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Spooky Plays: D

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Welcome back to a world of horror and fright. You may remember last year when I did a review of a game that not many would think of when pondering the options to step into a good atmosphere that sends chills down spines and squeals up throats. Thief: The Dark Project was that game, and the horror came from the masterpiece’s years spent in development hell when its focus was changed about a half dozen times. Well, if you want to read more about that game check it out right here: https://whydidiplaythis.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/unexpectedly-spooky-thief-the-dark-project/ . In contrast to a jumbled mess of juxtaposed design and experimentation that somehow worked brilliantly, this year I bring you D. Just D. The letter D. No more. No less. D.

D is a horror puzzle game developed by WARP and published by Acclaim. It was originally created and released on the 3DO, but given the system’s less than stellar sales records, the game was ported over to Sega’s Saturn and Sony’s Playstation, as well as DOS in the Western markets. In Japan, the Saturn release was a smash hit, debuting at the top of the sales chart. Acclaim insisted on porting it over to the other consoles themselves, and localizing it for the international market. The Saturn port was also successful on the sales charts in the West despite that console’s lukewarm reception. Sadly, Sony did not manufacture enough copies to even dream of satisfing pre-order demands for the Playstation release, and few more were ever produced. This leads to the oddity of the Saturn version being the easiest to find in the US. There’s not too much difference in price between the two though, Saturn averages out to be cheaper. The 3DO version stands up as the hardest to find and most expensive release. I blame this on the fact that searching for just “D” leads to so many other results that its annoying to find this specific game for any of its systems.

The game’s development is a wonderful tale in and of itself, with Kenji Eno going to extreme lengths to keep the real story of the game hidden, even from his coworkers, in an attempt to sort of cheat his way into a publishing deal. He made the game appear more like it was a clean cut adventure game with high quality graphics, not unlike Myst before it. Since Kenji Eno personally visited manufacturers in the USA to switch out his clean version from the real version he also bypassed any possibility of censorship.

Even today the horror imagery and well detailed (for the time) art design and environments stand out among its peers in the genre. Where Resident Evil would release after this game and rely on bad voice acting and jump scares, D does an excellent job of instilling a creepy atmosphere around the player and the young woman you control, WARP’s digital actress Laura Harris.

One interesting way that this atmosphere was achieved is a design choice that forces the player to sit and play the game. There is no saving or pausing. You have two hours of real time to finish the game from start to ending. That may seem like a short time, but I ended up being about ten minutes shy of beating it when I first played it. The second time was the charm for me.

One of the reasons you might get stopped and take a bit longer to finish the game is the puzzle design. Its quite reminiscent of point and click adventure games, but given its short length, most of these puzzles lack the depth or insane difficulty of some PC adventure games that are similar to D’s presentation. The exploration and movement works well for being limited to a controller. The odd part about the game’s movement design is that some rooms have paths that go all over the place. One example of this is in one of the bedrooms. You’ll step inside and be looking at a painting, and you can only walk towards this painting at first. Later you’ll need to get into a table to the right of the painting, but to get to the table from the painting you have to turn left, walk to the other door, then turn and step to the bed, turn to the left again, and then step forward to the table. You can’t just turn right when you’re already standing next to the table.

The game certainly feels aged though. Compared to other horror games its quite tame. As you play you’ll find the atmosphere is where the real tension is, and there are some creepy images and unexplained phenomena throughout this mansion Laura finds herself in. The occasional dessicated corpse catches her by surprise, and a wall of spikes early in the game might be only real jump scares in the game, but none of them are harmful. This game did influence later titles when it comes to presentation though. D’s unexpected success in all markets is simultaneously a beginning and an ending, as slower FMV puzzle games were nearing their twilight. D’s future influence lies in its tight artistic designs, well produced visuals, and its use of sound to create a setting and experience that will stick to the player. Its length actually helps it in this case. Since the game is so short everything that happens gets stuck in your mind, and you’ll rarely find yourself scratching your chin trying to remember something like you might with a long winded RPG or even other horror games!

