Until recently, there was one big hole in my personal Final Fantasy history – the one game from the entries before the series went online that I hadn’t beaten. Final Fantasy VIII was the successor to VII that I knew didn’t live up to the magic of VII at all. I knew about how Squall was a lame protagonist in comparison to Cloud, about the stupid-as-hell “plot twist,” I’d heard of the “Rinoa = Ultimecia” theory. I’d even started the game several years ago, and played the first 2 hours or so, but then gave up, deciding to invest my time into something I’d like more. Now, with the ability to play it on the PSP, I finally went back to this game and filled that gap.
Game: Final Fantasy VIII
Platforms: PlayStation, PC; PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (PSOne Classics)
Original release: 1999
I should say that Final Fantasy VIII entirely lived up to the expectations – nowhere near VII’s league, but nothing incredibly horrendous like its biggest haters would claim. The story and characters are pretty uninspired as a whole (except from a couple of exceptions I’ll mention later), but it makes some interesting gameplay experiments, which ultimately make it easily abusable, but I wouldn’t write them off as bad. It also offers some interesting locations, as most FF games do, and a relatively epic final stretch. After a promising beginning, there are some incredibly ridiculous moments in the story later on, which harm the game’s overall quality big time.
The screenshots in the review have been taken by me.
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I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan for many years now, and, despite the less-than-stellar entries in the last 10 years or so, the series remains dear to me. Games like Final Fantasy VI, VII and Tactics are among the best I’ve ever played, and not even Square’s recent problems can take away from their greatness. It is undoubted that Final Fantasy has plenty of awesome characters, but it’s usually the male ones that get all the attention, with some small exceptions. In this list, I have decided to give some credit to the great female characters in the series. Admittedly, there aren’t as many of them, but they still add a great amount of quality to their games. One of them is even my favourite video game character of all time, and you’ll see her on top of this list.
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I recently played and reviewed Valkyrie Profile, a game that’s not that well-known, but is truly among the best PlayStation RPGs. In the review, I chose the beautiful song “Behave Irrationally”, which describes the mood of the game very, very well. But there are a few other songs I liked quite a bit, and I’m sharing one of them with you today. It’s called “Blameless Thoughts” and plays after you defeat the boss in a dungeon, while you’re collecting the loot and then making your way out.
Composer: Motoi Sakuraba
Game: Valkyrie Profile
Song: Blameless Thoughts
Valkyrie Profile is one of the most nontraditional games I’ve played recently. As with most anticipated games on my backlog, I went in with almost no knowledge, I’d only heard it was an action-style RPG, like Tales or Star Ocean. Of course, I also knew that it had some Norse mythology references, that the main character was a goddess, and I’d actually watched the bizarre opening scene some 7 years ago. As gameplay started, I was quite surprised to find out that it was a kind of side-scrolling RPG with a very unique battle system that’s not quite action-style, but not a traditional turn-based one, either. Furthermore, Valkyrie’s mission is to gather the souls of dead humans, not before the player witnessing their respective ends… Making it also a quite depressing game, even if Valkyrie is giving them “a second chance” – in reality, that is simply using their skills in the war between Aesir and Vanir, the war of the gods.
Game: Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Release: 2006 (PSP remake)
Original release: 1999 (PlayStation)
Valkyrie Profile is a strange game, but with numerous merits. There is a good main storyline within it, but sadly it is a bit too well-hidden. Much as I hate needing to use a guide to beat a game I’m playing, I must thank Erunion from Backloggery who warned me that playing the game normally would merely earn me the “second best,” and non-canon ending. The particular sequence of actions required to get on the path to the best ending could only be discovered by a first-time player by pure chance, so I have to recommend that anyone starting this game consults a guide in order to see the best storyline. It is a story of gods, but not the almighty, flawless beings humans see, but rather ones who, much like humans themselves, would wage war between each other, not afraid to put even the whole world at risk in their quest for ultimate power. Aside from the story, Valkyrie Profile’s gameplay is also a great deal of fun, even if it takes some getting used to, as it’s so unlike any other RPG.
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After beating the first Uncharted, I immediately jumped on the second one. It’s the one widely considered the best in the series, with the highest scores from both fans and critics and all, so my expectations were higher than the ones I had from the first game. Suffice to say, Uncharted 2 delivered. It improves on the first game in many ways, the most obvious one being graphics, while keeping the tight adventure gameplay which, if a bit linear, keeps you on your toes pretty much constantly. Drake’s second adventure is a memorable experience, adding some much appreciated polish to what we saw in the first game.
Game: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2009
Uncharted 2 is a marvellous game, and this is a case where this adjective is used in its full meaning, rather than just thrown in for good measure and in attempt to appear more literary. The PS3′s graphical capabilities are pushed to their limits (even though I’m yet to play Uncharted 3, so who knows…), Naughty Dog proving themselves to be masters in this department once again. There are some clear improvements over the first game, such as an increased amount of different environments and the introduction of stealth attacking. Of course, there are also some things from the first game that are not present in the second, such as aiming grenades or balancing with the Sixaxis, and the brutal combo, which was “replaced” by the dubious counterattacking. There are also no jet ski stages, quite likely a case of fans’ complaints getting through. But these are just details – at the end, the overall package is very satisfying.
