Tag Archives: sony

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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Filed under I Am Setsuna, Previews

Why I’m Excited for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Final Fantasy XII was one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2. Released back in 2006, it revolutionised both the Final Fantasy series and RPGs at the time. It modernised the turn-based combat system the series had been using into a more real-time hybrid, while still managing to keep the strategic gameplay and allow players the time to choose actions if they wished. It also featured stellar voice acting for it’s generation and was backed up by the wonderful world of Ivalice, which had appeared in many other Yasumi Matsuno games.

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Now Square Enix has announced a remastered version for PlayStation 4 under the title of Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age. So why am I really excited to revisit Princess Ashe and her crew on their quest to gain freedom for Dalmasca?

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Well the biggest new feature here for English speaking fans is this remaster is based on the updated Internal Zodiac Job System version of Final Fantasy XII that was never released outside of Japan. More than just a simple update, it made huge changes to the fundamental gameplay of the original by including specific jobs you could assign to each character to further define their personality and role in the story. There are also many tweaks made to balance the game and the combat systems. Ultimately it will play like a familiar, yet vastly different game to the original.

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Other less dramatic changes involve updated visuals and character models, the ability to speed up the gameplay, the inclusion of both the English and Japanese voice tracks and the always welcome re-orchestrated soundtrack by the legendary composer Hitoshi Sakimoto.

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So if you want to experience an RPG that’s gameplay systems were ahead of it’s time, both updated for returning fans and new players alike, then you should be excited to play Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age.

 

 

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Filed under Editorial, Final Fantasy Series, Previews

Final Fantasy VII Remake

The reunion at hand may bring joy, it may bring fear, but let us embrace whatever it brings. For they are coming back…

Almost 20 years ago, Final Fantasy VII was unleashed on the original PlayStation and burned itself into the hearts and minds of many people. It is still a highly regarded RPG and looked back upon fondly by the millions that played it. Whether it was the 3D graphics, the impressive (at the time) FMV sequences, the sensational soundtrack, the atmospheric and intriguing world, the lovable and iconic characters, the strategic turn-based battle system, the emotional and quirky narrative or just a combination of all of those things and more, few games have the immense reputation as Final Fantasy VII. Now it is going to be remade anew!   

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Final Fantasy VII is my favourite game of all time and for years I often wondered what a remake would be like, honestly it brought equal parts excitement and fear. Final Fantasy VII is very much a product of its time, for both good and bad, but it’s what makes it what it is. By updating the game to modern standards it would no doubt look amazing… but, would voice acting destroy the beauty of the soundtrack? Would the battle gameplay be changed and the material system diluted? Would the narrative lose some of it’s more unique and bizarre moments? And would the lack of original creators like Hironobu Sakaguchi, Nobuo Uematsu and Masato Kato that no longer work at Square be sorely missed? These… these were the questions that I could never answer.

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Despite these reservations, I cannot deny my excitement for this remake. To revisit this world again and see it in a completely new light. The moody and sombre Midgar, the mysterious and eerie City of the Ancients, the wild and wacky Gold Saucer, the intimidating Junon, there are so many fantastic locations in Final Fantasy VII to explore. The details were exceptional on the pre-rendered backgrounds and they were really highlighted by the cinematic camera angles. The remake has a great opportunity to really breathe new life into this world and amaze the player with its scope and diversity.

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I also can’t wait to see how they adapt the story, both the truly emotional and heartfelt moments, but of course the funny and weird ones just as much. Final Fantasy VII deals with some harsh and realistic themes. Aeris’ death scene, Dyne’s mass murder at the Battle Square and emotional exchange with Barret before his suicide, Zacks original brutal and stoic death, Shinra dropping the Sector 7 plate and killing thousands, juxtaposed over the heroes blowing up the Mako reactors and killing innocent civilians themselves and of course Sephiroth losing his mind and setting Nibelheim ablaze and walking through the flames.

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In contrast it also has plenty of funny moments that really give it an identity all of its own. I hope we get to see scenes like Cloud dressing up as a girl to infiltrate Don Corneo’s Mansion, Tifa slapping Scarlet on top of the Junon Cannon, Red XIII disguised as a sailor walking on two legs (and Barret dressed as a marshmallow), Aeris and Cloud participating in the Play on their Gold Saucer date (or Tifa, Yuffie or… Barret), Cloud trying to get into the Shinra Parade unnoticed and especially Cid telling everyone to sit down and drink their God damn Tea!

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Sure, changes will be made. The battle system will be changed to something more modern and adopt a turn-based, real time hybrid, some story segments will be altered, voice acting will be present and some of the mini-games may be cut. But based on the latest trailer Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura look to be staying as faithful as possible and aiming to recapture the vibe and soul of the original game. We will always still have the original Final Fantasy VII that we can go back and play anytime, but I am happy to embrace this reimagining of Cloud’s journey and be excited to discover everything all over again…
Besides, there ain’t  no getting off this train we’re on, so… Let mosey!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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