A Handful of Hours with Final Fantasy VII Remake

As a hotly anticipated title, the Final Fantasy VII Remake fully released this month, so of course I have more to say about it. I wrote about the demo in a post a little over a month ago, and having played said demo I knew I would enjoy the moment to moment gameplay of the remake. Combat and how it would be handled was a big concern of mine, because despite purists wanting a turn-based ATB copy of the original’s system, most people don’t have the patience for that anymore. I also like the idea of “random” battles being replaced by respawns in particular parts of combat areas. Another plus is the sprinkling of cut scenes and commentary throughout combat pieces, keeping the story flowing alongside the fighting mechanics. Modern conveniences and what have you.

Combat is, after all, the crux of this game. JRPGs always had a way of pulling you into them with a deep storyline but still relied on combat shenanigans to make things interesting. A story rich game can benefit from a strong combat system due to the fact that you’ll feel satisfied growing your character/party and the ability to take on bigger challenges. Both ends pull the middle together so to speak. So while early on the combat is a little narrow, eventually more characters join your fight and bring their own sets of abilities and stances to the fight. Combat animations are fluid and satisfying and come with some flashy effects at times. As everything is done in real time, you end up with a lot of options but still must make decisions quickly. The only piece of the combat system that really is a throwback to the original is the action meter, which must fill up before you can cast spells or use abilities or items. Otherwise, you’re mashing the attack button while pausing to block or dodge from time to time.

I’ve read elsewhere that some of the adult undertones (and some of the more blatant weirdness) of the original has still made its way into this title, and the above shows that it’s made it through. I don’t remember being called a punk-ass bitch in the original, but I also enjoy a lack of censorship in the titles I consume. Otherwise, much of the story remains the same, with iconic tunes being reimagined and scenes I had all but forgotten reminding me of playing this game as a child. This is definitely not the Final Fantasy VII I played as a teenager, but it’s definitely made for the fans of that game. For many of us it was our first JRPG love-affair. For those who have never picked up a Final Fantasy game, it’s a great place to start (though if you’ve played Final Fantasy XV already, you’ll be somewhat familiar with the combat).

As with any Final Fantasy game, there are side quests and other activities to partake in. The original Materia system seems to be intact or at least close to what I remember. It allows you to slot gems into your items in order to gain new spells, abilities and passives. You can also modify your weapon with points, which is something new that allows you to literally pick whatever sword you want to have appearance wise, while still being able to take abilities from that sword and use them regardless. You’ll have to master a sword before this happens, but could theoretically play the whole game with the Buster Sword and only swap out to level up other sword abilities. It’s a creative way to add new depth. You can also spend time collecting various music that is largely remixed original FF7 music, or collect information on various creatures to get new materia made for you. I’m sure there’s more to come but this is what I’ve seen so far.

As far as story goes, I believe it has covered the major plot points well enough for now, however there is a lot more to explore in Midgard, along with plenty more detail for characters that didn’t get much of the spotlight during the original. The first chapter is still the raid on the Shinra reactor which was also covered during the demo. I still had to replay through that again, and that helped to refamiliarize the controls and whatnot. From there during your escape you meet Aeris who touches you and gives you the ability to see these wraith creatures I don’t quite remember from the original, but again we’re talking over twenty years since I played the game. Later, you’ll band up with Tifa in the slums to do a bunch of side quests and that’s basically where I left off after a few hour play session. I know there was still more to this area of the game in the original but it’s been said that this first part of the remake only takes place in Midgar, so I assume there’s a lot more to it than there used to be. Going forward I probably won’t report back on this too often because I don’t want to spoil too much but I see myself being able to power through it while we’re still on quarantine. If you enjoyed the original I can’t see how you couldn’t enjoy this one, but those who are adverse to action combat might want to avoid it, because you’ll be doing a lot of it.

