Thursday, July 21, 2016
Friday, July 15, 2016
Saturday, July 2, 2016
For reasons that have a lot to do with my obsessive need to complete entire series of games, I have played through the majority of the Tales series. I finished Tales of Xillia 2 earlier this year and played a whole pile of games in the series last year, and my opinion of them as a whole is decidedly mixed. One thing that is a constant for the series is the fun inherent to the battle system--and it's always a little different each time. Some Tales battle systems are better than others, but I'm generally a fan no matter what. It is because of the gameplay that I can so frequently resign myself to slogging through volumes upon volumes of uninteresting and uninspired dialogue delivered by unenthusiastic voice actors. Tales of Xillia 2 was particularly bad about this and it didn't help matters much that the whole game thrived on reusing content from Tales of Xillia.
Tales of Hearts R is an enhanced remake of the original Tales of Hearts for Nintendo DS. It was originally one of two Nintendo DS Tales titles, the other being Tales of Innocence, which never received an American release. Both titles received enhanced remakes for Vita, but only Tales of Hearts R made it here--and even then, no English voice acting was ever recorded. It's a little jarring to hear all of the game's dialogue in Japanese, but I honestly don't mind it at all since from what I can tell the voice acting is well done. Obviously I can't discern any nuance in voice acting delivered in a foreign language, but the voices seem to fit the characters pretty well and I can easily associate the voices with each character. I can't honestly say this is a downside to the game at all since Tales frequently has mediocre voice acting anyway.
|Personally, I'm craving sriracha mayo|
|It wouldn't be a JRPG without a bath scene, right?|
|Tales of Hearts R features a lot of these cut-ins|
|It's always something with you, Hisui|
Tales of Hearts R also places fewer restrictions on combat than some other games in the series with the ability to freely combo between standard attacks and artes in any order you wish. The strategy involved in putting together effective combos from the massive pool of moves available is probably the most satisfying thing about the game and the primary reason I'd recommend it. The chase link mechanic adds a lot of meat to the gameplay in that it allows you to greatly extend and lengthen your combos by knocking opponents into the air and quickly teleporting after them. The gauge that typically governs the number of attacks you can perform in a row refills upon a successul chase link, which means that you can keep a combo going for as long as you can maintain the chase link--which of course is extended by landing continous attacks and performing combination moves. If not or the addictive combat sytem, I doubt I would have felt justified in soldiering on through a plot that is admittedly pretty asinine.
|I mostly played Kohaku, Ines, and Gall|
|Okay, that's pretty good|
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Right on time, I've got another video out. It seems unlikely I'll keep doing this every week (since that's what I wanted to do originally when I started with the MMZ videos) but I'll give it a shot.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Thursday, May 26, 2016
I originally started Bravely Default in March of 2014 after a friend of mine graciously let me borrow it once he'd run through it, having maxed out at level 99 at 80-some hours of game time. After seeing his stats, I couldn't imagine I'd be coming anywhere close to that, especially after having spent a decent chunk of time on its predecessor, Matrix Software's Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. Despite beginning development as a direct sequel to that title, Bravely Default (with new developer Silicon Studios at the helm) is only tangentially connected to it. Its mechanics and systems are overhauled and expanded and in fact shares more in common with Final Fantasy V than The 4 Heroes of Light. This is no doubt due to the mixed reviews The 4 Heroes of Light received--which is ultimately an engaging game marred by a series of poor design choices. In fact, the two games share that trait in common.
|The 4 Heroes of Light combat|
In most ways, Bravely Default seemed like a great step forward--but for whatever reason, I wasn't latching on to the experience like I imagined I would. Maybe I was just burned out after spending so much time on the game that came before it, but as mentioned previously, the two titles are only tangentially connected. At its heart, Bravely Default is a much different experience. What really made the transition awkward was the game's early over-reliance on storytelling. Of course, I'd normally not consider this a bad thing at all, but I was not at all impressed by the game's early attempts at characterization, and the voice acting's poor quality stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Agnès's whisper-soft lines sound painfully overdone and the majority of Edea's lines are delivered as if her words are being forced out of her by a swift kick to the behind, regardless of the situation at hand. Ringabel's lines are more tolerable, but man, what a name. Of course his name is a pun because he's lost his memory--but come on. And then the name of our protagonist and fearless leader is. . .Tiz. He also sounds suspiciously like another Final Fantasy protagonist, Tidus.
|Bravely Default combat|
I dreaded playing through the game and reaching a point at which I would be forced to grind away tediously, I moved on to many, many other titles and was forced to do just that in games like Disgaea D2, Final Fantasy Dimensions, the entire Etrian Odyssey series, and even Fire Emblem Fates. After plowing through my considerable handheld backlog (which to this day still contains another acclaimed Square-Enix JRPG, The World Ends with You), I was left with Bravely Default still sitting there, staring me in the face. Bravely Second just came out recently and I'm a sucker for sequels--and I never play sequels without finishing the game before first, so I decided to finally tackle Bravely Default for real, despite my misgivings.
