Author Archives: Vrykerion

FateStone Development Journal: Planning

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I’ve been tinkering with some of my work on FateStone again recently and it got me thinking that maybe since I do have this platform, I could share some of my notes and thoughts about working on the game with all of you.

There’s a lot of ways one can go about coming up with an RPG Maker game.  Some folks just dive in and start creating, building as they go, some start with a story they’ve wanted to tell, and others begin with the characters.  These are all valid ways of exploring the creative tools that something like RPG Maker MV offers up.  Me though?  I’m a planner.  Always have been.  I would keep lists and figures of milestones and objectives written down or in my head.  I may not have ever gone as far as full blown theorycrafting in my WoW Raiding days but I did keep a list of drops I needed to work toward to get hit capped (Hit capping for the newer WoW players was a god awful mechanic where you needed to prioritize a now defunct ‘Hit’ stat just so you wouldn’t spend raid fights missing with every attack.)

So when it came to sit down and try to make an actual game, I didn’t open RPG Maker – I opened Google Sheets.  My Google Drive is full of documents and spreadsheets all around creating a basic layout for what the game I want to make will entail.  From how the crafting system will work, to a spreadsheet breakdown of items, crafting components for those items, effects for the items, and naturally the item id.  I’ve done the same work for class skills, which is an impressive list of hundreds of skills for FateStone’s currently planned twenty classes. I mean, I just like to have everything down on paper for easy reference once I begin, regardless if a lot of stuff I’ve been working on is for later ‘phases’ of the development.

Currently, Phase 1 is just planned to only be the single starter city and the quests that take place there in.  That includes a 3-floor dungeon built around the City Sewers and an ancient forgotten temple full of ghosts and skeletons hidden beneath the city, three city districts and the castle where the king lives.  Because of course there’s a castle where the king lives.  There’s a total of 5 recruit-able characters, namely because I wanted there to be some exploration of the ‘morality’ system and have different paths through the prologue based on your decisions. The Positive or “Astral” Path features the ability to recruit the Princess (Bard class) and a Knight and the Negative or “Chaos” path will feature the Rogue and the Mage NPCs.  The others will be eventually recruit-able, but I wanted Phase I to have a full party by the end of the Prologue.

So just there alone that’s seven areas with subzones of buildings, etc. Five NPCs featuring an array of five different classes, not to mention your starting class that brings the total to six. Two branching paths with different quests.  A half dozen or so different monsters of varying difficulty. Then items and shops to put them in.

…THAT is why I tend to go for the planning approach to things.  Just this small prologue has so many different things to keep track of in terms of IDs, variables, values, and so on and so forth.  I like being able to just flip open a spreadsheet and go “Ah, yes. That chest should have Item #52 in it.”

Review: Knights of the Eternal Throne

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So I finally got around to trying out the latest “expansion” from BioWare Austin’s Star Wars: The Old Republic.  And I’m sure you can tell from the use of those sarcastic quotation marks that I may have had some issues with the expansion and I will get to that.  First off, I just want to say that this is a review of strictly the “chapters” portion of the expansion.  I don’t do uprisings and I don’t do endgame. I have other MMOs for those.  So you won’t find an in-depth critique of the Eternal Command system or the new Uprisings content because quite frankly, I don’t bother with them.  All I will say about the Eternal Command system is that I’m not sure borrowing – of all things – Overwatch’s systems lock-stock-and-barrel is maybe a good solution for a MMORPG.  Just a thought. Heck if I know.

The Not Expansion

First of all, this isn’t an expansion.  Oh they’ll advertise it that way. And it ups the level cap.  But it’s not an expansion. Not in the traditional sense, and not in the way that SWTOR has offered expansions before.  Until KOTET, each expansion has been a self contained story.  Nothing in Shadows of Revan was connected to the events of Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  With KOTFE they actually sold you the ability to skip the prologue and first 5 chapters of any story and go straight to the new stuff it was so minimally related.  But KOTET isn’t like that.  This isn’t an expansion on SWTOR’s story.  This is the last half of KOTFE.  There is no reason this should have been even been marketed as a separate entity. From the moment it starts, to the moment it ends, it is unquestionable Chapters 17-25 of Knights of the Fallen Empire’s story.  Most of it only makes sense if you played through Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Because of that, I cannot recommend that you use your freshly rebranded “Outlander Token” to boost to 65.  It just doesn’t make sense to me that you would skip all the decisions and story of this first half.  Not worth it.

I guess I can’t complain too much.  It’s not like they charged you extra for KOTET. It just seems weird to me that this wasn’t just released as KotFE Chapters 17-25 instead of KOTET Chapters 1-9.

The Actual Story

BioWare Austin wasn’t pulling any punches after the barrage of complaints that followed the monthly chapters and most importantly the conclusion of Fallen Empire.  For the actual conclusion of the story they brought back Drew Karpyshyn, the writer that worked on Mass Effect 1 & 2 as well as the original SWTOR, from semi-retirement back in 2012 (he wrote novels). However because of this, more so than any expansion material before it, KOTET feels like an active part of the The Old Republic universe.

For instance, the opening chapter places you on Voss where you find Senya trying to heal Arcann while the newly… bathtowel turban-ed Vaylin is firebombing the planet to ash.  Right away your getting Valkorian making references to your class story, you get Senya utilizing Voss healing techniques including the life force draining one that appeared in the Sith Warrior Class Story.  Not to mention you actually get a slightly different series of quest objectives depending on your conversation choices and not just altered dialogue.  The first chapter is also the first time – but far from the last time – you can kill someone permanently this expansion.  In fact, you can kill at least five different characters.  One of which is unavoidable as Drew decided to draw on some of his Mass Effect background and presents you with the Virmire choice once again.  Choose who lives and choose who dies.  Even the most light sided person will have to face the Virmire choice.  Does this make sense?  Not really.  Since at the time and place in Mass Effect, you literally could only reach one or the other and here…  well, it happens on Odessan.  The Base of Operations for the Alliance.  That means you have theoretical access to your entire army right now.  But the choice is presented as NO ONE BUT YOU can fend off a half dozen Skytroopers to save one of them.  It stretches the believability when you can’t send troops to back up the other party. Or you know, send one of your 1-3 Jedi/Sith Alliance companions to go help them.  Thanks for the help Arcann & Senya, could ONE of you stop following me around to go help the other person?

Beyond that there’s some actual variety in the chapters.  For instance, one chapter features an elaborate puzzle as you Ocean’s Eleven your way into an extravagant Zakuul party.  You actually go back to Dromund Kaas to find out what has happened to the Sith Empire and get into a power struggle with a former chancellor of the Republic.  There’s also two new worlds but they are only featured for a single chapter each.  Ioketh is a machine planet where all super-technology comes from (The Eternal Fleet, The Gravestone, The Geminis, AND Scorpio) and the other is Nathema which is where Vaylin was imprisoned in a “sanitarium” and is also implied to be the original home world of Valkorian/Sith Emperor/Tenebrae that he apocalypsed to become immortal.  Nathema is pretty uninteresting visually. It’s a red/brown Ziost post-destruction. Ioketh is kinda cool looking and has a lot of potential for future expansion hopefully.

