Bloggy XMAS Day 10: Old Friends and Children
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 December 2014, 10:00 am


When Syl first mentioned writing about community and games for the Bloggy XMAS Calendar I really wanted to participate but I had nothing to write about.  I don't have time for MMOs these days and I don't play a single online game consistently enough to be part of it's community.  How would I write about games and community?

But then I had a meeting with an old friend.  We hadn't seen each other in a couple years and we were meeting about a potential business project that we could work on together.  Surprisingly, we jumped right back into our old habits of discussing gaming.

I mean, yes, we did talk about business stuff later, but first we talked about the Gamecube hooked up to his TV.  He just moved into a new apartment and it's the only console hooked up so far.  And then, while playing Smash Bros Melee on said Gamecube, we talked about how he's been playing classic EverQuest on a private EQ server.  I mentioned my trials and tribulations with playing the entire Final Fantasy series.  We had a great time!

I haven't talked to this guy much in the past few years and it just floors me how much gaming helped us instantly relate to each other again.  We still love to talk about games and play games even though we're in our late twenties now.  I know a lot of people who used to be gamers that have since dropped the hobby.  It was a genuine pleasure to reconnect with a friend over gaming.

Gaming with friends is amazing.

You know what other kind of gaming is amazing?  Gaming with family.

My daughter is four years old now.  She's been playing iOS games on iPods, iPhones, and iPads since before her first birthday.  Now, finally, she's starting to get into console gaming with me.  We've been playing Wii U together for the past six months or so.  I taught her how to play Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, and Smash Bros.

I can't even express how proud I was the day I came home from work and she was set up on the couch playing Super Mario 3D World on her own.  It was a sense of pride, joy, surprise, and nostalgia.  Some of my earliest memories are gaming at day care when I was her age.  I realized that some of her first memories might be gaming with me.  I almost cried.

And now I get the awesome side-effect of being the parent of a little gamer.  Randomly I get asked, "Daddy, can we play Smash Bros together?"  Of course the answer is yes.

Does she take ten minutes to pick out a character for each player in the color of her choice?  Yes.  Is it worth it to sit and watch her do ten minutes of set-up for two minutes of game?  Absolutely.  She's interacting with the game on her own terms.  But, most importantly, she's having fun!

Her two-year-old brother is already nipping at her heels.  He's been a touch device wiz just like her.  Now he's interested in gaming controllers and he can even do an art game on the Wii U gamepad!  Pretty soon he'll join us and I'll have two constant gaming companions.  I'm so excited for that day!

Until then, I'm happy making friends online to discuss gaming.  The blogging community is amazing and helps me stay connected to other people who have the same interests as me.

And they tend to be active on twitter too!  It's great for staying in touch and quick conversations about topics.  I'm always thrilled when someone strikes up a chat with me on twitter about gaming.  If you're looking for more gamers to talk to, feel free to reach out to me @grnmushroom.

This holiday season I find myself thankful for gamers of all kinds.  From old friends, to my kids, and my random online friends.  Thank you everyone.  Keep being awesome!


This post is part of the Bloggy XMAS Calendar.  Make sure to go check it out!

Thanks to Syl for organizing this great event!


Final Fantasy XIII: Initial Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 December 2014, 10:00 am


Even with my Final Fantasy XIII baggage I dove into the game this week.  I'm playing the PC version via Steam.

My first reaction to Final Fantasy XIII was, "It's so pretty!"  I forgot how beautiful this game looks.  Final Fantasy developers are always trying to push the envelope in graphics and it shows the most when they jump between console generations.  Final Fantasy XIII was the first Final Fantasy for Xbox 360 and PS3.  It looks so much better than Final Fantasy XII did.

The only downside to the graphics is that they're locked to 720p on PC.  Supposedly there is a patch coming soon to allow for higher resolutions, but it's not out yet.

Music is much improved over Final Fantasy XII.  It's still no Nobuo Uematsu but it's so much better than the last game.  It actually has one of my favorite battle themes in all of Final Fantasy.  It gets stuck in my head and I'm totally ok with that.

It's especially amazing when the violin kicks in around the 1 minute mark

But not all the sound design is great.  Lightning's footsteps are already bugging me.  They are extremely loud and monotonous.  I remember these footsteps being something that drove me crazy by the time I finished Final Fantasy XIII the first time.

One thing I hated about this game during my first playthrough was the linearity of it.  It's basically long corridors with no exploration.  Surprisingly, this time I appreciate the linearity after just finishing the open world grind fest that is Final Fantasy XII.  Playing the games in order like this is giving me a fresh perspective on the series.  Hopefully I can keep this new-found appreciation for the linearity throughout my entire time with Final Fantasy XIII.

I'm a few hours in and so far battles feel quick and fluid.  Not much of the modified ATB system is being shown off yet, but it does look nice.  But while it looks nice and is smooth, it's not challenging so far.  I know that most of the battle system is still hidden behind tutorials that I haven't reached.  At this point the battles are basically "hit A to win with autobattle."  I'll follow up later after I actually get full access to battle options.

Along those lines, there's no progression system in sight.  Again, I know this is just around the corner and I'm not there yet.

The story of Final Fantasy XIII starts mid-action.  I think it works for this game.  After that there is a lot of character set up mixed in with action and battle sequences.  The pacing is working for me so far.  From what I remember, pacing really struggles later in the game, but I have no complaints yet.

I'm actually enjoying the story more this time because I don't have to try to figure out all their stupid terms.  I mostly remember it from my first playthrough of the game.  They really need to do a better job explaining to new players what all the unique terms in the game mean but at least it's not an issue this time around.  I do want to note that it was frustrating to no end the first time I played.

One thing I'm extremely grateful for are the plentiful checkpoints.  Rarely do I have to go more than ten minutes without getting the chance to save.  As I've said before, being able to save anywhere or suspend/resume a game is a huge feature for me these days.  Final Fantasy XIII doesn't quite have that, but the checkpoints aren't spaced out as far as they used to be in old Final Fantasy games.  I appreciate it.

Overall, I'm about 3 hours in and I'm still having fun.  It's a good sign and I hope it holds true throughout the game!

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Sampling Games on PSN
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 December 2014, 5:55 pm


I absolutely love trying new games!  If you're a PS Plus subscriber on Playstation Network you get to try a lot of them.

Every month they give PS Plus subscribers access to a new set of six free games.  Two each for PS4, PS Vita, and PS3.  I always make sure to "purchase" (for free) all of them through their online portal even if I don't want to download them right away.  That way I can play them any time I want in the future, as long as my PSN account is active.

It's a great way to sample games I wouldn't normally try.  Sometimes they fall flat, but they're free games so who am I to complain?

On top of that, occasionally they'll just give away free games to anyone on PSN.  This weekend you can snag Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare on PS4, Need for Speed Most Wanted on PS Vita, and Mirror's Edge on PS3.  All of them are free.  You just need to jump onto PSN and claim your copies before the weekend is over even if you don't have PS Plus.

The PSN games for the month came out a few days ago as well.  Last night I tried Titan Attacks, Secret Ponchos, and Injustice: Gods Among Us.  Titan Attacks was one that fell flat.  It's a bad space invaders clone.  Secret Ponchos was initially intriguing but after a few rounds I knew it wasn't a game for me.  Although, if you're into multiplayer twin stick shooters you might want to give it a chance.  The real surprise was Injustice: Gods Among Us.

