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




Rewards for Playing vs Rewards for Winning
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 16 July 2014, 4:05 pm
While working on my Final Fantasy Project I've also regularly been playing Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.  Both are fantastic Blizzard games.  Hearthstone is their digital CCG and Heroes of the Storm is their new MOBA.

It's extremely interesting to see the way their incentives are structured.  Both games use in-game gold to let players buy goods.  In Hearthstone you can buy card packs or arena entries and in Heroes you can buy new heroes to play with.  Both games let you earn gold by playing in various ways.



The big difference is that Hearthstone rewards you for winning, while Heroes rewards you for playing.  I've found myself get more drawn into Heroes because of this.

In Hearthstone three wins will get you some in-game gold.  In Heroes you get experience for playing any game whether you win or lose.  That experience causes you to level up and at each level up you get gold.

Both games have daily quests.  Hearthstone daily quests usually take the form of "Win three games as a certain class" where Heroes daily quests are usually "Play two games as a certain hero type."



Can you see why Heroes gets more of my attention?  Any time I play a game I make progress toward a level up or completing a quest.  Even if I go on a losing streak I still have made measurable progress.  In Hearthstone if I go on a losing streak I get nothing.  If I stop playing for the night after a losing streak in Hearthstone I feel deflated but when the same thing happens in Heroes I feel just fine.

Both games are really good, but it's amazing how much the incentive structure can affect the fun I have in game.


Final Fantasy VIII Initial Impressions: Breaking the Game
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 July 2014, 8:39 am


I may have broken the junction system in Final Fantasy VIII.  I've beaten the first disc, my characters are still around level 12, and I can usually one-shot bosses.  Let me explain.

Going back to this game was intimidating because the Junction system is so complex.  I knew that I never really grasped it last time I played so this time I did research before playing.

Here are the basics.  This paragraph may hurt your brain, don't feel bad about skipping to the next one.  Your character only has one command (Attack) unless you junction a Guardian Force (GF).  Guardian forces are summons, but they also grant you commands, abilities, and let you junction magic as long as they're junctioned to you.  Commands that can be equipped are things like Magic, Item, GF, Mug, Card, Draw and others.  These let your characters actually do things other than attack in battle.  Now that a GF is equipped you can junction magic!  But first, you need to acquire magic through drawing or refining.  Draw is a command that lets you pull magic out of enemies and store it.  It's slow and tedious.  You can also refine magic from items.  That's less tedious, but still time consuming.  Often, to get the items you want so that you can refine the magic you're after you will need to play the card game or turn enemies into cards.  Anyway, now you have some magic, good job.  Once you have some you can junction that magic to a character stat and increase that stat.  If you use any of that magic it will be pulled out of your reserves and it will have less of an affect on that stat.


An example I found of someone junctioning magic to stats.

The way I started to break the game is by realizing that increased stats have a much larger impact at low level.  So, I went about collecting as much magic as possible and junctioning it while avoiding as much experience gain as I could.  My characters who have a base HP of around 500 at their current level now have around 3000.  They used to hit for 70ish damage until I junctioned powerful magic.  Now they hit for 1k-2k damage.  I think I broke the junction system a bit.

I actually ended up playing the in game card game, triple triad, for many hours.  I did this to experience the card game but also to acquire cards that I could refine into even better magic for junctioning.

I had a ton of fun digging into this system.  I actually spent about 6-7 hours just trying to accomplish magic acquisition and juntioning without pushing the story forward at all.  I love digging into intricate systems, so it was a fun challenge for me.

Now I'm cruising through the game enjoying the story and destroying everything in my way.  It also helps that I picked up an ability that changes the random encounter rate to 0.  Basically, I play through the story and only have to fight bosses now.  Which I usually 1-shot.

Because of all this, I'm just flying through the story now.  I'm onto disc 2 (of 4) and I'm really enjoying the presentation.  The modeling and animation are much improved over Final Fantasy VII and the FMVs are better incorporated.  A lot of the transitions are seamless between gameplay and FMV.  The overall story still feels like it's very early even though I'm on disc 2.  I like the setting and the general plot so far, but I don't feel like I've played enough to talk about the overarching story.


I'm finding Final Fantasy VIII to be fairly fun.  In some ways it's better than FFVII and in some ways it's worse.  I need to get more playtime under my belt before I make any sweeping generalizations.


Suspend / Resume
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 July 2014, 10:05 am
Right now one of the most important features to me is the ability to suspend and resume a game whenever I need to.  I have 2 little kids (under 4 years old), so when I'm at home they always take priority.  When I game I need to be able to stop at any moment to help them out or spend time with them.  It's given me a completely new appreciation for good suspend and save features.

Save anywhere is really nice to have, especially if it's quick to do.  But even better than that is the ability to instantly suspend a game.  This is why I've been spending so much time with my 3DS and Vita.  With the 3DS I can just close the lid and know the game will be in the exact same spot when I come back.  The Vita is just as easy with the PS button which instantly suspends the current game.  This is easily the best feature of these systems for me.

