as parts of Pandemonium are very maze-like, and there was even a frustrating stealth-driven puzzle section that I couldn’t get through despite all my obvious stealth skills. I continue to rely on a team makeup of Zidane (high damage and stealing), Dagger (summons and healing), Vivi (black magic and boosting Steiner), and Steiner (good damage, versatile abilities). The last part of disc three requires you to deal with three boss fights, one after the other, with no chance to save or heal up in between. I didn’t know this going in, but like I mentioned before…all that extra grinding from before paid off

Zidane and company are supposed to head to the Iifa Tree for the final confrontation with Kuja. Naturally, I’m not making a bee-line right there. I want to upgrade everyone’s gear and see if there are any side quests worth going after, as it sounds like there is really just one big dungeon left to get through. Now, a part of me suspects that I’m going to be using a mix and match of my party members in the fight to come, but some of them, such as Freya, Eiko, and Amarant, are severely under-leveled compared to others. I probably should devote some time to grinding them up. Sigh. I don’t want to do it, but I know this is probably better in the long run, and I don’t want to get all the way to the end and be unable to finish the fight, like how things went down in Final Fantasy VIII all them years ago.

I’ll be back after I complete Final Fantasy IX for the very first time. And no, I have no plans to start over now that the game has been ported to Steam with glorious, progress-rewarding Achievements. I’m too far in.

Drowning in random drops in Crimson Shroud’s Gerseym Waterway

crimson shroud waterway random drop gd bs

I have a problem. Well, more specifically, my Nintendo 3DS has a problem. See, there are updates to both Pokémon Shuffle and Nintendo Badge Arcade that I desperately want to install, but I can’t download them. I also have a code for Retro City Rampage: DX thanks to the latest Humble Friends of Nintendo Bundle that I can’t do anything with yet. Why? Well, of course, after many years of downloading things like games, DLC, themes, and StreetPass data, the system’s memory is just about full.

Upon reviewing everything that is installed, I noticed that Crimson Shroud is extremely large, coming in at 1,965 blocks. Yowza-bo-bowza. However, me being me, I can’t simply just delete this outright, and so I’ve gone back in to this magical land of figurines and digital dice, to figure out how to progress in hopes that I can complete the game and then feel justified in removing from my handheld. I did this with Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale, though there is a part of me that wants to revisit that game relatively soon down the road, especially with summer creeping on in.

See, last I played Crimson Shroud, which I sheepishly admit was back in January 2013, I had just defeated the Zombie Minotaur boss and was looking forward to exploring the area more. Unfortunately, to progress forward, you have to work through one of the most obscure puzzles I’ve come across in all my years gaming. Which is over twenty-five. Anyways, after dealing with the Zombie Minotaur, our trio of adventuring table-top figurines–Giauque, Lippi, and Frea–make their way to the Gerseym Waterway. There, you need to recall something Frea previously said:

“If you’re going to continue to search this way, you’ll need something to dispel the darkness–a gift. Anything with a gift like that would be an enemy to any mage. More of a curse than a gift, really.”

Right. Evidently, from that, you’re suppose to know that in order to move forward and not perpetually explore the limited number of spaces over and over and over again you need to obtain a single item called Obsidian Daphne. However, you won’t find this in a treasure chest or somewhere on the map. It needs to drop from a battle encounter, one specifically involving a Skeleton Mage. Your best bet for finding Skeleton Mages to battle against them in the Gerseym Waterway, but it’s not as simple as just getting into a battle, taking them down, and walking away with their sweet, puzzle-solving loot, and this is probably why I eventually put Crimson Shroud down despite loving rolling digital dice to regain MP.

Okay, every time you move away from and back to the space for the Gerseym Waterway, you get some muddled text and the chance to fight some monsters. A choice, really. Here’s the rub. There are four types of encounters you can…well, encounter. Not all of them contain Skeleton Mages as enemies, and the only way to know is to first take out an enemy and see what it gets replaced by. I think there’s a higher chance of a Skeleton Mage showing up if you destroy the Skeleton Archers first, but that’s just me guessing. Regardless, if you get the wrong encounter, you’re out of luck, but must still finish the fight, which takes several minutes as the enemies have a lot of HP and do not go down swiftly. Then you have to rinse and repeat your actions from before and pray to the skies above that you walked into the correct encounter. Remember, each of the four types of encounters have the same initial set of forces, so it’s all a crap-shoot from the get-go. For me, this took about an hour to do, and I almost missed grabbing the Obsidian Daphne at the end from the list of available loot. Eek.

Alas, that’s all the progress I’ve made so far in Crimson Shroud. Granted, it’s big, and hopefully there isn’t another section just like it up ahead, but I found the whole thing unnecessarily frustrating. I’m only on chapter two and already looking up online walkthroughs. Also, I’m beginning to remember another major issue I had with Crimson Shroud, and that comes down to screen real estate. With three party members and upwards of four enemies on the top screen, plus other information, it can be a bit hard to see what is even going on. I’m all about portable RPGs, but this one might make the case for being on one of those fancier Nintendo 3DS systems with the larger screens.

Oh, and once you find the Obsidian Daphne, it is used up immediately to further the story along. I didn’t even get a chance to hug and kiss it–after all that.