Final Fantasy XV Review

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a review around here with the holidays and all. It’s time to fix that. Having just finished FFXV over the weekend, that seems the best candidate for a review this week. I’ve been a fan of Final Fantasy for a long time, ever since “Mystic Quest” on the SNES. Final Fantasy 6 (3 in America) is still my favorite in the series. I’ve played every Final Fantasy Game since the 16 bit era. And I’m “strange” I know, but I don’t really like FF7, not as much as everyone else seems to be in love with that game. But Final Fantasy in general always holds a special place in my heart. If I had to rank my favorite FF games that I’ve played from best to worst, it would look something like this when using the corresponding Japanese numbers for each title… With the newest game, Final Fantasy XV somewhere solidly in the middle. Although I’ve played 11 and 14, I didn’t include them in the list since they are a different genre (mmorpg)

  • FF6
  • FF8
  • FF4
  • FF10
  • FF13
  • FF15
  • FF9
  • FF5
  • FF7
  • FF12

Honestly, my most favorite thing about the new FF game was Prompto’s Photography skills lol. My twitter and facebook looked like a giant marketing website for the game for the past few weeks. Pretty smart move by SquareEnix, getting the public to help promote their game like that on social media. The characters are quite likeable in the game, and although the story starts slow, it eventually builds with a lot of emotion. The first half of the game features an open world environment where you can travel, explore, and quest freely, but the last several chapters are much more linear, and it’s within the later half of the game that the story becomes much darker. The emotions are felt stronger due to the first half focusing on friendship between the main character and his friends and the light hearted feeling of the early chapters.

The story however, is not without flaws, and that is where I have to deduct points. People are killed off much too early in the game to feel any sense of loss or attachment to them. Furthermore, some characters are mysteriously killed off without ever showing exactly what happened to them. The character development between the 4 “bros” is the highlight of the game – and it is beautiful. On the other hand, supporting characters are introduced only to be almost forgotten in later chapters. For example, I really liked Iris in the first half of the game. In the end it’s eluded that she too has become a daemon hunter, but it never shows her again nor does she ever rejoin the bros. Aranea is another forgotten female as well.

The game is supposed to be receiving numerous updates in the coming weeks and months. Among which include new story sequences, special dlc for each of the bros, gameplay enhancements for the later chapters (chapter 13), and the ability to create your own player character. But I shall base my review solely based on the content that was available when I played through the game.

Title: Final Fantasy XV

Platform: PS4 and Xbone (I played the PS4 version, but they are both the same).

Publisher: SquareEnix

Release Date: November 29, 2016

Genre: RPG

Where to buy: Amazon

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Geeky:  5/5 – The new combat system, high production values and cutting edge graphics make this new entry into the Final Fantasy series a new, but amazingly fun experience.

Sweetie:  4/5 – The story and character development sometimes struggles to keep things coherent and cohesive, especially in the later chapters of the game. Many of the side characters, especially female characters, are tossed aside and forgotten in the second half of the game. Some scenes that should have been tear jerkers fell flat due to not enough time spent developing characters before introducing tragic events. However, lots of non-combat activities, such as photography, fishing, cooking, and chocobo racing are sure to delight most girls playing this game. Not to mention ample amounts of glorious man eyecandy.

Overall: 69/80 86% B “Very Good Game For Girls”

Concept: 10/10 Final Fantasy XV is an action RPG with the ability to select Real-time combat or the Active Wait commands which allow you more time to use items and plan your strategy. Early chapters feature an open world with numerous quests, while later chapters shift to a linear narrative focused on building a strong story. Without spoiling it for you, Final Fantasy XV tells a story about a prince trying to rescue his bride to be while avenging his father’s death and reclaiming his kingdom. When the game starts, the prince is a mouthy spoiled brat, who, along with his friends journey to meet the Oracle, who is also the prince’s childhood friend and betrothed. However, shortly after leaving the capital city, their kingdom is attacked which begins a quest to seek the powers of the gods as well as past kings to help defeat evil and bring peace to the lands.

Gameplay: 9/10 – Some people really dislike the new action based combat; however, I find it much more fun, engaging, and fluid than traditional JRPGs (and I love JRPGs don’t get me wrong.). You can chain attacks like crazy, which is really cool, especially later in the game, it’s possible to see triple digits on your chained attacks. You can bring up the menu which in Real-time mode, monsters will still attack, but in Active Wait mode, the monsters will be paused allowing you to select the items you want to use. I had no trouble using items in the Real-time combat modes.  I relied pretty heavily on elixirs and potions, especially in later chapters of the game lol. There are two difficulty settings, and I played on easy and found most of the fights a breeze, even in the dreaded chapter 13 which finds the main character separated from the bros and without any weapons or armor. So I would say the game is of average difficulty probably. I did not need to grind or run into any issues.

Overall the game took me about 55 hours to complete. I spent the first several hours doing side quests, and enjoying the extra content of the game, and about the last 20 hours maybe actually trying to progress through the storyline. FFXV is one of those games that can take you as little as 30 hours or as many as probably 100+ hours depending on what you want to do! I still had plenty of side quests that I could have completed. However, I didn’t feel particularly motivated to do so, too many “fetch quests” – go here, bring back x, or kill x number of monsters, etc. Needed more story based quests. Also money became laughable as a quest reward. I had 99 (the limit it lets you carry) Hi Elixirs, Hi Potions, etc.

