Final Fantasy Replay Project: Final Fantasy I

Some miscellaneous thoughts on Final Fantasy, as I play through it.

  • Power-leveled a bit to start, while filling in the bestiary, and now I'm thinking a low-level challenge might be fun at some point.
  • It's not news to consider the game's progression as threadbare, compared to a lot of the modern games, and even the SNES games to some degree, but the directness of "here's a vague hint of where to go next, now kill a guy, now go to the next vague hint" surprises me every time. How did I beat this game as a kid?
  • Oh, I know, I used the Nintendo Power guide, which leads you by the nose and also teaches some bad habits, like...
  • I only now learned that you don't need to kill Marilith (I still know her as KARY) to get to the class change, you can start that quest once you kill Lich and can get the Canoe. Hax.

Figured I should write something before I get lost in a Persona 5 hole.

Final Fantasy Replay Project: Beginnings

I've decided to start going down a long road: I'm going to replay a version of every mainline Final Fantasy game (excluding XI and XIV), in order. Why? Because I can, and the old games are pretty great, I guess!? There is no why, other than why not.

This is going to end up being a very drawn-out process, I think, because I'm playing tons of other games and I am bad at prioritizing. I'm hoping, however, that I update here periodically with thoughts as I go.


First up is Final Fantasy (PSP). This is probably the Final Fantasy I've beaten the most times, aside from Final Fantasy IV, so, fittingly for this lark of a time sink, I'm starting out on one of the least necessary games. The original game on NES was great for its time and still does a decent job holding up even now, but the PSP release for the 20th anniversary of the series is generally improved, and has some bonus dungeons (bonus dungeons of varying quality, honestly). I'll be playing it on my Japanese Vita (since, puzzlingly, they haven't released it on the NA PSN).

The PSP version also makes the game far easier than the original NES version or the PS1 rerelease due in part to its removal of D&D-style spellcasting, choosing instead to use the mana point system present in the rest of the Final Fantasy series. Accordingly, it is much easier to make effective use of spellcasters, and you don't have to manage an extremely limited resource to do anything magical. That said, I may play the PS1 version at some point down the road, if I get really addicted to this project.

Anyway, I'm rolling with the very traditional party of Warrior/Monk/White Mage/Black Mage (Fighter/Black Belt/White Mage/Black Mage by the NES naming scheme, which is how I actually think about the classes). This should be a cakewalk: the two best melee classes, and the two main spellcasters. As long as I don't take forever to do this, I'm already looking ahead to FF2. But for now, time to revisit the granddaddy of them all.

Figures, 201703 Edition

aka "Friends don't let friends get into anime"

For the last year or so I've been building a collection of anime and game figures. This last month I've filled in the collection a bit, moved my display case upstairs (where there's more room), and worked on the lighting and presentation a bit. I figured it was a good time to take pictures of some of this stuff.

Please enjoy.

Game Lists, 2016 Edition

Top 12 Games Of 2016

Inclusion on this list doesn't mean I've beaten them, just that I've played enough to look at them and go "yeah, this is a game I really liked". Consoles listed are merely the ones I played the games on. A worthwhile note: my ordering is somewhat arbitrary.

Dragon Quest Builders

12. Dragon Quest Builders (Vita)

I expected to immediately lose interest in this game, and to be honest I'm still on the first chapter, but it's a fun thing to pick at, making silly rooms and structures in your silly village. My bedroom has the only nice chair in the village! The writing in DQB is surprisingly charming, making it more than a Minecraft clone.

Root Letter

11. Root Letter (Vita)

This visual novel makes me happy, even if the writing is a bit strange in spots, the text has some typos, and the main character is kind of a jerk-ass. The Mino Taro artwork is beautiful, though, and the story definitely hits its romantic notes as you go, if you're invested.

Firewatch

10. Firewatch (PS4)

I was enthralled by the narrative in this, and despite being let down by the ending, I still feel that the first 90% of this game has some great writing and a couple stand-out performances in what is essentially a visual novel that needed greatness to succeed at all.

