Backloggin’ the Year – Paws’ Pilgrimage, July 2021
Welcome to Backloggin’ the Year, a feature that discusses the challenges and excitement that comes with working through your backlog. Site owner Anna Marie Privitere looks at where she’s at in terms of her backlogging goals.
I’ve already discussed many of these games in our #JRPGJuly writeups, but for those who skipped those weekly updates, you’re in luck since I’ll be touching on everything here again, albeit briefly. I also have some additional games to report on which didn’t make it into the write-ups, as with so many staff participating, I didn’t want to hog all the space! I’ve also conquered one of my goals for the year, to play at least 50 games. Can I reach 50 backlog games, and 50 completed games? Time will tell.
The Streams: Final Fantasy VII Remake / Legend of Mana Remake
Streaming #LoMRemake for #JRPGJuly has been a blast, because everyone has a slightly different memory of the plot 🙂 #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/EYvIPvYCmv
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 31, 2021
It’s just one remake after another it seems! Overall, my experience with FF7R was quite positive, even as someone who hadn’t played the original in 20 years and barely remembered the plot points. My only real complaint is the lab section inside of the Shinra building felt just a smidge too long; a bit of streamlining would’ve been appreciated, but otherwise doesn’t detract from an excellent experience. The ending has left me with a LOT of questions, which I hope the Intergrade DLC will help resolve some of. I am torn between hoping the next part of the remake comes quickly and hoping it’s a couple years away — I’d hate to get such an interesting plot twist teed up, only to find the next game doesn’t pay off.
With my adventures in Midgar largely wrapped up, it was time to embrace Legend of Mana remake. I loved LoM when it first released on the original PlayStation as part of the “Summer of Square” (for Canadians, it was more of a summer, fall, and winter of Square due to new laws regarding bilingual manuals cropping up) even though the original game can be unbelievably janky; to call it obtuse is probably generous. By allowing players a huge amount of freedom with when and where to place artifacts that create the towns and dungeons that comprise the game’s main story, it’s easy to miss some events. While there are several ways to organize zones to ensure all story beats can be investigated, navigating those choices without guidance can definitely lead to frustration. -> Thankfully between my own recollection, assistance from a friend (who’s also in love with the game — despite its flaws), and a speedrunning guide, it’s been a wild romp down memory lane weekday mornings on our Twitch channel.
The Backlog Bustin’: Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story / Doreamon Story of Seasons
Making good progress in #ValthirianArc! Unlocked tier 3 classes, graduated huge class, and hit Campus Rank B! #JRPGJuly #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/BzQ8BTv0Ko
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 13, 2021
I picked up Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story in the middle of last year when it dropped down to a few dollars, as it looked like a fun mashup of city building (or in this case, school building) and bite-sized action RPG levels. It’s been on sale repeatedly through 2021, and every time someone asks on the RPGamer Discord if I’ve played it, I keep insisting I’m going to play it “soon” and this month, I finally did. It’s a quaint little game, and the team did a great job translating some of the game’s more annoying pay-to-play aspects of the mobile version into smooth, immediately satisfying gameplay. Much like Ruinverse last month, I declare this game scores fluffy pancakes out of five.
Doraemon Story of Seasons was part of the huge pile of holiday pickups at the end of 2020 that I’ve been slowly working my way through. While it didn’t sell very well, it greatly resembles another spinoff farming game I enjoyed, Popolocrois Story of Seasons. Neither has romance or marriage candidates, which probably kills the interest of many farming sim aficionados, but the characters in Doraemon SoS are all quite lovable, each in their own way. The game’s main quest progression is predicated on raising the affection levels of a variety of townsfolk, meaning progression can sometimes feel rather artificially gated, and there are so many sub stories going at once it can be rough to keep them all straight. I’ve created a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress, though it isn’t exhaustive. Perhaps I should turn it into a full guide.
The 5-Hour Rule: Hakoniwa Explorer Plus / Tactics V: “Obsidian Brigade”/ Arc of Alchemist / Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster
What do you call a game that isn’t new but hasn’t been sitting in your backlog for an unspecified period of time? The first two of these titles have been sitting on my wishlist for a while — a year for the former, two years for the latter — and when both popped up at a steep discount in July, I couldn’t decide which I wanted more, so I picked up both. Hakoniwa is a simple action RPG focusing around bumping into and beating up monster girls, especially from behind; it’s neither very long nor very deep, and it’s definitely not very mature. I played it for a few hours and felt I’d gotten what interest I would out of it, without feeling much need to finish it.
Tactics V: Obsidian Brigade on the other hand is a tactical RPG reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics but with western-style art and storytelling. I gave it a few levels, hoping the story would grab me, as the combat was a little too slow for my tastes, but it never quite picked up in a satisfying way, so I put it aside too. If I’m going to spend a significant chunk of time with a title, I can handle a weak story if the combat is solid; similarly, a quality story can coax me through a mediocre combat system. Failing both tends to mean relegation to the heap of games easily forgotten, never completed.
Arc of Alchemist is a cutesy action RPG in a failing world, long after a heyday of technology has driven humanity to near-extinction. The reviews weren’t particularly kind to the game, but I am a fan of the mix of hub-development and exploration the game proffered, so when the price dipped in late 2020, I decided to pick it up. Buying games on sale, frequently in the 5-10 dollar range, means I can try a much larger variety of titles, even if not every game ends up being particularly good. Some of my fondest experiences were titles I picked up cheaply because I wasn’t sure if I’d like them, such as Moonlighter or Blossom Tales.
Last but not least, SMT3 isn’t entirely a 5-hour rule, but since I’ve definitively stopped playing it with no plans to resume, it’s worth reporting on. I certainly got much further than my original playthrough back on the PS2, but I ended up getting to around level 50, heading towards yet another sprawling, puzzle-dense dungeon, and I was simply losing interest in the whole process. Ultimately, I wanted to like the game more than I actually did. I’d still recommend it, as I think it’s a solid title, but I’m going to stop banging my head against it.
New Releases: NEO: The World Ends With You
Sweet, my #NeoTWEWY pin evolved! #JRPGJuly #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/jIZaY8MuTc
— Anna Marie Privitere (@amprivitere) July 29, 2021
Longtime listeners to the RPGCast will probably be familiar with my love for the original The World Ends With You; I replay precious few games, but I’ve still completed the first TWEWY on DS, iPad, and Switch start to finish. I was quite excited when a sequel was announced and was so happy to finally get my hands on it. I’ve only managed to squeeze in about four hours so far, but it feels like coming back to visit your best friend’s house after years away. It’s got all these little bits you remember and cherish, like the amazing music, but also new touches, like the updated combat system. I was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t recapture the magic of the original, yet here I am, playing with chain battles, raising and lowering my level, trying to scoop all the pins I can get my paws on. I can’t wait to play more. So I guess my backlog will have to wait a while…
THE FINAL TALLY
Started: 7 (52 total)
Completed: 2 (32 total)
5-Hour Ruled: 4 (12 total)
New games played: 2 (13 total)
Backlogged games played: 3 (30 total)