Cidolfas's RPG Reviews
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Notes On My Reviews
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter (PS2)
I said above that I generally wouldn't be reviewing games that I hadn't finished; here's an exception. I rented this game for three days, after which I had absolutely no intention of re-renting it to find out what happened next. The environment in BoFDQ is consistently bland: rust-colored, devoid of people, just a continual barrage of monsters and items. The "villages", if you could call them that, consist of about three shops and two NPCs. Your three characters are no less bland - nothing of any value is told about them (one of them can't even speak!). Their quest to reach the surface seems to have sprung out of nowhere. The battles are interesting, but not enough to actually make me want to continue playing. Oh, and I absolutely HATE having to squish my items into a tiny area, especially when skills and traps take up one space each! Some people like this game for its maverick take on RPGs. I think it's proof that the reason RPGs do use certain tried-and-true methods is because they work. A disclaimer: It's quite possible that the game picks up (I would't know), but if a game takes more than 15 hours to become even remotely likeable, I can't in any good faith give it a good mark, even if it does redeem itself.
Final Fantasy II (NES/MSX/WSC/PSX/GBA)
There were some interesting experiments Squaresoft did with this title. Some of them were very neat (I always liked the keyword system, and have no idea why it hasn't been incorporated into any other RPG, ever). Story-wise it's miles ahead of FF1, but still falls majorly short of modern RPGs. The main reason I never really liked this game is the battles. Even more than FF1, the battles require you to do massive amounts of leveling before you can get anywhere. I hate leveling. The system of leveling up one attribute at a time also bugged me, mainly because I don't like using magic unless I need to, and I could never get good magic users in my party. I finished this game once (in the NES version), mainly by cheating, and have no real desire to do it again.
Final Fantasy III (NES)
The only FF never released in English and never on a system other than the NES. Despite the incredibly dated graphics and sound, oddly enough I find myself easily replaying this game over and over again. Squaresoft finally perfected their NES-era games with this hidden gem. The world is far bigger than the other two, and chock-full of secrets that actually want you to discover them. The huge variety of interchangable jobs finally introduces a real element of strategy into battles that does NOT necessarily involve leveling up to any huge degree. The story is mostly nonexistent, but the adventures you go on aren't! FF3 almost always keeps my attention (although not necessarily for hours on end). I even like the music tunes, which overall far surpass its siblings. If you don't mind dealing with bleeps and 8-bit graphics, you should definitely give this a whirl.
Final Fantasy IV (FF2 US) (SNES/WSC/PSX)
Oddly enough, I never actually found myself with any huge liking of this game... perhaps because I hadn't played it until after I'd already run FF6 into the ground. It's certainly a neat little game. While the Easy version is a bit too easy, the Hardtype one redone on PSX does offer a nice challenge. The characters are far more fleshed-out than earlier FFs, and having a five-person party with a fairly large variety of moves is a great relief. There's lots of exploration and a serious storyline (albeit riddled with cliches). However, while it was nice to play through once, I don't really have any interest in doing it again. Frankly, it tends to bore me.
Final Fantasy V (SNES/PSX)
This game is quite possibly the most challenging of the "normal" FFs. Although you stick with (basically) the same four characters all the way through, you do get a huge variety of Job classes, which makes for very strategic battles. The story as such is pretty overdone... there really isn't much to say for it. You really only go for FF5 for the gameplay, which it has in spades. Oh, and for Gilgamesh. Gotta love Gilgamesh. I haven't played the PSX translation, but I've heard it's fairly abysmal (not that the fan-made one was Shakespeare). Overall, FF5 is pretty entertaining if you're not looking for an easy ride. But it won't rivet you to your seat.