Street Fighter V

9. Street Fighter V (PS4)

Hoo boy, this game. The fighting is really good! Everything else about it is kind of rough and bungled, marring what would be a really great fighting game experience. So many other fighting games are putting complete packages together, though — Street Fighter V just looks like a budget game or weird beta. Writing this actually knocked SFV down several positions from where I first put it in my list. But the fighting is so good!

Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel

8. Nitroplus Blasterz: Heroines Infinite Duel (PS4)

In a previous year, I put Persona 4 Arena on my list because of how much it rekindled my love for fighting games, enough for me to go to Evo. I still love fighting games, as much as ever, but I've been in a bit of a fighting game lull due to time and effort. However, Nitro+ is tons of fun to play non-seriously, and I entered an Evo side tourney and won a match in this game so I'll always cherish it.

Stranger of Sword City

7. Stranger of Sword City (Vita)

On-again, off-again for me, but this is definitely a very well put together Wizardry-style dungeon crawler. The best art we've seen in a traditional gridder in a while. A harder game than Etrian Odyssey and many other contemporaries is both a selling point and a hindrance, depending on your mood.

Axiom Verge

6. Axiom Verge (Vita)

It'd be easy to just simply call this "the best Metroidvania in a long time" or something, so instead: the 8-bit scifi aesthetic in this game where you go back and forth between maps, exploring an alien world as your character becomes increasingly capable is worth the price of admission alone, but it's also a very good one of those games. Axiom Verge nails the genre in every way.

Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator

5. Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator (PS4)

Speaking of complete packages, Xrd:R is everything I want in an anime fighting game, except I don't have the necessary amount of time to dive into it. Beautiful game, tons of extras, rock solid gameplay, and a story mode I still need to get to. Xrd:R would be higher still on this list if I had the time to devote to it that I want (maybe I carve out time in early 2017!), but then it'd contend against ArcSys's other line and my true favorite, BlazBlue.

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X

4. Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X (Vita, PS4)

These games always melt my heart, and I will always be fond of them for that reason. Another really good Vocaloid rhythm game, just wish it had even more tracks to play. The series is looking good on PS4, which bodes well for the future even if I'll miss out on the Vita side.

World of Final Fantasy

3. World of Final Fantasy (Vita, PS4)

It's a really solid turn-based JRPG filled to the brim with Final Fantasy nostalgia! I will love it forever. The sheer volume of really good voice acting makes this stand out against so many partially-voiced JRPGs, but all of WoFF drips in its own style. It's a fully-loaded experience, with tons of main quest line and sidequests to dive into, and has some of the sharpest writing and voice acting delivery in the main characters. A delight in gameplay and characterization.

Hitman

2. Hitman (PS4)

I've been intentionally playing this game in short chunks because I love it so much, it's a hilarious time every time I have a target and an axe in hand. Would have totally skipped this had I not seen how ridiculous it can be; it turns out that it nails a lot, but its selling point is many of the levels are fun, specifically crafted playgrounds that allow for tons of mission variants and even more hijinks. The team definitely knew what they were creating, and without that knowing wink to the camera, this would have just been another bland action game.

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

1. Zero Time Dilemma (Vita)

A great cap to the Zero Escape trilogy. Quite possibly the game I anticipated the most this year, and it did not disappoint. Some questionable animation and camera work isn't nearly enough to take away from Uchikoshi's interwoven story of interesting characters and room escape games. The cerebral story and unflinching violence and despair are certainly worth the price of admission. Just, as is always warned, play Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward first.

It's a minor miracle that ZTD exists at all, and it seems fair to argue that it also brought us a re-release of 999, which is a glorious future to look forward to.

1 Game I'm Counting As 2016 Because That's When I Played It and It Came Out Super Late In 2015...

...and maybe it belongs at the top of the list anyway. This is my list and I'll break the rules if I want to! I just couldn't not call this out.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

1+. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (Vita)

I played a ton of RPGs this year, but honestly, this is the only one I needed for 2016. Trails of Cold Steel is precisely what I want out of a JRPG: wonderfully varied characters, great writing, traditional turn-based combat, a good, coherent look, rad soundtrack, and hours. So many hours. I don't have my save on hand to check just how much time I put into this game, but I'm pretty sure it was over 100 hours for my first playthrough. The Vita version has some occasional performance issues, but otherwise, it's an absolute pleasure to play.