Long time fans will be delighted to see the return of chocobo racing (which in my opinion was the best part of FF7 lol). You can also name, customize (with medals and colors), and take your Chocobo on the road with you. Not only that, but as you travel by chocobo, he will level up, gaining more stamina and learning new skills such as being able to help you in combat. In the beginning he may run from a lot of encounters as soon as you dismount, but as he levels up it’s implied he has more affection for you as he will often take initiative to engage in combat and wait for you to mount back up when the fight is finished.

New features in FFXV include Prompto’s photography skills. Prompto will take pics randomly throughout the game. I believe most are randomly generated, but a few are perhaps storyline driven. This is by far my favorite part of FFXV. I filled up all 150 album slots by Chapter 10. You can check out my twitter to see some of my pics. 

The main mini game in Final Fantasy XV is a pachinko game (popular in Japan, these casino games kinda resemble Pinball in a way). You can win trophies and in game items (mostly accessories from what I noticed) by getting high scores in the game. The mini game felt kinda long and tedious in a way to me, too many levels. I made it pretty far, but never did reach the end – if there even is an end to it.

I think there also may be a coliseum fighting tournament thing – I heard NPCs saying “Let’s go out for drinks if we win the tournament” etc. I didn’t fully explore enough to find the arena – so I can’t comment on this feature – if it actually exists.

Fishing is another passtime which you can choose to level up throughout various fishing spots in the game. It is very challenging at first, but if you fish enough your skill increases and you also become accustomed to the controls and it does get easier and more enjoyable as you go on.

There’s also Ignis’ cooking skills. When you make camp you can have Ignis cook a stat-boosting meal for the group. As you travel you will discover new recipes (hint try ordering everything at the taverns you visit, and check shops for recipe books and other key items). Sometimes just foraging for the ingredients out in the wild will be enough to spark Ignis’ inspiration. Characters also have favorite foods that further give an increased boost to their stats when consumed.

Camping can also unlock special scenes between you and the bros. For example, staying at an outpost one night, Prompto approaches the main character to reminisce about their childhood. It’s a very moving scene – one that really does a lot to develop Prompto as a character – and kinda a shame a lot of people may not get to see it.  There’s other scenes too and some include mini games such as cooking with Ignis or racing with Gladiolus.

Traveling in Final Fantasy XV is easier and faster than any other JRPG I’ve ever played. The main mode of transportation is the Regalia, a beautiful black sports car. You can choose to drive yourself, or choose to have Ignis drive automatically for you by selecting quests or map markers kinda mindlessly guiding you through the game. To pass time you can collect and listen to numerous Final Fantasy soundtracks from previous games. You can also shop while driving in your car (or even while it’s parked). At times the radio will have news or other backstory elements you can hear while riding around. Your car will need gas so don’t forget to refill for a measly 10 gil at outposts along the way.

The car is not the only means of transportation though, as mentioned you can take your Chocobo on the road as well. I chose to travel by chocobo throughout much of the game, because I liked the photos Prompto took while on chocoback. Yes, that’s my “fuschia” chocobo in the featured image lol. I later changed him to teal. I named him Cho-Cho. And he was awesome :).

You can also instantly teleport to the last campsite or inn you’ve slept in, or teleport instantly to wherever you parked the car. When traveling by car you can also instantly teleport to any previously visited parking spots. This makes traveling super fast and cuts down on gametime and gameplay that is “boring” in most other JRPG.

With so much to do, Final Fantasy XV gets high marks on gameplay. I only deducted a point for the lackluster nature of most of the side quests which may cause some players such as myself to not want to bother completing them.

Story: 6/10 The bones are in place, but the skeleton needs a little meat on those bones to flesh out the story and characters more. The potential for emotional and gut wrenching scenes is there – and I won’t lie, the end and later chapters did elicit a few tears from me, but I felt a lot more could have been done, especially involving supporting characters who seem to be cast aside in the 2nd half of the game (as mentioned Iris, Aranea, etc). The supposed emotional scenes also would have had more impact had they built more rapport with the characters before killing them off, giving them some more screentime, personality, and showing the bonds between them. I feel they did pretty decently with one of the characters they killed – but I won’t say who so as to not spoil anything. But most of the others it never really explains exactly how they died or why we should even care that they’ve died.

The story starts slow and light hearted, a happy prince on his way to see his bride to be who he has not seen since they were children. Each chapter has setbacks and builds more and more darkness, and misery. Until the final chapters where light no longer exists in the world, very symbolic of the story itself. The final chapters reveal the true nature of the daemons that have been plaguing the lands as well as the role of a wayward god. The middle of the story focuses on seeking favor from the gods and ancient kings to help defeat the evil across the land. The end is left open-ended in a sense that it could be left to interpretation by the players and there is much debate as to what exactly happens. I have my own theories but I won’t spoil anything for anyone here. Make sure you watch through all of the credits, there’s numerous scenes after you may think it has ended. Until you have seen Noctis sleeping on the throne, you haven’t seen the true ending, the logo will also change after you complete the game.