Another awesome thing I've found is on the Wii U and 3DS virtual console.  Virtual console titles are games from the NES era through the N64 era that are emulated on the current Nintendo systems.  They have the idea of restore points.  A restore point can be created with the push of two button (one button gets you into the virtual console menu, one creates the restore point).  Because they're on virtual console it's possible for me to go back and enjoy some NES and SNES classics since they now essentially have a save anywhere feature.  It's very similar to save states in most emulators on PC, but it's fantastic to see Nintendo support this idea on consoles!

The reverse side of this is playing games without a good save system or playing games online.  If I want to play those types of games I need to wait until late at night when I'm positive my kids are sleeping.  This limits my play time to around 2-3 hours at night and that's if I do absolutely nothing else with my night (which is rare).  So, while I love Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm right now, they're games that I can't play very often.  There are limited times when I can play them.  I can't even imagine trying to play an MMO at the moment.  It's totally infeasible.

I don't begrudge my kids for a second.  They're amazing and they'll always take priority.  And they're turning into little gamers themselves.  Pretty soon I'll have a little Player 2 and Player 3 all the time!  But it's just amazing how much kids have changed my gaming patterns.


Half Minute Hero
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 June 2014, 11:22 am


A game that looks like an RPG but plays like a time management puzzle.  That's what you're in for if you pick up Half Minute Hero.

I feel as if I'm on the verge of starting Final Fantasy VIII.  I've had a good break since finishing FFVII, but I'm still playing around with other games in the meantime.  Half Minute Hero has been one of them.

Despite that title image up there, this is actually a pixel-fest when it comes to graphics.  It has an old-school RPG charm to it that initially drew me in.

The best part of Half Minute Hero is the premise behind the game.  You have 30 seconds to save the world.  Your character always starts at level 1 and levels up by defeating enemies.  There are ways to reset the clock while keeping your progress, but even so, one round of the game typically lasts less than 5 minutes.  Every level is like playing one bite sized RPG.

I picked it up on sale via PSN, but I know this game is out on most platforms.  It's an older game too, so it tends to be cheap.  Take a look at it if you're a RPG or puzzle game fan.


Final Fantasy VII Honest Trailer
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 June 2014, 12:00 pm
I don't often embed videos on this blog, but I found this hilarious after just finishing Final Fantasy VII.





Evergreen Gaming
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 June 2014, 8:09 am
Once again I find myself between Final Fantasy games.  That means it's time for some evergreen games before I dive into the next entry in the series.  For me evergreen games are those that have self-contained play sessions and no real "end" to the game.

First up is Mario Kart 8.   Even though it's not much of a change from Mario Kart 7 it's a lot of fun and I'm enjoying my time with it.  The biggest improvements are HD graphics and better online play.  It's Mario Kart.  If you like Mario Kart you will love Mario Kart 8.  If you don't like Mario Kart you should skip it.  You basically know what you're getting.

Hearthstone has gotten a ton of my time.  Now that it's on iPad it's perfect to play while watching TV on the couch or laying in bed before falling asleep.  I love that the games usually run somewhere in the 5-15 minute range.  I know I can sit down and play without having to commit to long play sessions.  It's easily the best digital card game out there on the market and it has the customary Blizzard level of polish.  Once this comes out on smartphones I know it's going to get even more playtime from me.

Heroes of the Storm is another Blizzard game that has my attention.  I got into the Alpha for it last week and I'm enjoying the changes they've made to the traditional MOBA playstyle.  They've simplified parts of the genre that I hated.  There are no items to buy.  There is no micromanaging attacks against creeps.  There are no individual levels.  This means no one can ever mess up their build or get left behind as their teammates level up.  It encourages teamwork and experimenting with different hero setups.  Another thing I love is getting to pick my hero before queuing up.  No longer can you get complained at by 4 other people because they wanted you to pick something different during the hero select screen.  I've only had a couple days with it, but I really like Heros of the Storm so far.

And (kind of) lastly, is Attack of the Friday Monsters.  It's an exploration game set based around the idea of 60s/70s era Japenese monster shows.  It's weird.  I like it.  It's been mostly about exploring the world and interacting with other characters while slowly revealing more about them and the giant monsters that show up in the real world every Friday night.  I love the feeling of the town and the exploration.  There's a card mini-game tacked on too, but it's nothing special, the real star is the world they've created.

I've also played Super Mario 3D World, Luftrasers, and Mario Golf in the past few days but I don't have much new to say about them.  They're good and they're fun.  Maybe I'll dig into them more later.

Expect me to cruise along on these games for a week or two before I jump into Final Fantasy VIII.


Final Fantasy VII: Final Thoughts
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 June 2014, 8:35 am

I finished!  I had a lot of fun revisiting this game for the first time in more than ten years.  I'm glad I got to see it again and from a new viewpoint.  I also don't think I'll be replaying Final Fantasy VII again.  I don't see that happening in my future unless it gets a full remake.

