Final Fantasy VII: Is It Necessary?

Final Fantasy VII: Is It Necessary?

Note: After some much needed family time, I’m back! I had this written up around the time of E3 but am just now getting to typing it up. It might not seem as relevant as when I wrote it, but hey, you know how the cliché goes.

One of best kept secrets at the Sony E3 conference was the upcoming console remake of Final Fantasy VII. Ever since the tech demo for the PS3 showed the potential of recreating Midgar for the modern era, fans have clamored for a full remake. Now nearly ten years later, fans are getting just that. Despite my excitement, I have an unpopular question: is it really necessary?

Graphically, it will clearly look like an improvement. Past and current players argue that its outdated graphics make it inaccessible today, but disagree. While out of the all the games, it is showing its age, I think we need a different one if we are talking about updating graphics for playability’s sake. The FF games from the NES and SNES apparently have timeless graphics, or at least that is what any indie developer would tell you to justify the heaps of pixellated platformers hitting the market lately. FFIX continued with the more classic sprite model. FFX and the entries to follow are all based on the same character style still being used today. That leaves us with the awkward first forays into the use of 3D models with FFVII and FFVIII.

Having played neither of them in their respective hay days, I didn’t have nostalgia obscuring my view of the games. Also I played through all of FFVII and the first disc of FFVIII, so I like to think I can speak on their appearance. FFVIII is not the most popular entry, but I found the way its graphics stretched across a current television impossible to look at after a while. While Cloud and Barrett look like the goofiest polygonal models with Q-tip biceps, their movements and actions in the environment are still clear. On the other hand, Squall looks like the developers tried meld the style of the FMV cutscenes with his sprite in a way that turned out as anything but cohesive.

I’m glad his bit of fan service is finally on its way after so many teases and pieces of misinterpreted information, but uncertainty tempers my excitement. Will this pull resources from the upcoming Final Fantasy XV and any other new games? What if the current team of Square Enix people can’t manage to get lightning to strike twice? Will Cloud rock a dress just as well in HD?

Regardless, I do have a few things I am either looking forward to or hoping happen:

  • Spot-on voice acting. The Kingdom Hearts series did the casting for all the FFVII characters perfectly.
  • Challenging trophies. While ultimately pointless, they make playing ports/remakes/updates more fun.
  • A clearer understanding–or possible update–to the Materia system. Reports suggest a reworking of the battle system, so hopefully this will get tweaked.

As for my long shots?

  • An emotion-filled Cloud.
  • Have the Buster Sword actually be the strongest weapon in the game.
  • Aerith lives…long enough for me to make my white mage a demigod.

No-stall-gia, Part 2

No-stall-gia, Part 2

Or otherwise called, who needs cohesive and sequential posts?

I’ll start off with a confession: when it comes to gaming, I am an entitled U.S. citizen. Whenever another country makes a game, I get bitter when they don’t localize all of the content. How dare they feel the need to save money and and prioritize their distribution process?

I don’t know if a particular country came to mind for you, but I’m talking about Japan. With my love for JRPGS and every single thing I’ve played on my Vita (Persona 4 Golden may have received more quality time than my family this holiday season), I hate hearing about earlier local releases and abhor Japanese-exclusive content. I’m also too cheap for importing, so you could also call it a personal problem.

I also don’t know if a particular company came to mind, but Square Enix, I’m looking (typing?) at you.

I was introduced to the Final Fantasy series late in the game. My first one was also what I would call one of the last ones worth playing–Final Fantasy X. It is the first time I remember a game ever having such an involved story. Despite its simplicity in message, I was playing through it not only blind to the story, but also any tropes that might have made it predictable. The moment I found out the pilgrimage’s true end goal, I dropped my PS2 controller on the ground. So often I played generic good-beats-evil games. Even with captivating characters, the only unpredictable parts of those games were what wacky thing they would say next (and some one-liners you could see a galaxy away).

Also new to me? The overwhelming amount of optional content. With the extra summons, celestial weapons, and monster hunting collect-a-thons, up to fifty hours of my first game file was spent flying around in the airship, procrastinating on that silly thing called my destiny.

With all of these sidequests, I have a hard time understand why they chose to cut out the biggest challenge in the game: the dark aeons. Here you get to battle summoners who sided with Yevon, convinced Yuna and the gang were the sacrificial lunatics. These are quite possibly one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across, and with the HD remake, the United States finally got to feel the pain.

