#JRPGJuly 2021 – 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 hosted by Nitro. Once again the RPGamer team is showing their support for the event by playing some JRPGs. If you’re participating make sure to use #JRPGJuly or share your feelings over on the RPGamer Discord server.
The first week proved to be busy for our staff, let’s see everyone’s progress!
The first week of #JRPGJuly saw me complete Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana! This was the first Ys game that I have ever completed and I think this was a great starting point for me. Many of the Ys games I tried in the past never quite hooked me, so it was fun to dive into a more modern game in the series. I loved the idea of a shipwrecked crew being stranded on a cursed island and that it encourages you to go and seek out the former passengers of the Lombardia. The gameplay was very tight, and in the end, my favourite character to play ended up being Dana. Her movements in combat are just so fast and fluid, which made taking enemies out feel like such a breeze. I also loved how tragic Dana’s story was, and I constantly wanted to know more as I was playing. Her story is a great hook given Ys is not known for its storytelling. In the thirty-five hours I played, I have to say it was a satisfying experience overall.
I have also been working through Golden Sun, and I am adoring this game. I didn’t own a GBA growing up, so this is a beloved series I missed out on. I dug up my old DS and may have started this one before #JRPGJuly truly began. The game is so traditional in a lot of ways that it feels like good JRPG comfort food. Ivan is a sweet little treasure and I hope nothing bad happens to him! At this point, I’ve put around twelve hours into the game. I’ve finished the Mercury Lighthouse and have gone back to Kolima Forest to save the Tret and the people of the village. I hope to make more progress soon, though a surprise visit from my father-in-law may throw a wrench in that!
— Sam Wachter (@merrygodown) July 2, 2021
Camelot has a storied history developing great RPGs like Shining Force and Golden Sun, but has spent most of the past decade out of RPGamer’s eyes working on Mario’s sports titles. So the news that Camelot was going to be adding an RPG mode to Mario Golf: Super Rush had me excited about Camelot getting back into the RPG genre. However, after almost finishing the mode in just a few hours of play I’m left feeling that it’s a tacked-on introduction to the main golf game rather than a fully fleshed-out mode.
— Joshua Carpenter (@jscarpe) July 4, 2021
Super Rush allows players to create a Mii character and compete in a series of tournaments and training modes styled as sidequests. These events allow players to unlock special shots and accumulate coins and experience that allows for customization of the Mii and purchasing clubs with special abilities. Given the history of Mario RPGs, I was expecting a wacky story with lots of boss battles and abundant humor, but it’s been a bit bland outside some appearances of Wario and Waluigi. The addition of running between shots also isn’t very exciting in a single-player mode. While it allows for more gameplay variety, the AI doesn’t really attack players so it just becomes running from point A to B. In sum, it’s fine, but I was hoping for much more.
I jumped into Trials of Mana expecting a light-hearted, colorful JRPG affair, and it did not disappoint. I chose Riesz, Hawkeye, and Angela. Each character has their own playable opening story, similar to Dragon Quest IV. For the most part, I find the combat relaxing. As long as I grind a little, I usually stay a level or above the enemy. While it looks like an action RPG, it has no real dodging and positioning rarely plays an important role. If I have to pick a negative, I would say the menus. Going into the inventory and tactics sub-menus feels like a jog through molasses. Clicking on any button there takes two or three solid seconds to register. With that said, I really enjoy the music and I have downed a few bosses. My journey continues nearly every night on our Twitch channel.
I’ve spent a couple of hours on Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and a few things stand out to me in the short time so far. I forgot how punishing “older” games can be, and almost died to the first major boss. The design of the first mini-boss and how it broke its horns and turned redder the closer it got to death, reminded me nostalgically of Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and is a nice touch. Managing limited item space is something that I haven’t done in years, so after tracking down a lot of hidden items, I realized I was out of space before I left town. The strategic manner of combat, with everything being based on AP, is quaint but does hold up and even though I currently only have one extra class I’m looking forward to grabbing a few more soon. The story seems to be moving along at a brisk pace and is keeping my interest. I just have to remember to keep a hold of every phoenix down I can find; a lot of individual character deaths have happened so far, probably because I am a bit underleveled for where I am. Anyway, onwards and upwards and to some grinding I shall go!