I'm usually not a fan of fighting games except for Smash Bros.  Injustice: Gods Among Us is a straight up DC superhero fighting game and not something I would typically even look at.  It feels a lot like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat.  Usually I'll play a fighting game like that for about fifteen minutes, get bored, and never come back to it.  But last night I played Injustice: Gods Among Us for a good three or four hours after I put my kids to bed.  It's incredibly polished for a fighting game.


Mostly it was a ton of fun to make superheroes wail on each other.  And the interactive environments let you do sweet things like pick up a car and throw it at your opponent.

Like most fighting games, I'm sure I'll be done with it for good in the next day or two.  But that's ok.

The awesome thing is that I got this game for free and I'm having fun with it.  It's a game I never would have picked up on my own, but I found it thanks to PS Plus.

I wish there were more ways to explore fun games for free.  I'm always looking for a new experience.


Dragon Age Inquisition: Tactical Hack and Slash?
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 December 2014, 2:10 pm

If I were playing this game on PC I would be tactical.  I would be pausing all the time to issue orders and micro-manage my characters.  I would basically be playing this the same way I played Dragon Age Origins.

But I picked it up on PS4.  It feels great to run into a battle swinging away.  I charge in, activate some abilities, destroy my enemies, and move on with my day.  It's quick and satisfying.

It's all because of the input device.  With a console controller in my hand it feels great to tear through enemies.  With a mouse and keyboard it's nice to take my time and plan out every move for every character.  It's amazing how much the input device can change the feel of a game.

I got a few hours into Dragon Age Inquisition and noticed something weird about normal difficultly.  It's not fun for either playstyle.  The enemies are too easy to stop and be tactical with my approach.  But they're slightly too hard to demolish without thinking.  I made the executive decision to stick with my no-holds-barred real-time battles so I turned the difficulty down to casual.

I used to think of casual difficultly as a bad thing.  But these days I don't have time to waste fighting battles over and over again.  I want an interesting world with an enthralling plot and great characters.  I've decided to not care too much about the combat in Dragon Age Inquisition, and I'm ok with that.  I'm in it for the rest of the experience.


Final Fantasy XIII: Baggage
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 December 2014, 10:00 am

I'm coming into Final Fantasy XIII with some baggage.  Way back when I started this blog in 2010 I wrote about Final Fantasy XIII as I was playing it for the first time.  It was in the third month of this blog's existence and I was still finding my way.

I'm going to replay it now in the context of The Final Fantasy Project but... it's interesting to take a look at what I originally thought of the game during my first playthrough.

My initial impressions were mixed but in my final impressions I ripped the game apart.  Apparently I was completely sick of it by the end.  After I had some time to cool down I wrote a follow-up post talking about a few redeeming features I enjoyed about the game, but even that article had some negatives in it.

So, that's where I'm coming from with this game.  You can look back at exactly how I felt during my first playthrough.

I'm really hoping that this time I enjoy it more.  Now I have the context of the entire series and I think I understand the story of FFXIII more than I did the first time.  We'll see what comes of it.

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Bloggy XMAS Calendar
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 December 2014, 11:25 am


Syl of MMO Gypsy fame has organized a fantastic event this year!  It's the Bloggy XMAS Calendar!

It's based on the idea of an advent calendar and will feature posts from different bloggers every day until Christmas.  I'll be participating on my day, December 10th, but I wanted you to start checking it out since it's launching today.

Don't delay!  Check out this awesome homepage for the calendar!


Final Fantasy XII: Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 30 November 2014, 12:36 pm

This has been hard to write for me.  I've spent over 50 hours with Final Fantasy XII and for most of that I felt like I didn't really "get" it.  I never connected with the story or the characters and that's definitely not a good thing.  I wanted the game to "click" after the first few hours so I could write some impressions... but it never really did.  So, I waited until I finished to write a full review.  Let's get to it.

The story is set on a grand scale.  The first half hour is a giant cutscene full of lots of politics and war.  The grand scale continues throughout the storyline of the game.  It ends up dwarfing the main cast of characters.  It's so grand that it feels removed from the actions of your characters most of the time.  The last few hours tie the political events to three of the six characters, but it takes way too long for that to finally happen.

Final Fantasy games always invent their own terms but this is the first Final Fantasy where it feels overdone.  If I remember correctly, this is a trend that carries through to Final Fantasy XIII too.  There are terms that are never directly explained but which are obviously important to the plot.  Magicite, Nethecite, Day-Affected Nethecite.  Not to mention the various and confusing names of different countries and rulers of those countries.  The characters seem very impressed by these terms but I didn't care for most of the game because they were never explained to me.  I eventually figured it out, but once again it took too long to get there.

The scale is grand, the stakes are high, but the main characters don't actually change or grow that much.  Final Fantasy XII does not have a character driven story.

The main character, Vaan, isn't actually the protagonist of the story.  He doesn't really do anything.  Things just sort of happen to him or around him.  He's never that important.  It's really disheartening to see this character that I have to use for the entire game be so unimportant to the plot.  The creators of Final Fantasy XII have even said that Basch and Ashe were originally the main characters and that Vaan and Penelo were added very late in development because they were afraid teenagers wouldn't be able to connect with the more mature characters in the game.  It's sad.  I think I would have liked this game much more if Basch or Ashe was the main character.


While the characters barely develop and the plot is grand and plodding at least the world is well done.  Final Fantasy XII is set in Ivalice which is one of the few worlds that actually gets used across a number of games.  The Final Fantasy Tactics series is all set in Ivalice as well as a non Final Fantasy game by the same developer, Vagrant Story.  The world has different species with complex interactions.  It has many regions, cities, empires, and political factions.  Although they aren't used to great effect in Final Fantasy XII, they are well realized.  It actually makes me really excited to get around to the Final Fantasy Tactics games again.  I would love to spend more time in Ivalice if it were used better as a setting (which it is in other games).

The way Ivalice is used in Final Fantasy XII is to create a large open world.  That sounds great when I write it down, but in fact, this game feels like a single-player MMO with all of the drawbacks of MMOs but none of the benefits of playing with other people.  Wandering the open world is novel at first but once you get some decent Gambits set up it becomes a complete grind.  And that trend continues for the rest of the game.


That's the main problem with the Gambit system.  If you're even semi-intelligent with your Gambit set-up the game ends up playing itself during battle.  It lets you program your characters to react in intelligent ways based on certain conditions.  Boss fights in this game became snack breaks for me.  My Gambits were solid and Bosses have a ton of health.  I would put my controller down, make a snack, and eat that snack while the battle played itself out.  I'm not lying, this is literally what I did for every boss in the last three fourths of the game.

While the Gambit system ends up playing itself, at least the License Board progression system is interesting for awhile.  Basically, characters gain License Points by killing enemies.  These can be spent to acquire Licenses for gear, magic, or abilities on the License Board.  You still need to purchase the gear, magic, or ability but to actually be able to use it you must have the License for it.  For the first half of the game it's really fun.  You have to figure out which way to grow each character and balance the different abilities and gear.


Unfortunately, in the second half of Final Fantasy XII everyone basically becomes a Red Mage.  If you're unfamiliar with the term, Red Mages in the Final Fantasy series can use magic and really good melee weapons and generally are able to use most of the armor in a game.  They are the jack of all trades in the Final Fantasy universe.  This is what happens once your characters progress far enough in the License Board.  Everyone knows every spell, every ability, and can equip every weapon, armor, and accessory.  At that point in the game the License Board becomes useless as a progression system.

The complexity of the Gambit and License Board systems adds up to a very slow start for this game.  The first three to six hours feel like you're still in a tutorial and don't have access to everything you need.  It's really frustrating.