The whole thing ends with a fairly predictable twist.  I won’t reveal it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but it doesn’t exactly come as a shocker.  Though I will say that I think it’s impressive that in an MMO that the devs would let you – the player – do something so radical and situation changing as ‘Claim the Throne’.  Which you can.  You absolutely can.  It does deliver on that.

Choices That Matter

One of the repeated advertising phrases that Bioware Austin likes to use is that “This time your choices matter”.  Now how effective that has been has been up for debate since the games launch five years ago, but it was a major argument thrown back in the developers faces after the ending of Knights of the Fallen Empire when – despite having the ability to choose ‘Kill Arcann’ several times – Arcann always escaped.  I can happily say that the issue of people not dying when you choose to kill them has been rectified.  You can actually kill quite a few people: Senya, Arcann, Koth, and Scorpio.  Some characters will die no matter one, such as Vaylin and whoever you don’t choose in the aforementioned poorly handled ‘Virmire Choice’.

Sadly, while these choices do have consequences that play out to their fruition, all it usually results in is ‘less story’.  Cutscenes get skipped over, or another character fills the same role with nearly the same dialogue.  Heck, Scorpio’s death comes right at the point where she was about the leave the story permanently anyway so the result is the same except hey you killed her.  There is one however that gives you a different mission entirely if you choose it and that’s how you choose to deal with Senya when she reenters the story.  It not only affects how the next section of the chapter plays out game-wise but also affects things several chapters down the line when it comes time to deal with Arcann.  It actually changes the outcome depending on your choice, and not just swapping out actors for lines like stunt doubles.

Of course, how satisfied you’ll be depends entirely on what you expect from ‘choices that matter’.  If all you want is a level of recognition that a choice was made, this expansion has you covered in spades.  If you were hoping for something a bit more impactful, then you’ll find satisfying choices few and far between.

A Visual Experience

With the new expansion all comes with an assortment of visual upgrades to the game to make things all pretty.  I won’t lie, I was blown away just seeing my character on the selection screen when I first installed the expansion.  The way the game handles shadows and lights now adds a ton of more visceral detail to the game and especially to the cutscenes.  However, some of the updates to the character models seem kind of off too.  Like Senya and Lana especially.  Like their character model was upgraded, but the animations weren’t ever revisited for the new models, leading to weird issues with facial expressions that cause Lana’s eyelashes to clip through her head and Senya to look like a kabuki mask.  Overall though, the graphical improvements were very welcome.

Dramatis Personae

So, big new expansion. New story.  Bet there’s a bunch of new characters to enjoy, right?  Maybe like a snarky half-robot ewok or something?  Yeah, no.  As I said earlier, this is pretty much the last half of Knights of the Fallen Empire and it is pretty much determined to wrapping up all the storylines from that.  As such, your main cast of this expansion is as follows: You, Lana, Theron, Valkorian, Vette, Theron, Scorpio, and the Eternal Pain in the Rear Family (Senya, Vaylin, Arcann, Valkorian).  Heck, Gault, Aric and Kaliyo only get minor lines in a few spots and are otherwise reduced to screen filler.  So not even everyone from KotFE is involved in the plot.  The only new characters we get are one-chapter one-shot villains like Scorpio’s rival Aries and the Sanitarium’s lead…  well, I have a hard time calling him a Doctor given the things he does.  We also meet Lord Dathemar at one point.  He was Valkorian/Vitiate/Tenebrae’s father a long time ago and whose soul is now trapped in a box.

As for how the characters are portrayed?  Well, Vaylin is pretty much the stereotypical ‘mad person with unlimited power’ complete with classic catchphrases like “Burn the planet to ashes, then bring them to me. I want them for my garden.”  Just imagine Vaylin in the original KotFE but turned up to 11.  Arcann’s personality is really different depending on whether you try to heal him or not.  I’ll be the first to say that hearing THAT voice try to give this zen-like Jedi sentiments is wholly disturbing to me though.  If you don’t heal him, he’s pretty much the same as he was before.  Valkorian FINALLY gets his crap together and figures out what he’s been plotting.  I mean, it all fits. Sure.  In fact, a lot of people probably called it back at the start of KotFE. It’s not hard to guess.  He continues to play the shrewd manipulator, even when it flat out doesn’t work (Like trying to convince you that Lana and Theron will try to steal the Eternal Throne right before you get to the throne room).

Scorpio’s motivation on the other hand is all over the place and constantly changing it seems.  In KotFE she wanted to give the Gemini units freedom. So she did. They can do anything now.  That one chose the stars.  The rest it seemed were perfectly content to continue working for Vaylin.  Then she wants to help Vaylin rise above her station because she too has served ‘lesser creatures’. Okay.  Then they hijack the Gravestone for some reason and Scorpio learns about Iokath.  Her motivation is to now learn about where she came from and forces the Gravestone and all the Gemini units to come with (Freedom!) Then on Iokath she reveals that her motivation all along was to kill Aries and usurp his place as essentially the MCP from Tron of Iokath?  So, nothing to do with the Geminis or the Gravestone or Vaylin.  Right, whatever C-Scorp-30. Go live in your tin can.

Finally, the last noteworthy character to talk about (since the others don’t really change or develop much at all) is Koth.  I don’t think Bioware Austin wanted you to keep Koth.  I think if their writers had their way he would have jumped ship and stolen the Gravestone no matter what back in KotFE.  Why do I think that?  Well, because until your chance to re-recruit/kill him, his appearances only make sense when he’s not on your side.  “OMG! It’s Koth!” Lana says as the Gravestone appears over Voss.  Now does that reaction make more sense if A) Koth had taken the ship and ditched you OR B) He was still working with you and was just arriving as expected with your flagship.  When Arcann runs away, you ask Koth to stop him.  His reply when he’s not on your side is “I’m here to save people, not clean up your messes.” versus “Oh no! I can’t commander. I’ve taken some damage and must now leave unexpectedly!”  Heck, even Vaylin and Scorpio hijacking the Gravestone makes more sense since they do it when Koth is out cruising in the yoda damned Gravestone looking for people to help out which would make ZERO sense if he was still working with the Alliance.  Since I’m pretty sure no one would let Koth take the ONLY SHIP CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE ETERNAL FLEET joyriding.

Mechanical Malfunction

I know I wasn’t going to talk about the Eternal Command, but I figure you should know if you were looking to see if the expansion was worth it for you.

This idea is dumb.  The Eternal Command is a brand new way to replay the exact same content over and over again.  Just like they tried to do with Heroic Missions in KotFE, and the Dark vs Light event.  This is them stretching out the existing content as long as possible.  In essence, once you hit Level 70, you start gaining CXP or Command Experience.  You get this from doing everything and anything: repeating chapters, heroic missions, flashpoints, operations, warzones, starfighter and the new Uprisings (Shorter, less story filled, action intense Flashpoints for 4 players of any specialization).  In other words, out of all the ways to earn CXP, the only one that isn’t repeating pre-existing content are the Uprisings.

