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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ace Attorney Investigations 2(逆転検事2)

I was interested in many things before I discovered the way of the Jhipster and one of my favorite authors growing up was Agatha Christie (MUCH better than Hardy Boys, in fact let's pretend that chapter in my childhood never happened). I still remember the delightful shock and utter disbelief during my impressionable youth when I finished The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It may not seem so special now but you have to remember that she was one of the FIRST to come up with such brilliant plot devices. Yes, it's all been done before and SHE was the one who did it.

It only took over a decade for me to experience the same kind of sensation: the goosebumps, the chills, and utter jaw-dropping moment. It was with a little DS title from Capcom called Gyakuten Kenji 2, otherwise known to non-Jhipsters as the never localized sequel to Ace Attorney Investigations.

The game itself is not voiced (popopo) and music not orchestral but it totally should be.

To start off, if you haven't played the original Ace Attorney trilogy, what are you waiting for? It's available on the DS, the 3DS (region-locked barf), and on the phone. You pretty much have no excuse... unless you're saving the Japanese version for your eventual evolution to Jhipster-dom. You don't have to play the entire original trilogy but this game builds on the story of at least the first Ace Attorney and (obviously) Ace Attorney Investigations so you'll want to play those first to prepare yourself for the masterpiece that is Gyakuten Kenji 2.

While Ace Attorney 4 and 5 were fun games, they kinda broke Naruhodo's sense of consistency and just overall togetherness as a character. It's kind of obvious that his continued presence was more of a marketing choice over the objections of the original writer Shu Takumi who considered Naruhodo's story complete with the original trilogy. I mean it was kinda cool he came in all bad-ass in AA4 but then... back to normal in AA5??

However, Gyakuten Kenji  2 feels like a perfect expansion of the Ace Attorney universe as it fits perfectly into the story of the first game. So much so, it's hard to believe that it wasn't written by Shu Takumi. You meet so many of the same beloved characters from the original trilogy and amazingly not in any forced way. It's so natural, it's like you're seeing an old friend at the grocery store instead of an awkward school reunion.

Missle is BACK! (just the left one though unfortunately)

Gyakuten Kenji 2 is not just a fun trip down fan service lane, it's also one of the best mystery stories I've ever read and certainly the best on a video game platform. Now, I'm not a mystery expert besides having read pretty much every Hercule Poirot and most of Agatha Christie's other books as well (Marple is meh IMO). However, while I loved the original Ace Attorney trilogy, using supernatural plot devices in a mystery totally counts as cheating in my book. It's not really an issue most of the time as it has no part in the actual crime but merely as a device to help educate the player. However, it gets really bad by the 3rd game and while I like the game itself, the rampant cheating was definitely a let-down.

The first Gyakuten Kenji was also not a bad game but not exactly the best in its class. The villians kinda show up as you progress in the game and there is no "holy shit" moment nor is there a deeply complex overall story like the original trilogy. However, I consider Gyakuten Kenji as more of a setup to the glory of the sequel, as it establishes arguably the cutest and best Watson in the entire series: Ichijou Mikumo (though admittedly it's hard to choose among so many cuties). While Itonokogiri is a fine character and works as a Watson, it's just not an Ace Attorney game unless Watson is a cute and infectiously cheerful girl (with what I imagine to be just a TINY, TINY bit of sexual tension?).

Mikumo taking a selfie in 2011 before it was "cool". So hipster.
So far all I've done is talk about basically every OTHER game in the series because I really don't want to give away too many details on just what makes this game so great. But if you've played Ace Attorney Investigation, the sequel has pretty much the same gameplay elements except they added logic chess where you have to pick the correct dialogue responses on a time limit. The ability to walk around the scene and investigate is just so much better than just picking out spots on an image that I'm kinda shocked that Ace Attorney 5 didn't incorporate any of the superior gameplay elements from the Investigation series. I am not that hopeful for anything like this in the next Ace Attorney title.

I dunno why you can't walk around in later AA games??
The music is as good as you can hope for the DS. There is a wonderful orchestral arrangement of the sound track that was released later that I have listened to for like a million times now. It's 2015, can't we get this kind of music in the game itself??

