Monthly Archives: February 2014

Take 20: My Friends Saved the World, and All I Got Was this Lousy Funeral

So remember a few months ago when I said that the next review would be of a Super Metroid game? I’m currently in the process of filming the first video episode of HackoROMa, which should be up fairly shortly. Eventually. Maybe. I’m really bad at staying on task.

NOTE: For the sake of protecting the innocent from the stupid things that they do, or the stupid things I do/say to them, the names in the following post and all posts following have been changed. Their actions, words, and dice rolls are as accurate as my memory deigns to recall them.

In an effort to class up things around here at FLG, we’re going to take a break from the vidya and turn our gaze to the world of tabletop RPGs. More specifically, we’re going to be looking at my adventures playing Dungeons & Dragons during my adolescence and college years. Why? Mostly in the the hope that you might laugh, and learn from my negative example. In this post, we’re going to be looking at the common pitfalls of including world-ending artifacts in your game, ways you can circumvent these problems, and the first experience I had with my favorite and most potentially game-ruining item in Dungeons and Dragons next to the 10-foot pole.

Believe me, its day is coming.

Believe me, its day is coming.

The Trouble with Artifacts

There are tons of ancient and powerful artifacts in D&D, lots of which are almost impossible to include in your game unless your players are of insanely high level and nigh unto gods. The problem with this is that when you have a wizard so powerful that he’s casually inventing spells that would make Gandalf stain his robes in terror, the staff that lets them shoot infinite fireballs isn’t so impressive anymore. There are several solutions to this problem, and here are some of the best I’ve found:

1. The Ticking Clock

This one is pretty simple, but is honestly one of the best ways to incorporate these types of items. Maybe an evil witch is searching for the Tome of Infinite Spells, and the party has stop her from getting it, maybe a warlord has been sent to retrieve the Hourglass of Shadows to build an undead horde for an oppressive emperor. If the artifact is too powerful for the players to use, make it something they need to stop from being misused.

2. De-Powering and Resurrection.

If you played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, you know what I’m talking about. Starting off as Alucard at full strength, only to have that power taken away by Death in the first five minutes created an incentive for the player to push on, because they wanted to have that sense of power again. Every item or ability gained felt more like miles instead of steps because you knew you were that much closer to being your badass self once more.

The same can be easily accomplished with artifacts. Early on in the adventure, give the players a severely de-powered (or non-functioning) artifact. The campaign then becomes focused on returning the item to full strength, so when the player is able to use it, the power feels earned.

3. The Majora’s Mask Approach

One of the reasons Majora’s Mask’s Skull Kid was such an effective villain was because he had, in effect, already won. He already had the ancient world-destroying power and was ready to use it. He couldn’t be reasoned or negotiated with. Only through Link’s faffing about with time travel was Termina able to be saved.

This story mechanic can easily be used in your D&D game. Instead of a recurring villain who is constantly slightly ahead of the party, with the occasional scuffle here and there, sending his minions after you. Create a villain with an item so out of the players’ depth, that the only course of action they have is to think outside the box.

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And here’s a picture of Mr. L because I couldn’t think of another way to transition between these segments.

See Gypsy; Run Screaming

The first game of D&D I ever played was run by my (now long-time) friend Richard (first edition for anyone who might be curious). We played at our church after services, with our friends Timmy, Ronnie, and Benson. Timmy, who had recently discovered The Lord of the Rings after the first Peter Jackson film came out, was playing a human Ranger. However, Timmy suffered from a severe run of bad luck on both his attack and tracking rolls, which made him little more than a glorified damage sponge. Ronnie, a sensitive lad, was playing a Thief. I honestly don’t remember much more about him. Benson was a minor muscle-head with a predilection towards sci-fi and fantasy, was running a dwarven Paladin; speaking with a butchered Scots-Irish abomination of an accent. And then there was me. Always having a preference towards spellcasters, but not wanting to be useless until higher levels, I was playing a human druid named Kamahl.

A name I stole from this glorious bastard right here.

Kamahl, being my first character, was a bit of a mess. He wouldn’t use any spells if there was a chance at all that he would harm a plant. Not a tree, not a flower, not a single blade of grass could stand in Kamahl’s way if you wanted him to throw fire at someone.

We were on a standard ‘Smash the Evil Wizard’ campaign (after being previously employed by said Wizard), and were stopping by a large town on our way back to his castle. On our way to the Inn to rest for the night, we were called over by a gypsy  sitting by a caravan cart in the town square. She asked if we would like to have our fortunes read by the drawing of a card.

This is where I was introduced to the item that would devour many characters and campaigns to come (a number of them run by me); The Deck of Many Things.

Pick a Card

The Deck of Many things is an artifact that will turn your group on each other, and destroy your game in the most expedient way possible. Promises of power for the sin of betrayal? That’s nothing. Having to decide if you should work with a lifelong enemy to work towards the greater good? Kid’s stuff. Forcing a character to choose between the life of the person they love and the lives of countless innocents? Aren’t you adorable. No. The greatest evil ever to plague the game of Dungeons & Dragons and games like it, is a deck of cards.

Run! RUN!

Run! RUN!

Every DM I’ve ever known has been reading through the Dungeon Master’s Guide or Unearthed Arcana and seen this item and immediately had their imagination captured by this unholy terror.

Those of you who are familiar with this item are laughing right now while those not as familiar with the game or this item may be reading this was a twinge of confusion and skepticism. How I envy your ignorance.

The Deck of Many Things works like this;

You have a neutered deck of standard playing or tarot cards, leaving you with 22 cards in the deck. Each player takes turns drawing from the deck, and that’s when things get interesting. See, The Deck of Many Things works a lot like a bag of Jelly Belly jellybeans. You reach inside and hope for something good, like apple pie or buttered popcorn, and sometimes you get it. Sometimes, you end up drawing The Void and your character’s soul is trapped in an extra-dimensional prison until the party can break it out.

“In the Void your soul confined, We’ll leave you for your friends to find.” This game sucks, anyone have Mouse Trap?

The Deck of Many Things can be a great boon to your character. But there’s always a chance, a fairly large chance, in fact, that something will go horribly, painfully wrong. You have about a 4.5% chance to draw any given card, that chance going up each time someone draws from the deck, as the card they draw disappears. This means that if you are the last in your group to draw from the deck, you either have a greater chance of drawing a good card, or a greater chance of drawing a bad card.

So here’s what happened to me.

The party draws straws to determine draw order, which is as follows; Benson, Timmy, Ronnie, then me.

Benson draws a good card.

The rate of drawing any given card goes up to about 4.8%, and the chance to draw a bad card is now about 52%.

Timmy, using all that stored up luck from his botched rolls earlier in the game grants him a draw of a good card which will either give him an experience boost, or two more draws. He draws twice more and gets two more good cards.

Rate of drawing a bad card is now 61%.

Ronnie also draws a good card (the best card by my measuring, gaining 4 levels and a magic weapon far beyond our station in the game).

This makes my percentage of drawing a bad card go up to 65%.