When you gain a new ‘level’ of Command Experience, you get a loot box.  The loot box has three random items in it.  It can be gear (which can further be broken down into ‘Empty shells’, ‘Static Stats’, and ‘Fully Modded’ variations) or companion gifts.  There’s no way to know for certain what you’ll get which ensures a nice long grind.  From my own observations, purely anecdotal mind you, I averaged 1 empty shell gear piece, 1 static stats gear piece and 1 companion gift in the small offering of crates I earned from just leveling through the story.

I think you can see where I got the earlier Overwatch comparison.  Grind out a bar, get a box of random stuff, and then do it again and again and again.  Except this isn’t just skins or emotes.  This is THE method of endgame gearing in KotET. It’s a bit understandable why some people are a bit upset about this I think.

Final Judgement

So is it worth the one month sub to get access to all 9 chapters?  Sure.  I can think of worse things to do with $15 bucks.  It’s not perfect by any means, and I miss not getting old companions back – especially ones like Kira or Scourge who really should be there for the showdown with the Emperor – but it’s always a really satisfying conclusion to the story started in Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Just be aware that this isn’t a standalone expansion like I said.  Beyond that, a lot of the issues with the writing come down to probably the struggles of trying to tell a Bioware-style story in a MMO setting.  Heck, the ending of this expansion throws expectations out the window.  You can be the Emperor.  Of the galaxy.  Hot damn.  I wonder where they’ll go from there.  Because they do sequel-bait during the credits that both the Sith Empire and Republic and getting ready to start sith again and the Scions send you an ominous message about you fulfilling the prophecy but your darkest hour is yet to come (which makes me think… Unicron?)

If this were a full $40 expansion or something I would definitely say it’s only for those who really enjoyed the Fallen Empire story because it’s really more of the same but with the ability to actually kill people this time.  But for $15?  If you dig SWTOR and you don’t like mind how the stories are told in it? Go for it.  Flaws and all, it’s worth $15 bucks.

Welcome the OddCraft Archive!

Basic Campfire Makes A Simple Statement

Long ago, in the distant past of 2008 – almost ten years now – I started blogging.  I did not however start with this blog.  The Land of Odd wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye back then.  When I first began, I had another blog titled “The World of OddCraft” or simply “OddCraft”.  It was a collection of thoughts and observations about the World of Warcraft which was pretty much the only MMO I played back then (I had a Mac, my options were quite limited.)   OddCraft slowly evolved into a series of “Oddities” that I had found in the World of Warcraft: References, strange details, weird doodads placed around the world, and unusual NPCs.  All of them organized by location, expasion, faction, etc.  Although page views rarely broke into the triple digits, I was quite proud of it and I had a small following of regular readers and commenters.

However, as time went on and more notable I grew disillusioned with the Cataclysm expansion, I withdrew from WoW and focused on other things.  Naturally, OddCraft didn’t update as much at that point.  I would still do posts here and there and it did eventually lead to the creation of the Original Version of the WoW Ironman Challenge (We didn’t include a ‘No Death’ clause.  Mostly because we were curious about what you could accomplish with the bare minimum, and the No Death thing seemed to encourage playing it safe over experimentation).  But yes, the original version with the original rules that were first laid out on Twitter by myself, Psynister and a few others were laid into stone on the OddCraft website.  It was also where we did the Warchief Election when it was announced that come Cataclysm the Horde’s leadership was gonna be shaken up.  Six different notable faces ran campaigns and debated on the blog and it ended with a big vote to decide who won to become the new Warchief of the Horde.

Ultimately, OddCraft was sadly more or less abandoned when I decided I wanted to write about far more than just Warcraft and the Land of Odd was created in its place.  But I never forgot about that old site that started things out.  That’s why I am proud to announce that we have officially imported all of the old OddCraft content right here on the Land of Odd in the ‘Warcraft’ section of the blog under ‘Oddities’.  All the old categorization still applied, and I’m working on fixing any images that were lost in the transition.  The old site isn’t gone, but this way my entire blogging history is now under one roof.

So fans of Warcraft, funny things or just people who take interest in some of the weird stuff that pops up in a big MMO, I welcome you to take a gander at the OddCraft Archive, now hosted locally on the Land of Odd!

Final Fantasy XV & The Infamous Chapter 13

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So my journey through Final Fantasy XV has been continuing on, mixing up the story chapters with running back and doing batches of side quests and hunts.  Or just driving around and listening to the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack – because I mean, DAMN.  Terra, Celes, Locke, Sabin, & Edgar’s themes? AND Dancing Mad?  That is one fine collection of music.  More than I can say for Final Fantasy X’s selection of songs in XV which includes the battle music… and uh…  that one song that plays when Tidus whines about listening to his story?  Seriously? You left out the Hymn of the Fayth?  You could have dropped one of the FOUR compilations of Final Fantasy XI music to give us a few more iconic songs from X.  Or maybe included X-2, XIII-2 or Lightning Returns’ music AT ALL.  I mean, Dissidia and Type-0 is in there.  All I’m saying is I want my boy band quartet jamming out to Real Emotion as they drive around Duscae.

Anyway, I haven’t exactly been pursuing the ending with a fervor.  I take my time with RPGs and I enjoy exploring and all the little doodads.  Which is useful because like 50% of XV’s plot is told via radio blips, overheard conversations and newspaper clippings.  Seriously, if you aren’t checking that stuff out you will be missing a TON of whats going on in Eos.  However, if half the plot is revealed in little side things that you can check out, I’d say that about another 40% of the story isn’t told until you reach the most divisive and controversial moment of the game: Chapter 13.

Without spoiling too much of the narrative that goes on, Chapter 13 is the penultimate chapter of the game and could rightfully be viewed as the final dungeon.  Much of the explanation for what has been happening and why it is happening all occurs here.  However, the chapter itself is a 90+ minute jog through endless tight corridors without weapons, companions or the ability to save outside of the occasional safe room.  The halls are filled with enemies, jump scares, blind corridors, and the voice of the main villain enthusiastically mocking you.  Your only real defense is the Ring of the Lucii, which gives you three spells:

  • Death: Must be channeled and expends MP all the while. Tougher enemies take longer to channel than weaker ones. Heals you when the enemy ultimately dies.
  • Holy: It’s more of a dodge that also does damage than an attack. You hold down the button, MP starts draining. If you are melee attacked while holding the button down, you dodge and blast the enemy with power. Also recovers a bit of MP when successful.
  • Alterna: Uses your entire MP bar to suck everything in the area into a bubble and then destroy them.  It’s your only AOE attack, and it will automatically drop you into ‘Stasis’ when you use it.

