#JRPGJuly 2019 – Week 2 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 two went for the RPGamer staff!
Lucas Tahiruzzaman Syed
Persona Q2 continues to be engaging, though the gameplay loop is starting to feel like it has a bit too tight of a turnaround — and a bit too much to do — every time I am given an opportunity to wash/rinse/sortie. The two-step dance of SP conservation for sustainable dungeon crawling (strategic sub-Persona allocation plus exploiting the Boost mechanic not only as a way of maximizing damage output but also as a way of planning one turn ahead to save resources when deploying heftier skills) doesn’t seem like it’s quite effective enough to prevent me from returning to base each time I discover a new shortcut home, reducing each excursion to a 10-15 minute affair. This isn’t a problem necessarily, especially for a handheld title, but since I have opted to try and organically maintain levels across a party of nearly 20 characters, I find myself spending as much, if not more, time at the hub selling treasure, deliberating over expensive new weapons and armor, biting my nails as I fuse away a highly effective but obsolete persona, swapping out party members, and triaging skill variety due to unfamiliar loadout combinations. I have to emphasize how fun and engaging all of that is, but I’m now letting out a sigh every time Theodore notifies me that he’s invented sixteen new weapons for me to consider.
I’m also finding the game to be just a little deficient in capturing the magic of its parent series. The earnest social critique of the Persona games has yet to manifest, and the dungeons lack the mystical and unpredictable nature (pun intended) of the Etrian titles. For instance, I’ve found only a handful of non-treasure/gather points of interest in 20 hours of play, whereas I remember finding all sorts of oddities and mini-events even on the first floor of Etrian Odyssey IV, most of which were recurrent and therefore could be incorporated into exploration strategy on return visits to a dungeon.
The complaints ultimately don’t diminish my overall enjoyment of Persona Q2. I’m loving the game, and playing something this engrossing on the now toy-like original 3DS model (in comparison to Switch) is a novelty. This week I’m going to turn battle animations back on (now that I have so many characters I want to see them in action) and turn automapping back off to see if it gets me more immersed.
I’m well into Octopath Traveler‘s Chapter 2 quests, and I’m finding myself in a slump. The story-dungeon-boss-story structure of each quest is really driving home the game’s investment in repetition. I’ve met many of my traveler’s foils, rivals, and allies, but they show up so briefly that they feel more like outlines than fully developed characters. This brevity extends to many of the quests, which are more compelling as capsule descriptions (“A dishonest apothecary cures people of a sickness she caused”) than in execution. The game’s high-concept devotion to eight different paths is less admirable when so much of each one is familiar.
I’m doing much better combat-wise than in my last update. I’ve unlocked all the basic secondary jobs, creating more tactical decisions when it comes to party planning. On the downside, my increased flexibility has replaced the challenge of boss battles with a grind. Bosses have too many HP for their complexity. Even after I figure out each boss’s pattern and draw all the unique pleasure possible from the battle, they persist in taking hit after hit. I want to see what the road holds for Tressa, Primrose, and Alfyn, but the lure of other games is getting stronger.
This week, I ended up hospitalized for an asthma attack. How exciting is that? It meant very little gaming got done. The day before the attack, I did manage to get some time in with Judgment, and have made it all the way to Chapter 8. The story has definitely taken a messed up turn, and one that I hope is wrong given the person who is currently accused. I also owe Tsukomo money because I decided I needed to invest in all the restaurants to guild my KamuroGo Profile, but then was like “I need to support some Quickstarter projects.” Now, I’m broke-ass poor, and need to beat up more dudes and take on a locksmithing part-time job to get some quick cash before the landlady evicts me.
I’ve been really loving the side quests in this game though, if only because they are truly on par with the Yakuza games. From the little boy who wants Kaito to become a sentai ranger, to the man who can’t keep his damn wig on his head, I’ve laughed so many times playing this game that the problems I do see with it are starting to feel a bit smaller.
Hopefully next week I’ll have a real update with some real progress made, and you know, NOT end up in the hospital for from over working myself. WHO KNOWS!
I didn’t get a lot of playtime in because of work things, but I did get a bit further in Heavensward. Of course, I don’t remember where I left off, so I went with some nice people from my FC into the Great Gubal Library duty. I’m still a bit rusty, so didn’t want to deal with randoms yelling at me for sucking it up. We did it unsync’d so we could breeze through it while I tried out my spells’ new locations since I rebuilt my hotbar. Wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to put Regen on there. I didn’t realize it until I went to cast it. Poo stains. I just used Cure since we were moving like a whirlwind through it, and didn’t have time to grab it out of my Actions and Traits menu.