The FF7 Remake Demo

We’ve known about the Final Fantasy VII Remake for several years now, but the time has finally come to see more. It has actually been delayed once, and we’ve already seen a few trailers that show off parts of the game, but finally a playable demo has been released. As a huge fan of the original game (it was my first FF game, it was the reason I bought a Playstation back in high school) I knew that I’d be interested in an updated version of the beloved classic. As information trickled down we were unsure if would be a faithful recreation or if things would be changed. It was also said that the game would be “episodic” and though I can see this being okay if they split the game the way they did in the 90’s, by making each disc of the original into a full episode, I still would prefer a whole game all at once. I assume this means that development of future episodes isn’t completed yet, and we still don’t know exactly where this first episode will end, but for now let’s just talk about what happens in the demo.

As you can see above, the game is clearly gorgeous. All of these screens show some of our main and supporting characters and all of them are introduced throughout the play session I had with the demo. To be clear, this isn’t a lengthy demo, but it does allow you to see how cool the game now looks, and also runs through the entire Mako reactor scene that introduces Cloud and the rebel group Avalanche. We also get to see how combat has evolved, and you’ll have to see some of the next screen shots for me to really describe it.

Anyone who has played the original game knows that it was a product of the times. JRPGs of that era mostly relied on ATB meters in order to determine turn order for actions that would take place during the battle. Also seemingly gone are random battles, in that you only fight when you happen upon some enemies as you traverse the level, there aren’t “unseen” enemies that attack you as you wander. I do feel this is a positive change in some aspects because I hated getting swarmed by things as I was trying to get to chests and other secrets. However, this may prove problematic if you encounter a tough fight and would need to level up on these random battles. Since we don’t ever get to a point where we get to see the world map and how that will be handled, its unclear if this was just part of the demo. Whatever the case, combat feels less like the turn based strategy of the former game, and instead feels much more like Final Fantasy XV in that regard. However, in XV you weren’t able to swap between characters, only issue commands, whereas in this title you can control who you want and still issue commands. So the best of both worlds I suppose. There is an difficulty option that also lets you focus on purely giving commands rather than also trying to do the combat yourself, so that’s a great choice for those of you who don’t care to button mash. It is a bit button mashy, but at the same time fairly fluid and responsive. Basic attacks happen when pressing square. You can change stance with triangle. Otherwise spells, abilities and items are all used via a context menu. I loved the combat, but that last boss before blowing up the reactor was a bit of a challenge without more phoenix downs.

Upon completing the reactor scene you are treated to pretty explosions and a zoomed out view of the city before the demo winds down. Clearly this is only the tip of the iceberg but I was hit in the feels immediately. I cannot wait for full release at this point, as I already know it’s going to be a blast. I’m just curious how much more of the original game will make it over and how much of it will change. Time will tell I suppose. You can download the demo for free via the Playstation Store if you’re curious to see for yourself.

Tastes Change

I have a long history of playing RPGs in their many forms. From JRPGs to MMOs, I’ve dipped my toes in all of the sub genres and over the years some of those genres have died off or changed in ways that were incremental and not really noticeable at the time.

Snap judgement: I am not in love with Pillars of Eternity. I absolutely adored all of the Bioware/Black Isle games from the 1990’s; titles like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale took up much of my gaming time back then. The revival of the isometric real-time cRPG genre that’s been happening for a few years now with titles like PoE, Wasteland 2, and Divinity: Original Sin seemed like it would be right up my alley. I did of course play many of these games over the years, but as this genre moved forward into the 3D space with titles like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I too evolved.

Because of this realization, I have uninstalled all of these titles that have been sitting in my backlog for ages that I would have believed that I would have liked but simply don’t anymore. My tastes have changed. The same could be said for a lot of other titles/genres, but this one in particular strikes me as odd. I know that with age comes changes in not only your body’s function but your mind’s as well, but I’m surprised to find myself writing these words.

