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




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


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