If you have about $20-40 burning up your pocket or paypal balance, and you want a good, creepy experience that doesn’t require a long term commitment, then D is a fantastic purchase.

Psychotic Reviews: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back

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The international success of the first Crash Bandicoot allowed Naughty Dog to get started on a sequel, and most of the team made the transition intact. This let them build on the ideas from the first game and polish its problems up, while adding new ideas. Sadly this created quite a few new problems. Despite all these new issues Crash 2 was more successful than the first game, replacing it in Japan as the best selling Western developed game when it released. Its international sales ended up with the game falling a bit short of its predecessor though.

If you recall my previous review of the first Crash, my main issue with it were the quirky controls. These have been improved slightly, but are still not where I would like them to be. Ice levels can be quite infuriating until you figure out how the game calculates momentum. That is to say, it doesn’t stop calculating momentum even after you smash into a wall. So these ice levels can involve you moving in place until this momentum will eventually stop, then you go flying in the opposite direction. Also beware of small boxes with gaps across from them, you might think that hitting the box would stop you, but if you try and immediately jump onto the box you will assuredly overshoot it and fall to your death. All of this is just trial and error and has absolutely no regard to player skill, you’re just meant to figure this out on your own and probably die doing so.

Progression and exploration have been changed as well, with a hub based world instead of a linear map system like the first game. Each hub has five levels, and you must find the crystal in each level before you can go on to challenge the boss and move onto the next world. Each world has a similar layout of levels though, and there’s not much variety. When you move from one world to the next you can expect to play a combination of a polar bear level, a rock level, an ice level, sewer level, a temple level, a jet ski level, or an outdoor island level in every single world. The only thing that changes is the actual layout of the level, gone are the unique backgrounds and settings that permeated the worlds of the first game.

Each level does contain a bonus area that you can use to gain extra lives, but you also need to break every box in these bonus areas if you wish to collect the gems. There are also secret areas in many levels that require a colored gem to access. These colored gems are extremely difficult to find, mainly because the way you get them is so cryptic. You will almost never guess or find how to get a single one of these colored gems without a guide. In the first game the colored gems were collected by just getting to a certain number of gems, so there was nothing special you needed to do other than find out which levels you can get a gem in without a colored one. For most of the game your success is limited to trial and error. Deathtraps litter the levels, so you’ll probably have to farm the early levels for lives so you can learn how to avoid cheap deaths. That really sums up how this game is designed.

There are some new additions to the control sceme, a slide and jump added onto the spin, a face plant to break certain boxes and kill some enemies. This adds in more variety than just a simple jump attack and the spin, but it fails to add enough to save the game’s poorly designed levels and bad physics as a result of said design. This may be the weakest of the original trilogy but I still have one game to play through and examine first.

Psychotic Reviews: Crash Bandicoot

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Many remember Crash Bandicoot being an unofficial Playstation mascot after his release until the launch of the Playstation 2. The first trilogy of his games are fondly remembered as early 3D platformers done right. The series was created by Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin of Naughty Dog, who went on to develop it for Universal Interactive Studios. Sony Computer Entertainment joined for publishing and marketing after the game’s E3 showing in 1996, making these early games exclusive to the Playstation. One of the reasons why Crash was chosen as an international mascot by Sony was due to its success. At the time it released Crash Bandicoot became the most successful Western developed game in Japan, mix that with the overwhelming sales in the Western markets and Sony had a killer app on its hands.

What about the game helped it become such a success though? Crash was instilled with tight art and design philosophies. While it can be said to be a 3D platformer it is not a full roaming 3D platformer like its peers at the time Super Mario 64 and Croc. Those games and many other games using the 3D perspective up to this day would suffer from camera issues. Crash avoided this by having linear paths to follow, while also mixing up the gameplay with areas based on 2D platformers, with side scrolling action. This helped keep the game from having a crippling camera that could quite literally be your lifeline. How many of us remember making leaps of faith because the camera sucked? Crash avoids this by keeping the path straight and keeping the camera in front of, behind, or beside our bandicoot hero.

