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Old 03-06-2009, 08:59 PM   #136
CongoJack
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Wonderful review, probably the most cohesive one I've read in a long time. As I just finished this title a little while back and have similar bias, I felt this was completely spot on.
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Old 03-06-2009, 09:12 PM   #137
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You touched up on a lot of things in this review that I can agree with. I never really cared for the story of any Megaman titles though so whether they are serious or not Megaman is still an action game to me. But if you like this then I think you should pick up Megaman Powered Up for PSP, it's a remake of the first title with a level editor and a classic mode.
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Old 03-06-2009, 09:22 PM   #138
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Nice review, but I'm afraid I can only ever like Mega Man 2. Parts 1 and 3 are somewhat OK, but 2 is where it is at. Otherwise I just can't get in to Mega Man. Downloading the demo was enough for me. I'd like the Mega Man series more if I weren't always going into the START menu. But then again, I never cared for the X series or whatever it was called, either.
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Old 03-13-2009, 05:52 PM   #139
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RE: English voicework in Sin and Punishment. My guess, though I'm not sure, is that some English voice work is done for the Japanese version as a measure of cost cutting. If they put English voices and subtitles in, all they have to do is remove the Japanese subs for the English version, instead of paying two sets of actors.
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Old 03-18-2009, 08:57 PM   #140
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Great review of Mega Man 9 Seraph. listening to Galaxy Man's song makes me wanna buy this game, or find my Mega Man Anniversary Collection. I like the retro approach but I wish they would have added the slide (which was introduced in MM3, my favorite as well), the charge could have been added or dropped I wouldnt have cared.
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:51 PM   #141
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Sony Playstation Portable
1 Player (2 Player Adhoc)
Developer - TOSE, Square Enix
Publisher - Square Enix


My Bias
-The original Final Fantasy Tactics is one of my all time favorite games
-I’ve beaten the original 3-4 times
-My first PSP game

My Completion
-Main story and all side quests completed
-Have not tried multiplayer

Story
The storyline of FFT is a mixed bag. Even though as a whole the game follows the “chosen boy saves the world” formula, you wouldn’t know it. The story follows Ramza, the Kings youngest of 3 brothers, but does a good job of showing he is only one part of a bigger picture. The game deals with some dark themes like murder, betrayal, and slavery which make for a very interesting story. My biggest complaint with the whole thing is that it becomes too hard to follow. It starts off great and you know exactly what your motives are and who’s who. But as you progress they game introduces new characters, new organizations, new subplots and eventually I’m not sure who’s doing what. I’ve played through the original version of FFT multiple times and I still cannot tell you the names of the final villains or really who they even are.

I love a lot of the characters in this game. While the storyline leaves me feeling lost and a lot of the characters either look alike or are non-memorable, there are a lot of great characters as well. The hero Ramza is very personable and goes through a great transition from a young blissful youth to a seasoned leader. At the same time his childhood friend Delita goes through a similar transition but from a different shadier approach. Very early in the game they go their separate ways and it’s neat to see how their paths cross as things unfold. There are a bunch of other great characters, too many to go into detail. The only aspect of the characters I don’t like is it seems once these storyline characters join your party they never say another word. For example Agrias is one of my favorites and a big part of the story, but once she joins your party halfway through the game she is completely removed from the storyline.

One aspect I really did not like about this version of FFT, is that they tried to retcon it into the world of Ivalice. Ivalice is the world that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance/A2 take place in. The world of FFT:WotL does not feel like Ivalice at all and is missing a lot of the elements present in all the other Ivalice games (such as different races).

New to this version are FMV cut scenes throughout the game. There are about 10 or so of them if I remember right of key points of the game. The best part about these scenes to me isn’t that I got to see fully animated versions of the characters, but that they actually give the characters voices. That helps flesh them out even more and is welcomed addition to this game.


It's pretty awesome finally seeing these characters in 3D

Also new to this version is a brand new translation. Everyone had their lines rewritten to have old-english-esque accents. I’ve heard that a lot of players think the new translation is amazing but I didn’t like it. I felt the new translation went too over the top and comes off as ridiculous. For example, and this is straight from the game, instead of saying the phrase "We have bad luck to run into monsters in this forest" it says "our luck is ill, that we should chance upon fiends such as this in the wood!". That just gets onoxious to read.


Seriously, give me the old translation back

I really do not like how this game ends. I don’t want to spoil anything but the ending is very short and doesn’t explain much. When I dump over 60+ hours into a game I don’t like when it when the ending feels empty and leaves me with tons of questions. The ending is also depressing and makes you feel like crap. Perhaps I’m old fashioned but I like stories with happy endings.

