Tag Archives: JRPG

Miitopia is no utopia because of its battle system

Miitopia‘s been a long-time coming. I don’t say this from a place of knowledge, but rather observation. Naturally, it all began on the Nintendo Wii, with the company’s introduction of Miis, Nintendo’s take on customizable avatars. Miis are created using different body, facial, and clothing features. The options are somewhat limited, but still detailed enough to make a solid representation of yourself or your favorite celebrity. No, really, take a look. In fact, even after all these years, I still think my Mii avatar looks closest to what I look like in real life than my Xbox avatar or any character I’ve made in my likeness for an epic RPG, save maybe for my boss in Saints Row: The Third, just kiddin’.

Since then, the Miis have shown up in several RPG-esque titles, such as Pokémon Rumble World, Tomodachi Life, and, of course, the StreetPass Mii Plaza minigames, specifically Find Mii and Find Mii 2, where the seed of Miitopia was certainly planted. Though the quirkiness of Tomadachi Life is highly prevalent, as is also the randomness, to the game’s detriment, but more on that in just a bit. I’d apologize for all the hyperlinks in this paragraph, but those are all games I’ve played and have a bunch of thoughts on, so if you like reading, then click, click, click away.

So, in Miitopia, the citizens of a mighty eccentric kingdom need saving. Why? Well, the Dark Lord is ripping the faces off of Miitopians and attaching them to all kinds of monsters. This is naturally causing a lot of chaos and distress, and it is up to the player’s party to defeat these monstrosities, return the rightful faces, and bring back peace to this silly fantasy land. Here’s my cast of zany characters so far:

  • Party members
    • Pauly, thief class
    • Bitsy, a.k.a. my sister, pop star class
    • Morgan Freeman, cleric class
    • Snape, mage class
  • Dark Lord – Ron Swanson
  • Greenhorne citizens
    • Shrek, carefree guide
    • Nano, cheery granny
    • Jon Snow, sassy child
    • Jaehee, worried mother
    • Jafar, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Erza, part of the lovey-dovey couple
    • Diglett, sarcastic guy
    • E Gadd, dubious mayor
  • Royalty
    • King Santa
    • Princess Beyoncé
    • Prince Dan Ryckert
    • Prince Buzz Lightyear
  • Castle Guard
    • King Rhoam, serious soldier
    • Jake Paul, lax soldier
    • SuperSonic, royal support (right)
    • Bendy, royal support (left)
  • Great Sage – Satoru Iwata
  • Roaming Gourmet – SpongeBob
  • Nintendo Fan – Margaret

Whew. That’s a lot, I know, and there could be more people to cast in various roles to go. I’m hoping to get at least two more party members, as I need a chef and a warrior to balance everything out. Also, many of these roles were automatically filled in when I started Miitopia, but one can switch Miis out at any time. I’m okay with the selections so far, as I at least got to decide on who is and who is not royalty, as well as my main fighting crew. Strangely, the zany mix of people works out quite well and creates some fun, silly situations, such as Morgan Freeman comforting Snape after taking damage or my sister ending up in a love triangle between the two of them and causing jealousy and heartbreak to run wild.

Look, I love role-playing games. I’m pretty obsessive about them, and I enjoy, for the most part, all types. Action RPGs, JRPGs, Western RPGs, big RPGs, bite-sized RPGs, anime-heavy RPGs, and even some SRPGs. Naturally, the element that distinguishes most RPGs is the combat, the battle system, the whatever. The part where you attack an enemy opposition and gain experience points, money, and loot from them to help you grow in levels and defeat stronger progress-blocking walls. It’s what you do between cutscenes and exploring towns. Alas, so far, I’m not in love with Miitopia‘s combat system, which is a core part of its gameplay loop.

Battles in Miitopia are turn-based, but you can only control what your avatar does. The other members of your party act on their own, making their own decisions, for better or for worse. Not having control of my entire party is a strong design choice, one that saw me bounce hard off of games like Phantasy Star II and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. It also rears its ugly head in Suikoden III, which I’m simultaneously noodling with, post on that game coming soon. From the world map, you select an area to explore, also not in your control, eventually triggering specific events or random battles. The action order is determined by each Mii and monster’s speed statistic, with everyone getting one action per turn, save for bosses because they like to break rules.

When creating your Mii party members, you must give each one a quirk, such as stubborn or kind, and these play out in how your character grows and performs in battle. For example, a stubborn Mii might cast a spell twice if they are unsatisfied with the results, and a kind Mii will occasionally take damage for a friend not paying attention. I went with laid-back for myself, if you were curious. Bonds are also built between Miis by having them share a room at the inn after a day of battling and opening treasure chest or interacting in battle. Each level of friendship between two Miis brings about even more random abilities you can’t control, such as showing off for friends or consoling them when necessary, all which provide boosts. It makes watching the battles a little more engaging, but also frustrating because you never know what anyone is going to do and, sometimes, they do the wrong thing.

