Solo Game Vacation: Week One
So as I said before in my previous posts, I had decided to take some time off of the hustle and bustle of the non-stop worlds of MMOs and what not and get in touch with my roots of single player games. Single player games are actually my preferred form of story, outranking movies, books, and comics. There’s something just satisfying about playing a story to its completion and feeling like you actually changed things in the world. That’s something MMOs have always sorely lacked for me. Even if SWTOR, where choices can affect a great deal, you are ultimately on a straight path that has a clear and set beginning and end with a few dashes of flavor. The events of the Imperial Agents chapter two always occur, though not necessarily for always the same reasons. In the end, whether you are a cut throat bounty hunter, or a member of the fricking Dark Council, you still get called on to work the front lines of Makeb.
So when I feel in the mood for games where the story actually can change and alter the world around me as I play through them, I enjoy these breaks to come back to my roots and dig in with some games I may have put on the shelf, haven’t gotten to yet, or want to revisit from yesteryear. Hence, Chrono Trigger.
There’s not much I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t already been said a thousand times across these worlds wide web. The game is still fantastic. It’s solid, tells a good story, and is fun. However, there is a lot of things I didn’t notice when I first played it. Which admittedly was like… middle school age I think. So around 12? Anyway, first and foremost that this game is actually incredibly simple. I mean compared to Squaresoft’s other offerings at the time. The older Final Fantasy games can seriously kick my butt still at times to this day, especially in the extra boss or final boss sense. Chrono Trigger? There’s always a trick, always some weakness, that once you know it, reduces a fight to mere child’s play and this includes the final boss. The final form of Lavos can be quite simply boiled down to: don’t attack the thing you THINK is the boss, kill the little thing to the right of it. Bam. Done. Many bosses have a weakness in the form of some kind of magic that nullifies their defenses. Really, the hardest boss fight in the whole thing was probably Magus because it’s a) early on b) the trick isn’t obvious and c) he has a wide range of heavily damaging and/or party wide attacks. The whole thing in retrospect feels like a beginners RPG. One to introduce people to the genre before graduating up to things like Final Fantasy.
The other thing I should note on my replay is that the game is really short. I completed the whole story the long way, completed all the optional side missions, collected every little doodad, unlocked every tech, and did quite a bit of grinding and the whole thing still took only about 23 hours to do. Now admittedly, if I was being honest about completion I’d have to include the X hours it would take to do a New Game+ and get all 15 other endings. But for a strict single playthrough that was surprisingly short for an RPG. Right? Or is it just me? Still, if you want an amazing old school RPG that isn’t gonna devour all your time, here ya go. The same however cannot be said for its sibling.
Well, I finished up Chrono Trigger, and I said, “What shall I play next?” and my game shelf answered “How about the sequel?” which was odd because my shelf usually recommends that I play Mega Man every time I ask it. Chrono Cross is one of those games that I played once, enjoyed it tremendously, and never picked it up again. The reasons being twofold. The first is that the plot is insanely confusing and requires a great deal of thinking to wrap your head around the combinations and consequences of time and dimensional travel presented, and second that the only way to get the “good ending” is complete bullcensored. Having to toss the correct color combo of magic (magic and attacks have colors in this game. Don’t ask me why.) and then smack with a special magic. That’s all well and good but the boss ALSO is tossing out color magic and it messes up the whole thing. TEDIOUS. So why did I start replaying it? (Still haven’t finished) Well, unlike when I was 16 (a literal half a lifetime ago now), I didn’t have access to things like FAQs on the internet. So that helps immensely with the ending. And I’m older and wiser now. Kind of. Stop giggling. So the convoluted plot so be a bit easier to follow. I hope.
As I said, I haven’t finished this one yet but I am enjoying it. The combat system is not nearly as frustrating despite five different components and resources to keep track of (Hit chance, Tech points, Tech color, Field Color, and Stamina), it becomes a fairly intuitive dance after a while. Hit to generate tech points, spend tech points to use techs, and keep in mind your colors to maximize damage. The story is also pretty cool and seems designed with the intent of multiple playthroughs. For instance, early on you can take 3 different paths to get to the next objective. Each path requires different things, and recruits a different party member. I don’t know if you can still get the other party members later in the game, or you need to grab them in a new game+ set up to recruit them all. Not too worried since this game hosts a multitude of companions (It’s in the double digits at least). But that’s kind of a cool mechanic you don’t see very often. Three paths that lock you out of the other two when you pick one? Bold and interesting choice. I didn’t even realize it was there until I accidentally locked myself out of one of the other paths.