I almost feel guilty.  I didn't enjoy Final Fantasy VII as much as I thought I would.  It's the game that got me into the Final Fantasy series.  It brought JRPGs to an entirely new level.  It paved the way with it's 3D graphics and Full Motion Videos.  It was groundbreaking... but it doesn't hold up that well.  Time has diminished it's accomplishments.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad game.  It's a GOOD game in fact.  The problem is that I'm revisiting it and nostalgia had blinded me to it's shortcomings.  This is still a fantastic Final Fantasy game.  Out of the seven that I've played in the course of this project it's still the best.  It's going at the top of my list for now.  It's just not as good as I remember.

It's also a game that I would never recommend to newcomers to the series.  It's not a good place to start.  There are too many things that could turn people away from the series forever.  Mostly it's game conventions that have been updated and streamlined over the years.  Going back to Final Fantasy VII feels a bit clunky.

My impressions were so-so up through the beginning of disc 2 (of 3).  The game really picks up after that.  There are big set pieces and really cool action sequences.  Escaping Junon, the confrontation at under the city of the ancients, parachuting into Midgar, the final battle with Sephiroth.  They're all really good.  The second half of disc 2 and all of disc 3 had me hooked.  Once I hit that point I spent every spare gaming moment on pushing forward to the end.  I can definitely say the last fourth of the game is excellent.



I also enjoyed the character specific sidequests for Yuffie and Vincent.  They're both fairly short, but they help flesh out the characters a little bit.  I wish the game had more character specific activities and sidequests for the other characters, but it doesn't.  Character specific sidequests are typically a highlight for me.  I hope the next couple games keep expanding on this.

I did a bunch of optional activities and exploration.  I collected a handful of ultimate weapons and final limit breaks.  I ended up having a lot of fun exploring the world while improving my characters.  I never had to grind, although I explored a lot so my characters were decently leveled.

Final Fantasy VII is a classic.  It was groundbreaking at the time it was released.  It redefined the genre.  It's a good game.  Even though it didn't live up to my memories it's still going at the top of my rankings.  But, like I said earlier, it would take a remake or remaster of this game to get me to play it again.

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

Total Completion Time:
30 hrs 27 mins


Final Fantasy VII: Optional Characters
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 June 2014, 2:52 pm
Let's talk about Yuffie and Vincent, the optional characters in Final Fantasy VII.  I decided to use Yuffie as part of my core team in this playthrough.  I found her early and she's been in my party as much as possible since then.  I've never used her this much before and it's interesting to see the dialog she adds to scenes.  I really like her.



It often feels like she's outside the main story, but in an interesting way.  She has off-handed comments about the choices characters are making.  Although she doesn't directly break the fourth wall I feel myself relating to her because of these asides.

Her motivations aren't as complicated as the other characters, and it makes her easy to like.  She doesn't have angst or conflicting memories and emotions.  She wants Materia and she'll do whatever she needs to do to get it.  Maybe I just like her because I'm also on the hunt for Materia and I want to collect it all!  She's also the closest thing to a ninja in the FFVII universe, so that's cool.

On the other hand, Vincent is a little too serious for me.  He's very brooding and doesn't have a lighthearted bone in his body.  His story is more directly related to the main story than Yuffie's is, so he definitely has to be more serious.  I just didn't find him as enjoyable to have in my main party.  He gets to wait on the sidelines.



There are a few times that specific characters need to be in the party for quests.  Whenever that isn't the case my main party is now Cloud, Tifa, and Yuffie.  I'm probably going to keep it that way until the end of the game.

I'm now sitting at 20 hours of play time and I'm on disc 2 out of 3.


Final Fantasy VII: Open Worlds and Shining Systems
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 June 2014, 12:00 pm
I got out of Midgar and took a metaphorical breath of fresh air.  Finally!  The open world lay before me and I was going to explore it.  And explore it I have.

Compared to the last time I posted I'm having so much more fun with Final Fantasy VII.  I love the feel of an open world to explore in a JRPG.  It's a different feeling from an open world game from the west like GTA, Assassin's Creed, or Skyrim.  It's more abstracted and not as detailed, but it has it's unique charm.



I've been having fun wandering the overworld map and battling random enemies.  I've actually started hunting for enemy skills to acquire, which is something I don't typically do in Final Fantasy games.  Blue magic typically seems boring to me, but I'm interested since it's contained in a Materia this time.  I haven't really been grinding so much as exploring more than I strictly need to.  I just want to take in the world and poke at it's boundaries.

I also feel like this gives the story a better pace.  No longer am I constantly getting exposition info dumps from the characters.  The story is growing more organically and the overworld portions break it up nicely.