Characters: 8/10 Although as mentioned, I have some serious gripes about how side characters (Iris and Aranea for example) are just forgotten in the later half of the game, I can’t overlook the strong character development of the main character and his friends. He changes from a whiny brat who’s insecure and unsure if he even wants to rule, to someone who is so determined and mature, that he is willing to sacrifice everything for his kingdom. Many sad and many happy things will happen between the bros. The first half of the game will make you love the bros. This is important in making you care about what happens in the later parts of the game. Aided by Prompto’s selfies and group shots, and some solid narratives, the bromance between the group is really the highlight of the game. Each of the bros is very likeable. Ignis is kinda the mother hen of the group, Gladio the rough around the edges strong forceful type who sometimes has to motivate Noctis to stop whining by nearly pummeling some sense into him, and Prompto the carefree high-energy playful sidekick who mostly serves as comic relief Prompto is featured prominently in later chapters of the game, and also as I mentioned you may get lucky and see a special scene with him and Noctis which reveals that he hasn’t always been so outgoing. Prompto has a lot going on under the surface – and for that reason, he may be my favorite character in the game. Although I also really like Ignis who has a tragic event in the later parts of the game which changes not only his character, but his appearance and also his skills and abilities. All of the bros are absolute eyecandy for any girls playing the game, and are often compared to boy bands of the 90s lol. And any guys playing the game will likely relate to the friendship between the group of young guys. Liking the characters goes a long way in motivating me to play through the end of the game and also is instrumental in drawing the desired emotions from the players.

Graphics: 10/10 – Can’t deny that this is one beautiful game. The huge scale monsters create a feeling of awe and terror. The various destinations, from desserts, to large cities, to forests, caves, and the open road give the game a sense of realism and adventure. Your characters can wear different outfits and you can customize the chocobo colors. – Soon you will even be able to create your own playable character as well. The quality of the graphics, especially the hair and the environment are amazing, almost photo realistic.

Music: 8/10 – I actually really liked the ending theme which is Stand by Me by Florence and the Machine. However, I miss days of yore when Final Fantasy had original music, such as Eyes on Me or Suteki Da Ne. That said, the music is still fitting for the game. That song got me at the end, making me cry a little. And it is a great song that fits the theme, because the bros will stand together through all kinds of hardships in this adventure. It’s also super awesome to be able to collect previous Final Fantasy soundtracks to play and listen to in the Regalia. And like most FF games, a large number of the tracks in Final Fantasy XV have been remixed once again (such as the chocobo theme which is a fan favorite).  I deducted a few points for lack of originality in the sound track, but overall, it’s a great soundtrack with a lot of variation and some old throw backs as well :).

Voice Acting: 9/10 – I played the English audio. I will probably do Japanese audio next time I play the game just to see what the original cast is like. But the English voice acting is actually pretty good. There are a few lines that are sometimes either overdramatic or lacking in emotion, but it’s nowhere near as bad as most other dubbed games or anime. The audio goes a long way also in helping the audience to identify with the characters and further creates deeper impact for the emotional scenes throughout the game.

Overall: 69/80 86% B “Very Good Game For Girls”

Replay Value is unknown at this time. As of writing, SquareEnix is reworking Chapter 13. Most notably this will be gameplay “fixes” such as powering up the ring of lucis. However, they have stated plans to introduce new story elements as well which require localization and voice acting and are further down the road. There are multiplayer aspects and the game does present at times choices to the player, but those choices have little bearing on the story which remains largely linear. Replay Value ultimately will be determined by the nature of updates and DLC released by SquareEnix.

Final Fantasy XV Review was originally published on

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Dark Cloud PS2 Retro JRPG Game Review

Reviewing one of my all time favorite games today, Dark Cloud. I will also be reviewing the very similar, but slightly better, Dark Cloud 2 later today as well.

This game is extremely similar to Legend of Zelda. Our main hero even has a green floppy hat just like Link lol. But it brings with it some unique new features such as rouge-like random proceduraly generated level design, multiple playable characters, and most notably, a world-creation and city building system.

Also, if you missed out on this awesome game back in 2001, you can play it again now if you have a PS4 via the playstation store.

You can grab Dark Cloud 1 for $14.99 at  https://store.playstation.com… and also pick up Dark Cloud 2 for $14.99 at https://store.playstation.com…

This was Level 5’s first game – and definitely a classic must-own for any JRPG collector. Interestingly enough, when the game came to North America, it was enhanced with new content and features that don’t exist in the Japanese version such as better AI control, an entire new dungeon, and dozens of new weapons.

Title: Dark Cloud

Platform: PS2

Release Date: 2001

Publisher: Level 5

Genre: Action RPG

Where to Buy: In addition to the digital versions on the Playstation Store, you can still find hard copies of the game on sites like Amazon. At time of this writing there’s about 10 copies on Amazon with prices ranging from $12 to $99 depending on the condition and quality of the disc, book, case, etc. Check out this page for more info: http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Cloud…

Geeky: 4/5 geekygeekygeekygeeky

Sweetie: 4/5 sweetiesweetiesweetiesweetie

Overall: 59/80 74% C “Good Game for Girls”

Concept: 10/10 As mentioned, this action RPG feels very Zelda-ish in design but brings with it a few surprises, namely the city and world building aspects along with procedurely generated dungeons. The dungeon crawling and city building style of gameplay reminds me a lot of Azure Dream which I reviewed here.

Gameplay: 10/10 This game combines real time combat such as that found in Zelda or Secret of Mana with Occasional Quick Time Events and of course, lots of world building and city building gameplay. The dungeons are proceduraly generated and it also features multiple playable characters each with their own abilities and fighting style. However, Atla (the items needed for city building) can only be found when playing as the main character.