Graphics
This game is presented through a combination of 2D sprites on 3D environments. The 2D sprite work here is very impressive. Each sprite has a lot of animation frames, more than I think I’ve seen in any other game. Sprites do things like reach out their arms to grab things, punch characters and throw them over their shoulders, and all from multiple angles.

Somehow all of the sprites have a “soft” look to them instead of the normal hard edge look I am used to seeing in sprite based games. Almost as if an emulation filter was turned on just for the sprites. They don’t look blurry, just soft and it is a nice subtle touch.


Meliadoul's break attacks can finally hurt monsters in this version!

The environments also look great. For being an original Playstation game the 3D work holds up surprisingly well. I haven’t gone back to compare the two versions but this version seems a lot sharper and less jaggy than I remember. Stage environments are varied really well so that the game takes you from bright green fields to dark castle dungeons. Some maps have some cool weather elements like rain or snow that I think is a neat looking effect. Magic spells and techniques are all done through particle effects which look pretty awesome.

Music
I remember the first time I heard the music for this game back on the original Playstation release. I was blown away by the quality of this soundtrack. It is completely orchestral and many tracks take sharp, daring melody “jabs” that really spice it up. Normally I am against orchestrated soundtracks because orchestra is often used as a lazy way to hide the fact the composer couldn’t come up with great melodies. But Final Fantasy Tactics has some very strong melodies and weds them into orchestral arrangements that do things musically Midi couldn’t.

I have read complaints that the actual sound quality of the music was reduced in this port, but I didn’t notice anything. The music all sounded just like I remember it, but then again I am the type of guy who thinks MP3’s sound fine so if you are a real audiophile then you might have a problem with it.

♪ Random Waltz

This is a remix of the games main theme, and I really love this games main theme. This is probably the most cheerful track in the whole game.

♪ Decisive Battle

I really like the constant violin loop throughout this song. I also like the middle of this song when it starts to build up, gets really loud and then does a crash into almost silence. It’s that kind of up & down jabs I really love about this soundtrack

♪ Ovelias Worries

When I first listen to this track it doesn’t sound like anything special. But I adore the part at :57 in.

♪ Run Through the Plain

I love so many parts in this song. The super fast high pitched flute loop throughout, the strong violin loop throughout that has a great solo at :30 in. All with a slower overlaid melody throughout.

Gameplay
If you have never played a Strategy RPG before they genre is basically like playing a giant, complex game chess. You are presented with a map made up of tiles, and you strategically move you units around and try to wipe out the enemy units.

This gameplay is very time consuming. Some of the battles in FFT can last upwards of 30 minutes so if you are looking for a quick and easy RPG this is not the game for you. Normally I would say this is a horrible thing for a handheld game but thanks to the PSP’s sleep function it isn’t. It actually works out in the games benefit because instead of being tethered to a TV for the entire duration of a battle, you can pause/resume battles whenever.

For those of you who have played Final Fantasy Tactics before and are wondering what new content is in this version here is the rundown. There are two new job classes your characters can be, Dark Knight and Onion Knight. Dark Knight is a complete game-breaking powerhouse class that is very similar to Gafgarion’s Dark Knight class with some new abilities. The only catch is that it requires you to basically master a couple different job classes to unlock and by the time a character grinds enough to get all the required JP for it, they are an over leveled powerhouse anyways. Still for players like me who like to build super powered units, it’s finally nice to have a class Ramza can become. Onion Knight on the other hand is a completely worthless class. Much like the Mime class, it learns no skill and cannot equip any skills. It can equip every piece of equipment in the game but only grows in strength based off how many job classes the character has mastered. Onion Knight is neat for extremists/completionists to goof around with, but useless to the average player. The game also now has more character slots so you can keep all the special characters and still have room to play with homemade ones.


The two new job classes

There are two new special characters added in this version. Luso, the hero from Final Fantasy Tactics A2 makes an appearance and is almost a carbon copy of Ramza ability wise. Balthier from Final Fantasy 12 also makes an appearance, although I didn’t think he looked very much like himself in this game. War of the Lions also includes some new side quests not found in the original game. These side quests help give more insight to some of the lesser known characters like Beowulf and Reis.

There are also some new multiplayer features and new equipment that can be won from them. Since I don’t know anyone who owns a PSP I am unable to comment on this.

This games difficulty is all dependant on how much grinding you do. If you don’t grind your characters at all then this can be a very difficult game, starting as early as battle 5. This is a fun way to play since it requires a lot of strategy and smart playing. However if you don’t you can also grind your heart out. I’ve done playthroughs of this game where I leveled my characters so much they had end-game job classes at the very beginning. That’s one of the thing I like most about this game, there isn’t much holding you back from getting as strong as you want.