But it's not just the first six hours that feel slow.  The pacing in Final Fantasy XII is bad throughout the whole game.  There are long sections of necessary grinding and spending time in the wilderness followed by super long info-dump cutscenes which often run longer than fifteen minutes.  Most of the time I could make a snack during a cutscene too.  They were that long and un-engaging.

I would be remiss to not mention the music in a Final Fantasy game.  Sadly, Nobuo Uematsu only composed the title theme for Final Fantasy XII and it shows.  The rest of the music is lackluster and unmemorable.  The music of Final Fantasy defined the series up to this point, but with the loss of Nobuo Uematsu the Final Fantasy series takes a serious blow in the music department.  I turned down the audio for most of the game and listened to podcasts instead.  I can't believe I did that with a Final Fantasy game, but the music just wasn't good.

So where do I sit with Final Fantasy XII?  It has tons of potential and it just doesn't live up to it.  I wanted this game to be so much more than it was.  It tries to do new and interesting things.  It has such high production values.  I thought it would be near the the top in my Final Fantasy Ranking... but it won't be.  I didn't enjoy most of my time with the game.  There is no way I would have finished it if it didn't have the Final Fantasy name attached.  The only way I'll ever replay this is if they do a complete remaster and fix the grind and the pacing.  Take that as you will.

Final Fantasy Ranking
1. IX
2. X
3. VIII
4. VII
5. VI
6. IV
7. V
8. XII
9. II
10. I
11.III

Total Completion Time: 50 hrs 35 mins

Final Fantasy Project Article List





Mario Kart DLC
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 November 2014, 8:22 pm


I don't usually write about DLC.  It's not typically something worthy of writing about.  I think the Mario Kart DLC is a fantastic value for the money so it deserves some talk.

There are two scheduled DLC packs for Mario Kart 8.  The first just released a few days ago.  It includes two new cups, which means eight new tracks.  Eight tracks in a cart racer is a huge amount of content.  Along with these come three new characters; Link, Tanooki Mario, and Cat Peach.  Not to mention four new vehicles.

My daughter and I have been having a blast with it.  The new tracks are fantastic and they're getting me re-engaged with the game.  I don't know if I've ever had DLC pull me back into a game like this, but new tracks in Mario Kart is seriously awesome.  My daughter has been enjoying playing with the new characters and vehicles. She loves customizing her racer and changing it every race.

This DLC has already convinced me to drop $7.99 for the next pack with a similar amount of content.  If you've grown tired of Mario Kart 8 or it has fallen off your radar... it might be time to take another look.


Games and Sick Days
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 November 2014, 4:32 pm
I'm sick.  It sucks.  My son has been fighting off a bug for the past two weeks and in taking care of him I managed it pick it up.

But, one benefit that has come out of being sick at home all week is getting to blast through some of the new releases that have been coming out.  They're hard to keep up with.  And I got to try a mobile game that's been on my radar for awhile.  Let's go rapid fire impressions here.

Assassin's Creed: Unity
I'm playing on PS4.  I've seen tons of hate for this game online and it seems to be especially buggy.  In my experience on my console I've only had frame rate slow down a couple times in the course of over 10 hours of play.  I only hit a weird animation bug once.  Your mileage may vary.  Especially if you're playing on PC or Xbox One.  Apparently they're much worse than PS4.

I'm a huge fan of Assassin's Creed so I'm still having a lot of fun with it.  That being said, if you aren't a huge fan of the series you should avoid this one.  They've taken out a lot of cool things that were in the last few games.  There's no competitive multiplayer.  There's no ship combat.  There aren't multiple cities.  There isn't a good story.

So why am I still having fun with it?  Well, the core missions are really well designed.  Stealth finally matters in an Assassin's Creed game.  I used to be able to run in and kill and infinite number of guards because I understand the combat system.  I can't do that anymore.  The enemies are much tougher and the game is better for it.  Now, I feel like a badass when I can stealth my way through a mission.  Also, they added co-op missions which are a ton of fun.

Most people should avoid this game.  If you're a die hard fan of Assassin's Creed, like me, you might want to pick it up anyway.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I think I'm done with Call of Duty.  I loved Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the follow up game, Modern Warfare 2.  They were amazing.  They're some of the best shooters that have been made.  I've wanted to like the Call of Duty games they've released since then but they just don't click with me anymore.

Advanced Warfare is another Call of Duty.  Now you have mechanical exo suits to help you do things like magnetically climb walls, slow down time, go invisible, and jump really high.  They sound like cool abilities on paper, but in practice you can only do that at very specific points in the story when you are prompted it.  It was extremely disappointing for me.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the game, the problem is that it's just not a series for me anymore.  I need to stop convincing myself that I'll like the newest version of the game.  If you're a Call of Duty fan I'm sure you already know if you'll pick this one up or not.

Dragon Quest I (iOS)
I missed having a mobile RPG.  Final Fantasy I through VI spoiled me.  I got used to always having a RPG ready to go in my pocket.  While I was playing through the next few Final Fantasy games on Vita it didn't bug me, but now that I'm tackling Final Fantasy XII on PC I'm beginning to realize how much I like having a mobile RPG.

Anyway, Dragon Quest I is good.  I've never played the series before, but so far I like it.  It has a different flavor than a Final Fantasy game but the old school charm is still there.  I love the way that I never see a game over screen in Dragon Quest.  If I die I just get sent back to my home castle and I retain all my levels and items.  It's encouraging me to really explore and not worry about being under leveled the way I would in a Final Fantasy game.  The turn based combat and RPG trappings are making me very happy.  I'm going to keep picking away at this game in 5-10 minute chunks until I finish it.


Final Fantasy XII: Emulating Legally
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 November 2014, 10:00 am


I was worried about how I was going to play Final Fantasy XII.  Almost every Final Fantasy game has either been re-released, remastered, remade, or released on multiple systems.  Final Fantasy XII is the only mainline game that hasn't been.  It is available on PS2 and that's it.  There's a rumor that it's going to get the HD remaster treatment the same way Final Fantasy X did, but a rumor doesn't do me any good right now.

I own a PS2 and a copy of Final Fantasy XII.  They're sitting in my closet right now.  The problem is I don't have any good spot to set up the console, I don't want to view the game in low resolution via composite cables, I don't want to be tethered via a hardwired controller, and I don't want to have to get to save spots to save my game.  I've been spoiled by my iOS and Vita games.  I need the ability to suspend or save anywhere.  It helps games fit into my life so much better.  The rest are just minor inconveniences but not having save anywhere or game suspend capabilities is huge for me.

That brings us to emulation.  I usually hate emulating things.  I like to pay creators for the work they've done and emulation is usually tied up with pirating.  I will gladly buy a game multiple times if it is released on new systems.  I re-purchased Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy X to be able to play them on my Vita.  I appreciate that the creators made them available on a modern system, so I'll happily pay for it.  That being said, it's not an option for Final Fantasy XII.

I did a little research and found out that, generally, it's ok to emulate if you own the game and rip your own .iso file of it.  Well, I do own the game.  I paid for it.  So, I did exactly that.  I ripped my own .iso file from the game I already owned.  I mean, it was just sitting in the closet.

Next, I dug into pcsx2, which is a PS2 emulator.  It's a fully featured emulator with tons of extra plugins and options.  One of the things I love about it is that it doesn't supply you with the PS2 bios.  You have to own a PS2 and retrieve your own bios out of it in order to play games.  So, I did.