The last couple years have really made me appreciate Nihon Falcom, and so far, Trails of Cold Steel in the apex of that sentiment. Certainly my favorite JRPG since Persona 4 Golden, its traditional combat and storytelling are a welcome comfort. I cannot wait for Cold Steel II.

1 More Game While I'm Breaking The Rules

This was also just too good for me to ignore.

Dungeon Travelers 2

~3. Dungeon Travelers 2: The Royal Library & the Monster Seal (Vita)

There are a couple other 2016 gridders made lists, but this was really my favorite to play this year. Great anime-style look (a bit ecchi, but no complaints here), nice and difficult, and a lot of flexibility in the customization options with Etrian Odyssey-style skill trees and class change options. Dungeon Travelers 2 feels like it's for gridder fans that want a break every now and then, it's difficult but you can save and retry anywhere, and (generally) warns the player before bosses and tough fights. Maybe the most accessible dungeon crawler you'll find right now, if you don't mind (or even like) the art.

13 Games From 2016 I Still Need To Play and Have Genuine Hope For

These probably would have made my 2016 list, if only I had the time to play them...

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II (Vita) — I only first beat Cold Steel I later in the year, and I want to play through it again before starting Cold Steel II. I found the first game amazing, though.

Megadimension Neptunia VII (PS4) — I like these games.

Superdimension Neptune vs. SEGA Hard Girls (Vita) — I like these games even more on Vita, but I need to beat VII first.

Steins;Gate 0 (Vita) — I am so in love with Steins;Gate it makes me cry. Seriously. Genuine deep love for the first game. 0 is waiting on me to do a replay of Steins;Gate first. Would absolutely have been my #1 if it's as good as my hope for it.

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (Vita) — This only just came out, but I really enjoy it. If I had more time to get deeper into it, it might have made it into the list above, and that is surprising to me, as I don't have much interest in platformers.

BlazBlue: Central Fiction (PS4) — BlazBlue is maybe my favorite fighting game series. I love the series' insanity. Haven't had much chance to play lately, though.

I Am Setsuna (PS4) — Sounds like it's pretty good, if you don't compare it to Chrono Trigger.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (PS4) — See: no time. I really enjoyed Human Revolution though.

King of Fighters XIV (PS4) — I appreciate this game for what it is, and have a soft spot for SNK continuing to put in work. Waiting for the graphics patch and some free time.

Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky (Vita) — Looks real good on Vita, and the couple hours I played were fun. It just lost out in the battle for time.

Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate (Vita) — Comfortable roguelike dungeon crawler in the Mystery Dungeon family. Feels good to play. Ran out of time, again, need to put it back into the rotation.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) — I really need more exposure to the 3D Zeldas. This is on the list for 2017, to help retire the Wii U, along with...

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Wii U) — Given how much I love Atlus, it's a sin that I haven't gotten to this yet.

Other Games This Year That Didn't Make the 2016 List But I Liked Anyway

PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness (Vita) — Enjoyed it, got one ending, but all the other releases of the year elbowed it out. Will revisit.

Caladrius Blaze (PS4) — I'm bad at shmups but I really like this one. That's it, really. It looks pretty good, and sounds like an arcade when there's just a cacophony of rings and explosions and shots and anime girls yelling.

Ray Gigant (Vita) — interesting take on gridder mechanics, the main character at the start of the game is annoying as hell, though. Actually, maybe a lot of the characters are. Gameplay's good, though.

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir (Vita) — beautiful, as everyone expected, but the action just doesn't grab me. Surely a good game, just not one for me.

Pokémon Moon (3DS) — this would fall into the above list, arguably, given how little time I've spent playing it, but I never get super into the Pokémon series. Regardless, I want to play more of this in 2017.

The Bunker (PS4) — a neat suspenseful point and click adventure. Pretty good.

What Else I Was Playing Instead of Games From 2016

Arcade Archives: Gradius (PS4) — I got into this game in a real weird way.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3) — maybe still my favorite fighting game.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) — a worthwhile entry in the Danganronpa series, even if I prefer the VN/adventure games more. Yay, despair!

Puyo Puyo Tetris (PS4) — is there a more hype Tetris and/or Puyo Puyo game? The answer is no.