I was ill for the first part of #JRPGJuly, and spent the last few weeks bedridden. Grandia II proved to be the perfect gaming companion. On the Switch, I could lay in bed and play it during the times in which I wasn’t inundated with abdominal pain. It’s a linear game with an engaging combat system and even on hard mode, the challenge is low. The story progresses at a good pace and there’s never a need to grind. When I started feeling better, I began playing Final Fantasy XIII. My head’s been filled with all the negativity I faced when I played this game and enjoyed it almost a decade ago. I’m finding that while the linearity, in the beginning, is tedious, the story is keeping me engaged, and even getting emotional reactions out of me. I’m reevaluating characters I previously didn’t like, such as Fang, and loving them.
Replaying Final Fantasy XIII for #JRPGJuly has reminded me that I do indeed enjoy this game, despite its flaws. The beginning is definitely a glorified, over extended tutorial and the gameplay is a slave to the overall narrative, but I care for these people and their plights. pic.twitter.com/LN7FSbWAit
— Jervon (@QueerShapedLife) July 8, 2021
Anna Marie Privitere
Much like past years, my plans for #JRPGJuly went up in smoke the moment the month started. I’ve been streaming Final Fantasy VII Remake, with Chapter 11 coming to a close. However, I decided to deviate away from my original plan of Legend of Mana and instead started up Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remastered.
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 3, 2021
On the yearly Game of the Year podcast, we have an award called “I played it the first time, and it sucked. I played it a second time and…it still sucks!” In this case, Nocturne isn’t necessarily sucky, but it is a product of its time. After plowing fifteen hours into the game, I am halfway through the plot but I had lost all interest in where things were going and after some mulling over whether I should continue a game I just wasn’t meshing with, I’ve set it aside to sell. Despite this, I’m still optimistic about SMT V, as I absolutely adored SMT IV: Apocalypse. I’ve now moved onto a game I picked up for a couple of dollars last year but hadn’t gotten around to Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story. More to come on how that’s going next week.
I started out prepping for my #JRPGJuly by revisiting the original version of Hyperdimension Neptunia with plans to play through that in July. I wanted to see how people were first introduced to the series where game consoles are represented by cute anime girls. Once I realized how truly horrible that game is, I decided that Neptunia ReVerse was a much better choice. ReVerse is a remaster of the Vita remake of the original game, which kept the fun story and ditched pretty much all of the gameplay for the improved combat and dungeons of the sequels. I enjoyed my time with that Vita version, and the PlayStation 5 release is a nice update as well with improved visuals and an arranged mode where you can play with all the party members unlocked from the start. It’s a fun version, and a nice way to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the series.
I’ve also been playing Disgaea 6 extensively, which has thankfully restored my interest in the series. This game feels tight and focused, with fun characters, solid strategy RPG mechanics, and well-designed levels. Best of all, it introduces a welcome change to the series formula to make grinding much less cumbersome. This is the first game in the series to ditch sprites in favor of 3D models and thankfully nothing was really lost in the process. All the characters look great and are animated in fun ways to give the game a great look and feel. For those that were disappointed in Disgaea 5 or Disgaea D2, this should be a welcome return to form for the series. Expect to hear a lot more Disgaea 6 talk from me this month.