The most fun I've had so far is really getting a chance to play with the battle/materia system.  The battle system is a fairly standard ATB system from other Final Fantasy games.  Three characters are in your party and they each get to take an action when their ATB meter fills up.  They also have Limit Breaks, which are super powerful abilities that charge up each time the character takes damage.



In the open world, with random battles, there's some room to experiment and the Materia system starts to shine.

Materia is the unique aspect of FFVII.  Attack, Defend, and Item are always available to each character.  To use any other ability or Magic that character needs to equip Materia.  Each weapon and piece of armor comes with a number of slots that will hold Materia for that character.  Materia comes in the form of spheres that each have a unique ability.  For example, each spell type is its own Materia.  If you equip Lightning Materia on Cloud he will be able to cast the magic spell Bolt.  If that Materia goes through enough battles it will gain experience and level up.  At that point Cloud will be able to cast Bolt and also Bolt2, a powered up version of the first spell.



The interesting part of Materia is that it's independent of characters.  I can level up a set of Materia on Cloud and then move it all to Tifa and she will have the exact same skillset and abilities that he used to have.  It makes for a lot of customization options.  It also encourages playing around with different set ups since you don't have to permanently commit Materia to one person.

I've been switching Materia and characters a lot up to this point.  I'm not sure who my core team is going to be yet.  Cloud is obvious.  I'm leaning toward Tifa as my second.  In past playthroughs I've used Barret as my third, but he's not as appealing to me this time around.  Maybe I'll try one of the optional characters in that spot because I never have before.

Overall my opinion is much improved over my first post.  I don't know when I'll chime in next, but I'll definitely have more thoughts on FFVII for you later.


Final Fantasy VII Initial Impressions: Midgar
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 June 2014, 11:33 am


I'm currently about 8 hours into my playthrough of Final Fantasy VII and my feelings are mixed.  This is the third time I've played this game, and it will be the second time I've played it all the way to the end.  The last time I played was over ten years ago on the original Playstation.  This time I'm playing that same version, but through the PS1 classic option on my Playstation Vita.  I still have memories of all the major characters and plot points, but the nitty gritty details are slowly coming back to me as I play.

My first reaction with the intro sequence was, "Wow! Here we go!"  I love the very beginning of the game where Cloud leaps off a train and charges directly into a raid on a Mako reactor.  What a way to start!  Get the player engaged with no downtime or preamble.  This is done extremely well.

My second reaction, after the Mako reactor raid, was one of surprised frustration.  I had forgotten how linear and scripted Midgar is.  Midgar, for those who don't know, is the megacity in the world of FFVII and it's where you spend the first portion of the game.  There is basically only one way forward, it's explicitly spelled out, and it's full of exposition.  My god, the exposition.  It's a huge info dump early in the game and it definitely hurts the pacing.



Very quickly I started looking forward to leaving Midgar and getting to the open world.  Unfortunately, I forgot just how long Midgar takes to play through.  It's easily the first 6 hours of the game.  And that's for someone who has played through it before and knows what to do.

Now don't get me wrong, Midgar is an interesting setting.  The energy-sucking megacity is imposing and impressive.  The set pieces and backgrounds are beautiful and still hold up today.  They are extremely detailed because the game has a fixed camera position, which means each background can be hand drawn with great precision.  It looks great!  But, essentially, it's a straight path.  It actually made me think of the endless corridors of FFXIII even though it wasn't quite that linear.

My other initial letdown was with the character models.  In my mind's eye, with nostalgia in full-force, the characters were expressive and unique.  In reality, they are blocky polygons with hooves for hands.  You can barely see their eyes most of the time, much less their facial expressions.  I know there are some mods out for the PC version that helps this out but since I'm playing the PS1 classic version on my Vita it doesn't help me.



So, what's to like?  The characters are deeper and more developed than any other Final Fantasy game up to this point.  The battle system and materia system are interesting, but at this point in the game they haven't had quite enough time to become fun.  The set-pieces and setting are well done and memorable.  The story is epic in scope.

At 8 hours in I still feel like I'm just getting to some of the main story hooks.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just a change from previous games.

My initial impressions with FFVII weren't great.  This is basically how I felt for the first 6 hours of the game.  But now I'm a few hours past Midgar and I'm having a lot more fun with the game.  Expect more thoughts on that in the next post, once I've had more time to explore the open world.


Rapid Fire Gaming
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 May 2014, 11:16 pm
While I've been taking this short break from my Final Fantasy Project I've mostly been playing Chrono Trigger, but that's not all.  In anticipation of the next couple Final Fantasy games I picked up a Playstation Vita (to play FFVII through FFX).  I've had an active PS Plus subscription for awhile so I had a bunch of free Vita games waiting for me when I bought it.  I've been trying out all of the games I could download through PS Plus and I picked up a few others too... so here are my rapid-fire impressions.

Keep in mind, I think I only spent about $15 total (besides my Vita bundle) to get these games.

