Tag Archives: Breath of Fire

Alas, a JRPG is still a JRPG in Like Clockwork

like clockwork final impressions gd ArXigN

Look, I’m well aware of the numerous shortcomings when it comes to Japanese role-playing games. If for some reason you don’t know about any of them, allow me to recommend The Grand List of Console Roleplaying Game Clichés, which does not specifically target Japanese-only RPGS, but many of the elements on the list do overlap. Also, if you ever want to lose yourself in the Internet for a couple hours, check out the trope pages simply for Chrono Trigger, Breath of Fire, or Final Fantasy VII. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

Like Clockwork is a comedy RPG that likes to take these well-known tropes, bash them in the face repeatedly, wave them around victoriously for all to see, and then do things differently. It opens with the Sleepyhead Rule, wherein the main character is awoken by his mother to start his quest. However, he is quickly killed in a freak accident involving a police car, resulting in his female companion taking up the flag to finish the hero’s quest. Yup, instead of playing as the brooding, sulking introvert that everyone loves and champions because whatever, you instead play as a young woman who happened to be in the right place at the right time. And she wears actual battle armor, not a metal bikini. This is just the start of spinning those known tropes on their heads.

Made for Fuck this Jam 2014 by John Roberts and created in RPGMaker, which also birthed such interesting things like Starbot and The Stoneville Mystery, Like Clockwork looks exactly as you imagined it might, compiled of a number of recognizable sprites and shapes. To the point that uncommon elements, like a cop car or massively large troll, look instantly out of place. Either way, it’s a bright, colorful RPG world spread across a handful of screens, though more time was obviously spent on the opening town area than anywhere else. Similar to other games created in RPGMaker, you can access a pause menu for stats, skills, and other things that might not even matter, though it does make more sense in this type of environment.

As you go through the early motions of Like Clockwork, your cop car companion Tam McGleish, a rather angry Scottish Detective Inspector, will complain with every breath he takes about JRPG trope after trope, calling them out right on the spot. Eventually, he even breaks the fourth wall to speak directly to the developer–and, on one occasion, cause him physical harm–in order to see things change for the better. Like when the random encounters become too much. Also, in good ol’ silly fashion, the main heroine passes out when having to make a moral choice, as if the decision is too much to handle for her frail frame. There are several other fun moments to discover that I will spill now.

All that said, it’s still a JRPG, just one that points out all the annoying bits. You must go through the annoying bits, at least once, for them to get taken away and changed into something more streamlined, modern. I found Like Clockwork to be lightly amusing, though I guess I’m not used to reading the c-word so many times, as it’s been a bit since I reread my A Song of Ice and Fire books. In actuality, I would’ve liked to play more, to get into a few more battles and level up my party, but that’s not the point here–it’s not a full game, just a snapshot of the tiresome elements of the genre. A riff. It works fine enough, but now I want to load up my years-old save data for Eternal Sonata and get my true JRPG-ing on.



Let me say this right up front: Beyond the Beyond is a terrible game, and an even worse RPG. I know this, you know this, and the world knows this. And yet, I still wish I hadn’t traded in my copy all those years ago, as it was one of the first–and maybe the first–RPGs I got on my original PlayStation, and since there was not a lot out there at that time, beggars couldn’t be choosers, and so I played Beyond the Beyond because I rented it and and paid money for the end product, not because it was fun.

Here’s how bad the story in Beyond the Beyond is: I had to look it up. All of it. Had to look up every single detail about the story out there because I couldn’t remember a lick of it. And normally, I can at least unsurface a detail or two, a plot twist, a character’s name, etc.–but nope, not for this one. I mean, that makes sense when you have plot summaries like this: The forces of darkness have broken an ancient treaty, and those who uphold justice and goodness must stop them from bringing chaos and destruction. Oh wow. That sure tells me a lot. Not like I’ve ever played a good character fighting evil before in a videogame. Well, we can get more specific: Beyond the Beyond is about a young apprentice knight called Finn who gets caught up in an ancient war between the Beings of Light and the Warlocks of the Underworld. With the help of a number of other adventurers, he is tasked with protecting the fate of the kingdom of Marion. As generic as it gets, unfortunately.

Prior to Beyond the Beyond, I had dabbled in some RPGs on the SNES, like Mystic Quest and Breath of Fire, and NES, but not enough to really know what to expect from another anime-style RPG from Japan that had been translated for U.S. shores. Yes, I wouldn’t run across a copy of Lunar until much later in life. But upon first looking at Beyond the Beyond, it’s clear that the leap from earlier consoles to the quote unquote power of the PlayStation 1 was more like a tiny bunny hop. Featuring discolored and uninspiring 16-bit graphics, the game was not a piece of art to gaze at. Remember how in games like Suikoden and Suikoden II when the action would zoom in during combo attacks and get extremely pixelated to the point of impressionistic? That’s what all the battles look like from the get-go, as evident from this blog post’s header image.

Combat. Alas, that’s the one area where Beyond the Beyond tries to stand out…and doesn’t. Things slip into 3D, with a “rotating camera,” and some light strategy involves maneuvering your characters around, trying to outflank the enemy or move somewhere safe. In truth, the combat is standard hack and slash, but turn-based. There was a system called Active Playing System (APS), which had characters performing secret moves at certain moments. Such as right before a character attacks or defends. Rapidly pressing a combination of buttons increases the chance of more attack/defense power though it was never a guarantee and did little to make the fights more exciting.