I’ll be honest, I only beat a few of them before I ran out of useful places to grind, and they are long and painful without the right exploits and leveling. Here instead of having elemental weaknesses, elemental magic is completely useless. As you might have guessed, an all-out assault is also not an option. Here you need to always have Yuna for her healing and two others. The game guide I bought–I take this shit seriously–said that you have to plan from the start who you want to have fight the dark aeons so that you fill out their sphere grids the soonest as well as give them all special stat and ability boosts.

Now I’ll be honest–this is about it for the differences. If you are not as in love with the story, characters, and battle system the way I am, there isn’t much more replay value here than there is in the PS2 original. But with the addition of this one feature, it reshaped my progress in the game. Finally I could feel justified in favoring some characters over others in battle and not feel guilty for ignoring some of the ultimate weapon quests.

A poll to the masses–has anyone out there actually dodged the two hundred lightning bolts it takes to acquire Lulu’s weapon? If so, let me shower you with virtual gold, jewels, and loose women and men.

Overall I had just as much as I did every other time I’ve played this game, but it is also one of my absolute favorites, making me easy to please. Would only one or two additions be enough reason to replay a game you have a middling opinion of? Or even one you really love; I’m a fountain of curiosity tonight.

Now I only have one more game I really want to talk about, and it is the biggest difference for me, both in how I played it and the content added.

Also I will hopefully have more information on my upcoming weekend stream here, so that you can tune in. Hey, now I can say, “Stay tuned,” and mean it literally.

So, of course, stay tuned.

No-stall-gia, Part 2: Final Fantasy

No-stall-gia, Part 2: Final Fantasy

Or otherwise called, who needs cohesive and sequential posts?

I’ll start off with a confession: when it comes to gaming, I am an entitled U.S. citizen. Whenever another country makes a game, I get bitter when they don’t localize all of the content. How dare they feel the need to save money and and prioritize their distribution process?

I don’t know if a particular country came to mind for you, but I’m talking about Japan. With my love for JRPGS and every single thing I’ve played on my Vita (Persona 4 Golden may have received more quality time than my family this holiday season), I hate hearing about earlier local releases and abhor Japanese-exclusive content. I’m also too cheap for importing, so you could also call it a personal problem.

I also don’t know if a particular company came to mind, but Square Enix, I’m looking (typing?) at you.

I was introduced to the Final Fantasy series late in the game–Final Fantasy X, actually. It is the first time I remember a game ever having such an involved story. Despite its simplicity in message, I was playing through it not only blind to the story, but also any tropes that might have made it predictable. The moment I found out the pilgrimage’s true end goal, I dropped my PS2 controller on the ground. So often I played generic good-beats-evil games. Even with captivating characters, the only unpredictable parts of those games were what wacky thing they would say next (and some one-liners you could see a galaxy away).

Also new to me? The overwhelming amount of optional content. With the extra summons, celestial weapons, and monster hunting collect-a-thons, up to fifty hours of my first game file was spent flying around in the airship, procrastinating on that silly thing called my destiny.

With all of these sidequests, I have a hard time understand why they chose to cut out the biggest challenge in the game: the dark aeons. Here you get to battle summoners who sided with Yevon, convinced Yuna and the gang were the sacrificial lunatics. These are quite possibly one of the biggest challenges I have ever come across, and with the HD remake, the United States finally got to feel the pain.

I’ll be honest, I only beat a few of them before I ran out of useful places to grind, and they are long and painful without the right exploits and leveling. Here instead of having elemental weaknesses, elemental magic is completely useless. As you might have guessed, an all-out assault is also not an option. Here you need to always have Yuna for her healing and two others. The game guide I bought–I take this shit seriously–said that you have to plan from the start who you want to have fight the dark aeons so that you fill out their sphere grids the soonest as well as give them all special stat and ability boosts.

Now I’ll be honest–this is about it for the differences. If you are not as in love with the story, characters, and battle system the way I am, there isn’t much more replay value here than there is in the PS2 original. But with the addition of this one feature, it reshaped my progress in the game. Finally I could feel justified in favoring some characters over others in battle and not feel guilty for ignoring some of the ultimate weapon quests.

A poll to the masses–has anyone out there actually dodged the two hundred lightning bolts it takes to acquire Lulu’s weapon? If so, let me shower you with virtual gold, jewels, and loose women and men.

Overall I had just as much as I did every other time I’ve played this game, but it is also one of my absolute favorites, making me easy to please. Would only one or two additions be enough reason to replay a game you have a middling opinion of? Or even one you really love; I’m a fountain of curiosity tonight.