Thomas Was Alone
This is a fantastic platformer.  I never thought a bunch of rectangles could get me emotionally invested.  Easily one of the top games on this list for me.  If you are a platformer fan, Thomas Was Alone is probably on a console/PC that you own and you should buy it.  I fully endorse Thomas Was Alone.

Luftrausers
I actually spent money on this one.  It's a really fun arcade style plane flying / bullet dodging shooter.  It's lots of fun, especially in short bursts.  If you see it on sale for $5-$10 buy it.

Gravity Rush
Surprisingly good game that I had no prior knowledge of.  You can defy gravity and fly around a floating town.  It's fun and it looks like a full console game.  Great visuals.

Borderlands 2
Nothing surprising here.  It's borderlands 2.  There aren't as many characters on screen and it's definitely lower res than PC or console... but it's portable.  If you want a portable Borderlands game, this is it.

Muramasa Rebirth
A beautiful (really, seriously beautiful) Vanillaware beat-em-up game.  Lots of sword fighting.  Amazing visuals.  Gameplay is serviceable, but I'm just constantly amazed at how it looks in motion.

Wipeout 2048
Racing isn't my favorite genre but this seems to be a solid futuristic racer.  I won't put much time into it, but if you like futuristic racers you might want to take a look.  It could scratch that F-Zero itch.

Uncharted Golden Abyss
It feels like they tried to cram every touch gesture into this game even though it doesn't need it.  I was very underwhelmed by the gameplay and frustrated with the touch controls.

Monsters Ultimate HD
Not the best tower defense game I've played, not the worst.  I'll probably play it some more, but I wouldn't have spent money on it.

Retro City Rampage
This game is spastic.  It's kind of a top-down GTA / retrofest.  It didn't click with me at all.  I gave up on it after about 30 minutes.

Hotline Miami
I played through this on PC awhile ago.  I enjoyed it PC and the Vita version seem to control just fine.  It's not a game I liked enough to play through again.

Everyday Shooter
I really liked this game on PC.  I can't stand the controls on Vita.  It should be a twin-stick shooter but it isn't for some reason.

Stealth Inc
More of a puzzle game than a stealth game.  I got bored of it after 45 minutes or so.  I don't see myself going back to it.

Velocity Ultra
It's a fairly interesting vertical scrolling shooter.  It does some unique things with teleporting your ship around the screen while the action is going on.  I might put more time into it, but it's not my favorite genre.

ModNation Racers
Horrible racing game.  Don't even bother.

Sonic Transformed
Out of all the racing games I tried, this is the best.  It's probably the closest thing to Mario Kart you can find on the Vita.  I actually liked it.  If I didn't own a 3DS with an actual Mario Kart on it I would put a lot of time into this game.

Soul Sacrifice
Weird 3rd person action RPG.  Gorey for no apparent reason.  I hated the controls and the setting.  Would not recommend.

Street Fighter X Tekken
It's a fighter.  I don't love fighters, but this one seems decent.  I won't play much of it, but fighting fans would probably really enjoy this one.

Surge Deluxe
A puzzle game with a lot going on.  This would be a better fit on iOS or android because it seems to not use anything on the Vita except the front touch screen.


There you go, a ton of initial impressions.  If you have any questions or want to talk more in depth about these games leave a comment or reach out to me on twitter @grnmushroom.


Chrono Trigger Break
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 May 2014, 9:30 pm

I've been a little quiet here for a couple reasons.  The main one is that I got laid off from my job and went into overdrive looking for a new one.  For the moment I'm doing freelance web development for a start-up agency and loving it, so don't worry about me.  Once that was under control, I looked at what was next up for The Final Fantasy Project (FFVII!) and decided that maybe I should take a break and enjoy a non final fantasy game before I make the leap to the Playstation era.

Thanks to some twitter and blogger friends - like Syl and TishToshTesh - I decided it was time to finally play Chrono Trigger.  I don't know how I've avoided this game my whole life.  I obviously love a good JRPG and Chrono Trigger always makes it into the top lists of best RPGs ever.  So, it was time to get to it.


I'm so glad I did!  Chrono Trigger is a fantastic RPG.  I'm not even done with it yet but it's easily in my top two RPGs of the SNES era.  I'm not sure if I like it or FFVI more.  It's hard to form an opinion like that before I finish.  It does a lot of really smart things that just weren't commonplace at the time.

Coming from playing a bunch of Final Fantasy games in a row, the biggest difference in Chrono Trigger is no random battles!  Let me say that again, NO RANDOM BATTLES!  It's so nice to be able to actually see the enemies and choose whether or not to engage them in battle.  It also goes a long way toward making the world more immersive since it doesn't kick over to a separate battle screen.  Combat all takes place without any transition or load time.