Basically I'm using my own PS2 bios and an .iso of my own copy of Final Fantasy XII in order to play the game on my PC.  This is essentially as legal as emulation gets, which is why I wanted to share.  The only thing I downloaded was the emulator itself.  Everything else came from me.

Doing this emulation research has brought something very interesting to light.  Final Fantasy XII was actually made with high resolution textures.  You could never tell while playing it on PS2 because the native resolution is somewhere around 640 by 480.  But, playing it on a computer monitor via an emulator I'm able to crank the resolution up.

This game looks so good!  It's amazing that all this detail was hidden in the game the entire time.  I feel like it would be comparatively easy to give this game an HD remaster.  Most of the work is already done, it was just hiding!  It actually lends some credence to that rumor of a remaster coming along soon.

If you want to see it in motion, here is a video that someone else put together.  The settings and appearance of the game are very close to mine.

I played a little bit of Final Fantasy XII just to make sure my setup would work correctly.  It seems to be pretty solid and un-buggy.  For reference, I'm playing the game on a high end Windows gaming PC with a Xbox 360 controller.  I need to play more before I get some real first impressions written up about the game itself.

Another item of note, Final Fantasy XII has two versions.  I'm playing the original US version of the game, because it's the one I own.  In most other parts of the world you can get the International Zodiac Job System version of the game.  I won't be playing that.  I've heard it changes the progression mechanics in an interesting way but I have no way to play it legally.  So, I won't.  I'll just play my US copy of the game.

I know this was a long post to essentially say, "Here's how I'm playing the game." but I went through a lot to figure it out, so I wanted to share it with you.  Expect some real first impressions of the game soon.

Final Fantasy Project Article List




Final Fantasy XI: Not for Me
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 November 2014, 10:00 am


Let's talk about Final Fantasy XI and The Final Fantasy Project.  As I mentioned when I started this project, I'm not planning on including the MMO Final Fantasy games.  MMOs are living breathing worlds.  They're generally not good at telling a single player story.  But, at this point in my playthrough, I would be remiss to not mentioned a fully numbered mainline game.

My experience with Final Fantasy XI was short.  I bought it a few months after it launched and tried it out.  Based on the release date listed on Wikipedia, this would mean I was trying it out in the winter of 2004, about eleven years ago.

I didn't like the game.  I really wanted to.  I was a huge fan of Final Fantasy and MMOs by then.  I had played Final Fantasy VII through Final Fantasy X and enjoyed each one.  Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XI never clicked with me.

The biggest problem was most likely my experience with other MMOs.  By the time Final Fantasy XI came out I had already been playing Everquest for a long time.  I started playing it soon after it launched in 1999 and played EQ regularly with my friends throughout middle school and a little into high school.  This also inspired me to try out a ton of other MMOs as they launched.

EQ was my first MMO but by the time Final Fantasy XI came out I had probably already played four or five.  Compared to them, Final Fantasy XI just wasn't as good.  It already felt behind the times.

I played for less than two weeks and then gave up.  I've never gone back to it, and I don't plan to.

That's not to say it's a bad game.  It's just a game that's not for me.

I've heard from a lot of people who experienced Final Fantasy XI as their first MMO and they absolutely love it.  Some people on my twitter feed are still playing it.  I'm really glad it exists.  It engaged a whole new group of people with MMOs and Final Fantasy.  I count that as a good thing.

It's not the only Final Fantasy MMO either.  Final Fantasy XIV followed in it's footsteps.

I may be tempted to give Final Fantasy XIV a try when I finish my playthrough of the other single player mainline games.  It's a modern MMO on multiple platforms and I've heard a lot of good things about it.  It's still not a single player RPG, so no promises.  But... maybe.

Final Fantasy Project Article List




Final Fantasy X: Final Thoughts
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 November 2014, 10:55 am


I really enjoyed Final Fantasy X.  I finished the whole game in a week and a half.  That's the fastest I've finished any game in the series.  It hooked me and I was engaged enough to pick up the game every single night.

Overall, my initial impressions still stand.  This is a great game with wonder characters that interact in a well realized world.  The story is strong and drives the whole game.  It's not too difficult and very friendly for new players.  This is where I'm going to direct Final Fantasy newbies if they ask me where to start the series.

Compared to my initial impressions I did have a change of heart about the sphere grid.  I thought it was simply a gimmicky replacement for leveling up.  At low levels that's still true.  That changes when characters start to break out of their primary sphere grid path near the end of the game.  They get the option to cross over into other characters' paths or even teleport to the opposite side of the sphere grid.  It makes for some fun customization.  For example, Rikku's intended break out path is to go over to Lulu's section and start picking up black magic.  Instead, I teleported her over Auron's path and made her into a heavy hitter.  I thought it was hilarious.  She has this tiny attack animation and now it does massive damage.  I had fun with it.

Let's talk about a couple stylistic choices in the game.  These aren't objectively good or bad but they are worth noting.

In the Vita version there is a quick heal option.  Swipe the screen while walking around and a touch menu comes up with the option to heal via magic or items.  Touch the button and the game will automatically heal the party in the most efficient manner.  I love this feature.  Now I want it in every RPG ever.

There is no camera control in the game.  Even though this is the first Final Fantasy with a 3D world you are never able to look around freely.  You get to see what the game wants you to see.  It allows the developers to frame up excellent looking visuals but it does take away some agency from the player.

This game is linear.  There are a lot of corridors that obviously only lead one direction.  There are some paths that branch off and there are cities to help break up the linearity but there's no open overworld to explore.  Even after getting the airship there is still no traditional overworld.  The airship is just a menu with location names to pick.  It feels efficient, but it never truly gives a sense of scale to the world.

After getting the airship there are some optional sidequests to complete.  The problem with them is the length.  They are either too short or too long.  There are a handful that are basically go to a location and open a chest.  Those take almost no time.  There are a couple that are go to a location and kill a boss.  Those are still super short.  The other kind of quest is too long.  Things like kill ten of every monster in the game while equipped with specific weapons.  I know those long quests will appeal to some people, but they're definitely not for me.

Those are just some observations.  I have my opinions about them, but none of them are obviously bad.  Things that bugged me, like sidequest length, will appeal to other people.

Taken altogether what does this add up to?  Well, Final Fantasy X is easily the most friendly game for new players in the Final Fantasy series.  If you've always wanted to try a Final Fantasy game but you've been intimidated by the size of the series you owe it to yourself to try Final Fantasy X.  It is my number one recommendation for Final Fantasy newbies.

When it comes to personal preference it doesn't quite win top spot for me.  Final Fantasy IX still holds that place.  There is nothing I can point to and say Final Fantasy IX is better because of x, y, and z.  Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X are such different games that they're hard to compare.  This is especially true because of the jump between console generations.  After replaying Final Fantasy X I'm sure it's the favorite game of many people, but my heart still belongs to Final Fantasy IX.

Final Fantasy Ranking
1. IX
2. X
3. VIII
4. VII
5. VI
6. IV
7. V
8. II
9. I
10.III

Total Completion Time: 34 hrs 10 mins

Final Fantasy Project Article List




Final Fantasy X: Initial Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 October 2014, 10:24 am

I'm playing the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster on my Vita and I'm loving it.  The remaster is also available on PS3 or you can grab the original game on PS2.  Final Fantasy X is such a great game in the series.  It's another leap forward in console generations since it's the first Final Fantasy game on PS2.  I always knew that Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X were some of my favorites and this playthrough of Final Fantasy X is reaffirming that.

