Tag Archives: playstation

Top 5 Mini Games in Final Fantasy VII

The Final Fantasy series is no stranger to Mini games or including scenarios that change up the main gameplay style. From card games, to underwater sports games, to even learning lines for an Opera performance these diversions added variety to the main narrative. Final Fantasy VII took these ideas to another level and added a plethora of mini games that were either ingrained in the main story or fun extras to earn rare rewards. Here are the Top 5 best mini games to distract you from taking down Sephiroth:

1. – Midgar Motorcycle Chase (G-Bike) –

After the climatic battle with Rufus at the top of Shinra HQ the party escape Midgar by stealing a truck and being chased down the highway by Shinra guards. Cloud follows on a motorcycle and the player is tasked with protecting the truck and slicing through the Shinra attackers. While initially part of the main game, the player can play G-Bike again at the Gold Saucer later in the game earing points for taking down other bikes.

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2. – Snowboarding (Icicle Inn) –

After obtaining the snowboard and map from the village at Icicle Inn, Cloud rides a snowboard down the mountain through various routes before landing in the Great Glacier. The paths you take result in where you start your trek through the Glacier. Later in the game Snowboarding can played at the Wonder Square in the Gold Saucer and Cid and Tifa can be controlled instead of Cloud. The player can compete in time trials and unlock different courses to race on.

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3. – Battle Square and Speed Square Shooting Rollercoaster (Gold Saucer) –

Final Fantasy VII had its own amusement park known as the Gold Saucer that housed numerous mini games itself. Each different Square of the Gold Saucer had different events to participate in, such as partaking in the medieval play on the date with Aeris, Tifa or Yuffie (you skip the play if you win a date with Barret). Although the biggest attractions are the Battle Square where you fight a set number of battles with increasing handicaps imposed upon you to gain rare items like Cloud’s Level 4 Limit Break; Omnislash and the Shooting Rollercoaster which plays like an on-rails shooter where you rack up point for hitting targets.

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4. – Chocobo Breeding and Racing (Gold Saucer) –

Your first encounter with a Chocobo will usually be when you can catch one to ride over the Marshes and avoid the Midgar Zolom or when you must come first in a Chocobo Race to win your freedom from Corel Prison. After that you can either bet on Chocobo Races or breed your own and ride them to win items and rewards. Chocobo Breeding is extensive and later in the game you can breed different colour Chocobos that have new abilities like crossing rivers and mountains to allow you to explore the World Map and find extremely strong Materia in hidden caves such as the Knights of the Round Summon and Quadra Magic.

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5. – Tower Defence (Fort Condor) –

Once you have access to Fort Condor you can help the villages defend the giant Condor that has makes its home above the reactor on top of the mountain. It is played again in the main game to stop the Shinra from gaining the Huge Materia. It plays like a strategy tower defence game where you buy different soldier types and place them on the field to defeat and block the advance enemy troops.

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What are your favourite mini games in Final Fantasy VII and how do you think they will be updated in the remake?

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Return to the Past: I Am Setsuna

Chrono Trigger is a game often described as a masterpiece, both in design and character, yet over the years only a few RPGs have taken direct inspiration from it. I Am Setsuna is a new RPG for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita promising to not only harken back to the golden age of RPGs from the mid-1990s, but to also wear it’s Chrono Trigger influence unabashedly on it’s sleeve.

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The first thing you will notice is the battle system is almost directly ripped from Chrono Trigger; the lack of random encounters, the way the characters jump into position during battle transitions, the use of the ATB gauge, the 3 character battle party and of course the Combo attacks between party members. Well, if you’re going to copy the foundations of a battle system, Chrono Trigger is one of the best. The battle system also has some other tricks including equip-able items called “Spritnite” which are similar to Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system and some new additions such as the “Setsuna” gauge which fills up with each attack and grants boosts to characters actions.

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While the game design looks like a definite homage to classic 16-bit era RPGs, the visuals are more modern. The artstyle has a sombre tone that builds an atmosphere that matches the games tragic narrative. The world is covered in snow and mountains, which adds to the dreary aesthetic and adds mystery to the adventure. The focus of the story is Setsuna, she has been chosen by her village to be the sacrifice to bring the world peace. Together with her safeguards and the mercenary Endir, who is initially tasked with killing Setsuna, the party set out to protect Setsuna on her journey across the land to her final destination. The narrative clearly sounds similar to Yuna’s pilgrimage in Final Fantasy X, so it will be interesting to see how it differs in both story and character development.