I don't want to try to write a comprehensive review right now, but a few key things stand out:
  • Large sprite characters look really good on screen.
  • Time travel is so cool when it's done right, I wish more games would get creative with it.
  • There is no grind at all.
  • The music is extremely well done.  I could probably write a whole post about it.
  • The characters are diverse and unique.
I might come back and write up more about these things later but also maybe not.  I'm close to finishing the game (I think) and I'm excited to jump into FFVII.  I just want you to know, if you've ever wondered if Chrono Trigger is worth your time, the answer is yes!



Final Fantasy VI
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 April 2014, 10:12 am


Final Fantasy VI is really good.  It's the first Final Fantasy that I can see myself going back and replaying for fun.  The setting and game systems are good but the true heart of this game is the story.  Just FYI, there will be some spoilers in this review.

FFVI is set in an industrial world that exists generations after a magic war caused all magic to be lost from the world.  It's the first Final Fantasy to get out of the classic medieval fantasy setting.  I didn't realize how ready I was to get out of that setting and see something different and in this regard FFVI is a breath of fresh air.  And the world isn't just about going from point A to point B like so many Final Fantasy games up to this point.  There is really a world to explore, especially once the story causes it to change irrevocably.



Worth mentioning is the Mode 7 in this game.  Mode 7 is a technique used on the SNES to fake 3D with 2D.  It has a very distinct look.  It's the first time the overworld of a Final Fantasy game can be explored from a new perspective.  Once I got the airship I had a great time cruising around in Mode 7 and seeing the world in a new way.

FFVI has an ATB system just like the last two.  The iOS version I played made some great decisions, like having the character bars build up from the bottom, that really make it more mobile friendly.  Leveling up is pretty standard but each character can join with Espers and learn magic from them.  Espers can also be summoned and are powerful magic creatures and they tie into the story heavily.  On top of this, each character also has a unique skill.  Terra can enter a Trance state, Celes can nullify magic with Rune, Edgar can use custom Tools to attack.  It's different for every character.  My favorite is Sabin, who takes multiple button inputs to unleash cool martial arts moves with his Rush ability.

Each character has a unique ability because each character is truly unique.  That brings us to another interesting aspect of the game.  There is no main character.  How many games don't actually have a main character?  Not many.  Somehow FFVI succeeds even though it's true.  There are 14 playable characters and while they aren't all fleshed out, most of them are.  12 of them tie into the main story.  2 are optional, but interesting nonetheless.



I don't want to spoil too much of the story, but there are a few things that I'm sure will stick with me... like when the main villain succeeds in destroying the world!  I couldn't believe it at first!  The game is bold enough to let the heroes fail miserably and try to pick themselves back up again.  I haven't experienced anything else in an RPG like waking up with a single character on a deserted island in a post-apocalypse which I had failed to stop.  I wish more stories would take risks like this.

I've also never played an RPG that has an opera in the middle of it.  An actual opera with music and lines to memorize.  It's such a shift in the tone of the game, but it pans out beautifully.  The music from the opera scene was stuck in my head for days afterward and I was delighted to find a remastered version online.



The story contains more adult themes than previous games.  I don't mean "adult" as in violent or sexual.  I'm talking about the cost of making bad choices.  Striving for redemption afterwards.  What is it like for love to slowly form over time and be more complicated than "I like you, now we're in love."  There are characters which actually have a family that matters to them and is an integral part of their story.  Even the question of what is worth living for is addressed.  I was happy to see the change away from simple storytelling and the move towards the more complexity with nuances.

Having completed Final Fantasy VI now brings me to the halfway point in the mainline series, so it's probably time to start looking at how the games are stacking up in my mind.  I'll be updating this with each game from here on out.  For me, this is how it stands after the first six games.

Final Fantasy Ranking:
1. VI
2. IV
3. V
4. II
5. I
6. III

For the storytelling and compelling characters, FFVI takes the top spot easily.  I really liked the story and character driven plot in IV, which comes in second.  V had a great job system, but I didn't enjoy the story or the characters.  II was an interesting take on the leveling system, but it definitely shows it's age.  I is classic and it's the game that started it all, but it too is showing it's age.  I hated III, I just hated it.  It was the game that required the most grind and had some of the most obtuse ways to push the plot forward.  I hated it so much that it took me about a year and a half to actually suffer through it.  FFIII is the one Final Fantasy that I actively try to keep people away from.

That's just a quick summary of my feelings up to this point.  From here onward I'll just be updating with the latest game that I drop into the rankings.

As far as Final Fantasy VI goes, I had a great experience with it.  I would highly recommend it to any JRPG fan.

Total Completion Time:
25 hrs 4 mins


Fantasy Guidance
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 March 2014, 11:29 am
I wanted to take a chance during this break between games to talk about strategy guides.  I've been using them a lot lately.  The JRPG genre in general tends to have more use for guides than other genres and Final Fantasy is no exception.

I've used a strategy guide for four out of the five games I've played so far.  The game I did guide-less was FFIV.  I actively needed the guides for the other games.

