Posts Tagged ‘square’
This week Fred is again solo, but fear not because he will have his faithful companion Jam back for the next episode. This week he’s discussing the origins of the Japanese Role Playing Game or JRPG and the genre’s eventual journey to the West. From humble roots in the early 80s to the powerhouse genres of the 90s, it’s a wild and crazy road.
This week we wrap up Squaresoft’s collaboration with Disney in the original Kingdom Hearts. Fred and Jam wrap up the campaign and then bring in guest Fortengard to discuss the secrets, bosses, and lesser known differences between versions.
Parasite Eve was born from the JRPG rush that flooded onto the original Playstation in the West after the success of Final Fantasy VII. During this time we see many new franchises that never left Japan coming over to the West as well as several franchises from the days of the 16-bit era coming over as enhanced ports on the PS1. Square Enix, one of the top developers and publishers of JRPGs, decided to create a Western-focused action RPG that was developed by Americans working closely with some of Japan’s top talent. The result is the survival horror and RPG hybrid Parasite Eve, that doesn’t quite capture the hearts of either fan, but is an undeniably unique title.
It’s not quite a survival horror, but not quite an RPG. It’s not quite developed in Japan but hardly a sole USA product either. Needless to say whether you’ve played it or not, there aren’t really other games with the development history or style of Parasite Eve. Beloved by those who played it back in the late 90s, this Squaresoft RPG with action elements that hit during the PS1 JRPG boon has its place among Square’s robust catalog.
One of the most fun things to do in the 16-bit era of JRPGs – although not exclusive to this time period – is break the basic system and do all kinds of ridiculous overpowered feats. Of those, Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II in the US on SNES) had a featured known as the “break damage limit” that forced the game to allow you to dole no more than 9999 points of damage (sounds like a lot of you aren’t a consistent re-player of the game) regardless of combos, leveling, and parties. ROM hacker “chillyfeez” found a hexidecimal code in Final Fantasy II (specifically the North American ROM) that allowed the cap to be raised to 16383 damage. While this is probably no big deal to many of us, Final Fantasy hardcore fans are probably overjoyed with the ability to increase damage and possibly even result in faster speedruns of the game. Either way, if you want the ROM hack, which will work on any emulated or flash cart copy of the original untouched ROM, you can download it here. Thank you Retro Collect for the story.
This week Fred and Eli (@Sodoom) discuss what many believe to be the best 16-bit RPG of all time: Final Fantasy VI (better known as Final Fantasy III on the SNES in the US). We discuss the combat system, characters, plot, and most memorable moment on this truly timeless RPG.
Console: SNES (as Final Fantasy II in the United States – title changed in later releases)
Released: November 1991
Price: $24.67 (used, cart only), $70.57 (used, complete), $300.00 (new)
Additional Releases:Wonderswan Color (Japan only, updated graphics), Playstation (Final Fantasy Chronicles, new translation), Gameboy Advance (Final Fantasy IV Advanced, upgraded visuals, new translation/conversion to more closely resemble Japanese version), DS (full 3D remodeling, new dungeon), PSP (Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection, updated 2D visuals instead of 3D, includes The After Years and a new campaign Interlude to bridge gap between the events of IV and The After Years)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (SNES version, $8), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $30), iOS/Android (GBA version, $16)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II
Please note: This was originally released as Final Fantasy II in the United States and later re-named to the appropriate numbering system. The actual Final Fantasy II Japan-only Famicom (NES)release review will be live shortly.
Despite the numbering of this game (and Final Fantasy VI) to be completely messed up in the US, Final Fantasy IV is a must play for fans of the series and JRPG genre. As George Lucas would put it, this is the “definitive version” of the game director (and series creator) Hironobu Sakaguchi originally wanted to make. It learns from its three predecessors and weaves in a powerful story almost unheard of at this point in gaming. Originally intended to be a final NES title in the series, budgetary and scheduling issues forced the 80 percent complete title to be scrapped and re-made on the new Super Nintendo (SNES) console with some of the original ideas integrated. The elemental concepts of the original, heavy story elements of the sequel, and job system of the third (it would be better utilized in Final Fantasy V however) were all mashed together with a new active time battle (ATB) system to create the most compelling game yet. ATB ditched traditional turn-based combat for a timer that allowed characters to attack at their own pace based on the type of warrior they were. This continues to be a staple of the series today and even snuck into other RPGs like Chrono Trigger. Final Fantasy IV hit early in the SNES and celebrated mass critical and financial success worldwide and is considered a favorite by many series fans.