Hyped up by my companions’ success, expecting gold, levels, or maybe a sweet falcon I could ride around throwing fire at all who would dare to challenge the supremacy of Mother Nature (I was 12), I drew from the deck.

I was immediately attacked by an Aspect of Death.

I had drawn (as far as I’m concerned) the worst card in the deck. Whoever draws this card is set upon by a Dread Wraith, with a magical force field surrounding the two of you. Should anyone attempt to help you fight it, another will blip into existence and take them on as well.

To put the toughness of this fight into context, this would be like trying to take on Kefka’s tower in Final Fantasy VI right after you’ve entered the World of Ruin. With one character.

Nooooope.

If you can’t guess what happened, I died. Horribly, and almost instantly. The real kicker is that when a character is killed by an Aspect of Death, they can never be revived or resurrected. Death is usually a minor inconvenience in D&D, provided you’re of high enough level or happen to be filthy stinkin’ rich. But, as the rules for this card state; “If the character is slain, he is slain forever and cannot be revived, even with a wish or miracle.”  Nothing, not even the most powerful Arcane or Divine magics could bring my character back to life. Not even the will of a god could have brought Kamahl back from the grave.

Even so, a full run of bad cards on the party can still be better than a full run of good ones. Ronnie was insanely more powerful than the rest of the party, making him bored because he wasn’t leveling up very quickly, and Timmy and Benson bored because they weren’t contributing as much to combat. If you ever want your campaign to come to a screeching, tooth-grinding halt, give your players access to a Deck of Many Things.

But you know what? I keep using it. Why?

Because it’s fun.

The more risk there is for something bad or good to happen, the more fun gambling is. That’s why people playing roulette will bet on individual numbers when it’s safer to bet on red or black, and why I don’t watch soccer. DM’s love the Deck of Many Things, and players do too, until something bad happens.

And believe me. Something bad always happens.

I’ll post more musings on the game, tell some stories, and help out anyone interested in learning more about the game in the future. If you have any specific questions you want to ask, feel free to post them in the comments below and I’ll answer them the next go-round. Until then, use your artifacts responsibly, and in the case of The Deck of Many Things, not at all.

(But you’ll want to.)

– Brian

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Luigi vs. Tails: Who is the best sidekick??

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(credit goes to FaisalAiden of Deviantart)

Hello people of Florida gamers. After a lot of hiatus and a failed attempt at a FAQ, I come back with something I had promised and now I’m going to do it. I’ve decided to throw aside biases for a few to do a second character vs. character debate to find out who is the best. Today I have two of the best well known sidekicks in gaming. Luigi, the shy, ghostbusting brother of Mario and Miles Tails Prower, the super smart fox with a knack for airplanes in the shadow of his friend Sonic the Hedgehog. This will be decided similar to the first one from before, let’s get started.

Backgrounds

Luigi:
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Luigi is one of the first main characters in the Mario series. While Mario got his start on the Donkey Kong Arcade games and led on to having about 3 to 4 of them made, Luigi was first mentioned in the arcade game Mario Bros as the brother to the plumber and was playable by a second player. Now at this time, he was just a pallete swap of Mario’s sprite in the game. Luigi did not get his green color until 1985 in the critical acclaimed Super Mario Bros where he was clothed in green and white and still available as a second player. Luigi got his first playable experience in the brutal Lost Levels game where you could go a single game with Luigi. Luigi would not get his modern green and blue look until the american version of Super Mario Bros 2 and since then he has kept the same look. Luigi has followed Mario through nearly adventure, always having his brother’s back but not every adventure included Luigi. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, 2 of Mario’s biggest adventures did not have Luigi at all. Why???
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(Luigi getting a Power Star)

Luigi is known for being in the shadow of his brother and has mostly been seen as a support character but in the past years, he has been seen enjoying much larger roles such as traveling the universe in the Galaxy games, and even getting some DLC of his own on New Super Mario Luigi U. Luigi has been shown to be able to fight but he isn’t that great at it. Through all the years, Luigi has always faced his fears and his list of accomplishments is quite remarkable for a plumber who flinches at the site of goombas.
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Miles Tails Prower:
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Our little friend Tails here started out as Sonic’s new best buddy in Sonic The Hedgehog 2 for the Master System but his true first appearance to the world was in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Genesis/Mega Drive. He was the silent type, following Sonic through every level, collecting rings and even helping fighting the bosses. Tails is obviously a fox with his two tails to which he could fly with them although this ability was not used until Sonic The Hedgehog 3 a few years later. He has a deep admiration for Sonic ever since they met and sees Sonic as his older brother and a mentor with a dream of being as cool as he is someday. Tails has played the support role through all of Sonic’s adventures from the start but not all of them just saw him in the background. In Sonic 3/Knuckles, Tails was fully playable and had his own gameplay, Sonic Adventure 1 had him flying through stages and in Sonic 2 he was shooting badnicks in a walking tank. Tails has a high IQ for a fox his age and uses his knowledge to build all sorts of machinery. His most notable creations are his Tornado planes.
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(Look at that thing, don’t want to be on the receiving end of that do you?)

Tails can be shy at times and is not always confident in his abilities. He has shown to hold his own but tries to use other means to solve a problem. In recent years, Tails has taken the back seat once again in Sonic’s adventures but he is still loved by the Sonic fanbase and is not going anywhere anytime soon.
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(Look at those cute eyes)

Who has the better Abilities/Skills?:

Luigi:
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Luigi has a lot of abilities closely related to his brother. Like Mario, Luigi has access to many different powerups. He can use items like Mushrooms to grow larger or Fire and Ice flowers to throw balls of Fire and Ice. He can use many items like the Starman to gain invincibility or use Boo Mushrooms to turn invisible for a short time. Cape Feathers give him the ability to fly and he has been shown to be able to ride Yoshi as well as Mario can. It is unknown if he can use the Metal Cap or Invisibility cap from Super Mario 64 although it is sorta implied through the Smash Bros series that he can use the Metal Cap. He can also jump much higher than Mario but he also has poor traction, causing him to slip.
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Luigi is a capable ghost hunter. Using the Poltergust 3000, Luigi can clean house of ghosts with ease by using his flashlight and vacuum to take care of whatever is in his way. Luigi has been shown he can be the capable fighter time to time. He has been in all the Smash Bros games and holds his own quite well using moves similar to Mario but with his own original moves tossed in. He has shown to have an even wider array of moves from the Mario and Luigi series of games ranging from shell attacks, hammers, meteors, and so on. He can also throw special green fireballs while racing in Mario Kart Double Dash but in future games most noticeably in Super Smash Bros games he shoots green fire. Hell, he can even fire himself like a missile across long distances. That is a neat attack if you ask me.
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Tails:
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Tails has been shown to have similar abilities to Sonic. He can spindash and roll into a ball to gain speed to hit enemies. He can push himself to a decent speed by using his tails as propellers but he tires quickly. By using these tails to fly, he can hover short distances in the air or cross large gaps, but by using the special Jet Anklet, he can increase his flying speed, enabling him to cover more distances with ease. He can do a spin attack using his tails as well. Tails can use the power of the Super Emeralds to obtain his own Super Form where he leads a Flicky army of death that is basically a huge game breaker in Sonic and Knuckles.

