#JRPGJuly – Week 1 Round-up
Welcome to another another year of everyone’s favourite monthly gameathon. #JRPGJuly is hosted by Anne Lee @ Chic Pixel, and once again the RPGamer team is showing their support for the event by playing some JRPGs. Here’s how week one went for the RPGamer staff!
Most people who have followed RPGamer over the years know I am not a Final Fantasy fan. I loved all the sprite-based ones, felt some indifference towards the PlayStation-era titles, and didn’t care for Final Fantasy XIII, the last game in the series I played. This is a series I’ve long struggled with, and one that lost a spark with me years ago.
That was, until I started playing Final Fantasy XV. This game has been an unexpected joy in my life. Since starting it at the end of June, I am already well into chapter five, as I’ve been trying to appease Ramuh. I think what is selling me on this game is that its open world concept is done very well, the maps are well-labelled, and everything is fairly simple to navigate. The story thus far has been nothing special, but I am not minding that.
What is selling me outside of the gameplay are the dynamics between the Chocobros. I adore Noctis, Ignus, Gladio, and Prompto so much! They are so charming and they have such a wonderful bond that I feel just makes the game so compelling. I love their interactions and they support each other in ways that you don’t see among male protagonists. I think I also just like taking pictures of Noctis being the “Crown Prince of I Do What I Want.” I am loving all the hunts as well, and after twelve hours of play, I feel like I haven’t progressed the main story as much as I would like either. Ah, well.
Also, did I mention I drive a monster truck? My Regalia is a monster truck and it is badass. My boy band looks so good in it.
I became a Falcom fan during the PSP era, and while I now ravenously consume every new English release, I still enjoy playing games from its back catalog. Many of the games are quite good and I find it interesting to see the genesis of ideas that come to fruition in later releases. That’s why I’m playing Zwei: The Arges Adventure, a game originally released in 2001 in Japan, which just got its first release in English earlier this year.
Zwei stars step-siblings Pipiro and Pokkle, two kids living in an ordinary town until someone steals the local temple’s idols. The two then set out to find them in order to become renowned treasure hunters and claim a huge prize (well, Pipiro is mostly in it for the cash). The Zwei games have been described as if the Trails series and Ys games had a baby and while that gets the basic idea of the game across, I fear that comparison sets the expectations a touch high. It’s a fun game, but it doesn’t quite reach those lofty heights.
The story is simple fun, but the characters are what really shine. Pokkle, a clean-freak with a penchant for puns, is actually the slightly more serious foil to his sister, Pipiro, who’s self-centered and has absolutely no filter for what comes out of her mouth. These two are an absolute hoot to travel around Arges with and I just love the stupid grin that Pokkle’s character model constantly wears. Zwei certainly has the same sort of charm that has drawn me into so many other Falcom games.
However, I wish I loved the combat as much as the characters. The game is an action RPG dungeon-crawler where the player can instantly, with the touch of a button, swap back and forth between the two characters. Pokkle uses a melee attack where he lunges at enemies with a drill while Pipiro unleashes ranged magic attacks. It’s okay, but after playing the sequel — Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection — last year it’s tough to go back to a less polished system. Nonetheless, I’m enjoying seeing an early implementation of what would become the party system in modern Ys games.
Overall, I’m loving every moment of Zwei. It’s fun, cute, colorful, and, if nothing else, I can’t wait to see what comes out of Pipiro’s mouth next.
Anna Marie Privitere
Somehow Odin Sphere flew completely under my radar for years, both during its original release on PlayStation 2 and during its relaunch on PlayStation 4 and Vita. It wasn’t until a friend streamed the game and I saw it in action that I decided that I really should give it a try, so it’s my first #JRPGJuly game.
Odin Sphere is told in Books, being read by a young girl with a black cat. The first book is about Gwendolyn, a Valkyrie and daughter of one of the major faction leaders, Odin. Seeking only her father’s love, she instead falls for another and by the end of her tale leaves with him instead of cleaving to her king.
The second book is about Cornelius, a human prince of another faction cursed by a royal from a destroyed kingdom, tricked into helping someone he really shouldn’t have, losing and re-finding his precious love in the process.
The third book, which I am currently playing, is about Mercedes, new queen of the faeries (another faction), whose story is still unfolding. Will she immaturely seek revenge for her mother? Will she wisely seek to restore the cauldron at the heart of the current war? Will she repay an important debt she owes? There are still many questions to be answered in her tale.
What is interesting about Odin Sphere so far is how each character plays distinctly even though the combat system doesn’t change. Gwendolyn is a character comfortable in either air combat or on the ground, while Cornelius’ air moves are designed to get him back to the ground ASAP. Mercedes can float in the air infinitely, and only lands to reload her bow. Getting used to each one takes some adjustment time but playing to their strengths is very important.
Despite being a huge Ys fan, and a fan of Falcom in general, I have somehow yet to play Ys VIII. Sure last year I was distracted by some sort of Zelda game or something. Then there was news that a translation patch was coming so I decided to wait on that. When that finally arrived and I was preparing to fire the game up, news of a Switch release arrived and I decided to yet again hold off. With that version finally arriving, just in time for #JRPGJuly, I decided to make it the primary game I’d be playing for the month.
