Within the past week I beat both Star Ocean V and Tales of Zestiria, so my head's swimming a bit. I hurt my thumb a bit playing Zestiria towards the end during my marathon. At least I got past an annoying last boss and finished the game (dropped to Simple difficulty, but I don't even care).

Anyway, let's start with Star Ocean V.

Read more... )

Now onto Tales of Zestiria.

Read more... )

Summary of thoughts: Both Star Ocean V and Tales of Zestiria are relatively short compared to prior entries in their series. Both have fun gameplay but Star Ocean V is really bare-bones everywhere while Tales of Zestiria at least has some meat to it.

I'd recommend Tales of Zestiria to those who aren't who didn't mind Graces f's combat (I read some people hated it so I figured it was worth warning) and enjoy a more character growth-focused story.

I don't know who to recommend Star Ocean V to except people who don't care about plots but enjoy character customization (and don't mind grinding to get some of the good stuff) and Star Ocean-type battles (I personally prefer Tales combat over Star ocean combat, though they are similar-ish). My favorite parts are the little things that call back to previous Star Ocean games, but there's really not enough substance to it.
Before I get into the spoilers, my quick recommendation is YES. If you have any interest in this game, play it. Not sure the 3DS version is necessary (check up on all the details) but I have spent this whole week if not more pretty much thinking about this game and getting all the endings. It ate my soul.

Reasons not to get the game: 1) not into visual novel style 2) not into historical or supernatural 3) hate violence 4) don't care about romance games

Read more... )

It's hard to think of a recommended order for tackling the character chapters. I think going into the game blind is best and just seeing whichever person you get on your first time. Probably don't do Saito's and Hijikata's chapters close to each other. I was pretty happy ending with Harada's but for some other people Hijikata's might be the most satisfying. Harada's is the happiest and Hijikata's is the meatiest and Heisuke's is the cutest (maybe). I read online somewhere while I was having issues beating Hijikata's path that some people find Saito's path the most "boring". I have to agree that it isn't the most romantic of the paths, but I love Saito so much that it was still quite satisfying.

Even though I should be shipping Saito/Chizuru so hard because I love Saito, I kind of ship Hijikata/Saito instead. Oops?
It's been a few weeks since I beat Wild ARMs 4 so I should have done it earlier, especially now that WA3 is more in my head.

Wild ARMs 4, at least from what little I have played of Wild ARMs 3, shares the same type of Wild ARMs humor/cheesiness/quirkiness but otherwise feels significantly different. The battle system uses a HEX system. There are 7 spots that the player or the enemy can occupy, with 3 of them having one of 4 elemental properties. Attacks damage everyone in the HEX, whether your party members or enemies. Buffs affect the HEX and not individual people. Overall the system is fine, except it is very unbalanced. The placement on the HEX grid and people's initial turn order is randomized, so sometimes you can have very bad luck and get wiped before you could do anything. Thankfully, the game allows you to retry battles with different randomized conditions with no penalty. Otherwise, one character is incredibly prone to getting killed by physical attacks and one character is weak to magic but otherwise does all the damage dealing and tends to get all or most of the EXP bonuses due to killing enemies. That character ended up being 4 levels above the others at the end of my game, and I even spent some conscious effort tailoring who would deliver killing blows.

The plot takes a few hours to start up and feels similar to Wild ARMs 5 for the first part. The whole exploring the world and learning about its realities is quite similar (Wild ARMs 3 has some of this too but seems to have more of a save the world thing going earlier on), but it's combined with running away in order to protect one of the characters from capture. While you are running away, you go through some dungeons with some pretty hard to execute the solution of puzzles and some just 3-screen linear areas where the point is to have cutscenes between each screen. It doesn't feel as talky as a Tales game but it definitely has more party dialogue/hour than Wild ARMs 3 or 5.

Anyway, my major problem with the game was how smooth-sailing it was for the most part. Boss battles were more like find the trick, exploit it, and win easily. Bosses as characters were not very deep either. Any "plot twist" seemed really obvious for the most part. A lot of characters just seem so stupid. Thankfully the main party themselves are an enjoyable bunch. The major thing the game does right is not overstay its welcome. It is rather unfortunate the ability to travel all over the world is given right at the end, but the game is rather fast-paced and took me 30 hours.

So once again it's hard for me to necessarily recommend this game, but it's certainly one worth trying if you already have access to it. Otherwise, I think Wild ARMs 5 is the better of the HEX-battle system games to play.
Or in other words, things I should post about a while ago but didn't.