Star Ocean First Departure R has got me hooked. While this is my first time with the first game in the series, there is so much of the second game’s DNA in this remake of the first game, which was originally released on the PSP. There are so many iconic series hallmarks here that get my fuzzy nostalgia receptors all tingly: the transition to battle sound effect, the menu sounds, and even the font are so reminiscent of the sequel that I am thoroughly enjoying the game. The battle system is admittedly a little basic, but it is still a lot of fun. The AI could use an improvement, especially considering three-quarters of your team is controlled by it. This soundtrack is also composed by Motoi Sakuraba, and again his arrangement here is comforting, energizing, and varied. I love this game and you will not be able to keep me from playing it. But it’s been about two years since this port. Where is the sequel?
— Paul (@paulwall217) July 7, 2021
So…the first week playing Demon’s Souls has been a grueling affair. I was gifted this game by a friend, and #JRPGJuly was the perfect opportunity to jump back into the Souls series. Having played the Dark Souls trilogy, but passing over the original Demon’s Souls, I thought I’d be prepared for the pain and planning that would ensue. Fifty deaths later, I have beaten my first Archdemon and have new areas opening up. Upon dying, your character’s health is cut in half, which is a serious pain in the rear, though once I do happen to kick the bucket, I can run around the zones without fear of many penalties, and I get to scout around for paths and traps. I was anxious at first, but I think I will be able to slay this beast by the end of the month.
Death Count: 63
The pandemic has had me thinking about the nature of power fantasies. It’s easy to grow cynical of games that promise gold, maxed-out affection bars, or even the ability to deal more than 10 billion damage in a single hit. I like seeing numbers go up as much as anyone. But it turns out I also like being a teacher. Guiding the students of the Golden Deer house in Fire Emblem: Three Houses has been hijacking my usual RPG strategies. By and large, I’m sticking with the students I was assigned rather than poaching the most balanced squad from the other teachers. I don’t want the class sizes to get too unbalanced, and even Lorenz deserves a solid education. Anyway, there’s no way anyone’s leaving Ms. Onion’s class without a few ranks of Reason and Authority. Just because they live in a feudal theocracy is no reason to skimp on people skills or the foundations of rational thought.
I have cleared the prologues for the whole cast (maybe, are there secret characters that join later – don’t tell me). Time travel and parallel dimension-hopping might be too much for one story to keep track of with head-hopping protags, but what do I know. Getting into the “main game” I am actually disappointed. I enjoyed the prologue chapter dragging me between people and the tower defense tutorials. There was always something aggressively new taking up my brain space and demanding attention, now that it’s all on a menu I’m not falling into that “just one more… until it’s after midnight” rhythm I like in games with visual novel elements. I am getting to know the characters a little more, but some segments seem so scripted they’d be better off running as cutscenes.
On the stompy robot action side, I like the management elements and the robot customizations are fun once you can start playing around with mechanics beyond move and shoot. I really like all the mecha designs on both sides, but it’s a shame you don’t see them. Other series have spoiled me for attack animations, but playing all this out with angry squares and particle effects is a bit flat.
Erik van Asselt
Playing Earthbound feels like coming home after a long day’s work and taking a warm bath. It is comfortable and wipes the brain of all negative feelings because this game still has so much personality. I have played the game before, but I have never finished it. Coming back to it makes me feel nostalgic and I am unable to pinpoint what I actually yearn for. I love the characters and the silly dialogue, but sometimes Earthbound’s gameplay feels like a Nintendo Entertainment System game that wandered onto the Super Nintendo. I think the boss fight that is giving me the most trouble is my endless fight with the inventory system. But I am on a quest to complete this game during #JRPGJuly and it is going well. If you want to join the journey, do come and join in on the RPGamer Twitch channel. And if you want to see my journey up till now, you can check out this playlist.
I’m about ten hours into Grandia II, and it’s really pulling along. So far there haven’t been any big surprises, as this is a story that telegraphs its plot twists well in advance, but I did appreciate having four separate versions of the same origin myth, ranging from Sunday School to seminarian to an original source that raises more questions than it answers. If things continue to go the way I expect they will, then this is going to be a fun show. But a few questions linger in my brain: Just what are the Geodogs supposed to be, as a group? Why haven’t I seen any others besides the hero, Ryudo? And why doesn’t it sound like “geoduck”? I doubt I shall get many answers.
