Game Ramblings #185 – Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth

More Info from Square-Enix

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Platform: PS5

This game doesn’t have the benefit of being the first in line. It comes on the heels of the astoundingly good FFVII: Remake and continues the ongoing story. However, that wasn’t really a problem for most of the game. It continued to really push the things I liked while adding a larger open world adding a huge, varied, and beautiful open world experience. However, finishing it left me a bit at a loss – the game was definitely extremely good and had I not played the final boss I would be higher on the game, but something about the way the game wrapped up left me at a place of wanting something different.

Note: This ramblings is mostly going to be spoilers, so I’m hiding it behind spoiler tags. Obviously, read at your own risk. My ramblings for the original game absolutely covers a lot of the good here, particularly with combat, so I’m not going to retreat that stuff here.

My disappointment was tied to both the final boss from a mechanical standpoint and the way the story wrapped up, but for now we’ll start with the boss fight.


The final fight is (unsurprisingly) against JENOVA and Sephiroth. Where Remake had a fun spectacle fight against Sephiroth and the Whisphers, this game had a slog. The final fight in this game is at least 8, or maybe 10 phases (honestly, I lost count) full of all the worst JRPG tendencies. The fight is too long, it has too many unblockable RNG attacks, it has too many party wipe elements, it’s not hard until you get immediately wiped, it changes your party without control too much. It was just not a fun fight. Spectacle, yes. Fun, no.

The party changing was really my biggest gripe with the fight, because it made a lot of the phases not particularly fun. After playing a game for 60+ hours, I kind of had some built-in likes and dislikes to my party. Aerith was always the right one for me to have in the background handling heals. Cloud was my main damage person due to his ranged/melee flexibility, but I was always comfortable swapping him with Red. Barrett and Tifa were pretty swappable for me in terms of decent damage but great stun build-up. I was never particularly effective with Yuffie, but I could make use of her as an NPC in the party due to her useful elemental switching. Cait Sith was always a black hole for me because of his ineffectiveness without the Moogle being present and the requirement to charge the ATB meter to bring it out. I’d say I could generally switch between 3-4 of them and be immediately comfortable as long as I had some of them around.

However, each phase of the boss fight swapped the party around without your control. Some phases were just Cloud/Zack solo, which is not really all that fun. Healing while also damaging while also avoiding incoming damage is a lot, and it resulted in me caching ATB charges in case I needed them for healing instead of burning the boss. Some phases had me in random combos of the non-Cloud cast, such as a phase of Rifa, Red, and Yuffie needing to take out wings that switch their magical weakness to stun Sephiroth. The unfortunate thing is….I really didn’t have the party setup for varied magic because my focus for that had been on Cloud and Aerith, neither of whom were available. Ya I could redo my materia with a reset, but I was already 40 minutes into the fight. The final phase was the real kicker though, and it wasn’t because it was hard. It was because it felt incredibly random.

I had a series of wipes that basically resulted from “lol bad timing sucker” that didn’t feel avoidable. One wipe I had just used my ATB to heal and it was followed by Sephiroth throwing out Heartless Angel, which reduces the party to 1 HP. Because I had just used my ATB, I didn’t have any leftover to heal and couldn’t avoid damage long enough to charge it. One wipe was caused by me using an ATB attack, which was long enough that Sephiroth started Skewer during my animation and triggered it right as I finished my animation, leaving me unable to avoid it. Cloud died, and Aerith didn’t have enough ATB or really much of an ability to dodge Sephiroth’s attacks long enough to build up charge to get Cloud back up and heal Cloud and heal herself. The final wipe of the night was me getting to the last phase, which involves dodging a deadly moving attack for a bit, while also requiring you to burn him down, while also requiring you to stun him before the move ends and he wipes the party.