Mini Okami review )

Dark Cloud 2 review )

In conclusion, both Okami and Dark Cloud 2 do a good job at what they are advertised to do. They both lack in the story-telling and characters department and feel more like explore dungeons 1-10. Okami does a better job than Dark Cloud 2 in terms of story and combat variety, and Dark Cloud 2 does a better job than Okami at not forcing annoying mini-games. Because they don't produce a gameplay or story experience that is truly mind-blowing, I think these are games worth demoing or at least watching gameplay videos of if you are on the fence about buying them.
I "beat" the game, and have barely touched upon New Game Plus. It was relatively short when you just push through because you get engrossed into the story...

On the other hand, I had to drop down to easy for the boss fights. Oh well.

The World Ends With You is pretty much a must-buy for the DS unless you have issues with the gameplay style, aka you really, really hate doing things with a stylus and/or can't stand the idea of active stylus play with a distracting top screen that you will need to master for the higher difficulties. On easy, you don't need to control the top at all I think. Well, I usually did some input into to control the top screen character even on easy, but easy ended up being too easy for me and normal just a bit too hard for certain battles.

The game features adjustable difficulty so you can always give yourself a challenge, both by adjusting difficulty of the enemies (overall difficulty levels) and your own level/stats (from level 1 to your max level). Leveling up is very quick in this game and even faster if you decide to grind while playing at a self-imposed higher difficulty, as EXP bonus increase with that. Attacks come in a good variety, though there are more pins then attack types. Some motions were too similar in that I had this tendency to use up two different pins' powers with the same motion. My skills aren't the best, but I guess at some point it is difficult to detect many different motions. Different pins have different brands, and brands/fashion matters as different areas of the game have different reigning brands. If the brand you wear is in the top 3 rankings, those pins get extra bonuses in battle.

Besides pins and clothing, food can be used to boost base stats or increase your sync rate with your partner (the top screen player), meaning you get more likely to get the combo attack or something? I never quite figured it out. I mostly gave my characters food to boost base stats.

The real reason why I picked it up in the first place, though, was that I heard the story was good. And it was definitely good, well-paced, and had some well-done surprises. I think I accidentally read some spoilers for the game so the very last reveal wasn't a complete surprise, but I still loved how it was done. Even though the story was probably only 10 hours worth, I think combined with the secrets (I haven't quite put effort into that yet) and the uniqueness of the gameplay make this a game I'd definitely recommend anyone with any interest to check out.

(Funny that I got the game because of the story, and then spend most of this post talking mechanics. Oh well...)
Finished the game a few days ago. It's a pretty addictive game and really works well as a handheld game. Sometimes I'd play for a few hours at at time, but I definitely spent the majority of the time playing in short spurts.

So why is this game so addicting? Well, there are two main reasons. First is all the customization you can do to your recruited characters. You get characters at a certain class but it's relatively easy (and pretty inexpensive) to reclass the characters. This can modify what weapons they attack with as well as what skills they can equip.

Second, the game allows you to get tons of supports for each character, and the supports tend to be funny but sometimes pretty touching. For someone like me who likes to learn all about characters even if the character is a walking trope, playing lots of random battles, Bonus Box battles, etc. let me get lots of supports between characters, usually unlocking one or more new conversations after every battle. Yes, support level upgrading is really fast, especially between certain units like the avatar and Chrom. Pairing up can speed this process and also help get supports for characters (in the support role) that you'd probably not use otherwise because their stats suck. Also, supports all the way up to S level allows two characters (only opposite sex in this game) to marry. The first generation parents can have kids with S support, and (not a huge spoiler) the kids can also support. This is why the game is also called Fire Emblem: Dating Sim XD

So I've covered the addiction aspect, but I think there is one other good aspect to the game that needs emphasis. The addition of Casual mode, being able to summon enemies to fight via bonus box, and the outrealm gate allow a player to customize their difficulty experience even more over the given difficulty levels at the beginning. I personally played on Hard/Casual and abused the mid-battle save system. Sometimes I was still screwed enough that I had the start a battle completely over, but sometimes I just wanted to redo one move. Of course, it got a little ridiculous as I wanted to see support hearts for every action, so I didn't always redo a move to save someone from dying...