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When it comes to gaming, I’m usually behind the times a bit (as you may have already noticed). My backlog is just quite massive and there are few contemporary games that interest me as much as older gems I haven’t played yet. Nevertheless, I recently decided to finally play through Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series – the biggest franchise born on my favourite current-generation console, the PlayStation 3. I went in expecting a fun adventure game with a simple, movie-like story and entertaining gameplay. Something like Tomb Raider (a franchise where I’m actually yet to beat a single game, but that’s another story). The first game largely met my expectations.
Game: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Developer: Naughty Dog
Platform: PlayStation 3
Original release: 2007
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was one of the early PS3 games, and a huge reason to get one already back then, at the startling launch or near-launch price. I can see why it made the purchase worth it for many people. The game is very cinematic and the graphics are really beautiful, which is particularly impressive, considering it came out so early in the console’s life cycle. Even though they are obviously surpassed by the latter two entries in the franchise, I am sure many people were captivated by them in 2007. Add to that the nice beginning, showing the protagonist Nathan Drake on a boat with the pretty Elena, and the action starting immediately, in the middle of a short conversation between them, and you’ll be able to see why Uncharted was a huge system seller.
The game’s premise is intriguing enough – you are (or at least claim to be) a descendant of Sir Francis Drake, and, after finding an important clue left by your ancestor himself, you set off in search for El Dorado, the legendary City of Gold. It’s really a lot like an adventure movie – those influences are easy to see and are spoken of by the developers themselves in the “Behind the Scenes” videos included on the disc (Tomb Raider is never mentioned, of course ). The story never pretends to offer any more or less than uncovering the mystery of El Dorado. The gameplay follows suit – it doesn’t try anything complex (mostly 3D platforming and third-person shooting), but does quite well at what it strives to do. An interesting thing to note is that there are no boss fights. Overall, the game is entertaining, it’s standard length for the genre (12-15 hours), and it offers nice challenge without ever becoming too frustrating.
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Recently, Square Enix registered the FinalFantasyVIIPC.com domain, so we knew they were up to something. Today, thanks to Google’s cache, we have found out what. The PC version of the RPG classic is coming to Steam!
The Steam version will apparently sport:
- 36 achievements
- Cloud saving (get it? )
- “Character booster” option – allowing you to increase HP, MP and Gil values with the click of a button (kind of like the fan-made cheat utilities that modified your save file in the original PC version)
The price is set at €9.99/?7.99.
No release date yet, but we should hear about that soon enough!
The page is password-protected now, but just click “Cancel” a few times and the text on the page will load. While nothing about Steam is explicitly mentioned, the fact that there are achievements and cloud saving, coupled with Square Enix already using Steam when selling downloadable PC game copies on its site, leaves little room for doubt.
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The second review of a game on the original PlayStation I will do is of a game that came out relatively late in the console’s lifespan. Like Xenogears, Vagrant Story is one of the less known Squaresoft gems. It is a single-person dungeon-crawler action RPG with a really unique concept and design choices. It’s also not a very long game – it took me under 30 hours of playtime to beat. Playing through it was a very interesting experience, and I will elaborate why.
Game: Vagrant Story
Platforms: PlayStation; PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (PSOne Classics)
Original release: 2000
Vagrant Story is set in Ivalice, the world of Final Fantasy Tactics, however, it takes place many years in the future and the two games are practically unrelated. The setting is medieval, with dukes, knights, swords, all that jazz. There is, of course, also magic, and already in the intro you see some very strange things happen that make you wonder just what kind of world is this game throwing you into.
You take the role of a single protagonist named Ashley Riot, and that sets Vagrant Story apart from most other RPGs – you have to watch over your character carefully because, if he dies, it’s an immediate game over. You do not have party members to revive you. Nevertheless, once you get used to that, you can immerse in the really rich gameplay and start looking for the best ways to use the particular mechanics for your purposes. An interesting thing to note is that Vagrant Story features a bunch of fascinating cube puzzles. You encounter them occasionally, and solving them is necessary to progress further in the game. But I’ll get to the specifics in a bit.
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This week’s game music is rather special – it’s my favourite song from my favourite video game soundtrack… Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a single-disc game and, if you put the CD in your computer, you would notice that about 3/4 of the data on it was the music! The sound quality was absolutely stunning, as well as the quality of the songs themselves. There were classical compositions, there were more modern sounding ones – they varied, but all were top-notch. There was even the neat bonus of an extra track if you put the game disc in your CD player.
The Tragic Prince plays in one of the best stages of the game, the Clock Tower. A fitting theme for the badass protagonist, Alucard, to show off his abilities and destroy his enemies.
Composer: Michiru Yamane
Game: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Song: The Tragic Prince
This year’s E3 was spectacularly mediocre, what with many people expecting PS4/Xbox 720 to be unveiled, and they weren’t. Not even Nintendo managed to hype its upcoming Wii U console that well. Nevertheless, a lot of stuff still happened, many new games were shown, and a lot of new information regarding already announced games was revealed. Even if it didn’t meet our expectations, it was still E3… If you’re a gamer, it’s bound to excite you at least a little bit.
Here’s a summary of the happenings at the five major conferences (Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Nintendo), along with my comments. The items in bold are the biggest announcements each company made in the respective conference.
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