Review: Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy

The release date for Final Fantasy Dissidia NT is just around the corner. So today, I present my look back at the biggest Dissidia title thus far; Dissidia 012.

This game is very similar to its predecessor.  In fact, it’s actually somewhat of a retelling and expansion of the first game. In the first title, the story revolves around an epic final battle between the gods Cosmos and Chaos. That decisive conflict is actually the thirteenth cycle of what has been an ongoing war between the two deities. Dissidia 012 actually starts during the twelfth cycle – so it serves as prequel. But then the game continues and actually retells the events of the original Dissidia. In this way, it can be argued that Dissidia 012 acts as a retcon to the original game.

Personally, that’s sort of the way I see it. The game itself is largely identical to the original, but with improvements, added characters, and newer features. Having played both, I feel that Dissidia 012 essentially makes the original title irrelevant.

 

With that in mind, I’m going to focus this review on what is new and different. I’d rather do this than rehash nearly identical elements between the two games. So if you have not already done so, you may wish to check out my review on the original game here: Dissidia Final Fantasy.

As I mentioned, this title is largely a refinement. All of the features from the original Dissidia are present here; Mognet, Play Plans, Friend Cards, etc. All of the characters from the original game are also still present and playable. However, we do now have some additional characters to enjoy:

Kain (FF4)   *  Gilgamesh (FF5)  *  Tifa (FF7)  *  Laguna (FF8)  *  Yuna (FF10)  *  Prishe (FF11)  *  Vaan (FF12)  *  Lightning (FF13)  *  Feral Chaos (Unlockable New Character)

Combat works in Dissidia 012 just like it did in the original title. However, some characters now have new special moves in their arsenal. Also, Dissdia 012 also offers a new “assist” option. This allows you to occasionally summon a second character to the battlefield to aid you in combat. I should stop here and mention that there’s also a special demo version of the game available for free on PSN (Dissidia 012 Prologus) . This demo is actually a prequel chapter to the main game. Completing the demo unlocks an additional Assist-Only character, Aerith from Final Fantasy VII and allows her to be imported to the retail game itself. Playing the demo can also unlock various items that can be imported to the main game. With this in mind, I consider playing the demo to crucial to the Dissdia 012 experience.

Despite cloning most elements from it’s predecessor. Dissdia 012 also introduces two big changes. The first being the addition of a World Map to the single player campaign. During the story mode, you can move around on an open world and interact with NPCs, hunt down random encounters or move to different battlefields. For me, this is a welcome change. It is reminiscent of older games in the Final Fantasy series, which is something that is near and dear to my heart. Second, this game also introduces an alternate mode of combat. Instead of controlling every move your character makes during battle, you can instead opt to play in “RPG mode”. With this mode enabled, your character acts on their own. However, you control what type of actions they will be performing using a menu. For example, you can choose to have them “Fight” which is equal to a Bravery Attack. You switch your heroes’ mode of attack at will. So you can move from Bravery Attacks to Finishers, or from Flee to Defend, etc. Special moves, summons and assists must still be manually executed. This mode of play is designed for players who do not have much experience with action based fighting games.

The other major change is the renaming of the Duel Colosseum that was present in the original Dissidia. In this game, this mode of play is called Labyrinth. It’s essentially a refined version of the Colosseum with a more RPG-based focus. Again, this mode of play is only available after completing the main storyline.

All in all, this game is basically Dissidia Final Fantasy version 2.0. If you’re curious about these titles but you have to choose one of the two, Dissidia 012 is a no brainer. The biggest issue you will face is that this is a very multiplayer focused title and it’s age means it will difficult to find others still interested in playing. This is a problem that is only going to compound with the release of Dissidia NT. Thankfully, the single player mode will always be there for those who want to experience the actual story itself.

Difficulty: Variable –  Just like with Dissidia Final Fantasy, the story mode difficulty will vary depending on your actions. As you play through the story you can make choices that render your journey either easier or harder. Enemies do get more difficult as the game progresses, but you can always grind and level up to make things a bit easier. Optional battles are more difficult, but can be avoided. Of course, when playing multiplayer against other gamers, the difficultly is will vary.

Story: The storyline here is a retelling and expansion of the original Dissidia. The cutscenes and script are compelling, but when compared with other Final Fantasy titles, it does come off as very shallow. On the other side of the coin, when compared with other fighting games, the storyline is superb. So, there’s that.

Originality: A large portion of what is found in this game is an exact clone of the previous Dissidia. However, new features and refinements make this game an acceptable revamp.

Soundtrack: Again, one of the high points of the game. Dissidia 012 brings back a number of classic Final Fantasy scores and renders them in new and fresh arrangements. The voice acting is spot-on and very well done.

Fun: Fans of brawlers will find a lot to enjoy here. This time, even RPG fans have something to look forward too. The best time will be had by those with friends who can engage in the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Graphics: Dissidia 012 is an amazingly rendered game. Perhaps one of the best titles graphically on the PSP.

Playcontrol:  I’m happy to announce that some headway was made between this and the first Dissidia game. The camera is not nearly as annoying and the controls offer more customization.

Downloadable Content: YES – This title offers vanity costumes for playable characters and add-on soundtrack packs for sale via PSN.  There’s also a free “Demo” that actually serves as a prequel to the events in the game.

Mature Content:  No Concerns – Minor language. 

Value:  Finding a physical copy of this game may be difficult and pricing on physical copies can vary. The game is available for purchase digitally on PSN for $10. For the amount of content in the title, this price is worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – This is the game that the first Dissidia title should have been. It’s the perfect mix between a fighting game and an RPG. The storyline is improved, the visuals and soundtrack are superb. The nagging play control issues that plagued the first game are nearly non-existent. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and you also enjoy brawler style games, this one is worth is a look.

Available on: PSN, PSP,

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: Dissidia Final Fantasy

As the upcoming release for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT approaches, I’m taking a moment to veer off of my regular playthrough schedule to take a look back at the original Dissidia titles.  Naturally, I’m starting with Dissidia Final Fantasy which was released for the Playstation Portable in 2009. In case you’re not familiar with the title, I’ll take a second to explain. Dissidia is, at its heart, a fighting/brawler game. It fills its roster using various characters from the Final Fantasy series.  On the surface, it seems like a cheap attempt by Square Enix to cash in on the brawler game craze by simply slapping a Final Fantasy label on a fighting game. But in truth, there’s actually quite a bit of depth to the game itself.

Fighting games are a genre that I’ve never really covered on this site before. So it may seem a bit backwards to start with something like Dissidia, which is a modern 3D brawler. Essentially this means that characters do battle in full three-dimensional areas. They can move north, south, east, west, and up and down. Characters can do battle with their feet on the ground or while soaring though the air. The main goal is to reduce your opponent’s hit points to zero and thus, win the battle. Dissidia is certainly not the first 3D fighting game, but a number of things help it stand apart from other similar titles.  First, being a Final Fantasy game, there are RPG elements. Characters can level up, equip various weapons and armor, and even learn new skills. Second, there’s actually somewhat of a storyline that attempts to bring all of these characters together in a sensible way.

Unlike other fighting games I’ve played over the years, battles in Dissidia are not as simple as just hitting your opponent until they’re dead. There are two main types of attacks in Dissidia: Bravery attacks and Health Attacks. And each character has two gauges: Bravery Points and Hit Points. Bravery points are basically “armor points”. In order to deal damage to your enemy, you must first execute a number of Bravery Attacks. Doing so successfully will leech Bravery Points from your opponent and add them your Bravery gauge. When full, you execute a special attack that does massive damage to your enemy’s hit point, but leaves you in an extremely vulnerable state. As a result, the game is just as much about stat management as it is about combat technique. Once you’ve depleted your opponent’s HP gauge, you can execute a Final Blow that finishes them off.

Naturally, this type of fighting action makes Dissidia a great multiplayer game. You can do battle with other players in a number of ways. There are lobby servers that allow for battle matching via the PSP’s wireless connection using a Friend Code system. Players are able to create custom matches and even exchange “Friend Cards” – which allow you to collect special items.  However, if you’re looking for something a little simpler, there’s even a special “Arcade Mode” that strips out all of the RPG elements (armor and weapons) and simply allows two players to do battle on equal ground wirelessly. This is perfect for quick matches. But it is advised that you first complete the game’s single player “Story Mode”. This way you can earn enough points to unlock all of the characters in the game. (Completing the Story Mode also unlocks the ability to participate in something called the Duel Colosseum – a mode of play that rewards participants with trade materials.)

