Review: Wario Land 3

It is so easy to get hung up on RPGs and other complex games that it’s possible to forget about some of the more simpler titles out there. I recently wound up my review for Xenogears, a game that took me several months to complete. By the time I was finished, I knew I wanted my next playthrough to be something a little more relaxed. So I took a look at my backlog and as soon as I saw Wario Land 3 on the list, I knew that would be my next game.

I reviewed Wario Land 2 nearly two years ago. So, it has been a while since I stepped into the quirky world of Wario. Wario Land 3 is a game that I never played in my younger days. It debuted on the Game Boy Color back in 2000. And, like so many titles of the era, it was released during a time in my life where gaming was not a priority for me. As a result, it flew under my radar at the time.

Like most titles in the series, the storyline here is fairly simple. Wario is going for a casual cruise in his cropduster when the engine fails and he crash lands on a mysterious island. After exploring the island for a bit, he comes upon a cave that contains a strange music box. As he gazes at the music box, he suddenly finds himself trapped inside of it! As it turns out, there’s a whole little world inside the cursed box and Wario is not alone; the maker of the box is also trapped inside with him. To escape, Wario must search the land inside this little prison for five other magical music boxes. Once they have all been collected, he will be able to return home with any riches he is also able to uncover along the way. – Yep… sounds like a typical Wario game.

If you’ve ever played either of the first two Wario Land titles, then you pretty much know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Just like Wario Land 2, Wario is invincible in this game as well. He cannot be killed by either his environment or by enemies. However, that is not to say that enemy attacks do not affect him. When attacked by some monsters, Wario will be inflicted with various effects. For example, if he comes in contact with a fire-based attack, he will burst into flames like a torch and run around wildly. If stung by a bee, he will swell up and float through the air, etc. These status ailments, while annoying at times, are actually the key to playing the game. Players will learn how to use them to navigate the levels and solve puzzles. For example, getting stung will enable him to float to an otherwise unreachable platform. This is the essentially the same mechanic that was introduced in Wario Land 2, but it is expanded and a little polished in this outing.

This time, each level contains a number of keys. As Wario collects keys of a certain color, he can use them to unlock the corresponding chest that’s also hidden in the level. Chests contain items that either unlock new areas on the overworld map or give Wario new abilities. Once a chest is unlocked, the level is over. This means that Wario will need to move back and forth between worlds, upgrading his abilities and revisiting previously played levels in order to reach previously inaccessible areas. It is actually quite clever. It is not necessary for players to unlock every chest to complete the game, but completionists will certainly find the extra challenge welcome. This design actually makes for quite a bit of a content. I took me just under nine hours to conquer this title. That’s a quite a bit of time for a handheld platformer.

One interesting aspect to this game are the inclusion of the “mini-golf” levels. Occasionally, progress through the game is halted by a roadbloack. These roadblocks are removed by participating in (and winning) a series of golf-based mini-games. To be honest, this mini-game is largely pointless and occasionally annoying. But somehow they seem to fit the weird and quirkiness of the rest of the game. Leave it to Nintendo to be both annoying and entertaining at the same time…

The Wario Land series shows that developers of platform games do not have to be afraid to deviate from the standard formula. This title is a great example of how to both build off an proven method, but still add new ideas and concepts into the mix. For me, I find these games to be a blast. The puzzles make you think outside of the box. And even though Wario cannot die, the game is still challenging in its own way.

Difficulty: Hard –  When you hear that this is a platform title in which the player cannot die, you might think that makes for a pretty easy experience. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In a way, Wario’s invincibility only makes certain parts of the game even more frustrating. You work hard to scale your way to the very top of a level, your goal in sight – only be to zapped by some random enemy and sent tumbling back down to the very start… Infuriating. To be honest, the main scenario of the game is probably on par with most other Nintendo-era platform titles. But players who want to get the most out of the game and collect all 100 treasures will be in for quite a challenge.

Story: Games like these are not very story-centric. Nor do they need to be. The gameplay is the focus here. But, this title includes a cute little set up with an interesting twist at the end. The background story here is on par with what is found in other platform games.

Originality: Somehow Nintendo has again managed to keep this game from feeling stale. Non-linear, replayable levels with unlockable areas help keep this platformer title feeling like something new. Quite a feat.

Soundtrack: Silly/oddly appropriate music. But nothing spectacular. Honestly, probably the least interesting part of the game.

Fun: This game ended up providing me with much more entertainment than I expected. Just when I thought I knew what expect from this genre, Nintendo tosses in something to keep things fun and fresh. The difficulty felt a little extreme at times and I can imagine that some younger players would get a bit turned off by it. But considering Wario cannot die, it is only a matter of willpower.

Graphics: This game will look pretty dated by today’s standards. But at the time, it featured top-tier visuals for a mobile game. This title is a prime example of what the Game Boy Color was capable of.

Playcontrol: The controls are responsive and accurate. No complaints whatsoever.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: None.

Value:  Original copies of this game typically go on Ebay for $20 or less. But, the game is available digitally through the 3DS eShop for only $4.99. At that price, you shouldn’t pass it up. There’s hours of content in the game. Plus, players willing to collect every treasure are treated with a special unlockable “time attack mode” that only makes the game even more replayable.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Ridiculously good. This game is better than it has any right to be. Despite not being a title you hear about often, Wario Land 3 is packed full of fun. It’s extremely well put together and even almost twenty years later, it still holds up. I highly recommend this to anyone with a 3DS that enjoys retro games.

Available on: 3DS Virtual Console

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

SMB   –   SMB Lost Levels  –  SMB 2  –  SMB 3  –  SM World – SM World 2-  SM Land  –  SM Land 2  – SM Land 3 –  Mario 64 – Mario Sunshine – New SMB – Galaxy – Galaxy 2 – New SMB Wii – Mario 3D Land – New SMB 2 – New SMB U – SMB 3D World

Paper Mario – Thousand Year Door – Super Paper Mario – Sticker Star

Wario Land 2 – Wario Land 3 – Wario Land 4 – Master of Disguise – Wario Land Shake It

Luigi’s Mansion – Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Super Princess Peach

Review: The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time

I don’t get many reader emails,  maybe 3-4 a month. But when I do they are usually requests for me to review a particular title. Of all the review-requests I receive, Ocarina of Time is by far the most requested title. So, for many, (myself included), this review has been a long time coming. Finally, I’m going to share my thoughts on this legendary title.