Now I only have one more game I really want to talk about, and it is the biggest difference for me, both in how I played it and the content added.

Also I will hopefully have more information on my upcoming weekend stream here, so that you can tune in. Hey, now I can say, “Stay tuned,” and mean it literally.

So, of course, stay tuned.

My Year in Time Travel the Third

My Year in Time Travel the Third

Trophies and achievements are still a big motivator for me. Whether they are guaranteed through the story or require me to go out of my way with no in-game reward, I will usually at least try to get them all. Every time I’m hunting one down though, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have them on the games I played as a kid.

Lucky for me, Playstation is determined for me to know.

As you all know, I am a huge Sly Cooper fan. If you didn’t know, click here for my self-imposed credentials. As I might have also mentioned, I played through the HD collection this past summer. And even though pickpocketing vultures and sliding on jungle vines never gets old, it could have had new content.

In Sanzuru’s defense, they were not the original publishers. They got permission for Sucker Punch to put this collection together. That means they might not have been able to get away with making many changes. It also negates to opportunity for previously-unreleased content. But with how true they were to the source material with Thieves in Time, I wish they would have taken more creative liberties.

I mean, the game still had the awkward fourth-wall-breaking of Bentley asking if you want to put on the 3D glasses that came with the third game without any actual 3D mode. The smoother graphics and controls were excellent and appreciated by a longtime player, but Sanzuru didn’t even take advantage of the one system they had complete control over: trophies.

Roughly ninety percent of the trophies could be achieved just by completing the game from start to finish. Then the only extra trophies were completing the few in-game challenges and finding the collectibles. There are so many intricate platforming mechanics and minigames that they could have gotten more creative. Sly 3 at least did the work for them by creating its own challenges and time trials for Sanzuru to use, but this should have given them ideas for how to apply this concept to the previous two titles.

Now for another Sony-exclusive Playstation 2 platformer: the Ratchet and Clank games.

These are games I never played before the HD collection, so any differences I talk about were only figured out through roaming the Internet, not firsthand experience.

This series’ fresh take on extending gameplay makes you think Insomniac was psychic and able to see achievements coming down the pipeline years before they ever heard a peep. Each game has its own challenges which consist of time trials, collectibles, and odd tasks you would never think to do. In one game, you have to speed through a hoverboard race, destroy literally everything on a planet, and use your weapons to shoot down birds that you’d think were only part of  the scenery. Not all at the same time, of course, the variety is outstanding. Completing each of these gives you a skill point which you can spend on artwork and dressing up Ratchet in a tux.

Of course this game also translates to the modern trophy system more easily than Sly Cooper, and granted, none of them introduce new content. But for example, the first Sly game had some of the most painful speed runs I have ever encountered and yet you didn’t have to touch them to obtain the Platinum trophy–or a hundred percent if Sony’s lack of numbers is at all confusing to you. Here you have to get a majority of the skill points, weapons, and still have a billion bolts leftover.

Speaking of which, considering the best weapons are locked behind insane pay walls (one million bolts? Let me just pawn Clank instead. I’ll buy him back eventually.), it lets you experience all the game has to offer with New Game Plus which I enjoyed more than the first playthrough. Now I could breeze through the main gameplay and focus solely on the hidden secrets and the golden weapons.

Of course you all know my bias, meaning my high expectations for the Sly collection and next to none for Ratchet and Clank has affected my perspective. They are both great ways to experience old games, but I wish game developers would look at adding more content to these releases. Some have done that exceptionally well. That is at least localizing content previously exclusive to Japan. But again, more on that next time.

Stay tuned.

My Year in Time Travel the Third: Sly Cooper

My Year in Time Travel the Third: Sly Cooper

Trophies and achievements are still a big motivator for me. Whether they are guaranteed through the story or require me to go out of my way with no in-game reward, I will usually at least try to get them all. Every time I’m hunting one down though, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have them on the games I played as a kid.

Lucky for me, Playstation is determined for me to know.

As you all know, I am a huge Sly Cooper fan. If you didn’t know, click here for my self-imposed credentials. As I might have also mentioned, I played through the HD collection this past summer. And even though pickpocketing vultures and sliding on jungle vines never gets old, it could have had new content.

In Sanzuru’s defense, they were not the original publishers. They got permission for Sucker Punch to put this collection together. That means they might not have been able to get away with making many changes. It also negates to opportunity for previously-unreleased content. But with how true they were to the source material with Thieves in Time, I wish they would have taken more creative liberties.