That’s right, when first starting Dissidia, there’s a limited number of playable characters. To unlock the rest, players will need to progress through the game’s Story Mode. This allows you to earn points that can then be spent on purchasing new characters, costumes, and perks. There’s also a few hidden characters that are only available after meeting certain special requirements.

The complete character roster is as follows:

Warrior of Light (FF1)  *  Garland (FF1)  *  Firion (FF2)  *  The Emperor (FF2)  *  Onion Knight (FF3)  *  Cloud of Darkness (FF3)  *  Cecil (FF4)  *  Golbez (FF4)  *  Bartz (FF5)
Exdeath (FF5)  *  Terra (FF6)  *  Kefka (FF6)  *  Cloud (FF7)  *  Sephiroth (FF7)  *  Squall (FF8)  *  Ultimecia (FF8)  *  Zidane (FF9)  *  Kuja (FF9)  *  Tidus (FF10)  *  Jecht (FF10)
Shantotto (FF11)  *  Gabranth (FF12)

 

On its surface, Dissidia may seem like a simple fighting game. But when you consider all of the RPG elements, unlockables, and social trading, it’s easy to see that there’s actually quite a bit more than meets the eye. For example, the game also features a fun calendar system. When starting the game for the first time, you will be asked to select a day of the week in which you would most likely play. This day becomes your Bonus Day. Playing the game on your Bonus Day grants you a special point reward. Also, the game features something called the “Play Plan”. Players will be asked to select if they are Casual, Average or Hardcore players. This selection will determine the frequency in which players are rewarded with special bonuses.

The story mode included in the game is extensive and time consuming. There’s a scenario for nearly every starting character. This is a good thing too, because these days most players would be hard pressed to find random people to play with. At the time of this writing, the game is about nine years old. It’s very unlikely that you will encounter other players on the street to exchange Friend Cards with. Unless you have a friend or family member that shares your interest, Dissidia Final Fantasy is likely to be more of a single player experience these days.

I went into this game not expecting much more than a simple arcade style brawler. What I found was a very well put together title, with loads of potential. The graphics and sound are simply top tier for a handheld title, and even the skeleton of the storyline is decent enough to remain interesting until the end of the game. My biggest gripe with this title is the playcontrol. Most of the action is played with the thumb pad, which on a PSP is not a control of particularly good design. I found myself suffering from hand cramps after longer play sessions just due to the overall shape of the PSP and the position I had to place my hands. I do not own a Playstation Vita – so I couldn’t test this for myself, but I’d be willing to bet that these these issues would not carry over to that hardware as it seems to be much more ergonomic. The game also suffers from some annoying camera issues. I would often find myself engaged in a battle and unable to see my opponent. I’d have to break off my attack to adjust the camera angle, thus losing my attack chain or opening myself up to danger.

In summary, I found Dissidia to be a very innovative but somewhat imperfect game. Some of these imperfections are not the fault of the game itself, but rather repercussions of age and the platform in which is was designed for. I’m curious to see how things differ in it’s sequel.

Difficulty: Variable –  On its surface, the Story Mode of Dissidia can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be. As you play through the story map you can make choices to make your journey either easier or harder. Enemies do get more difficult as the game progresses, but you can always grind and level up to make things a bit easier. Many of the optional challenges can be downright brutal. And as expected, when playing multiplayer against others, you never know what to expect.

Story: The storyline is admittedly weak. It serves only as a barebones excuse for bringing heroes and villains from different Final Fantasy titles together. In truth, people don’t play these kinds of games for storyline. So, it’s forgivable.

Originality: Fighting games are usually very unoriginal things. Dissidia manages to break that stigma by introducing characters with separate storylines and goals and providing a unique leveling system and social interactions. These functions are very well done in their design.

Soundtrack: One of the high points of the game. Dissidia brings back a number of classic Final Fantasy scores and renders them in new and fresh arrangements. The game also features fairly decent voice acting. Well done.

Fun: Fans of brawlers will find a lot to enjoy here. Annoying camera issues and iffy playcontrol can be a damper. The best time will be had by those with friends who can engage in the multiplayer aspects of the game.

Graphics: Dissidia is a beautiful game. The PSP really shines on this title. The characters, environments and even the special effects in battle are all breathtaking. 

Playcontrol:  This is where the game really suffers. The camera issues I mentioned are a fairly big problem. Also, some of the controls are just not very intuitive. The layout of the original PSP exacerbate the issue.  Play this on a Vita if you can.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content:  No Concerns – Minor language. 

Value:  Finding a physical copy of this game may be difficult and pricing on physical copies can vary. The game is available for purchase digitally on PSN for $10. For the amount of content in the title, this price is worth it for fans.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – For me, Dissidia is an interesting game and one certainly worth the time I invested in it. However, it is far from perfect. The sheer amount of content is its saving grace. Most players would likely be better served by skipping over this debut entry and checking out one of the sequels. But fans of the series can still find a lot to enjoy in this release.

Available on: PSN, PSP,

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 Tactics – The War of the Lions

This is a review that has been a long time coming. Occasionally, I get emails or twitter messages asking me to review or discuss a particular game. Of all the messages I get, by far the most requested retro review is for Final Fantasy Tactics. As a lifelong fan of the Final Fantasy series, I’m ashamed to admit that Tactics is a game that I’ve actually never set aside the time to play. First of all, it came out during a time in my life when my mind was on things other than gaming. Also, it’s a not a traditional RPG like most other Final Fantasy titles. Instead, it is a more of a tactical/strategy game with lots of RPG influence. In case you’re not aware – I generally do not enjoy tactical style games. In my opinion, most games of this type tend to progress just a little too slowly for my tastes. With this in mind, I think I’ve always been hesitant to dive into Final Fantasy Tactics. But, that time is over.

Before we get into the details, I want to start by mentioning that there are two versions of the game. The original release is simply known as “Final Fantasy Tactics“. It was released on the Sony Playstation in 1998 and is also currently available for purchase on the Playstation Network for PS3 and PSP users. The game was later re-released in 2007 for the Playstation Portable under the name “Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions“. This is considered to be the definitive version of the game. It includes graphical enhancements, new cutscenes, an improved translation, a more balanced difficulty, as well as the inclusion of two new playable jobs (more on that later). This remake is also available on both iOS and Android devices. For the sake of this review, I played the PSP version of War of the Lions.

It’s also worth mentioning that Final Fantasy Tactics is the first FF game to be set in the world of Ivalice. When Final Fantasy XII was released, that game brought the world of Ivalice into the main series – it has since become the favorite setting for many fans.

The story of the game is absolutely magical. It’s even been compared to the works Shakespeare by some. Yes. It’s that good. The game takes place during an age when the world is recovering from the aftermath of a 50-year war. The story focuses on a young knight-errant named Ramza, an unsung hero of history. Despite being a sellsword, Ramza is from a noble bloodline. Ivalice is a world where heritage and caste is held in the highest regard.  As the game progresses, Ramza comes to learn of a nefarious plot by the Church in which his family serves. As a result, he must choose between honoring his family or placing his trust in an old friend. Of course, the actual plot is much more intricate than can be summarized into a simple paragraph. In fact, I daresay it might be the most well written storyline in the entire Final Fantasy series.

Despite having similar themes and a rich story, Final Fantasy Tactics is very different from other games in the main series. Instead of being an open-world game with short turn-based combat, the game is essentially a series of RTS overhead battles. During combat, the player controls a team of various units (characters) on a grid-like battlefield. You move your units into position, then execute attacks or abilities. Once you’ve defeated all of the enemies on the grid, the battle is over. Generally speaking, the story scenes take place between battles and advance the plot.

Units earns experience and job points during battle. As you might expect, experience points level your units up. Job points are used to unlock new job-specific skills for your units. Each unit can be equipped with weapons and equipment and even abilities, many of which are earned by leveling various jobs. At the beginning of the game, only a handful of jobs are available. However, new and more advanced jobs will soon become obtainable as your characters continue to level and grow.

The job system found in Final Fantasy Tactics is similar to what was seen in Final Fantasy III and V. However, the representation in Tactics is widely considered to be the best implementation of the system thus far. Many of the jobs introduced in this game have since been seen in other titles in the series, namely Final Fantasy XI and XIV. Mastery of the Job System is really the key to success in the game. On it’s surface, Final Fantasy Tactics appears to be brutally difficult. In fact, the first few battles players will encounter can often be some of the hardest and most punishing. But, if you’re willing to spend the time to understand the game’s mechanics, it’s quite possible to exploit the job system to your advantage. In this way, the game can actually become ridiculously unbalanced and easy. Certain job and equipment combinations can essentially render your party nearly invulnerable.