I’m sure that nearly every person reading this review, or even this site in general is familiar with this game. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last twenty years, let me bring you up to speed. Ocarina of Time is the fifth entry in Nintendo’s famous “Legend of Zelda” series. It was originally released in 1998 on the Nintendo 64. It is nearly universally-heralded as the best “Zelda” game in the series, and almost equally lauded as one of, if not THE, greatest video game of all time.

I was fortunate enough to play this game a few years after it was originally released. So, even though I missed out on the initial craze, the game holds a deep nostalgia for me – as it does for many gamers.  My first experience with the title was in 2003, when it was re-released as part of The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition compilation for the GameCube. This version of the game is a nearly perfect port of the N64 title. The collection contained both the original version of the game as well as a remixed version dubbed “Ocarina of the Time: The Master Quest“.  The GameCube version of the game was released just a few months before the birth of my first son. I have many memories of playing this game during late nights with my infant son in a bassinet by my side. This playthrough was my first time re-visiting the game since those days.

For those interested in playing it, the game is available in it’s original version on the Wii U virtual console, or on the Nintendo 3DS as Ocarina of Time 3D. For this playthrough/review, I did in fact play the 3DS version of the game. Either one is well worth your time, but I will state that the 3DS version, in my opinion, is the definitive version of the game. Aside from improved graphics, and some minor button assignments/playcontrol tweaks, the games are virtually identical. Plus, the 3DS version does come with the Master Quest (unlocked after completing the main game).

I will go on record as stating that, to me, the original N64 version had some major playcontrol issues. But, I am one of those rare people that generally disliked the Nintedo 64 controller. Playing the GameCube port of the game was even more awkward. In my opinion, the 3DS version offers the superior playing experience all the way around.

(Original N64 version –emulated )

Of all of the games in the series so far, Ocarina offers the most in-depth story in terms of lore. Many of the backstory concepts mentioned in the other games are given an epic, detailed treatment in this title.  The Legend of Zelda timeline is so convoluted and complex, that it’s nearly impossible to summarize in a simple way. So, I won’t get into how this game is related to others in the series. But it is important to understand that many of the games take place centuries and ages apart from each other. The hero “Link” and the princess “Zelda” are not always the same individuals from game to game. At the time of it’s release, Ocarina was the earliest title in the series chronologically.

This game focuses on a young child named Link. Link lives in a small woodland village inhabited by a slyph-like race called the Kokiri. Each Kokiri has a fairy companion, each one except Link. One morning, Link is awoken from by a fairy named Navi, who informs him that she was sent by the great Deku Tree, the guardian of the forest. Link soon learns that the tree has been poisoned by an evil man from a desert far to the west. His goal is rule the entire world. Link is sent on a quest to help stop this nefarious villain. His first stop is Hyrule Castle, where is instructed to meet with Princess Zelda. Link’s quest will take him to various locales all over the land of Hyrule. (Many familiar from other games in the series). During his journey he will even gain the ability to travel back and forth through time. All in effort to thwart the evil Ganondorf!

Ocarina of Time is the first 3D title in series. By this time, Nintendo had learned much since the days of Mario 64. The camera issues found in that game were now largely a thing of the past. For me, Ocarina was one of the first nearly flawless 3D-rendered games released for a console at the time. Let’s not confuse the term “3D” being used here with actual Three-Dimensional Technology. Because the most modern version of the game Ocarina of Time 3D is an ACTUAL 3-D title. Making use of the Nintendo 3DS technology, the handheld version of the game is presented in a real 3-D format. (and very well done!)

(3DS version)

Aside from the visual presentation, the game follows a format that fans of the series are familiar with. Scattered across the land are numerous dungeons. Each dungeon is filled with various puzzles that must be solved in order reach the end, where a boss awaits Link. As in other games, each dungeon also contains a special treasure that gives Link new skills or abilities. These skills or items allow Link access to new parts of kingdom, thus progressing the game further.

It certainly possible to speed through the game by simply following the prompts given to you throughout the game story, but just like other Zelda titles, players who take the time to explore the world and uncover all the nooks and crannies will have an easier time. Ocarina has a number of sidequests sprinkled throughout the main game. Each well worth the time of any serious player.

The hype behind Ocarina of Time is strong. As I mentioned earlier, it is considered by many gamers to be one of the greatest games ever made. That’s quite a bold statement. But, it’s also one that I cannot deny. There’s isn’t much about this game that isn’t perfect. Everything from the storyline, to the artwork, to the music – are simply spot-on. The level design is insightful. The puzzles are challenging (but not impossible). The game as a whole is nothing short of breathtaking. I find it difficult to declare that any game is “perfect”. But if any one title is deserving of such a declaration, it is this one.

Difficulty: Medium –  Ocarina of Time does not offer multiple levels of difficulty. But as one might would expect, the game starts off relatively easy and progresses in difficulty as it goes. Most of the challenge in the game comes in the form of various boss fights. For a first time player, several of these encounters can be very frustrating at first. But as typical with most games of this type, each battle has certain mechanics. Once learned, these battles become much easier.  Players willing to take the time to explore and complete the optional side quests will also have a much easier time.  For players of the 3DS version, The Master Quest becomes playable upon completion of the main scenario. This version of the game features a higher degree of difficulty and rearranged puzzles and challenges.

Story: The story presented in Ocarina of Time is nothing short of epic. All the lore from the previous Zelda titles can be found here, and are explained in great detail. The game also serves as the origin story for Ganon, the protagonist for most of the series.

Originality: This title features the gated/progression style that players familiar with the series are already accustomed to. However, when combined with a new 3D presentation, Nintendo manages to breathe new life into this time-tested formula. One new stand-out feature in this game is the actual “Ocarina”. Throughout the game, Link is able to learn new songs that can then be played on a virtual ocarina. Playing these songs can have various effects depending on when and where they are used. This concept is executed by turning the buttons on the controller into actual notes on ocarina itself. This makes for a unique and memorable experience.

Soundtrack: The music in Ocarina of Time is nothing short of fantastic. The soundtrack for the game ranges from emotional to infectious. I personally found myself whistling the ocarina tunes when not playing the game. In fact, the “Song of Storms” has been stuck in my head for nearly thirteen years. It’s no wonder that the score from this game is a frequent attraction at symphony halls worldwide.