Cons? Well, there's one major one: the plot. I think myaru did a great job explaining how flimsy the main plot is. Outside of the supports, there are really only a few scenes that seemed really touching. The plot also seems very predictable save for a few moments in the late game (at least for me), and some of the more emotional moments from the beginning/middle part of the game are cheapened by certain paralogues. Also, for a game where the gameplay really emphasizes good tactics, the main plot doesn't appear to employ such good tactics. The way you get out of most situations seems to be a sign of how you are supposed to defeat the hardest of difficulties: with a whole bunch of luck.

Overall I recommend the game for anyone who likes tactical RPGs in general, especially if they like to give themselves self-imposed challenges, customize their characters, or likes a little dating sim added into their game. I think that should cover most people who are even thinking about getting this game. If plot nonsense, stock character types, and tons of customization potential are things you can't handle, then stay away from this game no matter how good other people say it is.
I've been busy with DQVIII and adjusting to a new schedule, but two weeks or so ago, I finished a Japanese tactical RPG called Jeanne D'Arc. Highly recommended game.

The plot of Jeanne D'Arc takes inspiration from the tale of the historical figure and adds elves, therions, orcs, reapers, and armlets. Because of these additions, the political backdrop to the story is not as present and fantastical racism is added to the mix. Nevertheless the game doesn't forego all of history. It does a good job remembering social hierarchies and people's fear of witches.

I don't know much about the actual history to know how much Jeanne of this game takes after the real Jeanne. This game's Jeanne is a regular good rural village girl who goes on her journey partly on revenge and partly on believing she is hearing the voice of "God". It's a pretty good reason to go on a journey, right? She meets with a good collection of people, one of my favorites being Gilles.

Gameplay is pretty standard for a tactical RPG with a dash of variety thrown in. Most tactical games may encourage being overly cautious and grinding - Jeanne D'Arc makes you complete quests within turn limits. Sometimes the goal is just to make it to the other side safely. Other times it is the more traditional "defeat all enemies". Because of the turn limits, battles are quick and leveling is fast (units who don't participate in battle get some of the "stage bonus exp" at the end). This doesn't mean that you should rely only on 5 units (the typical stage limit) since some units (like Colet, Gilles, Richard) may be required at some points, though the leveling system helps those units not fall too far behind. Free battles and bonus areas (important to do for some of the best stuff) allow you to grind as much as you want.

The other variety comes in limited unit customization. Units have a basic type but their skills have to be equipped. Jeanne D'Arc also has somewhat of a weapon triangle though I don't believe it is explicitly states; swords being fastest but quite terrible against lancers is reminiscent of Fire Emblem. Also all units with a weapon except archers can counter. Magic type is also in a triangle. As characters gain levels, they gain not only stats but some additional skill slots. Skill slots allow staff users to actually cast spells during battle, provided they have enough MP. Almost all units can cast generic spells, while specialized spells are only for staff users. Other unit types have specific skill types as well. In addition, stat boosters and magic type are also equipped.

I have spent a lot of time talking about the battle system because that is what elevates this game from merely average to good. The plot moves at a quick pace too; I did some extra battling so I finished the game around 45 hours but I think it is doable in 20-30. I have seen people online state that this is a 10 hour game and I think those people must have had a plan at the start, because I spent a good amount of time trying out different skill binding combinations and different types of skill setups. Anyway, there is post-game content including more free levels and more Colosseum. For the $10 I spent on this game I definitely think this game is worth it.
Last night I finished up my first run-through of Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. Because we started off the game with Eirika, I decided to continue as Eirika the entire game. I've already started my second run-through to get Ephraim's dialogue. Plus second time through the battles are going faster, at least so far.

I did a pretty bad job of unlocking support conversations and obviously got no pairing endings. But thankfully there are lots of FAQs for this stuff, so I can amuse myself there instead of battling over and over again.

While I think overall this is a solid game, there's nothing that special about it. I did enjoy myself and hopefully got better at tactical RPGs. Permadeath made me restart a lot of battles, but optional areas to grind made the end pretty easy. Except when I got a little too aggressive and certain units just tend to die.

Fire Emblem seems to have its hardcore fans and I guess a lot of them hate on this game. It didn't seem like a bad intro into the series though.

spoilers about characters )

I don't know if I'm going to aim for any specific support conversations this time. I already had one for Neimi and Colm, so I guess I'll go for that ending. I'll probably read through the rest of the list and see which ones are amusing and go for those.
I actually should have typed this up a while ago, since I finished the game at the end of August. But I was lazy then and more inspired now, after listening to the soundtrack on repeat a few times.