In city building mode, you place the Atla retrieved from the dungeons onto your town. The atla may be something like a shop, house, or even something as simple as a tree or pond, or even a new NPC. As you continue to add Atla, and continue to talk to the NPC’s you will learn more about what they want you to build in their cities. Once you reach a certain level within that city, you can move on to create additional cities as well.

The game is also unique in how characters level up. In fact, your characters never level up at all. Only their equipment levels up as you battle your way through the dungeons. However, the weapons also break if not repaired between uses. Once a weapon breaks it is lost forever. Weapons can also be upgraded by attaching different effects to the weapon which can give it bonuses such as agility, strength, or elemental properties. Although it can be aggravating at times (to lose a really powerful weapon), I really enjoyed this weapon system and felt that it really added something to the gameplay to differentiate it from all the other Action RPGs of the 90s/early 2k.

The dungeon crawling aspects can get dull at times – but I feel it’s spiced up enough with plenty of other gameplay elements to keep it from getting overly repetitive. There’s just so many other fun things to do in this game.

Story: 5/10 Unfortunately, story is what misses the mark for me in this game. I just felt it was a little too slowly paced and that both the story and the characters felt bland and not very engaging. The story tells of a time when 2 continents existed peacefully governed by two moons. One day a Dark Cloud appeared over one of the lands (hence the title of the game). Anything touched by this cloud was destroyed (Sounds very Never Ending Story-ish with the Nothing destroying entire cities, erasing people, creatures, forests, etc – Unfortunately, Never Ending Story was actually exciting and interesting, while the same can’t really be said of Dark Cloud). To protect the people and places of the land, a benevolent fairy king sealed each of them away in a magic orb known as Atla. The Main character appears when his village is destroyed by the Dark Cloud. He encounters the fairy king who tells him how he can rebuild the world but that he must first find the orbs which have been scattered throughout the continent. While the bare bones for an interesting story are in place, it just doesn’t really captivate or connect with the audience.

Characters: 7/10  The physical design and appearance of the characters is quite cute and unique (aside from the main character who looks way too much like Link lol). But their personalities and interactions often feel like an empty shell. The characters include a cat who is stuck inside one of the dungeons that the Main Character encounters. She is rescued by the main character and taken by to the city where she is transformed into a human-like girl with cat ears and tail. Another interesting character is a robotics engineer who wears almost like a hazmat suit that’s very form fitting. He’s unique because he has large rabbit like ears and appears to have a custom suit built to take into account his large pointy ears. – So the concepts and creativity for the character design definitely gets high marks, but the dialog and interaction between them, not so much.

Graphics: 6/10 I take issue with how grainy the textures are in this game. However, I like the overall character design and game world. Dark Cloud 2 features a much cleaner (and cuter) art style.

Music: 7/10 I feel that the music just isn’t anything special overall. It’s not very memorable. Dark Cloud 2 has great music, Dark Cloud 1, on the other hand, is average to good, but falls just short of greatness. It’s also only half the size of the soundtrack in terms of number of tracks as compared to Dark Cloud 2.

Replay Value: 6/10 Although it’s a linear story, the world and city building aspects make it interesting enough to come back to.

Overall: 59/80 74% C “Good Game for Girls”

Dark Cloud PS2 Retro JRPG Game Review was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

Legend of Mana Review – Part 4 of 4 of Secret of Mana Review Series

Check out Parts 1 – 3 of Our Secret of Mana Review Series here:

Secret of Mana / Secret of Mana 2

Secret of Evermore

Secret of Mana 3

Welcome to our 4th and final review of the Secret of Mana series. This time we’re covering the PS1 classic, Legend of Mana. Like Seiken Densetsu 3, Legend of Mana also features several intertwining stories. It brings with it several new gameplay concepts as well such as a world-building aspect, gardening, crafting, and more, making it easily one of the most fun titles in the series. However, like most of the mana games, it suffers from a somewhat weak story, made even weaker by the non-linear nature of this particular game. Of course, out of all of the mana titles, it is by far the prettiest to look at and has a new painting or picture-book like quality to the artwork.

Title: Legend of Mana

Platform: Playstation One

Genre: Action-RPG

Release Date: 1999

Where to Buy: Amazon has the game in used condition for about $28, “collectors” condition for around $60, or brand new in shrink wrap for $140 http://www.amazon.com/Legend… But if collecting is not your thing, it’s much more affordable to go digital and pick it up in the PSN store for just $5.99 https://store.playstation.com/…

Geeky: 5/5 

Sweetie: 2/5 

Overall: 58/80 73% C. “Good Game for Girls”

Concept: 10/10 As mentioned above, Legend of Mana brings several new features to the series which greatly expands upon the gameplay. It also loosely ties into the other games’ stories by revisiting the concept of the Mana tree (which was a very prominent concept in Seiken Densetsu 3). However no previous experience with the series is necessary to enjoy this title. I’ve never understood why this title is slammed by so many critics when gameplay wise, it’s definitely more solid than any other title in the franchise. As for story, in my opinion, the entire Mana series is more light on story than say Squaresoft’s other titles such as Chronotrigger and Final Fantasy. Legend of Mana is just plain fun with so many different things to do from gardening to world building to crafting and of course questing and leveling and experiencing the story. It’s also very nonlinear which is rare for a JRPG, especially one from the 90s.