One of the neater, yet missed opportunities of this game is its use of zodiac signs. Just like the real life zodiac signs theory, every character is given a specific sign based off when they were born. Characters with certain signs are supposed to relate different to their opposing/bonding signs and receive advantages/disadvantages in battle. I say this is a missed opportunity of this game because it’s way too confusing and doesn’t make much of a difference anyhow. I doubt anyone can memorize every zodiac symbols relationship with the others, and it doesn’t mean much when you can preview almost every actions damage anyways.

Throughout the game your strategies, or in other words the “rules of battle” will change. In the beginning when all you have are basic Squires and Chemists, battles are very simple trades of hits and good unit positioning. As you progress further magic and ranged attacks start to come into play, then you have to start thinking about charge times and turn orders. Towards the end of the game you are up against special units that have instantaneous high damaging attacks and once again you have to abandon your old strategies. I really enjoy this aspect of FFT because it keeps the gameplay from getting to stale. The way my party operates at the end of the game is completely different than how it did at the start.


Once you have Ninjas monsters go down fast

The customization of this game is amazing, and probably one of the biggest reasons why I have played through it so many times. Every job class in the game (and there are about 20+) has a large catalog of skills at its disposal. Once a character starts learning these skills they can freely change job classes and start mixing these skills up. For example I can train a character as a Knight and learn some of that job classes Armor breaking abilities, then turn that character into an Archer and start shooting armor breaking arrows. The different combinations provide a ton of replay value allowing so many different ways to play through this game.

One of the things this game does that not many RPG’s do is permanent deaths. If a character falls in battle and you fail to revive them within a certain amount of time they will die permanently. While I suppose this is a neat concept, I have never let this happen. Whenever I lose a battle so badly that one of my characters dies before I can save them I reset the game. I do not enjoy the idea of divesting hours of training into a character only to lose them.

This enhanced port isn’t without a few technical problems though. There are a lot of effects in the game such as spells or flashy hits that cause game slowdown. The sound doesn’t slow down with what’s happening on screen either, so if you do a big flashy attack you might hear it go off and the scream of the character you hit before its finished. While I mentioned above that the music sounded alright to me, the sound effects took a big hit. Some of them sound downright nasty in WotL.

Lasting Appeal
I can’t accurately give an hour count on how long the main quest will take you. I’ve only run through the game once without grinding and it was many years ago. I can say with confidence that this game will take a long time to complete and last many hours. While I am a bit of a completionist, my current save file in WotL is over 130 hours if that’s any indication of how this games depth can last.

The many side quests and customization found in this game can extend its appeal a lot longer from the main quest. I can’t explain it very well but this is one of the few RPGs I find fun to actually grind in.

Final Thoughts
In my opinion the greatest SRPG ever made now portable. This game is just a combination of so many things right and downright addicting to play. 10 years later after the original release and this game still manages to be one of the most amazing games released. Final Fantasy Tactics War of the Lions gets my highest recommendation and is in my opinion one of the greatest games on the PSP.


Sorry folks, gameplay video may come later, right now I simply don't have the time to record/encode/upload one
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Old 09-01-2009, 08:55 PM   #142
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I also felt like the game was trying to rip of Shakespeare a bit, but in a way that I liked. All Final Fantasy games i have played all feel like a Shakespearean tragedy. So why not sound like one?

Other than that, another great review seraph.
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Old 09-02-2009, 10:28 PM   #143
Seraph
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Nintendo Wii
1 Player
Developer - Intelligent Systems
Publisher - Nintendo


My Bias
-I love 2D Mario games
-I really liked the previous two Paper Mario games
-I only paid $30 for this

My Completion
-I've beaten it twice (once myself, once for my 5 year old future-half-brother-in-law)
-Finished the Flipside Pit of 100 Trials

Story
In tradition with the previous two games in the Paper Mario series, there is a huge amount of storyline in SPM. In this game Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach (NO WAY!) and is forcing her to marry him. Mario and Luigi of course do what they do best and go to rescue Peach. At the wedding alter things go amuck and a mysterious character named Count Bleck shows up and sucks everyone into a dark void. Mario then finds himself all alone and stumbles into the town of Flipside. The citizens of flipside are concerned because Count Bleck summoned a giant dark void and threatens to suck up all worlds into nothingness. It’s up to Mario to regroup with his friends, stop Count Bleck, and save Flipside from the impending doom!

Whereas the previous two Paper Mario games took place in non-Mushroom Kingdom worlds, they still were populated with Mushroom Kingdom characters. In SPM this is not the case and 90% of the NPCs and Enemies are made up. Almost all of the NPCs are made out of crude wire frame shapes which I didn’t think made for an interesting style choice. The main antagonist, Count Bleck, seems like such a weak character.