Even though the game suffers from balance issues, it’s hard to claim that FFT is anything short of an absolute masterpiece. That being said, I  have to admit that it is not a game that I could really get into. It’s not that it’s a bad game, it’s just not the type of game that I personally find enjoyable. I am just not a strategy/tactical game fan. While I loved the story and the mechanics of the game, the combat was just too slow-paced and lengthy for me. In most Final Fantasy titles, combat is resolved relatively quickly – with the exception of boss battles. But in FFT, most battles take anywhere from 10-15 minutes on average. You can to watch each unit move into place in real time. Then you face them a certain direction, then execute an action, etc. Then, if you mess up and lose a character you will likely want to reload your save and try again. And there are A LOT of battles in the game, even more so if you intend to grind out levels and job points. My other complaint has to do with the grid-based battle system. I found having to rotate the 3D grid just to get a good vantage point to be overly cumbersome. But that’s a flaw that’s easy enough to ignore on it’s own. I just don’t care for this type of game.  It’s not the game…. it’s me. I can admit that. For those that love tactical games like this, FFT is by far the crown jewel.

Even with my dislike for this type of game, the storyline was addictive. I felt compelled to play the game to completion and I’m glad I did.  It’s truly a memorable experience. For me, small quality of life changes such as having an option to speed through some battle animations, and slight playcontrol enhancements would likely change my mind.

Difficulty: Mixed –  On the surface, FFT is a brutally difficult game. However, as I mentioned in the main review above, players willing to really dive into the deep mechanics of the job system, and do a little grinding will be able to make the game a complete piece of cake. It just takes a little dedication. Players who intend to play the game “normally”, will find quite a challenge ahead of them.

Story: The storyline is the main selling point of the game for me. It’s truly a work of art. If you’re playing for the storyline, I do recommend the War of the Lions version of the game. The new translation is exceptional, whereas the original localization does leave a lot to be desired. Plus, the cutscenes are extremely well done.

Originality: In terms of other games in the Final Fantasy series at the time of it’s release, FFT was very original. However, it was certainly not the first tactical role playing game. But, by combing a rich story, a unique job system, and other Final Fantasy elements, we are left we a completely original title that is unlike any other.

Soundtrack: The score for the game is also exceptional. It’s fully orchestrated and absolutely stunning. Since experiencing this game, I’ve also purchased an official copy of the soundtrack and added it to my collection.

Fun: If real time strategy or tactical combat games are your cup of tea, this game will undoubtedly be a favorite of yours. Fans who are more RPG oriented, like me, may find this game a little sluggish and a bit of an ill fit. That being said, the game can still be very enjoyable. It’s just not a one-size-fits-all experience.

Graphics: Regardless of which version you play, Final Fantasy Tactics shows it’s age. I do recommend the updated version for the best graphical experience. The cutscenes are hand-drawn animation and absolutely stunning.

Playcontrol:  This is my biggest area of complaint. While the functional controls for the game are of no issue, the camera controls and battlefield screen rotation are annoying. Also, since many of the sprites look alike, it’s easy in the beginning of the title to tell the difference between friends and enemies without actually hovering over individual units. Ironically, the best play control experience comes not on PS1 or PSP, but rather the mobile port of the game. The mobile version actually seems to alleviate many of these playcontrol headaches.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content:  No Concerns- Minor language. 

Value:  Both the original and remake are available on the Playstation Network for $9.99. So if you have a PSP or a Vita, the War of the Lions version is a no brainer. The price is more than fair for the amount of gameplay in the title. Prices vary for mobile users, but I’ve seen the game as low as $4.99 on the Google Play store.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – I know that many gamers would crucify me for giving this game anything less than a perfect score. But to me, I had just enough complaints to knock this down from four to three stars. The storyline and soundtrack are second to none. But some of the gameplay elements and camera issues just really bothered me. I will say that Final Fantasy Tactics, in any form, is a stellar game. But it’s not a game that I can recommend to all players. If RTS or tactical RPGs are your thing, this will certainly be one of the best titles you might ever play. If you’re like me, you may not find this to be as enjoyable.

Available on: PSN, PSP, iOS, Android

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 Type-0 HD

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This post concludes the “Final Fantasy Initiative” project that I started in December of 2014. Since that time, I have played through and reviewed every title in the main Final Fantasy series. During the course of this project, I have even managed to check off a number of the side-games as well. Technically, Final Fantasy Type-0 is one of those. Meaning, it is not a numbered Final Fantasy game. However, considering it is a part of a Fabula Nova Chrystallis  subseries, I decided to include in my project as it ties in directly with XIII and the upcoming XV.

To start, let’s talk a bit about the history behind Final Fantasy Type-0.  When Square Enix originally announced the release of Final Fantasy XIII, they stated that it would be part of a subseries of games. As mentioned above, these games are grouped into what is commonly known as Fabula Nova Chrystallis. Final Fantasy XIII was to be the more traditional RPG entry, while a game called Final Fantasy Agito XIII was to be an action oriented spin-off. A third game called Final Fantasy Versus XIII was also announced. All games in the Fabula Nova Chrystallis series were to share a common mythos. Not necessarily set in the same gameworld, but all tied by common themes.

As time went on, the name Agito XIII was changed to Type-0 and Versus XIII was later re-branded as the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. As you probably know, the XIII game world became quite popular and XIII spawned two direct sequels. All this attention for XIII and XV, pushed Type-0 to be a sort of redheaded step child. For a while, it seemed like the US would miss out on this game. Luckily, that was not the case. Originally released in Japan for the PSP, Type-0 was finally brought to the west as an HD remake. This is the version that I will be reviewing.

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I purchased Type-0 HD on the day it was released (interestingly enough a year ago from the date this review was posted), but due to my backlog I didn’t get around to playing it until recently. I purposefully avoided reading much about the game itself because I tend to enjoy experiencing a game with fresh eyes. So, it’s safe to say I had no idea what to expect.

If I have to sum up my first impression of Type-0 in one word, I would pick: confusion. The game starts with two extremely long and very wordy cutscenes.  A lot of proper nouns are being tossed around in the opening scenes that make no sense to a first time player. These are presented in a way that makes you feel like you’re already supposed to be familiar with the place and things being referenced. When in truth, you have no idea what is going on. While visually stunning, these cutscenes didn’t do much to really get my head into the game itself. In fact, it wasn’t until I was about a quarter of the way through the game before I finally had a firm grasp on what this game was even about.

To sum it up, the basic premise of the game is this: Type-0 takes place in a world known as Orience. This world is divided in to four nation-states. Each nation is guided by and protects a sentient crystal. Each crystal represents a certain power  (Magic, Science, etc. These crystals can bestow an individual with special powers by making them a l’Cie – much like in FFXIII). At the start of this game, the industrial nation of Milites is engaged in a conquest to control the crystals of the other three nations. Their goal has brought them the nation of Rubrum, a dominion that specializes in Magic. Using a newly constructed magic-jamming device, Milites attempts to invade Rubrum. This is shown in the opening cutscene of the game.

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During the game itself, you play as any one of the cadets in Rubrum’s military academy. Specifically, you are a member of the mysterious “Class Zero”. A group of youths with rather mysterious origins. The game is divided into chapters, each chapter mostly focusing on a specific mission that Class Zero must complete. Most of these involve defending  the dominion from invasion, or overtaking enemy territory. During these missions, you can form parties from the class roster and switch between characters as needed. Each cadet specializes in a different form of combat, so a big part of the game learning which characters to use in which situations. As you play through the game, more details unfold that help to shed some light on rather obscure storyline.

In the downtime between operations, you are free to explore the school, participate in sidequests and optional tasks, attend classes (to increase stats). Every one of these things takes time and will deduct hours from the “freetime clock”. Eventually, it will be mission day – which means it’s off to your next assignment. One of the first things I noticed is that there are simply not enough hours in the game to complete all of the optional tasks available. That is because, Type-0 is actually designed with the expectation that you will play through it more than once. Upon beating the game, you have the ability to start over with your developed characters. (More on this later).