Gameplay: 10/10 You start the game by selecting either a male or female hero. Your other party members rotate in and out depending on which story or quest you are on at the time. Like most of the other mana games, a 2nd player can play co-op mode by taking control of one of the other NPCs. Also like the other mana games, your party consists of 3 members at a time. Unlike the other mana games, this game features a series of mini stories and lots of quests strung together in a nonlinear fashion through a world building system where you get artifacts to place on the map. Depending on where you place them, you will earn different bonuses to certain abilities while in combat. The biggest draw in gameplay is the extensive crafting and gardening system. There’s also a virtual pet raising aspect, and the pets you raise can even join you in battle. The choices you make also impact the storyline and fates of the various characters. Combat once again is in real time, and this time it takes place right on the main screen without loading a new scene for rendering the battle.

Story: 5/10 Story is not a strong point in any of the mana games if you ask me, at least not compared to most other JRPG. The story does suffer due to the nonlinear nature of the game, which is true for many nonlinear titles. It’s not without its merits though as well. There are some very touching and tender scenes, interesting mysteries, and the lore and history of all the other mana games.

Characters: 3/10 This game also suffers from lack of strong centralized characters. The main character never speaks, has no back story, no motivation, no real connection to any of the events in the game. The supporting cast depends on which quest and part of the story you’re exploring, giving them so little screen time that we never really develop much attachment for any of them.

Music: 10/10 In my opinion, this is the best soundtrack of any of the mana games. I especially love the opening theme song and had it on my ipod for years after playing this game.

Graphics: 8/10 Beautiful hand-painted or painterly styled artwork gives the game a cute storybook feeling. It’s also very brightly colored and lush feeling. I only wish there were some anime cutscenes to help flesh out key moments within the game.

Replay Value: 5/10 There are some choices which alter the events or impact the lives (or deaths) of key characters in the game; but ultimately, those changes are very insignificant that I don’t see them being a huge motivator for replaying the game again. However, the crafting, pet raising, gardening, and nonlinear nature of the game do lend themselves to multiple playthroughs. In fact, even after completing the game, you will be sent back to the hero’s home and can still engage in many of these activities.

Overall: 58/80 73% C. “Good Game for Girls”

Legend of Mana Review – Part 4 of 4 of Secret of Mana Review Series was originally published on GeekySweetie.com – Geeky & Kawaii Anime, Tech, Toys, & Game Reviews & News

Seiken Densetsu 3 | Secret of Mana 3 | Secret of Mana 2 | Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 3 of 4

Check Out Parts One and Two of our 4 Part Secret of Mana Series

Part One: Secret of Mana Review
Part Two: Secret of Evermore Review

Welcome to Part Three of our Secret of Mana Reviews. Today’s topic is Secret of Mana 3, a game which we never got to experience in North America, but which was thankfully translated by some dedicated fans. You’re probably wondering how you can play this awesome game so here’s a link to the Seiken Densetsu 3 fan translation.

I really recommend that you purchase a physical copy of the game. You sometimes can find it on sites like Amazon. At time of this writing, it is about $160 but it is so worth it. Buy Secret of Mana 3 on Amazon.com

I don’t condone piracy so I’m not putting a link to the rom here. You can find it easily enough for yourself.

I’m really excited to be writing today’s review because this is my favorite game in the Secret of Mana series (although Legend of Mana is a very  close 2nd.)

Title: Seiken Densetsu 3

Platform: Super Nintendo

Release Date: September 1995 (Japan Only)

Genre: Action RPG

Geeky: 5/5 

Sweetie: 4/5 

Overall: 74 / 80 93% “A-. Excellent Game for Girls

Concept: 10/10 Seiken Densetsu 3 is an action RPG with real-time combat that is part of the Secret of Mana franchise. The game features 6 playable characters. When the game begins it asks you to select 3 of these characters to focus on, similar in a way to games such as Live-a-Live and Saga Frontier. Like Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu allows for you to play simultaneously with a friend. When playing solo, you can freely switch control between the characters, and have the other 2 characters back you up via artificial intelligence. Also like Secret of Mana, there is a ring like system which allows you to equip weapons or cast magic spells.

Gameplay: 10/10 The big differences and improvements over Secret of Mana focus on the leveling and class system. Upon level up the player chooses which stats to enhance for each character and at different levels the player can unlock different classes which each have a unique set of skills for each character, for a total of 5 (counting the starting class) classes for each character, times 6 characters, you have 30 unique classes and unique skill sets to explore. Although the classes are labeled as light or dark variations, they do not impact the storyline in any way.

There’s also a night/day cycle and a calendar system which similar to games such as Final Fantasy XI, gives a magic boost on different days to increase the effectiveness of corresponding magical spells. The calendar system also changes which in-game events occur and even what enemies you encounter.

Story: 8/10 Story has never been this series strong suit if we’re being honest. Despite that, I enjoyed the story in Seiken Densetsu 3 more than any of the previous titles in the series. This particular game has a unique approach to story that differentiates it from the other installments. As mentioned, when the game starts, you select 3 characters to focus on during the story out of 6 total. You also distinguish who your main character will be and this is the focus of the story. All 6 of their stories are intertwined, and to really experience the whole story you need to play the game multiple times using all 6 of the different characters.