The setting is a technologically repressed world where a giant monster called Sin runs rampant.  Sin kills and destroys for no apparently reason.  An entire religion had been built around Sin and it's effects.  One of the outcomes of the religion is a group known as Summoners.  They can call on powerful mystical creatures known as Aeons to help them.  Summoners must journey throughout the world on a pilgrimage to gather all the Aeons.  Once they have done so, they can conduct a final summoning to banish Sin for a number of years.

The main characters of the story are a Summoner, Yuna, and the guardians that travel with her on her pilgrimage.  Tidus is the player controlled character, but all of the characters play a major role and are very fleshed out.

I think this Final Fantasy game has some of the most unique characters in the series.  There's a great variety to them.  Wakka is a religious technophobe with a love of Blitzball, the worldwide sport.  Lulu is a thoughtful black mage who was going to marry Wakka's younger brother before he was killed.  Kimari is an outcast from a race known as the Ronso and has been Yuna's guardian since she was a child.  Rikku is a thief from a group of people who ignore the religious teachings and work with machines.  And Auron, a mysterious figure from both Yuna and Tidus' past.  He has already completed a pilgrimage and has reappeared to help again.


Not to mention Yuna and Tidus.  Yuna is the most interesting character.  Her father was a summoner who completed the final summoning and died in the process, but managed to banish Sin for a time.  She is driven to follow in his footsteps and finds a lot of strength and courage along the way.  Tidus is surprisingly flat compared to the other characters, but it's probably so that you, as the player, can pour some of yourself into him.  He's a Blitzball player from an unkown place who was abandoned by his father at a young age.  Everything beyond that is basically Tidus just trying to figure out how this world works in comparison to his own.


The story and characters are really the stars of the show here.  With the leap forward from the PSX era to the PS2 era the developer was finally able to get characters to feel like humans.  They're all realistically proportioned, well animated, and are fully voiced.  Not to mention the graphics are so much better than the PSX era games.  Finally, our characters don't look blocky or misproportioned.

This is one of the first RPGs with a lot of voice acting.  Occasionally, you may run into an NPC with one line of dialogue that isn't important and they won't be voice acted.  But all the main characters and re-occurring side characters are voiced at all times.  The voice acting alone gives Final Fantasy X a different feel compared to every other game in the series.  Up until now, all of the emotion and inflection from characters has been done in our heads via text that we read.  Now the characters add emotion and variety on their own.

To it's credit, it usually succeeds.  There are a few cringeworthy lines and situations, but for the most part the voice acting works well.

And that's just one of the huge differences between console generations.  The other immediately noticeable change is the 3D world.  The 2D hand-painted backgrounds of the PSX era are gone and in their place is a 3D rendered world to explore.

The world is tied together by a beautifully crafted soundtrack.  In my opinion, this is the best overall soundtrack in any Final Fantasy game.  It perfectly compliments the world and adds a sense of depth to it.  While some individual tracks from other Final Fantasy games are better, there is no better soundtrack when taken as a whole.

Let's talk battle and progression.  The battle system finally moved away from the ATB system that has been in place since Final Fantasy IV.  That's six games in a row with essentially the same turn-order mechanic.  In Final Fantasy X we have returned to a purely turn-based system.  There are no timers running and turn order is clearly displayed on the right side of the screen.  Personally, I love this.  It gives me plenty of time to think about what I want to do and execute the best action.  No need to feel rushed or pressured.  It also means that, if I know what to do, battles can go very quickly because I don't have to wait for an ATB gauge to fill.  I don't know why they stayed away from turn-based combat for so long.


While only three party members are active in battle they can be switched at any time.  It's great to be able to leave your white mage out of battle until you need her, swap her in for a couple turns to heal everyone up, and then replace her with another damage dealer.

In the last few games I felt like I had a core team that I would always take into battle.  Some characters got a ton of play time from me and some basically got left out.  In Final Fantasy X it truly feels like your party is working together.  Each member of the party can help in every battle.  Why not have everyone contribute?  It makes a lot more sense than sending a few characters into battle while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs... I'm looking at you Final Fantasy VI through IX.

Battles give points which upgrade sphere levels.  Sphere levels are a little weird at first.  They're basically movements points on a giant progression board called the Sphere Grid.  You can choose where to move around the Sphere Grid and which nodes to activate.  Every activated node gives an increase in stats or unlocks a new ability.


It's interesting.  It's unique.  I don't really like it.  While you are given the "freedom" to move around as you see fit, there is really only one correct path for each character (except Kimari, he's weird).  Each character starts in a different area of the Sphere Grid and they are basically forced along an optimal path for much of the game.  It really comes down to being an overly complicated way to level up.  It's a cool idea, but I think it falls a little flat.

While I don't have much negativity about the game, I should mention the linearity.  I didn't remember from my original play through but Final Fantasy X is very linear.  Paths twist and turn but generally there is a single corridor that you're ushered down.  There's no open world map to explore.  You're kind of railroaded to the next plot point.  At least there are towns along the way to break up the linear corridor feeling to the game.  And there are still side activities like Blitzball and other mini games.  But while playing through the main story it's basically one path to follow.

All of this being said, I think that Final Fantasy X is the perfect game for a newcomer to the Final Fantasy series.  This is where I always recommend that new players start.  It's not too hard, it has a lot of modern gaming conveniences, it's fully voice acted, has relatable characters, and you won't get lost along the way.  Since it's available on PS2, PS3, and Vita it's also very accessible.  If someone asks you where to start, point them at Final Fantasy X.

This has been much more extensive than my previous initial impression posts.  Currently I'm about 6 hours into the game but Final Fantasy X just has so much to talk about.  I'll definitely write a wrap up when I'm finished, but I may do a few one off posts in between.  We'll see.  For now, I'm just going to play and keep enjoying the game.


Terra Battle Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 October 2014, 10:30 am
Mistwalker studios was founded by the creator of Final Fantasy, so I always keep an eye on what they do.  I don't always end up enjoying their games, but I like to give them a shot.

That brings us to Terra Battle.  It's a new game by Mistwalker studios and I've been playing it for the last couple days.  Terra Battle is a puzzle RPG game on iOS and Android.  For reference, I've been playing it on my iPhone.

It has some basic free-to-play mechanics.  There's a stamina system that slowly refills over time.  It costs a couple stamina to start a battle.  That hasn't actually limited my playtime at all.  I've never run out of stamina to the point where I couldn't do another battle.  It recharges really fast.  They also have a shop where you can buy heroes and items for real world money.  I haven't spent anything and I don't plan to.

The basic mechanics of the game are really interesting.  Use two or more units to flank an enemy and they will attack together.  Any other units that are in straight line of sight with the two units who are launching the attack they will also add their attacks to the battle.  It takes some basic positional thinking, but it's not too complicated.



The weird (and interesting) part is what actually happens during a turn.  You can move your unit an unlimited number of spaces by dragging them around but you're limited by time.  You have about five seconds to move your unit.  If you move your unit through another friendly unit it will cause that friendly unit to shift position.  Although your unit drag time is limited, your thinking time between drags is infinite.

What this means is that if you're fast enough and think ahead you can include every unit in every attack on every single turn.  Now, this will almost never happen but it's a fun goal to aim for.  Do you think you're fast enough to nudge every unit into position with the unit you're dragging?  It's a gamble, but a fun one.  If you misjudge, the character you're dragging will end up totally out of position.  It's all part of the risk/reward trade-off present on every turn.