Price: $13.49 (used, cart only), $48.50 (used, complete), $288.00 (new)
Additional Releases: MSX2 (Japan only), Wonderswan Color (Japan only), Playstation (Final Fantasy Origins, updated graphics), Gameboy Advance (Dawn of Souls, upgraded with additional dungeons, new translation), PSP (original title, includes Dawn of Souls content with updated visuals and soundtrack)
Digital Release? Wii Virtual Console (NES version, $5), PSOne PSN (Playstation version, $10), PSN (PSP version, $10), iOS/Android/Windows Phone (PSP version, $7)
Similar Titles: Dragon Quest (Warrior) franchise, Phantasy Star franchise, Vay, Ys I & II
If you ask most Americans what the first true console RPG was probably one of the most common responses would be Final Fantasy. Not only is Square’s epic tale of four warriors taking on a timeless being that plans to destroy the world memorable, but it stood well above the competition of the time. The Legend of Zelda may have taken around 10 hours to complete, a size and scope only possible with the ability to save that was unheard of prior, but it was nothing compared to the massive world and 30-50 hours you may spend conquering Final Fantasy. Aside from that, the 1986 Famicom title Dragon Quest (changed to Dragon Warrior in the US for its earlier iterations) had just received a slight upgrade and released to North America in 1989, less than a year before Final Fantasy. It was great but couldn’t compete with a game that was made three years later with the lack of classes, a party system, and various other differences. It should be noted that in Japan Dragon Quest II had already released and Dragon Quest III came out in February 1988, a mere two months after Final Fantasy, which had slowly built up most of the game’s staples such as a party system, exploration, turn based battle system, and both games had similar class systems. That doesn’t mean that Final Fantasy doesn’t have its own identity, it’s far superior in terms of graphics, nothing like the airship showed in the first three Dragon Quest games, and instead of sending you back to town when you die like Dragon Quest you would instead get a game over and go back to where you last saved. Final Fantasy also shipped with a map and huge manual that got players more invested in exploring and completing the campaign, not to mention a cheap and huge Nintendo Power strategy guide that released shortly after. For me, it was the near perfect conversion of the Dungeons & Dragons universe – some of the characters are literally stripped from the Monstrous Manual – and converted it into a single player experience.
Released: 1991 (1993 in Europe)
Instruction Manual: Link for manual, link for map (both helpful)
Played as a child? No
Value: $14.49 (used), $77.49 (new) on pricecharting.com
Also Known As: Mystic Quest (Europe), Seiken Densetsu: Final Fantasy Gaiden (Japan), Sword of Mana (GBA)
Digital Release? No
To fully understand the mystery and headaches surrounding Final Fantasy Adventure, you must first understand the massive differences between the names, although not the content, around the world. Times have changed and these days for uniformity (and the much more widespread import scene) most games retain their original title or some semblance of it. Square in particular was very forward thinking in terms of translation and localization, which resulted in games being renamed and more properly translated in different regions. Enter the portable debacle with the Final Fantasy name. On Gameboy there was a single title named Final Fantasy Adventure, this title, and another trilogy called Final Fantasy Legend (I, II, and III); Adventure is in fact the first entry into the Mana series (known as Secret of Mana Zero for a while and now officially renamed to Sword of Mana) and Legend is better known as the SaGa series, which has continued like Mana outside of portables. Legend wasn’t very widely regarded, SaGa has always been a bit of a so-so series, because it didn’t do anything new and was a simplified RPG by all accounts. Final Fantasy Adventure was a bit more interesting because it took the RPG-like elements of a Final Fantasy (the term “gaiden” in Japan relates to a “side story” so the title is fitting over there) and combines it with the action/map/exploring elements of Legend of Zelda. In short, it’s a hybrid of the most popular RPG and adventure titles on the NES now moved to the portable. It was popular then, too, spawning a long running series and the sequel, Secret of Mana, is an SNES favorite to most gamers.
Final Fantasy Legend involves a story about a boy, you name him, and a girl, also named by you, that are brother and sister. Bound by an interesting connection with the Mana Tree, the adventure begins with an evil presence named, get this, the Dark Lord, and his plans to destroy the world. In order to prevent it, our duo sets out on a quest to eliminate him. You will journey to many towns, meet plenty of people that will either help or inform you, and of course at some point the girl gets kidnapped by a man named Julius, the Dark Lord’s advisor. This is just a simplified version of the first third of an adventure that spans tens of hours, a time hard to pin down because like Legend of Zelda your progress depends on how fast you can navigate the map and know what to do next. Trust me, print up the map in the link above and bring a FAQ with you – there are a few moments where you can get stuck unable to beat the game.
Nowadays when people refer to a “JRPG” it’s either associated with a flood of nostalgic love for a handful of long-running series or a groan as modern Japanese companies try to capture the form of evolution that many game players strive for. This is because modern day JRPGs aren’t a whole lot different from the ones that started life and popularity back in the 16-bit era in Japan and the 32-bit era in America. If you’re not too familiar with or have never played any of these games, modern or classic, you may wonder why games that follow a well-known and successful formula may fail. Sure, gamers’ tastes have changed to a certain extent, but there’s still plenty of us that love to play these classic titles and have no problem sinking tens of hundreds of hours into beating them all over again. Unfortunately for modern titles of this ilk, they suffer from a lack of resources and that personal touch that made the older games so charming. Even when they do, like the recent Wii release The Last Story, these titles still can’t hold a candle to the heavy hitters of history. As a result fans of the genre have pretty much independently decided to freeze this genre, and its subsequent games, in time and appreciate that era as exactly that: a specific time of genre-specific gaming bliss. This makes it difficult for modern gamers trying to break into the genre because the amount of time to complete most games is much lower these days, lack of explanation and exploration are things of the past, and the price tags on the “classics” are either sky high or dirt cheap for the “poor ports.” For that reason, we’ve compiled a basic overview of the genre as a whole, it’s roots, and the factors that make a title considered JRPG. At the end we also suggest a handful of very accessible titles that are good for those starting out, especially with many of the classics porting to handhelds with varying results, and will continue coverage throughout this site.