Back to missions for a moment, when engaged in a mission, you have the option to accept special goals. For example, you might receive optional orders that say “Take no damage for 3 minutes”. If you accept, you will receive a reward upon completion. If you fail, your main character dies and is unplayable until the end of the operation. I found this to be a very interesting concept, something I had never seen in a game before. Also, when embarking on an operation, you can also elect to accept support from computer controlled NPCs. Choosing to do so, can often make the mission easier, but you receive less of a reward. You see, everything that happens during an operation is graded. Upon successful completion, you will be presented with a scorecard – rating your overall performance.

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As you can probably already tell, Type-0 is a very different type of Final Fantasy game. Yes, almost all aspects of Final Fantasy are represented here in one way or another, but it’s very much an action-based RPG. The combat system is fast-paced, and a little hard to grasp at first. But once I got the hang of it, I found that I liked it quite a bit. Occasionally though, certain parts of the game will revert to an overhead (almost RTS style) view. During these phases of the game, you are often in charge of large-scale military operations: invading an occupied city, issuing orders to soldiers, etc. These are infrequent, but when they occur they seemed to me to be an odd change of pace in a game that is largely filled with fast-paced action.

Overall, I found Type-0 to be hard to get into initially. But, once I got my head in the game, I was hooked. In a lot of ways, it is obvious that this was once a handheld game. It’s structure and design reminded me a lot of Final Fantasy Crisis Core at times, but I think SE did a brilliant job moving the title to the console.

Finally, let me mention again that this is a title that is meant to played through more than once. Without spoiling anything, I will say that upon completing the game the first time, you may be left scratching your head at the ending. But if you pay close attention to the backstory throughout the course of the game, you will be able to understand exactly what’s happening. Completing the game a second time unlocks an optional ending.  Also, on your second trip through, you have the opportunity to make some interesting choices, that deviate from original playthrough. This helps make the second time through a lot more interesting and not too repetitive.

All in all, I have to say Type-0 is a solid, good game. But if you’re a traditional Final Fantasy fan, prepare to come out of your comfort zone just a bit. But don’t worry too much. There’s plenty of moogles, chocobos and an INSANELY difficult optional boss. I’m proud to say I did not shy away from this challenge, but I admit it took me until my second playthrough before I was able to step up to the plate on this one. So, yes. It’s Final Fantasy, but presented with a much different flair.

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Difficulty: Variable –  There are multiple difficulty settings to choose from. Upon the first completion of the game, a “hardcore” mode is also unlocked. I found the difficulty options to be pretty appropriate. Choosing a difficulty setting does not affect the game’s storyline in any way.

Story: Very confusing at first, but fleshes out after a while. Type-o actually has a very deep and complex story. One that I found to be quite intriguing. The whole game is actually presented almost like a record of events. Very compelling stuff.

Originality: A lot of what’s seen in Type-0 has been done before in one way or another. But what makes this game very unique is the way all of these ideas are mixed together and presented. There’s a lot of different stuff going on here, but SE really managed to make Type-0 seem like something fresh and new.

Soundtrack: The soundtrack for this title is absolutely outstanding. Everything from the composition to the audio quality is mind blowing. Many FF favorites are included here in one way or another, but there’s tons of new original songs as well. All of them are simply amazing.

Fun: I have to say, when I first started this game I had no idea what was going on and as a result, I just wasn’t into it. For a while I honestly had little motivation to play. But after giving the game a little time, it REALLY started to grow on me. By the time I had completed it, I was actually eager to start it over for a second playthrough.

Graphics: Despite being an HD port of a portable title, Type-0 HD looks wonderful. SE did a fine job with this remake. The overworld portions of the game are a little iffy… but most of the game is in third-person 3D and looks stunning.

Playcontrol: Overall, no issues. Combat takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, all is well. Occasionally ran into issues with the game camera not focusing on what I needed to see during fights, but this most often occurred when I was up against a wall or backed into a corner.

Downloadable Content: NO– The original JP version of the game had some DLC-ish costume unlockables, but these are all integrated into the main game now.

Mature Content: War time violence, graphic bloody imagery. A very sexy cutscenes.  As far as I know, this is the only FF game with a mature rating.

Value:  Originally released a premium price, the game is now often available for around $20 new. At this price, it is well worth the purchase, in my opinion.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – This game does have some flaws that prevent it from getting a perfect score, but at the same time there’s a lot of great gameplay here. Many fans of the series may be turned off at first, but if you can manage to stick with, Type-0 can really be a rewarding experience.

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, 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

Review: Final Fantasy X-2

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The Final Fantasy playthrough initiative continues! Next up on my list is the original black sheep of the series, Final Fantasy X-2. That’s right, Final Fantasy 10, part 2. Confused? Well, so were lots of people. Until the release of this game, no entry in the Final Fantasy series ever had a direct sequel. Of course, now that is not really the case. XIII has three different entries, with a few spin off games and we’ve since see a number of side games to the ever-popular Final Fantasy VII. To make things even more confusing, this game (10 part 2) was actually released a few months AFTER Final Fantasy XI, but that’s another story… I purchased this game on PS2 back when it was originally released, but I admit, I never got more than a quarter of the way through it until now.

Now, let me state up front that since this game is a sequel to Final Fantasy X, some plot points I’ll be discussing in this game might be considered spoilers to the original. So If you have not played FFX and don’t want the story ruined, you may wish to skip this review for now.

This game picks up about two years after the end of Final Fantasy X. Sin has been destroyed and the people of Spira are left picking up the pieces of their shattered day-to-day lives. Yuna has left behind her summoner ways and has teamed up with Rikku and a new partner named Paine. The trio have become Sphere Hunters; a team that scours the world looking for rare and valuable movie spheres. Yuna’s team calls themselves the Gullwings, and along with the help of a few other companions they have developed a unique invention called the Dress Sphere. Dress Spheres are special items that allow the user to adopt skills and abilities of certain roles. For example, there’s a Black Mage sphere, a Dark Knight sphere, etc. Each job offers a unique combat style and when combined with another mechanic in the game; the Garment Grid, make things extremely customizable.

At the start of the game, it is explained that Yuna decided to join the Gullwings after coming across a sphere that appears to show someone bearing a strong resemblance to Tidus. The young man in this sphere is imprisoned and screams out something about a summoner. Naturally, this ignites a small spark inside Yuna that perhaps Tidus is somehow still alive and out there in Spira somewhere. Hence, her desire to seeks out more sphere in search of clues. The story of the game focuses on Yuna seeking out clues on the origins of the sphere and as time passes, she becomes entangled in the events behind this mystery sphere.

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So now that we’ve laid the groundwork for the game, let’s talk a bit about it. FFX-2 was originally released on the Playstation 2. Now, it is also available as part of the Final Fantasy X HD Remaster. This is the version I played for this review. The Remaster contains the entire original game, with updated graphics plus all of the exclusive content previously only available in the International Version of the game. PLUS, the disc also contains a short follow-up game called Final Fantasy X-2: Last Mission.

I mentioned at the beginning that this game is often labeled as a “black sheep”, if you talk to Final Fantasy purists, many will be quick to tell you how terrible this game is. A few more will even refuse to acknowledge its existence. Well, to be fair, this game is quite odd. It’s a radical departure from most other games in the series and a VERY DIFFERENT game than the original FFX. To start with, aside from the three lead characters, nearly every other character in the game seems a bit ridiculous. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part you feel like the only sane person is a world of cartoon characters. Not to mention the overall tone of the game is a radical departure from what we’ve seen before. Final Fantasy X had a very mystical feel about it, whereas this game, actually starts with a stadium sized pop concert… seriously. If you need your daily dose of J-Pop, you’ve found it.

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All of that aside, the game itself doesn’t feel much like a Final Fantasy game. At least, at first. The combat is very different than anything seen before and it takes quite a bit of getting used to. Once you get your mind around it, the Garment Grid and Dress Sphere system is actually quite ingenious, but the presentation is overly complicated. Next thing worth mentioning is the game soundtrack. This is not the type of music fans of the series are used to. You’re fooled at first by the wonderful piano melody at the title screen, but after that you’re smacked upside the face by a song by Japanese pop-artist, Koda Kumi. This is followed by the quirkiest disco/techno/jazz music you’ve ever heard. This gripe aside, the game does feature some really good tracks that are on par with anything from FFX, but you don’t hear them often enough.