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(Credit to unknown artist)

Tails’ main abilities come from his knowledge of machinery, most notably airplanes. He can build airplanes that run on the power of the Chaos emeralds, hoverboards to race with, a walking tank that can fire off deadly ammo and then transform into a working car, and much much more. Tails can build communicators and even watercraft if needed. Tails is also a very skilled driver who can avoid pretty much any rush hour traffic as noted in Sonic Adventure 2. Tails has some fighting ability but his skills are more long range as seen in the Sonic Riders, Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing series of games, Sonic Battle, and Sonic Chronicles. He prefers not to fight unless it’s absolutely necessary.
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(Tornado 1 and Tornado 2, a few among Tails’ vast amount of machines that he’s built)

Overall:
I think Tails has the advantage over Luigi in skills and abilities. Tails is smarter and can think critically and make decisions to outsmart Luigi. While Luigi has a lot of powerups, without them, he doesn’t have much to bring to a fight while Tails could easily bring out his planes, or his mech or just beat Luigi in a math competition. But I think both Luigi and Tails have really cool abilities and skills that suit them well in their respective universes.

Who had the better solo game(s)?

Luigi:
(Note: Mario is Missing is not going on here). When the gamecube first came out, fans wanted a new Mario game but instead they got Luigi. Luigi was not saving a princess or anything, but he was exploring a haunted house in search of his famous brother. Luigi’s Mansion as we all know is an adventure game in which Luigi finds out he won a mansion in a contest he didn’t enter and arrives at the mansion and realizes the place is haunted after wetting himself. Armed with a vacuum cleaner from a guy named Professor E. Gadd, Luigi sets off to rescue Mario.
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Luigi’s Mansion focuses on Luigi as he travels through the mansion’s 4 areas searching for clues to find Mario, catching ghosts, and keeping his cool. Throughout the game Luigi encounters portrait ghosts, ghosts that E.Gadd had kept in a gallery and a giant Boo named Boolossous came and freed all the ghosts. At the end of each area is a boss ghost until you reach the final area of the game where King Boo has Mario captive in a painting. Luigi’s Mansion is a fun game to pass time and has a charm to it to which adds to the game’s personality. With catchy music, memorable ghosts, and a lot of quirky humor, Luigi’s Mansion is a fun game for any fan of the Mario series.
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Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon had our green hero returning to the ghostbusting scene. I have personally not played it but the story evolves around this place called Evershade Valley where E.Gadd is studying friendly ghosts but when the Dark Moon shatters and the pieces scatter, the ghosts become hostile. It looks very decent to me and I can’t wait to play it.

Luigi also had this past year some of his one spotlight as DLC for New Super Mario Bros Wii U as part of Nintendo’s Year of Luigi. This extra package focuses on Luigi alone as he traverses through 80 plus new levels by himself and is available as download or you now buy it as a separate game entirely.
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Tails:
Tails has had a few titles to which he was the main star. In Tail’s Skypatrol for the Game Gear, Tails finds himself on a mysterious island and gets into conflict with an old woman named Wendy who threatens to turn any dissidents on the island into crystals. The gameplay is similar to the style in the normal Sonic series but Tails is suspended in flight mode and the screen auto scrolls with the goal just to complete each stage. Tails has a stamina meter and the player has to watch it constantly so he doesn’t fall to the ground, causing him to lose a life. The game itself is fun but a lot of fans looked past it due to it being really easy and having issues and the Game Gear itself was hard to deal with due to it’s screen.
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Tails and the Music Maker was an educational game for the Sega Pico in which Tails taught children about music through mini games. Not much else to say here.

Tails Adventure for the Game Gear is different depending on if you have the Japanese version or the Western version. The Japanese story is much more detailed but basically in both, Tails finds an island which he claims for himself but a Flicky tells him the island is being invaded. In this game, you backtrack and solve puzzles, giving the game an RPG like style of gameplay. Out of all of Tail’s games, this one is liked the most.
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Overall: Luigi takes this one easily. While I love Tails’ solo adventures, Luigi’s games are just bigger and easier to play them. To play Tails’ games, you either need a Game Gear with the games or a Pico, or Sonic Adventure DX and unlock Tails’ Adventure and Skypatrol.

Who has fared better in recent years?:

Luigi:
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In the days since the Gamecube, Luigi has been in the spotlight quite a bit taking bigger and more prominent roles. He helped Mario collect power stars through the universe in the Galaxy games, travel through new lands in all the New Super Mario Bros games including his New Super Luigi U. He has been inside Bowser’s body and helped Mario go through a dreamworld in Bowser’s Inside Story and Dream Team respectfully. His solo game got a sequel Dark Moon and he is scheduled to be in a Dr. Mario remake as the main character. Luigi is more popular now than he ever has been.

Tails:
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Since the days of Adventure 1,2, and Heroes, Tails has been in the backseat a lot through Sonic’s more recent adventures. In Sonic Rush Adventure, he helped Sonic by building a bunch of watercraft. His backseat roles have included but not limited to: Ali Baba in Sonic and the Secret Rings, Blacksmith in Sonic and The Black Knight, a translator in Sonic Colors, and others to name as well. Tails was in Generations along with his younger self. Tails’ last real playable appearance was in Sonic 2006 without counting the racing games or the Olympic Crossover games. With the newly announced Sonic Boom, Tails appears to be returning to a playable status which is welcoming.

Overall:
Luigi is my choice for this once again. Luigi has been brought out of his shadow and because of it, he is a lot more popular now and it works in Nintendo’s favor as they were happy to give Luigi his own year of stuff. I know Sonic Team will never do that with Tails and while Tails is a staple of the series, he is in my opinion starting to lose his popularity. So that’s why Luigi is picked for this spot.

Accomplishments as many as I can name (Spinoff game accomplishments count too):

Luigi:
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  • Helped save the Princess in Super Mario Bros if you were playing a two player game
  • Helped defeat Wart in Super Mario Bros 2 (USA) despite it being a dream
  • Tagged along in Super Mario Bros 3 if a two player game
  • Tagged along in Super Mario World
  • Saved Mario from a Boo infested mansion and faced his greatest fears and prevailed
  • Helped Mario earn Power Stars in both Galaxy games and even got a whole new game just made for him (for those going for total completion of the first Galaxy game)
  • Was a main character in all New Super Mario Bros games, Super Mario 3D World, Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, and New Super Luigi U
  • Saved the world with Mario in all  Mario and Luigi RPG games
  • Has participated in every sport possible with his brother
  • Competed in 4 different Olympics
  • Survived Smash Bros 3 times, soon to be fourth
  • Survived Mario Party