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Other than the battle system and presentation, other design choices that relate I Am Setsuna to the games of the past are the lack of voice acting outside of battle, allowing the music to take centre stage. The soundtrack is comprised completely using piano and sounds both beautiful and haunting. The game also features a world map, fully traversable by foot as well as airship, and many villages and towns to explore and converse with NPCs. It certainly looks like it covers all the criteria from those old-school adventures.

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I Am Setsuna is filled with influences and references to classic RPGs that many people love, the main question is will it have enough new elements to stand on its own and deliver an engaging and fantastic RPG experience. It sounds very promising and would be a great beginning to a new RPG series. So if you’re still mesmerised by these classic games and are keen to jump into a new adventure, you should be excited to play I Am Setsuna.

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Why I’m Excited for Star Ocean 5 and the Series’ Evolution

Square Enix and tri-Ace have just announced that a new Star Ocean game is in development. It was thought “The Last Hope” was going to be the final instalment in the series, but now we are set to head out into the great star ocean once more… But first let’s look back how the series has evolved.

Star Ocean 5 Background

The Star Ocean series began on the Super Nintendo and featured real-time battles with an interesting space travelling story. It allowed different characters to be recruited on different play-throughs and debuted the “private actions” system which revealed additional backstory for characters the player chose to engage with. The first game wasn’t released outside of Japan until it’s remake on the PlayStation Portable some 10 years later.

Star Ocean SNES

Next came “The Second Story” released on the original PlayStation, again using the action-based battle system the series is known for allowing full control over the playable characters in combat. Taking place 20 years after the first Star Ocean, this game allowed the player to choose between two different main characters that affected the way the story played out. The series was making a name for itself moving into the PlayStation 2 era.

Star Ocean 2 Battle

Set hundreds of years after the second game, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time moved the series into 3D and also featured fully voiced dialogue. The use of 3D graphics elevated the battle system to new heights and is seen now as the main drawcard of the series. Like the other titles it also has a vast item creation system and a compelling soundtrack.

Star Ocean 3 Characters

Most recently the fourth Star Ocean game was released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and was actually a prequel to the entire series as humanity faced the aftermath of World War III. It added new facets to the battle system, like Blindside attacks and a four-character party and allowed the player control over their own spaceship.

Star Ocean 4 Edge

So why am I excited for a revival of Star Ocean? Well the developers have stated that they are trying to capture the spirit of Star Ocean 3, from the logo design, to the art style. Hopefully this means more that just superficially and actually means they aim to harken back to the PlayStation 2 era of design for RPGs. More than a few RPG series fell in quality during the last generation and some have been completely missing in action. So if Star Ocean 5 can come back strong it might lead the way for other games to do the same.

Star Ocean 5 Logo

Either way, I’m excited to take another Sci-Fi quest, travelling to unexplored planets and battling enemies in a fantastic new Action-RPG adventure!

 

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Blind Nostalgia or Just a Superior Game?

I first played Final Fantasy X over a decade ago. It was the reason I got a PlayStation 2 and it was the only game I owned until I completed everything there was to do (yeah even dodging 200 lightning bolts!) It was recently re-released as Final Fantasy X HD along with its intriguing sequel, updated graphics, beautifully remastered soundtrack and extra content from the Japanese versions. It is a bittersweet moment for me though as I keep asking myself why is this 10 year old ago game so much better than any other RPG I have played on my PlayStation 3 this generation?

Final Fantasy X HD Luca

Final Fantasy X is not my favourite RPG, or even my favourite Final Fantasy, but it is a fantastic game and transitioned the soul of the series wonderfully well from the PlayStation era to more powerful PlayStation 2 hardware. When people talk about modern RPGs, I have seen the argument that the often criticised Final Fantasy XIII is the exact same linear design first featured in Final Fantasy X. Initially I got the same impression, but the deeper you delve into each game, it becomes more and more apparent of how much superior FFX is and it really highlights the flaws in FFXIII and other modern RPGs in general.