Other strange elements to combat include the safe spot and sprinkles. The former is a single space behind your adventuring party where a wounded or afflicted Mii can recuperate faster or heal its HP/MP over time and not be a target for the enemy. Sprinkles, other than being the wrong name for those colorful sugar strands you put on ice cream, are additional boosts in the form of salt shakers. You have one for HP, one for MP, and one for reviving a downed Mii, of varying amounts, and these replenish between fights. They are also upgraded over time as you defeat more enemies. At least you have control of when you want to use these and how.

I don’t intend to come across as highly negative on the game, as there is a lot to Miitopia that is enjoyable, specifically its music. No, really–listen to the tune that plays on loop on the main menu. I promise you it’ll get your head bobbin’ in no time. There’s a bunch of other quirky tunes that play throughout your adventures, such as when eating stat-raising food or playing the mini-games or watching a scene where one Mii gives another Mii a special present. From an audio perspective, this thing is pure glee and delight.

Well, this post went long. My bad. Looks like I have some strong opinions already about Miitopia, and I’m only a couple hours in. I really do want to stick with it and see where things go, but I don’t know if I can handle another uncontrollable Mii losing a fight due to casting Sleep on my sister instead of Fire on the almost defeated boss. Yeah, Severus Snape, LV 9 mage, I’m talking about you.

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #104 – Ever Oasis

Keep chaos away
Watch your oasis blossom
Through quests, skill, routine

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.

Adding to the Backlog – Three More PlayStation 2 Titles, Woo

I’m not out to collect every single PlayStation 2 game ever made, because they sure did make a whole lot of them, but I have a list of several titles that I missed during the console’s heydays and am genuinely interested in acquiring and, when the time is right, playing. Yes, playing, because I love games of varying ages, especially JRPGs from this specific era in the industry, for reasons I’m not totally clear on just yet. They don’t make them like they used to, and when they try, they don’t always succeed. Anyways, for a good while there, I was able to find some PlayStation 2 cases at my local GameStops, but they eventually needed more shelf-space for other things, like amiibos and virtual reality gear, and stopped stocking them.

Recently, at a comic convention last April, I was able to grab a working copy of Dark Cloud, which I once had and was actually the very first game I got for my system as a young boy with some steady income before being dumb and trading it in for something else. The game, not the system. I’m still rocking my original PlayStation 2 because I take good care of my stuff. Right, the last time I added a bunch of old-ish games in one solid lump was back in February 2016, with me stocking up on an astounding ten games for my collection; you’ll not be surprised to learn I’ve not tried a single one of them yet. Sigh. One day, when the world is full of free time and no consequences or guilt-laden clouds.

Over the weekend, while Melanie was taking a buttercream flowers class, I had an hour or so to kill in Somerville, NJ, and so I stopped in Retro Classics to peruse their wares. I’ve been in the store before, picking up PS2 copies of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and The Hobbit for my constantly growing assemblage of all things related to The Lord of the Rings, but the last time I went I forgot to bring a list and found myself second-guessing whether or not I had this or that copy of said title and was reluctant to make any purchases. It’s always good to be prepared, and this time I totally was.

Here’s what I got:

That might not seem all that exciting of a haul to you, but Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse is something I’ve never seen out in the wild, and my love for strange JRPGs from this era was too strong to resist grabbing a copy for around $15.00. Perhaps I now have more of a reason than ever to finally play through the first game, eating up those lengthy anime-driven cutscenes and e-mails and card-based minigames, knowing there is actually more to follow. The store also has a retail copy of Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, but it was a little too pricey for me at the moment. You can see that I also nabbed Wallace & Gromit in Project Zoo, which pairs nicely with my case-less copy of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and X-Men Legends so that I can go back to the beginning of when these comic book hero videogames became more RPG than mindless punching and optic blasting. I’m pretty pleased with the trio.

Anyways, that’s all for now. Alas, most of my list of desired PS2 games are really obscure beasts, like Summoner 2, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and Legaia 2: Duel Saga, and I just don’t think I’ll ever run into them at a store and I’m too timid to try and find them online for a “good” price and deal with trusting a stranger somewhere in the world to deliver on their promises. I’ll keep looking, but I won’t hold my breath. Because I’ll run out of air rather quickly. Until then, looks like I have some other things I can play. Y’know, when I find the time.

Dragon Quest VIII’s photography sidequest is pretty goo

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I’m not fooling when I say that it beyond insane that, in 2017, I am playing Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King…on my Nintendo 3DS. Like, we’ve always known that Nintendo’s portable game console could run games from the PlayStation 2 era, such as Tales of the Abyss and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but I never thought we’d get something as great and massive as Level-5’s magnificent showpiece. In my opinion, Dragon Quest VIII was a shining, blinding star in the JRPG night sky from 2004-2005, and the handheld version is mostly on par with that definitive claim, with some additions that I like and subtractions I dislike.

