#JRPGJuly 2020 – Week 1 Round-up
Welcome to another year of everyone’s favorite monthly gameathon. #JRPGJuly was created as a community game-along 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!
For #JRPGJuly I have been trying to work through Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel, while also being back to work full time. I recognize July has only just begun, but I need more gaming time. I am finally seeing what people love about this game, especially after how much I hated how the beginning just plodded along without a care. Since beating Chapter 3, I am seeing such a growth in the characters and I am intrigued by where the story is going. Now that I am in Chapter 4, the story is ramping up for sure. Between the rivalry of Fie and Laura wrapping up so wonderfully (yay girl-friendships!) and the background information we are receiving about certain characters, I am definitely intrigued at this point. Even a certain glasses-wearing tool bag is becoming a more interesting character (though the amount of whining he does is just infuriating).
— Sam Wachter (@merrygodown) July 3, 2020
I am about 36 hours in at this point, and I am showing no signs of slowing down. I am in Field Day 3, so I am getting close to the next chapter for sure. Given the story is picking up, the characters are all getting their S-Crafts, I feel like I’m now invested in a way that Falcom games in general have never done for me. Will I finish the game by the end of the month? It’s my hope and I am going to try!
Despite my formative years overlapping with the golden era of 16- and 32-bit RPGs, I missed out on almost all these classics thanks to not owning a Super Nintendo or PlayStation. Nevertheless, I occasionally like to dip my toes back into this revered time for RPGs to get a sense of the history of the genre. I’ve had mixed results with these ventures. While Dragon Quest V has become an all-time favorite, Final Fantasy IV is a game that I can see the appeal it must have had at the time, but I didn’t feel has aged particularly well, and my experience attempting to play Final Fantasy Tactics engendered (slightly) tongue-in-cheek threats of dismissal from the site. While I still need to tackle some of the Sega Genesis oeuvre at some point, Chrono Trigger sticks out as one of the seminal games from that era that I have still failed to experience.
The early impressions that I’ve come away with from Chrono Trigger so far have been positive. The biggest aspect that stands out in the early hours is how expressive the sprites are even on the shrunken DS screen. Whether its Marle jumping up and down excitedly or the expression on Crono’s face when he’s shocked by an enemy, the detail brings a lot of life and personality to the game.
I can also imagine that the time-travel mechanic was incredibly exciting at the time and somehow this is a concept that hasn’t been overused in the intervening decades so it still feels fresh today. Just in the first few hours, Crono and gang jump between the modern era, the middle ages, and a distant dystopian future; seeing the world in those different states immediately pulls you into the story. The pacing is also a refreshing change from the current glut of 80-plus-hour epics. While the story certainly isn’t mindblowing, the pacing keeps the player from dwelling on any of those shortcomings for too long. I’m pretty excited to see where in time Chrono Trigger takes me next.
Elmon Dean Todd
This week, I started playing Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride for the Nintendo DS. This is my first time playing through the game in English, and I’m quite surprised how much of the film Dragon Quest: Your Story takes from the DS version of this game, including the English-localised names and some of the dialogue.
I first played Dragon Quest V in 2005 when I got a job in Japan and bought the remake version for the PlayStation 2. It was the first RPG I played through in Japanese, and based on the story, music, and gameplay, I considered it my favourite Dragon Quest game at the time. It spans through three periods of the hero’s life, from his childhood with his father until he grows up, marries, and has children of his own. It’s one of the most tragic stories of the series with an underlying theme of hope.
Now it’s July of 2020, and after the recent release of Dragon Quest: Your Story, I’m revisiting the hero’s adventure with his father and Bianca on the DS, and I still find the game as charming as ever. The graphics and music took a downgrade from the PlayStation 2 version, but the DS game has some new features, such as the character portraits and a brand new character whom the hero can marry. This may be an old game, but the story still gives me the satisfaction of an epic novel.
This first week of #JRPGJuly has been all about Dragon Quest Builders 2. After finishing the first island, I ended up spending a lot of time on the Isle of Awakening just making grass, forests, and building some nice little buildings. I got a little vain and made myself a big bedroom with an attached kitchen and private bathroom. I’m the freaking builder, why shouldn’t I be living large and luxurious? The next big island is ready for me to come help, so that’s where I am off to now.
— lolwhoops – The King Boggyslime (@lolwhoops) July 2, 2020
March 13, 2003 was significant to me because it was the day that I grabbed my preordered copy of Final Fantasy X-2. Yuna was (and still is) my favorite fictional character. I had watched every single trailer leaked from Japan on my clunky dialup desktop computer and had downloaded the Japanese and English tracks of the game’s two theme songs “1,000 Words” and “Real Emotion” performed by Koda Kumi and Jade Villalon of Sweetbox. While many Final Fantasy X fans abhorred the flamboyant, lighthearted tone of Yuna’s story, I gravitated towards it like it was my video game gospel. Yuna and I were the same age at that point, and we were both embarking on a new adventure. We both had to say goodbye to who we were and embrace the new emerging versions of ourselves. In my case, I was in my second semester of college, I was a cheerleader, and finally admitting to myself that I was queer.