I’m sure from those brief descriptions you can see why some may be annoyed with the Ring over things like your weapons, Royal Arms, or normal spells. I ended up mostly using Death for the daemons and Holy for the Magitek Troops. Alterna I used like twice when I got overwhelmed.  Then again, the enemies are pretty much all in their low 30’s, and I was level 88.  Nothing in this place could really kill me unless I intentionally let them.  About halfway through you do get one of the Royal Arms to help you with the fighting, but the Royal Arms weapons also drain your health with each swing.  Ultimately, unless you are loaded with items like potions or ethers, the whole chapter becomes about resource management between your health, your magic, and your patience.

Since the games release a few weeks ago, Chapter 13 has become infamous among fans as the worst part of the game.  Some have risen to defend it as almost an ‘artistic expression’ of the loneliness and isolation that Noctis is experiencing and forcing you – the player – to experience Noctis frustration as well.  Some have described the chapter as “physically and emotionally draining” including the radical plot developments that occur over the course and especially at the end of the chapter. A few even took the chapter number into account and thought the long hallways were a satirical stab at Final Fantasy XIII. Others call it “lazy design” and would rather just see the whole thing removed from the game.  So where do I stand?

Meh. I liked it.

I honestly did not see what the hub bub was about. I kept waiting for a Mass Effect 3 Ending level bomb to be dropped on me and quite honestly it just never came.  In fact, I found the design and work on the area to be very interesting.  Not in the “Noctis is frustrated, so you’ll be too” way but in the “This is a LOT like Resident Evil” way.  You’re in the enemy capital, daemons everywhere, and your walking down these tight tunnels with barely enough room for two people to pass.  There are blind corners everywhere and you have no clue what around them until you turn. All the while, the sound design gives spots of noises: scratches, weapons being dragged on concrete, grumbles of monsters from somewhere.  It puts you on edge.  It makes the whole thing feel dangerous.  And this is coming from someone whose character was 50 levels above everything in that place and I STILL was jumping about when bad guys leaped out at me.  It wasn’t lazy in my opinion, it was actually really cleverly designed to keep you in suspense.  The maps opened up a bit more as things went on, especially when more plot details starting being delivered.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say it’s a flawless piece of perfection or anything.  Plot gets thrown at you fast and at full force and there’s a pile up of plot twists toward the end.  But is that really so different than say… Final Fantasy X?  Not saying that makes it better, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that Final Fantasy is renown for its well paced stories.  Interesting and cool stories? Sure. But the pacing is all over the place.

Still, over all I don’t understand the immense hatred this part of the game gets.  It’s a long maze of a dungeon. There’s a couple of puzzles in there.  You get some story.  It’s atmospheric.  Does it take a while? Eh. I did it all in 90 minutes and that was with looking in every nook and cranny for shiny dots and reading all the lore material.  Considering some of the areas you get to run through in Final Fantasy XIII, you’d think this would get more slack, yet I’ve seen – no joke – people comparing XIII favorably to this section of XV.  I mean, I loved XIII.  I’d pick it up and replay it in a heartbeat.  But come on.  Coooome ooooon.

In the end, I can see why some types of people would find Chapter 13 to be an annoyance or a slog. But I really wanted to throw my own hat in the ring and say that I really didn’t find it to be that way at all.  I really didn’t find to be nearly as bad or unappealing that so many voices out there are shouting it is.  I will say this though: It can be emotionally draining with all those big reveals and twists.  You will want to punch the bad guy by the end.  There is also some serious nightmare fuel hidden in the readable paper stacks scattered throughout.  But hey, that’s half the fun of a good story, right?

I’m almost done with the game, so expect to hear my full thoughts and probably another one of those Type-0 style “What actually just happened here?” style posts coming up in the next few weeks.

Final Fantasy XV: The Early-ish Impressions

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I mean, I’ve clocked in about 64 hours according to the in-game clock. But that includes ‘paused time’ where I was making food or running errands, etc.  Still at 64 hours, I’m only about half done with the main story (but have the achievements for 80 side quests, unlock 50 ascension nodes, and sitting just shy of level 70)  But yea, I think I can share some of my early-ish impressions of the newest addition to the Final Fantasy series.

Gameplay

  • The action is fun and chaotic.  I often find myself biting off more than I can chew.  The wait mode helps some but takes some getting used to.  It only activates when you stop moving, so there’s a bit of a flow to combat you have to figure out.  My suggestion would be to get used to it early.  Wait Mode is SUPER helpful, especially once you upgrade it in the Ascension menu.
  • Speaking of the Ascension menu, it’s a neat system.  It grants you more stuff you can do, empowers your existing stuff, but it gives you lots of choice on which tree to build on and what you want to empower.  It also has a bunch of ‘do X to get more AP’ stuff so you can spend AP to make more AP (but warp-killing low level baddies is still probably the most efficient way to do it)
  • I wish I had some degree of control over my party members.  Other than Ignis’ gather ability which huddles you around HIS position instead of yours, they kinda just go wherever and attack whatever.  This runs into problems when Magic has these huge bursts and does friendly fire. I get around this currently by just popping a mega-potion or megalixir after scorching the earth with a massive 300 power firaga.
  • Director Hajime Tabata’s influence is ALL over the side quest structure in this game.  It honestly shares a ton in common with Type-0’s side quests.  Pick up shiny dots. Turn in shiny dots. Give items to people.  Some actually have cutscenes tied to them but they’re brief. So. Many. Shiny. Dots.  Just remember, when side questing, the ORANGE shiny dots are the important ones.

Story

  • I know it’s almost sacrilegious to say this, but damn am I missing FFXIII’s datalogs.  There’s so much interesting stuff I’m curious about in the world of Eos and I have NO way to find out more.  From the Gods and their war and its effect on the world, or the sharp cultural divide in Lucis between those outisde of Insomnia’s walls and those inside.  I think more history and cultural info would be a great read to understanding some of the context to the world.
  • Speaking of context, I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to be accomplishing in the plot.  Now, granted, I haven’t even made it to Altissia yet, but so far its been ‘collect ancient weapons’ and then ‘collect God power’ without a great explanation as to WHY Noctis needs to do all of this.  Other than ‘retake Insomnia’ which doesn’t seem to come up very often as a goal on the road trip.  I know Lunafreya wants me to do something but I have no clue what.  Seems like this game might be up there with FFX in terms up loading all the crucial plot points in the back end of the game.
  • I think it’s fun that you can still spot a few places where the Fabula Nova Crystalis stuff was before it got changed.  Like the Gods only communicating in visions, similar to how Focuses were delivered to l’Cie.
  • The whole evil empire thing confuses the heck out of me too.  They don’t seem evil beyond backstabbing Lucis during a peace treaty.  They actively drop out of the sky to fight monsters to protect people where Insomnia pretty much left everyone outside of the walls to fend for their own, and they seem to be prepping for some big evil.  Honestly, they more come off as ‘doing the right thing, the wrong way’.

