Tag Archives: Final Fantasy XII

Grinding Down’s Chrono Cross week – Battle and Elements

gd chrono cross week battle and elements

It’s a pretty close fight between music and the battle system for my favorite thing about Chrono Cross. It’s like deciding which is my favorite sushi roll, when really I’ll eat and enjoy just about anything rolled in rice. That said, I am partial to asparagus rolls as of late. Anyways, I’m not sure which has the sharper edge in Chrono Cross, but let’s muse about how the fights go for the time being. Tomorrow can be all about the tunes.

Battles are turn-based, unlike the previous Chrono Trigger, which was kind of turn-based, but also depended highly on a time counter to determine who could attack first or next. Think that was called the Active Time Battle. That made those fights tense and a fight for control, but things are much more lax in Chrono Cross. You can totally stay on a single menu screen for as long as you like, planning and plotting your next move until you actually do it. I’ve read this system shares some similarities to Xenogears, but I’ve never played that.

Basically, at the start of battle, every character begins with 7.0 Stamina points, which are used for attacking, defending, and using slotted Elements. There are three types of attacks–hard, medium, and light–and each attack costs 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 points, respectively. You basically have to make the choice of using up more points for hard-hitting attacks with a smaller chance to hit versus weaker attacks that will definitely land more often than not. Making choices like these also builds up your Element meter, which determines what level spell you can cast. It’s a fantastic balance of strategy and risk/reward.

One of my favorite aspects of the combat system is that, after each battle is over, you can use any or all healing Elements to restore your team’s HP so long as you have enough stamina points left at the end of the fight. This made progressing a faster process as one did not always have to go into the menu after every fight and use a bunch of potions–Tablets, here–to get everyone back up to snuff.

Each Element spell comes with a number, like 1 plus or minus 7. Each vertical bar in a character’s Element grid represents one level of magic, with the column on the far left being Level 1. The number before the plus and minus sign is the preferred level for the spell to be equipped, and the number after the plus and minus sign is the range that spell can be equipped. If you end up equipping a  spell higher than the preferred Level, that spell will be more effective, doing more damage–and vice versa. A character can equip any color Element spell, even though each character focuses on a single Innate color. This only means that spells of the same color as the character will be more effective and others less so. That might have all sounded like crazy-speak, but it is quite easier to grasp once you begin slotting certain Elements on the grid and playing around with what to put where.

However, not every part of Chrono Cross‘ battle system is amazing. Their summon Elements, which brings forth a giant monster to do big damage to your opponent, which was all the rage in other RPGs at that time, like Final Fantasy VII and Legend of Dragoon, are not worth the effort. First, to be able to cast them, you have turn the whole field one single color and then still have enough time and points available to cast the summon Element, which usually is only slot-able in level 7 or 8, before an opponent casts a different color Element to squander your plans. I think I used FrogPrince once, and never bothered with any other summon Elements, as you really are better off just casting normal Elements. Another part of the battle system I could not grok was Traps, which are Elements that capture an enemy’s Element. However, this process was never a guarantee, and again, just like with summons, you are actually fine without them.

Evidently, there are combination attacks in Chrono Cross, but I never had one happen in all my hours battling PortalGheist and ShadowCats. Which is a shame as I enjoyed these greatly in Chrono Trigger. To do a combination attack, both–or maybe even all three–characters must have the required Element level, as well as at least one Stamina point available. After the attack, both techniques which make up the attack will be exhausted, though I don’t know what that actually means. Looking at a list, most of these combo attacks require LV 5 and special  LV 7 Elements, which is often late-game stuff and kind of a waste to even go after. Think this aspect could have been way better televised, but obviously these attacks are not vital in completing the game.

It’s a combat system of choices, most of which don’t matter when fighting the general enemies scattered across the map, but many boss fights require you to be heavily aware of what Elements you have slotted, their color, what types of attacks you should be doing, and when you need to conserve your levels for healing, reviving, or building up for a high-powered GravityBlow. It makes the longer battles more certainly interesting and remains one of my favorite combat systems in an RPG ever. I think Final Fantasy XII‘s is a close second, but that’s about it.