Seiken Densetsu’s story is also unique in that it is the first game in the series to begin to establish some continuity between game worlds. In fact, there is a direct sequel for the NDS called Heroes of Mana (which I sadly have not played yet). I also find it interesting how the mana goddess in Seiken Densetsu 3 is a sleeping tree, and the tree is also a main symbol/character in Legend of Mana as well.

Characters: 7/10 Like any game with multiple stories, some are more interesting than others. Character interaction depends heavily on who you have in your party and that does detract a bit from the freedom given to pick and choose your party members. It was interesting in concept, but poorly executed, as more dialogue should have been written in for the other characters as well. – Still, overall, the plot and characters in this game remain much more detailed and interesting than the bare bones plot and characters in Secret of Mana.

Music: 10/10 The music for the game features many symphonic sounding tracks and melodic piano pieces which highlight the different scenes throughout each story. It is a huge soundtrack with over 50 different tracks recorded, making it quite possibly one of the largest soundtracks for an SNES game.

Graphics: 10/10 This game is just beautiful to look at, it really pushes the limits of what was thought to be possible with 16 bit hardware. When this game was released, systems such as Sega Saturn and PS1 had already arrived in Japan and I’d argue that this game almost looks as good as many of the early games for those consoles as well. I especially love the use of color, and the details given to the textures and environments.

Replay Value: 10/10 – unlike other games in this series, Seiken Densetsu 3 is a game which must be played 6 times to see the whole story. There are also significant differences depending on who else is in your party, making it actually possible to enjoy playing it even more than 6 times.

Overall: 74 / 80 93% “A-. Excellent Game for Girls

Seiken Densetsu 3 | Secret of Mana 3 | Secret of Mana 2 | Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 3 of 4 was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

Secret of Evermore Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 2 of 4

Check out Part 1 Secret of Mana Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Here

Hi, and welcome to part 2 of a 4 part series covering Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, Secret of Mana III, and Legend of Mana. In today’s review we will take a look at Secret of Evermore which is what North America got as a sequel to Secret of Mana, instead of Secret of Mana III.

NOTE: While maybe not technically correct to refer to it as a sequel, because they had completely different development teams, and stand-alone stories and worlds, the gameplay, as well as the name, are so similar that most squaresoft fans (myself included) hold the opinion that this is (more or less) part of the mana series. Squaresoft however has pointed out numerous times that this is not part of the “mana” franchise.

If you’re wondering what happened to Secret of Mana II, well that is what North Americans know as Secret of Mana – that’s right there was actually another game in the series before Secret of Mana, but like many JRPGs it remained only in Japan. I have not played it, but I have played the entire rest of the series, including Secret of Mana III which also never left Japan, but which has been translated by the fans.

For whatever reason, Squaresoft didn’t think Secret of Mana III would sell well in North America, so they brought over Secret of Evermore instead. More accurately, they didn’t “bring it over” but instead actually “developed” the game in America and geared it towards a “western” audience (supposedly). In fact, this game never got released in Japanese. It is perhaps the only North American “exclusive” (though I believe its also in Europe too) JRPG developed by Squaresoft.

If you look at the credits, you will see many English sounding names. See the details from wikipedia below.

Designer(s) Alan Weiss
George Sinfield
Artist(s) Daniel Dociu
Beau Folsom
Writer(s) George Sinfield
Paul Mazurek
Composer(s) Jeremy Soule

Actually a Japanese version was planned to release after the American release but was cancelled because they didn’t think it’d appeal to the audiences over there.

Still, this game does play very much like a JRPG. Actually I might have liked it a little bit more than Secret of Mana though not as much as Secret of Mana III. Critics may not agree, as the game is widely considered inferior to other Squaresoft RPGs.

Title: Secret of Evermore

Publisher: Squaresoft

Release Date: 1995

Platform: Super Nintendo SNES

Genre: Action RPG

Where to Buy: Amazon has Secret of Evermore for SNES ranging from $30 to $45 which is a good buy for a rare retro Squaresoft JRPG

Geeky: 5/5 

Sweetie: 3/5 

Overall: 54 / 80 68% D+ “Average Game For Girls”

Concept: 10/10 This is a game about a boy and his dog. It plays very similar to Secret of Mana with Real-Time battles and the same Weapon Ring and Magic Ring from the original game. Unlike Secret of Mana, this game only features two characters, a boy and his dog. They travel throughout many different places and times from history lending the game a sorta educational feeling, though blending it with elements of fantasy as well. It also features an alchemy system.

Gameplay: 10/10  Gameplay consists of taking control of both the boy and his shape-shifting dog as they travel through time from the stone age, ancient egypt, and even into the future. As mentioned one of the key mechanics is an extensive alchemy system that allows you to craft your own consumable items as well as key items needed to progress the story. Magic was also reliant on alchemy ingredients which were often scarce in supply. This is an often criticized feature of the game’s alchemy system. I didn’t mind as much though, since when I play a game, I explore every nook and cranny of every room, dungeon, city, etc. I enjoyed the alchemy system even if it was flawed to a degree. In fact, I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the game as much without said alchemy feature. Then again I enjoy similar games such as Kamidori Alchemist Master, Students of Mana Khemia, and the Atelier series, where you ‘grind’ and search for ingredients for various alchemy recipes. In fact in the end, from a gameplay perspective: this game resembles a mashup of Secret of Mana, Chronotrigger, and Atelier Iris.