Ultimately my problem with the last phase, and the fight in general, was that it never really felt hard but kept finding ways to just wipe my party with single attacks. It’s not fun when that happens in general, and it’s even less fun when the party setups have changed how you’re used to playing 70 hours in, and it’s even less fun when those attacks are unavoidable and you’re an hour into the fight. The way to get through the fight is to basically just not use ATB segments, keep them around just in case, then burn them when you’re hit with the big unavoidable things. For the last phase’s big final attack, keep them around, spam them when the attack starts, and just burn to the end. Chipping away with basic attacks and storing the ATB charges just made an unnecessarily long fight even longer. As I found out I was about one Thundara away from winning on my final wipe when I finished the game during my lunch break today, which is a really annoying way to have ultimately gone from about 80% health to 0 in an instant.


On the story front, I was also kind of disappointed with how things wrapped up, though the jury is still out there based on whatever the third game ends up being.


It was obvious from the previous game that this one was going to end right at the point where Aerith died in the original game. I have no problem with the fact that she died here, but I do have a problem with how they arrived at that. The previous game’s entire core conceit was that the party was able to defy fate and set their own future. This entire game felt like it was doing its best to ignore that. This was as close of a step by step retread of the original game between Midgar and Aerith dying as possible, other than some sidetracking with alternate universe Zack. However, you get to the altar in the Forgotten City and Cloud blocks Sephiroth’s attack. It’s a huge moment meant to shock FF7 fans. It’s then immediately ended by a static screen that transforms it into Aerith being stabbed. That part felt like it was directly meant to evoke the same shock of the original game’s death scene, but when it immediately follows Cloud changing fate it feels deflating and unnecessary. It’s obvious that this is now Sephiroth having direct control over fate and returning it to what he wants. It makes sense. But it also feels unearned.

One of the big things about the entire ending segment is that it’s obvious that Aerith also has control over fate in some form – whether that be direct control or at least an ability to cross between different parts of the multiverse shenanigans at play. She’s able to bring Zack into the Sephiroth fight. She’s able to bring Cloud between multiverses. She’s able to join the Sephiroth fight despite dying, presumably by coming in from the Lifestream. It just feels like she died because she was resigned to dying because that’s the fate that is required to block Meteor in the original game. It feels like the hope of fighting against fate from the original game is gone because that is what was required of the story. It again feels unearned.

If the entire point of the original game was that the party can decide their own fate, this all feels wrong to me. Sephiroth being able to so easily set fate despite showing no ability to do so at this scale previously feels sudden. Aerith suddenly not wanting to decide her own fate despite being so for it previously feels sudden. My problem with all of this isn’t that these things happened, but that they feel like they were conveniently done to maintain the original storyline. Where Remake felt like it was setting up for a new future, this feels like it was purposefully to reduce new things from occurring. It feels like a setup for part 3, rather than something done to result in an interesting part 2, and in turn it weakens the impact of both Remake and the original FF7 because it all became predictable in the end. I guess I was ultimately hoping for Aerith to live, not necessarily because I wanted her specifically to live but just because I wanted part 3 to be something different. Now I feel like I know exactly what is going to happen. The excitement of possibilities I had coming out of part 1 is now just gone.


I don’t really want all that to make the game sound like it was bad though. I was disappointed by how it was wrapped up, but ultimately I played it for 70 hours because it was fun. The combat is a refined version of what we saw in Remake and it’s still an absolute blast – as long as you’re in control of your party make up. At this point I’m now curious what part 3 will be. It feels predictable at this point to expect it to wrap up precisely how the original game did, but I’m hoping that they go in a new direction. The story team has laid enough potential places for story changes to occur instead of being a retread of the original. Remake gave me hope that we were going to get something new and interesting, and I’m hoping that they don’t miss the opportunity.

Game Ramblings #184 – Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name

More Info from Sega

  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Platform: PS5
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Windows

I was pretty thrilled with the series’ change to JRPG in Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon but I wouldn’t like if I’m still a bit of a sucker for the series’ action gameplay in 1-6. I thought that the series had kind of reached its peak and didn’t need to explore more in the genre. Gaiden doesn’t necessarily change that feeling, but as a much smaller and quicker experience than core games in the series, it feels like a nice place to fall back into for a little while.