You know some law shit is gonna go DOWN when you hear this

Score: 5 just fucking play this game NOW!! out of 5

Gyakuten Kenji 2 is one of my favorite games of all time and personally, the best game in the entire Ace Attorney series so far (Great Ace Attorney coming out next month). The gameplay retains all the fun of Ace Attorney Investigation but adds just an incredible story on top of it. Without getting into any spoilers, the character progression is top-notch, the villains brilliantly sinister and complex, the mysteries just mind-blowing, and the climax just one of the best moments in gaming. It really is crazy that this is the ONLY AA game that has yet to be localized to English. Non-Jhipsters can buy the Japanese version and play the fan translated rom on a flashcart or something.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

serial experiments lain

Lain is one of my favorite animes of all time so it's pretty much impossible to approach this game with any semblance of objectivity (though really, objective reviews are pretty much bunk anyway). If you've been living under a mainstream rock, serial experiments lain is exactly what it is called. It is a series (aka serial) of media experiments with the goal of pushing the boundaries of each respective medium centered around the character of lain. And when it comes to the game version of lain, BOY does it push the envelopes. If you didn't like the anime (WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!!!) then you might as well stop reading here.

I really tried to come up with a genre for this game and could only think of "mind-fuck". The only other game that I could think of that kinda fits in this genre is Spec Ops: The Line. (I know, I know, not a Japanese game, JHipster FAIL, SORRY). If you have not played Spec Ops, you need to get on that right now as it's one of my favorite games from last gen. But given that Spec Ops is a 3rd person shooter, you're probably gonna say I'm crazy to put lain in the same "genre" when you boot it up.

If you were to call this a game, even in Jhipster standards used to reading hours and hours of text in adventure games, I would have to call this one of the worst "games" of all time. This "game" is nothing but a series of audio and anime clips trapped in one of the most laggiest and painfully slow interfaces of all time. I don't know if I would have the patience to sit in front of a TV and slog through the awful interface for hours on end. But no worries, this game is ultra-rare and impossible to find anyway so forget about playing the actual PS1 disc. I played this game on the PSP before I finally caved and bought it with the equity on my house. I now live in a cardboard box so I never did get to play this on the PS1 but anyways let's not get into my personal life story.

You know what makes ME sad? Looking at my wallet.
Only an idiot or insane Jhipster would expend the capital necessary to obtain this ridiculously expensive and awful game. But the STORY man, it's SOOOOOOO CRAZY! The plot in this game has no connection to the anime and lain is a little older and she's SOOOOO CUTE!

The only problem is that she's kinda crazy and the plot centers around lain and her psychiatrist Toukou. Toukou doesn't really come off as a very experienced and adept psychiatrist and she quickly loses the upper hand in dealing with lain. And of course, once lain gets her hands on a computer... let me just phrase it this way: WHEN ARE PEOPLE GONNA LEARN TO KEEP LAIN OFFLINE???

The story in this game is a perfect companion to the anime in that it's much more intimate and serves as a kind of microcosm contrast to the vast global changes in the anime. There is no Protocol 7 and while computers do play a role, the story is more focused on the private lives of the two main characters and their mental state. What I really loved about the plot is that you get to peek into what appears to be a girl and a woman's perfectly normal and mundane lives via their records and diaries. But little by little, abnormalities crop up that gradually build up into what I can only described as incredibly disturbing and real.

The divorced(?) father that a child sorely misses. A distant boyfriend and a relationship that goes sour. Having difficulty fitting in at school socially. A boss you don't like and rumors at the workplace. All these little things in life that don't go well but seems TOTALLY plausible somehow begin to gradually escalate into some really CRAZY stuff that is just seriously disturbing. But the craziest part of the game comes after you beat it.

SPOILERS!!!!! You may want to skip the rest and stop reading here if you plan to play the game yourself or use a translation guide.

When you start the game, it acts like you're logging into a computer and asks for your name. Now you may have completely forgotten about that after slogging through that awful interface and listening for hours to lain and Toukou discussing all sorts of philosophical ideas such as existence, memory, and consciousness; not to mention a healthy heaping of discourse on the nature and various types of mental diseases. After hearing about how your existence is defined by recognition from others (I am observed, therefore I am) and the difference between memory vs just a record/data, you get the sense that the game is trying to bring itself to life... in YOUR BRAIN.