With the lily thingy, I didn’t really understand it before I went on a break (I swear the flowers were red before…) but now it seems I have Afflatus Solace that is a spell that can only be used if you create at least one lily. It apparently works the same as Afflatus Solace in Final Fantasy XI, where if you get hit enough, you get points that go towards your healing amount. Except in FFXIV, you use lilies. I will get Afflatus Misery at level 74, I think. I really enjoyed using both of those spells in FFXI, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they work here.
Finally was able to get to Azys Lla where the evil prophet man is after a crazy cutscene with imperials chasing us and a Shiva appearance (sadface). Creepy Eye guy was there as well, being creepy with his eye. I just started running around there with some quests, so I’m looking forward to ending this expansion and moving on to Stormblood.
By the way, the mobs you see in the second screenshot are called “Owlbears” but everyone knows they are just Yagudos with spiky helmets.
Erik van Asselt
This week I continue my adventure into Final Fantasy Tactics. It has been quite a ride. The story is getting deeper and the political turmoil is getting worse. I’m fighting random encounters and making my army stronger with weird job combinations. So how am I doing with this great game?
Before getting to my progress, there is one thing I have to talk about because there is something in this game which really makes me happy. The sprite work is exceptionally good. Maybe the best I have ever seen from this era of games. I have seen a character throwing their hat to the floor and all I could see was the skill in making that kind of animation. Truly, it’s amazing.
My army continues to grow. Last time I talked about two of my best soldiers, but this time I have something else to discuss. The bane of my last week of playing: Chocobos. They keep joining my army. First I was cool with it, until they began to breed. Yes, there were eggs in my party. And I am trying to figure out what I am going to do with this new infestation. Should I open my own Ivalice Fried Chocobo store? Or should I abuse the Poach skill and just take them behind the shed? I will tell you next week.
Like I said in my intro a couple weeks ago, I’m playing The Lost Child and Final Fantasy IX and it’s really slow going. FFIX was always going to be super casual since the game holds a lot of nostalgia for me and I’m really savoring playing it again with the added functions and updated character models on my Switch. I’m getting ready for the hunting festival and already plotting how to make Freya win so I can get that accessory so I can kill the dragons. I don’t always do that, but I really feel like pushing it this time. I’m wondering how it will go.
The Lost Child, however, has sort of lost its hold on me. I’m getting pretty bored of killing the same guys over and over and I’m just not getting the item needed to evolve my demon dudes. I got this katana that hits everyone in the front line and does enough damage to kill everything in one hit, so I don’t even need to think while playing it. I just hit the X button and I win. I’m thinking I should stop the story grind and go back to that dungeon and grind out some floors there. I was really enjoying that before, so it may be just what I need to get through the burnout.
Lastly, I’ve actually started up Pokemon Yellow on my New 2DS XL after finally getting my account switched over from my dead New 3DS and I think I have my final team all sorted. Just got to Sylph Co. to take on Team Rocket and I’m expecting to beat the game in about 3 hours for a total of around 15. I’m trying to fight all trainers and not using any glitches and see how fast I can do it. My team is Primeape, Sandslash, Gyarados, Pikachu, Charizard, and Kadabra.
Slowing plowing my way through Romancing SaGa 2, I’ve thought a lot about what it’s communicating with it’s design choices. The way that the game gives players a lot of leeway in terms of progression as well as how enemies scale to how the player levels up the emperor and their generals helps give the sense of a hostile world that avoids player-centered design. The threadbare story, while not a selling point on it’s own merits, does a good job providing an overall structure for this sense of freedom.
Of course, this design does lead to some frustration, as do to some unfortunate choices on my part, I ended up spending several hours of game time meandering around, fruitlessly trying to finished a couple of the quests before getting my party curb-stomped by seemingly insurmountable bosses. I ended up getting frustrated by this to the point I considered dropping the game. However, I ended up looking through a few walkthroughs and then decided to try the Canal Fortress quest again, which I had initially messed up as I left the area before I could finish it due to forgetting to properly equipping my generals properly. I had initially entered using the boat and the only way I could get back in was to brute force my way through the front. Thankfully, I ended up beefing my party enough that I actually managed to get into the fortress and complete the quest.
Went back and finished the Canal Fortress quest. Feeling pretty good about that #RomancingSaGa2 #JRPGJuly pic.twitter.com/CLhTqH9BbS
— Ryan McCarthy (@LastZimOnEarth) July 12, 2019
That sense of accomplishment really helped me regain my initial enthusiasm for the game. I’ve managed to do a few more of the scenarios and even did a generation skip. Currently, I’m slowly working my way to fighting the other Legendary Heroes and hoping to make some headway in the next week.
Ran into a snag on Tales of Berseria. I just unlocked crafting, so naturally I had to enhance all my gear. How can I possibly continue on with the game unless I have Lv.3 variants of all the early-game arms, armor, and accessories which will be obsolete in a few minutes? Story-wise I’m supposed to assault some town and steal a boat, because all the work I’ve been doing for the past few hours has been essentially a waste of time. C’est la vie.
