Category Archives: General Commentary

Ratchet and Clank: Return To Glory

Image by Flickr user: Just Because iCan Flickr (cc)

For this year’s E3, Insomniac gave Ratchet fans a closer look at just what its series reboot is going to look like, and what it looks like is a true return to form for the Ratchet series! After making the like of All 4 One and Full Frontal Assault, it looked like Insomniac was determined to find a new direction to take Ratchet and Clank in. However, with the release of Into the Nexus in 2013 and now this reboot in 2016, it looks like our favorite Lombax/robot duo is back doing what they do best: platforming their way across the galaxy and blowing stuff up in new and creative ways! Continue reading Ratchet and Clank: Return To Glory

Street Fighter V and a Different(?) Approach to DLC

Image by Flickr user Dan Klimke (CC)
Image by Flickr user Dan Klimke (CC)

Several days back, at the EVO 2015 fighting game tournament, Capcom announced that its newest Street Fighter game, Street Fighter V (SFV), would essentially be released as a “complete” game with free (or mostly free) content becoming available down the road.  So unlike with Street Fighter IV (SFIV) and its “Super” and “Ultra” upgraded versions on disc, Street Fighter V will be the only version of the game on disc, ever. Also unlike with SFIV, new SFV characters will be unlocked FREE, FREE, FREE to players through gameplay. Interestingly, in its statement Capcom noted:

Continue reading Street Fighter V and a Different(?) Approach to DLC

Why Some Mysteries Are Best Left Unsolved

Image from Flickr User: MultiKute
Image from Flickr User: MultiKute

By now, there should be no secret that I love games with a sense of mystery, whether this mystery comes from unlocking secrets like the elusive Stop ‘n’ Swop or is simply a result of something that can and will never be explained, like, for example, Stop ‘n’ Swop.  (And I don’t mean in the context of the real world; I know that whole story well enough.  But, in the context of the game…it kind of gives me an idea for a fan fiction, it does.)

Anyway, one game I always thought had an immense sense of this mystery I so love was Vexx.  This game just has so many unique locations that defied explanation, or at the very least, left the player wondering…what’s the story behind this?  The tower behind the waterfall, the skeletal remains of a dragon, the former occupant of Tempest Peak Manor, not to mention the identity of the sages carved into the Summit of the Sages.  The game never had a sequel as originally planned, as Acclaim was bought by someone else, leaving me with so many questions I’d like answered.  Again, a fan fiction or several may be in order.  I owe the world my very valued and interesting thoughts and opinions on this most pressing of matters. Continue reading Why Some Mysteries Are Best Left Unsolved

What Will The FFVII Remake Look Like?

(Image captured by Hatm0nster)

Last month we Square-Enix announced something that most of us thought would never actually happen: a true remake for Final Fantasy VII! We’ve been asking for it since the PS2 days, and now it’s finally happening! If you’re at all like me though, you probably haven’t thought much beyond how awesome a remake for Final Fantasy VII would be. It is happening and it is awesome, but what would a modern remake of a game from 1997 actually look like? Big budget games are very different from what they were 18 years ago, and Final Fantasy itself has seen some dramatic changes as well. With that in mind, it’s probably safe to say that this new game will be fairly different from the much beloved classic. So it’s really not a question of if it will be different so much as it is a question of how it will be different.

I believe that what we’re going to see with this remake is what Final Fantasy would have been if it had been made today, albeit with a couple of notable exceptions. It’ll probably start with re-orchestrating the soundtrack and fully voicing the characters in the game. Orchestrated music has been a standard practice for years now, and most non-mobile games opt to voice their characters rather than rely on speech boxes. Another logical change would be fully modeling the environments and adopting a 3rd person perspective a la Crisis Core or even Final Fantasy XIII. It’s true that the pre-rendered environments were a large part of what Final Fantasy VII was, but that was an element that seemed born of necessity more than anything else. Now that we’re far removed from the technical limitations of the PSOne and they’re going through the trouble of doing a full remake instead of a remaster, I don’t why they wouldn’t do this. It’s what we’re all used to now, what they’re now used to making. I also see some sort of departure from the old battle system as well. It’ll most definitely be something new, and probably something that’ll feel more action-oriented but retains some of the unique aspects of FFVII’s battles. That is if their recent efforts are anything to go by. This will also be the very last visit to the world of Final Fantasy VII, so we’ll see the characters and side-stories get a bit more fleshed out as well. This is only what I see them adding and updating though.

Northern Cave Entrance
Looking forward to checking this place out from a new perspective!

Not everything from 1997 can translate well into a game made into 2015, so we’ll probably see a few things get left behind. For starters, Final Fantasy VII had quite a few one-off mini-games sprinkled throughout its 3-disk campaign, and I’d bet money that these will be the first things to go. In fact, the only ones I believe will be retained in the final product are the Midgar motorcycle chase, and the Chocobo race from the Gold Saucer. The former because it was the climactic conclusion to the first act of the game, and the latter because it’s probably the most well-known mini-game from FFVII and because they’d need you to be able to do something fun with the chocobos you raise. I don’t think we’ll be seeing random battles return either. They made sense back in 1997 when we were operating from a top-down perspective and the hardware limitations pretty much prevented them from having enemies show up on the map screen. Without those technical limitations and with a 3rd person perspective, random battles just wouldn’t make very much sense. I foresee something similar to Final Fantasy XIII’s encounters, where you’ll actually see the enemies on the map and have the option to avoid them. This is all just speculation of course. They may (and will) change/add/remove much more than the few things I’ve mentioned here. These are the changes that make logical sense to me, and the ones I believe are the most likely to happen.