And THEN, because you don't need a physical body to exist (cause LOGIC!), lain dumps her data onto the wired and well, let me just say that the ESRB would NOT be happy with what comes next.

PEGI & ESRB would NOT be cool with this today.

AND THEN, after THAT, when you're already feeling a bit crazy and depressed (the game's logo is "make me sad" and it's not fucking kidding), the data version of lain and Toukou SAY YOUR NAME with cute little innocuous message like, "Come join me [YOUR NAME]."


I guess the developers recorded hundreds of syllables so that it can say your name. It's not Siri technology so thankfully, it doesn't sound very well integrated but holy smokes, it can be shocking when the game is like, "I'm so lonely, come join me [YOUR NAME]".

I'm not even going to go into the brief shower scene that would probably make this game borderline illegal today (ok I just did). But seriously, given the themes of mental illness, depression, suicide, and the way the game tries to TALK TO YOU combined with all the press, social networks, public relations, and gaming "journalism" (barf) nowadays, I think we're past the era where something like this can ever be made again. If Mortal Kombat X is rated mature, this game should be rated "mature with ACTUAL mature, ADULT themes not just blood and gore for the unsupervised and totally immature kids".

Score: 4 hallucinations out of 5

As a game, I would score serial experiments lain a 1 but the slow progression of mental breakdowns and the seriously disturbing way the game tries to break its own boundaries easily deserves a 5. Mathematically, that would average to a 3 but I just love the concept and creativity behind lain as a serial experiment so much, that I just have to give this a 4. For others, this game will be just as wonderful or just simply impossible to play (putting language barrier JHipster smugness aside).

The minus 1 point is also for being SO FUCKING EXPENSIVE.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Monday, June 22, 2015


Xenogears? What the? Isn't this like SUPER mainstream? Hey look, the true Jhipster doesn't shy away from stuff just because it's mainstream ok? Only a pompous Jhipster-wannabe would avoid a game just because it's not super niche to the max.

Also to start with, the Japanese in this game is hardcore like for reals. To give you an example, in English, you don't have to really care WHAT a Jasper is (an opaque, impure variety of silica). But in Japanese, when you see 碧玉, you're like WTF, how am I supposed to read that? So until you look up the word in a dictionary, learn a new word that has ABSOLUTELY no practical value, you just have this annoying word in the dialogue that you CAN'T READ. Shitan in particular seems to take every opportunity to use words that have like 20 other synonyms that are WAY more common and instead decides to pick the most obscure version (trying to sound smart and shit I guess).

So Margaret knows the location of the ??? How the fuck you read that??
I first played this game on the PS1 sometime in the late 90s in English before my transformation into Jhipster and never did finish it. I think the lame platforming in the Babel Tower was what did me in. The sensation of frustration and anger definitely seemed familiar, at least. Fortunately, this time around I was able to finish the game thanks to the convenience of Vita portability. I was however annoyed that I had to rebuy the PSN version despite owning the disc due to a freezing bug if you don't have the original PS1 hardware. Anyway, playing through this game again almost 2 decades later, my guess is pacing is why I couldn't finish it as a young lad with oodles of free time. It is really the only major flaw in this game.

Typical Merican gamers who hate to read will often complain how the game ran out of budget and was reduced to just narration in disc 2 but personally, I think the real problem was disc ONE. The first disc was so poorly paced that if the game's story fully played out in the style of the first disc, the entire game would probably take like 200+ hours to finish. The whole chapter in Kislev was incredibly drawn out and WAY too much time was spent on Rico, a character that plays no part in the larger story and could've easily been a minor character. In fact, he really has no reason to tag around as he himself asked to be dropped off at Kislev (and was promptly ignored).

Once you finally near the end of disc one, the story begins to pick up and what you end up with is a nice peeling of reveals like the story is one giant onion of surprises. Of course, it's a bit rushed but at this point, the pick up in pace is a welcome change after the SLOW progression of disc one.

While the ending is not particularly impressive if you're a long time sci-fi nerd (umm Dune Messiah anyone??), I can see how those new to sci-fi and only used to fantasy RPGs would be suitably impressed. For me, the highlight was more in the personal story of Fei and his connections to the events in the story. Overall, I do have to agree that the story was excellent and probably way ahead of its time at least on video game consoles. I was also happy to see Zoharu in there and it made me want to go play Xenosaga again. I'm gonna pretend that those games are connected.