Another way to put it is Super Paper Mario feels like a brand new game that Intelligent Systems developed around this flip mechanic idea and then Mario was painted over it last minute to boost its sales. If you swapped Mario and the gang with different characters I would be hard pressed to tell you this was supposed to be a Mario game.

One aspect of this title I have a lot of praise for is the writing. Much like the previous two entries in this series, the writing is often times not straight forward and is very clever. There are quite a few lines in this game that had me smiling or chuckling inside. Chapter 3 was especially funny because the entire thing pokes fun at internet message board gamer nerds.


Chapter 3 was way funnier to me than it should have been

I will talk about this topic more in the Gameplay section, but some of the chapters are boring and downright painful to get through. Each Chapter takes you to a different world with different characters and some of them aren’t very compelling. There are some really awesome parts like the chapter where the void actually destroys a world and you return to it to witness just empty white and then there are some really lame parts like the entire caveman chapter.

Graphics
Most of the Mario assets of this game were taken right from Paper Mario TYD on the Gamecube. While it’s nothing new in that regard they do look very nice. Characters are done in a sort of vector method which means the can be scaled and zoomed without losing any clarity. All the characters move only by swiveling at their joints much like a paper doll put together with thumbtacks. I think the designs of the Mushroom Kingdom crew are done very well. Paper Princess Peach is probably the cutest rendition of her ever. Yet all the NPC & non-mushroom kingdom enemies have pretty lame designs. The residents of Flipside are all made out of simple geometry shapes like squares and circles.

Most of the environments look pretty good using the same vector style as the rest of the game. Each of the eight chapters has a different theme which keeps things fresh. To clarify I am talking about the 2D assets here because when the game flips into 3D mode things look much worse. Everything is made with bland textures in 3D and it simply doesn’t look very good.


Jumping into this lake actually freaked me out a bit, scary stuff

It sounds strange to mention but I really liked the font/text in this title. Instead of using static text like most RPGs do, SPM uses all sorts of visual effects with the font to convey speech inflections and moods. For example if a character whispers something under their breath the font size gets really small, or if they shout something it gets huge. If a character says something really corny or something with glee the text will move up and down in a wave motion. It’s a nice subtle effect.

Music
Super Paper Mario is filled with a lot of memorable tracks. Maybe not brilliant great sounding tracks, but memorable nonetheless. It sounds like it fits right in with the music from Paper Mario TYD. There really isn't too much else to say about this soundtrack other than post a few of my favorite tracks.

....oh wait, yeah there is one thing. I cannot stand the Flipside theme anymore. It’s an alright song but after hearing it loop over and over while I tried to figure out where the heck I was supposed to get going it drove me nuts. Now whenever I hear it I’m just put in a bad mood.

♪ Title Screen

It’s a crying shame that this track is wasted on the games title screen and will only be heard for a few seconds while the player selects their save file. I think the part 19 seconds in is awesome.

♪ Gloam Valley

This is one of the best tracks in the game. I really love the beginning part of this song.

♪ Lineland Road

This is an interesting remix of the original Super Mario Bros theme.

Gameplay
I think I need to make it clear first and foremost before describing anything about the gameplay. This game is an RPG first and a platformer second. There are games such as Castlevania SotN which I consider a Platformer with RPG elements, well I consider Super Paper Mario the opposite: an RPG with platforming elements. I feel I need to make this clear because I’ve read too many impressions of people who bought this game thinking it was a solid platformer and then getting put off by its RPG levels of dialog and weak platforming elements.

Super Paper Mario is played with the horizontal Wii Remote configuration. This works great because the gameplay doesn’t require many buttons and its how the NES Mario games controlled anyhow. I’ve seen a few people complain about the lack of buttons for menu management but I’m not sure what their problem was because I didn’t have any issues. The game implements some quick menus by pressing two buttons at once which speed things up. It plays pretty similar to a standard Mario game granted it’s stiff and not nearly as refined as Mario’s normal 2D outings. The standard formula of hopping on enemies heads still applies here, but now instead of instantly killing them you bounce off and a little HP damage number pops out.

Leveling up is done through the points system. Just like the scores in older Mario games, when you bop off an enemy you receive points. Whenever you hit specific milestone amounts of points you will go up a level. Continuing with the Paper Mario tradition, you can perform stylish moves after bouncing off an enemy to earn more points, and if you continually hop between enemies without touching the ground you can chain these stylish points together and earn even more. However the way you pull off stylish moves is by shaking the Wii Remote. Let me go on record here to say I cannot stand it when Wii games do this. I enjoy the idea of motion controlled games, I can put up with some occasional one handed shaking of the remote (waggle) but the one thing I cannot stand is Wii games that require me to shake the Wii remote with both hands. Shaking then goes from a few easy wrist flicks to being a full arm/body motion I don’t enjoy doing. To make matters worse SPM doesn’t register the shakes too well so you have to make sure you do it good, hard and violent. I made it to about Chapter 3 before I finally said to hell with it and decided I’d just complete the game earning fewer points.