That's the sad part, guides are basically a necessity for so many of these games.  It's really easy to get stuck in the early Final Fantasy games.  There are sections where the only option would be to wander the world aimlessly searching for hours... or look at a strategy guide for five minutes.  I will almost always choose the guide at that point.  Not to mention how easy it can be to get stuck somewhere and not be able to go back.  In a few places it's a very real possibility that you can get stuck in an area that is too high level for you.  And if you saved your game there and don't have a backup save you can be entirely screwed.

The iOS versions have gone a long way toward making it less possible for a player to get stuck somewhere with a bad save spot.  Although, they don't do much to help guide the player in the aimless wandering situations.

One of the reasons I loved FFIV so much was because it did such a great job of guiding me from place to place.  It did such a good job that I never needed to look at a guide.  This is one of the other places that FFV didn't live up to it's predecessor.  I was confused about where to go next a number of times.  In FFIV I always felt like I knew where to go, but I still had freedom to explore the world.  I didn't have to go to the next plot point immediately.  It wasn't linear and confining.  The main path was just well defined by the story.

Here's the way I've been approaching it.  I start a game and just play.  If I hit a spot where I get confused, lost, or feel like I could potentially miss an important item or character I'll look at a guide.  If looking at the guide gets me back on track I ignore it again and just play.  If I have to go back to the guide a second time... I find one that I like and commit to using it throughout the rest of the playthrough.

In case you're wondering, I've been using fan created guides on Gamefaqs.  Most of the time these are actually better than the "official" guide because they've had years to improve on them and find out secrets about the game.

I'm about to start FFVI.  I'll start without a guide but will probably end up using one.  From what I've heard, this is a Final Fantasy game with a lot of characters and I don't want to miss any of them.


Final Fantasy V
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 March 2014, 1:11 pm

Final Fantasy V was ok.  I finished it, but I wasn't inspired enough to write about it while I was in the middle of playing.  That should probably tell you something about how I feel about the game.  It was fine.  It wasn't bad.  There is no single thing I can point to and say "I hated this."  But, overall, it simply didn't click with me.

The story is perfectly serviceable.  It had semi-interesting characters, multiple worlds, Cid, Moogles, Chocobos, an airship, and an evil villain.  Exdeath, the big bad of this game, even had a more complicated plot than "destroy the world by destroying crystals."  Not much more complicated, but at least it's a step up from FFI, FFII, and FFIII.  The story was definitely better than those games.  My biggest problem with it is that it just isn't as good as FFIV.  It feels like a step back in terms of storytelling quality.



Maybe that's my overall problem with FFV.  It's not as good as FFIV.  FFIV did so many things in new and interesting ways and it executed a fantastic character driven story.  FFV is, no question, better than I-III but it doesn't reach the level of FFIV.

It doesn't help that I had played Bravely Default immediately before starting FFV.  After playing both games it's obviously that the job system from FFV was a direct predecessor to the job system in Bravely Default.  The problem is that Bravely Default improved on the job system by leaps and bounds.  It made it much more interesting and engaging.  So, for me, the job system in FFV felt dumbed down and shallow.  I'm sure it was revolutionary for it's time, but it doesn't hold up today.

The battle system is nothing to write home about.  It's a classic Active Time Battle (ATB) system like many Final Fantasy games.  I think I'm learning that I like turn based systems better.  But that comes down to personal preference.  The best part of the battle system are all the abilities different jobs gain access to, but most of the interesting decisions and customization is actually done outside of battle through the job system.



I'm not a huge fan of the graphics in this game.  I played the iOS version, just like I did for the first four games.  That might have been a mistake.  I really didn't like what they did with the remastered graphics.  I think I would have preferred the original pixel art instead.  I've heard really good things about the GBA version, so if you're looking to try this game out you may want to look there.  It fits with my common theme here today, the graphics weren't bad, they just weren't as good as the other remakes I've been playing lately.  Although, graphics come down entirely to personal preference.

As far as the iOS version in general, it was still fantastic to always have the game with me wherever I went.  I'm not sure what I think about them adding achievements to the game.  It's something they also did for FFIV too.  I guess it's fine, I just don't know how much it adds to a JRPG like this.  On the plus side, they added a battery indicator and a clock docked to the top of the screen (check out my screenshots).  I actually really liked this addition. When I was playing FFIV I was constantly hitting the home button to check the time and with FFV I didn't have to.

What else can I say about FFV?

I'm glad I completed it.  I'm happy that I haven't broken down and skipped a game in the series yet.  My review makes this game sound a lot worse than it is.  I would still recommend it over FFIII without hesitation.






It's not a bad game.  I think a lot of people would like it.  It's just not a game that I truly enjoyed.

Total Play Time: 26 hrs 42 mins


Bravely Default Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 March 2014, 8:09 pm
I've been taking a break from Final Fantasy games to play through Bravely Default, a new release for 3DS.  I just finished it up in the last few days and wanted to get some thoughts out there.