Corpse Party: Blood Drive (Vita) — fairly rough, technically, but still a pretty decent cap to the Corpse Party games, even if it is more frustrating to play than actually terrifying.

Day of the Tentacle Remastered (Vita) — still an awesome point-and-click adventure game.

Extra Life 2016

I'm streaming for Extra Life again this year! If you're reading this the day of, hopefully I'm still conscious, as I'm coming back from a business trip. Regardless, some quick linkage, and then on to the game stream details.

Stream Info

November 5th, 11:00 CDT!

First, obviously, is Extra Life itself. It's a charity helping children's hospitals, and this is the big event of the year for them. You should probably donate, that's what cool people do. You can go to my donor page to get all the info and donate. I already put down $50, as is my custom, and I'll match another $100 of others' donations!

You can watch my stream on Twitch! More on why I did that in a moment, but this year I didn't put together my own stream page. Hang out below or at Twitch, I'll be chewing the fat and taking requests in Twitch chat!

This year I'm streaming as part of the Giant Bomb community team. They're a bunch of decent folks, and you can see all of their streams here.

Games

Alright, now that that's taken care of, if you're here and already watching the stream, you probably want to know what I have in store. Well, I don't know! But there's a lot that could be. Some ideas on my mind:

  • Mega Man Legacy Collection (can I fit all the games into one night?)
  • Palate cleansing with Project Diva X
  • Random forays into Caladrius Blaze, Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours, Gradius, and more (part of the ongoing series of me enjoying games I'm bad at)
  • Maybe I'll finally get around to starting Tokyo Mirage Sessions
  • Putzing around in BlazBlue: Central Fiction
  • Hitman follies?
  • Jackbox games if people are physically/virtually around?
  • More retro madness:
    • Akumajou Special - Boku Dracula-kun
    • Castlevania I–IV
    • E.V.O.
    • Holy Diver
    • Makeruna! Makendou
    • Maniac Mansion
    • Monster Party
    • The Ninjawarriors Again
    • Rushing Beat Ran
    • Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti
    • Sweet Home
    • ...and tons more

I'll be taking requests for when I don't have any better idea or start getting burned out, so hang out in Twitch chat and help keep me company. Donate to subject me to your gaming whims!

Join me on November 5th at 11:00 CDT!

Soylent - Day Whatever It Is

Still doing Soylent. Still pretty pleased with it. Eating better and I've lost a fair amount of weight. All I have to say, really.

Soylent - Day 2

Almost through my second day of 100% Soylent 2.0. It's going pretty well so far. Soylent 2.0 is surprisingly kind of tasty; I've seen some people relate it to Cheerios milk, to me it tastes more like liquid graham cracker. Definitely doesn't need any kind of additive to make it tolerable, I'm actually liking it for the most part.

But maaaaaaaaaaan, never been more mindful of how many food commercials there are on TV. It's kind of absurd. I'm not bought into the whole "Americans do food the wrong way" thing, but I see where that argument is coming from.

Soylent - Day 0

I have some Soylent sitting in the fridge next to me. It seems like a good idea.

I have a very boring relationship with food. I love food, but I'm usually too busy/lazy to bother to do anything about it, leading me to the same boring two trips to Panera across from work day in and day out, the same bagel in the morning, sandwich in the afternoon, the same weekend routine of ordering delivery once in the middle of the day and coasting for a day to a day and a half on that.

There are a lot of people who have written about Soylent in the context of what it does to the human interaction with food, which for them is a social experience, but for me, it is absolutely the most uninspired thing imaginable the majority of a time. I like spending time on other things, so I don't spend time preparing food, and get fast food and delivery the majority of the time instead. I live alone and don't have a whole lot of reasons to go out dining, so my schedule is based on getting food when it's accessible to me (at work).

In short, yeah, food kind of is a chore, for me.

After a fair amount of joking on IRC about how much I'd be behind nutrient pills, I figured it was finally time to do this Soylent thing. I've certainly been curious about it for a while, so now seems like as good a time as any. I could use to lose some weight. I could use to eat better even if I didn't need to lose weight. By some back of the envelope math, I could even save some money if I replaced 100% of my meals with Soylent, even the more expensive bottled Soylent 2.0, which is what I've ordered. (Like I established above, I'm lazy --- having to prepare Soylent from powder would probably just kill the experiment for me.)