Final Fantasy X HD Tidus

RPGs that tell engaging stories always have to have a component of linearity, but the ones that are elevated above the normal are the ones that still provide the illusion of freedom. The older Final Fantasy titles did this amazingly well that we didn’t even notice it was a feature until it was gone. Sure, you had to go from one place to the other as the story dictated, but the choice was always yours. You could explore other areas off the beaten track to find secret items, you could backtrack to previously visited areas to see how things had progressed, you could partake in mini-games at your leisure, you could fight endless battles to build your characters up to insanely powerful levels or when you were ready you could just get on with the story. The illusion of freedom was always there, Final Fantasy X had that… Final Fantasy XIII did not.

Final Fantasy X HD Group

Final Fantasy X HD has had a facelift and I really appreciate the effort that has gone into the visuals. The backgrounds are magnificent, sharp and intricately detailed and the main character models have also been noticeably upgraded. There are plenty of elements left over from a game originally released in 2001, but for me this world is beautiful and endlessly enticing. FFX’s Spira is one of the most living and breathing worlds in any RPG and I found myself talking to all the NPCs around and often stopping to take in the extraordinary scenery. Again I have found it hard to be absorbed in the worlds of modern RPGs, but Final Fantasy X does it effortlessly. This is a fantasy I was more than happy to return to.

Final Fantasy X HD Besaid

I hadn’t played FFX for over 10 years so I couldn’t remember every single detail of the story, but I was surprised how quickly I was drawn into the story. Having visited Japan recently, the themes and locations really hit me as having a more Asian feel than most games in the Final Fantasy series, such as the island-like setting, the temples and architecture, Yuna’s kimono and respectful/ reserved personality, Auron’s design etc. While lots of modern Japanese companies are striving to “Westernise” their games to better appeal to English speaking cultures, it is ironic to see how Japanese FFX feels and then how popular it is with said fans. The story is a big feature of Final Fantasy X and it is fantastically realised and implemented. Again to compare it to FFXIII, the backstory of Spira and its fate is easily and logically explained through gameplay itself, instead of having to read through a datalog to try and follow what is going on.

Final Fantasy X HD Yuna and Tidus

Just like the world, the characters are also full of life and depth. During its original development Squaresoft put a big emphasis on character emotion and this groundwork still shines through today. The interactions between the main characters are thoughtful and touching and I really enjoy the honest moments between Tidus and Yuna. Some of their conversations have an air of innocence and childlike perception and I can’t help but think this was the influence of Hironobu Sakaguchi as many of his games share this trait. Modern Square Enix RPGs including FFXIII definitely don’t have these moments and a lot of the staff are the same between these two games except Sakaguchi, it couldn’t just be a coincidence could it? FFX was also one of the first RPGs to feature extensive voice acting and while it is not perfect there are some truly memorable performances that helped elevate the experience. Viewing Auron’s emotional and thrilling speech before the battle with Yunalesca still sent shivers down my spine even today and the noticeable difference between Tidus’s whining voice during the first half of the story, compared to his deeper more mature voice during his narration is a great example of subtle character development that is not just thrown in your face.

Final Fantasy X HD Auron

The last thing I want to touch on is the battle system. I still think this is one of the best battle system in any RPG. The ability to switch out party members so that everyone can participate is genius and adds a lot to battle strategy as different characters are needed to deal with different enemies and it helps build attachment to whole party. Being able to control everyone in battle is a big feature for me and games like FFXIII that limit you to one only is a big disappointment. Seeing as you spend so much time in RPGs during combat, having a flexible, strategic battle system is a must. Square Enix tried to speed up the battle system in FFXIII but lost a lot of the strategy as I did find myself just hitting auto battle repeatedly, just waiting until I staggered the foe, switched combat roles and repeat. If they wanted to speed up the battles they only need to look at Final Fantasy X’s sequel that hit a great balance between speed and strategy/ control.

Final Fantasy X HD Battle

I am fully immersed and loving every minute of Final Fantasy X HD. I just wish they would still make these kind of RPGs with big budgets on home consoles today. It is just not nostalgia for me, they are just simply better designed games…

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Review: Why You Should Play Suikoden II

Suikoden II is a turn-based RPG for the PlayStation that showcased a magnificent political narrative, over 100 playable characters to recruit and featured three different types of combat.

