#JRPGJuly 2020 – Week 2 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 two went for the RPGamer staff!
Last week, I told you guys I had put 34 hours into Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. Hilariously, I put another 31 hours in, and completed the game. Throughout it was hovering around a 4.5/5 for me — I was loving the game, but it wasn’t a new favourite. It didn’t reach Bastion, Valkyrie Profile, or Suikoden II levels for me. Then crap started hitting the fan and I found myself glued to the game, needing to know how it ended. The last chapter is intense. While the main twist might be a bit obvious, I really loved how it was handled. I may have yelled “Nooooo!” more than once at my PlayStation Vita.
It’s a new favourite, for sure. I ended up dating Laura (as is good and proper), with Elliot staying “best boy” until the end of the game. In fact, as soon as he won that personal title he never left my party unless the game forced him out. I also really love Rean as a main character, if only because he gets so much growth, and with three more games to play, I’m interested to see how much more he matures. Sadly, I am not playing Trails of Cold Steel II right away, as I like to break up a long RPG with a shorter one, so as voted by everyone, I’ll be playing Dragon Quest III for the rest of the month, while also working through more Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town!
— Sam Wachter (@merrygodown) July 11, 2020
Going into Chrono Trigger, I was most concerned about how I would like the combat. I’ve never been a fan of Active Time Battle systems. I don’t like having to make quick decisions that can be obviated by intervening enemy actions. It is so frustrating to set up a healing spell and have the targeted party member be killed before the action takes place. I’ve also always hated fumbling through menus under a time crunch.
Despite my misgivings, I’ve really been digging Chrono Trigger’s take on ATB. The combat moves quickly, but the player isn’t overloaded with options and cumbersome menus that are a pain to navigate. I have noticed that there is one downside to the DS version. The combat menus are located on the bottom screen while the action is on the top. I’ve found myself staring at the bottom screen waiting on a turn and missing a cue from a boss that I shouldn’t attack. Kind of a minor gripe in an otherwise good game.
I’ve collected my robot companion from the dystopian future and now I’m trying to recruit Frog during the Middle Ages. As an older gamer that loathes lengthy games, I’m loving how tight and breezy Chrono Trigger is. I’m curious to see where in time it takes me next.
— Joshua Carpenter (@jscarpe) July 3, 2020
I finally got #JRPGJuly going this week by diving back into Dragon Quest X. My first ever MMO, I started it back in May and completed the Version 1.0 content thanks to the lengthy free trial available on the Switch. Coming back into it this month, I spent some time getting the muscle memory back since the game is completely in Japanese and I try not to Google Translate every word, especially in battle. This game, which plays much like Dragon Quest IX, has engrossed me despite barely knowing what I’m doing half the time, but it’s Dragon Quest so I just go fight the big bad guys and try not to sweat the details!
My short-term goals are to finish off my Warrior job-specific quests and to collect the seventh of ten emblems that I need to access the Version 2.0 storyline. As fate would have it, both take me to the Weddie (fish-people) capital city. I spent a little time grinding for gold, turning my human character back into his more impressive-looking Ogre form, and rented a new heavy-hitting team of players for the difficult tasks ahead of me. Time will tell if I need to spend some time on quests to raise my level past the cap of 50 that I have now reached.
— Plattym3 (@plattym3) July 11, 2020
I’ve been playing Persona 5 Royal since the month began, and I’m falling back into my standard Persona routine: balancing escapism (Eat all of the giant burgers! Boost the most interesting friends!) with my completionist shadow. I’m frequently worried I’ll miss something important, but too ornery to use a guide for anything past a few fusion results. I’ve made it to the third palace at the end of June, switched from Normal to Hard, and generally feel good about the game’s simple, stylish solutions to deep-set societal problems (Ryuji’s not-so-comical trip to Shinjuku aside).
Morgana and Ann have been spending a lot of time on the sidelines while my new party members sing out the rebellion of youth in their Phoenix Ranger Featherman V costumes. My most ardent confidants so far are Chariot, Councilor, and Moon, but I’m planning to back off on Moon and focus on Hierophant. That curry’s not going to cook (or eat) itself!