Tails:
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  • Saved the world from Eggman with Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for both Master System and Genesis/Mega Drive
  • Saved the world by himself in Sonic 3/Knuckles if player chose him by himself
  • Kamikazied his Tornado 2 into the Egg Carrier like a boss in Sonic Adventure
  • Faced his fears and saved Station Square in Sonic Adventure from destruction
  • Armed with his mech, Tails helped stop Space Colony Ark from falling in Sonic Adventure 2
  • Created a fake emerald with near the same properties as real ones
  • Fought Eggman to avenge Sonic after his apparent death and won in Sonic Adventure 2
  • Carried his teammates through 10 plus stages in Heroes without complaining and fought Metal Overlord with Sonic and Knuckles
  • Stopped Eggman in all Sonic Advance games
  • Was a blacksmith for Sonic in Sonic and The Black Knight
  • Starred in 3 of his own games and ended up a hero
  • Built a working translator in Sonic Colors to talk to Wisps
  • Teamed up with his past self in Sonic Generations to solve the Time Eater mystery
  • Teamed up with Sonic in Sonic 4 Episode 2
  • Survived a near end of friendship in Sonic Lost World
  • Helped to stop Eggman gain control of Babylon Garden in Sonic Riders and Sonic Riders Zero Gravity
  • Participated in 4 Olympics
  • Survived Sonic Shuffle

Overall: I give both of them this point. There’s so many more minor things I could put but I put the most well known accomplishments these two sidekicks have under their belts. Both of them have done so much that I can’t say one or the other. I’m giving it to both of them.

My Final Thoughts: Both Luigi and Tails are two of the best well known sidekicks around. No matter the hardships they always come back ready to fight harder with determination and perseverance. I believe I have covered all that is needed to make a decision and I promise I kept it as equal as possible. As I said with Mario vs. Sonic, I love both Luigi and Tails and without them, their respective universes would suffer without them. Enough of all this banter, time for the final results!

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My answer:
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Luigi. This was so close, it took me 15 minutes of self debate of who to put on this spot. I couldn’t very well make it a tie cause then the purpose of this would be invalid. I believe that Luigi trumps Tails by so little margin I don’t have much to say because I’m not really sure why I like Luigi more. Tails dies multiple times while running behind Sonic but he never quits, Mario always gets Peach and Luigi is either forgotten about if Daisy isn’t around but he comes back every game ready to go again. I believe these two represent the best of sidekicks and the best of friends. Luigi is Mario’s brother, Sonic is like a brother to Tails, it’s strong bonds like that keep these two going. Luigi is my choice but only by 0.00000001 percent over Miles Tails Prower

Afterword:
All right, up next is a special co review with my good friend Jon Pittenger. We’re covering an SNES classic, Tiny Toons Adventures: Buster Busts Loose.

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The SaGa series

SaGaSeriesBannerThe SaGa series is.. strange. Almost some sort of weird Enigma. Originally, it was released as Final Fantasy Legends, for the Gameboy. Legends actually got three installments even.

Final Fantasy Legends
FinalFantasyLegend_1

Legends was plagued with some translation problems, which led to some confusion as to what certain abilities, or maybe weaponry would actually do in combat. For all intents, the first Legends was certainly the worst of the Saga series. But, for an RPG on the gameboy, questionable graphics and music can really be overlooked, and hardware limitations certainly played a role. At any rate, a lot of what plaqued the first Legends was quickly mended with the sequel, Final Fantasy Legends II. The music and graphics got a good overhaul, a stark contrast to the previous installment, the storyline and gameplay were reworked, and the translations weren’t a huge damper this time around. Not to mention, Legends II actually had a coherent storyline to it. Legends II is arguably the best out of the three, with Legends III being the second best. Although the first was kind of a mess, the other two were more than solid entries.

The coolest thing about Legends II, was the fact that you could essentially build your team from the get-go with a handful of archetypes. The robot, the human, the mutant and the monster. This allowed for the player to essentially mix up their strategies before even getting into the game, giving the game a surprising amount of depth to it.

The humans are basically your attackers while Mutants are your mages, Humans utilize physical attacks well, and gain plenty of HP, while Mutants utilize magical attacks well and gain plenty of MP. Robots and Monsters, however, are sort of unique in their playstyles.

Robots boast great physical defenses, but their HP isn’t the best. The thing about them that’s interesting is that they don’t actually level up, and rely entirely on upgrades and equipment, unlike other party members, the robot can equip just about any assortment of equipment the player wants to throw on ’em. Robots utilize firearms to deal damage to their opponents. Unfortunately, they’re rather squishy when it comes to magic.

Monsters are another weirdo. they basically change forms almost sporadically by consuming meat. The fact that they can change into different monsters certainly makes them a jack of all trades, but, that means they are simply the master of none. By far the most versatile unit one can pick, at the same time they lack the polish of the other three ‘classes’ in particular.

The first Legend came out in 1989 for the gameboy, and it was poorly recieved, Legends II was certainly the most praised, with Legends III lagging just slightly behind the sequel.

Romancing SaGa
RomancingSaGa3-8I have no idea what’s going on here.

Romancing Saga was the first ‘SaGa’ game, withe SaGa in the title. The game largely resembled Final Fantasy in its art style and combat system, how it differed was the non-linear storytelling, which became a mainstay of the series for certain.

Instead of being settled down with a Main character and being forced to deal with them, the player was allowed to pick from one of eight main characters, not only that they basically had to pick who the character’s parents were, which ends up determining their role in combat.

For the most part, it was an alright game, nothing substantial. I’m rather convinced that Square utilized the SaGa series to experiment with different concepts and mechanics. It also got a remake for the PS2, which was so-so altogether, and aside from a graphical facelift, remained much the same as the original.

And then.. Romancing Saga II came out, and it was pretty much entirely different than the first game in the series. The battle system and art style was relatively the same as the first game, be it some minor improvements.

Oddly, instead of offering a full cast of characters to choose from, you pick either the Emperor or the Empress of ‘Avalon’, a castle to which you’re trying to keep afloat. Your party ends up consisting of well, recruits and other such fellows, who grow stronger as the Lord of the castle does. The whole game essentially revolves around trying to expand your Kingdom. Unfortunately, the more time you spend expanding it and leveling your units, the stronger the bosses get in the game, which ensures they always end up being challenging. Romancing SaGa 2 was really confusing for me, perhaps expecting more of the same was the wrong mindset to have, but it feels completely different from the first game in the series.

Then came Romancing SaGa 3. which was wildly different from Romancing SaGa 2. I’m starting to see a pattern here. One thing about Romancing SaGa 3 though, was that it clearly set the groundwork for SaGa frontier, such as implementing the LP system as well as bringing back the ability to select from a cast of characters. There’s 8 to choose from in it, one in particular, Mikhail, plays way differently than the other characters, as you’re essentially leading squads of nameless soldiers through wartime squirmishes, issuing commands and the like during the battles in particular. The other 7 have similar sorts of battles, except they don’t utilize armies of faceless soldiers, but more-so a tight-knit squad of six. In my opinion, the best of the Romancing SaGa series, it’s curious to see how various features in this title would end up bleeding over into Saga Frontier. The first came out around 1992, only a few years after Legends saw the light of day, it was a console game however, as apposed to a gameboy title.