The game itself was fun to play as well. It was fun to build up those death blows and there was not too much grinding. Some of the boss battles required some very specific strategies in typical Square style so it wasn't a matter of just mashing attack. Overall, I had a good time with the game except for the camera that was just a LITTLE too close and those stupid, stupid, lame platforming bits.

The music was also tastefully done as the game didn't feel the need to constantly bombard you with BGM for every second of the game (Compile Heart, I'm looking at you). Instead you hear music at appropriate moments to enhance the experience, used I would daresay even sparingly. While personally, the OST wasn't exactly memorable, it was definitely excellent overall with some nice gems.

This song kindly lets you know some EPIC SHIT is about to go down

Score: 3.5 No seriously Rico, why are you STILL here? out of 5 (63 hours to finish)

I was tempted to give this game a 3 because of the problem with pacing, which really is the biggest issue to what could have easily been a wonderful game. However, I have to admit that the story was excellent and the game itself was fun to play. I also have a soft spot for the 90s anime cutscenes (though very few) so 3.5 it is then as an ALMOST great game. This is really just my personal score and you're looking at a guy that couldn't even finish it the first time around after all.

Nintendo, HAAAAAALP! Why won't Sony censor dem naughty pixels??
0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Friday, June 19, 2015

Twilight Syndrome(トワイライトシンドローム 探索編&究明編)

Twilight Syndrome as fellow Jhipsters know is a series that had a decent media franchise with 5 games, a drama cd, TWO live action movies and god knows what else. While self-proclaimed hardcore gamers may rave about "niche" games such as Lollipop Chainsaw or even Killer7, every true Jhipster knows that the first Twilight Syndrome is Suda51's best work during his golden years at Human (just kidding LOL, don't hurt me).

Human Corporation, maker of various sports (eg pro-wrestling) and horror games such as Clock Tower (because those two genres go SO WELL together) is sadly no longer with us but its spirit lives on as Twilight Syndrome's (so far) last game was released on DS by Spike in 2008. Still, it's been 7 years so I guess we can consider this series dead for the moment but it had a good run; albeit completely unknown in the West.

Of course, all you mainstreamers probably know about it from Super Danganronpa 2's 2nd chapter. (Yes, in Jhipster's super niche hipsterness world, even Danganronpa is considered mainstream). However, despite what you mainstreamers may think based on what Danganronpa and the movies might suggest, the first Twilight Syndrome game is not a murder or escape game but is rather about ghosts, spirits, and urban myths.

I said the "first" game but really it's the first TWO games cause it was split into two separate releases a mere 4 months apart: 探索編 (explore part) and 究明編 (reveal part). This is really kinda lame as the first game is really short, has like total of 5 minutes of voice acting and ends on a cliff hanger. Scored individually, I would give the first part a rating of 2/5. It also sucks because buying both games used will add up to a decent chunk of change. Nothing super expensive but $20 x 2 adds up. I feel bad for the poor sod who bought the first part on release for probably like 7000 yen or something. They were obviously aware of this as they later re-released both parts in a 2-cd budget release as "Twilight Syndrome Special" but only after a full 2 years later. This is the copy I own but it will still set you back a few Andrew Jacksons.

However, putting both games together (putting the obvious lame sales tactics aside), you end up with a nice side-scrolling urban myth adventure game (I know, I know, this genre is TOTALLY oversaturated). The graphics have not aged well (especially that yucky PS1-style CG) so it's not really scary but it has that 90's Japanese charm with pocket bells (pagers) and public phones. (For you kids, these are phones in the street that you put MONEY in to use.)

Sorry, it's 2015, a girl in dark lighting isn't gonna scare me no more.

...Ok, maybe scared JUST a little bit.

The second game is when you really feel like they put some effort into it. It has tons of high quality voice acting of the 90s variety that'll instantly bring back nostalgia for you Jhipster nerds. And while the OST has only a few songs, there are some really nice atmospheric moments such as the one below. (SPOILERS... unless you're not fluent in Japanese.)

It also has my favorite chapter out of both games dealing with phones. Phones are always a great medium for some horror. (WHY OH WHY IS CALLING ON WII SO EXPENSIVE??) And the last hidden chapter which you have to unlock is totally psychedelic and plays like a bad nightmare. (I realize now that it was just a lead in to the TOTALLY LSD-induced sequel: Moonlight Syndrome.)