Suikoden II Duel

Set years after the events of the first Suikoden game, this sequel improves upon the good ideas of the original and blends them into an impressive and epic RPG. Released in an age when 3D was the next big thing and developers were pushing themselves to understand the new technology, Suikoden II featured a 2D world with highly detailed and expressive character sprites that works very well to convey the emotional narrative. This is a fantastic looking 2D RPG.

Suikoden II Jowy

The story focuses on the invading army of Highland lead by the destructive Prince Luca Blight and the various City States of Jowston. The two main characters fight both together and apart against Highland to bring peace to the land. The relationship between the silent protagonist and childhood friend Jowy is the highlight of the story and the character development and plot twists are extremely emotional. Rarely are characters written with this much depth and complexity. The scope of the narrative allows for an unbelievable 108 unique playable characters to recruit to your party, with many memorable and unique faces.

Suikoden II Luca

The Suikoden series is known for utilising three different types of combat and the second game uses them all wonderfully. The regular turn-based battles allow for up to six-characters with unique partner attacks and magic rune spells. The second combat system is one-on-one duels, with each character choosing between three attack options and the winner decided in a rock-paper-scissors style. The last combat type is massive grid style tactical battles similar to the Fire Emblem series. The stakes are higher in these battles and if characters are killed they stay dead in the storyline. Suikoden II has a plethora of game play features and also includes great mini-games such as the addicting cooking competition.

Suikoden II Dragon

Just like the rest of the game, the music of Suikoden II is epic and ambitious. The “Opening Theme” sets the standard hitting magnificent highs and lows, while the ethereal “Reminiscence” is a beautiful melody. With all the quality soundtracks from the PlayStation era RPGs, Suikoden II stands tall with the best of them.

Suikoden II Last Words

Suikoden II is a classic and rare RPG. If you wish to play an RPG with an intriguing story, over 100 characters to recruit and massive battles then you should play Suikoden II.

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Is the Time Right for a Remake of The Legend of Dragoon?

I have just begun playing The Legend of Dragoon for the first time. Released on the original PlayStation in 2000, this was Sony’s attempt at developing an epic RPG to ride the wave of success started by Final Fantasy VII. While it was popular, it never garnered the critical acclaim, or the commercial success of the game it tried to emulate, but it was an outstanding RPG in its own right. While I have been having a fantastic time playing it and it definitely has that magical feel that only RPGs made in that era posses, I believe this would be a great time for Sony to remake the game for a new generation.

The Legend of Dragoon Dart Shana Rose

Firstly, The Legend of Dragoon was released towards the end of the PlayStation’s lifespan and the PlayStation 2 was beginning to take over, so many players may have missed out on the opportunity to play the game. With Sony set to announce new hardware and with a general lack of large-scale console RPGs developed by Sony anymore, now would be a great time to re-imagine the game and capture player’s interests.

The Legend of Dragoon Beautiful

While The Legend of Dragoon was created with pre-rendered backgrounds and low polygon character models, the art direction is detailed and beautiful and would translate well to the realistic graphics found in today’s games. There are a number of set pieces found in the story that would be amazing to see with updated graphics and could be a fine showcase of Sony’s new hardware.

The Legend of Dragoon Attack

The turn-based battle system also tried to do something different, by including real time button presses to execute combos and increase attack power. This made combat more engaging and would allow the designers to keep the turn-based mechanics, instead of following most modern RPGs that utilise more action orientated battle systems. The battles are very cinematic, especially with the Dragoon transformations, which would also translate well into more realistic graphics.

The Legend of Dragoon Dart

The Legend of Dragoon was made as a chance for Sony to increase the momentum of RPGs at the time, but a remake now would allow the game to stand on its own. The story is interesting, the characters are memorable and the game play has unique features that set it apart. A remake would also allow the designers to tweak some aspects of the game such as an updating the soundtrack, adding more voice acting and having a free-roaming world map. It was recently revealed that a sequel was once in production but was unfortunately cancelled and while The Legend of Dragoon was a great RPG that might not have found its full potential, the time is now right for a remake!