I'd forgotten a lot of details about Bravely Default's plot but I didn't relish the thought of starting completely over, so I decided to just pick up precisely where I'd left off. Fortunately, it wasn't difficult to get the general idea of what was going on, thanks in no small part to the party's helpful (and painfully annoying) fairy companion, Airy, who is generally available on the 3DS touch screen to let you know what you need to do next. (There we go again with the stellar character names. There are also characters named Datz and Zatz.) What I relearned about the game is that Tiz, the bland protagonist, hails from a town called Norende, which is swallowed up at the very beginning of the game by a gaping chasm for reasons involving four elemental crystals (ala classic Final Fantasy). These crystals need to be reawakened by the Vestal of Wind, Agnès Oblige, another of the Bravely Default party members. According to spunky cryst-fairy, Airy, Agnès is now the only one who can perform the task of awakening because the other vestals have met various untimely fates. In Ancheim, the wind has stopped, the waters have turned putrid in the sea, and the city of Hartschild is choked on all sides by boiling lava. Once all the crystals have been reawakened, the world will supposedly be saved, and the Great Chasm that has swallowed up Norende will be closed off for good.
Along the way, Tiz and Agnès also recruit Edea, who hails from the snowy northern country of Eternia, and Ringabel, the dashing amnesiac womanizer who bears a mysterious journal that seems to detail events that happen in the future. As the game progresses, you learn more about the characters' pasts, although Tiz remains (perhaps purposefully) bland for the majority of the game's running time. I have reason to suspect that Tiz essentially serves as a stand-in for the player and certain events in the game's conclusion go far in reinforcing that.
|The job system|
What sets Bravely Default from other class-based JRPGs are its titular mechanics, Braving and Defaulting. Characters can expend Brave Points to take multiple turns at once in exchange for going into a deficit that prevents them from acting later. Similarly, Defaulting allows characters to guard and store up an additional future action, although this can only be done once per turn. Braving is generally useful to take advantage of windows of power. For instance, if you debuff a boss's physical defense for two turns, you can take one turn to cast spells increasing your party's statistics and then spend the following turn going all-out on the offensive, while perhaps leaving your healer on standby for maintenance after the fact if you don't manage to defeat the boss in that turn. The mechanics behind Braving and Defaulting become more interesting as you unlock more classes and abilities. The final Performer ability, My Hero grants 1 BP to the entire party, for instance, and the Time Mage passive, Hasten World causes all allies and enemies to gain an additional BP per turn. It is possible to spend much less time in deficit when taking advantage of these abilities.
Bravely Default's gameplay is honestly where it shines the most and where it improves most significantly on The 4 Heroes of Light. The majority of the game's classes are worthwhile in one way or the other, even if only for certain passive abilities that can be passed on to other classes. The Ranger class falls off significantly late game, but its passive abilities, Hawkeye and Precision are useful for any class that wants to attack physically. It is especially deadly when combined with Ninja's Frenetic Fighting, which raises the cap of physical attacks per combat action from 16 to 32. (Hawkeye raises accuracy by 100% and Precision increases damage by 3% for every attack that lands.) On the other hand, Valkyrie is useful in the mid-game for grinding with use of its area attack, Crescent Moon, even though it's far eclipsed by classes available later on.
|Ringabel is quite the womanizer|
Up until chapter 4, Bravely Default is a solid, engaging JRPG with minor flaws. In fact, if the game were structured a little differently and some sequences were extended, the game could end right at the conclusion of chapter 4 and I'd still think it was a great game, if a little short. (Although 30 hour RPGs are a breath of fresh air, if you ask me.) However, the game does not end at chapter 4 and in fact it continues on for a very long time after chapter 4. It is at this point that you reach the dreaded latter half of Bravely Default, which has received a considerable amount of criticism for very good reasons.
Have you ever felt cheated by a movie, TV show, or game that trivializes everything on which it was built by introducing a twist at the end that, surprise!--it was all a dream? Imagine that situation and the frustration and disappointment you feel, and then imagine that happening five times in a row. Then, to add further insult to injury, imagine being given the impression that everything that has led up to the conclusion has not only been a waste, but it's been the absolute opposite of what you were intending to do. This is what happens in Bravely Default. Instead of saving the world by awakening the crystals, our brave adventurers have instead been sealing its fate--and not only that, but it's required to do it over and over again to get the game's true ending, where a plot point is revealed that could be seen coming from light years away. There is no real option to outsmart the game and get ahead of it, however. If you choose to do that, you get an ending, yes, but not the real one. You don't even get to fight the true final boss. In order to reach the true ending, you're required to essentially repeat the same actions you've taken in chapter 4 an additional four times. The bosses keep getting harder and in some cases team up for challenging group encounters, but they're the same bosses over and over. It's like a nightmarish video game version of Groundhog Day, except without the invaluable Bill Murray to keep your spirits up. It's dumbfounding to me why Silicon Studios decided to take the game in this direction. It's like they just started running out of ideas after they'd gotten to chapter 4 and felt they needed to dramatically extend the length of the game without actually coming up with new content.
|The ever helpful Airy|
After cycling through what is essentially the same content five times in a row, there is a dramatic twist and you are finally, mercifully, pitted against the game's true final boss, hulking monstrosity that it is. It is an otherworldly field capable of destroying entire worlds with a gesture, seemingly impossible to destroy. The cast of Bravely Default must call on the assistance of everyone they have met along the journey as well as on the assistance of the player himself and tens of thousands of other worlds to finally vanquish this ultimate foe. In the tradition of classic Final Fantasy, the Big Bad's motivations are quite simple--absolute power and total domination. There is a certain charm to the villain's simple evil but after what the game put me through to reach that point, I couldn't help but feel bitter and resentful about the payoff, even despite some startling and exciting features baked into the final conflict. Even so, I felt reasonably satisfied after finally ending the battle, but full of mixed feelings. It leaves me feeling cautiously optimistic about Bravely Second because I feel reasonably sure Silicon Studios won't repeat the same mistakes they made with Bravely Default.