I could see this game being a great game to play for a few minutes here and there every day.  I only have one problem with it.  The battles are a bit too long.  For a game that does so much right on mobile I'm surprised by how long the battles are.

Each battle is divided into five different phases.  Any given phase doesn't feel too long but put together the whole battle can get up to fifteen minutes.  I think if there were two or three phases per battle it would fit into my schedule much better.  I often have five minutes to give to a game but I don't always have fifteen.

This is completely a personal preference.  If you don't have two kids and a full-time job like me you probably have more free time.  If fifteen minute gameplay sessions fit into your schedule then you owe it to yourself to give this game a shot.  After all, it is free.


Open World Creed
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 15 October 2014, 12:23 pm
I finished Shadow of Mordor recently so I started looking ahead at other fall releases on my calendar.  I realized Assassin's Creed Unity is out soon and I hadn't finished Assassin's Creed: Black Flag.  I was still in the mood for some open world antics so I jumped back into my AC: Black Flag playthrough and picked it up where I left off.


Unfortunately, the main campaign of AC: Black Flag is really weak.  Looking through my archive, it doesn't seem like I even mentioned the game when I was playing it last year.  I have it for Wii U (because it was my only living console at the time) and I had put in over 30 hours.

I don't regret any of those hours I sunk into the game, because it's the best pirate simulator out there.  The open world exploration and pirating is so extremely fun.  I never got tired of seizing ships and stealing their goods.  The naval combat engine is fantastic and the feeling of being a pirate is just a ton of fun.


This time I was in it to finish the game, not to mess around in the open world, and that revealed how weak the story actually is.  I had played more than 30 hours and was only on Chapter 4 of the story out of 12 total Chapters.  I marathoned the rest of the game by doing story mission after story mission.  Even after finishing the game I never truly cared about the characters, they just weren't relatable in the same way they have been in past Assassin's Creed games.

But, I finished the game!  I flipped back over to my PS4 to see if there was anything else I wanted to check out before I dive into FFX HD and I noticed Assassin's Creed: Freedom Cry was on sale.  It's a stand alone expansion for Assassin's Creed: Black Flag.  I quickly looked up some reviews and they said it was a quick adventure with a better story than the main game it was based on.

So I played it.

It could just as easily be called Assassin's Creed: Slave Liberator.  It's all about the slave trade in the Carribean during the mid 1700s.  It actually has a compelling story with a main character that seems to have more personality than the main character from Black Flag.  It's a quick 4 hour game and I finished it in one playthrough.  I really enjoyed my time with it, much more than I enjoyed the campaign in Black Flag.  There's not problem with a 4 hour game.  I actually appreciate it these days when a game doesn't overstay it's welcome.

Now I'm mentally ready for Assassin's Creed Unity.

Would I recommend Black Flag or Freedom Cry?  Yeah.  Black Flag is the best pirate simulator you can find.  If that interests you, definitely pick it up.  If you want an engaging, but quick, Assassin's Creed narrative you're much better off with Freedom Cry.  It depends what you're looking for, but they're both good games.

But, to see something new and interesting in an open world setting I still think your best bet is Shadow of Mordor.  Playing these three games back-to-back put that into perspective.  Right now, if I were going to play around in an open world I would jump back into Shadow of Mordor.  The Nemesis system is just really cool.  I love messing with the orc army and having enemies emerge organically.  I felt more connected to some of my enemies in Shadow of Mordor than I felt toward the main character of AC: Black Flag.  I might just go back to Mordor and mess with the orcs again soon.


Shadow of Mordor: You Can Just Walk In
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 October 2014, 1:34 pm


Shadow of Mordor is so fun.  I haven't had a game grab me so quickly for a long time.  I finished the main story campaign in only three play sessions, but my play time was over 12 hours.  That's an average of over 4 hours for each play session which is crazy for me these days.   I liked the game so much that after I finished it I went back to just play around in the world.  I never do that.

Shadow of Mordor is basically a great blend of the Assassin's Creed and Batman Arkham series.... set in Middle Earth.  The stealth gameplay and assassinations are modeled after the Assassin's Creed format and the combat system is directly taken from the Batman Arkham games.  It makes for such a fun mix.  All the gameplay element are solid and the basic moment to moment gameplay is very fun.

The coolest part of the game is the Nemesis System.  The orcs have a hierarchy that is constantly in flux.  They challenge each other, gain in power, get killed, get replaced, and overall just jockey for position.  The cool part is that every orc with a rank of Captain or higher gets an individual name, personality, and traits.  One orc may be a drunk that's vulnerable to melee combat and scared of ghuls.  Another may be a battle master who is immune to all melee and ranged combat but is vulnerable to stealth.  They really feel like individuals.

When you encounter one of these high ranked orcs they taunt you and try to kill you.  If they succeed or escape they will gain in power and their traits may change.  You truly get to know these orcs as time goes on.

Early in the game I was in the middle of a big melee brawl.  I was low on health but holding my own against the horde around me.  But then an anonymous orc killed me with a lucky arrow from a nearby tower.  That orc was promoted to captain and hounded me off-and-on for the rest of the game.  In one fight I had him extremely low on health and he tried to escape.  I couldn't catch him but I took a couple pot shots with my bow while he ran off and one hit him in the eye.  The next time I encountered him he had a makeshift canvas eyepatch over that eye.  The time after that he had metal grafted over what used to be his eye.  By the end of the game he had a very distinct face because he continually improved his metal headgear as he moved up the ranks.

All of this happened organically, and that's the best part.  The story campaign is fine but the real meat of the game is messing around with the orc army in the open world.  That's where the true magic of Shadow of Mordor shows itself.

In the second half of the game you can even use your character's powers to bend orcs to your will.  I had a ton of fun turning Captains to my side and then slowly helping them work their way up through the orc hierarchy all the way to Warchief.

I anticipate Shadow of Mordor to be a game I go back to casually for quite awhile.  It's a great world to play around in and explore.  If messing with an orc army sounds like your cup of tea this is easily the best game for the job.


Put Destiny on Hold
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 October 2014, 10:59 am


I enjoyed the time I spent with Destiny.  I played it consistently for the first couple weeks and then off and on in the third week.  Now I haven't touched it for over a week and I can tell I'm done with it.

It's not a bad game.  But, like I pointed out in my impressions, it has some big flaws.

Since then I've progressed my character up to level 26 through light gear.  Occasionally it was fun, but mostly it was a grind.  I spent a lot of time doing the same content over and over again to gain reputation and marks that I needed to purchase higher level gear.

I also did a bunch of multiplayer to see if it would hook me.  It was entertaining for a day, but these days I'm not much of a fan of competitive FPS multiplayer.

I'm sure I played through the entire story campaign content and strike missions at least twice.  It was probably closer to three times.

I saw everything Destiny had to offer except the endgame raid.  I don't have the time to organize and participate in a raid, so that was never a big draw for me in the first place.  But, besides that raid, I can honestly say I saw every other piece of content in the game.

Even though I spent hours with the content I never once saw a legendary or exotic weapon drop.  The random number generator gods shunned me.  I saw lots of my friends get really cool gear to drop, but not me.  I got mine through pure grinding.  That's when I knew I was no longer having fun.

I wish Destiny was more than it is.  It still holds a lot of promise.  I hope they deliver on that promise in the expansions.  I'll probably end up checking them out when they release.  For now, Destiny can sit on my hard drive and wait for more content to come.  I'm putting it on hold until I see what Bungie decides to do with it next.