The next thing that makes this game feel a bit out of place is way you play through the main story. Most of the games in the series are either very open or very linear in their progression. This game handles things a bit differently. Once you have completed the introduction to the game, you are given immediate control of an airship with a list of possible destinations. You can visit any of these places in any order that you wish. Essentially, each location provides you with a mission or task to complete. Eventually, completing one of these will progress you to the next chapter. But be wary, each time you move into a new chapter, the missions available at each location also change. Some very valuable items are only available by completing certain missions. So it is important to try to clear every mission for every location before moving on the next chapter. As I said, this is very different from the other games so far, but it’s not really a bad thing at all. In fact, once I got used to it, I thought this was actually kind of neat. Seeing as much content as possible is also crucial because as you play the game keeps a percentage of how much story you’ve experienced. If you can manage to 100% of the game, you will unlock the true ending.

The final thing that really makes X-2 feel a bit out of place is the number of mini-games scattered throughout the title. Many of the missions mentioned above actually up being mini-games of sorts. Some of these are straight forward and well done, others just seem… strange. For example, there’s actually a mini-game for massaging someone’s back. Ummm… What? It really feel likes the dev team had a handful of previously rejected ideas from other games and decided to just dump them all here.

In a nutshell, the radical difference between this and other FF games chased many fans away. Even I felt put off the first time I played this game. But, this changes once you reach the half-way point. If you can manage to reach this portion of the game, you’ll soon realize that this game is very much a Final Fantasy title. Its just presented in a very different wrapper. The regional missions become addictive and “sphere hunting” becomes an actual obsession as you manage to obtain every dress sphere in the game. Not to mention the story makes a huge 180 and all the silly J-pop and nonsense dissolves into the background as you uncover the true epic lore behind the game itself. During my playthrough, I managed to achieve the 100%, unlock all of the dress spheres and even conquer the optional Mega Boss. Although, note that some of this content is only available in the HD Remaster or the Japanese International Version.

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While I started off feeling really cold about the title, I warmed up quite a bit by the time I was finished. I think if fans of the series would be willing to approach this game with an open mind and a bit of patience they will be pleasantly surprised.

Final thing worth mentioning, if you do happen to play the new HD version of the game, there’s also an extra side game included that takes place after the events of X-2. This game, The Last Mission is an even stranger entry. In this game, the girls are reunited again after each receiving a letter inviting them to explore an ancient tower. They are teased with a wonderful reward if they are able to make to the top. Last Mission is very different than X-2. Essentially, it’s a linear dungeon crawl starring Yuna, Rikku and Paine. It’s shown in an overhead view and features turned based combat. It takes a little getting used to, and it’s not for everyone. But it is 80 levels of dungeon crawling fun that builds off the FFX/FFX-2 mythos. The game also serves as a vehicle to expand on the relationship of the characters and to place a capstone on the overall Final Fantasy X/X-2 story. I played and enjoyed this entry very much, but I have always been partial to dungeon delves.

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Difficulty: Medium –  The bulk of this game is on par with the majority of the series in terms of difficulty. In some places, you could say it is a bit easier but there are quite a few spots that really require a strong understanding of the Dress Sphere/Garment Grid system. A lot of the optional content and secret bosses require near perfect mastery and lots of patience.

Story: At first the storyline seems to be nothing more than a weak attempt to expand upon the original game, but as you delve deeper you soon uncover quite an epic tale that actually expands on the lore presented in Final Fantasy X. Naysayers shouldn’t be quick to dismiss this game as rubbish.

Originality: Well, we were certainly don’t have any loss of original content. Everything from the battle system to the progression of the game itself is new and rehashed. If that wasn’t enough, the International/HD version of the game also features a whole new Creature capture/training element. Yes, you can train up and include monsters in your party.

Soundtrack: Here’s where we have some problems. First, I should note this is the first game in the series with no music by composer Nobuo Uetmatsu, and it shows. If you’ve ever played Final Fantasy XI, the music in this game sounds a lot like the tunes that play in the XI game launcher. The music is odd, but not necessarily bad. It just doesn’t seem fitting for the most part. Thankfully, there are a handful of tunes that sound really wonderful, but they are few and far between.

Fun: First starting out, the game is a confusing mess. But I soldiered through it and it paid off. The game actually became quite enjoyable but it’s shame that you have to work at it.

Graphics: The original game is about what you’d expect from a PS 2 title. Overall well done, but lots of jagged polys. The HD version is much sharper and better looking.

Playcontrol: I couldn’t find any real issues with the overall control scheme. The game play feels natural and is responsive

Mature Content: No Concerns 

Value:  These days, the only new option available for purchase is the HD remaster. This can typically be found new for $20.00 or less for PS3/Vita. At this price, this is an amazing deal. Expect to pay more for the PS4 version when it is finally released.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Final Fantasy X-2 is just an odd game. But it is a good game if you give it the chance. This title should in no way represent the series, but when judging it on its own merits it actually a quite a good little bundle. This score of 3 is based on the International/HD version. The extra content included in that version of the game really adds what was missing from the original release. Without these additions, I’d have to give the vanilla release a 2.

Currently available – PS3, Vita, PS4

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 VII – Crisis Core

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I feel like it has taken forever to get this review posted, but wow this was one long game. I know I’m technically supposed to be focused mainly on PS1 games right now, but having finished Final Fantasy VII, I decided to a deviate a bit and go ahead and knock rest of the entries in the “Compilation Final Fantasy VII” series.

Here we have a PSP game called Crisis Core. Chronologically, this is the first game in the VII series, but in reality it was the last game of the compilation to be released. I should also mentioned that this was actually my first time playing this title so I really didn’t know what to expect going in.

To get started, this game serves as the prequel to the original Final Fantasy VII title. In this game, we play as Zack and thus have the opportunity to learn about his backstory as well see a bit of what life was like prior to the events of the original title. Storywise, this game does an amazing job of filling in a lot of the missing pieces to the original tale. Throughout the game we get to see some familiar places and faces, as well as take part in some of the most legendary events in FFVII’s lore.

The story focuses on Zack as he rises from a mere entry-level member of SOLIDER to the prestigious First Class rank. We are introduced to his mentor, Angeal (the original owner of the famous Buster Sword) and we follow the two of them as they search for a MIA SOLIDER operative known as Genesis. As the story unfolds, we see our heroes team up with the infamous Sephiroth as they slowly unravel the mysteries behind Genesis’s disappearance. All of this eventually leads up to the epic “Nebelheim Event”, a crucial part of the VII backstory.

This game plays a bit differently from what I expected. While there are certainly heavy RPG elements here, the battle system is anything but the turn-based standard that I expected. Combat in this game is something of a hybrid between action-based button pushing and a menu driven system. What I mean by this is, Zack’s attacks are initiated with the push of a button, but there’s also buttons for dodging and blocking attacks as well. You can move Zack around in a 3-dimensional space while fighting. His attack will either be a simple melee strike with this sword, or a special ability. Abilities can vary depending on various types of Materia Zack may have equipped. There’s essentially two types of Materia that can provide Zack with new actions; command based materia (such as Jump, Assault Twister, Steal) or magic based material ( Fire, Thunder, Poison ).

The most unique thing about the battle system in Crisis Core is something called the Digital Mind Wave or D.M.W. This is sort of a limit-break system, that is representative of Zack’s inner thoughts during combat. It works a bit like a slot-machine, the entire time combat is ongoing, you can see the DMW in the corner of the screen. Once certain requirements are met, a special event will appear and depending on the slot-results, Zack will use a special move inspired by DMW outcome. For example, if Zack thinks of his girlfriend Aerith, he is granted with a special buff that heals him. Also, these events are the key to leveling up both Zack and the material he has equipped. The DMW starts out fairly empty in the beginning of the game, but it gets filled with more entries over time. Some of the strongest attacks in the game are only unlocked by participating in optional side quests.

 

The key to mastering the game really lies in understanding the materia system. Materia levels up over time, and after a specific point in the game, you able to fuse two types of materia together to create newer, more powerful materia. Taking the time to learn this process is very beneficial. There are some attacks in the game that are able to deal 99,999 points of damage in a single hit. This is only possible by creating special materia through the fusion process.

 

The main scenario is fairly straightforward and honestly doesn’t take all that long to complete. However, the game has an enormous number of side-quests available to participate in. These take the form of official Missions that Zack can take on as part of his involvement in SOLIDER. It’s thru these missions that some of the best items and gear in the game are acquired. The final mission, consists of a super-boss battle that probably one of the most difficult fights I’ve dealt with in recent memory. Even with Zack maxed out with the best gear and attacks in the game, it was no easy challenge.