SaGa Frontier
gfs_42832_2_10Who knows what they were smoking. The game was great, though.

SaGa Frontier was my first SaGa game, and it was one quirky amalgam. It featured Seven characters (The Eighth character was dropped from the game.)

T260G is the first, he was a robot, who had a mission, he just so happened to forget that mission. He’s a bit weird to control, but the scenario he stars is in actually pretty entertaining.

Blue is the second, he is essentially a magician, and his primary mission is to learn just about every damn spell he can so he can amass the strength to kill his twin brother, Rouge. The cool thing about Blue’s storyline, is that if you lose against Rouge, the game continues and you play as Rouge for the remainder of the game.

Emelia is the third character available. She’s basically out to go avenge her murdered fiance, because, fuck it. Generally, the ‘gimick’ of her scenario is that she likes to change up her outfits throughout the course of it.

Asellus is the fourth character available, she’s a half-mystic who totally gets her ass kicked by a carriage at the start of the game. Generally, you spend a lot of her Scenario in a big ole’ castle, but that doesn’t make it terrible by any semblance. Her primary mission? Well, she wants to figure out who she is.

Lute is the fifth character available, he’s pretty much a chill dude who likes to play tunes. His scenario is probably the weakest in the game, mostly due to the fact right off the bat, the game’s like, yo here’s the final area, level and come back later.

Riki is the sixth character available, its quest is all about gatherin’ up some rings, so the planet in particular that Riki is from doesn’t die out. Riki is not the strongest character by any means, and despite being able to transform into monsters you defeat, Riki is ususally wholly underpowered compare to the rest of the party. That being said, Riki gets to visit some of the most interesting locations in the game, though Riki’s scenario is also one of the most challenging.

Red is the seventh and final character available, and personally my favorite by far. He’s a super hero, basically, and he’s fighting super villains. It’s pretty cut and dry in that aspect. Red’s scenario is roughly the longest in the game, not to mention Red’s arguably the strongest character in the game by a considerable margin, mostly due to the fact he transform into a superhero at various points in the scenario. Red’s scenario is no doubt the heart and soul of SaGa frontier.

The Eighth character you ask? Well certainly. Due to time restraints, an entire scenario was cut from the game. The character was named Fuse, a member of the IRPO, a group of officers who weren’t really touched upon very heavily in the game, most likely because they planned on fleshing it out with Fuse’s scenario. Fuse honestly looks pretty cool compared to the rest of the cast, it’s a shame we’ll never see exactly what the scenario had to offer.

SaGa-Frontier-Fuse

Now, I consider SaGa frontier II to be the last Saga game in the series, certainly they had Unlimited SaGa and Emporers SaGa, but both of which weren’t the best reviewed games ever, and weren’t really anything special.

I still think SaGa is just some sort of weird experiment by Square, as almost every game in the series differs rather heavily from other installments, SaGa Frontier II is no exception. The story plays out in a rather non-linear way, you don’t get to select your character from the start, and in fact you never really have a stable party throughout the game, it switches around erratically from one group of fellows to another, SaGa frontier II in my opinion, had the most entertaining gameplay of the series, the biggest downfall with it, was actually the non-linear storytelling, while at the same time, it was one of the best aspects. Certain scenarios you’re thrown into can be rather lame, and not all characters are completely enjoyable.

That being said, the game spans generations, characters get old, they die, you play as their children, their children get old, they die, then you play as THEIR children. It’s kind of cool to see such a massive storyline pushed into a single game.

The SaGa series has fallen from grace since Frontier II, though we saw Unlimited, it wasn’t much to really note. It’s unfortunate that Square’s lab rat known as SaGa isn’t being touched upon anymore, because when it comes own to it, the SaGa games were some of the strangest and most unique RPG’s ever created.

Oh, and obviously coolest thing by far to come from the SaGa series, was of course.

ALKAISER!tumblr_mhbhgeypkX1qb8m33o1_1280

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Irrational Games shuts down – A shock to the system

In the midst of all the modern first person shooters, one series stepped through the fog of war, separating itself from the pack, and giving players a completely fresh experience to deal with.

It began with System Shock 2, yes, not System Shock 1. The first of the System Shock series was in fact made by Looking Glass Technologies, the same fellows who brought about the Ultima games. System Shock 2… was, well, tense. It wasn’t scary be conventional means of dudes popping out of closets, or loud noises aimed to startle you. No, you were some dude, trapped in a space station, run by a sadistic AI that had essentially lost its mind. The atmosphere and the ferocity of the enemies you face add a level of tension that is still rare to see in this day and age.

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Yep! That’s definitely some sort of inventory system.

The biggest ‘problem’ with System Shock, was its depth. Like Deus Ex, it was an RPG hybrid of sorts. You could level up various skills, and if you leveled up your skills wrong, well, you’re fucked. The game was complicated, even for hardened gamers, and without a guide you’d find yourself replaying the game numerous times, utilizing trial and error to discover exactly which skills you’re going to need throughout the course of the game.

Irrational Games didn’t actually have many games under their belt, Bioshock and System Shock being their two biggest games. Irrational Games also almost has as many cancelled games as they do released games. Perhaps they’re just picky about what they release.

Bioshock was the companies first real, ‘Mainstream’ game, it sold well enough, got a great reception from both gamers and critics. The storyline and atmosphere were the best aspects of it, the game was very narrative driven (Throughout the first half at least.)

Bioshock was coined as the ‘Thinking Mans’ shooter, mostly due to the odds being stacked against you around every corner. Most groups of enemies were more than capable of wiping the floor with you, and the Big Daddies as their called, will always crush the player in a toe to toe fight.

Luckily, this thinking mans shooter gave you a plethora of options to deal with various encounters, many traps, tricks and weaponry are at the player’s disposal, making the primary course of battle sort of guerrilla squirmishes.

bioshock

Bioshock 2 came shortly after the first, though a different team actually handled it. It allowed you to play as a Big Daddy, yes, the big badass from the first game. Unfortunately, standing between you and victory, were Big Sister’s, which are essentially more agile versions of the Big Daddy. The story was weaker than the first entry and it didn’t have as much impact as the first.

Unfortunately, Bioshock 2 didn’t feel much different from the first, albeit being more combat focused, the thing that made the first Bioshock so special was its storyline. I surmise the failings of Bioshock 2 could be attributed to the so-so multiplayer mode they allocated resources into. That being said, it was still a very solid shooter.

And then.. it came, the grand finale of Irrational Games, Bioshock: Infinite. Aside from the two DLC’s made for it, it was and will forever be the last game made by Irrational Games.

While initially starting very much like the first Bioshock. What with the player character gradually approaching a creepy, looming lighthouse off in the middle of the ocean, it takes a much different approach. Like the saying goes, As above, so below. No longer do you traverse the depths of a sunken city. But instead you glide around the vast, open areas of a massive floating city.

