Monday, July 21, 2014

Final Fantasy VIII: Wrap-Up


Final Fantasy VIII was really good.  It's the most ambitious game in the series up to this point.  I honestly think it's better than Final Fantasy VII in every respect except for the battle system.

I love the storytelling in this game.  There is real character development finally!  They change and adapt throughout the game.  I had such a good time watching the characters grow.

I had forgotten, but Final Fantasy VIII is a time travel story.  Those are difficult to tackle but extremely rewarding when done well.  This is one where the execution is very good, not quite as good as Chrono Trigger, but still very good.

All the storytelling elements are better than previous games.  The FMVs and music that accompany the story are just fantastic.  The writing and dialogue is much more natural.

I completed this game while doing a low level playthrough.  I finished the game with my highest level character at level 17.  In the end I kind of broke the battle system because of it, but that's ok.  I didn't have trouble with any enemies in the game until I hit the final boss.

This guy is a pain

While I applaud their attempt to do a completely different battle system I don't think they succeeded in making one that's very fun.  I'm excited to get back to something more classic with the next entry in the series.

I don't even know what else to say about Final Fantasy VIII.  It's different from every other game in the series.  It truly tries to do it's own thing and for the most part it succeeds.  I liked this game a lot.  For me, it's currently sitting at the top of my Final Fantasy Ranking.

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

Total Completion Time: 26 hrs 30 mins

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rewards for Playing vs Rewards for Winning

While working on my Final Fantasy Project I've also regularly been playing Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm.  Both are fantastic Blizzard games.  Hearthstone is their digital CCG and Heroes of the Storm is their new MOBA.

It's extremely interesting to see the way their incentives are structured.  Both games use in-game gold to let players buy goods.  In Hearthstone you can buy card packs or arena entries and in Heroes you can buy new heroes to play with.  Both games let you earn gold by playing in various ways.



The big difference is that Hearthstone rewards you for winning, while Heroes rewards you for playing.  I've found myself get more drawn into Heroes because of this.

In Hearthstone three wins will get you some in-game gold.  In Heroes you get experience for playing any game whether you win or lose.  That experience causes you to level up and at each level up you get gold.

Both games have daily quests.  Hearthstone daily quests usually take the form of "Win three games as a certain class" where Heroes daily quests are usually "Play two games as a certain hero type."



Can you see why Heroes gets more of my attention?  Any time I play a game I make progress toward a level up or completing a quest.  Even if I go on a losing streak I still have made measurable progress.  In Hearthstone if I go on a losing streak I get nothing.  If I stop playing for the night after a losing streak in Hearthstone I feel deflated but when the same thing happens in Heroes I feel just fine.

Both games are really good, but it's amazing how much the incentive structure can affect the fun I have in game.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Final Fantasy VIII Initial Impressions: Breaking the Game



I may have broken the junction system in Final Fantasy VIII.  I've beaten the first disc, my characters are still around level 12, and I can usually one-shot bosses.  Let me explain.

Going back to this game was intimidating because the Junction system is so complex.  I knew that I never really grasped it last time I played so this time I did research before playing.

Here are the basics.  This paragraph may hurt your brain, don't feel bad about skipping to the next one.  Your character only has one command (Attack) unless you junction a Guardian Force (GF).  Guardian forces are summons, but they also grant you commands, abilities, and let you junction magic as long as they're junctioned to you.  Commands that can be equipped are things like Magic, Item, GF, Mug, Card, Draw and others.  These let your characters actually do things other than attack in battle.  Now that a GF is equipped you can junction magic!  But first, you need to acquire magic through drawing or refining.  Draw is a command that lets you pull magic out of enemies and store it.  It's slow and tedious.  You can also refine magic from items.  That's less tedious, but still time consuming.  Often, to get the items you want so that you can refine the magic you're after you will need to play the card game or turn enemies into cards.  Anyway, now you have some magic, good job.  Once you have some you can junction that magic to a character stat and increase that stat.  If you use any of that magic it will be pulled out of your reserves and it will have less of an affect on that stat.

An example I found of someone junctioning magic to stats.

The way I started to break the game is by realizing that increased stats have a much larger impact at low level.  So, I went about collecting as much magic as possible and junctioning it while avoiding as much experience gain as I could.  My characters who have a base HP of around 500 at their current level now have around 3000.  They used to hit for 70ish damage until I junctioned powerful magic.  Now they hit for 1k-2k damage.  I think I broke the junction system a bit.

I actually ended up playing the in game card game, triple triad, for many hours.  I did this to experience the card game but also to acquire cards that I could refine into even better magic for junctioning.

I had a ton of fun digging into this system.  I actually spent about 6-7 hours just trying to accomplish magic acquisition and juntioning without pushing the story forward at all.  I love digging into intricate systems, so it was a fun challenge for me.

Now I'm cruising through the game enjoying the story and destroying everything in my way.  It also helps that I picked up an ability that changes the random encounter rate to 0.  Basically, I play through the story and only have to fight bosses now.  Which I usually 1-shot.

Because of all this, I'm just flying through the story now.  I'm onto disc 2 (of 4) and I'm really enjoying the presentation.  The modeling and animation are much improved over Final Fantasy VII and the FMVs are better incorporated.  A lot of the transitions are seamless between gameplay and FMV.  The overall story still feels like it's very early even though I'm on disc 2.  I like the setting and the general plot so far, but I don't feel like I've played enough to talk about the overarching story.