The top five job boards in videogames

I’ve been playing some Rage recently–mind you, just a bit–and once you get to Wellspring, the first main hub city, you have the opportunity to pick up sidequests from a job board located next to where everyone is knee-deep in rounds of Tombstones. Which reminded me just how much I love picking up miscellaneous tasks on an open forum. Surely there are others out there, and unfortunately the bulletin board from Animal Crossing: Wild World does not really count as it exists only to post funny, strange, and disturbing notes about your neighbors…

And so, without any further blathering on my part, here’s my top five videogame job boards. If I’m to be honest, there’s was not much to pick from, at least from my gaming experience. May I continue to find more boards in the future.

5. Rage

The job board in Rage is extremely ho-hum, but it’s still something to constantly check in on even if it ultimately doesn’t offer a ton of new quests. However, some of the sidequests, when selected, take you directly into the action, which is a nice feature considering the wasteland is a dangerous place for travelers. And yeah, I love just how big it states what it is: JOB BOARD. Otherwise, it’s perfunctory at best.

4. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Sorry about the Japanese screenshot, but couldn’t find one in English. Let me explain then. In Dragon Quest IX, when inside the Battle Records menu, you can select Quests, which brings you to another menu screen, with two more options available: Normal Quest and Extra Quest. Above these is pictured a bulletin board, with unreadable scraps of paper pinned to it. Oh man, and I just checked, and I still have like seven pages of undiscovered extra quests to do. Might have to get back into this one. Such a summer game…

3. Dragon Age: Origins

Side quests in Dragon Age: Origins pop up in a number of ways, and one of them is by visiting a Chanter’s Board. I think I found my first one in Lothering, but there’s others in Redcliffe Village and the Denerim Market District. Since these tasks are being handed out by the Chantry, most help the already rich and powerful. But they are worth doing as each task provides a monetary reward, and you need money to buy bigger backpack space as soon as you can. Also, love the parchment look of the quests, as well as the “seal of approval” at the bottom of the description page. Nicely done, BioWare.

2. Borderlands

Okay, okay, technically they call this a Bounty Board, but it all means the same: moar questz. These are scattered throughout Pandora, and when there are new quests to pick up, a giant, floaty exclamation mark stands tall, making sure you know what is what. Turning in a quest and immediately picking up another is a wonderful carrot-on-a-string tactic, and I had more fun leveling up on the side then going through the main story missions in Borderlands. Most quests found here are given anonymously, but they do offer up experience points, cash, and either a new gun or artifact. They better return in Borderlands 2 or else…

1. Final Fantasy XII

When I graduated college and moved to northern New Jersey to get a big-boy job, I went for a few months in a studio apartment without the Internet. Thankfully, I had Final Fantasy XII to obsess over. And no, this isn’t about hte License Board. Instead, I’m all about the hunts after joining Clan Centurio and becoming best buds with Montblanc. See, in the world of Ivalice, monsters are constantly causing trouble, and so people have to list Marks or Elite Marks on a board in town in hope of help; Vaan and his crew can set out to kill them when and how they please. I can’t say for certain without checking my save file how many marks I took down since I last played in, um, 2006, but am pretty sure it was plenty. These mini-bosses were adventures all on their own and made collecting and leveling up a challenge, but so totally worth it.

Okay, those are my picks. Did I miss a favorite job board of yours? Tell me about it in the comments below.

The Top Five Worst Fishing Minigames

Some of my favorite memories are based around fishing, which I find funny as it’s an activity I haven’t done in many years. Or desire to do anymore. I don’t mind crabbing and pulling up traps to see if anything crawled on in, but hooking a worm and just waiting for a tug is no longer ideal for me. Plus, the last time I went fishing, I ended up standing still for so long that the back of my legs got some wicked sunburn on them, an unfortunate lesson definitely learned.