Final Fantasy VII was a great game, exceptional even, but it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t perfect back in 1997, and if we’re being fair it’s probably even less so by most standards today. I completed a fresh run about a year ago (finally), and I can say that even though I loved the game, there were definitely some elements to it that I didn’t like.  So personally, I’d be all for losing the mini-games, change in perspective, and fully rendered environments. It would be a real treat to see all those familiar locations from a new angle, and even get to explore them a little bit more since the perspective change would require some additional spaces to be added. Also, most of those mini-games were either annoying (just throw me on the beam you stupid porpoise!) or just came out nowhere (why do I suddenly have to go snowboarding again? I thought we were here to save the world).  I’d also say a happy farewell to random battles and to the hours of material grinding along with them. What can I say? I really don’t like random battles.

Also, while more time with the party members and side-stories would be nice, I actually wouldn’t want to see too much more. In the original games, we actually got a pretty good look at what is motivating each of our protagonists and antagonists. I feel like we learned everything that we needed to about them, and that got further expanded in the other “Compilation of FFVII” games, is there really that much more that we need to know? If they were to expand on anything, I’d like to see them expand on the lore and give us more information about the world we’re in. For example, what was up with that war against Wutai? We never did really learn what it was fought over or what started it, only that it happened and Wutai lost. Most of all, I’d rather not see any major changes made to the battle system. It was clunky in some places to be sure, but I found it to be pretty fun up until I had to do material grinding. Going through the motions of combat is never fun. Even if they do decide to rebuild the battle system from the ground up, I hope they’ll at least retain the Materia system. It added depth to the character building and combat that somehow managed to be both complex and accessible, though a better in-game explanation of how it actually works would be nice.

End of FFVII
He might be right…

Supposedly a fair amount of the original Final Fantasy VII team is working on the remake, so we can feel reasonably assured that they’ll be doing their best to retain the spirit of the original as they craft a fresh take for us to enjoy. I just think that it’s fun to speculate on these sorts of projects and try to figure out what’s likely to happen. Will any of these predictions prove correct? I suppose only time will tell.

How do you think they’ll handle the Final Fantasy VII remake? What would your ideal remake look like?

When the Music Misses the Mark

Image by Flickr user Brian J. Matis (CC)
Image by Flickr user Brian J. Matis (CC)

While playing through Xenoblade Chronicles, I’ve been reminded of the synergy between a game and its music. This game is filled with lush, harmonious, and exciting sounds that play well off of whatever stage you’re in. From music that envelopes you in sweeping plains, ponders the existence of snow-capped hills, and mourns loss in valleys deep and wide, Xenoblade Chronicles has had, so far, a winning soundtrack.

Only then I hit the Mechonis Field, a vast, multi-leveled arena that’s essentially located inside a giant, robotic being. With robot enemies littering various machined structures within the field, the place looks like nothing less than a world out of a science fiction movie. With moving sidewalks and platforms, buttons to activate, and doors that slide open to reveal more things to do and/or fight, the entire level screams “I’m mechanical!” So imagine my surprise when, upon traveling through the Mechonis Field, my ears were treated to the soft/bright synthesized sounds of 1980s sparkles and chimes.

Continue reading When the Music Misses the Mark

The (Tidy) Return of the Old RPGs

Lately, I have really begun to lose my affection for RPGs, a genre I used to love after discovering how amazing they could be thanks to my first playthroughs of Square’s Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy X.  Those games were truly special and introduced me to some complex and deep stories and characters I could really fall in love with (but not in that way, you silly people!).  For this reason, I came to look to Square Enix for good RPGs, I found myself, nevertheless, underwhelmed with the release of FFXII and FFXIII.  While I did have a lot of fun checking out some of the old RPGs, like FFVI and FFIX, I still had quite a bit of trouble finding any good new games of the genre, and as my schedule became busier, I also had less desire to spend such a huge quantity of time on a whole category of games that, in general, felt slow-paced and tedious.

That all changed when I was first introduced to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the gaming blog, RPG Square.  Something about it caught my interest, and I ended up finding it at Wal-Mart when I was in possession of a gift card.  And yet, at the same time, I must admit that my initial impression of the game was a bit reluctant.  I didn’t know about the cartoony style of graphics (I know, I’m a snob sometimes), and when I saw the creature on the cover (who turned out to be Mr. Drippy), I thought, oh, no, not another cutesy sidekick. Continue reading The (Tidy) Return of the Old RPGs

Where to Start? A Question of Playing Games Series.

Image by Flickr user Robert Kilman (CC)
Image by Flickr user Robert Kilman (CC)

At the fast rate video games are changing these days to the slow (becoming slower) wait between sequels, it’s a wonder that developers are able to keep us coming back for more fun with whatever set of characters to which we’ve become attached. Consider the Uncharted series. There was a mere two-year span between the releases of the first three games, and here we are waiting for Uncharted 4 to be unleashed next year, five years after Uncharted 3. (Granted, the first three games didn’t have to deal with the release of a new console.)  Also consider titles like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed where you get a new game every year or two that essentially follow the model of “same game, different place.” Then you have games series that follow their own rules, like anything that might involve Mario. He’s got a whole empire of various games series bearing his name, some of which are related (Mario Party), some of which are revamps (nearly anything Mario Bros.), and others of which are complete one-offs (Mario Paint). And what about series like Final Fantasy? This year (July 12th) marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Final Fantasy on the NES in the United States, and fans were treated to the recent announcement of a Final Fantasy VII remake. Like, in a sense, the Legend of Zelda series, these games offer unique experience under the same brand.  You get to spend time in somewhat familiar places with mostly familiar (and sometimes the same) people playing with familiar mechanics. But I’m not sure we’d agree upon whether or not everything that came after Final Fantasy (1990) or The Legend of Zelda (1986) were true sequels to those originals.

Continue reading Where to Start? A Question of Playing Games Series.