However, if Chrono Trigger is a beginner RPG then Cross feels like a fricking Advanced Placement class. There is so much here in terms of plot, collectibles, recruitable characters, and mechanics that I can’t imagine jumping into this one right after Trigger without playing some other RPGs in between. Luckily there were YEARS between the two games when they first came out. I still look forwarding to playing this one some more and seeing how the rest of it holds up.
FINAL FANTASY VII
Okay. Alright. Confession time, readers. I… never finished FF7 before. Yes, you may laugh, jeer, throw things, etc. But I never did. I got to the point where Aerith dies and then I was done. Not because I was heart broken by the loss. Oh heck no. I NEVER liked Aerith. She always came off to me as a cheerleader mixed with a purity sue that continuously got shoved in my face because “LOOK! IT’S A TRAGIC ROMANCE!” No. It’s that by that point in the game, I had utterly stopped giving a damn about the greater plot that confused me worse than Chrono Cross, and I decided to just walk away. To give you a time frame, I bought FF7 when it was just given its greatest hits release.
Now, I can’t click anything Final Fantasy related on the internet without hearing about how no game in the entirety of the Final Fantasy series could hope to hold a candle to the MAJESTY that is Final Fantasy VII. Alright, internet. Here’s your chance to prove me wrong. I got the game again. This time on Steam. I’m playing it. I won’t stop until it’s done. And if this thing doesn’t blow me out of the water, we are having words. And I’m not going to declare this whole thing moot before then, but I have played a while so far and I am less than impressed. I mean, I get the nostalgia factor. I get the technical WOW! factor with the cutscenes and music. But that’s not what people rave to me about, they say “Vry, the characters! Vry, the story!” and I’ve only just gotten to Junon but thus far the story is pretty simple: Help the terrorists win. Yea, there’s a lot more going on with Sephiroth and the Ancients, and the Planet, but that stuff has only been set up for what I assume is coming later. Right now, I’m helping the terrorists win. I’m blowing up buildings, cutting power to innocent civilians, and doing so in the name of the Planet. Also I’m cross dressing to save my friend from a fat slum lord pimp. (Is there any actual reason for the Don Corneo stuff beyond padding and some frighteningly inappropriate rape-y dialogue?)
However, if anything has been enlightening so far it’s that the characters are so very much NOT the characters the fandom and the movie portray. Cloud is not a brooding whiny emo, he’s a snarky jerk who delights in ticking Barrett off. Sephiroth is not the cold noble warrior, he’s psychotic and obsessed and not in the entertaining Kefka/Joker way. Aerith is not the kind gentle soul, she’s a cheerleader crossed with a purity sue. Wait. Didn’t I? Lemme scroll up. Huh. Looks like I remember the annoying flower girl correctly. I also didn’t remember Tifa being as ‘teenager with a crush’-y around Cloud. Barrett and Yuffie are one note characters that can’t be incorrectly portayed. And Red XIII (who is not named Nanaki in my game. His name is “NotNanaki”) hasn’t had a ton of dialogue so far so I have no clue. Far as I know, he’s Clifford in a weird crossover.
The gameplay is standard Final Fantasy fare. You can’t make me Oooo Aaaah at pretty summons. I accidentally killed a whole village of Summoners in Final Fantasy IV. This is old hat. Although the developers seemed a but full of themselves with this new fangled CGI animation stuff. Airbuster, one of the earliest bosses you face, has animations that are so slow that you can take three turns in the time it takes it to do one. Annoying.
And please, don’t jump on me because I’m being snarky. I’m gonna play the whole game. I’m going to think about the whole game. And I get that I’m barely into Disc One of a three disc game so I can’t expect the story to be leaping off the page yet. They are doing a great job at establishing a mystery with the whole Sephiroth and Jenova thing. The Ancients are wonderfully under-explained despite apparently everyone knowing what they are already. Though the biggest problem I have so far with the game is that I have NO clue what AVALANCHE stands for and I have no clue how they know without the text boxes when someone is referring to SOLDIER (All caps) or soldier (no caps) – one being a military organization and the other being well… a soldier. Can the characters read the text boxes in game? Is that how they know?