Story; 6/10 Like most western RPGs, story is not as strong as what is commonly found in most JRPG games – I feel this is where most of the criticism for Secret of Evermore comes into play. There are a few plot holes, and the story just seems to jump around without much of an overarching plot other than trying to return to your own timeline and the adventurous ‘scamp’ like nature of a boy and his dog, painted against a wild fantasy pseudo historical setting. Though the bare bones for some continuity between worlds exists it is tied only together loosely by a malfunctioning time machine and evil robot invaders.

Characters: 5/10 Likewise the character development is another weak point for most western developed RPG games. There’s really only two characters in this game, a boy, and his dog. Though there are numerous NPCs, they don’t connect with or endear themselves to the audience. The concept of a shape shifting dog was very fun, but the boy feels very flat and unappealing as a main hero leaving the player little reason to care about what happens throughout the story.

Graphics: 8/10 While most critics applaud the graphics in this game for being very detailed and more realistic than most other RPGs, I can’t help but miss the more “anime” feeling graphics of Secret of Mana. And while Secret of Evermore is a very lush and visually stunning game in it’s own right, I miss the more “cutesy” feeling and bright color palettes of other Square RPGs.

Music: 5/10 – The music in Secret of Evermore is composed by Jeremy Soule. This was his first ever videogame soundtrack. He has gone on to work on numerous other RPG soundtracks including Skyrim, Icewind Dale, and Guild Wars just to name a few. Unfortunately, being inexperienced, the soundtrack in Secret of Evermore is often very weak. He dared to be different though, so I’ll give him credit for that. Most of the soundtrack consists of a lot of dead noise and ambient sounds instead of the bright and colorful music found in most JRPGs. Ultimately though, using such a minimalistic tactic makes the background music do just that, fade into the background. It is no where near as memorable as other Squaresoft soundtracks.

Replay Value: 2/10 This, like most other 90s games, is a linear story. It’s also much shorter than other squaresoft RPG – to be fair, I have read that a lot of the game was cut due to cartridge size limitations. Still it is a fun, unique, little RPG that appeals to anyone who loves themes of time travel, or just simply anyone who loves their dogs :).

Overall: 54 / 80 68% D+ “Average Game For Girls”

Secret of Evermore Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 2 of 4 was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

Secret of Mana Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 1 of 4

Secret of Mana is a series of real-time adventure RPGs from the 1990s. The “first” installment, which we’re reviewing today, is Secret of Mana for the SNES. This game was actually the 2nd in the Secret of Mana series, but was the first one to make it overseas. There’s also Secret of Mana 3 (Sometimes mistakenly referred to as Secret of Mana 2) which we also never got in the USA (but which has been fan translated), Secret of Evermore – which is a completely different, but equally fun game, which is what we got in America instead of Secret of Mana 3, and Legend of Mana on the PS1.

I say this review is part 1 of 4 because I plan to review the other installments in the series in the near future. I’ve never played the original “first” game (from Japan), so that one will not be included in the series of reviews. It may be available somewhere fan translated, I’ve just never sought it out. I have however, played the rest of the series, including Secret of Mana 3 which is among my favorites in the series. But we’ll start this series of reviews off with good old Secret of Mana, because it was the “gateway” for most english speaking players into this series.

Title: Secret of Mana

Platform: Super Nintendo

Release Date: 1993

Genre: Action RPG

Where to Buy: Amazon has the original SNES cartridge for as low as $67.00 – This is a good buy, as this game is a classic and sure to retain or increase in value among collectors. Just take a look at some of our other retro reviews around the site, similar RPGs from the 90s are going for upwards of $160 a piece. Secret of Mana is a bit more obscure than say, Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy, but it’s still an amazing little game.

However, if you are not a collector, I would recommend the mobile edition of this game which features a completely new translation. The original game had many bugs and a translation from Japanese to English which took only 30 days to complete. As a result, much of the original story was cut from the English version – Whether that was due to a hastily translated script and pressure to meet holiday deadlines from Nintendo, or as a result of the limitations of the cartridge format, the fact is, that the IOS and Android versions provide a much better experience – and cost a lot less than the actual Super Nintendo cartridge too.

You can get Secret of Mana on IOS here for just $7.99

And Android here also for $7.99

Geeky: 5/5 

Sweetie: 3/5 

Overall: 48 / 70 69% D+ “Average Game for Girls”

Gameplay: 10/10 The most unique thing about these games is the weapon “wheel” in which you can quickly switch between different weapons. Every character in the party can use every weapon in the game, in sort of a class-less system. If you try to equip the same weapon on 2 different characters though, you will only switch their weapons instead.

The weapons can be upgraded with weapon orbs found in various dungeons. Also by using a weapon, it will begin to level up and unlock new special abilities.

Since all the combat is real-time (much like Zelda, Ys, and other Action Adventure RPGs) you have to be fast thinking and take into account the movements of your enemy as well as use the terrain to your advantage to kite your monster around the map.

The game features an AI system as well in which you can decide if your party members should engage enemies directly or stay in the back to minimize their damage.

There’s also a magic “wheel” but the main hero does not have access to this; however, the other party members can use offensive or healing magic to aid the hero. You cycle through and select spells in the same way that you cycle through and select weapons. And similar to the weapons, magic also levels up the more you use it.

Some spells will be specific only to certain characters, and others will be shared by both of the magic users in the game.

