Game Ramblings #12 – Phantasy Star 3: Generations of Doom

More info from Wikipedia

  • Platform: Sega Genesis
  • Genre: JRPG

Going back to old JRPGs is something that I do from time to time, and usually end up regretting.  I can’t go back to the PS1 Final Fantasy titles without getting annoyed at the amount of time waste because of loading that happens during battles.  Games like Dark Cloud, which were so revolutionary at release have lost a lot of their luster.  Even more recent titles like Lost Odyssey have simply been surpassed by the latest and greatest.  So, going back to play a game that I’d never played is usually an even bigger risk.  The question then becomes, was it worth playing?  In this case, it’s reserved, but a yes.

The story generally plays out over multiple generations of a single family, including the option of who you are marrying at the end of a generation.  While this does mean you lose party members you invest in, they are replaced by generally stronger characters.  There are also a pair of cyborgs written into the story that maintain their level and gear across generations, so the party’s power curve never suffers from the transfer between generations.

The game also greatly benefits from largely being quick and focused.  Battles are fast, leveling is fast, gear is generally easy to find and purchase, and the story is there and is well written, but does not get in the way.  I got to the end of the game within about 20 hours, so unlike a lot of modern JRPGs, I didn’t ever reach the point where I was bored.  There’s a lot to say about the over reliance of fluff in modern JRPGs, and PS3 offers a good show of focusing the experience for the player to get the most out of more limited hours.

That’s not to say everything has aged well though.  While it is interesting that you can customize the relative strength of character’s magic spells, I never really dove into the  system beyond heavily leaning towards the strength of single target heals.  The shop and inventory system is also simply bad at this point.  Items give no description, gear shows no stats, and also doesn’t show what characters it can be equipped to.  This is nothing that an item list from Gamefaqs couldn’t solve, but is definitely a little strange to have no information in the shops.  Purchasing and selling is also one item at a time, inventory is capped per character at only 15 items, and items can’t be stacked.  It’s just kind of frustrating, and not even something that even games of similar age tended to do.

So, I wouldn’t say this game has aged that gracefully, but end of the day it had enough going for it, and a length short enough that it didn’t grow old.

Game Ramblings #8 – Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

More Info from Square Enix

  • Genre:JRPG
  • Platform:PS2
  • Also Available On:Android, iOS, 3DS (Japan Only)

Progress

  • Full Story Completion
  • Roughly 75 hours

Dragon Quest 8 is really a classic of a very core RPG.  It has a simple turn based battle system, but a good story, entertaining characters, and decent voice acting, all in a bright and large overworld.  If someone was to point at a great example of what the core mechanics of any JRPG should start at, it would be this one.  While it hasn’t necessarily aged that gracefully in the last 10 years, it’s still a fine example of the type of JRPG that was coming out at the tail end of the PS2 era, and any fans of the genre would benefit from playing this one.

What I Liked

The gameplay overall is simple, but pretty fun.  The battle system is a standard turn-based affair.  There’s some entertaining moves, particularly Jessica who has an entire over the top sex appeal category of moves to distract enemies.  In addition, the characters can essentially save up turns to pump themselves up and do enhanced damage in subsequent moves.

Visually the game has also held up really well.  It’s similar to Wind Waker in the sense that the cel-shaded style really helped simplify the visuals of the original, but have ended up holding up a lot better than “realistic” attempts of that era.

What I Didn’t Like

Unfortunately also a stand-in of older JRPGs, there were some grindy segments of the game, particularly in the late game.  As I got to the last boss, I basically had to grind to a point where I had near-max gear, as well as three characters to revive.  Once I got the three revive, the final boss was fairly trivial, but until that point I couldn’t keep up with healing to save my life.  To some extent I expect it within the genre to have to grind, but this game felt a bit overboard.

What I Was Indifferent To

The largest side-quest thing I found was the monster arena, where special monsters you defeat in the world can battle out against each other.  There’s some good prizes to be had, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered to run around finding the strongest monsters and run back to fight them out.

There is also an alchemy system for gear and item production.  I used it a handful of times for gear, but without going to gamefaqs to come up with specific recipes it’s a lot of finding books in the world that give vague descriptions of recipes that may or may not be of any use.  Helpful for end-game gear, but really only if you know specifically what you’re trying to make.

Game Ramblings #7 – Omega Quintet

More info from Idea Factory

  • Genre: JRPG
  • Platform: PS4

Progress

  • Roughly 25 hours of story
  • All available side quests up to that point
  • Shelved in favor of other games, gameplay fun but repetitive

Omega Quintet can best be described as an idol JRPG.  Per the story, you are putting together a Japanese idol group in order to save the world (or at least the city you’re in), and fighting lots of monsters in doing so.  You hit all the JRPG/anime stereotypes, but the lighthearted story and interactions, and pretty solid game mechanics make this an overall solid experience for PS4 gamers looking for a new JRPG to fill that niche.

What I Liked

The battle system itself was pretty fun.  It takes the time/turn-based gameplay of a game like Final Fantasy 10, and adds some range and AoE mechanics that add a lot of depth.  Moves can be single target,  horizontal or vertical line AoE, or circular range AoE, so finding the right moves and right target to maximize full party damage adds some interesting quirks to the battle system.  In addition, the full party can engage in combo mechanics for particularly large damage.  On top of that there is a pretty nice elemental system for additional damage bonuses, with the addition of individual weapon types per-character that act as elements.  Overall the battle system takes some well established gameplay from other games, and adds a lot of potential depth possibilities to really round out the battle situations.

The characters and interactions between them are also fun.  For the most part the game doesn’t take itself very seriously, so a lot of the dialogue ends up being pretty light hearted.  However, for the type of slice-of-life in a post apocalyptic world that the game takes place in, it adds a very non-serious tone that I feel fit the game well.

What I Didn’t Like

Missable side quests bug me in most games.  In this case, the side quests are time limited, but not always in the most obvious way.  My tendency ended up being to crunch on side quests until I finished them all, while avoiding story triggers that I knew about.  In some cases, missing the side quests meant missing moves that aid overworld navigation and interaction, blocking some additional treasures that would otherwise be available in hidden spots.  It didn’t end up penalizing me particularly much, but I prefer games that allow side quests to be done at leisure, particularly when they can have long-term negative consequences in the game.

What I Was Indifferent To

Overall the individual zones were pretty average.  The world consists of a 2D world map, then a bunch of smaller 3D zones with more or less linear paths.  As the game progresses, different environmental interactions open up the areas a bit more, but the maps still tend towards being pretty compact, with usually 3-5 enemy types per environment.

Side quests also tended towards being just kill x monsters, collect y items, etc.  Overall they were simple objectives, but to some extent felt necessary for character growth to at least be grinding them out a bit.  They provided for the bulk of easy points for gear purchases and upgrades throughout the game, so doing side quests was beneficial enough to worry about keeping them completed, but didn’t add much to the experience.