— Zach Welhouse (@ZachRPG) July 11, 2020
Nostalgia can only take a gamer so far when revisiting a game they once played over and over. Final Fantasy X-2, as impactful as it was in my early college years, is testing my patience. After using a 100% completionist guide that was NOT 100% accurate, I had to make the decision to either restart a game save that threw me back 25 hours behind, or continue the journey and plan a second playthrough to get the 100%. I sulked, I flipped between the two options and even asked others for advice. At the end of the day, I chose to continue going, in hopes of getting a near 100% and then pushing through a quick secondary playthrough.
If there is any lesson to be taken from this situation, it’s that games can really be frustrating and we’ll want to give up on them; however, pushing through can be beneficial. This idea also goes for the more boring parts of a game. I’ll admit that getting through the tedious parts of these later chapters reminds me of slogging through the worst part of a book that you know will ultimately be rewarding. Regardless, there have been two amazing pluses! I whooped Shinra’s butt at Spherebreak! And I was emotional when watching the Farplane whistling scene. Currently, I’m anticipating the “1,000 Words” concert!
— Jervon Perkins (@QueerShapedLife) July 5, 2020
Ok, I may or may not be crying right now. The whistling scene always gets me. Yuna/Tidus romance was EVERYTHING to me when I was younger. Playing again is worth these moments… #JRPGJuly #FINALFANTASYXX2HDRemaster pic.twitter.com/omjMDb0Tvf
— Jervon Perkins (@QueerShapedLife) July 11, 2020
Anna Marie Privitere
First #JRPGJuly game in the bag! I completed Atelier Meruru, and I had a blast doing so. I didn’t end up finishing part of the main story (Airshatter arrived about three days before the in-game calendar wrapped up), so I definitely plan to replay it at some point (probably next year).
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 7, 2020
That brought me to my next title: Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on Switch. I received a whopping 6(!!!) Switch games for Christmas and I’ve only played two of them, so I plan on prioritizing these for the month. So far I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings. The presentation is amazing: the game is beautiful, the voice acting superb, and the story is great… once you get past the first couple hours. However, I’m definitely not in love with the pacing, which has a lot of backtracking, grinding, and antiquated game design philosophy.
I’ve played a lot of indie titles that capture the old-school feel Ni no Kuni has without being stodgy, so here’s hoping the game improves over time (and gives me a quick travel ability sooner rather than later!)
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 8, 2020
I have a short update this week. Unfortunately work (and the occasional Slay the Spire distraction) slowed me down. I continued my Dragon Quest XI adventures a bit and ventured into a cave to gather holy water for a kid who had lost his voice. The cave wasn’t too rough, but as always combat in this game has been a blast. Yes, the game is mostly a traditional Dragon Quest, but I find the switch to picking character actions as their turns come up much snappier than picking the actions for everyone and hoping they act when you need them to. Hopefully future games continue to do this. This game is perfect for the Switch and I’m eager for more adventures this week.
— Mike (@AskWheels) July 12, 2020
After getting through the first few chapters of Yakuza Kiwami, I made a plan to finish a chapter a day. That became quite a bit more time-intensive once substories started cluttering up the Kamurocho map, begging to be completed before going after the actual story missions. But I put in the time it required, and am now on chapter 11 — almost done. One thing I find important to note is how much I benefited by playing Zero earlier this year in terms of Nishikiyama’s storyline; having met him when he and Kiryu were still brothers makes me appreciate the tragic path his life has taken that much more.
Xenoblade Chronicles got the short end of the stick this week, but I have been able to make it through chapter 5, getting my crew to Colony 6. The story is still too piecemeal for me to make much of a comment on how I feel about it so far. I did, however, get some dirty looks from my girlfriend while playing this week; it’s not that I intended for Sharla to walk around in nothing but what’s essentially a skimpy bikini, it’s just what the designers have attached the best armor values for her to. I promise!