Not even Peach's cute poses can make me enjoy this horrid waggle

The gimmick that this entire game is based around is that at any time a level can be flipped horizontally and seen from the side. When flipped into 3D things are often not as they appeared in 3D and can be exploited. So for example one of the very first puzzles you have to use this ability for is to enter a door. The door is surrounded by blocks and is impossible to access in 2D, however if flipped into 3D it reveals that those blocks are all at different depths and you can very easily walk around them. So walk around, flip back into 2D and like magic you are on the other side of the blocks and can enter the door. The developers have built a lot of interesting puzzles and challenges around this mechanic. Enemies are a lot easier to avoid in 3D and so to prevent the player from going through the entire game like this, Mario will take damage if he stays flipped for too long. One of my favorite uses of this element is on a stage where giant spiked boulders roll down a hill at you. They are way to large to jump over, yet because this is Paper Mario and everything is made out of paper, you can flip into 3D to reveal the boulders are only paper thin and easily walk around them.


This door is inaccessible in 2D however...


...flip into 3D and discover that wall wasn't a wall at all and walk right on past

My problem with this flip mechanic is that only Mario can use it. In SPM you get 3 other characters (Peach, Bowser, and Luigi) that all come with abilities that let them access other areas. For example Peach can use her umbrella to slowly float down and therefore make really long jumps that Mario cannot. Yet because only Mario can flip into 3D you have to constantly switch characters and it becomes obnoxious. I see no good reason why the flip mechanic was assigned only to Mario.

As you progress through the game you get new abilities through the use of Pixels. Pixels are these little fairy creatures that float above your shoulder and let you perform different moves with the 1 button. These guys give you abilities that range from being able to pick things up, lay bombs, use a hammer and turn invisible. They are almost always given to you in a Metroid reminiscent way because you often come to some sort of barrier, look around and find the pixel that will allow you to pass through that barrier, and continue on. You can get a special Pixel if you complete the Pit of 100 Trials (which I’m not sure how I made it through) that lets you hold down the 1 button to run faster. I think that should have been the very first pixel you get because it’s so useful. The pixel you have throughout most of the game, Tippi, adds another cool element to the game. With her selected you can point the Wii Remote at the screen and the action will pause and let you look around like holding a flashlight, revealing hidden doors/passageways.

Throughout the game the coins you collect can be used as currency to buy special items for battle. These are your standard RPG items that restore health or perform heavy damage for a short while. This is a good idea but this game is so easy that there is no need for them. I used most of my coins at the games fortune teller who gives you hints on where you should go next when you’re lost.

As I mentioned briefly in the story section, there are sections of this game that are boring from both a story standpoint and gameplay. One of the keys to success in any game is in its pacing. There are numerous parts of this game that just go dry and I had to push myself to keep going. Having beaten this game twice, I think it definitely is worth it to see this game to its end however there were times where I had little interest and wanted to stop.


This was actually one of the better chapters

I have to add a quick little note here: I love the way this game saves your progress. It’s done with save blocks you simply jump to hit, it asks you to confirm, and not a second later it’s done. It’s so quick and painless I had no qualms about doing it. Every game should save this fast and easy. Also another note, Intelligent Systems needs to fire whatever member of their dev team decided it was a good idea to put the flipsy enemies in the game. If you touch one of these enemies it sends you ALL THE WAY BACK TO TOWN. Why!?!? What possible reason does it do this other than to piss the player off? It certainly isn’t hard getting back to where you were, just time consuming and annoying as hell.

Lasting Appeal
The final time clock on my game read 18:50, and some of that I’m sure is wandering around lost and doing the Pit of 100 Trials. If you are good at figuring things out and have a good memory of where things are then you could probably complete this game faster than I did.

Once beaten you can go back and revisit all the stages with extra things to do. I didn’t feel compelled to do this at all. This is definitely a beat-once-then-shelf type of game.

Final Thoughts
Not the amazing game I thought it would be but still fun. The fun I had with the flipping mechanic and the clever writing was worth my purchase alone.