Score: 3.5 man I can't WAIT to replace my pocket bell with a PHS score out of 5

In the end, the draw of Twilight Syndrome is not just about ghosts and getting scared (cause you won't). For me, it's more about the charm of 90s Japan and getting to know the 3 main characters. They each have their own unique personality, charm, and quirks not to mention real-life issues that are very much part of that era in Japan despite all the supernatural stuff that's going on.

The main problem with this game is ONCE AGAIN the lack of ability to fast forward ANYTHING. It really sucks to get the bad, medium, and good endings for each chapter when you have to play the WHOLE chapter again. Personally, I played it blind once and then went with a guide the second time. Or I guess you filthy pirates can emulate and use save states (says the guy who played it on PSP).

It didn't blow my socks off but it was definitely a nice, nostalgia inducing experience (in my fantasy that I grew up in 90s Japan).

Anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone, anone...

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Corpse Party: Blood Covered(コープスパーティー ブラッドカバー リピーティッドフィアー)

Corpse Party was a series that was relatively unknown probably until some Youtuber yelled "brah" at it with a super annoying voice but it is a title that holds a special place in my heart as it broke me into a genre I had never really explored before: Horror games.

Corpse Party has a rich history dating back to its original 1996 release on the PC98 as a "doujin" title (what I consider to be REAL indie and not the fake commercial sellout machine they call "indie" nowadays with the bags and bags of kickstarter money). It won one of the top prizes in the second Ascii Entertainment Software Contest and was available as freeware (the site is no longer up unfortunately). Since then, it's been ported, redone, and enhanced on like a bajillion platforms up to the latest version on the 3DS to be released later this year.

The one thing that really makes this game stand out is the fantastic soundtrack. Even the original PC98 soundtrack which is almost 20 years old now still sounds great.

I played the commercial remake for the PSP called "Corpse Party Blood Covered Repeated Fear" (+2 points for subtlety) and I have to say the VitaTV was the best way to experience this game. Having it on the big screen in the dark with wireless headphones was way scarier than playing it on a tiny portable screen. The audio for this game was recorded using a fancy microphone in the shape of a human head and there's some great spatial effects in the voice acting in various parts of the game. Combined with the awesome soundtrack makes playing this game with headphones a MUST.

The cast is even cute in real life! No wonder it sounds so good!
So what makes this game so great? The story is not mind-blowing and the characters are kinda stereotypical with yet another harem type cast. However, there was something about the suspense and tension as you explored the school in a top-down RPG style. Of course it's not an RPG because there is no combat and the most complicated thing you'll be doing is picking up items and using it elsewhere.

"Let's go Naomi!" Umm... here's a better idea Seiko, let's just stay the fuck here.
It might be more accurate to call this game a visual novel rather than an RPG but still, the exploration adds a LOT more suspense to the game. A part of the game that will be sorely missed in the later Corpse Party games on the PSP.

Basically the exploration, the constant tension, and all the horrible things that happen was for some reason just a heck of a lot of fun (not to mention some restless nights and crazy nightmares). In addition, there are a ton of endings to explore based on your actions in the game. In fact, getting the "true"(?) ending may be pretty difficult because of all the things you have to do just right in the last chapter.

My only MAJOR gripe is that they didn't add an option to skip text because that really killed the replayability of the game. This was the major reason that I didn't go back to unlock all the endings, just enough to unlock the extra chapters using a guide. The extra chapters themselves were a bit of a disappointment too as they were extremely short and only the first one had any sort of gameplay. Still I'm not gonna complain about bonus content that wasn't there in previous games in the first place.

Score: 4 soiled pants of 5 (~14 hours played)

What a great experience: awesome music, great voice acting, nice art, and tons of scary, fucked up shit. (Spoiler Alert: Some not so nice things are going to happen in a game called "Corpse Party") If you're not a fan of the horror genre, you may get hooked with this one like I did. I liked it so much I may even get the upcoming 3DS version for the extra story (for a cheap price, at least).

+10 AND -10 points for the most awkward and disturbing panchira fan service(???) in the history of gaming. By the way, Seiko is BEST girl, it's just too bad she's *spoiler* AND *spoiler*.