The Final Fantasy Project: Sidequests
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 September 2014, 2:14 pm
All through my mainline playthrough of the Final Fantasy series I've been thinking about what I'll do when I reach the end.  I decided I would like to start playing Final Fantasy games that aren't part of the main series.  A lot of Final Fantasy spin-off games sound like they would be a great fit for me.

I've played a handful of the spin-offs in the past.  I finished FFX-2, FFTA, and probably a couple other minor games.  I've dabbled in FFTA2, Theatrhythm, All The Bravest, Crystal Defenders, Crystal Chronicles, and many more without completing them.

If you can't tell by now, I love Final Fantasy.  It's one of the only series that I've had a consistent passion for over the years.

I plan on starting to get into these spinoff titles soon.  So if you see a post with "The Final Fantasy Project Sidequests" in the title you'll know what to expect.  I want to play around with as many spin-offs as I can.  Since I know they're very hit-or-miss I don't plan on completing them all, but I would like to get a taste of as many as I can get my hands on.  I mean, look how many there are.

Click to embiggen this fantastic flowchart

Let me know if you have any particular suggestions for my Final Fantasy spin-offs exploration.  You can tweet at me @grnmushroom or, as always, you can leave a comment below.


PS4 and Vita Remote Play
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 September 2014, 1:52 pm


I picked up a PS4 a couple weeks ago.  It was partially in anticipation of Destiny, but mostly because I knew I would be getting one eventually and the money worked out for it.

The big games I picked up are Infamous: Second Son and Destiny.  Infamous is pretty but there's nothing to it that I haven't already seen in an open world game.  Destiny is lots of fun but I don't know if it has staying power.  If you want to know more about that I wrote about it here.

Along with these, I also have all the free indie games I've gotten through PS Plus.  Super Motherload is one of my favorite indie games on the system, it's simple yet addicting.  Towerfall is intriguing too, although I haven't gotten people over to play it multiplayer yet.  Sony has promised to keep releasing at least two games per month on PS Plus for the PS4 so I'm excited to see what I get to try in the future.

I'm still just getting a feel for the system and the UI.  At this point I've had enough time with it to get a general impression of the console.  I really like it.  It's a solid system.  Time will tell if it was a worthwhile investment but I think it will be.  It's a console that should have many years ahead.

My favorite feature of the PS4 is actually a feature of my PS Vita.  Remote play!  I can play my PS4 from my Vita anywhere I have a stable internet connection.  Every PS4 game has to support remote play which means that any game you can play on PS4 you can now play on PS Vita.  It's amazing.

Destiny, in particular, is a fantastic remote play experience.  It has custom controls when being played on the Vita, which feel great.  They're slightly different from the controls on a PS4 controller but they completely make sense because of the Vita form factor (no L2 or R2 triggers).  I've regularly been playing a little bit of Destiny in bed each night as I wind down before sleeping.  It's a full console experience in the palm of my hand and I love it.


I've used remote play from my living room when others are using the TV.  I've played it from my upstairs bedroom.  I've played from my parent's house (miles away).  It's been a consistently good experience.  I still need to try it out at a coffee shop one of these days since I find the idea of playing my PS4 from Starbucks hilarious.  When I do, I'll make sure to report back.

At this point, I wouldn't recommend PS4 to most people unless there is an amazing exclusive game you want to play.  I think it's a really good console but you should probably wait for a bundle or price drop that appeals to you.

In the future I think the biggest feature of the PS4 is going to be remote play.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Sony talk that up more and more as time goes on.  It makes me wonder if a PS4 + Vita bundle would sell a lot of systems with the right marketing push behind it.


Destiny Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 September 2014, 12:15 pm


I'm taking another breather between Final Fantasy games.  In the week since I've finished Final Fantasy IX my most played game has been Destiny.

Destiny is a newly released multi-platform FPS by the creators of Halo.  It has the feel of Halo, Borderlands, and an MMO all mashed together.  I've been having fun with it but I don't know if it will have much staying power with me.  Since I'm a fan of both the FPS and MMO genres it falls in an interesting middle ground for me.

Destiny is set in the future across terraformed planets in our solar system.  Each planet has different sets of enemies to encounter and different styles of dungeons to explore.  The story and the world aren't well developed but the setting and landscapes are beautiful.

There are 3 classes to choose from, each with 2 subclasses and a variety of unique powers.  There is probably some replay value there.  I went with the Warlock because Space Magic is very appealing to me.  It's fun to encounter other classes while I play and see how they differ.  Hunters dart around with fast melee strikes while Titans shoulder rush in and can take a ton of damage.  It's your typical Fighter, Rogue, and Mage but it's been reskinned for a sci-fi setting.

A lot of the typical MMO endgame pitfalls are present, which is weird to see in a FPS.  There is a soft level cap at 20.  After that, you have to hunt for new gear in order to power up.  This should sound familiar to anyone who has ever gotten into MMOs.

The weird thing is that gear has a stat called "Light" which is unlike the other typical stats (attack, defense, intelligence, strength, discipline).  Gear with the Light stat only drops after hitting level 20 and Light actually pushes your level above 20.  So, a level 20 player who puts on gear with a bunch of Light may actually be level 26.  It's weird but it works.

Although the endgame is a bit different, it still has the standard gear treadmill.  I've always thought gear treadmills are the worst part about MMOs.  At the end of the game there is a limited amount of content which you have to repeat over and over again in the hopes of randomly getting better gear.  I hate this in MMOs.  I hate it here.



I'll probably play my level 20 Warlock long enough to experience all the endgame content once and get a couple Light levels.  Then I'll either make an alt or stop playing altogether.  I wonder how many other people will hit that point and stop playing too.

I've left out details about PVP, so I should touch on that.  I'm not a big fan of FPS competitive play, but it's present, has a variety of game types, and it seems pretty solid.  If you were a fan of the Halo competitive multiplayer experience I'm sure Destiny will fulfill that same need for you.  It's not a big draw for me, but I appreciate that it's an option if I want to add some variety to my gameplay experience.

I don't want to give the wrong impression.  I like this game.  It's a solid shooter with good core gameplay mechanics.  It has a ton of potential for future expansions to add more content and story.  I think this could be a good game long term, but I know it won't hold my attention for more than a few weeks in it's current form.

I hope they decide to release expansions and new story content regularly.  If they do, Destiny could morph into an amazing game.


Final Fantasy IX: Wrap Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 September 2014, 10:53 pm


Final Fantasy IX is so good.  It easily takes the top spot in my list out of the Final Fantasy games I've played so far.  Based on my past playthroughs of the later entries in the series I'm fairly sure Final Fantasy IX will stay right near the top from this point forward.  Final Fantasy X may give it a run for it's money, but I don't think Final Fantasy XII or Final Fantasy XIII will top it.

What makes it so good?  Lots.

Final Fantasy IX has a fantastic character driven story.  The characters organically grow throughout the game and their growth directly impacts the story.  Every single playable character ends up a different person because of their actions and experiences in the course of the game.  This is a first for the series.

Not only is the story character driven, but it unfolds in an organic manner that doesn't feel forced.  Characters come together and split apart for understandable reasons and the big "save the world" quest isn't thrust upon the team until the very end of the third disc.

The combat is classic.  The ATB battle system is in full swing and the four character party feels nostalgic.  There is more room to experiment with various character combinations with a four character party than there is with a three character party like we had in the last two games.  I also enjoyed the progression of character combat abilities.  Getting experience and ability points is a classic and easy solution to character progression.