I went into #JRPGJuly how I ended June; running around the continent of Excillant, completing quests, and seeing if I can take on the rare monsters. I have been looking forward to Bravely Default II for a long time now, but despite this game coming out at the end of February, I’m still not quite done with it. It mostly boils down to me not having as much free time as I’d like these days, but surely, with one more chapter to go and 116 hours of game time clocked, I’ll get at least the main story done this month, as there should be at least some post-game content.
I will have to save the start of chapter seven for next week, but I did end up beating all of the rare monsters on the continent. These extra bosses resemble color-swaps of the various monsters in the game, but they pack a real wallop. With the Bravely games, and more strategy-minded battle systems in general, I generally prefer to adjust my party build and abilities after a defeat than try to find a one-fits-all solution. I especially enjoyed the fight against Jörmungandr. I still remember the first time I curiously started the battle a few chapters ago, only to get completely steamrolled by the giant worm and underlings. Bravely Default II‘s version isn’t a massive snake or serpentine dragon, but perhaps the designers thought the similarity between the words “wyrm” and “worm” was too good to pass up.
How much I end up liking Bravely Default II compared to its predecessors remains to be seen, but I’m certainly enjoying my time with it. This week it was all about battles and some fetch quests, but I should get back to advancing the story, too. While the story hasn’t grabbed me as much as in Bravely Second, but I do love these characters and find the world charming. I wonder if Revo has saved his best music tracks for last, like in the first game.
— Cassandra Ramos @ Bravely Default II is here! (@BerryEggs) July 2, 2021
I’m slowly working my way through the storyline to get ready for Endwalker. I’ll likely not even be close to starting it when it comes out, but a girl can dream. I just started Stormblood, so I am a bit behind. I am glad my husbando Thancred is still kicking around, he’s even hotter now with his long hair and eye bandage. I must say, I was very confused about the ending to Heavensward. I thought SO MANY TIMES that it was the end, but it wasn’t. It kept dragging on until I finally reached the credits. Maybe I was just chomping at the bit to get into Stormblood, but when Edmont de Fortemps wrote and closed the book on Heavensward, I thought for sure that was the end. SPOILER: It wasn’t. The real end to Heavensward was painful. I cried… but wasn’t the first time I cried with this game. It gets you in the gut, sometimes.
I have at least finally Stormblood. I love the beginnings of new expansions – so many new areas and quests to do. It’s been so long since I’ve explored a new area with new monsters! Honestly, the first area of Gyr Abania reminds me a lot of Tahrongi Canyon from FFXI. I feel right at home in this area, which brings me back even though I’ve never been here. I’m hoping this area has some aether currents so I can eventually fly. This is my favorite part of doing expansions!
— noodle (@yournoodleface) July 10, 2021
One week and eight hours into Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, as it’s not hard to feel like I haven’t gotten very far as I’m still very much in the prologue. It didn’t help that I didn’t play it for three days in a row so I’m hoping to pick up the pace during the rest of the month. The game’s pacing is very deliberate so far but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the episodic structure allows plenty of breathing room for strong character work, engaging world-building, and some slow build-up of the greater narrative that will no doubt pay off somewhere down the line. Despite only seeing the town of Rolent and a few surrounding areas, the world feels incredibly lived-in with NPCs that feel less like glorified signposts and more like actual people with their dialogue often reflecting current happenings of the game. The battle system isn’t bad either, managing to be both simple but still encouraging some strategy, which will no doubt become more into play further into the game. I’m not really far enough to really go into depth on certain aspects but I’m definitely off to a good start with this beloved series. P.S. Estelle and Joshua are very good and need to be protected.
— Ryan McCarthy (@LastZimOnEarth) July 3, 2021
That’s all for this week. Let us know what sort of progress you’re making in your #JRPGJuly game in the comments!