From a story perspective, this is an interesting one as it fills in a lot of the time gap between Yakuza 6 and roughly the mid point of 7, but as seen from the perspective of the series’ previous protagonist Kazuma Kiryu. In doing so, the change back to action gameplay makes a lot of sense. It’s a Kazuma story. It’s only focused on his actions, and not the actions of the Yakuza 7 party. From that perspective, you get thrown into a nice tight game. From a core perspective, I finished this one with a very heavy emphasis on completion and getting distracted in about 20 hours, which was about 30 hours less than my playthrough of Yakuza 0 and about 50 hours less than my playthrough of Yakuza 7.

The slimmer nature also extends to combat. The stance switching is still there, but it’s now only two styles. There’s the yakuza style which is more brawling-focused, and is a bit of a combination of some past styles with an emphasis on bigger damage at a slower pace. Agent style on the other hand is a speed and gadget-focused style new to this game. Of real note to me was the inclusion of a spider gadget that works surprisingly similar to the Marvel Spiderman web slinging, allowing you to do things like pull weapons to you, wrap enemies as a stun lock, or throw enemies across the map. It’s a surprising addition to the series that just works extremely well at giving a stance that has potential at range, while still being melee-focused from a core combo perspective.

That said, where the story was pretty compact the game did not skimp on side content. These are again largely retreads of past games, which makes sense for a smaller side story, but there’s a lot of them. Billiards, darts, a number of board games, and gambling are all available as quick hitting distractions. The thing that’s surprising here is the amount of content available. Billiards has multiple types (9-ball, 8-ball, etc) AND a set of trick shot challenges. Darts has multiple game types as well as a range of collectable dart types that ultimately improve your throws. Gambling has multiple game types as well as different betting tiers to allow you to go against more difficult situations. There’s no reason for these side things to have any depth, but here we are. It’s a staple of the series and it’s been implemented to the standard depth even in a little side game.

Of particular note for me was the inclusion of pocket circuit from Yakuza 0/Kiwami. This is based on the mini 4WD RC car hobby where you can build out custom cars using a variety of different part types, and leave the car to drive through a set course as fast as possible. This as a side game was surprisingly deep, with track types built for different specialties like hill climbing, turning control, high speed, and more. Winning races was always a matter of figuring out what gimmick the track had, then testing a car configuration built around that, then going for victory. While it’s inherently a racing mode, the fact that you don’t have direct control of the cars made this feel like more of a puzzle game than anything else, which was hugely surprising.

However, the biggest distraction in the game for me was the Coliseum. While this is a huge part of the core story of the game, it later unlocks as a wide-ranging arena mode for both solo and team play. While it definitely has some aspect of climbing the ranks through harder and harder fighters (and frankly, being the best money-gaining option in the game), the team mode was the thing that really caught my attention. This allows you to recruit people in the world and add them to your combat team, which you can then train through the ranks. Each person has some core specialty (damage, defense, healing) and some activatable skills, allowing you to play a little bit of party building to create a team whose capabilities best match your own style of play. This is again one of those systems that looks simple on the surface but has a surprising amount of depth.

I’m not surprised that I enjoyed this game given the past entries of the series that I’ve played. However, I am surprised at the level of content that Sega put into this. This was supposed to be a little side entry, so there was no reason for it to be something that I ultimately spent upwards of 30 hours in. It’s absolutely a core Yakuza game to me. It has a great golden path through the story. It’s got fun little side missions to complete. It’s got a ton of non-combat side content with a huge variety. It just is Yakuza, and it’s got me even more hyped to play Infinite Wealth in the near future.

Game Ramblings #183 – Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown

More Info from Ubisoft

  • Genre: Metroidvania
  • Platform: PS5
  • Also Available On: PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch, PC, Luna

I wanted to say that this game was a huge surprise but given the fact that this was made by the studio behind the fantastic Rayman games of the last decade, I probably shouldn’t be surprised. This is a game that just nails so much of what make Metroidvanias something that I go after. It combines a great sense of that side of the platformer genre and mixes in some really gratifying melee combat to make an experience absolutely worth playing.

For me it was the little things that it did right that make this such a memorable thing as a Metroidvania.