The controls in this game feel a bit stiff. The game controls quite well overall, but there is a bit of a pause in starting the running, as well as jumping control. Just holding the button down while you’re jumping feels fine, but having to make precise, short jumps can be rather annoying at times. There are a few levels which are almost sadistically designed to exploit this issue with the controls. Most of the levels are quite tight, and there is variety between the themes and worlds on top of the perspective. The game is anything but boring and predictible for your first playthrough. Boss battles are easy. They are spread throughout the worlds though, so the big boss fight is not always at the end of a land.

The music fits the game quite well. Crash is set in a chain of Pacific islands, so the Tiki styled theme is quite strong with it. The music and the levels fit in with this design quite well. The final world is mostly machine based though, and that has to do with Dr. Neo Cortex and him being a mad scientist and all that jazz.

Its quite easy to see why Crash would be the sensation it was, and why the once wombat, now bandicoot became the face of a system. Naughty Dog would develop two more Crash platformers, and a racing game, before moving onto another series for the Playstation 2, Jak. These three early Crash games are still considered the best in the series, and after playing the first one now and with nostalgic memories of Crash Bandicoot: Warped, I do remember why this is believed. These games are not too expensive, and are quite common. This first game can sell in the $20-30 range, but 2 and Warped can be bought in the $10-15 range and have that extra polish. I found all three of them at a thrift store run for $4 each, so deals can still be had for them with local hunting.


Bane of my existence.

HOW SONY AND MICROSOFT CAN CUT THEIR OWN THROATS

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To put this in the simplest of terms, the way the title of this article can happen is if either or both of these hardware manufacturers do one thing, charge the gaming public to activate used games. The news releases of EA ending their online pass program is just the first reason why trying to extort extra money just for buying a game that’s already been played will not work. For those of you that have not yet read about EA ending a much maligned policy of theirs their reasoning is as follows “Many players didn’t respond to the format. We’ve listened to the feedback and decided to do away with it moving forward.” This translates from business speak to layman’s English as ‘We were not making a profit.’

Take heed Sony and/or Microsoft. If the 2nd largest 3rd party publisher has already tried and abandoned the tactics that you may well be on the cusp of unveiling to the public then your system is doomed from the start. It is one thing to have individual games lock content up behind a pay wall, but an entire system? The incredible poostorm that has surrounded EA and other companies using online passes to access their multiplayer components after a copy has moved from the ‘new’ to ‘used’ bin will be incredibly miniscule compared to having a paywall thrown up blocking me and other gamers from playing a single player game, let alone multiplayer.

200px-CMOT_Dibbler
Please be smarter than the Discworld Dibblers.

I know I’m only one person and this is anecdotal evidence but I spend almost 90% of my purchasing power on used games and almost never buy a game at launch. When I do it is something I have eagerly been waiting for months to come out and hone in on my targets with the precision of a falcon. I do not pre-order something if I have any shred of doubt that the game might not be good, hence I tend to stick with only a few series which see sporadic releases. Most of the used games I buy are in the $5-10 region and I’m perfectly fine waiting 1 or 2 years for the price to get there. So if either Sony or MS want to charge me an extra $5 to activate a used game and essentially double my investment, they will lose 100% of my business.

No hardware, no pre-orders, no software, no collector’s editions, no used games, nothing, nada, zilch.

I will say this once, do not forget it. Your customers are your backbone, defy them and you lose them. Your publishers are greedy snobs, listen to them and you defy your consumers. If these rumors end up being confirmed I will happily go out and buy a brand new Wii U and 4-5 brand new games just to support more level headed and less obvious cash grabby, greedy business tactics. I don’t care how weak the hardware is compared to the PS4 or possible NextBox specs, and I know Nintendo is far from perfect. That said, they will have 100% of my gaming budget if Sony and/or Microsoft is really this stupid.

ready asshole

Now here’s another scenario, only one of the two unlaunched systems will have a used game activation fee and ‘feature’. Given how close the sales are between 360 and PS3, this is just asking to get completely reamed in the backside through marketing techniques. What was once a close race turns into a landslide victory. I can see it now, “No fees just to play,” “We don’t charge a disc insertion fee,” etc. etc. Millions of potential system sales are at stake here, and those millions of systems can support hundreds of millions of software sales. We’re talking billions and billions of dollars at stake here, trillions of yen, you will not Cut-Your-Own-Throat will you?