Fun: Ocarina of Time is a blast. It’s addictive. Playing this game resulted in many late night sessions over the last two weeks. I’d often find myself saying, “That’s it. Once I’m finished with this dungeon, I’m turning it off for the night.” Only to find myself pick it right back up fifteen minutes later.  The game can be frustrating at times, but as a result it also ends up being even more rewarding.

Graphics: At the time of its original release, the 3D graphics were state of the art. However, like many games from that era, it has not aged well. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U virtual console does give it a bit of a visual boost over playing it on the original hardware. For most players, I do recommend the 3Ds version. The graphics on this new version are not only sharper and less jaggy, but many of the textures have also been improved.  – I should also note that when playing 3DS games, I typically don’t play with the 3-D turned on. But the 3-D effects in this game were so stunning that I actually spent the majority of my time playing in full 3-D mode. (I played this on the New 3DS which features improved 3-D effects, so your mileage may vary)

Playcontrol: The original N64 version seems to have some annoying playcontrol issues for me. But as mentioned earlier, I’m personally not a fan of the N64 controller as a whole. Playing the original game on the Wii or Wii U Virtual Console nearly requires a Classic Controller, in my opinion. But even then, the game feels very “off”. The controls for the 3DS version are overall well thought-out and intuitive.  Having played this title on every available system, I have to declare that the 3DS offers the best playcontrol of the lot.

Downloadable Content:  N/A

Mature Content: Cartoon violence

Value:  This title is available on the Wii U virtual console for $10. The 3DS version is usually found for a mere $20. Either of these prices are a steal for what you can get out of this game. It’s important to note that the 3DS version does come with both the original game and the Master Quest. So, it’s really two games in one.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Giving this title anything less than a perfect score is unthinkable. It is a stellar game that provides hours of entertainment. As mentioned numerous times above, you’ll often find this game on the list of all-time greatest games. It is certainly worthy of that honor.

Available on: Wii and Wii U virtual console,  Nintendo 3DS

Other Reviews In This Series:

LoZ –  LoZ II – Link to the Past – Link’s Awakening – Ocarina of Time – Majora’s Mask – Oracle of Season & Ages – Wind Waker – Four Swords – Minish Cap – Twilight Princess – Phantom Hourglass – Spirit Tracks – Skyward Sword – Link Between Worlds – Breath of the Wild

Review: Super Mario Maker

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I know that the site has been focused on other things lately, but I wanted to take a step to the side for a moment to provide my review of Nintendo’s latest sandbox craze; Super Mario Maker. So what is this title? Is it a toolkit, a game, or both? The answer: both – and it is glorious. If you listened to the RetroSensei Podcast before the hiatus started, you’ll know how excited I was for this title. I’m happy to say I have not been disappointed. Super Mario Maker is really a fresh and exciting release from Nintendo, and one I hope that opens the door for other “designer-type” games in the future.

To start with, the way the game is handled is quite clever. Upon first loading the disc, you are brought to tutorial of sorts. Essentially, you are plopped in front of the famous World 1-1 from the original Super Mario Bros and told to play the game as you normally would. However, after a few moments you reach a part of the level that hasn’t been finished. The game then guides you through the process of completing the level so that it can be conquered.

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When first starting out, you only have access to a limited amount of objects/assets, but as you continue to build and use the tools provided to you, you will eventually receive “deliveries” that essentially unlock more and more things to play with. The more you build, the faster you’ll unlock things. But no matter what, you’ll have everything unlocked after seven-consecutive days of playing.

You can design levels in a number of “Super Mario” styles. There’s the classic look and feel of the original Super Mario Bros. There’s also tools to design levels in the art-style of Super Mario 3 and Super Mario Wii U. To an extent, once you choose a look and feel, the level is locked to that style, but it is possible to incorporate certain elements from one style to the other. This makes for a very diverse palette of game options.

Once you have designed a level, you can save it or even upload to Nintendo’s servers so that other players can give it a go. However, in order to share the level, you first have to demonstrate the ability to complete it yourself. This serves as sort of a check-point to let other players know that any-given level is indeed winnable. Using Nintendo’s Miiverse service, you are able to “like” and comment on certain levels. This really provides a community feel to the game that is absent from many games available on Nintendo’s various platforms.

When it comes to player-created content, some of the levels that are out there are absolutely mind-blowing. The possibilities that exist here are really nearly limitless. This has led to some pretty ingenious content. But as expected, there’s also a fair share of silly and pointless content out there as well.

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When enjoying player-created content, there’s a number of ways to do it. If you have a friend who designs, or if you know the “code word” to a specific level, you can plug it in and play that way. Alternately, there are also lists of ranked levels that you can browse. But if you want to randomize things a bit, you can always take the 10-Mario or 100-Mario challenge. These “challenge” options gives you a bank of lives, either ten or one-hundred, and put you in front of random player-created levels. Successfully completing the challenge rewards you with special power-up that you cannot unlock through other means.

That brings me to another topic. Super Mario Maker does include Amiibo support. Amiibos are something I’ve actually not talked much about on this blog yet. Amiibos are small plastic little figurines embedded with a NFC chip. These figures can be scanned into certain games to unlock special content. In many games, these unlocks are often trivial. But Super Mario Maker has really done a nice job with Amiibo integration. When scanning an Amiibo, you unlock a special costume-based power-up that can be inserted into the level you are designing. For example, scanning a Link or Princess Zelda Amiibo will allow you to load a special mushroom that, when activated, will turn the player into either Link or Zelda. This has no advantages outside of being simply cosmetic, but it can end up being really quite fun and entertaining.

All in all, when it comes to this game – you’ll get out of it what you put in. My whole family has enjoyed this title. It’s a common occurrence in my household to try to make the trickiest, most punishing levels possible. Then sit and watch as the others try to plow their way through.  My youngest son is a HUGE fan of tossing Bullet Bills on top of bouncy Note Blocks and giggling with delight as his mother tries to navigate the endless sea of heat-seeking bullets.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Mastering the actual process of designing a level in Super Mario Maker is simple. If you can hold a stylus and point, you can build levels in Super Mario Maker. Building a GOOD level, well that’s entirely up to your own artistic vision and abilities. When playing player-created content you’ll often come across many cake-walk levels or short, playful proof-of-concept style stages. But, beware. There are PLENTY if torturous and downright difficult levels out there as well. Luckily, Nintendo does give you the option to skip certain levels altogether if they are too difficult.

Story: There really no story here aside from the standard “rescue the princess” trope. But really, Super Mario Maker is a sandbox, not an actual story-driven game.