This is the very definition of a “good game” to me. Not blow your socks off fantastic, not “must own” or system selling, just good fun. If you are the type of player that only bothers to play hyped AAA unparalleled experience games then don’t look here. However if you don’t mind overlooking a few flaws in a game to experience it’s good then check this game out.
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Old 09-02-2009, 10:29 PM   #144
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I thought Ramza was a girl for like 3 years...I actually had to look through your review to confirm that Ramza was still a guy.
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Old 09-02-2009, 11:00 PM   #145
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Good review. The majority of it reflects the way I feel about the game.

I especially agree with the idea that this is a pretty unique game with Mario characters slapped on at the last minute.

To be honest I would've enjoyed it much more if the game have a part of 4 new characters and they just called the game 'Flipside' or something.
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Old 09-03-2009, 11:02 AM   #146
Seraph
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Playstation 2
1 Player
Developer - Square Enix
Publisher - Square Enix


My Bias
-Final Fantasy 6 is my favorite in the series
-I love Final Fantasy Tactics

My Completion
-Main story completed
-32 Hunts completed

Note
My Video Capture device that I use to grab screenshots does not do well with PS2 games.
FFXII, and future PS2 reviews actually look much better than I'm able to portray in screenshots.


Story
Final Fantasy XII is set in the world of Ivalice, the same universe that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was set in. The Viera/Bangaa world. After playing this series for years and each time starting all over again, it’s nice to finally be playing a game set in the same world as a previous game. I really enjoy the world of Ivalice and think the different races and setting are great.

As I will mention several times in this review, a lot of this game feels like a spiritual successor to the original Final Fantasy Tactics. The storyline is very similar in regards to the general themes and way it is told. Instead of the usual Final Fantasy story of a special hero/heroine who saves the world, it deals more with a nation at war and a group of pivotal characters who gets caught up in it all. The main protagonist Vaan, isn’t anything special, isn’t “the chosen one” and spends most of the game following around traveling with more important characters. I thought this was a very nice change of pace from previous Final Fantasy installments.

However the story also shares one of the downfalls of Final Fantasy Tactics in that it’s hard to follow. As I played through the game there were many times where I was unsure of what my goals were or what was going on. There are so many towns, characters and other countless names thrown out that I had a hard time following it. I can only tell you the name of one of the Judges in this game and can’t recall half the town names. This is a major downer for me because often times in RPG’s I am driven to play further because I am interested to see the story unfold, and when I don’t really know what’s going on or what my motivation is I become disconnected from the game. From what story I was able to understand it came off as simply average. It’s an entertaining ride, but isn’t nearly as compelling as what I’ve come to expect from the Final Fantasy series. Had the story been better this would have been a prime contender for my favorite Final Fantasy game.

I really enjoyed the characters in this game. Each one of them had a very memorable personality, different personal goals, and very believable. Penelo and Fran were definitely my favorites of the bunch. A lot of people tend to rave about Balthier in a “he’s so badass” fashion like they did about Auron in FFX, but I didn’t think he was THAT amazing. Balthier’s clever remarks and attitude did make me chuckle throughout though. Larsa, one of my favorite characters, was an NPC but I really loved the scenes with him in it. Whenever I think about Larsa I hear him saying "Manufactured Nethacite" in his thick english accent and it makes me laugh. I did not like the main antagonist very much because I wasn’t sure what he was trying to accomplish plus the end fight with him felt like a cop out.

Taking after Final Fantasy X’s lead, there are many voiced cut scenes throughout the game. They are choreographed amazingly well and combined with the fantastic voice acting it makes for some really entertaining scenes. I love how the voices are rooted strict in reality, meaning you will not find any high pitched cutesy anime voices here. Even Penelo, the peppiest of the female characters talks in a normal everyday voice.


The voicework and facial animations are fantastic

I thought the ending was pretty good. While I stated previously that I found it hard to fully grasp the storyline, at least the ending gives a nice sense of closure. It seems a little rushed but after watching it I felt satisfied I completed this game.

Graphics
The visuals of Final Fantasy XII are the best I’ve ever seen on the PS2. Character faces look amazing and have animation that is very believable. Environments are large and detailed and the citys give off a grand feeling of busy-ness. The look of the cities combined with tons of NPC's hustling around is really something to behold. This is just a really great looking game.


In motion and on an actual TV this looks amazing

Some of the designs are hit and miss. I loved some of the monster designs for familiar foes like Bombs and Flans. Some of the characters have great designs, like my two favorites Penelo and Fran. I really liked Penelo’s one piece outfit with her huge thick-sock-esque leggings. However Ashe’s outfit I thought was atrocious. Her pink miniskirt did not flow well or look like it belonged in this game at all. Vaan also had a funky design because his face constantly looked dirty (not sure if this was intentional) and he has like a deformed 11 pack of abs.