On the traversal front it doesn’t simply have retraversal like most games in the genre. What it often instead does is have a little puzzle/platforming loop that ends with a door opening a shortcut for later use. It’s a level beyond the usual changes brought about by gaining new powers that I really found interesting. It made core paths and side paths really obvious and allowed me to focus on filling out the map in areas along the core path, with the knowledge that I very likely had completed an entire section of the map when it ended in a loop. These areas were also very well marked on the map, where the end of these loops were generally marked by a one-way door. It gets rid of the sort of missile door typical of Metroid games and makes it obvious that you will just unlock this area when you’re done and be good to go.

Speaking of the map, the game is both a little less automatic but also incredibly more flexible than recent Metroid titles that I’ve played. This game doesn’t really automatically place much in the way of iconography when traversing new areas. Yes, it will unveil the areas you walk through but beyond one-way doors you’re kind of on your own for placing icons. What it does have is a particularly good tool for doing so. Beyond manual placement of various icon types – which is greatly appreciated – it has a very specific thing you unlock early that lets you add screenshots to the map. These are hugely important to retraversal. See some weird looking area you can’t get into? Add a screenshot. Chest out of reach with your current set of tools? Add a screenshot. Suspicious door? Add a screenshot. What you end up doing is scattering the map with these things and as you come back later for various reasons, you can get a very obvious visual representation of your own past with the areas and be reminded of the specific thing you wanted to check later. It’s such a nice built-in note taking aspect that feels very natural in the genre.

The other thing I found really good was how well the traversal moves actually integrated into combat, keeping flow between the two really natural. For example, one of the early moves you get is a horizontal teleport. This has obvious uses to clear large gaps in traversal. However, they also start having you face enemies and bosses that encourage using the teleport as a dodge mechanic to get behind and break protections. A later upgrade is effectively a grapple hook, which is useful for grabbing onto spots in the world but is also useful for pulling enemies to you/pulling yourself to enemies at range. This is pretty universal for all mechanics. If it can be used for combat it likely has a traversal use and in practice it means you are constantly reinforcing mechanics at all times, allowing for the player to naturally fall in and out of combat in an engaging way.

However, the thing about combat that surprised me is that the game got significantly easier as the game went on. To some obvious extent this is the natural state of the power curve. You get more powers and more tools in your tool box, and things will get easier. However, to me it felt like the mechanics of enemies didn’t get more complex at the same rate as I was upgrading. Sure, I was gaining things like heals on parry that helped me out, but the bosses weren’t throwing out crazy amounts of new stuff causing me damage. Yes, I was gaining more effective dodging mechanics, but the bosses weren’t necessarily causing me to dodge more often. What it meant was that as the game was getting marginally harder I was getting significantly more powerful, and the most difficult bosses were really the ones near the start of the game when I didn’t have the tools to compete as well against the mechanics. By the end of the game I was having little difficulty, even accounting for the fact that I was getting naturally better as time went on.

I do want to also shout out the flexibility of options here, which admittedly does lead to the game potentially being easier. Early on I noticed that I was missing a lot of what I thought were parries that I was timing correctly. It didn’t really feel like I was missing them, so much as the game was eating my parry inputs – kind of a weird battle against inherent input and screen latency. I dug into the difficulty options and noticed that I could adjust the parry window independent of all other difficulty options. A little bit of extra flexibility here completely solved the problem for me. I didn’t necessarily want an “easier” experience, but one that matched my expectation of timing with what was happening on screen and I was able to fix the specific thing that was causing me issues. That level of granularity is something I really love to see in place because it lets the user tailor the experience to the specifics of both their play style and their play setup without needing to just globally make the game easy.

I’m pretty happy that this is the game that brought the Prince of Persia series back, rather than the seemingly doomed Sands of Time remake. I don’t necessarily have an issue with the 3D entries in the series, but this feels so much more like the natural extension of the original games. It expands upon the open platforming of the original and goes with a very good modern combat layer on top of it to end up in a place where the series now feels pulled into the modern day, without really sacrificing the original vision.