21st Century Video Game Crash?

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Is the home video game industry charging headfirst into another market crash?

I ask myself this question because there are so many signs pointing towards another crash when I look back on the previous ones. We are on the cusp of the 8th console generation really getting ready to begin, only Nintendo having dived head first into these potentially treacherous waters. Unlike the 7th Generation, where the current Big 3 stepped in to tango against each other largely without disturbance, they will have competition from fan favorite Valve, as well as some more unknown companies. So let’s take a look at some of these and extrapolate the events and lessons learned to the modern era.

In 1977 there was a major crash of the video game market that is largely ignored by the public and even by gamers that were around at this time. The major problems that lead to this crash were centered around the insane popularity of Pong through the early to mid 70’s. This game was so popular in the arcades that every company wanted to make a standalone Pong system for home consumers. Even the beloved and mighty Nintendo is guilty of this. By 1977 the market was flooded with so many Pong and dedicated systems that consumers had no idea which ones were good, which were bad, or which one was made by the original creators of the game.

Nintendo’s Color TV Game. Exclusive to Japan.

However, one piece of the video game market continued to grow through 1977, the handheld market. If you’re a bit younger like me you’ll probably remember the Tiger handhelds with crappy LCD screens and primitive beeps for sound. These standalone handhelds are a relic of this growth in the late 70’s, and they kept going strong through the 80’s with some still being released today. Nintendo had their hit Game & Watch brand of handhelds while they moved into the arcade market and dipped their toe into the home console market with some VCS ports.

But SirPsycho, you may be asking, didn’t Atari release their VCS/2600 in 1977? They did, and they managed to survive this crash on the strength of their brands and high quality products they put out in the arcade, which was untouched by this ‘crash’. The Atari VCS did not really take off until 1980 when the company secured the rights to port Taito’s enormous arcade hit Space Invaders to their system.

So what lessons does this archaic crash have for today’s incredibly diverse market? Too many systems on the market at one time is a bad thing for the game consuming public, and all of these systems did roughly the same thing, they all played Pong with fancy names like table tennis, raquetball, handball, they were all the same game at heart though. None of these machines offered interchangable cartridges, the machines that did are not considered Pong consoles even if they had a Pong clone cart.

Even if some upcoming tangential systems secure a foothold in the market, like the Ouya from Boxer8, it is essentially a modernized Pong console if all of their promises and features will deliver. The Steam Box from Valve is roughly the same idea, all digital distribution, firmware updates, and streaming. You push a button or flip a switch to change modes. Valve has a massive leg up on Boxer8 however, a huge, hardcore, and loyal fanbase. There’s also the GameStick on Kickstarter right now, which just looks like its an Atari Flashback in USB form.

The Ouya from Boxer8.

The North American Crash of 1983 is highly publicized so I will not write about it much here, but the lessons from it are primarily software related. The crash of 1977 left Atari and Magnavox competing against each other in the late 70’s, Magnavox and its Odyssey^2 could not keep up and they bowed out. By the time the ’83 crash happened Atari’s renamed 2600 was holding a gigantic lead over Mattel, Coleco, and its own 5200 before the ground crumbled beneath them as a result of their own leadership, knocking their two competitors out at the same time.

Low quality software from Atari themselves left fans feeling betrayed so they left the system and company behind. A lot of Atari’s veteran talent left as a result of their barbaric employee treatment. A handful of talented developers founded Activision before the crash, and Atari lost a court case against the fledgling 3rd party that lead to a huge growth of 3rd party developers and publishers. There were many new and inexperienced 3rd parties that did not help Atari’s case either.

One case of a third party bad Atari game.

What markets thrived during the down years between the 1983 crash and the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System outside of Japan? The arcade market entered what could be considered a Silver Age. Long time arcade developers released new, cutting edge machines that kept the fans that built and crushed Atari happy. The PC market really hit its first major stride and many of the initial 3rd parties that began as console developers and publishers for Atari’s 2600 and lacked any arcade experience, made a swift move to the home computing market to survive.