Originality: Sandbox style games are not new. But typically, these user-created style games are restricted to the PC platform. Nintendo has finally found a way to give a complete toolkit to fans in a way that has never been seen before on home consoles. This is mostly possible due to the design on Wii U touchpad itself. It is my hope that we soon see other similar games from both Nintendo and other developers. Who wouldn’t want a “Zelda Dungeon Maker”??

Soundtrack: The soundtrack for Mario Maker contains familiar Mario tunes. But the game itself is filled with cute little touches that actually made me smile. When designing a level, the background music is subtle. But, placing a brick or object treats you to a little “pop” noise that is actually harmonized with the background music. This is a really neat little effect that’s difficult to explain in writing. But it’s another example of the type of thoughtfulness and quality that fans have come to expect from Nintendo.

Fun: I can say without a doubt that this game is one of the best purchases I’ve made for the Wii U. Perhaps even one of the best games I’ve encountered all year. It is truly fun for the whole family.

Graphics: The graphics vary here, but do so by design. You can create levels in an 8-bit Nintendo style or take advantage of the Wii U’s modern graphics and build a Super Mario Wii U level that is as gorgeous as anything else from the current generation.

Playcontrol: Building content with the Stylus and Wii U pad is a cinch. It feels natural and is easy to master. When playing through your levels, you can use optional game pads if you choose, but to be honest the Wii U gamepad also serves just fine for this purpose. I had no play control issues at all.

Mature Content: None. However, with any user-created content there is always the possibility that another player may create something questionable. But Nintendo does a pretty good job of policing this.

Value:  $60 is a lot of money for a game. But, these days that seems to be the standard for a current generation release. Regardless, considering the endless sea of content available online, this game, even at full price is well worth the money. I have no regrets whatsoever for spending my $60 on this title.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This game represents the best of what makes Nintendo great. It is a bold step for any developer to release a title like this. Not only did Nintendo do that, but they succeeded. There are hours and hours of fun to be found here already. Not to mention the future patches that Nintendo has promised that will only add more options in the future.

Available on: Wii U       * UPDATE:  Now for 3DS!

Announcement: The New 3DS

It’s PAX time. One of the geekiest tech conventions around, and this week Nintendo dropped a bombshell with the announcement of a revamped 3DS. The big news here is not a simple redesign, but what appears to actually be a whole new model.

Let’s start off easy, the new model features better battery life, a faster processor and an enhanced screen. The screen touts better 3D performance and now auto adjusts the brightness according to the lighting in the room. There’s also a new micro CD card slot on the back side of the device.
The biggest change to take note of here is the new “C-Stick” control. This is a new control stick, that seems to be pretty much designed for camera controls. There’s also a new set of “z” shoulder buttons. All of these new controls remind me a great deal of the old GameCube controller. Also, the New 3DS will come with build-in NFC for use with the upcoming Amiibo accessories.  (Think Skylanders – but for Wii U and 3DS).

The New 3DS also allows for changeable custom shells. This is a cute little feature that will make is easy to customize the look of your New 3Ds. Interestingly enough, a future firmware update will also add background themes to the software UI. I expect to see themes and shells that go hand in hand.

So far, the New 3DS has only been confirmed for Japan. But there’s really no doubt that it will makes its way to the US. So the big question here is; is this just a newer model or is it REALLY a whole new system. I tend to feel the latter. While a boost in power, and a redesigned screen can certainly suggest a simple upgrade, the new controls really make this feel like something brand new.

A few of the new games announced already hint that a NEW 3DS will be required. For example, a port of Xenoblade Chronicles, and newly announced Final Fantasy game.

There’s a lot of moaning on the new about yet ANOTHER flavor of the 3DS. But personally, I’m not complaining. I feel that the time is right for an upgrade, and assuming that this system retains the backwards compatibility with DS carts, the price price-point of $150-$200 feels about right.

I plan to pick on up shortly after release.

Review: Bravely Default – The Fairy Flies

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Wow. This review has been a long time coming. I purchased this game when it was released in February and I’ve been slowly grinding away at it ever since. Now, after almost 70 hours of game time I have finally finished this beast. Here are my thoughts.

First, let’s talk about what Bravely Default is; here we have a classic JRPG style game by none other than the legends of the genre, Square Enix. I should state that this game is the “spiritual successor” to the previously released DS title Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light. While it is not a direct sequel, there are apparently a few throwback Easter Eggs scattered about this game for fans to discover. (Note: I have not played Four Heroes, but it is now on my to-do list). That being said, this game is pretty much a pure Final Fantasy title in all but name. It’s very Final Fantasy-like in terms of storytelling and gameplay. Several classic Final Fantasy character classes and artwork are present in the game as well. One small element of controversy worth mentioning is censorship. The western release of the game included some censorship in terms of the character’s ages (to avoid teenage romance) and a few adjustments to character costumes to make them a bit toned down (less sexy). Personally, I find this overall silly. I’ve seen the uncensored images from the Japanese game, there’s very little difference. Don’t feel like you’re missing anything important.

The game revolves around four young heroes on their journey to save the world from chaos. To do this, they must restore light to four dimmed elemental crystals. The stars of title are:

Tiz – A young orphan who’s hometown and brother we’re swallowed up by a massive chasm that was caused by troubled Earth Crystal.

Agnès – The young Wind Vestal (priestess), who along with her fairy companion intends to restore the failing crystals to their former glory.

Ringabel – A mysterious ladies man with no recollection of his past. He carries with him an unusual journal that seems to predict the future of our heroes.

Edea – Daughter of the Templar of Eternia, the nation currently terrorizing the homeland of the other three heroes. Disgusted with the actions of her own kingdom, she has joined the others.

As the game progresses and our heroes continue to awaken the crystals they inch deeper into the web of ancients secrets that make up their very existence. The game is very rich on storyline and it’s much better to experience it firsthand than to read a summary of it here. But the info above should be enough to give you the basic idea.

 

First off, let me start by saying that this game takes full advantage of the 3DS platform. Moreso than any other game I’ve played. Naturally, the game itself is available in 3D. There are also pre-game and post-game movies that feature augmented reality. Meaning, the movies are seen through your eyes, and you can move the 3DS in a 360 degree range of motion to change the perspective of the action.