You’ll surely remember that I tried to go back to my Dragon Quest VIII PS2 save some years back. My return to the kingdom of Trodain didn’t last long. I had already put in over 80 hours because, at the time that I got the game, in my first studio apartment in Clifton, NJ, I declined getting Internet/TV services for a few months to save money. Thus, I was left with entertaining myself in the evenings, and that ended up being a lot of reading, some drawing, and, well, Dragon Questing. It was hard going back and remembering where I left off and what to do next. I certainly never beat the game, but couldn’t find the main path again to focus on, instead spending a few hours in the casino or chasing after monsters to capture for the fighting arena. I’m hoping to make a more direct run to the credits in the 3DS version and save some of the bonus side stuff for later, if possible.

A plot reminder, because these games have plots, even if they are somewhat convoluted: the game begins with Dhoulmagus, the court jester of the kingdom of Trodain, stealing an ancient scepter. He then casts a spell on Trodain castle, which turns King Trode into a tiny troll-like thing and Princess Medea into a horse. Unfortunately, everyone else in the castle becomes plants. That is, except you. Yup, the nameless, voiceless Trodain guard–lucky devil. Together, the three of you set out on a quest to find Dhoulmagus and reverse his spell. Along the way, you join up with some colorful characters: Yangus, a bandit who owes his life to the protagonist (I named him Pauly this time instead of Taurust_), Jessica, a scantily clad mage looking to avenge her murdered brother, and Angelo, a Templar Knight that likes to flirt and gamble.

Let’s just get to it and talk about the differences in the 3DS version of Dragon Quest VIII, as there are several. All right, in we go.

Evidently, you get two new playable characters–Red the bandit queen and Morrie, the owner and operator of the monster battling arena–but I’ve read you don’t gain access to them until late in the game, both entering your party at level 35. Not sure how I feel about that, as there’s a comfort and familiarity to the initial team of four, especially after you figure out how each character works best and spec them in that way (Angelo = healing, Yangus = tank, etc.). Being able to see monsters on the world map and avoid them at your discretion is great and something I look for in nearly every new RPG. The alchemy pot–always a staple in Level-5 joints–is no longer on an unseen timer and simply creates what you want when you want it, as well as provides suggestions for items you can mix with one another. Lastly, at least for small changes, as you gain skill points and upgrade your party members, you can now see when each one will unlock a new ability or buff; before, it was all guesswork unless you had a walkthrough guide at your side.

Cameron Obscura’s photography challenge is one of the larger additions and is quite enjoyable. You encounter this man fairly early in the game, at Port Prospect. He requests that you take some specific photos, each one earning you a different number of stamps. As you complete stamp boards, you earn special items. Simple enough…yet extremely addicting. Some photo requests require you to capture an enemy in the wild doing something silly or find a hidden golden slime statue in town. They vary in difficulty. Taking a picture is as easy as pressing start to enter photo mode; from there, you can zoom in, add or take away party members, and switch the main hero’s pose. Looks like there are over 140 challenges to complete, but you are limited to only 100 photos in your album, which means deleting some later down the road–not a huge inconvenience, but seems unnecessary. However, I wish getting to Cameron’s Codex–this is where you find the list of potential challenges that updates as you progress in the story–wasn’t hidden away in the “Misc” option menu; I’d have liked it to be in the drop-down menu on the touchscreen, where you can quickly access other constantly used things like “Zoom” and “Alchemy”.

Okay, now on to the issues I’m not a fan of. None of these are deal-breakers as Dragon Quest VIII remains a strong classic JRPG that does stray from its successful mold of yore, but I’m still bummed.

First, there’s the soundtrack or lack thereof–the original orchestrated soundtrack was removed for the 3DS version. What’s there is fine, but no longer as sweeping. The game’s cel-shaded cartoon visuals still look pretty good, but there’s a lot of draw-in when wandering around, which can make it look like nothing is at the end of some monster-ridden hallway, but there’s actually a red treasure chest there and the only way you’d know that is to walk closer towards it. Speaking of visuals, the menus, once full of icons, tabs, and visual indicators, and looking like this, have been replaced with perfunctory text that, yes, still gets the job done, but loses a lot of personality. The in-game camera continues to be an issue, especially in tight spots, and I have to use the shoulder buttons to swing it around for a better view as I, like many, prefer seeing where I’m going.

Lastly, there’s Jessica, who uses her sexuality to charm monsters into not attacking. I remember being weirded out by this some twelve years back, and it hasn’t gotten better with age. Initially, she’s dressed quite conservatively, but the minute she joins your party her attire changes to be extremely less so, and there’s even some needless boob bouncing. Sorry, Akira Toriyama, but it’s gross. I’m currently trying to specialize her in the opposite direction so as to never see the puff-puff spell in action. Maybe Red will replace her, but who knows.

All right, that’s enough Dragon Quest VIII talk for now. Evidently I can really go on about this game, as well as Dragon Quest IX. I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I see both the later game content and stuff that pops up after credits roll. Until next slime, everyone.

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.

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.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #10 – Earthlock: Festival of Magic

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Save planet Umbra
Customize, battle in turns
The grinding is real

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.