And yet, when it comes to videogames, there’s something addicting about fishing minigames and trying to catch the biggest or rarest sea critter possible. Crack-like, almost. In some games, fish means food. Others use it as just a means to money. And some have it simply for the sake of another thing to collect. To this day, I’ve still not caught a coelacanth in Animal Crossing: Wild World, but I know my sister has, and for that, boat-loads of respect. I did get every other fish and enjoyed every minute of it.

However, this list is not about my favorite fishing minigames. No, this one’s all about those that didn’t do it for me, that were too complicated or not deep enough. These are the ones that should’ve been tossed back in during development.

5. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

To unlock the fishing minigame, Link has to first complete a totally optional sidequest. One that’s easy to miss, too. Something to do with a mermaid, and I don’t remember any of the details except that your reward is a fishing rod. You can then go fishing, which uses the DS touchscreen to its fullest: tap to cast your line, then place stylus over Link and pull down on him without ever lifting the stylus off the touchscreen, and if you are good enough, you’ll snag a fish on your hook. Now it gets even tougher. Two meters pop up, distance and your rod’s strength, and you have to pay attention to both as you try to reel in your catch. LET GO and PULL constantly pop up on the top screen. It can take several tiring minutes to be successful, and I think I only caught two fish in total before not caring anymore. The minigame was too hard, too technical.

I had more fun using the ship’s crane to pull up underwater treasure chests. If only it could snag fish, too.

4. Final Fantasy XII

I spent well over 70 hours romping through Ivalice, completing as many marks as I could safely find, filling out the license board, and killing judges with extreme glee–and yet I never stumbled across the fishing minigame. Oh, it’s there. I’ve seen talk of it on the Interwebz. But like the entry just above in this grand ol’ list, you really have to work towards unlocking it. According to others, the fishing minigame becomes available after Vaan and the gang visit the Draklor Laboratories area during the main plot. However, to get the most out of the minigame, several mark hunts have to be completed, as well as the Barheim side-quest. I’m guessing I never did any of that stuff. Supposedly, the fishing game consists of a very basic button memory test, with six opportunities to catch a bottle or fish. Through this, you have the chance to catch the ultimate reward, the Lu-Shang Badge, a key component of the most powerful weapon in the game. I consider it one of the worst fishing minigames because it seemed to be dropped into the game like an afterthought.

3. Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times

This game is, for all intents, a Hogwarts-themed clone of Animal Crossing: Wild World, which would lead many to believe that I’d absolutely love it. But no, I don’t. The devs added a middle man to their fishing minigame, one that’s fairly annoying. In AC:WW, you catch a fish and you either donate it to the museum or you sell it directly to Tom Nook for some sweet bells. In MG:MT, you catch a fish, and your only choice is to donate it to a magical book, which will then give you an item based on the type and size of the fish, which you can then bring to the local shop to sell for some money. It’s a slow, unpredictable process, but unfortunately it’s one of the main ways to make money to buy new brooms and CDs. If only you could just take the fish to the shop and cut out the middle man book.

2. Nier

My experience with Nier so far has been this, word for word, fish fail for fish fail. I’d like to play some more of the game, as there were a few interesting bits, but if there’s any more story-related fishing quests, I don’t think I can soldier on.

1. Professor Layton’s London Life

Yup, a minigame within a minigame–and it’s atrocious. Fishing seems simple enough in London Life: acquire a fishing outfit, find a good spot, and cast away. When the exclamation mark appears above your avatar’s head, press the action button to reel in the fish. The wet noodle is that it’s seemingly random. If you’re not fast enough–and you have to be super fast as one millisecond off is enough to fail–you won’t catch the fish and lose a ton of Happiness. Maybe between 2,000 to 3,000. Which only then makes catching fish even harder, as a happy fisherman is a successful one.