In many titles, the Streetpass feature of the 3DS is either ignored or poorly implemented. Not in this game. You see, early in the game, Tiz sets out on a mission to rebuild his hometown. To do so, you must collect residents. This is accomplished through  the Streetpass feature. Every time you tag another Bravely Default player, you get another resident for your village. As your population increases, you can assign villagers to clean up the area and rebuild shops. The ultimate goal here is to have the town completely restored. Thus, unlocking exclusive items and equipment for sale.

Aside from the village mini-game, other players that you encounter can also be summoned to help in battle. Likewise, you have the ability to send special moves and tactics out to help your friends as well. If you don’t have very many real-life friends that play the game, the Nintendo Network will send four players to you daily. So no matter what, you’ll be able to use the online features to participate in this functionality.

 

Aside from this, there’s also one other online feature worth mentioning: Nemesis monsters. Also included with your daily Nintendo Network transmissions are special optional monster battles. These beasts invade your town and you can battle them at will. These creatures are actually modeled after boss monsters from the Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light game. Defeating them will often grant you rewards that increase character stats. Upon receiving a Nemesis in your town, you can choose to lock it in place to fight later, or send it back out into the wild to be caught by another player.

All of this player summoning and Nemesis monster business may not seem to make much sense at first. But as you approach the end of the game storyline, you come to realize that it all does tie in well with the story of the game.

Important note: there is a free demo of the game available for download from the 3DS shop. The demo really serves mostly as a tutorial for the game’s unique combat system. But by completing the demo, you can also unlock some nice little bonuses in the retail game. None of these are exclusive in any way. So there’s no need to feel obliged to play the demo first if you’re ready to jump right in.

So, you might be asking yourself; What up with that name, “Bravely Default“. What does that even mean? This is reference to the combat system. For the most part, combat in this game is handled just like you’d expect from a JRPG title. Turn based combat; you can choose to either use a physical attack, cast a spell, or use a recovery item, etc. The difference here is, you can also choose between two additional options: Brave or Default.

Brave allows you to add an extra move to your turn. You can choose to use up to four Braves at a time. So in theory, you could make five attacks in a single round. The downside to this is if you blow all your moves in one round, you will be defenseless until you have earned those moves back. So, spend five moves now, you have to wait four more turns before that character can move again.

Default is just the opposite, you forego a move for one turn. Doing so raises your defense, but also adds an extra move to your bank. So using these methods you can expend and reserve extra turns per combat round. I seems confusing at first, but you figure it out pretty quick. Learning how to master the Brave and Default system is a big part of the game. Good players will learn to make the most of these options to overcome challenging boss monsters.

Another important mechanic of this game is the Job System. This will be familiar to fans of Final Fantasy. As you play through the game, you will have the ability to unlock new jobs (classes) to equip on your characters. All the classics are represented here, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, Ninja, Summoner, etc. Each job features certain abilities and weapon specialization. As you progress through the game, your characters earn both Experience Points and Job points. Your character and jobs level independently of each other. As your job levels up, your character will learn unique abilities that can be used even if you switch to another job later on. For example, you can be a Pirate who can also use White Magic (assuming that character learned the ability previously). Mastering the job system and learning to mix and match abilities is just another secret to overcoming all the obstacles that the game will throw at you.

I know that’s quite a lot to digest, but I feel it’s important to touch on what makes this game unique. Bravely Default is quite an interesting title. It’s presented in a classic JRPG style, with a new twist on time-tested game mechanics. Graphically, the game is beautiful. I’m not a big fan of the 3D option so I don’t use it for daily play, but from what I saw – this game implements the 3D feature elegantly.

When it comes to audio, Bravely Default also earns high marks here. The game is almost completely voice acted, and very well done at that. The music is simply stellar. So much so that I went out and found a imported copy of the soundtrack.

If I have any complaints about the game at all, it would have to be with the length of the title. As I mentioned earlier, I completed the game at right around 70 hours. Now, of course I took the time to unlock every job, level everything to the max and explore every dungeon. The game has two endings and I made sure to experience both. But even so, the game feels a bit drawn out. I thought that I was coming close to the end about 40 hours in. Only to find out – nope. Not even close. – You see, it’s hard for me to explain the problem without spoiling the story somewhat. But you get a point in the game, where you find yourself forced to repeat the same process over and over and over. For a total of four times. Now while this does factor into the game story, it feels a bit excessive. Regardless, it’s safe to say that you certainly get your money’s worth.

Overall, Bravely Default is nothing short of a masterpiece. If you’re a fan of the genre and you own a 3DS, there’s no reason not to own this title. It’s a no-brainer.

 

Difficulty: Variable–  The game features a number of ways to customize the difficulty. There are general Easy, Normal and Hard modes. Additionally, you can disable certain features of the game such as quest indicators. You also have the ability to control the monster encounter rate. Making random battles more frequent or eliminating them all together.

Story: This is real reason you will want to play the game. The storyline here is nothing short of epic. All the elements you’d expect from a JRPG are present here: otherworldly evil, magical crystals, ancient sages and young heroes. It’s all here and it’s done just as brilliantly as ever.

Originality: Square Enix has done a great job of taking a time-tested formula and giving it a new life. This accomplished both due to some fresh ideas and due to the unique features of the 3DS.

Soundtrack: The music and voice acting in the game are superb. I cant praise the soundtrack enough. It sounds excellent through 3DS speakers, but even better if you’re able to use headphones. Seriously, it’s that good.

Fun: I really enjoyed this game a lot. I do admit, that about halfway through some fatigue started to set in. I feel like the game is a bit long in the tooth. But once you manage to get past that hump, it’s back to having fun again. Despite the long hours invested into the game, I was still wanting more when it was all over.

Graphics: The graphics are very well done. The environments are excellent and the spell effects really awe inspiring. I’m not a big fan of the 3D capabilities, but as I said in the review, they are implemented quite well in this game. So if that’s your cup of tea, you’ll be sure to be pleased.

Playcontrol: No problems here at all. The game controls feel natural and I did not experience any issues here at all.

Mature Content: No Concern – Fantasy violence, some occult-inspired monster names, suggestive themes are few and far between and would likely be overlooked by young players.

Value:  At the time of this writing, the game retails for $30. Well worth the price. Especially when you take the time to consider the number of hours of entertainment this game provides.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – A game this perfect doesn’t come along often. When the only complaint I can think of is that there’s too much game to play, you know that the developers have scored a win. That being said, this is really a title designed for the hardcore JRPG player. Casual players will probably find the game too big and too complex. Be warned going in.