Just like how the first Bioshock drew us in with the spectacle of its world, Infinity succeeded in bringing that feeling back to the player. The gameplay was a much faster paced one than experienced in either Bioshock or even System Shock. It moved at a fluid pace, and you’ll find yourself outmaneuvering opponents via ziplines, giving the player the ability to take vertical positioning to gain a tactical advantage over opponents. Not only that, your companion allows for you to expand your combat options, giving the player numerous ways to tackle any encounters they face.

Out of the three Bioshocks, Infinite had the best gameplay, graphics and even storyline. As well it surpassed the previous two games with its ‘Mini-Bosses’, Bioshock merely having Big Daddies and Big Sisters, Infinite has numerous sorts of enemies like the big daddies that stand in your path, most of which are terrifying to encounter and tough to take out.

infinite05

When it comes down to it. Infinite was actually Irational Games best game, the story and gameplay were solid, the graphics were astounding and the atmosphere was top-notch. Both gamers and critics hailed the game and it sold rather well, much better than their previous installments.

So, it’s strange Irrational games would just up and shut down. Maybe they wanted to end on a good note, perhaps they doubted their ability to surpass Infinite. According to Irrational Games, they wanted to start working on Indie games with a narrative approach, they want to make smaller games for core gamers as apposed to casuals, as well they want to have a more personable relationship with their fans.

It’s a noble idea, and financially sound. By making smaller games they’re allowed to take more risks, as even the smallest projects run the chance of selling substantially. Though Bioshock may be a long gone series, and Irrational Games will soon be no more.

Here’s hoping whatever climbs from the ashes pushes out a plethora of memorable indie titles. At the very least, Bioshock will always be remembered fondly, and will always be considered a gem of gaming.

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Final Fantasy VI through XIII

FinalFantasyBanner

If you’ve ever played an RPG. Then you’ve probably heard of Final Fantasy, though, initially, it was a rocky series as far as localization is concerned, due to the early series being categorized differently in Japan and the States.

We’ll be covering most of the major entries in the series from the Fifth final fantasy onwards, those that came before were certainly ahead of their time. But due to weird localization choices, the earlier entires just barely managed to find their way into the States.

I’m covering 6 through 13, of the main series, excluding the online games, as well excluding the ‘sequels’ such as X-2, XIII-2. I can’t say I’m familiar enough with final fantasies laying before 6, and it would be unfair to comment on them from afar, when I’ve little experience with them personally.

Final Fantasy VI
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Largely considered the best game in the series, for many reasons, and really, it’s hard to argue otherwise. The game utilized a Steampunk setting, and for its time, it used every little trick the hardware would allow in order to push the graphical aspects of the game to their full potential.

The gameplay was nothing new, featuring the ATB formerly established in Final Fantasy IV. However, the gameplay was polished down to a sparkly shine.

Though, when it comes down to brass tax, Final Fantasy 6 was a substantial entry for nearly its storyline alone, and how the game tackled it. The storyline features numerous playable characters, around 14 in fact. Each one painstakingly fleshed out. The story doesn’t just follow the events of one character, either, there are points where you’ll find your group split and will have to undertake various challenges led by different characters of the party. This non-linear approach to storytelling really helped to garner one’s warmth towards the wide cast of characters avaialable.

Not only does the story have a non-linear approach in design, the story itself actually covered a lot of issues that simply weren’t tackled in the day and age where 6 saw the light of day. The story itself may just be the greatest in the main series, but opinions exist and no two people like all the same things.

Final Fantasy VI also featured the most notorious villain in Final Fantasy history, Kefka. He was kind of a bastard, for various reasons. Those who’ve played through VI know exactly why Kefka’s a bastard, those who don’t, well, play VI, it’s worth it.

Each of the characters had different roles in battle, though essentially everyone could learn magic through magic stones, each character had their unique skills that set them apart from one-another. Be it utilizing various tools in combat, or pulling off intricate combo’s.

Sure, VI is old by todays standards. But it still holds up damn well for a SNES title, if you’re an RPG fan and haven’t touched VI before, well, nothing’s stopping you.

Final Fantasy VII
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What can I say, the game itself is engrained in many gamers hearts. Be it the characters or the plot. The story as it progressed was interesting enough to pull players to its conclusion. Personally, one of the greatest moments in it, for me. Was when the group first leaves Midgard. As, up to that point, I had figured the whole game took place within Midgard. Quite the surprise. Final Fantasy VII has a bit of an advantage though, it was really the first fully 3D final fantasy to come.

The story seems messy, and everything isn’t simply laid in front of you, there’s plenty of room for speculation in the plot. Dealing primarily with an Ex Soldier who has illusions of grandeur, some amnesia, as well his panties tend to be all bunched up half the time. Cloud grows into a decent character as the story evolves and his demeanor is actually fleshed out in good detail.

7 featured some of the most memorable characters in the series, in my opinion. Cid being my favorite, due to how much of an asshole he was, pretty much the epitome of a grumpy old man, and really when it comes down to it, I didn’t mind any characters in the game, even Caitsith had his moments. The party characters aside, the villains, side-characters, they all had a bit of charm behind them, befitting the quirky, run-down nature of the world around them.

The world itself wasn’t the most polished we’ve seen in a Final Fantasy, lots of elements just.. stood out in weird ways. It had a run-down feel to it, though, the feeling that the world was once a very prosperous and beautiful place to be. Signs of former destruction lay about the regions, ruins, sunken vessels and hidden away places that were never meant to be seen by the eyes of man. While, the world did have a lot cool shit in it, at times, certain things just didn’t seem quite right, for instance, randomly finding a crashed Jet fighter atop a gigantic skeleton.

Final Fantasy VII has a lot of character to it, no matter the flaws, and there’s plenty. One thing Final Fantasy 7 didn’t skimp on was the battle system, being active time, it forced players to think on their feet. But the real meat of the combat system was the Materia system. Final Fantasy VII still has one of the most customizable combat systems available. The fact that one could not only boost their combat prowess with Materia, they could also combine materia together for impressive results. The Materia system was always fun to experiment with, these days Materia guides exist, but back in the day when Final Fantasy 7 was fresh, experimenting with Materia combo’s was a joy.

Most Consider VII to be the greatest Final Fantasy ever, and it has its merits, it’s certainly one of the best. Most who consider it the best in the series, most likely started with Final Fantasy 7, that nostalgic tick giving the game a bit more credit than it’s due for.

Final Fantasy VIII
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One of the more flawed of the main series.

Explaining Final Fantasy 8’s storyline is really just a losing battle. It’s a mess, what with overly coincadental settings and the like. For most people, when Final Fantasy 8 came out, they were youngsters, and it’s doubtful they’d have had any understanding of what exactly was taking place as the credits rolled. Plenty of opinions and speculation exists for the ending, some true, some not. It’s said a confusing storyline isn’t exactly a bad storyline, but if it’s done wrong, just like in the case of Final Fantasy 8, it turns the story into a mess.

The characters all had their motivations and they were easily understood, the fact that just about every character you assemble into your party was actually trained in a military academy gave some creedance to their ability to take down giant beasts and trained soldiers. Not once are you really doubting your party’s ability to complete their missions at hand.

