Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Final Fantasy Project: Sidequests

All through my mainline playthrough of the Final Fantasy series I've been thinking about what I'll do when I reach the end.  I decided I would like to start playing Final Fantasy games that aren't part of the main series.  A lot of Final Fantasy spin-off games sound like they would be a great fit for me.

I've played a handful of the spin-offs in the past.  I finished FFX-2, FFTA, and probably a couple other minor games.  I've dabbled in FFTA2, Theatrhythm, All The Bravest, Crystal Defenders, Crystal Chronicles, and many more without completing them.

If you can't tell by now, I love Final Fantasy.  It's one of the only series that I've had a consistent passion for over the years.

I plan on starting to get into these spinoff titles soon.  So if you see a post with "The Final Fantasy Project Sidequests" in the title you'll know what to expect.  I want to play around with as many spin-offs as I can.  Since I know they're very hit-or-miss I don't plan on completing them all, but I would like to get a taste of as many as I can get my hands on.  I mean, look how many there are.

Click to embiggen this fantastic flowchart

Let me know if you have any particular suggestions for my Final Fantasy spin-offs exploration.  You can tweet at me @grnmushroom or, as always, you can leave a comment below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

PS4 and Vita Remote Play



I picked up a PS4 a couple weeks ago.  It was partially in anticipation of Destiny, but mostly because I knew I would be getting one eventually and the money worked out for it.

The big games I picked up are Infamous: Second Son and Destiny.  Infamous is pretty but there's nothing to it that I haven't already seen in an open world game.  Destiny is lots of fun but I don't know if it has staying power.  If you want to know more about that I wrote about it here.

Along with these, I also have all the free indie games I've gotten through PS Plus.  Super Motherload is one of my favorite indie games on the system, it's simple yet addicting.  Towerfall is intriguing too, although I haven't gotten people over to play it multiplayer yet.  Sony has promised to keep releasing at least two games per month on PS Plus for the PS4 so I'm excited to see what I get to try in the future.

I'm still just getting a feel for the system and the UI.  At this point I've had enough time with it to get a general impression of the console.  I really like it.  It's a solid system.  Time will tell if it was a worthwhile investment but I think it will be.  It's a console that should have many years ahead.

My favorite feature of the PS4 is actually a feature of my PS Vita.  Remote play!  I can play my PS4 from my Vita anywhere I have a stable internet connection.  Every PS4 game has to support remote play which means that any game you can play on PS4 you can now play on PS Vita.  It's amazing.

Destiny, in particular, is a fantastic remote play experience.  It has custom controls when being played on the Vita, which feel great.  They're slightly different from the controls on a PS4 controller but they completely make sense because of the Vita form factor (no L2 or R2 triggers).  I've regularly been playing a little bit of Destiny in bed each night as I wind down before sleeping.  It's a full console experience in the palm of my hand and I love it.


I've used remote play from my living room when others are using the TV.  I've played it from my upstairs bedroom.  I've played from my parent's house (miles away).  It's been a consistently good experience.  I still need to try it out at a coffee shop one of these days since I find the idea of playing my PS4 from Starbucks hilarious.  When I do, I'll make sure to report back.

At this point, I wouldn't recommend PS4 to most people unless there is an amazing exclusive game you want to play.  I think it's a really good console but you should probably wait for a bundle or price drop that appeals to you.

In the future I think the biggest feature of the PS4 is going to be remote play.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Sony talk that up more and more as time goes on.  It makes me wonder if a PS4 + Vita bundle would sell a lot of systems with the right marketing push behind it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Destiny Impressions



I'm taking another breather between Final Fantasy games.  In the week since I've finished Final Fantasy IX my most played game has been Destiny.

Destiny is a newly released multi-platform FPS by the creators of Halo.  It has the feel of Halo, Borderlands, and an MMO all mashed together.  I've been having fun with it but I don't know if it will have much staying power with me.  Since I'm a fan of both the FPS and MMO genres it falls in an interesting middle ground for me.

Destiny is set in the future across terraformed planets in our solar system.  Each planet has different sets of enemies to encounter and different styles of dungeons to explore.  The story and the world aren't well developed but the setting and landscapes are beautiful.

There are 3 classes to choose from, each with 2 subclasses and a variety of unique powers.  There is probably some replay value there.  I went with the Warlock because Space Magic is very appealing to me.  It's fun to encounter other classes while I play and see how they differ.  Hunters dart around with fast melee strikes while Titans shoulder rush in and can take a ton of damage.  It's your typical Fighter, Rogue, and Mage but it's been reskinned for a sci-fi setting.