Something else that really stuck out to me was the menu interface of this game. The way the main menu would simply blur whatever was on screen and overlay the menus on top of it looked really slick to me. The fonts and icons also really impressed me. It may seem silly to point this out but I felt it gave the game a really nice level of polish.


I am a whore for slick interfaces, hench why I change my review headers every other day :(

Music
The games soundtrack was mostly composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, the guy responsible for the Final Fantasy Tactics series and Vagrant Story. Without even looking it up I was able to tell from the opening scenes because the music is very reminiscent of his style. It’s done in the same orchestral style as his previous works.

Despite really loving some of the songs in this game I was disappointed in the overall sound track. There are some really good tracks in FFXII, but there are more forgettable tracks than there are memorable. None of the music is bad as in I didn’t enjoy listening to it, just didn’t fuel me or make an impression. Unfortunately as a whole not many tracks stand out which makes this one of the weaker final fantasy soundtracks. Yet the few that do stand out are absolutely amazing and had the entire soundtrack been like them it would be one of my favorites.

♪ Boss Battle

This song is possibly my favorite boss battle music from the series. It doesn’t start off strong but some of the highlights in the middle are amazing. I remember fighting bosses in the game with this in the background and suddenly thinking “holy crap this is epic”. The only complaint I have is that this track was sometimes subbed out for important story battles because it’s by far the best one.

♪ Rabanastre

This is the melody of the very first town in the game. Something about the way this melody is so soft and yet still definable. I also really enjoy how it is an extended track instead of a short loop.

♪ The Skycity of Bhujerba

I really like the instruments used in this theme. The flute or whatever wind instrument that plays the melody is really nice. On a related note, I can’t hear this theme and not instantly think “I’M CAPTIAN BASCH”.

Gameplay
Final Fantasy XII is a drastic turn for the series. The standard turn based battle system that the series has used since its conception has been done away with for the most part. Many players who are purists to the series did not like this change but I personally thought it was amazing. So amazing that I wish that sequential game in the series would build upon what FFXII did.

The new systems plays almost like a MMORPG. You walk around freely with the analog stick and can see all the monsters in a dungeon or field. There is no transition between battle and navigation anymore almost like an Action RPG (think Phantasy Star Online, Secret of Mana) only with the removal of the action element as you never directly control actions (like mapping an attack to button press). So for example to attack a monster you must first run over to it, select the attack command from the menu, and your character will start attacking.

So how can one player constantly maneuver and give actions to three different characters at a time? That’s where the gambit system comes in and the true beauty of this battle system starts to shine. The gambit system is almost like simple programming commands you can set on the characters to perform certain actions when certain conditions are met. So say in Final Fantasy games your normal strategy is to heal any character below 50% health with a potion. With the gambit system you can set a rule up to do this for you so that whenever a characters health gets that low, the assigned character will stop what they are doing and use a potion. After you set up a few of these gambits you then need to decide their order of importance. What the game will then do is run down the gambit list when you encounter enemies and the first time it finds a valid condition it will perform that gambit. The available gambit conditions throughout the game get more complex too, such as “If enemy weak to fire” or “If enemy HP is below 1000”. The system initially intimidated me and looked confusing but once I started using it I realized it was very simple.


This is my end game Gambit setup for Penelo

Many people do not like this system and complain that the game plays itself. That’s true, the game does play itself a lot but I personally loved it. To me the gambit system automates all the tasks of the previous games that have become tedious. This is the twelfth entry in this series and by now the strategies that are automatable are common sense. I don’t even have to think about basic concepts now, attack with physical characters, heal when health is low, and use water on fire enemies. These strategies never ever change and it becomes obnoxious to repeatedly select them from menus. And yet in situations where I need to take some drastic control and change my strategy, FFXII lets me intervene. I can’t explain what makes battles in the FF series fun, but after playing FFXII I can tell you it is not tediously giving commands. By the end of the game I had leveled/equipped my characters and set up gambits so well that like fellow forum member Drunken Savior, I beat the last boss without lifting a finger, and I had a blast doing it.

A great byproduct of this new battle system is that there are no longer random battles. As you travel across fields every enemy is visible and again, there is no transition into a separate battle mode. This means that if you really want to you can run around almost all a dungeons enemies and go straight to the end. Of course that would make your characters very under leveled and the game hard, but it’s nice not to be forced into battling like the previous games. This is a major plus in my book because I find lately I have less and less tolerance for random interrupts while trying to navigate a dungeon. I also love that this new battle system does not lock you out of your menu, meaning if you want to equip a new armor or learn a new spell in the middle of a boss battle you can.


This is seriously an amazing, fun, well thought out system.