There was another swell of parties that entered the console market in the early to mid 1990’s seeing Sega’s success against Nintendo as a call to action. Philips and 3DO tried and failed. Atari’s last gasp with its agile Jaguar fell flat on its face. SNK’s high priced Neo Geo could not penetrate the larger market and remained a small, insignificant niche, their steamlined Neo Geo CD not doing much to expand their audience either. Apple and Bandai’s partnership led to one of the worst selling systems of all time, the Pippin. Sega themselves proved that console add ons do more to alienate a fanbase than to reinvigorate it.

The Neo Geo CD isn’t a bad looking system either.

Now let’s take a look at today’s market. Facebook has risen to become a powerful social and casual gaming hub, and fallen quite quickly as well, perhaps needing to learn the lessons of the 1983 Crash the hard way. Smartphones have been hyped to threaten Nintendo and its handheld dominance while the 3DS started slowly. Now Nintendo’s system is really starting to fly off the shelf, crushing every other system in Japan on a weekly basis. With Pokemon X and Y releasing this year the global market can be expected to fight over incoming shipments of 3DS consoles, perhaps leading to a temporary shortage and more money printing for Nintendo.

News of Sony’s patent filing that would essentially eliminate the used game and rental market, as well as social borrowing and trading, is hitting the community hard. Many gamers are already pulling out their pitchforks, even longtime Sony faithful fans. If this is implemented I can see Sony going the way of Sega, maybe not until the 2020’s if they try and save themselves and bow out with honor. This patent, if implemented in the PS4, would be the beginning of the end. Sony’s recent add ons, the Eye Toy for PS2/PS3, and the Move which uses the Eye Toy sold decently well, but again failed to be a gaming reimagination that they wanted their fans to experience.

Microsoft has been quiet about its 360 successor, already having lost the major advantage it had in the Seventh generation, launching first, to Nintendo’s WiiU. But, sales are still strong, especially after the holidays. Their Kinect for 360 has become nothing more than a dance simulator with a few iOS and Android ports that make decent use of the technology. Most real AAA efforts have released to critical failure. Still, I believe Microsoft would be foolish to not show their new console off at a major convention this year. What would be even more idiotic would be if MS released another console that is as sloppily designed and prone to failure as the fat 360s are. Gamers handled it for one generation, they will not deal with it for two in a row.

My one true nemesis!

If handled well, and the home console market survives, this could be the time where Valve steps up and knocks one of the current 3 major players out, letting it have an effective stranglehold on PC gaming with Steam, and at least have a slice of pie on the home console front with Steam Box. Of course it would have help from the company in question, Sony and Microsoft look the most vulnerable at the time of this article’s writing. If there’s one lesson to learn by looking at the entirety of the home gaming, arcade, and handheld market, it is to never bet against Nintendo. There has never once been a worldwide video game crash, for every one that has happened gamers quite quickly moved onto other ways to play, like handhelds, the arcade, or PC gaming.

Retro Video Game Christmas Commercials: The 90’s

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I am a child of the 90’s, a love child. This was the age of Mode-7, Blast Processing, 3D, Playstation, and encompasses the rise and fall of Sega. So let’s take a look at as many Christmas commercials from the 90’s as we can possibly fit on our monitor.

Nintendo

What exemplifies the early 90’s more than the constant playground war of Nintendo vs. Sega? So it makes perfect sense for retailers to pick one side of the other in this argument or face everybody’s wrath!


Gee, would you look at the time? I missed the memo that I must write in rhyme! When it comes to your games, Sears has them all days. In the front or the back, come buy your new cartridge pack, and play the kiosk in store to curb your hunger for more.

Seriously, Sears kicked ass in the 90’s for gamers. What the hell happened?