And right now, I have two quests for one character. Deliver a note, and the other is to catch two Thames trout. However, I can’t turn in the former quest until I complete the latter, and that might take awhile as I’ve tried numerous times to catch these special fish. It’s frustrating, and I find myself trying once, losing Happiness, and going off to do some other actions.

More than likely, I’d rather be really fishing than testing my patience with these fishing minigames. Got any fish stories of your own? Speak up in the comments below!

30 Days of Gaming, #18 – Craziest thing in a game

The original 30 Days of Gaming topic for today was a sort of follow-up to “favorite antagonist,” with the focus this time being on the yin to its yang–“favorite protagonist.” The problem with that is that it is a little too similar to the topic I did for “favorite character,” and while many could argue that Gremio was not the main protagonist in Suikoden, he was a main character, and so he still remains my favorite of those. In short: frak this list, I’m making my own topic up. Let’s go with “craziest thing in a game,” okay?

Final Fantasy XII was determined to be different. It wanted to fuse MMO elements with a traditional epic plot, as well as introduce a license board, hunting for marks, and using gambits to streamline combat effectively. And it did do all of those things, somewhat successfully, but Squaresoft also added in a pinch of pure bat-shit crazy because there’s the Zodiac Spear. What’s that? Why, it’s only the strongest weapon in the game, with +150 Attack and +8 Evasion. See the shiny:

The tricky part is that for your band of girly boys and boyish girls to find this kick-ass weapon, they’re going to have to not open specific treasure chests. That’s right. Not open them. The chests to steer clear of are as follows:

  • The chest outside Old Dalan’s place in Lowtown.
  • There are two chests in the southeast corner of the Palace Cellar. Open them and all hope is lost.
  • When Vaan gets captured, he gets sent to the Confiscatory. Don’t open any of the chests there.
  • There’s an island on the Phon Coast with 16 chests on it. Touch them and die.

Leave those chests alone and you’ll find the Zodiac Spear in the Necrohol of Nabudis. Seems pretty simple, right? If only.

Naturally, during my one and only playthrough, I had opened many of these chests by the time I went online and learned of all this. Why wouldn’t I open them? Gamers are trained from very early on that opening treasure chests is a good thing, a solid way to ensure spoils and weapons and maybe even a battle with a fake treasure chest monster. I hate those things so much. It’s plain crazy to hide away such power and greatness by punishing us that play the way we’ve all been taught to play. At that point, the developers might as well took away super strong spells simply because we spoke to a Moogle in Rabanastre or used an Elixir after losing some HP. It’s just a bit boggling, and I have to wonder how anyone other than those involved in the game discovered the trick to getting the Zodiac Spear. Surely it had to be leaked out or something like that hidden room in Batman: Arkham Asylum. I mean, this didn’t hinder my love for Final Fantasy XII or stop me from completing many moons ago, but I do love collecting and completing collections; missing out on the “ultimate weapon” in a Final Fantasy game hits home hard, almost like a spear to the gut…a Zodiac Spear.

30 Days of Gaming, #7 – Favorite game couple

Mario and Princess Peach, Sonic and Amy, Solid Snake and Meryl Silverburgh, Cloud Strife and Aeris Gainsborough, Mr. Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man. These are some of the most famous gaming couples. Many are borderline platonic; others are not.

It’s unclear to me, and maybe most of the Internet, if my favorite gaming couple loves one another romantically, or if their friendship, their dependence on each other is what rings truer in their hearts. Certainly there’s some past adventures they do not speak of, some tension and flirting. Hard not to charm it up when one half of this equation is the suave, cocky Balthier, and the other is the super old, but super vivacious viera warrior Fran. Together, they try to rule the skies.