I’ve been enamored with games like Shadowrun, Diablo, and some recent JRPG style games. It’s funny because Shadowrun and Diablo are both isometric like the cRPGs that I’m not longer into — but they differ because Shadowrun uses turn-based tactical combat, while Diablo is action combat and I seem to prefer both. The real-time coordination of multiple party members just doesn’t feel fun anymore. In Dragon Age or Mass Effect, the AI for your teammates can be programmed and always felt effective enough to where I could focus on my own character. In action RPGs you only have yourself to depend on so there’s never the added distractions. My tastes have clearly changed. Though I would have called Baldur’s Gate superior to Diablo back in the 90’s, my 35 year old self has flipped sides. I don’t know how to feel about this.

I do feel better about uninstalling all of those games. The backlog has shrunk and many of those games would have taken 60+ hours to complete. Gives me more time to focus on other games I would rather be playing. I’m not going to slog through something just because it *should* be something I’m into. If I’m not feeling it, I’m just going to pass. I’ve done this with other games but had this little sub genre up on a pedestal and I’ve now kicked that pedestal over. If it’s not fun, entertaining or holding my interest, it’s getting cut.

Time to dive into the games that are more appealing to the older me.

Further Thoughts on Battle Chasers: Nightwar

I first jotted down thoughts about Battle Chasers: Nightwar a couple of months back. It was a round-up post though, so I didn’t go into too much detail, and hadn’t really played it for more than a few minutes to that point. It wasn’t too long ago that I was burning through my backlog at a rapid clip, but that train had lost some steam in recent months mainly because I was having a hard time deciding what to play. I’ve spent some time in a fair number of titles but none had really sunk their hooks into me. I came back around to this game and it’s been holding my attention more than the others, so this is likely the next game I’ll play through to completion.

I’m in love with the aesthetic of Battle Chasers. It was apparently inspired by a series of graphic novels, which makes sense given the artwork in the game which appears as a hand-drawn style. The mixture of high fantasy and some sci-fi elements works, and the gameplay is the normal tried and true JRPG turn-based style but it doesn’t feel stale. You’ll be earning levels in no time, and that means new abilities and actions will become available to you. Starting with a group of three adventurers, you’ll eventually reunite with others and have a little variety in your group composition on top of the new gear and upgrades you’ll earn along the way. There’s even an alternate advancement tree that will allow you to further customize your heroes.

When I left off, I had made it to the little town that serves as an HQ of sorts, complete with an Inn to rest at, and vendors to buy/sell goods too. There’s some light crafting too, so everything you pick up tends to have a purpose. Soon enough, my party was heading into their first real challenge… a dungeon!

The Iron Outpost:

The Iron Outpost was easy enough, it was the first dungeon of the game after all. The final boss was a sword demon thing… there’s not a good way to describe it, but it looked pretty cool nonetheless! It was mostly overrun with bandits and they were XP fodder leading up to the final battle.

The Rushlands and Path of Fangs:

Long story short, we were trying to get to another part of the map and it was blocked by a large cannon that would shoot anything that came too close. Unfortunately the only way around was via a teleporter, but the power had been lost. We headed to another cave and fought off some elementals to get a power source which we used to turn the teleporter back on. Soon we were in the Rushlands, and we came across our second dungeon, The Path of Fangs. This one was headed by a bunch of lycanthropes (called something else but similar) and I was charged with killing off the leaders of a couple of tribes. After doing so, one of their kind let me pass through the other side of the dungeon. We then took out the bandit manning the cannon, and could then freely pass through a short cut back to the starter town.

Fishing:

Like many an RPG before it, there is a fishing mini-game that is fairly easy to partake in. You have to use one character in particular (pictured above) to fish, but he comes equipped with the rod and line to handle business. I managed to catch a couple of unique fish so far, some of which can be sold for some alternate currencies that can buy you some skins and bad ass gear in large quantities.

Story:

The storyline plays out over time, and like most RPGs of this style, you only get bits and pieces as you go along. We’ve met what I think is either the main villain or at least an antagonist, but she was nice enough to our faces. We later learned that she was behind some of the goings-on, so that leads me to believe we’ll see more of here soon. We eventually found one of our lost party members and he’s a pretty powerful mage. There’s also some random events where you can be attacked by a passing airship, which I thought was pretty cool, though a little more difficult than the typical battles, and confusing as to how you end up fighting on the ship itself. Nonetheless, we found ourselves heading into Junk Town, which I think may end up being the 3rd dungeon but I have yet to enter.