Just one of many, many AWESOME tracks.

The English version is available digital only on PSN but I highly recommend you get the digital version anyway to play it on the VitaTV. Get ready to poop in your pants and enjoy the gory night.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Breath of Fire II(ブレス オブ ファイアII 使命の子)

In my continuing quest to multitask pretty much everything with games that are easy to multitask with (ie have very boring mechanics), I have finally completed the long and arduous journey that is Breath of Fire 2.

So a year and 8 months after the first game, we have Breath of Fire 2 "The Fatal Child" (supposed to be "fated"), technically an impressive improvement of the first game in every aspect in terms of characters, graphics, and length. And boy oh boy, did this game feel loooooong.

A Japanese company tries to get fancy with English in the 90s... hilarity ensues.

Breath of Fire 1 definitely felt like a first attempt for a company that normally didn't make RPGs so it's good to see that the sequel was able to build up to what you would expect from a decent RPG in that era. For example, they added an option to sort your items, a feature that was sorely missing in the first game. And the menus use *GASP* actual words instead of just single Kanji like 「能」. I have to give kudos to whomever was able to localize a game with menus that only used essentially one letter but anyway, all that is fixed in the sequel. Funny story but I couldn't help reading that 「能」 as "neng" throughout the first game. Ok, not funny at all, sorry.

Not only the menus but feature wise, everything about the sequel is better than the first game. The graphics are improved, you even get a bit of back story on the characters instead of the paper thin story of the first game. (Though Nina was pretty well "fleshed out" in both games. Hardy har har) It even has a couple alternate endings and though both games don't record your game time (BOO!!!), Bof2 felt like about twice as long as the first one.

However, longer isn't always better and the first significant chunk of the game has TONS of backtracking. What's worse is that you need certain party members to go certain places and if you don't happen to have them in the party, back you go, trudging all the way back to your town. Fortunately, this is not an issue once you get the teleport spell but the party system rears its ugly head once again when the game's story makes you go solo with a certain party member. Since people not in your party don't get EXP, prepare to grind unused characters for hours.

Tip for you guys: only including waifus in your party is not a strategy I would recommend but dammit, I can't help myself.

The other major issue with Bof2 is that the battle mechanic remains mostly unchanged from Bof except for the improved menus. The majority of the game was still spend on auto-attacking (thank god they left that feature in), healing, rinse and repeat. Yes, this is pretty much the par for the course of 90s SFC RPGs but the story wasn't compelling enough to make the grind rewarding in my opinion. What's worse is the item/spell to reduce random encounters hardly seemed to make a difference and expires way too quickly. It also didn't help that the SNES emulator on PSP couldn't really handle the graphics and had quite a bit of slowdown. (I later discovered you can fix this by upping the number of frame skips.) In any case, it's usually not a good sign that I got bored enough to load up a visual novel for some multitask grinding.

I DO NOT recommend emulating on PSP but waifus are ALWAYS RECOMMENDED

The story was better than Bof2 but not great. The main villian was as generic as they come and my MAIN complaint is that once you gain the ability to switch party members, they say almost nothing in response to events in the story except at the last dungeon. I'm guessing it was too much work to come up with dialogue for all the possible combinations of party members, which wasn't really a problem in the simpler Bof1. Capcom's solution to this problem was to have your party members make a comment once you go back to your town and they all go back to their rooms. It was WAY too much of a pain to go back to your town after anything happened in the story just to talk to your party members scattered throughout a huge house and hear their dumb comment on what just happened after the fact, so I didn't bother.

The one thing I found really amusing about this game is that even though it didn't have the obligatory bath scene fan service (otherwise known as a POOL for us English speakers), it was kinda pervy in a lot of ways. Monkey hitting on girls, poor Rinpuu getting called flat-chested by said monkey, girl getting kidnapped for her looks, asking a lady with big breasts about her well... breasts, etc. etc. Of course, thank god, Nintendo of America took some liberties with the translation to protect us poor Americans. Flat chest = little girl, etc etc.

The Adventures of Conan and animal pals I hear was not a bad game either.
Score: 2.5/5
Overall, is Bof2 a better game than Bof? Yes but is it a good game by itself? Well, when you improve the story a little bit but add a LOT more grinding, the ratio isn't a good direction for someone who really places importance on story like me. The GBA version might actually be the better way to go for the extra experience but again, I much preferred the SFC version's music.