Other Observations

  • While you don’t get a lot of written history or cultural background, the game does an AMAZING job of world building through natural interaction.  The fact that the boys from the Crown City have names like Ignis, Prompto and Gladdio and the folks outside the wall have names like Cindy and Dave gives quite a bit of an impression of the difference between the areas.  Or the funky looking outfits you see women wearing in Cleigne are actually radiation/heat suits because women are the only ones who work the power plant.  Hell, the game starts with Prompto asking “What’s a Gil?” at the gas station.  This does a great job of building an atmosphere, I just personally wish to devour more.  Like getting a nibble only makes you want the whole thing.
  • What exactly is Luna & Noctis’ relationship?  Their marriage is described as a political one – for what purpose I don’t know – but they were childhood friends and they send letters to each via magical teleporting dogs, so they do care about each other it seems.  Noctis seems to be genuinely looking forward to reuniting with Luna at points.  Honestly, I’m really hazy on this.  Do they actually have a relationship or are they just childhood pals pushed into an arranged political marriage?
  • Seriously, if you’re not going to give me a codex or datalog, don’t hide the lore books in random order all over the bloody kingdom.

Final Early Judgement:  REALLY FUN, but from a Lore fans perspective very frustrating early on.  I’ll give a full rundown when I finish it.

Final Fantasy Month: World of Final Fantasy

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The Plot

As this game is less than a month old at the time of this writing, I will not be going into the myriad of spoiler plot twists that this game has and instead give a brief synopsis of how the adventure begins:

One hundred years ago, the Demon Dyad unleashed its terrible monsters on the world and brought unparralleled destruction.  This was followed by the Bahamutian Empire who began to conquer the kingdoms of the lands of Grymoire.

You play as siblings Lann and Reynn who have just awoken in a world that exists outside of time.  There they meet Enna Krowe, who explains quite plainly that she is God.  She also has a task for Lann and Reynn that will help them find their family – enter the land of Grymoire and collect ‘Mirages’ (monster creatures that can be magically captured and commanded).

Along the way, the discover the influence and destruction wreaked by the Bahamutian Empire but also a mysterious prophecy that foretold Lann & Reynn’s appearance and tells of their ability to either bring happiness or complete destruction to Grymoire.

My Thoughts

So okay, what if you took one part Final Fantasy, and one part Pokemon, and smooshed them together to make a crazy fun RPG with an amazing story and some really great jokes?  You’d get this.  Seriously.  That’s pretty much the game in a nutshell.  You spend most of it collecting Mirages that you build ‘stacks’ with (a pile of a small, a medium and a large creature that combine their strengths and weaknesses allowing you combine things like Fire + Fira = Firaga) and that you go around and battle to get stronger.  Those are the core mechanics of the game.  Each monster or Mirage has it’s own little sphere grid like thing called a Mirage Board that you can unlock using Skill Points that you earn from leveling up and when you complete the mirage board, you get a one time mastery bonus to that monster that includes new abilities or major stat bonuses. Every mirage you catch however reverts to level 1 instead of whatever level you caught it at.  Fortunately, the way that Experience scales, you won’t have too hard of a time getting them up to a usable level.

Beyond the catching and leveling of mirages, you also have got side quests, tons of puzzles to solve in dungeons, online battling, and the game even has a post game adventure and post post game content too.  I’ve only had this game for a month and I’ve easily sunk 70 hours into it without even exhausting everything you can do.  It’s definitely an awesome experience and even better is that there’s plenty here for young and old players, newcomers and veterans.  It’s really a Final Fantasy for everyone.

That being said, the plot almost seems too aimed at the younger audience at first.  There’s a ton of silly jokes (especially heavy on the puns) but the localization team did a great job in making sure the jokes worked just as well in English as I’m sure they did in the original Japanese (fans of late 90’s-early 00’s  anime can probably tell you that’s not an easy feat.)  But trust me on this – because I don’t want to spoil it – the plot ramps up BIG time the further you go in.  Tons of amazing plot twists that don’t feel half assed, and some insane reveals that left me jaw dropped staring at the screen.  The plot is pretty much entirely coherent on its own and doesn’t require any extra effort to enjoy it like some titles in the franchise. There are a few “WTF How does that even work” moments, but they are usually lampshaded and disregarded with the games’ own internal logic version of “It’s Magic, you don’t have to explain it.”

The other cool thing about this game?  It’s a crossover of a ton of other games in the series.  I think every game except II, XII and XIV get some form of nod or reference, and we know that DLC related to both XII and Kingdom Hearts are on the way in 2017.  It’s a big celebration of all things Final Fantasy! And if you love Final Fantasy like I do, I can definitely recommend you pick this one and give it a whirl.  It’s like Pokemon, but with more Final Fantasy flair to things like customization and leveling.  It’s great for kids and adults, and it’s just overall enjoyable.

Well, that wraps up Final Fantasy Month.  Tomorrow is the big day.  We finally get to see Noctis and his band of brothers set out on their big journey to save the world.  I can’t wait!  May the light of the Crystals guide your way!

Final Fantasy Month: Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

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The Plot

In the land of Orience, there exists four nations each holding a crystal that empowers them but also steals the memories of those who have died. The game begins with a ruthless attack from the western nation of Militesi on the nation of Rubrum, laying siege to Rubrum’s capital and neutralizing their signature magic with a magitek anti-magic field.  However, a class of students from Rubrum’s premier academy brandishing red capes emerge to fight back and able to use magic even within the nullification barrier.  They are Class Zero, a special group raised from a young age to be Agito – a messiah said to rise from the ranks of mankind.  Rubrum, realizing Militesi seeks to wage all out war, plans to utilize Class Zero to bring a decisive victory to their lands.

From there the story follows the military campaign of Class Zero.  From the destruction of the Lorican Alliance in the north using an Ultima Bomb so Militese can seize their crystal, to the treaties, betrayals and assassinations between Rubrum, Militesi and the eastern kingdom of Concordia. Class Zero witnesses first hand the repeated clashes between the Crystals’ chosen warriors – the l’Cie – who gain superhuman capabilities to battle for supremacy.  Finally, one by one the defenses and cities fall as Rubrum pushes back to conquer both Concordia and Militese and unite all four crystals under a single nation.  Then with a booming voice that echoes across the land comes “WE HAVE ARRIVED.” as nine and nine meets nine and Tempus Finis – the end times – begin.

Faced with the apocalypse at hand, Class Zero faces trial after trial established by the gods to test the Agito until they face off with the Arbiter himself and slay the god-like monster by ripping his soul apart bit by bit.  They return home only to face death for the first time in their young lives.  Their sacrifice is not in vain however, triggering events unbeknownst to them that break a endless cycle of death and rebirth that has cursed the land of Orience for millions of years.