A lot of the typical MMO endgame pitfalls are present, which is weird to see in a FPS.  There is a soft level cap at 20.  After that, you have to hunt for new gear in order to power up.  This should sound familiar to anyone who has ever gotten into MMOs.

The weird thing is that gear has a stat called "Light" which is unlike the other typical stats (attack, defense, intelligence, strength, discipline).  Gear with the Light stat only drops after hitting level 20 and Light actually pushes your level above 20.  So, a level 20 player who puts on gear with a bunch of Light may actually be level 26.  It's weird but it works.

Although the endgame is a bit different, it still has the standard gear treadmill.  I've always thought gear treadmills are the worst part about MMOs.  At the end of the game there is a limited amount of content which you have to repeat over and over again in the hopes of randomly getting better gear.  I hate this in MMOs.  I hate it here.



I'll probably play my level 20 Warlock long enough to experience all the endgame content once and get a couple Light levels.  Then I'll either make an alt or stop playing altogether.  I wonder how many other people will hit that point and stop playing too.

I've left out details about PVP, so I should touch on that.  I'm not a big fan of FPS competitive play, but it's present, has a variety of game types, and it seems pretty solid.  If you were a fan of the Halo competitive multiplayer experience I'm sure Destiny will fulfill that same need for you.  It's not a big draw for me, but I appreciate that it's an option if I want to add some variety to my gameplay experience.

I don't want to give the wrong impression.  I like this game.  It's a solid shooter with good core gameplay mechanics.  It has a ton of potential for future expansions to add more content and story.  I think this could be a good game long term, but I know it won't hold my attention for more than a few weeks in it's current form.

I hope they decide to release expansions and new story content regularly.  If they do, Destiny could morph into an amazing game.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Final Fantasy IX: Wrap Up



Final Fantasy IX is so good.  It easily takes the top spot in my list out of the Final Fantasy games I've played so far.  Based on my past playthroughs of the later entries in the series I'm fairly sure Final Fantasy IX will stay right near the top from this point forward.  Final Fantasy X may give it a run for it's money, but I don't think Final Fantasy XII or Final Fantasy XIII will top it.

What makes it so good?  Lots.

Final Fantasy IX has a fantastic character driven story.  The characters organically grow throughout the game and their growth directly impacts the story.  Every single playable character ends up a different person because of their actions and experiences in the course of the game.  This is a first for the series.

Not only is the story character driven, but it unfolds in an organic manner that doesn't feel forced.  Characters come together and split apart for understandable reasons and the big "save the world" quest isn't thrust upon the team until the very end of the third disc.

The combat is classic.  The ATB battle system is in full swing and the four character party feels nostalgic.  There is more room to experiment with various character combinations with a four character party than there is with a three character party like we had in the last two games.  I also enjoyed the progression of character combat abilities.  Getting experience and ability points is a classic and easy solution to character progression.



Each character is a pre-defined class and that makes them feel more fully realized than characters from Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII.  In those two games, each character could easily swap all their abilities with any other character.  They had a very generic feel.  In Final Fantasy IX each character is unique and has skills that no other character can ever get.

I love the cast of Final Fantasy IX.  While they're all good, one deserves special mention.  Vivi!  Vivi is one of the best characters in the entire series.  He comes to terms with his own mortality and finds his place in the world through his actions.  He's the coolest black mage ever.



There are a couple problems with the game, but nothing major.  I've already written about it a few times, but the combat is just too slow.  It needs to be faster.  It's probably a result of hardware limitations but it still consistently bugged me.  I never got over how slow the battles are.

But there are so many other things to love about this game.  The story, the music, the world, the characters, the progression, the exploration, the FMVS.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  I love this game.  I highly recommend it.

Final Fantasy Ranking
1. IX
2. VIII
3. VII
4. VI
5. IV
6. V
7. II
8. I
9. III

Total Completion Time: 37 hrs 55 mins

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Final Fantasy IX: Partway Through

Awesome Art from Abysswolf

I love this game.  I usually find some things worth criticism by this point in my playthrough, but I barely have any complaints.  I have one, but it's minor.  I'll get to that in a bit.

The story is so much more developed in Final Fantasy IX compared to the other games up to this point.  I'm fully invested in all the main characters.  I'm constantly interested in seeing what happens next.  There is real character growth and development.  The party splits up and comes back together organically and it gives the characters interesting plot points that diverge from each other.  I don't want to go into all the story details right now, but this is definitely my favorite Final Fantasy story up to this point in the series.