Aside from the unique wheel like mechanism for choosing spells and weapons, the game plays much like other action JRPG of the 90s. You control a party of 3 heroes, and complete quests, level up, go into dungeons, and progress through the storyline.

Story: 7/10 As I mentioned above, the original SNES translation (which to be fair, is the version I’m reviewing) suffered from time constraints and/or physical limitations of the technology of the time. While we did get the game just a few weeks after the Japanese release, we really missed out on a lot of the storyline and character development.

The premise of the story is very interesting. It tells of an ancient war fought with magic which resulted almost in the end of the world. However, a hero emerged and using the Legendary Mana Sword was able to bring peace back to the world. To prevent a similar war from occuring again, the mana seeds were sealed and scattered across the earth. Powerful guardians were charged with protecting each mana seed.

Foreshadowing tells us however that the peace will not last, and a time skip brings us to our main hero as he is playing outside the village with his friends. An accident occurs in which you get separated from your friends and must find your way home but your path home is blocked by thick weeds. Conveniently, there’s a sword sticking up out of the ground, so you figure you’ll just use that to cut your way through. However, as you pick up the sword, a voice speaks to you telling you that you are the chosen one (similar to the legend of the sword in the stone) and that you now posses the legendary Mana Sword. As you make your way home, you see there appear to be monsters closer to the village than usual, so you get to try out your new sword in some real combat practice.  When you finally make it back home, the villagers blame you for the appearance of the monsters and banish you from the village.

As the story unfolds, you learn of the plan to release the mana seeds and restore the ancient technology from the first war. Knowing that this will again anger the gods, you become like the hero from the first war, destined to once again seal away the power of mana from the hands of man.

The story is actually pretty well written with some interesting surprises, and was very dark for a game of the 90s including suicide, spiritual possession, and themes of war and sorcery.

Characters: 3/10 But in the end it felt like there was more that could have been told here. Perhaps as a result of things lost in the original translation. I especially felt that the characters themselves were flat and never really connected with them in the way that I would in most other games. This made the game ultimately less enjoyable and less immersive than I would’ve liked. I should have been devastated when a major plot thread occurs which effects one of the playable characters and a love interest, but ultimately, I was just not moved or able to feel as much emotion for as grave as the plot had become, because I just didn’t care that much about any of the characters. And I am not a cold person, there are many games which have brought me to tears. This just isn’t one of them. To be fair, I’ve not played the improved new translation from the mobile games. I suspect a lot of what was cut from the script may have filled in this void in character depth and may be restored in the new mobile version.

Graphics: 8/10 I really liked how colorful and bright this game world is. Most of it features outdoor environments with lush green fields, bright blue rivers, and the character sprites are also very brightly colored.

Music: 10/10 Another iconic 90s Squaresoft soundtrack. Very memorable tracks which helped to set the mood throughout the game.

Voice Acting – N/A Not Voiced.

Replay Value: 2/10 This is a completely linear game with little to no replay value, aside from the fact that it is an enjoyable little rpg that you may wish to revisit down the road.

Overall: 48 / 70 69% D+ “Average Game for Girls”

Secret of Mana Retro Videogame Review for Super Nintendo SNES Part 1 of 4 was originally published on Geeky Sweetie

This Magical School Anime JRPG Simulator is Everything – and it needs your help!

ch_client = “xenokitten”;
ch_width = 300;
ch_height = 250;
ch_type = “mpu”;
ch_sid = “Chitika Default”;
ch_color_site_link = “#164675”;
ch_color_title = “#164675”;
ch_color_border = “#B0C9EB”;
ch_color_text = “#333333”;
ch_color_bg = “#FFFFFF”;

http://scripts.chitika.net/eminimalls/amm.js

I just discovered Valthirian Arc: Red Covenant which according to the developer, “is an action-packed magical school simulator with a classic JRPG twist. You play the principal of an academy, tasked with training your students to save the world, all while finding missing cats, delivering love letters, and helping elderly ladies to cross the road… oh and fighting monsters.”

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/agatestudio/valthirian-arc-red-covenant/widget/video.html

Features:

  • School-simulation JRPG
  • Unique 2.5D graphics
  • Real-time battle system
  • Manage and build your school
  • Recruit and train your students
  • Promote your students into various class levels
  • Multiple endings
  • For Pc, Mac, and Linux, Available on Steam and DRM Free
  • Job Class System similar to FF5
  • Crafting System

The gameplay is 2 fold, focusing on managing your students so that they graduate, and then selecting a job class for them similar to Final Fantasy 5. Your students then go out and battle monster with a real-time active combat system.

Also, if you back the kickstarter, you get access to kickstarter exclusive backer reward “Night Mode” In which you may be surprised by your students’ behaviors after hours. Such things, remind me fondly of Graduation 95 by Mixx.

Kickstarter page here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/agatestudio/valthirian-arc-red-covenant

It’s also being compared to Harry Potter.

The bad news is… they only have 2 weeks left to reach their funding goal! OH NOES. We need to #MakeItHappen

Go go throw money at your screens. We NEED this game!

The game has already been Greenlit on Steam. https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=526696289 – though I’m getting an error when I try to access this page right now.

Also, you can play the previous Valthirian Arc games to understand its gameplay.

Valthirian Arc 1: agate.id/playva1
Valthirian Arc 2: agate.id/playva2

 

This Magical School Anime JRPG Simulator is Everything – and it needs your help! was originally published on Geeky Sweetie