This is just amazing, if there is one piece of media that makes me remember what it was like being a kid in the 90’s it is this right here. Entitlement of youth, grungy attitudes, snarky remarks, and a desire to sit down and play video games. I like how the rhyme goes, “South Park will be fine,” as if they’re just settling for it. “Yeah I’ll take it, but I really wanted Mystical Ninja you dumbass parents!”


A nice, generational war, of course. Then as soon as the douchey 90’s teens find out that grandpa likes to roll with some Tetris they decide that old folk aren’t bad. If grandpa’s hearing aid worked he might learn that Tetris was made by a dirty Communist!

Sega

So those were some pretty entertaining commercials from Nintendo’s side of the ring. But does Sega always do what Nintendon’t? Can they top the Big N and encourage people to buy any of the 3 systems they released in the 90’s? How about the add-ons?


Sega advertising at its finest, if you want your kid to be the cool kid on the block then go out and buy him a Sega Genesis for Christmas, then every kid in the city will want a piece of that Blast Processing action.


As a constant follower of Midget Wrestling this is one of the quickest ways to grab my attention, and they have good taste in video games since they just made a ton of money selling the game to Sega, somehow.

Ok, now let’s move away from North America for a moment and take a look at what Sega brought out for their Japanese commercials.


This may very well be the greatest thing I have ever laid eyes on. I am going to perpetuate the story of Segata Sanshiro as Santa Claus to my children, citing this commercial as definitive proof. If you’re unfamiliar with Segata Sanshiro and why he helped the Saturn dominate the Japanese sales charts then just check out this playlist.

Word of warning, the American Saturn commercials are weird as all hell, and incredibly frightening in some cases. Search at your own risk.

Sony
A newcomer on the scene of home video game hardware in the mid 90’s, Sony and their Playstation quickly rose to global dominance and kept its grip firm for over a decade. Is it because their commercials were great?


Yes, yes they were. Oh that sound and the PS logo really take me back, excuse me while I nostalgia-gasm all over my room. Again, this commercial shows what the 90’s was all about, trying to find your own voice, going against the grain, and supporting Bill Clinton.


What’s awesome about this commercial is that everything the singers say about Crash Bandicoot: Warped is 100% factual. This is one of the greatest parodies of a Christmas carol I’ve ever heard, I might start singing it this year. I feel bad for Canadians though, $50 for a new PS1 game and its already $10 off? Man, you guys will hate when I say brand new PS1 games in the States were $40. What was the exchange rate in 1998? Tell me Crabby!

Let’s head back to the Land of the Rising Sun.


Crash Bandicoot and PaRappa walk up to a random guy bearing Christmas gifts, just another thing to add to my list of things to experience before I die. Cosplayers, make this happen!


Kick! Punch! its all in the mind.

Well that about does it for the nostalgic video game Christmas commercials. I will be going on a small hiatus until 2013 rolls around. Until then, please share if you’ve enjoyed this post and my others, comment with feedback, and hit that follow button on the sidebar. SirPsycho out!

Why Did I Play This? Classic Edition 3: Final Fantasy II

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The third edition of Why Did I Play This is a look back at one game from a major series that is instantly recognizable. Back in the day I was a massive young Square fanboy, huge into Final Fantasy, and anxious to see the release of every new game, whether it was the major releases on PS1 or the remakes and re-releases the company did as well. The PS1 with its loading times was my first experience with such classics like Final Fantasy, FF4, FF5, FF6, and Chrono Trigger. Notice how one specific game is missing from this list that only comes from 3 different double releases from Square on the PS1.

Final Fantasy II

Oh man. Black sheep of classic RPG gaming franchises, you got your Phantasy Star III, the grand ocean faring Suikoden IV, *cough* Dragon Warrior VII, umm Ultima II, and not last nor least, Final Fantasy II. Now I’m not talking about the American FF2, or as we should all know, really FF4, oh no that’s a good game. I’m talking about the Japanese Famicom FF2, or rather the first release it got in America.

Oww, even the original logo hurts.