In the same vein as Final Fantasy X, XII encourages you use all the characters. This means that for most of the game you have all six available characters in your party. If your current three die then the game will automatically switch out the others for you. I chose not to do this and simply leveled up three instead because it was easier. They turned out stronger this way because experience and funds were divided three ways instead of six.

The new skill system is the License board. Sort of like the sphere grid from FFX, the License board is a giant board filled with different skill icons. As you get points to spend on the board you can only learn skills next to the ones you already know, which creates branches throughout the board. Like most recent Final Fantasys, although characters come with some initial configuration, they are clean slates that can be shaped anyway you want. It reminds me of the job system in FFT because the way you controlled your characters development became your strategy for battle. Through the first half of the game I thought this was really awesome because it gave me control of how I wanted to raise my characters. However as I approached the end of the game my party had maxed out the board and became carbon copies of each other. I wish the board was a lot bigger so that characters would still end up unique.


This is what my board looked like towards the end of the game. Everyone ended up being the same.

The difficulty of this game is a lot harder than the typical entries in this series. There were many boss battles that had me scrambling to stay alive. Magick has a weird effect that I didn’t realize until late in the game, which is no two magick spells can go off at the same time. This means that if one character is casting Firaga on an enemy, nobody can cast a heal spell until that Firaga is finished. I ran into a few instances where a character would be ready and waiting to cast Cure while their target continually got beat up, all waiting on a spell to finish. At the end of the game I actually turned my Magick user into a physical attacker since its delay made her damage output really low.


I didn't cast too much of this as I got to the end

Along with the standard shops, there also exists a bazaar system. It’s like a roundabout way to craft your own items. Enemies will drop unusable loot that seems worthless, but if the right amounts are sold to the shopkeeper it will unlock new equipment/items for purchase in the bazaar. I think this is a great concept however the problem is that I had no idea what loot would unlock what. There are no in-game hints that indicate what different kinds of bazaar items would become available or how many if certain loot items I needed. Without any idea I was constantly referencing gamefaqs and the internet to find out, and if I have to do that then it’s a problem. My other problem and perhaps this is simply because I didn’t know, but it seemed any new equipment I unlocked in the bazaar was already outdated for my characters.

In perhaps one of the coolest ways to do side quests in the series yet, FFXII has the hunt system. Various towns have bulletin boards posted where different people request certain monsters to be hunted. Each hunt you accept requires you to talk to the person who issued it, which usually gives some back story. I had more fun doing some of these hunts than I did progressing through the main game. The biggest problem is that until you get the airship it is really troublesome to travel between towns and hunts have you traveling all over. This restricted me from doing most of the games hunts until I had the airship.

Fitting nicely in with the hunt system is the games bestiary. Every single monsters, character and location you encounter in the game shows up in this bestiary and has some history written up about them. For someone like me who enjoys reading up on lore this was a treat. I probably lost a good hour or more just reading about the origins and details of the monsters I encountered. This should be a standard feature in every Final Fantasy game.

Lasting Appeal
My total game time was 99 hours, and a good 40% of that was done doing hunts. I was pretty satisfied with the stories length and it felt just about right. Not too long and not too short.

Hunts add a ton of gameplay and are a lot more fun than standard RPG side quests. Even after the story is all but completed the available hunts, special items, and rare things to collect can keep the fun going.

Final Thoughts
This game feels very refreshing for multiple reasons. Tetsuya Nomura was not the character designer, Nobuo Uematsu was not the music composer, the story is very different and the battle system is completely reworked.

If the storyline was better and easier to follow this would be my new favorite Final Fantasy. I had that much fun with this game. I wish this game was the direction that all future Final Fantasy games would build from. I enjoyed the new battle system in XII more than I did any other entry in the series. Not only were battles not annoying when I traversed dungeons, I actually looked forward to them.

Final Fantasy fans should approach FFXII with an open mind because expecting it to fit into the traditional turn-based mold will only lead to disappointment. Embracing the Gambit system instead of fighting it is the key to enjoyment. This is one of the most amazing RPG's I have ever played and I reccomend it to anyone who likes the genre.
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Old 09-03-2009, 02:42 PM   #147
Zachalmighty
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Stop doing RPG's you bastard!
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Old 09-03-2009, 03:26 PM   #148
Joe Redifer
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Yeah, and need more non-Nintendo system reviews.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:04 PM   #149
Seraph
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Picky Picky Picky! The things I do to please you people!

Ok fine, the next game will be a non-RPG non-Nintendo system game.
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Old 09-03-2009, 04:06 PM   #150
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Originally Posted by Seraph View Post
Picky Picky Picky! The things I do to please you people!

Ok fine, the next game will be a non-RPG non-Nintendo system game.
Oh yes, please me Seraph. PLEASE ME
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