My Thoughts

Type-0 is probably one of the stranger entries in the Final Fantasy series.  At least until XV comes out, it’s probably the most ‘action orientated’ of any of the games.  It spends its time split between Dynasty Warriors style combat areas, simplistic RTS-ish missions, and running around the school engaging in side quests.  It’s also the only Final Fantasy I know of that REQUIRES you to complete it more than once for the whole experience.  The main story is only completed on a second playthrough that shows you several alternate missions that explain other things that were going on during the events of the first playthrough.  It also has more side missions that can be completed in a single playthrough simply because of the limited ‘time til mission’ system that gives you a stock of hours to spend on side missions, interactions, and wandering outside the school.

That said, the whole game really takes some getting used to if you are a Final Fantasy die hard.  The combat is fast and merciless, the magic system is a nigh incomprehensible number balancing minigame, and the relative lack of guidance when it comes to side missions leaves a lot of trial and error.  For instance, certain side missions will only be available after so many hours have passed and only for certain characters.  Since you have 14 characters available to you at nearly all the time, you can imagine that without some manner of guide you can get lost easily.

The story is really cool and also really hard to figure out.  Part of this is apparently do to development issues.  The story goes is that they got about 90% of the story and gameplay finished before someone reminded them that this game was supposed to be tied into the Fabula Nova Crstyalis mythology – something they forgot entirely.  So it’s inclusion was kind of shoved in there.  Because of that, a lot of the ending is really confusing with reading all the extra materials, a second playthrough and even then you may need some wiki-ing to get the whole picture.  Of course, yours truly also did a write up that explains the ending *coughplugcough*.  But once I understood it, the whole concept seemed REALLY cool.  An endless time loop brought upon by two god-like figures attempting to break into the world of the dead?  One of which is trying to breed a superwarrior that can penetrate the gate, the other trying to break it by flooding it with souls all at once.  It’s kind of a cool idea that I just wish came across cleaner than reaching the final chapter of the game and then OMGWTFENDTIMEZ.

It should be noted that this game also marks the first time Final Fantasy ventured into a ‘M’ Rating from the ESRB and oh it earns that.  The very first thing we see is a high school student die in a bloody heap along with his dying and bloody chocobo on the way to deliver a message to Ace of Class Zero.  From there on, you will see a honest and bloody depiction of the war that these child soldiers are being put through.  I mean, it’s not Mortal Kombat levels of blood and gore, but it doesn’t shy away from the utter brutality of war either.  People die. A lot of people die.  Important characters die.  Nameless soldiers die.  Heck, just summoning an eidolan requires three or more people to die.  And because of that, I won’t lie, this game can get REALLY depressing at times. Especially since when someone dies that everyone loses their memory of that person.  The best that anyone can hope for is that their ID is recovered so that there’s a record of the person who died’s name.  A cruel kindness bestowed by the Crystals to hide the fact of the time loop.

Still, I feel that Type-0 deserves a better shake than it got.  I mean, it was a PSP game that not saw international release, and the PS4/Xbox One version was pretty much sold entirely under the guise of getting access to the Episode Duscae demo of Final Fantasy XV. I know this because if you look at the percentage of players who got the completed the intro trophy of Type-0 and the percentage for literally any other trophy, it drops immensely. People bought it, played the prologue, dropped it.  I kinda get it, it’s a very different Final Fantasy.  But I think it merits more love than it got.

Next time, we near the end of Final Fantasy Month here at the Land of Odd as we look at the most recent addition to the Final Fantasy legacy. Till then, May the light of the Crystals guide your way!

Do you have any great memories from these classic Final Fantasy games? Feel free to share in the comments!

Final Fantasy Month: Final Fantasy XIV – A Realm Reborn

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The Plot

A plot? To an MMO? Surely you jest!  No. Actually, FFXIV has a quite extensive plot tied to its ‘Main Scenario’ storyline that carries you from the first level all the way to the level cap and beyond.  It often sees new chapters added with content patches every few months and in my opinion is one of the best aspects of this game that no other MMO can come close to in quality.

You can find a complete breakdown of the 2.0 (A Realm Reborn) storyline here on this site.  There are spoilers.

The story continues in the first expansion: Heavensward.  Dealing with the tragic fallout of the events of the end of A Realm Reborn’s story, the Warrior of Light and his companions seek refuge in the northern lands of Ishgard.  There they find themselves embroiled in the political schemings of noble houses and Ishgard’s theocratic government as they deal with the renewed onslaught of the dravarian (dragon) horde.  The Warrior of Light takes it upon themselves to seek out the leaders of the dragons and see if a truce can be established as it was in years long past. Through the adventure, the Warrior of Light must face off with the Garlean Empire once more now bolstered by their new emperor and expose an ancient conspiracy that will shake the faith and people of Ishgard to its core.

My Opinions

I love Final Fantasy XIV.  Rarely have I ever found such a rich story experience in an MMO.  You grow to learn the NPCs and get to the point of caring about them and feel sad when tragic events happen to them.  I can’t say that I’ve had that experience in SWTOR, and only occasionally in WoW. The world of Eorzea draws you in and feels alive as you explore it and become familiar with its history and people.

It’s a shame that the actual gameplay can feel like such a slog at times.

Not to say that it’s outright bad or even lousy.  But it is slow, which is something that will come as a bit of a jarring change if you come from other MMOs.  The global cooldowns are longer, the auto attack is slower, and the overall leveling experience is reminiscent of vanilla WoW in its pace. None of these things are inherently bad – but they can be draining after a while or even shocking to new players.  On the other hand, these changes seem to produce a very different community than one would find in say WoW.  The mellow pace almost seems infectious.  I never see people screaming for faster and bigger pulls or growing impatient with newbie tanks or healers.  I mean, there will always be assholes, but overall it seems that FFXIV has a little bit more…  relaxed view on things.

The real thing that brought down the game for me was actually not any of those things, but doing them multiple times.  See, unlike other games, you aren’t locked into a single ‘class’ or even limited in your professions in XIV.  Instead, it uses a modified version of the Job System where each class and profession is a different Job that you can switch to and level independently.  Which is awesome. Until it occurs to you that if you were a completionist that means leveling 15 or so jobs, and only the first one gets the bonus of having the Main Scenario quests. This is made up for with various repeatable mini-quests called Levequests that you can grind on over and over.  But there’s usually only 3-4 per 5 levels and they can get repetitive easily.  The other drawback to the Job System is equipment.  Some jobs can only use certains weapons, or armor types and also prioritize different stats.  So you end up needing a lot of equipment and crafting materials should you choose to pursue everything – and you have very VERY limited space to store things.  It’s a constant juggling act of compromises to decide what to keep or drop if you want to keep stuff around for your other jobs.

Beyond that – at least to me – it’s a great MMO to play.  There’s a ton of stuff to do and more constantly coming down the pipeline.  If you ever need a break from your current MMO or want to try one out and really like story, I’d recommend this one.  And if you ever wanna say ‘Hi’ you can find me on Faerie in the US servers.  Just look up ‘Vrykerion’.

May the light of the Crystals guide your way!

Do you have any great memories from these classic Final Fantasy games? Feel free to share in the comments!