The story itself wasn’t dreadful by any means. Yes, the ending was a huge disappointed, that’s for sure. But the journey leading up to it took the party through numerous areas and events that were generally interesting to explore. At any rate, the Storyline is for certain the weakest aspect of this entry, and it’s a result of Square trying to make a more complicated storyline than they were capable of  implementing  effectively.

Final Fantasy 8 almost has a modern feel to it, what with cars and firearms. This gave Final Fantasy 8 an almost  believable  world, it wasn’t difficult to really accept the setting around you, you generally had a good understanding of the technology that surrounded the player.

Some say the fact that Garden, which is the military academy the main characters attend, some say that the fact it is capable of flight is absolutely ridiculous. However, these Garden’s don’t move at a breakneck pace, as well they more or less hover as apposed to tangible flight. As well, in the game, it isn’t exactly explained where the Gardens even came from, but it is hinted at that Gardens had existed in the world for thousands of years, proven by the summon spell, Eden, which is in fact an ancient Garden, The Garden of Eden.

Another aspect that bothers many, is Squall’s primary weapon, the Gunblade. Thinking about it from a simplistic viewpoint, one would surmise the Gunblade shoots bullets at opponents, yet the weilder always gets into melee-range when striking with it. In actuality the Gunblade works as a poorman’s High-Frequency Blade, the High-Frequency ability of it only working for a split second, so it isn’t impossible to think that using a Gunblade effectively would be a difficult task. It’s shown through gameplay, that Seifer is by no means a Master of the Gunblade, due to his inconsistent nature of actually pulling the trigger, yet, he’s the only other Gunblade user. Maybe everyone in the world but those two knuckleheads came to the conclusion that using a Gunblade was just a silly idea.

At the very least, Final Fantasy 8 has a consistent setting, and it didn’t stray from that setting. The characters all looked like they belonged in the world, and even when encountering a giant robot spider, it still felt like it fit perfectly into the world around you.

The gameplay is by far one of the reasons people hate this game, even far beyond the storyline. While I agree the storyline was a pain in the ass, I actually the gameplay and its mechanics to be rather well-implemented. The game revolved around its Draw system, which worked essentially as the game’s primary form of grinding. Grinding levels in Final Fantasy 8 was a pointless endeavor, enemies leveled with you, so one could actually breeze through the entire game without having to draw a single spell from an enemy.

However, while enemies do level with your party, they do not take into account how you’ve boosted your stats using both magic and guardian forces. So, drawing is simply a way to get an edge over your competition. However, despite all this. Gamers are tenacious bastards and they will totally draw 100 of every spell they see on potential enemies just because they can.

The Guardian forces system in Final Fantasy 8 was actually a pretty decent system. It allowed for one to essentially mold any character they want into whatever role they wanted them to be. The sheer number of Magic available allowed for a lot of customization in this regard. While it was certainly nothing compared to the Materia system, it was still a better implemented system than what Final Fantasy has seen in recent days, usually revolving around some sort of grid.

Since one can essentially mold the stats of their party, the one thing that made each party member unique was their special attacks. Unfortunately, one tended to have to find specific key items in order to find more special attacks for their party members, meaning some characters might be more evolved than others, simply because their items in particular were a bit easier to find.

Final Fantasy 8 is considered by many to be the worse Final Fantasy game in the main series by far, and the game itself is said to have attributed to the poor quality of XenoGear’s disk 2. It’s unfortunate really, no game should suffer because a company wants to reallocate funds. When it comes down to it, I’d have much rather seen a fully fleshed out XenoGears, than Final Fantasy 8.

That being said, Final Fantasy 8 is still very solid, and gradually it has gained some acceptance in contrast to recent entires and flops the Final Fantasy franchise has seen.

Final Fantasy IX
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It really was sort of a magical journey, this one.

Final Fantasy 9 actually had one of the strongest storylines in the series. While I’m not really fond of spoiling a storyline I really like how Final Fantasy 9’s subject matter actually has a rather dark tone to it. No matter how cartoony or colorful the visuals are, shit really does hit the fan in this game, and for the most part the player has a good understanding of what has taken place, and what their current objective is in the game.

Final Fantasy 9 has some very memorable characters in it, the star of which is Vivi, which is essentially a Black Mage, and resembles the classic look of one. While the other characters certainly have their moments, Vivi is definitely the badass here, his origins and the journey he goes through during the events of Final Fantasy 9 are some of the most memorable aspects of the game.

Final Fantasy 9 had some strange villains in it, and one of the fruitiest main antagonists of any Final Fantasy. That being said, the characters all felt like they belonged, they looked the part and didn’t stand out from the world around them. Final Fantasy 9 feels like a polished gem, and its storyline feels just as polished as the game surrounding it.

Final Fantasy 9 doesn’t exactly up the ante with its gameplay, each character had a specific role, Steiner being your primary attacker and tank, Vivi being your Mage as well Zidane being the primary Rogue for the team. I’ve no qualms with the characters being utilized this way, but always found myself sticking to the same group of characters each playthrough.

There’s not much to say about Final Fantasy 9’s gameplay. You learn skills from equipment, just like in older entries and certain characters have more effective roles than others in different boss encounters.

While being nothing revolutionary, Final Fantasy 9 had a heavy sheen of polish on its battle system, Bosses were difficult and required strategy, causing there to be a bit of an enjoyable struggle while trying to push past one adversary after the next.

Final Fantasy 9 has a lot going for it in terms of its setting. Both the art direction and the world as it is implemented go hand in hand. The semi-deformed look of the characters also fit in just perfectly with the whole ‘feel’ of the world. As far as worlds go, and how the characters fit into it, Final Fantasy 9 surpasses the others in the main series by a decent margin.

It all had a very medieval feel to it, with the addition of airships and other badass things of course. Things, be it magic or technology that was featured in the game all felt natural to the world, nothing really stands out as overly ridiculous. Unlike 6, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 13, Final Fantasy 9 wasn’t one that went for a ‘modern’ or ‘futuristic’ approach to their world. It
felt just right.

Hit or miss, some love it, some hate it. The hate for the game can be attributed to the art direction or perhaps the linearity of the gameplay featured in it. Though, both are petty reasonings, as Final Fantasy 9’s art direction has made it a timeless entry into the series, it still looks good to this day, and will always have a unique look and feel to it.

Final Fantasy X
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One of the more tragic tales in the main series. The tragic nature however was quickly destroyed with Final Fantasy X-2, but hey, let’s just act like that game never happened. As, X-2 adds far too many plot holes to what was essentially a rather easy to understand storyline. The biggest problem with the storyline ends up being Tidus, the main character, he’s really a big pain in the ass most of the storyline, but he becomes more  palatable  as the story moves forward.

There’s not a lot to say about the storyline without spoiling it, it’s certainly not the worst but it’s certainly not the best. It has a lot more depth to it than people give it credit for.