I don’t remember much about Beyond the Beyond‘s soundtrack…except that it didn’t sound astounding. Not for its arrangement, but rather the way it was recorded. Evidently, the game relied on MIDI format songs rather than pre-recorded red book audio, which made everything sound tinny and less than great. The soundtrack was composed by Motoi Sakuraba, with five tracks later being released by Antinos Records in May 1996, and it seems like those are much more appreciated than the original tracks.

All that said, and I’ve touched upon this in other iterations of GAMES I REGRET  PARTING WITH, I kind of want to play it again, today, in my current mindframe, with so much more knowledge about what games a good RPG and what makes a bad, bland one. I certainly hold no nostalgia for Beyond the Beyond, but I fear that I was perhaps too quick to judge it and write it off as unarguably terrible back then. I suspect it’s still absolute garbage now in 2014, but that’s only a suspicion, and I would like to actually confirm it for myself.

One aspect that I do appreciate about a sub-par videogame called Beyond the Beyond is that it opens up a thousand doors for clever wordplay, like “below the below standards of what a good RPG should be like.” If anything, we got that.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.


I have a strange, uneven relationship with the already pretty strange and uneven Capcom RPG franchise known as Breath of Fire.

First, for the introductory title and its sequel in the series, games found originally on the SNES, I only got to play them much later in life when I learned all about emulating ROMs on the computer, and even then I never got far with either. They were just something I tried out to see if the tech could actually work. During my PlayStation 1 heydays, I picked up a copy of Breath of Fire III, played a decent bit of it, and then traded it in like an idiot, which should be obvious considering the name of this post. Missed out on Breath of Fire IV completely, and later picked up Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter for the PS2, which for all intents and purposes in basically the fifth game in the series. That one probably deserves its own post, but let me just say that it is a confusing game, one that encourages death and replaying the same areas over and over again, and one that I’ve tried a good number of times to figure out without much luck.

Nonetheless, each game in the series is sort of the same interchangeable story: a boy named Ryu can turn into a dragon and goes on adventures. A girl named Nina also appears frequently, as well as characters from other games in the franchise. Battles are turn-based, and fusing into different kinds of dragons is often the key to victory. Fishing and bright colors, too.

Well, how dragon Ryu (before becoming a boy) enters the world in Breath of Fire III is probably my favorite part of the game, and a really strong contender to a classic first hour. Here’s an animated GIF, but I’ll use words below it, too:

(EDIT: Okay, I guess I can’t host animated gifs on Grinding Down. Boo. So go here instead to see.)

That open sequence and probably the hour or so after it are probably the reasons why I like this game the most from the whole franchise. It’s endearing and nicely paced, as well as quite colorful. As you can see above, the graphics for the first Breath of Fire on the PlayStation 1 were a mix of hand-drawn sprites and polygons–and dang it, I love the mixture.

Anyways, it all starts with a pair of miners–Gary and Mogu–as they search through a mine, pontificating on the nature of the magical creatures and the valuable ore called chrysmThe two miners find a giant chrysm with a preserved baby dragon locked inside it. They plan to blow the crystal apart with TNT, and when they do, the preserved dragon, to no one’s surprise but the miners’, turns out to be alive, and it attacks them. Just like that, we’re thrown into the game’s first battle, and we’re totally in control of the dragon, not the humans. With ease and shock, we turn the miners to ash. Farewell, Gary and Mogu–we hardly knew ya. The young dragon is not a ruthless monster though, attacking back against miners only when they strike first. It is, in actuality, an innocent boy, and this is conveyed strongly as miners beg for their lives and are let go.

Eventually, a bunch of miners knock the dragon out with a crane, cage it, and put it on a train headed for a bad place. Luckily, Ryu the dragon wakes up during the journey and is able to knock its cage off the train and down a ravine. We then cut to a scene involving a cat-like man stalking a wild boar in the woods. The falling cage ruins his plans, and the man is somewhat surprised to see a naked little boy inside the cave. So is whoever is playing the game, as we last saw a fire-breathing dragon in there. Despite living in complete hunger, the cat-like man decides to bring the boy home, meaning another mouth to feed, and welcomes him into his surrogate family. What follows after that is that Rei, the cat-like man, and another orphan named Teepo teach Ryu how to be a thief as a means of surviving. This character-building and -bonding is important, as the trio eventually gets separated, and a large part of the game involves finding friends and rebuilding homes and generally growing up.

And that’s all I can recall. There’s a big white space after the intro and whatever happened next. Though I do remember getting far enough into Breath of Fire III to unlock the Faerie Village, which allows the player to rebuild an entire village for magical flying critters. Doing so unlocks special benefits like rare weapons for sale, mini-games, and a sound test mode. Can’t really recall how far into this element I got, but it stands out as a charming way to spend time. Another aspect that stands out as pretty neat and something that was also later found in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was being able to study under a Master, earning different skills and benefits this way.

I dunno. Games like this and other PS1 classics now long gone do have me seriously considering picking up a VITA–it just recently got announced that the Sony handheld would be receiving PS1 compatibilityone day. Well, them and that updated version of Persona 4. Yeah, I know; I’m losing my mind.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.