Final Fantasy Month: The XIII Trilogy

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Ah yes, the XIII Trilogy… or the Lightning Trilogy…  or the only part of the Fabula Nova Crystalis project to walk away intact. The games are probably the most despised entries in the entire franchise in the West.  I don’t know about the East, but I hear they do apparently like Lightning so there’s that. I’m not going to go into my usual breakdown of plot and opinion on this one, namely because I’ve already spoken about it a little bit before:

…Just a uh… little.  Anyway, since you can go into and read a ton already on what I have wrote I figured I’d use this time to talk a bit about the Trilogy overall. Since really the entire thing feels like a microcosm of the Final Fantasy series as a whole.  Namely, an emphasis on experimentation.

The first game is flawed. I don’t think even an avid fan of it like me could argue otherwise.  The plot is dense and using the datalog to explain important story and world concepts was not a brilliant move. The linear gameplay with large tracts of corridors to run through was also a huge red mark for many players.  The game also emphasized on the characters and their day to day interactions during their journey (Day to day may be stretching it because I’m pretty sure the timeline of the game minus the 13 days leading up to the Bodhum Purge is less than a week).

Wait. Character interaction? Dense plot and backstory that is poorly explained?  Long hallway like areas? Isn’t that Final Fantasy X?  Indeed. It seems that for the first game, Square Enix went back to the well and imitated a lot of their last mega-hit, Final Fantasy X. Only this time, no one liked it.  Maybe it was the lack of awkward love story if you weren’t a creepy HopeRai shipper (Seriously. He’s like 14 in the first game people. And his Mom just died. So there’s a Freudian can of worms pairing him with Lightning.)

However, from there they decided to evolve and experiment with the second installment where they added more exploration and side content to the whole experience. The plot was still a bit weird if you didn’t devote a solid chunk of time into reading and thinking about it, but it almost felt that it was a bit more okay here since we were dealing with a time travel story and those by their very nature are going to start getting complicated and quick.  Even Chrono Trigger gets a bit nuts if you think about it too long (Coincidentally, I’m pretty sure thinking about Chrono Trigger too long is how we ended up with Chrono Cross.)  Both the combat system and the Crystarium saw more customization and player options added in as well.

Finally, we get Lightning Returns which is a radical departure from both XIII and XIII-2 in terms of combat and gameplay.  No more parties, you just had Lightning.  To compensate, you could switch between outfits that each played a different role and/or different abilities.  Similar to Dressphere switching in X-2.  The game was completely non-linear, giving you free reign over 5 ‘zones’ that had shades of almost an MMO like design with stuff like scattered bits of side quests, ‘dungeon’ areas, and each zone had a ‘main story’ chain that could be completed a bit at a time or all at once.  It was a complete reversal of the gameplay we saw in XIII.

The Trilogy started with the familiar and then pushed and pushed for exploring new ways to engage players.  Some worked, some didn’t.  That’s pretty much Final Fantasy in a nutshell.  It’s kind of a fascinating way to look at it.  Another fun way to look at is that is that the games continue to open up more and more as the characters fight for and claim more agency and ‘free will’ in spite of the situation they are in.  Since Free Will is a major theme throughout the XIII Trilogy, I can’t help but wonder if that was a conscious choice of the design team.

Well, as I said I’ve already written a ton on the XIII trilogy and I don’t want to dwell on it long here. Check out those links if you want to read more of my thoughts diving into the plot and mechanics of each game.  Next time, we’ll try talking a bit about a Final Fantasy MMO.

Till then, May the light of the Crystals guide your way!

Do you have any great memories from these classic Final Fantasy games? Feel free to share in the comments!

Final Fantasy Month: Final Fantasy X & X-2

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The Plot

A thousand years ago, the leader of the land of Zanarkand – Yu Yevon – called upon all his summoners to war with the nearby civilization of Bevelle.  He sacrificed them and turned them into crystalline soul prisons called Fayth and his people to turn himself into a living god.  However, Yu Yevon lost his mind in the process and began a tirade of destruction across the land.  Over the centuries, a religion grew around Yevon in hopes of appeasing the monster they dubbed Sin because it was viewed as the embodiment of their wrongs come back to punish them.  Followers of Yevon task Summoners with making a great pilgrimage to gain the blessings of the Fayth and then sacrifice themselves to bring about the Calm, a few short years without Sin attacking the people of Spira.

The game follows one such Summoner – Yuna – and her guardians as she makes the pilgrimage like her father before her.  Early on however, she meets Tidus.  Tidus is a sports star from Zanarkand who was flung here when Sin attacked his home a thousand years ago and then joins Yuna’s entourage as a guardian.  Throughout their journey, Yuna and Tidus fall in love, only for Tidus to discover late in their journey that the pilgrimage ends with Yuna’s death.  Rejecting this, he sets out to find another way to handle things.  The others resist as ‘this is the way of things’ until Yuna too turns on the plan when its exposed that the pilgrimage ends with her turning her most trusted guardian into the new Sin and it killing her. The Calm is just the time it takes the new Sin to manifest.  Along with discovering that the Church of Yevon is full of corrupt undead politician priests that have used this all to their own advantage.  Yuna and Tidus vow to kill Sin once and for all and expose the Church of Yevon.

This is all complicated by the revelation that the current iteration of Sin is Jecht, the former high summoner’s trusted guardian and Tidus’ abuse dick of a father that vanished.  Jecht apparently traveled with Yuna’s father and Auron, a warrior monk, during the last successful pilgrimage. Jecht asked Auron to go find his son and bring him to help kill Jecht-Sin.  Teaming up with the technology people of the Al Behd, Yuna and Tidus attack Sin and fight their way to his core to kill Jecht and then destroy Yu Yevon himself – now a mindless parasite inside the husk of Sin.  However, their victory is short lived as it’s revealed that Tidus is not actually real.  He and his version of Zanarkand (the real one long destroyed) were idealized dreams that the Fayth were forced to create by Sin.  With Sin gone and the Fayth at last able to rest, Tidus too will vanish.  The game ends with Yuna saying her final farewells to her love as he vanishes.

My Thoughts

Final Fantasy X is one of those games that just make it so easy to make fun of.  It really is.  Namely because of the voice acting which ranges from ‘good’ to ‘wtf’ in places.  Being the first voiced Final Fantasy game, I have often wondered if it was because of bad direction that produced some of the stranger moments.  For instance, Yuna’s voice acting was…  spaced…  out…        alot… because the actress has said she was trying to match the mouth movements.  Where with other performances that wasn’t the case.  Which says to me – as someone who did study film for quite a few years – that it’s likely that the director didn’t give any direction for what to do in some of these performances.  James Arnold Taylor, who voice Tidus, has stated that he did the voice over lines as a much older and wiser Tidus relating the tale down to children, where as it’s eventually revealed later that it was Tidus talking to his party members about 3/4ths through the game.  Clearly an error. Did NO ONE know what happened later in the game when they were recording? Did everyone just do it linearly and never thought to skip ahead?  Again, this isn’t bad voice acting. This reeks of bad direction or just inexperienced direction.