To be clear, though, I'm not planning on replacing all of my food with Soylent, even if this goes extremely well. I do like food. I love tearing into a good burger, or dining on some godlike pizza. I love going out to a restaurant with friends, when I get the opportunity to. I love a good home-cooked meal. What I am interested in doing, though, is streamlining all the times when I'm eating alone, and eating just to get energy. Those times are kind of boring, I don't really think about what I'm eating (which is bad), I don't put any effort into eating better or even preparing my own meals (also bad), and I don't get an amazing amount of enjoyment out of everyday eating, especially when I'm still preferably thinking about work or playing a game or whatever it is I'm doing. I'm interested to cut those parts of my routine out, and I think Soylent will help with that.

So I'm going to try it. It'll be interesting.

Steins;Gate

I got the true ending and platinum trophy to Steins;Gate this morning. Stayed up until 5:30 and then had to take a nap before I completed it to do it, but it has been done.

I owe this game more words when I have the time and energy to muster them, but in the event I never get to it, Steins;Gate is a brilliant, beautiful game. Right up there with 999 as my favorite visual novel. It's sad — depressing almost, at times — and chilling, quirky and brilliant. Much like 999 and VLR, it mixes plot-y VN stuff with science (hard science, in this case) in a really enjoyable and entertaining way. It's a game that I wish I could pry open and go even deeper into. Maybe that's what the sequel will be.

In any event, in my attempts to write these things down so that I don't forget them, I'm sitting here listening to the soundtrack now (it's now safe to listen to, since I can't have audio-spoilers now that I completed the game) and just feeling kind of melancholy thinking of the in-game scenes where some of these music cues hit. The big thematic plot elements for GATE OF STEINER -Piano-. hesitative consideration's mix of despair and resolve when things go astray. Solitude's heartwrenching pain, but also its core's role in underscoring a lot of the game's pivotal tender moments (a role shared with the pensive, yet sometimes joyful, caution of Believe me). The ending themes. Skyclad Observer's role as the opening theme, but also kind of an ending theme. Select of Sorrow's tension. The day-to-days of so many other tracks. Hell, the meta-quality of how easily the game bounces between themes in the soundtrack.

I wish I could spoil a bunch of things here, just to recall them, and have them recallable at a moment's notice, but I won't. The game's too high on the "must play" list to do that to everyone else.

Game music is such an important element of my enjoyment of games that I savor this part of completing a game almost as much as the game's ending itself — pouring over the memories associated with soundtracks, just sitting and recalling. The soundtrack is beautiful because of how I experienced it in a beautiful game. I hope I play through Steins;Gate again some time. I want to play through Steins;Gate again some time. I want to let the memories of it rest a bit, settle in my mind, and then bring them back to the fore a year from now, or two years from now, or whenever makes sense. I'll revisit it.

But if I don't ever, I'll have the soundtrack and posts like this one to remind me of how much I love that game.

I poured more into this post than I thought I would. I just want to never forget this game. I've been saying that about a number of games lately, but I don't feel shame over it. Maybe a bit embarrassed that I'm worried I'll forget them, but whatever.

Please play Steins;Gate.

The Naoto Stick

Following Evo 2015, I decided I wanted to get more into modding my sticks, just cosmetically to start. I vowed to buy a stick at 2015 and mod it before 2016, but I also wanted to start by modding my existing Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Tournament Edition 2 stick, which is a pretty nice looking stick, really, but I wanted to make it my own.

So, when I got back from Evo, I dove in, getting some art commissioned while shopping around for parts to replace. I eventually settled on some Naoto-themed artwork (considering how important P4A was to my love of fighting games, it seemed fitting), blue LED-backlit buttons, and a clear blue balltop. Definitely a more unified design than the very colorful P4AU stick art.

Everything came together in the course of around three weeks, and I finally put it together this week. I think it looks pretty rad. Please enjoy the images.

Commissioned Artwork: hibachifinal
Artwork and Plexiglas Cutting: Tek-Innovations
Stick: Mad Catz
Stick Parts: Arcade Shock | Mad Catz