While Bof2 improved on the sequel, other companies are doing the same and for an RPG that came out 8 months AFTER Final Fantasy VI, this game still falls squarely in the mediocre category. Plus .5 points for perviness and waifus.

Also, screw that stupid rhythm mini-game. Worst rhythm game I ever played.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Breath of Fire(ブレス オブ ファイア)

I finally made some headway on catching up on some of the "classic" RPG series in the 90s by beating Breath of Fire recently. The game starts out with premise of a goddess, wars, blah blah, none of which really applies to you and is promptly forgotten. The only thing you need to take away from it all to enjoy the game is that there's some bad guys and they're trying to take over the world. I can't really fault it for being an RPG trope unless there's a good decade or so to become a trope so I'll let the cliche premise slide for the early 90s. It does have a nice, very dramatic beginning with your home village getting attacked, etc., etc.

The rest of the story reveals a diverse set of characters that have interesting premises but are unfortunately barely fleshed out. The most interesting for me was ダンク (Dan-ku) for reasons that have nothing to do with the game but more because he was a grey (purple?) thief with big lips from the town of Bleak. Nintendo of America obviously had to do a bit of "localization" work which I found highly amusing.

ダンク (Dank?): A more innocent (racist) time
The other notable bit of "censorship" was coloring in some pixels purple to make a princess bath in purple clothes(?) unlike those Japanese weirdos who bathe naked... I guess? This is really the only small, tiny bit of fan service in the entire game. Thank goodness Nintendo of America was there to protect impressionable kids from this bit of nudity and morally corrupting collection of pixels.

Oh right, POOL, gotcha! Cause that TOTALLY makes sense!

The story overall is pretty thin as there's very little dialogue overall. There were only a few moments where I was really enjoying the story such as what happened with Nina while the rest were just annoying fetch quests on top of fetch quests to the point that you forgot what you were trying to get in the first place.

The gameplay suffers from a common flaw among games of this type in that battle is reduced to pretty much fight and heal. Thankfully, there's an auto-battle option so that you could do something else for a few minutes (such as play another game) and then come back and heal as necessary. Besides the dragon powers, I didn't even explore any of the spells or items because there really was no need. The only difficult battle was the Gremlin, a VERY over-powered boss for no reason I can think of. There is this annoying feature of where certain bosses have a lot of hidden HP left after you drain the bar. In this case, there was a LOT of hidden HP and you had no clue as to how much was left. It felt more like a balancing issue especially since the final boss was so easy.

Given the primitive gameplay, I was at least thankful for the lack of any real need for grinding save for a bit in the beginning and the Gremlin boss. Having experience apply to characters not in the party is a feature it turns out I'll sorely miss in the sequel especially since you can fuse most of the characters into your party anyway.

The only real difficulty in the game is that it's often not obvious where you were supposed to go next. And exploring the world with frequent random encounters is simply too annoying to make it fun. I tried to use a guide as little as possible resulting in over-powered characters purely from the constant barrage of encounters as I was trying to go places. I was also stuck for a while because you need to put certain characters in front to navigate certain terrain and the NPC character said せんとう which can either mean "combat" or "lead". It would have been obvious which if the game used Kanji. Having no Kanji was pretty annoying in general I have to say.

I can't comment on the English localization since I played in Japanese but based on the American Conan box art, I'm sure it was totally fine.

Is that guy supposed to be NINA?!!! SOMEBODY NEEDS TO BE FIRED FOR THIS!
I checked out the GBA version briefly but stuck with the Super Famicon due to the superior sound. The extra exp/gold and run ability would have made the game easier to beat but in RPG standards, it's not THAT long of a game. Certainly not very hard either.

Score: 2/5
Not a bad game by any means but is definitely the type I would play on the handheld while multitasking. Given the fact that this came out 2 years AFTER FFIV, really kinda puts it firmly in the "meh, it's not bad, I guess?" category.

0 - Awful
1 - Bad and not worth your time
2 - Has some flaws but still enjoyable
3 - An average enjoyable experience
4 - A great game
5 - Masterpiece of a caliber only found very rarely