Now at one point in my life I was a Final Fantasy FREAK. I had gotten hold of my second gaming system ever after much parental persuasion, the Sony Playstation. And back when going to Blockbuster to rent movies and games were cool, I tried out many recommendations from friends that also had the system, of which a shortage did not exist. I rented Final Fantasy VIII, yes I was a bit late, but still to this day I’ve never bought a system at launch, and actually loved it for the time. Looking back I could actually be typing up an entire blog post about FF8 myself, but I chose the earlier entry as I could not stomach it back then, and still cannot now.

Time to get owned.

So we all know that Squaresoft was on its last legs when Hironobu (The Gooch) Sakaguchi saved the company with a little game called Final Fantasy for the Famicom and NES when it came stateside. But they opted out of releasing the second and third entry of that series in the USA. So my first introduction with this game came with the Final Fantasy Origins pack for the PS, as I was at that age where I ate up all of those FF games. I went back to buy FF7 and was blown away like many youngsters were, buying my own copy of FF8, then looked forward to FF9 (which is still my favorite in the series.) Then my first real game hunt began as Final Fantasy Anthology was nowhere to be seen in my locality until we got a couple used games stores open up in the area. I bought the first copy I could find, then waited anxiously for the release of Final Fantasy Chronicles, then Origins.

Amano = Awesome

Imagine my surprise, when after I beat Final Fantasy in the Origins pack and go to fire up the second game for the first time and start my epic quest following Firion, Guy, Maria, and Leon… and get my backside beat up and down the first battle screen. Then I get saved by a random badass Princess Hilda, minus Leon, the only decent character out of the four! The Emperor is actually quite the sinister villain, even poisoning an entire city’s water supply. This act was so awesome, so intense that it was in fact copied by fan favorite villain Kefka!

So you just run around, fighting the oppression of the evil Empire of Palamecia, going dungeon to dungeon with a random plot based fourth character, some you wanted to keep but were not allowed to, you had to get Leon back in your fighting group. Finally you reunite with Leon after the party and him meet at the Palamecian castle and watch the Emperor turn into El Diablo himself and summon a new home up from the pits of Hades to help him devour this world! Quickly stop him!

El Diablo noooooooo!

For the time this was actually a well thought out, very well executed storyline given the technological limitations of the NES. The game was prettied up for re-release after re-release starting with Origins so it was quite easy to look at with pretty, well detailed sprites that barely made the PS even try to think very hard. But this game suffers from such crippling gameplay flaws that I could not even force myself to sit through the story, I kept hitting a brick wall because of something so important to an RPG being completely broken and random half the time!

Yes that’s right, leveling is completely broken in this game. In the 8-10 hours I managed to torture myself by playing this game I had no idea how to level up stats, then it finally hit me, you level what you use! But how do you use HP, which all my characters seemed to never have leveling up? You take damage, a lot of damage. I ended up having half the party get killed off during random battles because their HP was so low they would get one shot! The only two worth anything in the game were Firion and Guy because of their high strength to do massive melee damage. Maria literally went half my playtime without once getting an HP boost. What the hell? I think I got as far as the Dreadnought because I kept getting owned and no amount of grinding was helping me. No matter how high your healer’s magic score is it does not matter when she literally has 40 HP and gets hit for 60. Even if Guy and Firion are overpowered they will eventually get overwhelmed after I run out of items trying to escape the dungeon.

Much prettier, but I’ll still die.

The broken leveling was such a deal breaker and let down for me that I have yet to pick up FF2 since I put it down, as my PS2 days came along I went for trying almost any RPG experience I could get my hands on, and I wish I still had them all but hey it gives me future goals of rediscovery. Anyway in conclusion FF2 suffered the problem that many second entries were infected with during the NES days, too much experimentation, cool ideas that could only be poorly executed, all while keeping the overall feel of the original source material. It featured a great story that was bogged down with literally endless grinding as you hoped that you took that extra point of damage or did that extra damage to get your individual stat boost. The most important feature of the game was royally messed up during the experiment of Final Fantasy II, and no amount of nostalgia can save the game as there is literally none for the NES young ones, or even those like me who had a horrible gaming experience on the PS Origins release during the younger years of existence.

Until next time. I might even go back to a game I’ve long forgotten sometime on this blog and remember how awesome it is.

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