So far it has not disappointed. A natural continuation of Ys Seven and Memories of Celceta. Adding a jump back into the mix has provided a lot more depth to combat, and I hope will perhaps lead to some mild platforming. The story is typical Ys (Adol is on a boat that crashes somewhere) and there has been the beginnings of a mystery involving a woman named Dana. I’m curious to see where everything goes, and have already gotten back into the groove of the party-based combat I grew to love starting with Ys Seven. Can’t wait to see where Adol’s latest adventure takes me while I try and figure out why anyone ever lets him on boats at this point.
I’ve also been continuing my playthrough of The Alliance Alive. I love that the game takes the major weakness of its predecessor, The Legend of Legacy, and turns it on its head by promptly spending a lot of the early game establishing the characters, world, and story of the game. Even so, it does so with plenty of opportunity to explore, lots of the game’s fantastic SaGa-inspired combat, and of course all the skill-sparking you could dream of. Currently I’ve reached where all the major characters, including a mad scientist-type that drives a mechanical duck-mech, have joined forces on a ship capable of navigating between the world’s divided regions. I’ve yet to find the penguin character, but this will happen or I’ll start the whole game over dang it.
I’ll also likely be play The Lost Child, this month, but so far I’ve only managed to play the intro bits up to the first save point. It seems like a pretty good Shin Megami Tensei-styled game, but there is an odd mix of humor and seriousness to the plot. We shall see classic first-person dungeon-crawlers on the Switch.
I start off this year’s #JRPGJuly with a refresher of a game I both love dearly and lament about to this day: Arc Rise Fantasia. It was in preparation for the latest episode of the RPGBacktrack podcast, so you can listen to that if you want to know more about my thoughts on the game (or just read my review). I will say that the battle system is still loads of fun, and that arena cameo battle is quite brutal.
I didn’t spend as much time with Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology as I would have liked, but that is ever my problem with gaming these days. I had played the original when it first came out, although I forgot many details, especially of the story. This enhanced 3DS port isn’t like new to me, but I love how it’s reminding me why I think so highly of this game.
My scant memory of the plot is because of its odd structure of alternating between two timelines. These timelines branch off after a major decision main character Stocke made early on, but are somehow able to influence each other. Eventually, the two timelines will merge back into the “true” timeline. This new version adds possible histories, which are on-off worlds that can also influenced by the main timelines — basically a bunch of side quests take place in these worlds, all given by the new character Nemesia. I will avoid spoiling anything major in these write-ups, since I imagine many people haven’t played the original DS version, much less finished Perfect Chronology.
I reached up to a point in the Alternate History timeline when the character Rosch becomes severely demoralized. As I recall, it will take a very long time of playing the Standard History timeline before returning to this one. Where I last left off, Princess Eruca of the kingdom of Granorg was shown to be leading the resistance against her tyrannical stepmother Queen Protea. She joined Stocke’s party after the Granorg army was ordered to burn the capital city to try and flush out the resistance.
To focus a bit on Eruca, I rather like her as a character, as she is a noble, rebellious princess who is indeed leading a rebellion. I remember her being very useful in battle, though that perhaps take some time, since she’s a bit of a glass cannon. I miss her old artwork, which depicted her with short hair. You don’t see a lot of short-haired princesses in fiction. Oh well, her new art does actually make her looks sixteen years old, so there’s that. As a neat aside, Eruca is voiced by the similarly-name Erica Mendez, and I think she does a spectacular job with the role.
I can say that about all of the voice acting in this game thus far. Atlus USA tends to do a great job with their English dubs, and Radiant Historia is no exception. I already liked most of the characters in the game, but the voices really help to give them an extra layer of personality. As an interesting (and no doubt cost-effective) decision, every character with a portrait gets full voice acting, but everyone else, even named characters with unique sprites but no portraits, only get voice clips. Extended conversations can be a bit odd when some of them have fully voiced lines and others are mostly silent except for a brief quip at the beginning that may or may not match what they said in the text.
There is so much I can say about Radiant History: Perfect Chronology, from the battle system to the politics, to the game’s take on beast folk, but I can save those for future updates. I highly doubt I’ll be able to finish this game before Friday, but we shall see. Knowing my gaming habits, I’ll try my best to finish Perfect Chronology as soon as possible, then move onto Octopath Traveler.
This week hasn’t gone the way I expected at all. Instead of playing Shin Megami Tensei IV or Fire Emblem, I played nothing but Disgaea 3. I did a little bit of the Item World and next thing I knew I didn’t want to do anything else. My team went from around level 40 up to 150+ and I know that I should really just play through the story, but the Item World grind really has its hooks into me.
Disgaea 3 has been the only game in the series that I have used basically every main character. They are all so useful with the unique abilities they each have. Almaz, for example, has been very useful with his Spinning Swordance. It combos easily and being able to choose the square it hits similar to magic makes it extremely versatile. Raspberyl and, of course, Mao are often MVP in the item world.
Archers and gun users have been extremely useful as well. The stacking increases to their damage and ability to hit enemies make them sometimes the only units who can kill a tough, high speed enemy. I’ve been going after for Marksmen Innocents too because they raise hit. The male Gunner is probably the best damage dealer on my team. With an Overstrike six panels away he’s doing above 10,000 damage. The next closest is Mao doing around 6,000 damage with an X-Level Flurry, so it’s quite a commanding lead.