First, some Final Fantasy XII backstory. Balthier is a young sky pirate and the pilot of the airship Strahl. His copilot is seemingly the complete opposite, an otherworldly viera—that means rabbit-like—woman named Fran that is extremely sensitive to Mist magic, as well as a truly seductive lisp. They depend on each other, and they depend even more on their ability to take from anyone what they want, and it’s this blatant thievery that gets them mixed up with Vaan and Ashe during the chaos of a rebel assault on the palace.

And so they are a team, a couple. Pilot and copilot. Voice and reason. Hume and viera. It’s never openly said that they love each other, that their feelings drop deep, but the subtle looks they share speak volumes:

You meet them as one entity, and you’ll never see them as anything else but together. There is no Fran without Balthier, and the other way around. When out grinding for bazaar items and experience points, you’re allowed to use a three-person team. This usually meant Vaan and two others: Ashe, Basch, Balthier, and Fran. Sorry, Penelo. Battling monsters and using gambits isn’t for kids. Anyways, I never separated the combo, and they worked well with each other, both offering ranged attacks and strong Quickenings. However, come the end of the game, I had to rely on Basch the Tank for most of my boss slaying. Still, these two characters remain my favorite gaming couple for what they don’t say and are only closely followed in the franchise by Zidane and Garnet from Final Fantasy IX.

Vaan doesn’t know the first thing about sneaking

Mission 3-2: Rendezvous Round Back in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings really did a number on me. A bad number. Not necessarily 666, but something close to that in terms of cruelty and evilness. First, here’s the mission’s description:

After saving the aegyl, the party heads for the shrine holding the auralith, but a watch has already been posted outside! How does Vaan plan to sneak past?  

And the main objective:

Sneak into the temple; Vaan must survive!

What? SNEAK?! Am I playing Metal Wings Solid here or something? Don’t think so. This is supposed to be a RPG/RTS hybrid…you seen an enemy, you attack it until it is dead. ‘Nuff said. Anyways, Vaan is all alone on the map and must sneak past a good number of guards in order to make it to the shrine’s entrance. Okay, sounds easy enough. Map is pretty small. Nope. Took me FOUR tries to complete this mission.

First try, I walked straight down the map, hid behind a pillar, and, when the first guard was looking the other way, tried to rush past him. Got caught, started fighting him, died a sad, painful death.

Second try, did the same thing, but this time used some brains and applied Vaan’s spell Sprint to the equation. Made it past the first guard, hid behind a tiny airship before trying to sneak around another guard. Only when I went to move, Vaan went in the opposite direction I told him thanks to an invisible barrier and thus got some sword swipes to the face.

Third try, all of the above, this time waiting longer for the second guard to move away. Then it was a mad dash across the screen. However, greed took over, and I just had to open one of the numerous treasure chests on the map. Got caught, got killed.

Fourth try, repeated same steps as before, utilizing Vaan’s Sprint ability as much as possible. Skipped all treasure chests. Tried to sneak by two viera archers guarding the shrine’s entrance, but they discovered me, loosing arrow after arrow my way, and all I had at that point was adrenaline and speed…so I made a beeline for the flag, finally completing the mission with a sliver of health left.

Whew. Also: ASDFGHJKL.

This game was not built for stealth missions. The biggest hurdle is that, unlike in games such as Metal Gear Solid or Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, there’s no indication as to how far an enemy’s perception ranges. Can that soldier see me walking towards him? Can the viera archers view me from afar? If I crossed the enemy’s path here instead of here, am I less visible? It’s a guessing game, in short. Try to sneak by and see if you have the luck of the Irish. Another problem falls on the touchscreen controls and speed that units actually walk at, but that’s kind of a muffin in comparison to the lack of stealth-like details missing from this mountain. Heck, even a simple ! mark above an enemy’s head when they’ve spotted you would help; I just rushed past enemies and had to watch them closely to see if they were following after me or not.