I mean, the game still had the awkward fourth-wall-breaking of Bentley asking if you want to put on the 3D glasses that came with the third game without any actual 3D mode. The smoother graphics and controls were excellent and appreciated by a longtime player, but Sanzuru didn’t even take advantage of the one system they had complete control over: trophies.

Roughly ninety percent of the trophies could be achieved just by completing the game from start to finish. Then the only extra trophies were completing the few in-game challenges and finding the collectibles. There are so many intricate platforming mechanics and minigames that they could have gotten more creative. Sly 3 at least did the work for them by creating its own challenges and time trials for Sanzuru to use, but this should have given them ideas for how to apply this concept to the previous two titles.

Now for another Sony-exclusive Playstation 2 platformer: the Ratchet and Clank games.

These are games I never played before the HD collection, so any differences I talk about were only figured out through roaming the Internet, not firsthand experience.

This series’ fresh take on extending gameplay makes you think Insomniac was psychic and able to see achievements coming down the pipeline years before they ever heard a peep. Each game has its own challenges which consist of time trials, collectibles, and odd tasks you would never think to do. In one game, you have to speed through a hoverboard race, destroy literally everything on a planet, and use your weapons to shoot down birds that you’d think were only part of  the scenery. Not all at the same time, of course, the variety is outstanding. Completing each of these gives you a skill point which you can spend on artwork and dressing up Ratchet in a tux.

Of course this game also translates to the modern trophy system more easily than Sly Cooper, and granted, none of them introduce new content. But for example, the first Sly game had some of the most painful speed runs I have ever encountered and yet you didn’t have to touch them to obtain the Platinum trophy–or a hundred percent if Sony’s lack of numbers is at all confusing to you. Here you have to get a majority of the skill points, weapons, and still have a billion bolts leftover.

Speaking of which, considering the best weapons are locked behind insane pay walls (one million bolts? Let me just pawn Clank instead. I’ll buy him back eventually.), it lets you experience all the game has to offer with New Game Plus which I enjoyed more than the first playthrough. Now I could breeze through the main gameplay and focus solely on the hidden secrets and the golden weapons.

Of course you all know my bias, meaning my high expectations for the Sly collection and next to none for Ratchet and Clank has affected my perspective. They are both great ways to experience old games, but I wish game developers would look at adding more content to these releases. Some have done that exceptionally well. That is at least localizing content previously exclusive to Japan. But again, more on that next time.

Stay tuned.

My Year in Time Travel

My Year in Time Travel

As the end of the year approaches, you start to think about what games you have played in the past year. Before you ask, any kind of useful Top Ten is out of the question for me because most games I play tend to not be from the current year. Not a hipster, just behind the times.

Of course you’ve seen some of what I’ve played on here. A few mystery games, a bit of cartoon glory, and a lot of Dragon Age. But excluding what I’ve played and talked about here, let’s take a look at what has taken up the most time for me in the past year:

Final Fantasy X/X-2–120 hours
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix–110 hours
Bravely Default–100 hours
The Sly Collection-60 hours

Notice any patterns? Maybe the only exception?

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I obviously adore HD remakes. I have limited ports in my television and only so many rooms to put televisions in, so I appreciate being able to play as many games as I can on one system. With both of the ports from Square Enix, you also get the content from Japan that exclusive until now for…reasons. If you were a hardcore fan of the game the first time around, there was plenty of new stuff to do and you wouldn’t mind playing through the game again to get to it.

I know the main argument behind the trend towards HD remakes and not backwards compatibility is that is a poorly-disguised cash grab, and I have to agree. As someone who continued to play her Gameboy games from childhood on her DS in high school, I can see the benefits and would never wish for one to win out over the other. I just love the chance to take advantage of today’s televisions and cheap HDMI cables and see the a game I thought was beautiful five, ten, even twenty years ago become perfect.

So while everyone is culling their Top Five or Top Ten games, I’m going to be going through some of my favorite remakes. And of course it has nothing to do with my recent purchase of Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix. Or how distracting Danganronpa is from my Steam library. Or how I intended for this to be a single essay but could not narrow down all of my thoughts on these games into one post.

What are your thoughts on remakes and rereleases? Do you prefer disc collections or downloading retro titles piecemeal with Virtual Console or PS1 classics? Do you abhor the idea of any of these services, preferring the real thing? Comment below with why, why not, and everything in between!

Stay tuned.