Final Fantasy X is considered to have one of the best combat systems out of all in the main series, and honestly, it kind of does. It utilizes the active time battle system, which wasn’t anything new, really. At the same time, it’s one of the only games in the series to allow you to actively switch between party members during combat, it’s strange that this little trait was abandoned, as it always seemed strange as to why only 3 of your group of 10 members would fight in a battle at any given time, rather than the whole group getting involved.

Unfortunately. The game also featured the Sphere grid system. Which gave the illusion of maleability when it came to growing your characters, it worked, to some extent. But merely provided the illusion of freedom when it came to building a character. One could feasibly go and make Auron some sort of lousy spellcaster, or just keep him on his standard path. Straying from the paths provided with the Sphere Grid often ended up with less the savory results.

The world in Final Fantasy 10 is.. erratic to say the least. At some points, it seems primitive, what with temples and straw huts, the next moment you have super advanced machinery bonking their heads around. The costume design is highly unrealistic, most characters just look downright goofy, and don’t actually look like they belong in the world. The party itself suffers from this as well, nobody actually looks like they belong in the game, with the exception of Wakka. While Auron is  undoubtedly  one of the most badass characters in Final Fantasy, he, like the rest of the party all stand out like sore thumbs. While certainly an enjoyable installment, 10 always seemed to show its cracks, and was a bad omen for the future of the series.

Final Fantasy XII
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Final Fantasy 12 is a bit of anomaly. Considering Final Fantasy 11, the online one, the failed online one came out prior to this. Gamers were undoubtably confused as to why the game actually didn’t feature the standard sort of combat system seen in previous games. Though many in the series changed aspects of the combat system, at its core, it remained the same. This wasn’t the case for 12.

Final Fantasy 12 looked nice, it had good art direction, the world itself was solid. However, just like the combat system, this entry also did something unlike previous installments of the main series. It utilized a world that already existed in Final Fantasy, Ivalice. Which has been featured in each of the Tactics games. Although, rumors have it that Final Fantasy X and VII are both loosely based in the same world, rumors are just that, rumors. The problem with Ivalice, is that instead of utilizing the medieval world of Ivalice, they changed it, altered it, adding numerous anthormorphic species, adding in super technology and generally giving the whole world a sort of middle-eastern vibe.

To those who played the main series, Final Fantasy 12 is fine, to those who’ve played Tactics, they wouldn’t appreciate how drastically the world had changed. It makes little sense as to why they simply wouldn’t utilize an entirely different name for their world, considering it has absolutely no ties to its subject matter.

The game featured a system similar to the Sphere Grid, only,  quite a margin worse, and the battle system, well, it resembled an old school MMO, in lue of ‘cutscene’ style fight sequences, and honestly, it just didn’t look very good. MMO’s utilized this sort of gameplay due to technical limitations, and even in 2014, we’re just barely seeing the addition of action styled  game-play  in them.

That being said, Final Fantasy 12 was a flawed gem, having its merits, a solid storyline and a deep if not strange combat system. Not many people really talk about Final Fantasy 12, and upon release, the reception was questionable at best. Though no slouch in terms of professional reviews, 12 left gamers scratching their heads, wondering just where SquareEnix was planning on taking the series.

Final Fantasy XIII
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It’s pretty bad.

… Okay, but seriously. Final Fantasy XIII just baffles me. Why exactly was it taken in such an odd direction? Why is it this game donned the title of Final Fantasy XIII, as apposed to Lost Odyssey, which was originally planned to be XIII. Who knows, but it happened, XIII happened.

 

Final Fantasy XIII was, is rather sloppy. Though many aspects of the game that were considered bad, were later remedied in XIII-2, more problems were added with XIII-3.

For one, XIII decided that they didn’t want to make towns, side areas, or really anywhere to explore. On the last disk, though, one does get the freedom to explore a giant featureless plain, full of enemies. But it’s just that, an empty plain. The majority of the game was one winding hallway, with a branching path here and there.

Defending this… this… design choice is hard. For one, XIII utilized next generation technology at the time, and was the first and ONLY of the main series to find itself on the 360 and PS3. Because they had more power to work with, there was less in the game for players to explore? Even after XII’s rather vast, explorable world, built on inferior hardware.

But, a linear pathing system isn’t really the end all of a game, there’s still gameplay, and storyline, the world itself, the character’s within it. The gameplay was simply dreadful. It utilized Automatic combat for both the character you would control as well as the allies who travel with you. Though you could select your own actions during combat, you’re given less time than you need to actually stack up a good series of moves.

The biggest problem with this auto combat system, is in the event where you have to utilize specific buffs, or debuffs. See, the AI will only start defending the party against, say, fire-based magic only after your party has been hammered by a particularly powerful fire-based spell. The whole combat system itself has a strange artificial difficulty to it, the diffculty attributed primarily from the fact you can’t directly control your allies actions at all.

Of course, the simplest solution is to take control of your primary buffer/debuffer during a battle, which certainly works, but it just seems like it should be unessecary. One would expect the AI to be competent enough considering how major a role the AI plays in combat.

The storyline is a mess, there’s no getting around that. I literally played through the game until about the final disk, and I literally had no clue what exactly was going on, and I was paying quite a bit of attention to what unfolded during the storyline. Apparently, one has to read all of the logs and such you collect during the game, in order to gain even a slight semblance of understanding.

No matter how full of depth a story is. If it leaves the player utterly confused throughout, unless they go out of their way to read little scraps in their logs, then the writer did their job wrong. The game is chock full of foreign terms, and doesn’t actually put forth the effort of explaining what it’s trying to explain.

The character’s were alright. So many memorable characters have come from this series in the past that the cast of XIII just seemed a bit dull. With the exception of Sahz, of course. Because Sahz was without a doubt one of the best aspects of the game.

The world was cool, but it followed the same general theme Final Fantasy has seen since 6 to now. With the exception of 9. Robots, lasers, firearms, XIII upped the ante quite a bit in this regard, giving the whole world a super futurstic type of feel. Though everything was certainly shiney and covered in colorful lights, it was diffult at times to really get one’s head around the world around. That being said, XIII features some absolutely stunning setpieces.

It’s not the worst game ever. XIII has its merits, and as an RPG it’s completely solid. Unfortunately, XIII got the brand that made it part of the main series, and because of this, players had overly high expectations for the game. Perhaps if it was just some humble RPG unafilliated with Final Fantasy, it would have been better recieved.

Really, we haven’t actually seen a downright awful Final Fantasy in the main series yet. XIII came close, XII seemed like it would at first glance, and VIII simply isn’t as horrible as it’s made out to be. All the games in the series have their shining moments and their scuffs. The sky’s the limit for Final Fantasy, even in a day and age where the popularity of RPG’s has collapsed and curled up, Final Fantasy still pushes forwards, and just like with XII and XIII, the next Final Fantasy up to bat, Versus, looks to be taking yet another new approach. It would seem Final Fantasy is merely in a sort of experimental phase as of currently. But as the saying goes, can’t make an  omelette without cracking a few eggs first.

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