Tag Archives: JRPG

Finally seeing Suikoden III from some different perspectives

Ugh, I’m not doing too well on those gaming resolutions for 2017 that I listed out at the beginning of the new year. Well, hold up, I did manage to cross the 80,000 Gamerscore mark, but other than that, my Steam backlog is either the same size as before or larger than ever, Earthbound is still untouched on my Wii U, and I don’t know what I was thinking when it came to musing about “creating something.” I mean, I’m already doing that with my art over at Death, Divorce, and Disney, slow as it may take, though perhaps one day I’ll do something with game design. I sure do have a bunch of ideas, but not the knowledge to put them into motion, and knowledge doesn’t come quick or easy.

Anyways, here is me equipping a mighty ice-pick of endurance+3 and chipping away at the legendary glacier boss that is Suikoden III. I played it for a couple of hours several years ago, eventually running into an issue with the game soft-locking on a loading screen due to scratches on my PlayStation 2 disc. That sucks, but I quickly moved past it and found a bazillion other games to occupy my time, including the original two games in the series. I then acquired a digital version for the PlayStation 3 about two years ago, easing my heart and mind somewhat with the knowledge that I could return to Konami’s third entry in the RPG series via a scratch-free experience. Still, it remained neglected once more…until now-ish. Dun dun dunnn.

This time around, I’ve decided to start Suikoden III from a new perspective, selecting someone different from my first go at the game. See, Suikoden III uses something called the Trinity Site System to tell its tale through three different POVs–namely, Hugo, the son of the Karaya Clan Chief Lucia, Chris Lightfellow, a Zexen Knight, and Geddoe, a mercenary from the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia. Phew, that was a mouthful. Last time, I went with Hugo, and this time I started the adventure off with Chris Lightfellow, who, by name alone, you might mistake as a man, but she’s actually the acting captain of the Zexen Knights, as well as the Tenbi Star, just like Kirkis was in the original game. Cool, cool. Basically, you get to play snippets from each of these characters’ storylines, with some overlapping others, and I suspect they will eventually meet up and form a single through-line to follow to the end. We’ll see.

It’s still a little early for me to say this, but I’m not a fan of the changes Konami made to combat in Suikoden III. Don’t worry, don’t worry, everything is still turn-based, but characters are now paired up during fights. This means you give a command to each pair rather than to them as individuals, which often makes the combat feel clunky and not highly strategic. For example, one person gets a specific action, such as casting a spell or using an item, while the other is forced into attacking by default. It’s not Miitopia random, but you are definitely not 100% in control of what everyone gets to do, and that’s a bummer. Also, I’ve put in about six to seven hours so far, seeing chapters from all three characters–Chris, Geddoe, and Hugo–and I’ve seen only one or two unite attack options during battle, which this JRPG series is famous for. Also, because we’re jumping around a lot, I’ve been reluctant to drop a lot of money on new armor and weapons or training because I don’t yet know who is going to be around for the bulk of Suikoden III, which is mildly frustrating.

So, clearly, it’s been slow going, but it has been refreshing to see some new characters and areas this second time starting Suikoden III. Also, evidently during my first time with Hugo I had missed an entire side quest involving bandits and Melville’s father, so that was great to see, content-wise, even if it did little to change what happened in his first chapter. I’m now playing as Geddoe and his Twelfth Unit from Harmonia as they embark from Vinay del Zexay…to do something. Not quite sure what their goal is yet. I’m eager to see a few more towns as Vinay del Zexay is not fun to explore and somewhat confusing and does not hold a candle to Gregminster, Greenhill City, or even Gordius. Then again, these games are all about building up a base. Speaking of that…

From the brief bit of research I’ve done, it sounds like once all three starting characters hit chapter three, I’ll have to make a major decision, one that will definitely affect how the story moves forward. It also sounds like, after Suikoden V, Suikoden III takes the longest for everyone to get inside a castle and start building up your army, which is one of the best parts of this series, and that’s a bummer because I want to go to there right now. Ugh. Here’s hoping I hit that milestone somewhere in 2018, the earlier the better. Because then I eventually need to try out Suikoden IV. And Suikoden Tactics. Oh, and I should probably re-play Suikoden V at some point because that is mostly a blur to me now.