Final Fantasy VI (SNES/PSX)
What can I say? This is the game that started me on RPGs. I can't really give an unbiased view of it because I played it nonstop in my youth - I have almost the entire game memorized, which is why I can barely pick it up now. 8p But my memories are all good. The plot is an epic and a classic, with some fairly deep characterization and some of the best music on the SNES. The gameplay, while not all too challenging (mainly thanks to some cheap tricks) still keeps your attention. The translation is memorable, with some really great moments. If you haven't played this yet, you're doing yourself a disservice. If you have... well, time to move on. 8p
Final Fantasy VII (PSX)
The most overhyped game ever... but it certainly deserved a good part of it. I'd love to see it redone with people who actually looked like people rather than Lego, though. I really can't put my finger on why I like this game so much. The translation is terrible. The music is nice but doesn't really stick in the brain. The battles are extremely easy, on average. But there's something that really pulls me in. It probably has a lot to do with the "cool factor" - this is the only FF game that really has a modern/futuristic tinge to it, and it's very refreshing. There are a lot of moments that I enjoy simply because of "wow, cool!", even after all these years. It also has a lot to do with the colorful characters who brighten the gameplay up. Oh, and there's Sephiroth, too, of course. I think any RPG fan should play through this at least once - sift through the hype and you get a really solid game.
Final Fantasy VIII (PSX)
Proof positive that graphics aren't everything. There are a lot of things that detract from this game - the silence of the protagonist, the boring music and battles, the long loading times, the nondescript locations and slightly bizarre plot. I won't say I didn't enjoy it the first time round, but I simply cannot replay this game. It can't hold my interest. Once I know what happens to everyone, I don't have any interest in seeing it happen again. Having to continually draw magic from enemies is a pain in the rear end. FF8 will grab some people (mainly, from my experience, depressed teenagers) and leave a lot of others really wondering what all the fuss is about.
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (SNES)
Lots of people knock this game. And of course it's not a traditional FF game in that it's far more lightweight. You can blaze through it in 10 hours; there's virtually no story or any kind of characterization; and generally speaking it's pretty darn easy. But there is some challenge involved, and it's just a nice little way to spend your time. It has a bit of a tongue-in-cheek feel that no other FF game has and which is quite refreshing. And the music is surprisingly rockin'. 8-) I would have liked other ways to gain levels than the mind-numbing "arenas", though. Give it a whirl once over with an open mind, and I think you'll enjoy it. It's got a genial style all its own.
Live A Live (SNES)
This game isn't necessarily for everyone, but if it's for you, you're in for a treat. 8-) Nine separate chapters combine into one massive game, with lots of humor and secrets added in. The battles can be a bit strange, but the ability to save at any time softens the blow. Chapters range from the traditional (Medieval), the story-driven (Sci-Fi), the stupid (Present-Day) and the super-mysterious-cool (Bakumatsu). There's something for everyone!
Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA)
Yet another Mario RPG, this one concentrates more on the long-neglected brother, Luigi. Mario and Luigi really pair off, both in battle and out of it. It's a lot funnier than Paper Mario was, and a lot more action-oriented as well. The vast amount of strange characters are a bit of a turn-off when you expect to see familiar faces, but you get used to it. The battles can get quite challenging at times. Despite all that, though, I still felt there was something missing... it really didn't grab me. All in all it was an enjoyable experience, but I'll need a nice chunk of time until I can bring myself to replay it.
Paper Mario (N64)
This is a whimsical RPG, like the others in its series. The visual oddity gets old pretty quickly and starts to seem a bit strange, though. Mario's more passive than in his other outings, and it kind of hurts the game when everyone else around you is more expressive than you are. But it doesn't detract from the fun of it. I especially liked the fact that the stats aren't too complicated and never go above the double digits. There's tons of side stuff to do and things to collect, so it'll keep you busy. Unfortunately, though, I can't say I really enjoyed it the way I did Super Mario RPG; the humor quotient is just not really there. It's a very good time-waster, though.
Secret of Evermore (SNES)
Lots of people have bashed this game. And I freely agree that the battle system could have been a LOT better. Going crazy finding alchemy ingredients, then using the same spell over and over? Not for me. Leveling up each individual weapon by itself? Pretty silly. Spears suck. However, if you play the game in spurts, a fairly interesting picture emerges. The story is a lot more engaging than it might seem - mainly tempered by a goodly dose of humor (sadly, the programmers really pulled their punches, and the humor all seems like an afterthought rather than something to really make you chortle; you get the feeling it could have been a lot funnier). The various spells actually make for some interesting puzzles and areas. The main character is a doofus, of course, but that doesn't mean the people he comes up against are any less colorful. Overall, if you can stand the battle system, you should definitely pick this one up.