Graphics-wise, the game is amazing. The pre-rendered cutscenes are breathtaking and the in-game action is nothing short of fantastic itself. This game is a prime example of what the PSP is capable of.  The graphics combined with a fantastic soundtrack make this a really impressive title and one worthy of the Final Fantasy name.

 

Difficulty: Medium–  I found this game to be bit more challenging than I originally expected. The action-based combat can be a bit tricky to master at first. Also, there’s a number of enemies throughout the game that can kill you in a single-hit regardless of how high your HP might be. Thankfully, most of this is restricted to the optional side-missions. If you have the patience, it is actually quite possible to get to a point in the game where you can create materia so powerful you can pretty much defeat almost anything in the game within 1-3 hits.

Story: This game does a fantastic job of filling in a lot of the blanks left by the ending of Final Fantasy VII. Here we get to learn of Zack’s story and his relationship with Aerith. As well, getting some insight into the madness of Sephiroth. We also get to see a younger version of Cloud and learn exactly how he comes into possession of his infamous sword. – Loose ends aside, this game also has a self-contained storyline that is fantastic in of itself.

Originality: Before starting this game, I was curious to see how unique it was going to be in contrast to the original game. I was more than pleased with what I discovered. Yes, this game takes place in the same world as the beloved FFVII, but manages to maintain a unique identity all its own. I think this is possible in large part to the unique combat system.

Soundtrack: Crisis Core features a very large tracklist filled with both old songs from VII as well as brand new tracks. It’s nice to hear better quality versions of some of the classic VII songs, and I found it not to be overdone either. The new songs actually seem to be on par quality-wise with many of those from original game. This was a nice surprise. My only complaint with the game audio comes not from the music, but from some of the repetitive catchphrases you hear during combat. By the time the game was over, I wanted to bang my head into the wall the next time I heard Zack declare “I’m on fire now!” – but that is small price to pay considering the overall quality of the game.

Fun: I found this game to be much more enjoyable than I originally expected. If you plan on tackling all of the missions in the game like I did, then be warned it can get a little grindy and repetitive. Side-quest grind aside, the game itself is very fast paced and quite a lot of fun.

Graphics: As I mentioned earlier, the graphics are phenomenal for a handheld device. The PSP really shines here.

Playcontrol: Overall the game controls work very well. However, I did experience some oddities here and there. The biggest gripe is have is camera control. The game does a decent job of keeping the camera centered on where it needs to be. But in a lot of cases I wanted to look around to find treasure chests. Using the shoulder buttons will swing the camera left and right, but not always in a full 360-degree motion. Also, sometimes when walking through doorways, the camera would swing around and cause some confusion about which direction I was headed. I would sometimes have to check the in-game map to make sure I kept going in the right direction. But other than these minor issues, no other complaints here.

Mature Content: No Concerns – Fantasy violence.

Value:  This game still tends to sell for its original price of $30 if you can find it on shelves anywhere. As of the time of this post, the game is still not available digitally. I put nearly 50 hours into this game in my quest to finish all of the optional content so even at $30 I feel this game is well worth that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I never thought I’d enjoy this game as much as did. It really packed a big surprise for a handheld title. I daresay this game shares equal footing with the original Final Fantasy VII. It is a shame that it’s not available on other platforms. If you’re a big fan of FFVII and you have access to an original PSP, I recommend this game without hesitation. In my opinion it is just as worth of the Final Fantasy name as any of the other stand-alone titles in the series.

Currently available on: PSP, 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

Collective Review: Final Fantasy IV & Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

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Finally, my reviews have reached a personal milestone in the era of 16-bit gaming. I’m talking about the first Final Fantasy title for the Super Nintendo. Final Fantasy IV was originally released in the US under name “Final Fantasy II“. Since the second and third installments of the series were not originally brought stateside, it was believed that renaming the title would be a good idea and the American audience would be none the wiser. Of course, as years went by and the Internet became a common way to share information, the cat was eventually out of the bag. These days, the game is properly titled and it widely available under its original name.

When preparing to the do this playthrough and review, I had an important decision to make. There are many versions of this game available, and I had to decide which to use. To bring everyone up to speed, I’ll layout what’s out there:

Final Fantasy II (Wii Virtual Console) – This is the original version of the game, as it was released on the SNES

Final Fantasy Chronicles – This was the Playstation release. It features the original game, with the proper title and a slightly improved translation.

Final Fantasy IV Advance – Improved Graphics, Improved script, New optional dungeon

Final Fantasy IV DS – 3D graphics version of the game, Improved translation, mini-games, cutscenes

Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection – Improved 2D graphics, DS Script, optional areas. Includes two bonus games: “Interlude”, “After Years”

There’s a little something for everyone out there. For purists, I recommend the Chronicles version of the game. For the sake of this playthrough, I decided to use the Complete Collection. It was a version of the game I’ve not encountered before. Plus, it includes both After Years and the all-new Interlude scenarios. (More on these later).

Regardless of the version you choose, the focus of this review is on the game itself, not any design or art-style in particular.

9-Cecil_Rosa-5B1-5D Cutscene from Complete  Collection

This game holds a lot of great memories for me. FFIV was the title that really cemented RPGs as one of my favorite genre of games. The storyline is nothing short of fantastic. The game revolves around a knight by name of Cecil. When game begins, Cecil is the captain of an elite Air Force known as the Red Wings. He is ordered to strike and steal a powerful crystal from a nearby village. After carrying out his mission, Cecil begins to question the nature of the orders given to him. Cecil is reprimanded for his lack of loyalty and as punishment is sent on a task that ultimately leads to adventure and redemption.

There’s so much to tell about the rich storyline and characters of this game, but I think it’s best experienced during play and not read in a summary.

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  Screenshot from the original SNES version

The gameplay will be very familiar to fans of the series. For the most part, the game functions and plays much like Final Fantasy I-III. Unlike FFIII, however, there are no “jobs” to select. Each character has a predetermined role and will skill-up in the areas of their expertise as you progress.  The character development in this title was second to none for it’s day and age. Each character has a very detailed backstory that is revealed throughout the normal progression in the game. I can’t stress enough how much of a breakthrough the storytelling in this title was. It was unlike anything that had been seen.

Much like the previous games, Final Fantasy IV features a phenomenal soundtrack. Again, composed completely by Nobuo Uetmatsu.

Graphically, the game was pretty standard at the time of release. The character sprites are clear, as is most of the environment. I found some of the textures to be a bit repetitive and unimaginative at times. But overall, there’s not much to complain about. Later versions of the game have brought drastically improved visuals.

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  Screenshot from the Complete Collection

The game proved to be quite a success and many years after it’s original release, it spawned a direct sequel. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, was released in episodic downloadable chapters on the Wii in 2009. This game takes place seventeen years after the original and features both the aged heroes from the first game, as well as their offspring. In reality, I should probably dedicate a separate review just to this title, but there are enough similarities that I feel I can bundle them together

Originally spread out over eleven separate chapters (each focusing on a particular character or set of characters), players can experience the storyline and then spend time seeking powerful treasure in an “endgame” dungeon. Eventually data from all the individual chapters is compiled and used in a final capstone scenario.

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  Screen shot from Wii version of The After Years

Finally, If you’re playing the Complete Collection, there is a third short scenario called Interlude that serves as a link between the original game and the After Years. This was my first time getting my hands on this chapter and while I found it be enjoyable, it’s very short and really doesn’t bring much to the table. But, it’s included and certainly doesn’t lessen the experience.

Again, I have to stress that this a classic RPG and an overall excellent game. It doesn’t matter which version you can get your hands on, you’re in for quite an experience.
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  Screen shot of  ~Interlude~

Difficulty: Medium  – As typical with RPGs, most of the game itself is fairly straight forward and easy going for those with a little bit of patience. Several of the bonus areas, and added content found in the later releases can be much more challenging, however.

Story: As I mentioned, the storyline for Final Fantasy IV is fantastic all the way around. Both in terms of detail and content. The storyline is even further enhanced in later versions of the games. The original SNES cartridge could only hold so much data, so a lot of the original script had to be cut from the game for space reason. Regardless, even the old version is fantastic. But to get the most out the title, I do recommend either FFIV Advance or The Complete Collection.