So in short - good turn-based JRPG with a focus on character interactions, but with two big drawbacks. One, the prologue is quite boring and the character interactions in it don't make up for it (especially if you have issues with it, which I will explain below under the cut). Two, the game ends decently well but leaves a very big hook/cliffhanger for the sequel, which is a bummer for non-Japanese-speaking fans since the other games in this series have not been localized. This game, otherwise known as Sora no Kiseki FC, is the first chapter in a trilogy. The second I believe is a sequel that starts almost immediately after the first game, while the third is a little bit later. Recently, a fourth game in the series that is also not involving FC characters was released in Japan. Translation and porting has been an issue since these games are huge and XSEED was not going to deal with the dual UMDs of Sora no Kiseki SC.

Overall I recommend it - battle mechanics are solid, music is good enough, plot is interesting and develops nicely once you are past the prologue (about 5 hours for me). If you aren't ready to invest 40+ hours into the game and try it for at least 5 hours then it's probably not for you. If you hate lots of dialogue this isn't for you. If you hate unresolved endings this is DEFINITELY not for you. Unless you know Japanese, then get all 3.

Now for spoiler-filled reasons for other little things that bothered me, which are more YMMV. )
I just finished up my first playthrough of NIER and I enjoyed almost every moment of it. So what does it do right?

NIER works like a charm. The main characters all endear themselves to you in one way or another. The main character will do anything for his daughter but also enjoys being a errand man, but he doesn't give everybody a free pass. Kainé will take no shit but understands and appreciates good relationships. Emil wants to do his best, to not be a burden, and shows the most pure and kind heart. Weiss is eager to dish out the insults and yet gets caught a few times being more ignorant than he hoped to be. Their banter when you unlock sidequests is the main reason why I tried to do so many of them. The NPCs are the source of these quests and they are quite a varied and lively bunch of people.

The world is small and the game is short if you don't do any sidequests, but there's enough to feel full. The first part is shorter than the second part, which is good because the first part reaches a very important climax and it just seems right that it would be more than halfway if this game was a book. You want to get to the end and the end has some really interesting boss fights and I shed some tears. And that very first ending is too short, but this game wants you to replay it. Frankly too many questions are unanswered and I hope I get a better clue about it, but at the same time enough answers are given to feel satisfied for now.

And a special bonus is the amazing music for this game. Just so beautiful, I love it so much.

Do I recommend this game? Hell yes. Do I think you are a bad person if you for some reason hate this game? Well, maybe. I can only see you hating the controls which can be a bit clunky. Do I think you have to play this game or else? No. But play it anyway.
I'm almost 20 hours into NIER and according to a walkthrough, almost done with part 1. Something about this game is making me obsessive and needing to follow a walkthrough for everything... Whatever, it's still fun.

Anyway, with that said, it's time for me to finally type up my review of Lost Odyssey. The quick answer is "if you like slightly strategic turn-based RPGs and good characters, play it! and if you don't have patience, don't".

spoilers ahead )

It's hard to say where'd I place this game on my list of top JRPGs I've played. It certainly had elements that appealed to me but nothing save for the 1000 Dreams really came off as "great". Overall a solid game that I think appeals most to the JRPG player who enjoys characters and a slow but full experience.
If you've read my last few posts, you will know that I liked Ys Seven. It's my first Ys game and one of the few action RPGs I have played, so I can't give it a good comparison to others in it genre. I can comment on its plot and characters, which were solid all around.

The plot was simple and rather obvious at times, which could be annoying if you are like "stupid MC and companions, why didn't you figure this out ages ago?", but had a few twists and turns that I didn't catch. The types of characters that join your group are great; they have variety but none of them join you without having any reasons or any skills. The least experienced person to join your group has still had weapon training. For game mechanic reasons, certain characters end up inheriting each other's skills as plot makes them interchangeable, which makes things a bit of a stretch. But it was nice not to have to do skill grinding for them.

Another thing that was a bonus was the lack of romance in the plot. It is all about the adventure and immediate goals. There is a lot of love for family members and friends and bonds formed, but no romance is forced. It is a refreshing change compared to the game currently in my PSP [though that game just had some crossdressing!].

However, I guess it may be a negative that there's nothing special about the characters, their interactions, or in the plot itself. Really, the reason I was so addicted to the game was the battle system. Otherwise I don't think I would have finished the game so quickly, though I would finish it because I like to finish things. And it's a rare game when I don't actively dislike a main party member for at least a significant portion of the game (Tales games are always guilty of this for me). Overall fun times were had and I would definitely recommend this game.

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July 2016

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