Yakuza Kiwami: 29 hours
Xenoblade Chronicles: 15 hours
Week 2 of #JRPGJuly saw me fight giant spiders in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. The tricky thing was these foes took up the entire field, so Aht couldn’t lay traps for extra damage. This proved to be one of my toughest fights, but I ended up becoming a champion gladiator in the process, so it wasn’t all bad. I am slowly making my way through both routes and running back in time when a quest presents itself to me. Stocke is an interesting main character. The voice actor presents all of his lines so calmly, but he also knows how to use his voice to make serious or impactful scenes feel more real. I’m digging it.
The other game I am slowly making my way through this month is Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. My better half never played the game originally, so we are playing together, or I am playing and she is watching, but it’s a team effort, ya dig? We are currently near the end of the game in chapter 17, so the main game will be wrapped up soon. I had forgotten how wonderful the music is for this game; it adds so much to each scene. The end is right around the corner, which means I will be tackling the new contact soon enough. Bart Scott said it best, “Can’t wait!”
I have continued to be impressed by my pair of black sheep JRPGs, especially when it comes to combat. I decided to play Lost Sphear on Hard, and while it took a bit before the mechanics fully opened up, I’ve been having a blast. Probably the best improvement to the combat system — originally found in I Am Setsuna — is the freedom to choose what effect “Momentum” has on an ability. For example, you can assign a “Lower Fire Resistance” effect to one ability and an “Add Fire Damage” effect to another, making the abilities support each other. Thinking about digging into the fun mechanics of the game makes me giddy.
The Legend of Legacy doesn’t quite excite me as much as Lost Sphear. There’s a good deal of strategy involved in battles, but I think the game has yet to show me its true depth. I’ll admit, I’ve put way more time into Lost Sphear, so it might take another week before I really understand the extent of what The Legend of Legacy can achieve.
If there’s a bottom line to this week’s update it’s that Lost Sphear is underrated and you should try it. It goes on sale pretty frequently and it is worth $20, in my opinion. The story is pretty generic though, but killing things is fun so who cares, am I right?
It’s an Ys-palooza for the second week, as I rocketed through three more Ys games: The Oath in Felghana, Memories of Celceta, and The Ark of Napishtim. Ark was just kind of there? It was the first game using a new engine, which Oath and Origin share, and besides the very unfair bosses (except the final boss), it’s a fun romp that wraps up a lot of the original mythos.
And that’s Ys: The Oath in Felghana done! Only missed one side quest, but that’s okay. Probably my least favorite of the ones I’ve played so far, but it still has some FANTASTIC parts to it. On to Celceta! pic.twitter.com/uIjTHk63iw
— shannon h. (@LilMayRose_) July 8, 2020
The Oath in Felghana, on the other hand, stands as one of my least favorite Ys games so far. It’s not the story and certainly not the music that drags down Oath, it’s the platforming and trash mobs that are absolutely abysmal. There are also some cool bosses, including the second human opponent in the series. One section that stands out and completely soured me on the game is the Elderm Mountains. Not only does this section expect players to platform on ice physics, but it ALSO includes enemies with long, lingering hitboxes, enemies extremely resistant to damage until you get a certain skill, AND a ton of flying enemies. Even when you get the tools to deal with these hurdles, the camera angle makes getting through the area a massive slog of falling down into rooms full of enemies that are annoying to kill. Then you get to the castle with TONS of traps that are difficult to avoid combined with enemies that teleport and use spears that hit Adol almost no matter what. All in all, it led to an experience that was middling at best and infuriating at worst.
And that’s Ys: Memories of Celceta finished. Great game, though definitely rough around the edges. Next is Ark of Naphistim to finish off the original sextet! pic.twitter.com/DzS2HpO4CU
— shannon h. (@LilMayRose_) July 10, 2020
However, I finished the week with what turned out to be a palate-cleanser, Memories of Celceta. Celceta shares an engine with Ys Seven where, instead of just Adol, players control a party of three characters. It also is much more of a modern action RPG with combos and skills tied to an SP meter that is generated by attacking. The story is good, adding more to the mythos of the world of Ys, including more about the ancient winged race as well as the modern realm and its countries. I had a TON of fun with it, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the last two Ys games that also use the party system.