Each character is a pre-defined class and that makes them feel more fully realized than characters from Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII.  In those two games, each character could easily swap all their abilities with any other character.  They had a very generic feel.  In Final Fantasy IX each character is unique and has skills that no other character can ever get.

I love the cast of Final Fantasy IX.  While they're all good, one deserves special mention.  Vivi!  Vivi is one of the best characters in the entire series.  He comes to terms with his own mortality and finds his place in the world through his actions.  He's the coolest black mage ever.



There are a couple problems with the game, but nothing major.  I've already written about it a few times, but the combat is just too slow.  It needs to be faster.  It's probably a result of hardware limitations but it still consistently bugged me.  I never got over how slow the battles are.

But there are so many other things to love about this game.  The story, the music, the world, the characters, the progression, the exploration, the FMVS.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I love this game.  I highly recommend it.

Final Fantasy Ranking
1. IX
2. VIII
3. VII
4. VI
5. IV
6. V
7. II
8. I
9. III

Total Completion Time: 37 hrs 55 mins




Final Fantasy IX: Partway Through
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 September 2014, 12:29 pm
Awesome Art from Abysswolf

I love this game.  I usually find some things worth criticism by this point in my playthrough, but I barely have any complaints.  I have one, but it's minor.  I'll get to that in a bit.

The story is so much more developed in Final Fantasy IX compared to the other games up to this point.  I'm fully invested in all the main characters.  I'm constantly interested in seeing what happens next.  There is real character growth and development.  The party splits up and comes back together organically and it gives the characters interesting plot points that diverge from each other.  I don't want to go into all the story details right now, but this is definitely my favorite Final Fantasy story up to this point in the series.

My only complaint is the battle speed.  It's slow.  I talked about it in my initial impressions but the more I play through the game the more it bugs me.  In the first 10 minutes of playing the game I went into the options and turned the battle speed up to it's highest setting.  That helped, but not enough.  Not only are the ATB gauges slow to fill, but the battle animations take too long as well.  Overall, it makes battles drag out when they really don't need to.

But that's it.  My only complaint so far.  I'll probably come up with a few more by the end, but I don't have them right now.

Right now I'm just enjoying the game.  I love the story, characters, music, visuals, and ability system.  I'm going to keep having fun with it and report back later.


Final Fantasy IX: Initial Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 August 2014, 2:10 pm


Final Fantasy IX my first replay that is actually holding up to my nostalgia for it.  I definitely had rose colored glasses on for Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, but they immediately came off when I started playing those games.  On the other hand, Final Fantasy IX is pretty much just the way I remembered it.

It may be my favorite Final Fantasy game out of them all.  Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X have always been the two at the top of my mind, but playing the whole series is giving me a new perspective.  I'm about 3 hours into this game and already it's my favorite out of the nine I've played for my Final Fantasy Project.  I'm sure I'll find more flaws in the game as I progress, but I doubt it will get any less than first place when I write my wrap-up for this game.  We shall see.

Starting the game up I was immediately hit by the stylized design of the world and characters.  By this point in the series the creators had figured out the limitations of the original Playstation and designed their game around it.  Hence, stylized characters instead of realistic ones.  The characters aren't blocks with hooves or smudgy looking realistically proportioned humans like in the last two games.  Each character has a unique look and feel to them.  They all have a distinct silhouette and body type.  It seems like a lot more attention is given to the character animations as well.  They show more emotion with the way they move compared to the last couple games.



The world is still designed in the same way as the previous two games.  There are pre-rendered backgrounds that the characters move on.  I don't know if, objectively, they're any better than the last two games.  But subjectively, I like them more.  I love the world they've created for this game.  It's a throwback to all the older Final Fantasy games before Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII got into sci-fi territory.

Already I've been reminded of one of my favorite aspects of Final Fantasy IX, Active Time Events.  They're called ATEs in the game and they're little character vignettes that happen away from the main POV character.  This lets supporting characters get a chance to be fleshed out and shine on their own.  These ATEs add entirely new perspective to the events happening in the game and I love them.  They're a fantastic little break in the action and a chance to get a glimpse of what other characters are up to.

I haven't even mentioned the main story yet.  It starts off with a bang!  A theater troop is flying into one of the largest cities in the world to put on a famous play for the queen and nobles of her country.  They're real goal is to kidnap the princess of the country and get away without anyone noticing.  In this opening chapter not only do you get to play as the roguish thief (and actor) Zidane but you get a chance to control Steiner while he tries to stop the kidnapping attempt and Vivi while he tries to sneak in to see the play.  I love the control of multiple characters, each of whom has their own goals.  It adds an interesting depth and sense of perspective to the story.

I need more time to experience the music, but I'm enjoying it so far.  It's stirring up memories for me of my original playthrough of this game.  I think the music in Final Fantasy IX might be my favorite overall score for a Final Fantasy game.  Final Fantasy VII through X all have great music, but IX may be my favorite.  As I said, I need more time with it to know for sure.

My only complaint so far is the battle speed.  The ATB gauges seem to crawl across the screen and I spend a lot of timing waiting for my characters to take their turn.  Even after I cranked up the battle speed to it's highest setting in the options menu it's still excruciatingly slow.  I can see this getting even more frustrating as the game goes on.

I'm at about 3 hours of playtime and already having a great time.  Expect more soon!


Final Fantasy IX: Preamble
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 July 2014, 12:30 pm


I'm nervous to start Final Fantasy IX.  I've always considered Final Fantasy IX and X to be my favorites in the series.  I'm afraid that they won't hold up to my favorable memories of them.

I had nostalgia for Final Fantasy VII and VIII, but not to this extent.  When they didn't hold up quite as well as I thought they would I was disappointed, but not crushed.

Now that I'm on the verge of starting Final Fantasy IX I'm finally realizing how much I've built it up in my mind.  I sincerely hope that these next two games hold up well.  In my memories, Final Fantasy IX has the best characters and character development in the entire Final Fantasy series and Final Fantasy X has the best complete package of a game.

I just needed to get this out there so that I can psych myself up to start Final Fantasy IX.  That's it for my ramblings... time to start.


Final Fantasy VIII: Wrap-Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 July 2014, 10:49 pm

Final Fantasy VIII was really good.  It's the most ambitious game in the series up to this point.  I honestly think it's better than Final Fantasy VII in every respect except for the battle system.

I love the storytelling in this game.  There is real character development finally!  They change and adapt throughout the game.  I had such a good time watching the characters grow.

I had forgotten, but Final Fantasy VIII is a time travel story.  Those are difficult to tackle but extremely rewarding when done well.  This is one where the execution is very good, not quite as good as Chrono Trigger, but still very good.

All the storytelling elements are better than previous games.  The FMVs and music that accompany the story are just fantastic.  The writing and dialogue is much more natural.

I completed this game while doing a low level playthrough.  I finished the game with my highest level character at level 17.  In the end I kind of broke the battle system because of it, but that's ok.  I didn't have trouble with any enemies in the game until I hit the final boss.

This guy is a pain

While I applaud their attempt to do a completely different battle system I don't think they succeeded in making one that's very fun.  I'm excited to get back to something more classic with the next entry in the series.

I don't even know what else to say about Final Fantasy VIII.  It's different from every other game in the series.  It truly tries to do it's own thing and for the most part it succeeds.  I liked this game a lot.  For me, it's currently sitting at the top of my Final Fantasy Ranking.

Final Fantasy Ranking
1. VIII
2. VII
3. VI
4. IV
5. V
6. II
7. I
8. III

Total Completion Time: 26 hrs 30 mins




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