So here’s to me hoping that this was the one and only stealthy mission in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

So far, a severe lack of Fran in Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Granted, I’ve only played roughly an hour and fifteen minutes of Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings so far…but come on! Out of that time chunkage, Fran was only on screen for about less than 60 seconds, uttering maybe two lines or so of dialogue. The Mist made her woozy. Yeah, it always does that! She’s allergic! Then her and ever-charming friend-at-hand Balthier disappeared from the story as Vaan and his cohorts went on adventuring and stealing an airship of their own.

As the only non-Hume character playable in Final Fantasy XII, Fran really stood out. Also probably because of the bunny ears, revealing outfit, long legs, and devilishly good lisp. Seriously, one could listen to her talk all day. Get that woman a phonebook to read from! She made playing FFXII feel like an actual fantasy game; sure, the other citizens of Rabanastre helped, as did magically ornamented locales and flying ships…but Fran, as a part of your active troop, helped seal the deal that you were on a quest of a special kind, with a special kind of people. Visiting her fellow viera in the hidden land of Eruyt Village was one of my favorite parts of the game.

And so, Revenant Wings is not doing her justice. Not one lick. Spoiler alert for an old game!

See, at the end of FFXII, it’s believed that both her and Balthier perished during the final battle craziness. That terrible thought was dashed as Vaan later learned–much later, like almost a year later–that the two partners-in-crime were still at it, and that they wanted to meet up to go treasure-hunting, thus giving us the starting point for Revenant Wings. This really short meeting of Vaan and his old friends lacks oophm; it’s supposed to be the first time they’ve seen each other in awhile, since one party thought the other dead actually, and there’s no reunion-like talk, no “hey, remember how Ashe was actually the main character and not you, Vaan?”, nothing; only tips on being a sky pirate from Balthier, a complaint about the Mist from Fran, and then a TTFN (ta-ta for now) if ever there was one.

In short: NEEDS MOAR VIERA LOVELINESS.

PURCHASE OF THE MONTH: Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime and Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

Woah, woah, woah…two games for the Purchase of the Month? Yes. Let me explain.

For about the past year or so, I’ve allowed myself to make one videogame purchase every month. This keeps my wallet safe, this keep my brain at ease during these crazy retail seasons, and this keeps this blog active and alive with new content–well, considering that I’m often late to the party and buy mostly “old” games these posts are not necessarily new content about new content, but new content nonetheless.

Also, a Purchase of the Month does not necessarily mean a top-dog, AAA product retailing for $60 or more. In fact, here’s a rundown of my purchases from this year, as best as I can recall or find out thanks to Grinding Down‘s search function:

  • January 2010 – Nothing
  • February 2010 – Dragon Age: Origins
  • March 2010 – Pokemon HeartGold
  • April 2010 – Borderlands
  • May 2010 – Picross 3D, The Saboteur
  • June 2010 – Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
  • July 2010 – Limbo, Dragon Quest IX, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
  • August 2010 –  Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game
  • September 2010 – Mini Ninjas
  • October 2010 – Chrono Trigger DS, Fallout: New Vegas
  • November 2010 – Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
  • December 2010 – ???

Hmm. Might have forgotten some XBLA titles in there. Now, of those listed, only a few were brand new retail copies; about 75% were purchased for less than $25 each, which I think is a great amount to spend on a videogame that may or may not give you a good amount of playtime. So, if I’m not looking for a big name retail game, I’m looking more for something in my secondary price range. The fact that both purchases of this month were released well over three years ago definitely helped with this–DQH: Rocket Slime was $6.99, and FFXII: Revenant Wings was $14.99. Perfect, I said to myself and not out loud as that would be a bit weird.

Right now, with the way life is–married, working, stressing, worrying, not drawing, not writing, worrying, worrying, wondering, sleeping more, band practice, worrying–it seems I have a lot less time for console gaming and much more time available for DS gaming on the go. These two games, plus the epic RPGs of Chrono Trigger and DQIX, should help fight back the lack-of-serious-Fallout: New Vegas shakes. I’ll also go into the reasons I picked each of these up in another post later on. Because, yes, I do have my reasons!