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The Rise of SquareSoft (Part 3) – It’s Hip to Be Square

Following their success on the Super Nintendo, Square had originally planned to continue to develop for Nintendo systems. They even created a tech demo rendering some of the Final Fantasy VI characters in 3D for which many thought would be a preview of what Final Fantasy might look like on the Nintendo 64. These plans would soon change though, when a partnership between Nintendo and Sony fell through which ended with Nintendo staying with cartridges for its new system and Sony deciding to enter the video game market with its CD enabled PlayStation. With Sakaguchi and his team looking to push themselves with the expanded storage space offered by the CD format, Square controversially announced they would develop Final Fantasy VII for the Sony PlayStation.

PlayStation Logo

Yoshinori Kitase was concerned that the franchise would be left behind unless it embraced 3D graphics like other new games at the time and so Square made many advances with the new technology and Final Fantasy VII was the first in the series to feature a 3D world map, 2D pre-rendered backgrounds and character models rendered with polygons. Most famously though was the introduction of higher quality Full Motion Videos (FMV’s) that became a staple of the series.

Final Fantasy VII Cloud Midgar

Square didn’t just focus on graphics though, as the fantastic story of Final Fantasy VII was a joint effort written by Kazushige Nojima, Kitase and Masato Kato, based off an original draft by Sakaguchi. Previous Final Fantasy series artist Yoshitaka Amano was limited during the production due to other commitments and so Tetsuya Nomura, who previously had worked on Final Fantasy V and VI as a monster designer, was promoted to lead character designer. Even composer Nobuo Uematsu utilised the PlayStation’s internal sound chip to create songs with digitized voice tracks.

Final Fantasy VII Aeris Death

Final Fantasy VII was one of the most expensive games of its time and Sony advertised it heavily, especially in North America. It was also the first mainline title in the series to be released in Europe. The game was met with critical and commercial success upon its release and went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide. Final Fantasy VII is often regarded as one of the greatest games ever made and is recognised as the catalyst for popularising RPGs outside of Japan.

Final Fantasy VIII Squall

Final Fantasy VIII followed soon after VII and expanded on its foundations, presenting a more modern and futuristic world, as well as realistic and highly detailed characters again designed by Nomura. With Square’s experience with 3D graphics growing, Final Fantasy VIIIs presentation was much more consistent and it allowed the designers to make more experimental game play mechanics, such as the junction system and the addictive card mini game Triple Triad.

Final Fantasy IX Zidane Moogle

Final Fantasy IX was the last main installment to be developed for the PlayStation and returned the series briefly to its medieval, fantasy roots. Hiroyuki Ito returned as director while the character designs were handled by Hideo Minaba and were made more cartoonish to reflect the older games in the series, it also included black mages, crystals and lots of moogles . Sakaguchi has stated that Final Fantasy IX is his favourite in the series and that it most closely resembles what he initially visioned Final Fantasy to be. The soundtrack is also said to be Uematsu’s favourite composition.

Chrono Cross Kid Artwork

Square seemed to be on roll with the PlayStation and as their popularity grew overseas more of their other games found success as well. Masato Kato was handed directorial duties on Chrono Cross and with returning composer Yasunori Mitsuda they created a bright and wonderful game that dealt with parallel dimensions and featured a cast of 45 different characters to recruit. The action RPG Legend of Mana released with some of the most beautiful art work ever seen in a video game and highlighted the talent of up and coming composer Yoko Shimomura who would go on to score the two Parasite Eve games and many other big name franchises in the years to come. Showing the enormous depth of talent at Square, Tetsuya Takahashi, who had smaller roles on games like Final Fantasy VI directed the amazing Xenogears. It featured one of the most intricate and fascinating stories ever conceived and utilised a battle system that incorporated game play mechanics like combos found in a fighting game. It seemed like Square could do nothing wrong.

Xenogears Combos

Sakaguchi was also a big fan of a small development studio known as Quest who made the Ogre Battle games and he convinced the director Yasumi Matsuno and his team to join Square. Their partnership created more mature and complex games such as the classic strategy RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics and the dark and cinematic Vagrant Story.

Vagrant Story Title

With a whole new legion of fans from around the world, SquareSoft re-released some of their classic games to a new audience and PlayStation ports of Final Fantasy I and II, Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy V and VI were given new life and their quality was appreciated all over again. Square was now a household name and Final Fantasy was one of the biggest video game series ever, could anything stop their seemingly endless supply of talent and creativity…?

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Filed under Chrono Series, Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Mana Series, Music, Parasite Eve Series, Vagrant Story, Xenogears