Honestly, this is the best Final Fantasy game that has been released since XII.  It's really funny that this isn't truly a Final Fantasy game.  I can definitely tell that it started out as one.  The job system, crystal story, items, and spells are all taken, almost directly, from Final Fantasy.  It started out as a sequel to Final Fantasy Four Warriors of Light but at some point in development it got to break away and become it's own brand.  Maybe that's why it's so good, because it doesn't have the weight of the Final Fantasy name on it's shoulders.

I love, Luxendarc, the world of Bravely Default.  Everything from the art direction to the music is top notch.  My god, the music!  I haven't enjoyed a game soundtrack this much since I played Final Fantasy X.  And the art department certainly earned their paychecks.  At times it feels as if you're wandering through a stylized storybook.  Other times the world is dark and imposing.  They've created a fantastic world.  The look and feel of the game is truly superb.

The job system is essentially expanded from Final Fantasy.  I saw a lot of the jobs I've run into before, but they seem to be more fleshed out here.  Characters are able to have a primary job and a secondary job at the same time.  This opens up all sorts of interesting combinations and experimentation.  On top of the 2 jobs, characters also get to pick up support abilities from other jobs they've leveled in.  I literally had hours of fun playing around with the job system.  That's probably a personal preference, but if you like playing around with systems you will love what Bravely Default offers.

The story has is a mixed bag.  This paragraph will have very minor spoilers.  The game is divided into chapters.  In chapters 1-4 you have to accomplish a similar task 4 separate times.  4 times feels perfect for the story and it works really well.  Each of the 4 tasks is similar, but unique in it's own way too.  I loved these chapters.  Then chapter 5 hit.  In chapter 5-8 you basically have to do that same task 16 more times and it loses all sense of fun and momentum.  I was extremely disappointed with this middle section of the game.  It's especially sad to see after such a strong start.  The final chapters of the game once again get interesting and I truly enjoyed the ending, but the middle section is a blemish on the overall story.

Bravely Default uses the 3DS features well.  I played the whole game in 3D and it really added something to the visuals.  That's not true of a lot of 3DS games.  The streetpass feature was fun too.  I was able to send and receive attacks and heals from other people playing the game and then summon them in the middle of battle.  It's actually a really cool implementation of streetpass.  The village rebuilding minigame was somewhat interesting too, but I got enough streetpasses that I was finished with it when I was about a fourth of the way through the game.

I can't believe I haven't mentioned the battle system yet.  It's a twist on a classic turn based battle.  Characters are able to Default which lets them save up actions.  On subsequent turns they can Brave and spend all of their saved up actions at the same time.  It really changed the way I thought about battle.  Random encounters became all about Braving and launching all-out attacks on monsters.  Boss battles become an intricate dance of when to use Brave and when to use Default.  Bosses were more challenging and interesting than I've encountered in a JRPG in a long time.

Not to mention some of the convenience systems in place in this game.  I set up a selection of good commands and used auto-battle to repeat them against random monsters.  Mix that with the ability to have battles play out at 4x speed and grinding becomes totally painless.  I sometimes took it in the extreme the other direction and turned off random encounters.  I love this option as it let me fully focus on exploring dungeons without any interruptions.  They don't advertise these convenience functions well, but they are there and I appreciated them.

Bravely Default is a good game.  Despite some story pacing issues in the middle I would still strongly recommend this game.  It's not going to appeal to everyone, but it's a must buy for anyone who owns a 3DS and is a fan of Final Fantasy or JRPGs in general.




Final Fantasy FFIV Wrap Up
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 February 2014, 10:17 pm

I'm already done with FFIV.  I didn't do any mid-way posts because the game held my attention so well.  It only took me a couple weeks of lunch breaks and commuting time to finish.  Let me tell you, Final Fantasy IV is a fantastic entry in the series!  More than anything else, the story made all the difference.

There was so much character development and interaction, especially compared to the first three entries.  Now that I've finished this game I've come to realize how much I was missing a solid story in the older games.  A memorable story with interesting characters has become a hallmark of a Final Fantasy game and this is the first place that it's evident.


This game actually has a bunch of firsts for Final Fantasy.  First use of the Active Time Battle system.  First time class is tied to characters and their personality.  First decent story.  First time having lots of temporary characters to fill out the roster.  First major character sacrifice.  First amazing music.

The music!  It's so good!  I absolutely love Nobuo Uematsu's work in the series and this is the first time it shines.  Themes from this game will stick with me forever.  I've already found a couple tracks that have made it into my regular playlist.

I don't know how much more I have to say about FFIV.  It's a good game.  The first good Final Fantasy.  I'll be recommending it to others in the future.  If anyone asks me how far back they should go in the FF lineup I'll be telling them to start with FFIV.  The first three are so skippable in comparison.


It's remarkable that my total play time is almost identical to my playthrough of  FFIII.  III felt like it took forever to slog through.  With IV I enjoyed each play session and I was disappointed when it was over.

Total Play Time: 25 hrs 6 mins.


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