Originality: Mechanic-wise, there’s really nothing new introduced in the title. The 16-bit art and enhanced sound really bring a breath of fresh air to the title though. I don’t find any faults here.

Soundtrack: Excellent score. Probably the best in the series so far. Uematsu never ceases to amaze.

Fun: Many wonderful, comforting memories of this game rattle around in my brain. The characters and storyline really make this game a lot of fun. The special effects are great, the SUMMONS are awesome. Who doesn’t enjoy unleashing Ifrit on a group of cowering enemies?

Graphics: The original released featured nice, acceptable graphics for its time. However, later entries in the series and other 16-bit RPGs eventually surpassed it. The more modern versions of the game are much lovelier to look at and feature richer, more detailed models.

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

Overall rating (out of four stars): (FFIV – 4)  (The After Years – 3) – Separating the review into two titles, the original game gets a perfect score. This is defiantly a must-play title for RPG enthusiasts.  The After Years, however, is a bit harder to recommend to general audiences. This game is a more fan-service than anything else. I enjoyed it, and it was very nice to revisit the world and characters again after so many years. But it did feel a bit thrown together. If you decide to experience the After Years, I recommend the PSP version over the multiple pricey downloads on the Wii.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console, PSP, 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

Review: Final Fantasy III

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Having completed Final Fantasy II, it is time to move on the next chapter, Final Fantasy III. This is another Final  Fantasy game that was originally released in Japan only. For years it seemed like North American players would never see a localized version of this title. However, after years of fan petitions, Final Fantasy III was finally made available to western audiences.

Until the US release, only unofficial hacked/translated ROMS of the 8-bit game were available. Having played the game in its bootleg form years ago, I was delighted to finally get my hands on a legitimate copy. It’s important to note, the US version of the game is very much a remake. The North American version features upgraded 3D graphics. It also takes some liberties when it comes to the main characters in the game as well. Originally, FFIII featured four generic, nameless characters. The re-release gives them all proper names and personalities. These characters all have backgrounds that are interwoven into the main storyline itself. This might seem like blasphemy to a purist like me, but actually it is so well done, that I feel it is truly superior to the original release. Nothing is lost in the update, but so much more is gained. The only oddity I found is the small change made to the job system by including Freelancer and hiding away the Onion Knight job (more on this later).

FF33-5B1-5D    Original Famicom Version

Initially, the North American version of Final Fantasy III was released on the Nintendo DS.  However, an updated version has since been made available for iOS devices, and there’s also a downloadable version for PSP and Vita users. Since I played DS version a few years ago, I decided to give the PSP version a go this time around.

The modern version of Final Fantasy III is an amazing game, regardless of what system you play it on. From the introductory movie, to the various optional content – I was hooked. It is after all the game that introduced Moogles to the series!

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The storyline begins pretty simply, an earthquake reveals a long forgotten cave on the outskirts of town. The game begins with our main hero Luneth falling into the cave. Inside, he discovers a magical crystal that speaks to him and tells him to gather his friends and return. From here, we are slowly introduced to the gameplay basics and to the other characters. After assembling the team and returning to the crystal, the game truly begins.

Unlike the previous games in the series, our characters are not really typecast into specific roles. Instead, they are able to switch between various jobs. Many of the classic Final Fantasy jobs (or classes) were established in this game. At first, your characters are jobless, or Freelancers. This changes once jobs bestowed to the characters by the crystal. At first, the jobs unlocked are pretty basic (the same found in the first Final Fantasy game). But as the game progresses, more advanced jobs become available.

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This is a good place to elaborate a bit on something I mentioned above. In the original release of the game, things started a bit different. Instead of beginning with just one character, all four youths were in the party from the very beginning. Instead of being assigned the “blank” class of Freelancer, they were known as Onion Knights. This original job is also available in the modern version of the game as an unlockable. The DS version, really makes you jump through hoops to unlock Onion Knight. It involves communicating with other players through the in-game mail system, which for a game that over five years old, can be quite a chore. Thankfully, the PSP version eliminates this nonsense and allows the job to be unlocked with a simple in-game quest.

The job system aside, the game is quite impressive. Having played both, I found the PSP version to be overall more agreeable than the DS version. The dual screen features of the DS did not bother me or detract from the gameplay in any way, but having now played the game on a single screen, I find them to be somewhat unnecessary.

All in all, this is one of my favorite games in the series. All of the classic Final Fantasy elements can be found here. It is a shame the west had to wait so long to enjoy this wonderful title.

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Difficulty: Medium – While still not overly difficult, this title can be quite challenging for those player unable to wrap their heads around the job system. Many obstacles in the game can be easily overcome but thoughtful use of the character jobs. You can switch on the fly for the most part, so don’t hesitate to try new things. Also, as usual in these remakes, the hardest content in the game tends to be the extra hidden bosses…

Story: The original version had quite a story, but this is only made better in the modern remake. Despite the political intrigue of Final Fantasy II, I have to say that the plot line of this game is much richer. Another excellent storyline from Square Enix.

Originality: Again, this game takes all of the great aspects of the previous games and builds on it. The job system is a completely original concept that really makes this game what it is. It was bold move at the time, but one that pays of big in terms of gameplay.

Soundtrack: Magical! The main theme is one of my favorite pieces of video game music. It is routinely played at the Final Fantasy concerts. Uematsu at his finest!

Fun: I absolutely love this game. The first time I played it, I had been put on bed rest due to back problems, and this game made the time fly by. It’s worth every penny.

Graphics: The original Famicom version was very similar to Final Fantasy 1 in many ways. That version still remains unreleased in the US. The modern version is a different story. Our Final Fantasy III is made of rich and colorful 3D graphics. Compared to most moderns games, things are little blocky, but this is a result of the port from the 3DS. Despite that, it’s not at all distracting and it is a vast improvement over the original.

Playcontrol : The 3DS version is a little wonky to control if you actually try to use the touchscreen. But most players stick with the standard controls. Going this route or if you’re playing on the PSP, there’s no issue with playcontrol at all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – Another excellent title with a perfect rating. I’m trying not to be biased, I swear. If you’re at all fan of RPGS or Japanese games, there is no excuse. This is a must have.

Available today on: DS, 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

Review: Final Fantasy

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I know that recently I’ve spent a little time covering random new releases such as Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider, it is still a main focus of mine to re-live my early gamer days by chronicling my favorite games of yesteryear in a semi-accurate timeline. So far in the blog, I’ve covered my gaming experience starting with my days in a coin-op arcade, then moving on to first-gen home consoles like the Atari 2600, to the godfather of them all; the NES. Sure, I’ve gone off on a few tangents like my Mega Man and Castlevania series playthroughs (in which I skipped around between various generations), but I’ve tried to keep a semi-linear timeline as the overall theme for this site. Before moving on from the NES to the Game Boy days, I would be amiss if I didn’t take the time to remember what may be one of the most legendary 8-bit RPGS of all time, Final Fantasy.

I can’t remember which game I experienced first, Final Fantasy or Wizardry. I was introduced to both of them around the same time in my life. I was living in Japan at the time Final Fantasy was released and I remember asking for it on a whim. I had never heard anything about it, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was not disappointed. The summer after my sixth-grade year was spent either at the beach or in my room jamming to Paula Adbul (don’t ask) and grinding away at Final Fantasy. I put that game through its paces – trying every combination of character class, exploring every nook and cranny, and leveling, leveling, leveling.

I’ve bought this game in one form or fashion many times of the years. In my current collection I have Final Fantasy 1 in the following formats:  NES, PS1, GBA, and PSP.

For this review I decided to play the most modern rendition, the PSP version. Aside from a few added dungeons, a sight modernization of the spell system, and a few extra monsters, the game is largely unchanged from the original in terms of gameplay. All of the new optional content can be found pretty much in one out-of-the-way dungeon and thus easily avoided if you’re a purist. The main reason to suggest one of the more modern versions is of course the sound and graphical upgrade. For the 20th anniversary release, Square Enix has really taken the time to make this game shine. Allow me a moment to break down the different versions of the game:

For purists, the original 8-bit version will always stand out.
For gamers who want original content, but updated sound and graphics, I recommend the PS version.
For people who want the best translation the most definitive version of the game I recommend the PSP version.
The GBA version falls somewhere in the middle.