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Miitopia is two games in one and maybe never-ending

After 25-ish hours of battling monsters, eating food, leveling up, and taking down the Dark Lord Ron Swanson, I assumed I was closing in on Miitopia‘s end credits. Well, you know the dangers of assuming. Turns out that I wasn’t even close, having now poured an extra 20+ hours into the ordeal, because there was still more to do and see, and I’ll keep this mostly spoiler-free and say that someone takes the Dark Lord’s place to continue creating problems for your team of diversified heroes and heroines. That’s fine, really; the weird part though is that the game switches up its pace and flow and feel in a way that makes it seem like an entirely different game halfway through.

For the first, main chunk of my Miitopia time, I was just moving forward across the map, going to where the red exclamation point said to go to, fighting monsters, eating food, and building relationships all along the way. It’s a pretty linear affair. I focused on a few particular party members, upgrading their weapons and armor when able to and generally trying to keep everyone balanced, but eventually one team of four was more leveled up than another. Thankfully, as irritating as it seemed at the time, the game frequently decided to split my current party up, forcing me to use Miis I’d not put as much time into. I’d also occasionally grind out a few areas to ensure I collected every treasure chest and saw where all paths lead, but otherwise it was all steam ahead.

By the time you near taking on the final final boss, the game switches things up, mechanically and even with the UI. You have access to a flying dragon and the Travelers Hub, where Miis will give you specific quests to do. So instead of having a singular goal to follow, you suddenly now have multiple paths to go down, with room to grind and explore. Also, something to touch upon, but you can totally exploit the game tickets situation to your benefit. Here’s how–wait until you get a good roulette wheel with a large slice dedicated to a high-level weapon, then keep spinning, landing on the weapon, and selling it for lots of gold. I was able to make about 50,000 gold after just a few spins, which let me buy a ton of solid gear for my team.

Initially, I was heavily put off by Miitopia‘s combat system, which basically only lets you control the actions of your avatar. However, as time went on, I got used to many of the battles being on auto-run, and the introduction and upgrading of HP bananas, MP candy, and various sprinkle shakers did let me have some control in how the fights went. It was more interactive than I initially assumed, so shame on me, and now I’m curious to maybe go back and see if Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light is as bad as I’ve built it up to be in my mind. The fights never got too tough or insurmountable, up to the final boss fight, which, as I suspected, required everyone you had collected in your posse at that point to bring the heat, and several peeps were underleveled and needed to be grinded up a bit. Not grinded up into bits. Pay attention now.

I’m usually really bad at keeping up with post-game content. Like, for Ever Oasis, I thought I’d love to continue bringing in people to my oasis, leveling up shops, and diving deeper into randomly-generated dungeons for valuable rewards…but I haven’t gone back to it once since I got Miitopia. The same sort of thing happened with Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies, despite my logged hours count saying otherwise. Chrono Trigger also has a New Game+ mode after you put Lavos in its ugly alien parasite place, with even more endings and an exclusive Dimensional Vortex section only found in the Nintendo DS version, which, if you’ll remember, I both loved and disliked. All of that is to say–Miitopia‘s post-game content is great and keeps me coming back to it on a daily basis.

Quest-givers continuously show up in the Travelers Hub zone to demand you do something for them, usually deliver a gift to a friend in another area or defeat a tough monster, all of which offer great rewards for completing, such as rare foods, game tickets, or better gear. Also, there’s two brand new islands to explore, two additional character classes to unlock, and the ability to make dozens upon dozens more team members, if you want. For me, since my main character originally started out as a thief, then became an imp, and finished as a mad scientist, I never got to see many of the outfits and weapons for those first two classes, so I made Jennifer Aniston as my thief and haven’t decided yet on the imp, but someone‘s coming. The real draw for me continuing to play Miitopia is seeing all its content, because the weapons and armor are creative and fun, the music is astounding, and there’s plenty of strange food to eat and kooky monsters to battle still to go. Oh, and there are 250+ Achievement-like medals to earn, of which I’ve done only 50% so far.

I knew I was going to like Miitopia‘s style and tone long before the game came out, but was worried that its somewhat hands-off gameplay was not going to keep me engaged. I’m happy to have my initial reluctance turned completely on its head, with Nintendo’s pleasant, quirky turn-based RPG about people losing their faces resulting in one of my favorite releases in 2017.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #118 – Miitopia

Stop the Dark Lord’s plan
Build relationships, eat grub
Fight faces, some grind

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.

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.

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

dragon-quest-8-on-3ds-gd-impressions

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.