Beyond that, I thought the game was alright.  I often felt that Tidus and Yuna’s characters and dialogue would have made a bit more sense if they were younger than they are in the game, and I have pondered if that was maybe something that got changed through development.  Like they started out closer to Vaan & Penelo’s age from Final Fantasy XII (a game we sadly won’t be touching on because I’ve only made it about 25% of the way through).  But beyond that, the characters are likable enough.  Even the characters I don’t like aren’t bad.  Wakka for instance is in my opinion an idiot.  Now, as far as I can tell, that’s intentional.  Since he’s a big dumb jock who has been raised on church indoctrination, and he acts like such.

One thing I really did like in this game was the combat changes.  Continuing the evolutionary push started back in VII, X does the crazy thing of ditching the iconic Active Time Battle system in favor for something more rigidly turn based where the order of attackers is displayed in the corner and attacks can alter that order in strategic ways.  Combine that with the ability to swap out any of the three active combatants with any of the inactive ones and you have what I would argue is the most strategic Final Fantasy outside of the Tactics spin off series.  And the game utilizes this really well with boss encounters that take advantage of the strategy element.

I suppose if I’m going to talk about the combat system, I should speak of the “leveling” system as well.  There are no levels to speak of.  Instead, you gain experience toward each characters next “Sphere Level”.  For each sphere level you spend, you can move one node further along the Sphere Grid – a massive map of circular nodes that will do things like grant Strength, Magic, Defense, or new abilities.  All characters share a single grid but depending on the version of the game, you’ll either start in the center or in your respective section.  However, you’re never limited to one section. You can break out into the other sections and eventually every character can acquire every node in the grid.  This system is essentially the groundwork for most leveling systems in the future games.  XII’s lisence board? XIII’s Crystarium?  WoFF’s Mirage Boards? All shades and hues of the Sphere Grid. Even XV looks to have a similar system for skills in place. And this system isn’t bad.  Not in the least.  It actually opens up the level of customization and lets you put priorities on what you want.  I for one felt that Yuna with her 1 MP spell cost ability should learn Ultima. That seems helpful to be able to cast for cheap. And done! Just as easy as navigating her place on the grid to the Ultima spell node and unlocking it for her.  I really liked this system and I found it to give something constantly to look forward to while playing.  Oh yea, we’re getting tedious fight after fight on the Highroad but HEY! We got a bunch of sphere levels for it. Let’s go see what we can get with ’em!  It was a really fun system.

Of course all of that would be thrown out for a completely different experience in every way when Final Fantasy X broke the biggest tradition in Final Fantasy games…  And gave us a direct sequel.

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The Plot

Two years after the defeat of Sin, Yuna has fled her suffocating duties as a high summoner to pursue treasure hunting with her cousin Rikku and their new friend Paine.  They discover a lost sphere that showed Tidus screaming in a cage demanding to “see her” and Yuna wants to discover the truth.  Along the way, they also get roped in to the current political fallout of the world’s one church/one government being exposed as frauds two years prior.  Most of the world is divided between New Yevon who believes in slow but sure change and more of a revision of their fallen faith’s views, and the Youth League who prefer radical change and feel that the older generation failed them.

The stories collide when its discovered that it was not Tidus in the sphere video but a man named Shuyin who was a sports celebrity in the real Zanarkand a thousand years ago and also had a lover who was a summoner.  During the war between Bevelle & Zanarkand, before Sin was created, Shuyin stole a massive doomsday weapon called Vegnagun to save his lover from destruction but they ended up both dying in the end. Vegnagun was sealed away never to be used because they built a doomsday weapon that would attack anyone and anything that showed negative emotions. It’s Vegnagun that both the Youth League and New Yevon are looking for.

The reason why is actually explained in a long sidequest that shows that the founders of the three major factions – New Yevon, Youth League, and the Machine Faction (who doesn’t have any political designs beyond making cool stuff to help people) and Paine all were part of a military squad back in the day.  They opened a sealed cave and unleashed the angry spirit of Shuyin who possessed one of them, looking for a chance to use Vegnagun and destroy the world out of his pure concentrated hatred.  The other leaders are looking for Vegnagun to stop their friend from doing something terrible.

Ultimately though it falls to Yuna and her crew to diminish the number of threats that Vegnagun can sense by uniting the people of Spira, and then venturing into the Farplane where the dead go to face off with Shuyin and then destroy Vegnagun.  The world is saved again thanks to Yuna and her friends and this time when she returns to her hometown of Besaid, there’s a certain blonde sportstar turned real waiting for her.

My Thoughts

Considering it’s the first direct sequel in the series and a sequel to one of the games hailed as one of the all time greats, Final Fantasy X-2 is probably one of the most controversial titles ever released in the series.  I mean, there is so much hate out there for this game.  But for me personally? It’s honestly on the short list of my favorite installments.  No, seriously. I really love X-2.  Okay, granted the story is silly and the characters are cartoonish…  but that’s okay.  It’s okay for there to be a silly Final Fantasy game.  I mean, it probably helped that I didn’t play it until the HD Remaster and by then knew fully well not to expect the same experience as the games that came before it.  It’s a lighthearted adventure to save the world using the power of ‘the feels’ and song.  But sometimes that’s okay to have.  Especially when the game is just so damn fun.

The game takes a break from X’s strict linear structure (that sometimes borders on so linear that you literally just run in a straight line and fight monsters for several areas) and gives you access to pretty much every map from the first game, and a few new ones. The main storyline is fairly short but it is supplemented with an abundance of sidequests.  Some of which actually explain quite a bit about the history of Spira or the current situation of the game and some are just silly fluff (Curse you Monkey Dating Game!) There is a megaton of things to do in this game and none of which border on the insane side bits from X where you need a below zero finish time in a race or dodge lightning 200 times without leaving the screen.  Don’t get me wrong. Some of the side quests are annoying.  Getting 100% is annoying. But it’s not AS annoying.

However, my all time favorite thing in X-2 has to be the return of the Job System.  It’s labeled as “Dresspheres” but it’s the Job System.  Heck, it even has a lot of the same jobs.  You select what ability from the job you want to learn and all Ability Points earned in combat go toward learning that ability.  You can switch jobs in MID-COMBAT to further customize your game play.  And there’s something like 20 jobs you can play with.  As a completionist, I actually find it really fun to be able to completely switch up how my characters play and look while grinding out my 100% so that nothing becomes too repetitive and this game delivers that in spades.

X-2 also has – in my opinion – the all time greatest line of dialogue uttered in a Final Fantasy game:

Next time we’re going to start digging into some familiar territory for fans of the blog and I get to rant a bit more about what I feel is a very under appreciated game in the series.  Until then, May the light of the Crystals guide your way!

Do you have any great memories from these classic Final Fantasy games? Feel free to share in the comments!

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