Currently available on: Nintendo 3DS

Other Reviews In This Series:

Bravely Default  –   Bravely Second

Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light

The End of the 16-bit Era

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As the 90’s rolled on, the original NES was eventually put out to pasture and completely eclipsed by its successor. Years went by and new games were released, but by the mid-90’s my interest was starting to wane.

The last game I remember playing to completion on the SNES was probably Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest. This title was a simplified RPG, intended as an introduction to the genre. I remember playing it and being slightly let down. I felt that it was “Final Fantasy” in name only. And, while not a bad game, it didn’t live up to the reputation.

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I also noticed around that time, that the games featured in Nintendo Power Magazine started to change. Classic concepts such as platform games started to give way to newer styles such as fighting games and realistic racing games. Sports games started to be pushed a lot harder than they had been previously. The Nintendo kids were starting to grow up, and Nintendo as a company was not sure what to do about it. Censorship and other issues forced Nintendo to lose a little bit of ground to competitors. And let’s not forget, the dawn of the personal computer had also arrived.

At this point in my teenage years, my interests began to shift from cartoonish style gaming to things much more tangible… like girls. I began spending less time playing video games and more time practicing on my guitar. Eventually, the NES and SNES got put in the closet and were only taken out when friends were over. Even then, our play shifted from things like Mario to multiplayer fighting games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat II

 

Even my trusty Game Boy was eventually replaced by a Walkman as a form of “entertainment on the go”. The last game I really remember spending time with on my Game Boy was the Final Fantasy Adventure. (Another name-dropper. This game, while good, was not a Final Fantasy title. But instead, was first in what would come to be known as the Mana series. – I decided not to include FF Adventure in my playthrough reviews because a remake of the game has since been released for the GBA).

When I did feel the urge to play, I found myself sitting in front of my mother’s PC playing some of the later games in the Wizardry series. For me, it seemed that I had matured past my video game days. And for a couple of years, I didn’t spend much time gaming at all.

That changed in the latter-half of my highschool career when I built my first PC. That was when I discovered that PC gaming was more than text-based adventures and frame-by-frame fantasy games. It was the dawn of the First-Person Shooter.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing mainly on my early days of PC gaming. I’ll still have a few modern reviews thrown in here and there, so fear not console-lovers.

Also, this leaves a bit of a gap. As discussed in the a couple of my recent Retro Reviews, there were a number of games that I missed out on. Only recently did I  take my first stab at Super Punch Out! for example. There’s a number of great games from the 16-bit era that I simply have not experienced, that are now considered classics. Star Fox, Earthbound, and the Mega Man X series to name a few. I plan to catch up to some of these in due time, and I’ll feature them all right here. But for the meantime, I plan to have this blog follow my own personal journey through gaming.

Review: Kid Icarus – Of Myths and Monsters

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I’ve had the last few days off of work so I’ve taken advantage of this time to knock out a few of the shorter games on my to-do list. One of them being another classic that I somehow missed out on the first time around, Kid Icarus: of Myths and Monsters.

This game is a sequel to the original Kid Icarus, but was lost in obscurity for reasons that I can’t understand. The title received pretty good reviews at release but I never once saw a copy of it for sale or knew anyone who actually owned it. Recently, the game was released a digital download for the Nintendo 3DS and I finally got a chance to play it for the first time.

Overall, this title is pretty true to the original game. Here we have the goddess Palutena receiving a vision that Angel Land will soon be invaded by a powerful demon. In preparation for this, she commands Pit to undertake training. Most of the game consists of Pits working his way thru the trials, but climaxes when the demon invasion actually happens. Much like the original game, the last level see’s Pit equipped with the sacred treasures so he may do battle with the demon Orcos.

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The game features play that is very similar to the NES original. There are a few differences that are very welcome changes. First of all, the levels are free-roaming. Meaning you can go up, down, left, right and back again. The original game did not allow any backtracking at all.  Also, the difficulty in this title has been lowered a bit. So while still challenging at times, it’s not nearly as frustrating as the original.  The password system is also gone, now your progress is saved at the end of each level.

Players of the original Kid Icarus will certainly feel at home with the environment here, but there is also enough new about the game so that it does not feel like a re-hash or a cheap port.

Overall, I feel that the game is actually a bit of an improvement over the first, but it does seem to lack some of the charm of the first Kid Icarus title. I think perhaps, if this game has been presented in a color 8-bit format, it would have better represented what Kid Icarus should have been.

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Difficulty: Medium  –  This game is much easier that the original, but it still has a bit of challenge at times. Players who mastered the NES game or have a lot of experience with platform titles should have no problem completing the game in a few hours.

Story: As with most action games of this era, the background story exists mostly in the instruction manual and a brief intro at the beginning of the game. While there’s no Medusa this time around, the demonic Orcos makes for a really great bad guy.

Originality: In many ways this game is a rehash of the original with a few welcome updates to the gameplay. This is an example of “improvement progression”.

Soundtrack: The music in this game is very similar in style to the original. So thematically, it’s well done. However, neither the original game nor this title have tunes that I found to be very enjoyable. The music is quirky and peppy, but somehow seems a bit out of place to me.

Fun:I actually enjoyed this game a lot more than I thought I would. It is very dated, but I feel that’s easily overlooked. It’s not near as frustrating as it’s counterpart.

Graphics: I feel the game suffers a bit here. This title was released in 1991, The Game Boy was two years old at this point and many developers had a good handle on things.The graphics are clear and not particularly bad, but overall it’s a bit uninspiring. There’s a few exceptions, some of the bosses are well drawn, and the final boss is pretty cool looking. But most of the trash enemies seem poorly rendered. Same for the background scenes.

Playcontrol: This game controls quite well for a portable title. Motions seem quick and smooth. An improvement over the NES game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3Myths and Monsters is a good game, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table and there are many other similar games that seem to be more entertaining. I feel that it is a step in the right direction for the franchise, but it would be many years until fans would receive another game in the series. The game suffers a bit graphically and the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired.

Currently available on: 3DS eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

Kid IcarusMyths and Monsters – Uprising

Review: Super Punch-Out!!

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After a several weeks of intense SNES RPG action, I decided to take a step back and relax with something a bit simpler. I was browsing thru my Virtual Console library and came across a game that I purchased a couple years ago, but never actually played. That’s right, Super Punch-Out! is a classic SNES title, but one that I never experienced in my youth. So this review is based on my first playthrough ever of the title.