Overall I think the game is great, and it’s been on sale recently on both PSN and Steam. If you like JRPG style games, I’d highly recommend this one!

Monster Hunter World: Calling it Quits

I was told today that I have matured in my decision making when it comes to video games. In the past, if I spent $60 on a game chances are I’d attempt to play through it, even if it ended up being one of those games that “takes a while to click.” Generally speaking I will refuse to admit that perhaps I purchased the game too hastily, that I left myself get caught up in the hype. I admitted when I first wrote about the game that I did read about it on various blogs and that I was given a glowing recommendation from someone who’s opinion I trust, but therein lies the trouble with long-running series you’re just getting involved in. Monster Hunter is an established franchise, but I haven’t played a single entry. Going into things blind is sometimes a boon because there aren’t spoilers, but at the same time this is the type of game that defies definition. Though I was told it could be compared to a From Software title (and I understand why it was referenced as such) I just didn’t see it. I didn’t have the desire to explore this world. I didn’t feel immersed. Running around chasing a monster around a rather large map and stabbing it until it dies wasn’t appealing either. I assume that this game would be better with a dedicated group of friends that could co-op their way through it, but as the layers of complication added on I simply couldn’t be bothered. At this point in my life my time is too valuable to be wasting on something I’m not enjoying. As such, I deleted the game from my system and brought it into Gamestop to trade it in while it’s still considered a “new” game and get me the best return on investment.

That’s a laugh.

Gamestop offered me $25 store credit for a $60 game that came out just over a month ago. Not to be deterred, I scoured their shelves to find something that I knew I would enjoy. I saw titles that I wanted to play but would prefer to get on my PC, and then there were a couple of console exclusives that were tried and true games that I felt were worth the money. The trade-in value covered most of the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy, and then I picked up a copy of the newly remade Shadow of the Colossus. The former is a collection of PSOne classics made by Naughty Dog (of Uncharted fame) of which I’ve played but I don’t think I ever completed one.

I have a longer history with Shadow of the Colossus. It’s unclear if it was before or after we lived together, but at some point or another my best friend showed me this game back in the Playstation 2 days. It looked interesting enough, but I didn’t play it at the time. Later on the Playstation 3, an HD upres remaster released and I purchased it. Perhaps it was too soon to play again for him, but I had some fun with it despite not really being all that much better looking than the original game. Like the Crash Bandicoot title, both of these games were remade from the ground up for Playstation 4, so they are supposed to be the same as the original games with up to date graphics. I’m excited to see them in action, and you know I’ll report about them here.

In other news, I had been trying to find the next game to strike off of the backlog list after completing The Order 1886, and tried picking up Alien: Isolation. I’ve had it for a while and being on a FPS kick lately it was a good choice, but I ended up getting stuck and calling the whole thing off. I deleted that one from my hard drive as well, and I’m sticking to my guns about this. It’s not to say that this is the first time I deleted a game without completing it (I couldn’t get into The Witcher 3 either despite rave reviews from literally everyone) and it’s not to say that I haven’t traded in a game at Gamestop a short time after buying it either, though usually it’s because I’ve completed it and have no use for it anymore. Nowadays I plan to play them through if I enjoy them, and delete them if I don’t. It should help speed up the process, at least.

I’m unsure if I will power through one of these two titles immediately or if I will pick up something else to run through. I know that I have an itch to play an RPG and I mean aside from EQ2 which I still am subbed to and need to spend some time on to at least clear the new expansion before breaking away until later in the year when there’s new content again. I am a good ways into Shadow Warrior 2 which has been on hold for sometime, but I’m tempted to start up the Dark Souls trilogy or Pillars of Eternity/some other isometric RPG that’s in the back log. Or perhaps it’s time to finish of Final Fantasy XV or Mass Effect Andormeda?

Clearly I’m still torn on which way to go but I will figure it out soon and continue on my journey to clear out the backlog.