I'm finding Final Fantasy VIII to be fairly fun.  In some ways it's better than FFVII and in some ways it's worse.  I need to get more playtime under my belt before I make any sweeping generalizations.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Suspend / Resume

Right now one of the most important features to me is the ability to suspend and resume a game whenever I need to.  I have 2 little kids (under 4 years old), so when I'm at home they always take priority.  When I game I need to be able to stop at any moment to help them out or spend time with them.  It's given me a completely new appreciation for good suspend and save features.

Save anywhere is really nice to have, especially if it's quick to do.  But even better than that is the ability to instantly suspend a game.  This is why I've been spending so much time with my 3DS and Vita.  With the 3DS I can just close the lid and know the game will be in the exact same spot when I come back.  The Vita is just as easy with the PS button which instantly suspends the current game.  This is easily the best feature of these systems for me.

Another awesome thing I've found is on the Wii U and 3DS virtual console.  Virtual console titles are games from the NES era through the N64 era that are emulated on the current Nintendo systems.  They have the idea of restore points.  A restore point can be created with the push of two button (one button gets you into the virtual console menu, one creates the restore point).  Because they're on virtual console it's possible for me to go back and enjoy some NES and SNES classics since they now essentially have a save anywhere feature.  It's very similar to save states in most emulators on PC, but it's fantastic to see Nintendo support this idea on consoles!

The reverse side of this is playing games without a good save system or playing games online.  If I want to play those types of games I need to wait until late at night when I'm positive my kids are sleeping.  This limits my play time to around 2-3 hours at night and that's if I do absolutely nothing else with my night (which is rare).  So, while I love Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm right now, they're games that I can't play very often.  There are limited times when I can play them.  I can't even imagine trying to play an MMO at the moment.  It's totally infeasible.

I don't begrudge my kids for a second.  They're amazing and they'll always take priority.  And they're turning into little gamers themselves.  Pretty soon I'll have a little Player 2 and Player 3 all the time!  But it's just amazing how much kids have changed my gaming patterns.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Half Minute Hero



A game that looks like an RPG but plays like a time management puzzle.  That's what you're in for if you pick up Half Minute Hero.

I feel as if I'm on the verge of starting Final Fantasy VIII.  I've had a good break since finishing FFVII, but I'm still playing around with other games in the meantime.  Half Minute Hero has been one of them.

Despite that title image up there, this is actually a pixel-fest when it comes to graphics.  It has an old-school RPG charm to it that initially drew me in.

The best part of Half Minute Hero is the premise behind the game.  You have 30 seconds to save the world.  Your character always starts at level 1 and levels up by defeating enemies.  There are ways to reset the clock while keeping your progress, but even so, one round of the game typically lasts less than 5 minutes.  Every level is like playing one bite sized RPG.

I picked it up on sale via PSN, but I know this game is out on most platforms.  It's an older game too, so it tends to be cheap.  Take a look at it if you're a RPG or puzzle game fan.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Final Fantasy VII Honest Trailer

I don't often embed videos on this blog, but I found this hilarious after just finishing Final Fantasy VII.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Evergreen Gaming

Once again I find myself between Final Fantasy games.  That means it's time for some evergreen games before I dive into the next entry in the series.  For me evergreen games are those that have self-contained play sessions and no real "end" to the game.

First up is Mario Kart 8.   Even though it's not much of a change from Mario Kart 7 it's a lot of fun and I'm enjoying my time with it.  The biggest improvements are HD graphics and better online play.  It's Mario Kart.  If you like Mario Kart you will love Mario Kart 8.  If you don't like Mario Kart you should skip it.  You basically know what you're getting.

Hearthstone has gotten a ton of my time.  Now that it's on iPad it's perfect to play while watching TV on the couch or laying in bed before falling asleep.  I love that the games usually run somewhere in the 5-15 minute range.  I know I can sit down and play without having to commit to long play sessions.  It's easily the best digital card game out there on the market and it has the customary Blizzard level of polish.  Once this comes out on smartphones I know it's going to get even more playtime from me.

Heroes of the Storm is another Blizzard game that has my attention.  I got into the Alpha for it last week and I'm enjoying the changes they've made to the traditional MOBA playstyle.  They've simplified parts of the genre that I hated.  There are no items to buy.  There is no micromanaging attacks against creeps.  There are no individual levels.  This means no one can ever mess up their build or get left behind as their teammates level up.  It encourages teamwork and experimenting with different hero setups.  Another thing I love is getting to pick my hero before queuing up.  No longer can you get complained at by 4 other people because they wanted you to pick something different during the hero select screen.  I've only had a couple days with it, but I really like Heros of the Storm so far.

And (kind of) lastly, is Attack of the Friday Monsters.  It's an exploration game set based around the idea of 60s/70s era Japenese monster shows.  It's weird.  I like it.  It's been mostly about exploring the world and interacting with other characters while slowly revealing more about them and the giant monsters that show up in the real world every Friday night.  I love the feeling of the town and the exploration.  There's a card mini-game tacked on too, but it's nothing special, the real star is the world they've created.

I've also played Super Mario 3D World, Luftrasers, and Mario Golf in the past few days but I don't have much new to say about them.  They're good and they're fun.  Maybe I'll dig into them more later.

Expect me to cruise along on these games for a week or two before I jump into Final Fantasy VIII.