My only complaint is the battle speed.  It's slow.  I talked about it in my initial impressions but the more I play through the game the more it bugs me.  In the first 10 minutes of playing the game I went into the options and turned the battle speed up to it's highest setting.  That helped, but not enough.  Not only are the ATB gauges slow to fill, but the battle animations take too long as well.  Overall, it makes battles drag out when they really don't need to.

But that's it.  My only complaint so far.  I'll probably come up with a few more by the end, but I don't have them right now.

Right now I'm just enjoying the game.  I love the story, characters, music, visuals, and ability system.  I'm going to keep having fun with it and report back later.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Final Fantasy IX: Initial Impressions



Final Fantasy IX my first replay that is actually holding up to my nostalgia for it.  I definitely had rose colored glasses on for Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII, but they immediately came off when I started playing those games.  On the other hand, Final Fantasy IX is pretty much just the way I remembered it.

It may be my favorite Final Fantasy game out of them all.  Final Fantasy IX and Final Fantasy X have always been the two at the top of my mind, but playing the whole series is giving me a new perspective.  I'm about 3 hours into this game and already it's my favorite out of the nine I've played for my Final Fantasy Project.  I'm sure I'll find more flaws in the game as I progress, but I doubt it will get any less than first place when I write my wrap-up for this game.  We shall see.

Starting the game up I was immediately hit by the stylized design of the world and characters.  By this point in the series the creators had figured out the limitations of the original Playstation and designed their game around it.  Hence, stylized characters instead of realistic ones.  The characters aren't blocks with hooves or smudgy looking realistically proportioned humans like in the last two games.  Each character has a unique look and feel to them.  They all have a distinct silhouette and body type.  It seems like a lot more attention is given to the character animations as well.  They show more emotion with the way they move compared to the last couple games.



The world is still designed in the same way as the previous two games.  There are pre-rendered backgrounds that the characters move on.  I don't know if, objectively, they're any better than the last two games.  But subjectively, I like them more.  I love the world they've created for this game.  It's a throwback to all the older Final Fantasy games before Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII got into sci-fi territory.

Already I've been reminded of one of my favorite aspects of Final Fantasy IX, Active Time Events.  They're called ATEs in the game and they're little character vignettes that happen away from the main POV character.  This lets supporting characters get a chance to be fleshed out and shine on their own.  These ATEs add entirely new perspective to the events happening in the game and I love them.  They're a fantastic little break in the action and a chance to get a glimpse of what other characters are up to.

I haven't even mentioned the main story yet.  It starts off with a bang!  A theater troop is flying into one of the largest cities in the world to put on a famous play for the queen and nobles of her country.  They're real goal is to kidnap the princess of the country and get away without anyone noticing.  In this opening chapter not only do you get to play as the roguish thief (and actor) Zidane but you get a chance to control Steiner while he tries to stop the kidnapping attempt and Vivi while he tries to sneak in to see the play.  I love the control of multiple characters, each of whom has their own goals.  It adds an interesting depth and sense of perspective to the story.

I need more time to experience the music, but I'm enjoying it so far.  It's stirring up memories for me of my original playthrough of this game.  I think the music in Final Fantasy IX might be my favorite overall score for a Final Fantasy game.  Final Fantasy VII through X all have great music, but IX may be my favorite.  As I said, I need more time with it to know for sure.

My only complaint so far is the battle speed.  The ATB gauges seem to crawl across the screen and I spend a lot of timing waiting for my characters to take their turn.  Even after I cranked up the battle speed to it's highest setting in the options menu it's still excruciatingly slow.  I can see this getting even more frustrating as the game goes on.

I'm at about 3 hours of playtime and already having a great time.  Expect more soon!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Final Fantasy IX: Preamble



I'm nervous to start Final Fantasy IX.  I've always considered Final Fantasy IX and X to be my favorites in the series.  I'm afraid that they won't hold up to my favorable memories of them.

I had nostalgia for Final Fantasy VII and VIII, but not to this extent.  When they didn't hold up quite as well as I thought they would I was disappointed, but not crushed.

Now that I'm on the verge of starting Final Fantasy IX I'm finally realizing how much I've built it up in my mind.  I sincerely hope that these next two games hold up well.  In my memories, Final Fantasy IX has the best characters and character development in the entire Final Fantasy series and Final Fantasy X has the best complete package of a game.

I just needed to get this out there so that I can psych myself up to start Final Fantasy IX.  That's it for my ramblings... time to start.