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 Original NES Version    vs    Modern PSP remake
 

This is the game that started it all. At the time it was released it was a fantasy game unlike any ever seen. The storyline is simple; Four youths awake on a beach just outside of a grand kingdom. Each one possesses a dim crystal and has no memory of who they are. Throughout the game, they learn that the world is slowly being drained of its elemental power and that their arrival has been prophesied as the ones who will restore order by bringing light to their faded crystals.

What starts off a simple tale of fantasy soon becomes quite a complicated plot involving a demon-possessed knight, a hidden conclave of sages, and a one thousand-year time loop that keeps repeating over and over and over…. Yeah, typical Japanese stuff.

The player gets to choose from four of six classes when creating their character:

Warrior, Thief, Monk, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage.*  (In the original English version Warrior is known as Fighter, and Monk as Black Belt)* — These classes can later be leveled up to Knight, Ninja, Master, Red Wizard, White Wizard and Black Wizard.

Unlike the other games in the series, there are no default names provided to the characters, so players will get to name them anything they want. The biggest trick to the game is learning how to manage four different characters in a variety of situations. You must learn the strengths and weaknesses of each party member and how to balance these out in a party situation.

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To me, this game is a gem. But surprisingly, there are many that disagree and cite the title’s weaknesses compared to future games in the series. One thing most everyone agrees on, however, is the magic of the game soundtrack. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu It was pretty impressive for an 8-bit system, and the subsequent remakes have really brought a whole new level of wonder to the soundtrack with fully orchestrated music. In my opinion, Uematsu is a very talented composer. If he been born several centuries prior, perhaps he’d receive the level of praise he deserves.

This game included many things that would remain staples in the FF series as a whole. It contains jobs, characters, themes, and monsters that would reappear in later games in series.

Despite having played this game from start to finish over a dozen times in my life, I had a blast playing this title again. The new PSP exclusive dungeon and bosses were quite a refreshing challenge. This game is a true classic that has withstood the test of time.

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Difficulty: MediumThe modern day version of the game is quite a bit easier that the original 8-bit release. That being said, the PSP version adds a new extremely challenging dungeon. Many people have been critical of the watered-down difficulty of the modern remakes, but honestly, I think it makes for a good starting point for players new to the series.

Story: On it’s surface, the game story seems simplistic, but as you progress it becomes quite deep and convoluted. In the end, I’m not even sure I understand the subtle details of the whole time-loop scenario. The story is unfolded only by talking to NPCs.

Originality: For computer gaming, this was the start of something new. It was culture clash of both western D&D style fantasy and the exotic Japanese anime style. The game itself combined the overhead view introduced in games like Legend of Zelda with a framed, menu-driven combat system. It was the start of a new era

Soundtrack: Fantastic, catchy tunes. Just as enjoyable on the original 8-bit hardware as they are performed by a full symphony orchestra.

Fun: For me, this game is top tier. It doesn’t seem to get old. For anyone just getting into the RPG scene, I always recommend this game as a nice introduction to the genre. All of the core elements are here in one form or another. It’s a perfect litmus test for the aspiring RPG gamer. Hours of enjoyment. 

Graphics: The original release is a bit rugged in many spots, even for it’s time. But considering all the things on the screen at once, it could have been worse. Over the years, the game has been improved upon. First, by giving SNES quality graphics and then upgraded even further.

Playcontrol : This is not really an issue with this type of game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – To me, this is one of the all-time classic NES titles. A must have really, regardless of the system you want to play it on. Perhaps I’m biased, but Final Fantasy is one of the greatest games of all time.

Available today on: Wii Virtual Console, PSN, and PSP.

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: Castlevania – Dracula X – Rondo of Blood

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The next stop in my playthrough of the series is the mythical “Rondo of Blood“. This game was originally released on the Turbo Graphix16, a system I never had any experience with. Long hailed as one of the best Castlevania games of all time, I was always very curious about it. There was a watered down version of the game released for SNES, but when compared to the original version, it left a lot of be desired. Recently, a more “proper” release of the game made it’s way in the form of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP. My wife was kind enough to buy this game for my birthday a few years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since.

For the purpose of this review, I’ll talking about the PSP version, since it is both easily available and considered by many to be the definitive version of the game. For those curious about the original TurboGraphix16 version, it was made available on the Wii Virtual console a couple of years ago.

The game starts with a cutscene showing a Black Mass. An evil priest named Shaft and his cult are sacrificing a virgin in attempt to bring Dracula back from the dead. They are successful and the armies of darkness decimate the countryside of Transylvania. During their strike, they come across a young girl named Annette, she is the betrothed to Richter Belmont, the hero of the game. Dracula recognizes this connection and orders her locked up in the tower of Castlevania as bait for Belmont. Just like always, the Belmont family answers the call.

There are some really nice throwbacks in this game. For example, the first level takes place in a burning town. For those that have played Castlevania II, it location might look a bit familiar, it is the town of Aljiba, the last city before reaching Dracula’s castle. I thought this attention to detail was a nice touch.

For the most part, this game plays much like Castlevania 1, 3, and 4. Most levels are fairly straightforward, with a boss at the end. The goal is to reach Castlevania itself, and ascend your way to Dracula’s chamber. What makes this game a bit different is that it contains hidden levels and unlockable content. For example, on level 2, you can obtain a key that will open a locked gate. Entering the locked area you will encounter a little girl; Maria. Once you have freed her, she actually becomes a playable character.

Maria is much easier to control, as she is faster and her attacks have a longer range. However, she is not a strong or powerful as Richter. There are three other maidens that you can rescue as well. Finding them is not always easy, but only by doing so will you receive the TRUE ending of the game. I had a lot of fun combing each level trying to find all the secrets that are tucked away. (Aside from the maidens, you can also unlock the original version of Rondo, and Symphony of the Night – this game’s direct sequel.)

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Finally, on level 7, after a little mini boss-rush, you battle the dark priest Shaft. If you managed to rescue all of the maidens, the boss of level 8 will be Shaft’s ghost. Only by defeating the ghost can you actually win the game.

Naturally, there also a battle with Dracula himself, which is very reminiscent to fighting him in first and third games in the series. If you’ve played them, you know what to expect. If you’ve defeated Shaft’s Ghost, Dracula will also unleash a third form that is a bit more challenging. Once you complete that phase, he will perish and Castlevania will begin to crumble.

As I said before, I had a GREAT time playing thru this title. Partially, I think, because it was new to me, but with that familiar old-school feel. The soundtrack was very impressive, and the unlockable content kept me exploring. I can’t say enough good things about the title.

I chose to play the remastered version for my playthrough. Aside from new graphics, and the unlockables, it is no different from the original game. The dialogue is essentially the same, the levels are pixel perfect, and there are no major changes to report. The only difference I could find was that the original game presents the cutscenes in a comic-book format, while the new game presents them in a nice gothic CG style.

1476: Castlevania III — Trevor Belmont, Sypha Belnades, Grant, and Alucard vs. Dracula.
1576: Castlevania Adventure – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1591: Castlevania Adventure II – Christopher Belmont vs. Dracula
1691: Castlevania, Super Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1792: Castlevania: Rondo of Blood — Richter Belmont and Maria Renard vs. Dracula
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Difficulty: Medium Compared to the other games in the series, Dracula X is a bit tamer. While, still challenging at times, the PSP version is not quite as hair pulling as the older titles. (I cannot say the same for the old SNES or TG16 version). Finding all the hidden stuff may present a bit of a challenge.
Story: Again, we have the simple, Dracula has returned set up. But unlike previous titles, we get to see a little more detail. Also, the cutscenes are a great addition to the series.

Originality: A familiar Castlevania style, but with some new touches that really go a long way. The most fun for me was finding the hidden zones and characters.

Soundtrack: As far as the PSP version goes, TOP NOTCH. The best soundtrack in the series thus far. The PSP version offers CD quality audio and remixes of the tracks found in the original game. New songs, series throwbacks, it’s all here.

Fun: I had a ball playing this title. In fact, I daresay it’s one of my favorites. The summary above speaks for itself.

Graphics: The PSP version is phenomenal. It’s defiantly a testament to the hardware. The original version were both stellar at the time. Even the cheapened SNES version really pushed the limits of what the system could do. However, the Chronicles version of this game is the best you’ll find.

Playcontrol:  I’m not a fan of the classic PSP layout. But I found this game to be comfortable to play and very responsive. No complaints at all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – One of my favorite Castlevania games. This game represents the end of an era for the series. I recommend it, and it can usually be found fairly in expensive these days.

Currently available on: Sony Playstation Portable, Wii Virtual Console

Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II