Secret of Mana (SNES)
This is the only one of the Mana/Seiken Densetsu games that I've actually finished. The action-RPG play style is simple but effective (although a bit buggy). It's really fun to level up all those weapons and spells, something that very few other games have accomplished. The story is pretty lacklustre and takes a back seat to the gameplay. The graphics are colorful and in bright contrast, and the music isn't bad. It's challenging but not too cheap. If you haven't played this classic, you should certainly give it a whirl.
Seiken Densetsu 3 (SNES)
This is almost a rehash of Secret of Mana, with a whole lot of improvements. The battle system has been tweaked and given more special attacks. You've got six characters instead of three, and a choice of three major story arcs. You've got more equipment slots, more AI, various character classes, and a more interesting plot. Graphics and music are updated. However, despite all that, I haven't been able to finish it. This is mainly because it's just a *bit* too hard for my liking. I generally get to the very last dungeon, and then get stuck leveling up (which, as I have noted, I abhor), and just give up and go away. If you're not one to mind that sort of thing, this is one of the most solid SNES offerings there is. I may not have liked it, but I think it's pretty safe to say that many others will.
Soul Blazer (SNES)
The lesser-known prequel to Illusion of Gaia is nevertheless a fairly solid game. There isn't much of a storyline, but wandering around restoring things is an interesting pastime. The game can be cheap at times (savestates are nice), and the graphics and music aren't very impressive by any standards, but it can be pretty darn entertaining while it lasts.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
If you're looking for depth and angst, look elsewhere. This is a funny, lush RPG with action elements to keep you on your toes, and it's simply doused with side stuff and secrets. One of the more enjoyable RPGs on the market. The challenge is on the easy side (although there are certainly difficult bosses and challenges in the game). The music is nice and the graphics are just amazing. The characters are colorful and consistently humorous (not to mention familiar). A really solid game, highly recommended!
The Europe-only sequel to Illusion of Gaia has good parts and bad parts. Some of the dungeons just plod along, some just seem to be tacked on for the heck of it. But the gameplay is pretty fun (except for one or two places where extremely annoying bosses kick your ass), the main character and his compatriot are roguish clowns (a nice change of pace), and the rather brazen idea of having actual places and people on Earth represented in the game makes for a cool sub-game of "Spot That Reference". Still, there are parts where I do get sick of it, so not everyone will really have tons of fun with it. Worth a spin, though.
Tales of Phantasia (SNES)
This game can be a lot of fun. The conversations tend to be a bit more whimsical than most RPGs, which are too serious for their own good. The story is pretty lacklustre, but there are some neat twists in it. The battles are challenging and fun. Music is nice too, although there's a bit too much thumping in it. The dungeons are actually interesting to get through (although random battles end up being a huge pain). The graphics are really nice for an SNES game. Overall, I'd definitely recommend playing this through at least once or twice.
Tales of Destiny (PSX)
Not much has changed between its predecessor and this offering. The random battles are still annoying. The story still takes a backseat to the gameplay, but you've got a much wider range of colorful characters to deal with. The talk is still pretty funny. 8-) The battles have been improved on by some innovative tweaks, and the dungeons are still pretty cool. It's a nice game, but it can get annoying at times. I honestly can't say why I like ToP better than ToD - maybe it's just because the main character isn't as shrill.
Wild ARMs (PSX)One of the first RPGs for the PlayStation, Wild ARMs is pretty conventional as games go. Having only three characters through the whole game is pretty lame, but there's enough variety in the styles of fighting that you tend not to notice. The story has strong points and weak points (and the Western themes don't really work), but overall it's all right. The music is nice and the gameplay (despite the ugly 3D models) keeps you interested; very rarely will you be able to mash O and win battles. Overall it's a pretty solid game; I'm looking forward to the PS2 remake.
Xenogears (PSX)I generally call this game one that was nice to *have played*, but wasn't very enjoyable getting through. The story is amazingly deep and complex, but the translation leans to the corny and even unprofessional side. The battles can be interesting, but usually they're just slamfests. The 3D exploration is neat, although a map would have been extremely useful. The music is astoundingly good. So as I said - definitely one you should play through once (maybe twice to get all the story bits you will most certainly miss the first time through) - but it's not really particularly enjoyable in my opinion.