Now, while I never played the Super Punch-Out! in my younger days, I was a rabid fan of the original. I consider myself to a Veteran Punch-Out! Player. I figured my experiences with Punch-Out! would have me somewhat prepared for this game, but I found that not to be the case.

Super Punch-Out! is a direct sequel, and in many ways is similar to the original. You play as Little Mac (although he looks a bit different in this game), there is a cast of colorful opponents – each with their own quirks and strategy, but the feel of the game is very different.

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First of all, instead of three one-minute rounds, we now have one three-minute round. This makes the fights feel a little longer and also keeps the momentum going. But at the same time, it makes it harder to escape from a bad situation. There’s no breaks and no rest between beatings. Also, the controls work quite a bit differently. Blocking and dodging is not as simplistic as it was in Punch-Out!

The first time I played the game, I got my ass handed to me on the second fighter, Bear Hugger. Even more so on the following fight. The game controls felt a bit sluggish to me, when compared to the original. Keeping in mind that these are two different games, I took a moment to regroup and re-analyze the situation. Eventually, I was able to get a feel for the way things work in this game and I started to get better.

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The best part of the game is the cast of colorful boxers. A handful of characters from the first game also make an appearance here, but there’s a whole new slew of comical opponents.  The 16-bit graphics also prove to be a plus here, as the characters have much more detail and there’s even some short bits of recorded speech thrown in here and there (which at the time was really something special).

There are three standard circuits that you can progress through during the game. However, if you manage to complete all three with zero losses, you unlock a special secret circuit that features some really challenging fights.

For those that are unaware, the Punch-Out! games actually debuted in the 80’s as arcade machines. When Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! was released on the NES, it was very different from the arcade titles. This game sort of restores the looks and feel of the arcade versions. But I’m not really sure if I like it. I found Super Punch-Out! to be entertaining, but nothing really memorable.

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Difficulty: Hard  – I found this game to be a bit tougher than the original title, and overall to be a pretty good challenge. It starts off easy, but the difficulty increases with each new fight. The secret matches are really rough. The game can be pretty frustrating early on, but once you get the hang of things, it does get a bit easier to deal with. Each boxer has their own strategy.

Story: There’s really not much to say here. It’s a comical boxing sim. It is what it is. It doesn’t really need much of a plot.

Originality: A lot of concepts in this game are carried over from the arcade titles and the original NES game. However, it manages to stay fresh enough that it doesn’t feel recycled.

Soundtrack: The in-game music is fitting, but not particularly memorable. Not good, not bad.

Fun: For those who enjoy silly characters and like a challenge, this game can be quite fun. Some younger players or inexperienced gamers may quickly be frustrated.

Graphics: The art work is colorful and very well done. It’s a vast improvement over the original game. This time around, we have a semi-transparent Mac. This is made possible due to the graphic capability of the SNES. Little Mac is all grown up!

Playcontrol: Players expecting a play-feel similar to the NES Punch-Out! will be in for a surprise. This game has it’s own feel. But once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to handle. The controls are responsive and I did not experience any lag or playcontrol frustrations.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 Super Punch-Out! is not a bad game. But it’s not an especially good game either. It suffers a bit by standing in the shadow of it’s predecessor. The characters are entertaining and memorable, but the game itself was largely uninspiring. For those who love first-party Nintendo titles, it’s certainly worth picking up digitally.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console

Other Review In This Series:

Punch Out!!Super Punch Out!! – Punch Out!! Wii

Review: Final Fantasy VI

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Here we are with the third and last Final Fantasy title in the 16-bit era, Final Fantasy VI. This game also marks the end of the “number confusion” debacle. Originally released in the US as “Final Fantasy III“, this was the west’s second taste of 16-bit FF glory.

These days, there’s a few options for the people looking to play the game. The original FF3 version is available on the Wii virtual console. The Playstation Network sports another, better rendition of the game – complete with the correct title and an improved translation. However, the latest release is Final Fantasy VI Advance for the GBA. This version features updated visuals, an improved translation, as well as some additional content (spells, espers and optional dungeon). Having never played this version before, I chose the GBA version for this playthrough.

The game begins with two Imperial soldiers escorting a mysterious girl into a town. The three of them are piloting walking war-machines (aka Magi-Tech Armor). It is revealed that they have been sent to capture a frozen beast, known as an Esper, that was recently uncovered on the outskirts of town. The three of them encounter resistance from the locals and it is revealed that girl is under some sort of mind control. The Esper reacts to the attack and fights back, in the scuffle, the mind control over the girl is broken. But she is left suffering from a case of amnesia. She is taken in by a local who recruits her into a secret group of rebels. The story unfolds from here…

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Like it’s predecessors, Final Fantasy VI features a lush and brilliantly crafted storyline. It is often considered to be one of the best in the series. The game features a cast of characters that are impossible to forget, each with their own background and personality. While this has become a staple of the series, it really shines here. This game also features one of the most sadistic and insane arch-villains in video game history. I’m not going to spoil anything, but even in the old days where Nintendo censored just about everything, the wartime tactics of Kefka were jaw-dropping.

As if the story wasn’t enough, it’s made even more potent due to the amazing game soundtrack. Again, I’m tempted to say it is also, best in the series. I’ve been told that some selections of the score are even taught in Japanese schools beside other classical music masterpieces. (I have no idea if that is true, but that’s what I’ve heard…)


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The graphics are certainly a step up from FFIV and FFV. They are slightly improved again in the GBA version. Detail on the character sprites are done pretty well, but most gorgeous art in the game comes from the scenery and monster design.

Much like Final Fantasy IV, there are no pre-set character jobs, but each character has their own role and set of skills. In early parts of the game, your hand is held a bit when it comes to party formation, but later on in the title you have the ability to create a group using the entire roster. This is where personal preference and deep understanding of each character and their abilities really shines.

Having played this time a number of times over the years, I was excited to see what changes the GBA version brought. There are four new Espers available to Terra as wells a several spells and a new dungeon. The dungeon features an optional and ultimate boss, the Kaiser Dragon. This boss is legendary among fans because it was discovered to have been coded into the original game, but there was no way to encounter it. Apparently cut out of the title at the last minute, it is finally available for those wanting a real challenge.

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Difficulty: Medium  – This game is on par with the rest of the series. The patient will survive. Players can grind their way to ease if they really feel so inclined. But the real trick to the game is learning each character and their abilities and then applying them to overcome obstacles. The new optional content in the GBA is quite difficult and is really included for veteran players.