Being a sucker for love stories, I played the game over and over for many years and got the good ending each time. It was satisfying enough because I grew tired of trying to get 100% in the game. I loved the game but hated how tedious some of the mini-games were. I kept my “shameful” secret away from other FFX-2 enthusiasts and lied and said I did get it.
It’s now 2020, and I’m not that same impressionable freshman. I’ve been meaning to return to FFX-2, but always shied away from the tedious nature of the mini-games that have not aged well. 2020 has also been one of the most chaotic and confusing years, and somehow in that chaos, I found myself wanting to return to Yuna’s journey, but this time to completely finish it. So far I’m at 25%, as I near the end of Chapter 1. I’m regretfully using a 100% guide but it feels very necessary. The tedium come in occasionally but I’m trudging through. As Rikku says in the opening FMV: “YRP in position! It’s showtime, girls!”
Anna Marie Privitere
Though I feel like I was late to the Atelier series, as the games come out in rapid succession, I’ve now played more than ten of them since I began with the series in 2014. As I generally don’t replay games, I hadn’t revisited the Arland trilogy I began with since I completed Atelier Rorona in 2015, so it’s been a treat to return to the games that addicted me to the series many years ago!
Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland DX is the third entry in the Arland arc, and my favourite of the original trio. It’s got a wonderful mix of new and returning characters and balances the series’ two core tenets (alchemy and combat) so well. I hadn’t realized how much I missed English voice acting in the more recent games until I went back and played the older titles. Now to do a little research on which ending I want to get…
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 3, 2020
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 2, 2020
To say I have been overdue to really dig into Dragon Quest XI would be a huge understatement, but it is finally starting to happen. I’ve just gotten Sylvando in my party and things are starting to pick up. Sylvando is really the missing ingredient the party needed. Up until this point, the party was certainly fun and entertaining, but just missed a certain je ne sais quoi. With the party now (mostly) complete it’s time to track down a boat and venture into the wider world. I have seen hints of time travel shenanigans (no spoilers please) and am eager to start digging into the wider story ahead. Stay tuned for further adventures! No Persona 5 Royal this week, and I may end up staying focused on Dragon Quest for the remainder of the month, but we shall see.
— Mike (@AskWheels) July 4, 2020
Coming out of the gate, this first week of #JRPGJuly has kicked off better than I had anticipated. After only a few days of play (I literally didn’t start until July 1), Yakuza Kiwami has already grabbed my attention full-bore. After burning through Yakuza Zero earlier this year, and consequently burning out on the series for a bit, I’m sucked back in a good way. Three chapters down already.
I guess I knew somewhat what I was getting into with Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition, in terms of MMO-like design and whatnot, but it still caught me by surprise how quickly the glut of grindy quests got its hooks in me. The wealth of story scenes (at least during these early hours — we shall see going forward) only adds to an overall gameplay loop that I’ve been eager to return to and chip away at each day. I’m looking forward to seeing what awaits on the Bionis’ knee and beyond.
Yakuza Kiwami: 4 hours
Xenoblade Chronicles: 7 hours
Radiant Historia was highly regarded and while I have owned Perfect Chronology for a few years, I never took the plunge…until this year’s #JRPGJuly. Now, a few days invested, I can see why people like it. The split paths aspect is interesting, and I am enjoying the battle system as well. I have reached quite a few “bad” endings so far, but still only around chapter 3. The journey to fix these timelines continues.
The current state of our world, particularly in the U.S.A., is not very fun. Leading into the first week of #JRPGJuly, I just was not feeling it. However, for the few hours each I managed to put into both Lost Sphear on PS4 and The Legend of Legacy on 3DS, I found that I had coincidentally picked two games that complimented my mood quite well.
I played through most of I Am Setsuna — and plan to go back — a few months ago, and enjoyed nearly everything about it. Turns out Lost Sphear is I Am Setsuna but polished up and larger in scale, as far as I can tell. It’s nice to play something both familiar and different at the same time, and it has me excited to see what more has evolved between the two titles. It’s a comfy story-focused game to play before bed.
— Trent Gleason | トレント・グリソン (@DumDiddlyDoofus) July 4, 2020
The Legend of Legacy — which is basically a SaGa game — is a grind fest with minimal narrative and is often criticized for that. However, there is space in my life for a healthy grind, especially right now. Listening to podcasts cheers me up whenever I’m stuck inside, so having a game that I can easily enjoy while listening to something else has been great. On top of that, it always feels good when a character pops a new skill mid-battle or gets some more HP.
In conclusion, I picked two games that are quite comfy, and I am looking forward to de-stressing with them throughout the month.
The past week was bolstered by the Steam Summer Sale, mostly because I could finally finish off my Falcom collections. I was missing a few, and now there’s nothing stopping me from experiencing ALL the awesome games from them. Of note, I started going through the Ys series, as I played the TurboGrafx-16 version of Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished on Wii and loved it.
This week, it’s been a whirlwind of Ys games, with Ys I & II Chronicles+ being my first foray back into the land of Ys and the (mis)adventures of Adol Christin. It was a super comfy time, since I love games that actually encourage you to grind like the early Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games. There’s just something calming about seeing numbers go up and beating your opponents with sheer tenacity. It was also my first time getting through all of Ys II since the TG-16 version kicked my butt! The updates to the gameplay and the locations in Ys II were super welcome and made for a great experience.
And that’s Toal’s story done. So many revelations about the lore of Ys and how everything connects! And with that, it’s :C:. As much as I’d love to get the two hidden characters, it’s A LOT of farming.
Freakin’ great game. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/0q4GfTQL4y
— shannon h. (@SweetieAshe) July 3, 2020
I moved to Ys Origin, the prequel to the first two games that I had just played. This made it so all the events of those games were still super fresh in my mind and all the story beats of Origin hit extra hard in terms of connecting them to the wider lore of the series. The gameplay in this prequel is no slouch. All three characters play very differently from each other, and every enemy in the game requires a different strategy to deal damage effectively. The smoothness of travel and combat made Ys Origin probably one of my favorite action RPGs that I’ve ever played. In three days, I ended up playing and beating all three story arcs to reach the true ending.
I’ve since moved on to Oath in Felghana, and it’ll probably be the game I report on next week! At least, I will if I don’t finish it too quickly and head to another place, just like our dear wandering adventurer Adol.
Erik van Asselt
At first I did not know which game to play for #JRPGJuly, so I created a poll on Twitter with four options. After two days and 74 votes the internet settled on The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. To be honest, this is not the first time I tried to start this particular game, but we will get into that in a minute.
The game starts with Estelle and Joshua finishing their Bracer training. Bracers are similar to mercenaries; they get jobs from a local guild, including tasks such as helping the mayor with a crime scene or helping a journalist and photographer scout out an ancient tower.
— FanFrog (@FanFrog) July 1, 2020
The reason why I haven’t played this game further than the first five hours on previous attempts is because the game has an incredibly slow start. I have now spent 10 hours in the game and still I feel like the real story is just about to start. Will I keep on going and finish this game for #JPRGJuly? To be honest, I don’t know yet, but if anyone out there has some tips on how to endure this incredibly slow start, please let me know.
It’s that time of year again, and I finally broke a long-standing oddity in my gaming history. I put in four hours thus far into Tales of the Abyss for 3DS because I got started on my chosen #JRPGJuly game a bit late. Even so, I fully plan on sticking with this game. It might be too soon for me to form much of an opinion on Tales of the Abyss, but I am intrigued thus far. I absolutely adore both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. They are incredibly precious to me, particularly the characters. I have also played the GBA version of Tales of Phantasia, which I like considerably less, but still find interesting. For various reasons, I had not played any other Tales games. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it just hadn’t happened. This is why I still don’t feel right calling myself a Tales fan if I haven’t played the vast majority of them. That has finally changed with Tales of the Abyss.
— Cassandra Ramos (@BerryEggs) July 5, 2020
So far the story in Abyss is interesting. This harshly-sheltered rich kid named Luke has been wrapped up in a plot to prevent a war between two nations with a religious organization acting as a neutral go-between. I know there is more to this story, but while I have been spoiled a little, what I know is out of context, so I’m super curious as to how it plays out. As for the characters, I can see myself getting to like them more. Sure, Luke is kind of unlikeable right now, but I believe that’s the point. It’s not fair for me to form an opinion on him when I know he’ll undergo a substantive amount of character development. I do find it funny how much just even hearing the mascot character Mieu talk annoys him. He steps on him, kicks him, and throws him around. Aw, come on, Luke, I like Sandy Fox’s voice! It took a small bit of getting used to playing a 3D Tales game on a handheld, but so far, battles are quick and fun.
I am still very early into this game, but it certainly has my attention. I’ll likely have more to say next week.
This month got off to a bit of an awkward start as I was still in the midst of playing Yakuza 6: The Song of Life, which meant that I had to spend the first couple days finishing that, which prevented me from starting .hack// GU Last Recode as I had intended. While I do have my gripes with the way the story is paced and how the at-the-time brand new Dragon Engine causes some problems with the combat, Yakuza 6 is very much a Yakuza game through and through with plenty of the same qualities that have made these games engaging for me. I really enjoyed the bar and spearfishing sidequests and thought the overall experience was a reasonable enough send-off for Kiryu, even if I don’t agree with a certain narrative choice in regards to the ending.
However, I did get started on Wild Arms on the very first day of the month. While I attempted to play it a few years back, I bounced off it after about an hour and frankly, after starting it again, it’s not hard to see why. Wild Arms gets off to a bumpy start as the game suffers from the initial lack of narrative hooks, no-frills turn-based combat that lacks any real challenge, and an instance of bad signposting that drove me to consult a guide. The only relatively stand-out feature is the three playable characters and their field abilities that are used to solve the game’s rudimentary puzzles. However, once something resembling a plot finally started to emerge after a few hours with a demon attack causing havoc on the kingdom of Adlehyde, the game started settling into something of a groove for me. I’m currently about six hours in and while the game isn’t blowing me away in either the story or gameplay department, I am finding some enjoyment in its simplicity.
That’s all for this week. Let us know what sort of progress you’re making in your #JRPGJuly game in the comments!