Also started playing Ni No Kuni 2, which I’m finding much more engaging. At its best moments they nail the aesthetic and the game looks like an animated movie, which is nice. The game has color-coded loot and simple (so far) real-time combat, although honestly most fights end with one special attack. The story is full of cliches, but I really enjoyed the atmosphere of Goldpaw. I’m at the start of Chapter 4 now and am consigned to turning off my brain and ignoring that you’re not going to find a patch of unoccupied, flat, ocean-adjacent farmland called “The Heartlands” and that you’re not going to build a kingdom in such a timely manner that the child-characters in the game don’t level up.
Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse
Well, this past week of Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse was slightly stalled by my New 2DS XL freezing on me, if it’ll turn on at all. While that system was sent to Nintendo for repairs, I have to make due with borrowing my sister’s 3DS. I just recently defeated Krishna, and the Divine Powers along with him. The forces of Law and Chaos still have their sights set on either turning Flynn to their side or killing him, so now Nanashi and co have to protect him. I suspect we haven’t heard the last from the Divine Powers, too.
Apocalypse has been fairly easy for me thus far, partially, I suspect because the Conflict difficulty is easier than standard Megami Tensei tends to be. There was a difficulty above that — War, I believe — but I tend to go with what I perceive to be the “normal” difficulty in games. After the battle with Krishna, SMTIV: A may have ceased being easy. Krishna attacks with multiple debuffs and status aliments all at once. It’s especially annoying when a demon or Nanashi is charmed and they heal Krishna. At first I thought about fusing demons to get Null Nerve, but then I remembered that Hallelujah’s Chironnupu demon can use Warding Shot to prevent all status aliments. This made the fight much more manageable, though I had to be careful when Krishna knocked him out for a few turns. This is one aspect I really enjoy about MegaTen. The difficulty spikes can be a tad annoying, but after a fight, I can figure out the best way to counter it and come out on top in the next battle. I find it exhilarating more than frustrating. The dark and light spells only having one-hit KO effects when under the Smirk status help a lot, too.
I think the greatest improvements Apocalypse makes over the original SMTIV are the story and the characters. SMTIV was seemingly aimless, making it feel disjointed. I couldn’t muster the will to care much for the characters, either, who felt mostly one-dimensional. SMTIV:A is a more linear game, but the story is much more focused and engaging. The characters interact and talk to each other often, giving me more of a feel for their personalities. This game reminds me more of the Devil Survivor games in this way than mainline Shin Megami Tensei, which I like. My favorite character thus far is Nozomi, who acts like a big sister to Nanashi and Asahi. She played a minor role in the first game, and it’s neat to see her here as an experienced hunter and queen of the fairies.
I think I’m more than halfway done with this game, and I don’t have a clue as to which path I’ll go down. It’s isn’t Law and Chaos this time around, but Peace or Anarchy, and I’m not entirely sure if there’s a neutral path, either. It doesn’t matter too much for a first playthrough anyway, and unlike this game’s predecessor, I do want to replay SMTIV:A in the future. As much as I am enjoying Apocalypse, I do hope to have it done in the roughly two weeks I have before Fire Emblem: Three Houses arrives.
Now that I’m getting properly tucked into Atelier Lulua, I’m getting a better sense of what the game does well and where its weaknesses lie. I really enjoy the story progression utilizing the Alchemyriddle which gives hints about what the player should do next without explicitly spelling everything out. Unfortunately, while there are some obviously flagged story missions and accompanying tasks in the Alchemyriddle, there are numerous riddles that initially appear to be optional, but they unlock recipes and gathering areas that become an essential part of the story in subsequent chapters. I just wish that was a bit better flagged so I wasn’t frustrated when I couldn’t find an item that becomes a roadblock to progression.
Playing this return to Arland, I also miss the ability those earlier games had where if the player was many levels higher than the enemy, a simple whack of the staff could avoid tedious encounters. In a game where players have to revisit earlier areas for gathering purposes, the number of easy fights can become a bit much.
Even knowing it was coming, that was crazy #JRPGJuly #AtelierLulua #armwrestling #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/olaSLZIkj3
— Joshua Carpenter (@jscarpe) July 7, 2019
However, I’m really digging the alchemy and battle systems. The complexity has been dialed back a bit from the Mysterious games — alchemy Tetris is gone — but the depth of crafting items and weapons with lots of intricate and powerful traits is still in abundance. The story is also really winning me over. I just finished a chapter where Lulua managed to come up with her own recipes to eliminate some pesky ghosts and seeing her personal growth is really touching. Those heartwarming moments are still getting balanced with the silly — Lulua defeating Sterkenberg in an over-the-top arm-wrestling match is a scene I’m not likely to soon forget. Atelier Lulua has just been this delightful pink ball of joy every time I turn on my Switch.
Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception and Trails of Cold Steel
Spending an extra ten hours in Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception feels like it’s done wonders for my progress, which has thus far moved at more of a crawl than any game I’ve ever played. Two — count them, two! — more battles have occurred, which may not sound like much for ten hours of playtime, but at the rate I had been going, that’s honestly a landfall. Of course, I also went through countless more story scenes; I’ve just witnessed the introduction of a set of twins, the Kumanagi of Chains, and anyone who’s familiar with this game may remember how impactful this moment promises to be to the game’s tone. Whereas before the harem aspect has been restricted to some slight bathhouse silliness, there’s a sense we just took a sharp right into some hardcore seriousness here, complete with salacious on-screen text that had to be censored, but still left little to the imagination.
In other developments, I was able to get completely through the third chapter of Trails of Cold Steel, and it looks like the first shots in the eventual civil war have been fired in the Nord Highlands. For now, the outbreak of full-scale war could be averted, after a back-to-back double shot of bosses and the introduction of the Ironbloods. It’s on to chapter 4, and for now this means back to the daily school grind until the next big plot development. On a personal note, I feel as if something finally clicked for me at some point during chapter 3, and I find myself far more comfortable with the game’s combat system; shame it took almost forty hours to get there, but there’s still plenty in store ahead, so I’m grateful for it happening at all.
Anna Marie Privitere
Having finished Persona Q2, I decided to dive into the last handful of games remaining I hadn’t played for 3DS – the current trio containing Culdcept Revolt, Monster Hunter Stories, and Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey.
Culdcept Revolt being the oldest of the three, I decided to try it first. Perhaps the best way I can describe Revolt is Monopoly with monsters. The player traverses a board via dice roll which has a variety of coloured spaces; land on an open space and a monster can be placed on it. If the monster is the same colour as the space, it gets a bonus – additional bonuses are accrued if multiple monsters are parked on the multiple spots of the same colour. When foes land on spaces owned by your monsters, they must either defeat your creature or pay a fine. All in all, the game premise is fine, but the pacing is atrociously slow, and just wasn’t what I was looking for.
Next I decided to pop in Monster Hunter Stories. I’ve always wanted to try the Monster Hunter series, but have been a little put off by the challenge of the mainline entries, so Stories seemed like a great place to begin. I was a little worried at first it would also be a slow game — until I got into the field and learned the combat system: a rock-paper-scissors setup between power, speed, and tech moves. It’s really fun figuring out what move to use next!
I’ve spent more time in Monster Hunter Stories gathering and fighting things than doing the actual main line story… oops. But I’ll have to pick it up when I next play 3DS because, as expected, I got distracted by a certain Switch game…which will be the topic of next week’s JRPGJuly no doubt!
After a long wait, I’ve finally gotten to playing Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country. I started with the prequel expansion first and found it to be a beautiful and entertaining journey. The combat is addictive and the characters really drew me in. My only issue with the game was the requirement to level up your community just to continue the main story. This really felt like the developers were grasping at straws on how they could make this expansion run even longer than it should have. On the opposite side of that statement, all of the quests associated with the community really help you get involved in the world around you… I just wish they weren’t primarily monotonous fetch quests, AKA the bane of side quests.
Path of Radiance
Path of Radiance was a game I started before July, but I just finished it this week. The missus enjoys watching some RPG stories from my catalog every now and then, and she happened to be interested in finding out about Ike and the gang. I had a couple resets on maps, but the only one that gave me trouble was when I had to deal with the Raven King. My top 5 ended up being: Lethe, Jill, Soren, Titania, and Ike. I couldn’t remember if Titania was a good or bad Jeigan, but after a couple of levels it was obvious she was trending towards a good unit throughout the game. I found it funny that most of the units fought using only one hand. That doesn’t seem like the most optimal way to fight! We immediately jumped into Radiant Dawn afterward…
I did want to try a brand new RPG for my first #JRPGJuly working on the site, and I initially was thinking of playing The Last Story, but since I was using the Wii for my Fire Emblem binge, I ultimately ended up starting Mother 3 instead. No regrets. I love Earthbound, and I’m still not sure what kept me from playing the sequel for so long other than the obvious lack of an official translation. I went on eBay and purchased a fan translated GBA cartridge and started my adventure. I am currently in chapter 5 and after me and my dog snuck into club Titiboo, we now are running a full four-man squad! I am definitely feeling semblances of nostalgia as I play this for the first time.
And while it’s an MMO, Final Fantasy XI is still something I pop into every now and then. Thankfully, this time, loldrg isn’t really a thing as most experienced parties fight mobs weak to piercing so Dragoons are actually really useful during the leveling phase! I am actually about to jump into Dynamis San d’Oria as I write this little excerpt.