Erik van Asselt
Week 2 of #JRPGJuly and still going strong with The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. After ending this week in the middle of chapter two I’m still having a hard time getting into the game. Sure, the game is charming and I like the battle system, but 20 hours in I still feel like I am chasing the beginning of the story. I get that this is part of a big series, but it feels like I am starving for an overarching story to all these shenanigans.
I did meet a character I liked; Olivier joined the party and who would have thought that a pervert would entice me back into the game. There are hints here and there that he will have a bigger role to play, so I am down for it. Going strong, but I have to be honest, I’m seriously thinking about picking Ys VIII back up and finishing that one for the rest of #JRPGJuly. We shall see.
— FanFrog (@FanFrog) July 9, 2020
I’ve spent nearly 12 hours on Tales of the Abyss, and have just reached Baticul, capital of Kimlasca. I’m being drawn into the story, particularly the mysteries surrounding Luke. More has been revealed about Luke, but I imagine what Van said is only half-true, if that. More camaraderie is building among the party members as well. Luke and Tear butted heads a lot in the beginning, but Tear is being less abrasive with him, after realizing that his repeated “I don’t remember anything from before seven years ago!” is not just an excuse. Luke still has a lot of growing to do, though. On the villains’ side, I find Dist the Reaper (or the Rose, or the Runny, depending on whom you ask), to be delightfully amusing. His voice actor Liam O’Brien seemed to have had fun chewing the scenery as him. It’s also funny when even the other God-Generals try to ignore Dist.
— Cassandra Ramos (@BerryEggs) July 11, 2020
One thing I didn’t mention before is how rough the graphics for Tales of the Abyss look on 3DS. Up close, character faces can be quite expressive, but people, objects, and environments look pixelated from any sort of distance. I don’t want to harp on it because it’s really not fair to the game. I imagine Abyss had to be compressed a fair bit to get it to fit onto a 3DS card and it also came very early in the 3DS’s lifespan. Sure, Bravely Second and Pokemon Sun & Moon look much better, but these games were made specifically for the 3DS and were released many years after this port. With that in mind, Abyss on the 3DS is actually rather impressive. Awkward early 3DS visuals or not, I’m still eager to see where this game is going.
— Cassandra Ramos (@BerryEggs) July 10, 2020
I’m now 18 hours into Wild Arms and boy, this game sure is an experience. Imagine the structure of a Dragon Quest game but with a more sci-fi approach mixed in with a little Western iconography here and there for good measure. One of the things I really appreciate is that the game as a whole gives off the energy of a goofy sci-fi anime from the 90s. This is further enhanced by how the game is paced, as the game never lingers on one thing for very long. I was surprised by how fast progression was, with dungeons that are, for the most part, enjoyable thanks to the variety of the designs and puzzles as well as being short enough that they don’t overstay their welcome.
— Ryan McCarthy (@LastZimOnEarth) July 7, 2020
While I’ve mostly enjoyed my time with it, the game’s not without a few niggling flaws. There have been a couple instances where I ended up having to consort a guide to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to do but I suspect this is more an issue on my end rather than a fault of the game. This probably accounts for why I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Tripillar dungeon. It’s very easy to get stuck in and is also a chore to backtrack without suffering through unwanted random encounters. Combat is in a lot of ways the least interesting part of the game for me, though the low encounter rate and the relative quickness of the fights help prevent them from feeling like a hassle… most of the time. It’s absolutely the dungeons and overall tone that make the game for me. Did I forget to mention that Michiko Naruke’s soundtrack is really good?
— Ryan McCarthy (@LastZimOnEarth) July 9, 2020
That’s all for this week. Let us know what sort of progress you’re making in your #JRPGJuly game in the comments below!