Story: Final Fantasy VI features what can arguably be called one of the greatest RPG storylines of all time, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s that good. My summary above covers about the first five minutes of the game, if I were to try to summarize this entire plot, we’d be here for hours. And the kicker is, there’s never a dull moment. This was the title that showed the world why Final Fantasy would become synonymous with RPG genre as a whole.

Originality: In reality, there’s not a lot of new ideas brought to the table. Everything in this title, storyline aside, has been seen elsewhere in the series. However, the biggest difference here is that everything has now been polished to perfection.

Soundtrack: One of Uematsu’s best works, and arguably one of the best game soundtracks to date. I literally have three different version of the game soundtrack in my personal library. Everything about the music in this game is sheer perfection. It’s truly art.

Fun: This is one game that never leaves me disappointed. It’s very fun and addictive title. So much so that it is often the title I recommend to those looking for a starting point in the series. The story sucks you in and the gameplay makes sure you don’t let go until the very end.

Graphics: Again, an improvement of the previous entry in the series. This game pretty much set the bar for RPGs in terms of what to expect visually. As I mentioned above, the monster art and scenery are amazing. The Mystic Forest area of the game was, at it’s time, breathtaking.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should with one exception. The character Sabin features some special abilities that rely on fighting-style button combos to execute. While these are fairly easy to input on Nintendo style gamepads, I’ve found them to be a bit trickier on Sony hardware. Nothing major, but worthy of mention.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – For many players, myself included, this game *IS* Final Fantasy. I am a fan of the entire series, but for me, VI represents everything that made the series great. The storyline, the music, the art – it’s all here. If you are looking to escape reality, or if you’re curious what all the hype is about, this is the game to play.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console and PSN.

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Final Fantasy V

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Onward with the 16-bit Final Fantasy playthrough, we have one of the more obscure entries in the early series, Final Fantasy V. Again, this is another title that was not available in the US upon its original release. Released in 1992, North American players did not get a taste of the game until 1999 when the title was bundled together with Final Fantasy VI for a Playstation compilation called the Final Fantasy Anthology. This collection was my first taste of the game.

Sadly, I can’t claim it was a very enjoyable experience. I never owned an original Playstation. My first Sony system was the Playstation 2. Final Fantasy V and the PS2 didn’t get along very well. There was a terrible graphical corruption bug that would rear its ugly head 90% of the time you tried to save or load your game in FFV. This only occurred on the PS2. Determined not to let that hold me back, I eventually memorized the layout of the save screen and was able to navigate the corrupted menus blindly.

Luckily, this issue was eliminated with a later release for the Game Boy Advance. For the sake of this playthrough (and my sanity), I used the GBA version. Like many of the other re-releases in the series, the remake contains some content not found in the original game. Aside from a much improved translation, the GBA version also includes four new jobs (more on this later) and as usual, an optional dungeon.

Before continuing, I will note that while I consider the GBA remake to be the definitive version of the game, there is actually a newer version of FFV released on iOS. Personally, I don’t consider iPhones or iPads to be viable gaming devices. I play and enjoy iOS games, but I feel like playing something like Final Fantasy on a touch-screen is far from ideal. That being said, the iOS version features improved graphics. There has also been talk of a 3DS version, but at the time of this writing, nothing has materialized.

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Final Fantasy V focuses very heavily on story. This playthrough took me over 40 hours, the longest so far. The game focuses mainly on a young man named Bartz and his pet chocobo. Bartz witnesses the crash of a meteor in a nearby forest and decides to investigate. There he meets a strange old man who is seemingly suffering from amnesia. The two travel together to a nearby kingdom where their adventure begins. Throughout the game’s story, more heroes join the fold and team learns that a magical seal that has long kept an evil warrior at bane has been shattered. As one might imagine, there’s a lot more to it than that, and like all the other games in the series, the story should be experienced firsthand and not read.

One interesting element this game brings back is the Job System from FFIII. Throughout the game new lobs are unlocked and can be assigned to characters at will. Over time, skills from the job equipped can be permanently learned by that character. The original release of the game contained 22 jobs, while the GBA version has 26.

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Graphically, the game is on par with FFIV. The GBA version does feature slightly smoother graphics, but nothing too noticeable. When it comes to music, the game has some very interesting pieces. Overall, the soundtrack is fitting and very well done, but I do feel it pales in comparison to the wonderful score of Final Fantasy IV.

With me, typically, my favorite part of playing a Final Fantasy game is the story and the atmosphere. This game, is an odd exception. My favorite part about FFV is actually the gameplay. The Job System is very well done and lots of fun. Grinding away to unlock abilities might be part of what made my playthrough so long. The storyline of FFV is great, don’t misunderstand. There’s plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested, but overall, it is probably my least favorite in the series. Many people may disagree, but that’s just my opinion. It’s hard to follow up a game like Final Fantasy IV, and I feel like it shows with this title.

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Difficulty: Medium  – The same rules apply here as with the rest of the series, patience is key. Mastering the Job System is the trick to the whole game. In today’s world of digital hand-holding, I wonder how that will sit with many younger players. For this reason, I feel that FFV is a little harder than other entries in the early series. But still, overall much easier to master than some of the twitchy platformers of the 16-bit era.

Story: Final Fantasy V features a very rich and detailed story. It’s excellent, but just not as good as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, even the worst Final Fantasy storyline beats most other RPGs hands down. It just didn’t light the same fire in me as other titles in the series. Regardless, the game does have some very memorable characters. Lenna always puts a smile on my face.

Originality: A lot of this game is borrowed from other titles, and that’s ok. The job system is revamped enough from FFIII to seem original. But other elements of the game do tend to fall into the “standard Final Fantasy experience”.

Soundtrack: Good score, but not great. Not my favorite that’s for sure.

Fun: As I stated earlier, the job system can be a lot of fun even if the rest of the game drags a bit. I did enjoy my time playing the game, but I felt like it was a little too long

Graphics: The graphics are about what you’d expect. The GBA provide a nice little boost and of course the iOS version is beautiful. It’s a mixed bag depending on the version you’re playing. I do feel that the original developers could have been able to squeeze a little more “pretty” out of the game if they tried harder. But, the art is certainly acceptable.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – As I mentioned, FFV is a good game. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s certainly worthy of playing. Personally, I don’t feel it reflects the best the series has to offer. Even though it is currently out of print, if you can get your hands on the GBA version, this is the one I recommend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a more modern remake.

Currently available on:  PSN, Steam

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics:

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia:

Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia