Why Ramble?

In a society where social media runs rampant, it seems mob mentality is inevitable on the internet. This is most apparent in the video game scene. It’s gotten so bad that people often berate others for their personal preferences in video games, consoles of choice, and even how they play a video game. Well, that’s why I’m here.

I’m a natural optimist when it comes to video games. I actively seek the good in games while accepting that not everything is perfect, so this is why my blog site exists. I want to make every gaming experience exactly that: an experience. Something we can all enjoy in. The good, the bad, everything, and reflect on said experiences. Sure, it sounds cheesy, but I think we can all benefit by seeing video games as art.

“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock and roll.” — Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and many more classics

The Genesis – Persona 4

Listen to the end. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

This is such a fascinating song that I had to write an entire article about it. Maybe not a long article, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on this song and why it’s personally one of my favorite tracks in the whole Persona 4 soundtrack. People talk about it being boring, and while they’re allowed to have their own opinions, I couldn’t agree less than I already do.

Maybe it’s because of this following fact. I’m not the biggest fan of Persona 4‘s soundtrack in general, at least, in comparison to the other games’ soundtracks. (My personal favorites are the soundtrack of P1, both the PSP and PS1 versions, P2: Eternal Punishment, P3, and P5.) People talk about it being too slow for the “true final battle” theme, and yes, it is a little slow, but it’s incredible. This track just stands out to me more than most songs in the P4 soundtrack do because of its intimidating and ominous nature. The true final boss is most certainly a formidable foe, and this song is probably the most fitting song Shoji Meguro could have composed for it.

In a game with music that gives off a pop/rock vibe, a song like this, with a classical orchestra feeling, really just provides that atmosphere change that really shows you you’re in the endgame now. Even The Mist, another one of my favorite tracks from P4, doesn’t scream “final boss” like this song does. At least to me, anyway. All of this is my own opinion, and I can absolutely see why people would disagree with me. But I’m coming from the perspective of a former choir/music theory major. In the years I performed in choir and have studied music theory, I learned to be able to feel what music was saying through the timbre of the instruments, the way the time signature is utilized, the cadence of the melody as it combines with the background harmonies, the list goes on.

My point is that just about every song out there tells a story, and it doesn’t need lyrics to tell that story. You can understand what it’s saying through close listening and truly immersing yourself in the song. This song gives off the perfect foreboding aura such an intimidating final boss deserves. It sort of reminds me of the song “Transient Butterfly” from the PS1 version of the first Persona game, at least in its structure and what sort of feeling it’s giving off. Except unlike that song, “The Genesis” has that bit of hope at the end of the game where it brings things back full circle with the melody of “Reach Out to the Truth”, another one of my favorite tracks from this game. That ending always gives me chills.

Long rant short, I personally think this song is absolutely incredible, and it’s the perfect track for the true final battle. Also, the instruments give off very heavy Strange Journey vibes. I know that both games’ soundtracks were composed by Shoji Meguro, but still. Strange Journey is one of my favorite games of all time, and I absolutely love that Meguro threw some of that game’s music style into a Persona game. Goes to show it’s true that every Persona game’s final battle theme has some Shin Megami Tensei inspiration.

Persona Q2 – First Impressions (No spoilers)

I cannot express my love for this game enough, guys. Just play it when it comes out.

Ever since Atlus announced that they’d be making a sequel to the original Persona Q, which remains one of my favorite 3DS titles to this day, I’ve been hyped from day one. To make a long story short, I got into the original PQ because of the franchise’s predecessor, Shin Megami Tensei. The fact that there existed a first person dungeon-crawler featuring the Persona characters I’ve come to know and love over the past few years made me happy.

(I know Persona 1 was a first persona dungeon-crawler, but I never saw them doing this again.)

And then this beautiful gem of a game was announced.

I watched every trailer, every character overview, and basked in the amazingness of the music. I was ready. Of course, it came out in Japan long before its release here in the US, which is pretty standard for Atlus titles, but then we received unfortunate news that the game didn’t sell all that well in Japan. If I recall correctly, anyway. I’m not necessarily the go-to source for info like this. I just heard about it before localization of the game happened. As a result of the game’s poor sales, they made the decision to just keep the game’s Japanese voice acting in, and, possibly, if enough people in the US show interest in the game, they may consider adding English voice acting later down the road as DLC, like the Japanese voice patch in Persona 5.

As is normal on the internet these days, people got all up in arms about it, but personally, I don’t see the point. Yes, I had come to know and love the English VAs over the years, but English voice acting or not, the game still got an English translation, and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Backstory aside, I got my copy quite early. It just arrived yesterday, despite not actually being released to the public until June 4th, so I figured I’d give a little first impressions treatment to what is my new favorite title on the 3DS.

Honestly, all I can say is that this game is as amazing as I expected and then some. It’s not just another Etrian Odyssey game with the skin of a Persona game. (I’m over-simplifying things, but still.) It doesn’t feel like they just copied the assets from the first game and brought them to this one. Everything feels almost redone from the ground up, save for, perhaps, the engine itself, but that doesn’t matter.

The writing is incredibly solid, like in the rest of the Persona series. Every character remains faithful to their original selves from their respective games. The music, as is to be expected of a Persona game, is absolutely incredible, even more than I expected, to tell you the truth. Prior to the game coming out, I only heard the battle themes and the incredible intro theme, but after having gotten to start the game, it all sounds amazing and fits well. The animation and art style are both absolutely gorgeous. The chibi models look even better than they did in the original Persona Q.

And of course, there’s the gameplay. Honestly, when I was playing it, it gave off heavy old school Shin Megami Tensei vibes to me in the best way. It could also be because it reminds me of Strange Journey, another favorite title of mine on the 3DS, but still. I’m playing the game on Normal mode, and even the tutorial battle showed that, yes, you are playing an Atlus RPG, and yes, you will get your ass handed to you time and time again, and I absolutely love it.

To make a long rant short, I’m glad I pre-ordered this game back in February. It was worth every penny and then some. June 4th is its release date, so if you didn’t get the chance to pre-order it, I highly suggest purchasing it. Let’s show Atlus some love, and show them that the Persona series has a legit fanbase internationally. To end things off, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite songs from the game, so here we go.

Mother’s Day Nostalgia – EarthBound

This song alone stirs my nostalgia and I love it.

It’s certainly been a while since I posted an article here, and I most definitely apologize for that. Sometimes, life gets crazy. I do have more articles planned, I promise you that. I’m just waiting to get a little further in certain games, like Dragon Quest XI since I feel like I’m nearing the end of the game at around 100 hours now.

However, that’s not quite what I wanted to discuss. With it being Mother’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to write about a game I’ve been playing again during breaks at work, and that is one of my favorite games of all time — Mother 2/EarthBound.

At work, I’ve been trying to come up with various methods of keeping my head above water. It’s easy to fall to despair in my line of work and get bombarded and drained by the onslaught of verbal abuse from customers, so during breaks, I’ve been bringing my 3DS to work for the first time in years and playing this amazing game. I already had a file saved in Onett when I booted it up. It was just outside of Giant Step Cave, so I knew exactly what to do.

Playing EarthBound again for the first time in well over a year over the past week or so has brought back many pleasant memories. When I first discovered this gem of a game, I was fourteen years old. I saw a Let’s Play for it done by the YouTuber Chuggaaconroy from back in 2008 and fell in love with the game from that. After I started high school, a friend of mine introduced me to the magic of emulators and being able to play games I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

As soon as I got a Super Nintendo emulator, the first games I got were Final Fantasy VI and EarthBound, the two games I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I’ll never forget how difficult the game seemed at first. I was still technically new to RPGs, so I didn’t do much grinding and exploring to find secret items or pieces of equipment. I don’t think I made it past the Giant Step Cave for a long time. When I eventually did, I still found difficulties in the game for sure, but I think I eventually got stuck in Threed because the enemies kept completely destroying me.

It’s a cold little life here in Winters.

Fast forward to when I’m about sixteen years old or so. At that point, I’d gotten used to EarthBound and its mechanics for two reasons. The first is that I decided to try the game out using cheats, which I later regretted because it made the game crash as soon as Poo joined the party. But then I played it again naturally, and this time, I had found a PDF version of the old school player’s guide. You know, the super cool and creative one. I fell in love with that guide and decided I’d use it to finally try and beat the game myself.

I finally did, and what a masterpiece it was. Since then, I’ve played that game over and over again, and every time I do, I learn something new about the game. It’s incredible. Some of my favorite memories with the game are these days when my brother and I would be home alone a lot. Back then, he had worse anxiety problems than he does now, and he couldn’t sleep in a room alone for a long time, so I’d let him crash in my room while I played EarthBound. He always liked the sound effects and music and thought the general atmosphere was calming, even when I got to Moonside. The sounds would just make him fall asleep. We’re both adults and living our own lives now, but we recently reminisced about that and it reminded us both of how much we love this game.

This game helped me establish my identity as an author, a music composer, and now a game developer. While Persona did a lot of the work, this game helped me through some difficult times, and playing it again here in my new life is a bittersweet experience, but mostly sweet. It’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea though. All throughout high school, my co-author often hated on this game, but now that we’re older, he’s far more civil about it. We haven’t discussed it in years, but I reached out to him recently because I wanted to know what he didn’t like about it and why, and he had an interesting answer.

He hadn’t really thought about the details until then, but his judgement was that he felt the game was quirky in its general atmosphere, but not in a way that kept his attention, so he simply didn’t enjoy it. To be fair, he’s not the biggest fan of most turn-based RPGs, with some exceptions like Final Fantasy VII and the Pokémon series, so I can at least understand his point of view.

The song of sweet relief.

This is all to say that this was, still is, and will forever be one of my favorite games of all time, right up there among games like Final Fantasy XII, Xenoblade Chronicles, and any Persona game, including Persona 1, but I’ll get more into that game in another article later, because I have some words to say about that one. EarthBound holds a special place in my heart. The game, the music, the characters, it’s all just perfect. It doesn’t feel so much like a game as much as it does an experience, and I think that’s why it resonates with so many people. It’s an adventure, one that brings back a childlike sense of wonder and amazement. If you haven’t played it before, I highly suggest playing it, and if you have played it before, pick it back up again and just play it, even if it’s been forever. Perhaps you’ll find something new in it that you haven’t noticed before.

The Magic of Final Fantasy

Listen with headphones and enjoy WiiGuy‘s amazing job with this mix.

Final Fantasy was my introduction to the RPG genre, like many others, and I must say that to this day, the game that started it all is still one of my favorites. No joke; I’ve beaten this game so many times, and it never gets old to me. You know why? It’s not nostalgia, believe it or not. This wasn’t actually my first Final Fantasy game. There are two big reasons for this—the imagination aspect of feeling as though you and your friends are on this Dungeons & Dragons-like quest to save the world still makes me feel like a giddy little kid, and the godly soundtrack.

I could hear this game’s soundtrack over and over again and I never get tired of it. Nobuo Uematsu is a musical genius; I’m sure this is a fact everyone can get behind, but hearing where it all began is a beautiful experience. Using only three sound channels, he captured the magical essence of this wonderful game and turned it into an unforgettable experience. From the start of the game where you have nothing but the clothes on your back to the end where you travel 2,000 years into the past to stop the endless cycle created by Chaos, every step of the journey is one you’ll never forget.

Naturally, you’ll get annoyed at the encounter rate in some areas, and yes, there is definitely level grinding involved, but it’s not nearly as much as you’d expect. And if you play the game with an active imagination the way I do, it makes it that much greater of an experience. I like to play the game imagining that the characters are interacting throughout the journey and during battles. I mean, I am an author, after all. It’s my job to create stories. If I had more knowledge of D&D, I’d totally be a DM, but I still have much to learn, but that’s another story.

In any case, if you’re an RPG fanatic like I am, pick this game up. Maybe not the classic NES version unless you’re really into the classics like I am; I’d suggest either the PS1 or PSP versions, but just pick this game up, play it with an open mind and an expressive imagination. Trust me; you’ll have so much fun with it that way.

Less is More – Why I Love the Music of A Link to the Past

Not gonna lie; this is my favorite Legend of Zelda soundtrack, narrowly beating Link’s Awakening.

A Link to the Past versus Ocarina of Time — a classic tale of clashing fans and grumpy animators. People spend all this time arguing over which one is better, when ultimately, it comes down to preference. As for myself, I’m someone who loves and accepts both fondly. A Link to the Past was the first game in the series that I owned, but as funny as it may be, I actually beat Ocarina of Time long before I beat this one. (As a kid, I sucked at this series; it actually took a bet with my co-author for me to finally beat Ocarina of Time.)

I have a personal connection with A Link to the Past, and here’s why. That game impacted me in a massive way when I was a kid, in a way that still positively affects me even as an adult. That game was the reason why I wanted to become an author in the first place. I loved the magical majesty of the world of Hyrule, the narrative nature of the adventure, and the idea of a young protagonist saving the world. Naturally, considering I was six years old, I was drawn towards the idea of young protagonists saving the world, which was a major building block in what would eventually become my writing career.

Rants aside, the biggest thing that drew me to this incredible game was the soundtrack. Despite knowing the soundtrack consisted of midi instruments, it was magical, especially from the beginning. The music immediately draws you in, from the prologue theme into its shorter leitmotif that plays during the rain scene, and finally, the Hyrule Castle theme.

Still one of my favorite VG tracks of all time.

In my opinion, everything about this track is absolutely perfect. The instrumentation, the progression, and the incredible climax. This song is what defines A Link to the Past for me. As a kid, this song blew my mind. It really made me feel the severity of the situation of infiltrating a castle full of possessed guards. There are so many emotions packed into this song, which is perfect! You traverse this castle, face fearsome foes, and eventually rescue Princess Zelda from the dungeons of the castle, only to find out that your job is far from done.

Fear of the unknown, courage in the face of adversity, urgency in knowing what’s at stake, and triumph over the trials that stand in your way. Those are the emotions I feel from this song, yet when you really listen to it, there are only really five instruments, at least out of what I can hear: a strings section covering both the main melody, background harmonies, and our bass section, a brass section, a triumphant trumpet exchanging the melody with the strings, a trombone (or potentially something else; I wasn’t a band kid, so I’m not too great at identifying brass instruments) harmonizing with the trumpet’s melody in the latter part of the song, and a timpani to convey the heavy feelings all within this song.

Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but you know what? Even if I am, that’s just the way I like it. I love this game’s soundtrack. Every song perfectly conveys the emotions of each location or scene in the game, and even to this day, it still blows my mind. Feel free to let me know what your favorite Legend of Zelda soundtracks are in the comments! I’d love to discuss them, because frankly, I love all of them.

My Mistake – Tokyo Mirage Sessions’s Difficulty

Allow me to show you the song of my people.

Well, I’ve been playing a lot of this game recently; I don’t have much time to play it with my current schedule, but basically, I’ll play it for a couple hours each evening before turning in so I can wake up early enough to go to work. I will say that I absolutely love it still, don’t worry. Despite what the title says, this game is still one of my favorite RPGs. I just want to discuss something I said in my last article about this game and redact that statement.

First off, I’m still on chapter one, which I suppose I should have expected. It’s an Atlus game; they can usually be pretty long. I think I keep forgetting that, since I get all caught up in the fact that it’s a Nintendo home console RPG, and the only one of those I’m familiar with these days are the Xenoblade games, so I keep forgetting it’s a Shin Megami Tensei game, ultimately.

I finally just started getting into the actual dungeon-crawling of the game last night and had a lot of fun with it! I’m starting to see its similarities to games like Shin Megami Tensei IV and the fact that it uses the classic Weapon Triangle from Fire Emblem. (For those who don’t know, almost all Fire Emblem games have one common rule: swords beat axes, axes beat lances, and lances beat swords, and these rules also apply to this game.)

In this game, you can encounter Savage Enemies, which might as well be like encountering the Reaper in a Persona game. Unlike the Reaper, you still sort of stand a chance against them, but if it’s a team of four when you only have three party members at this point in the game, not an ice cube’s chance in hell. I’ve been attempting to level grind, but once you’re up to level 10, it takes quite a while when you’re still fighting enemies between levels 2 and 7. With that in mind, I start actively seeking out Savage Enemies since they give a ton of EXP if you beat them.

That was my mistake.

I’m pretty sure the Savage Enemy encounters change based on where your own level is at, because once I hit level 10, I started encountering one particularly savage group that consisted of two sword-wielders and two axe-wielders, all of which are level 16. To get an idea of how terrible this really is, keep the Weapon Triangle in mind and the fact that I only have three party members six level below these enemies. The main protagonist, Itsuki, is a sword-wielder, and his friends Tsubasa and Touma are both spear/lance-wielders, so no matter what, unless you destroy one of each type of enemy so they can’t use combos on you, you’re as good as dead.

I say this from experience because until just now as I’m writing this article, I didn’t realize that killing one of each type prevented that. You just need to figure out a strategy to do it fast enough before they can start using their awful combos on you, since enemies can also use Session attacks if there’s more than one enemy in a single type. I died so many times that I unlocked “Friendly” mode, which is the easiest difficulty, so I temporarily changed it to that just to at least make some sort of progress.

Fortunately, I did make it to the mid-boss of the first dungeon, but I’m still frustrated at myself more than anything for underestimating this game’s difficulty. However, now I know what I’m getting into. I just need to remember that it really is a Shin Megami Tensei game, and it will most certainly be difficult. I’ll be changing the difficulty back to Normal when I go back to play it tonight, so here’s to hoping it doesn’t end in failure.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE – First Impressions

I love this game and its music so much, and I’m only an hour and a half in.

Let me give you a bit of background regarding this game. I first heard of it back before I was even into the Shin Megami Tensei series. Hell, it was before I even played Persona 3, so I wasn’t quite familiar with Atlus back then like I am now. All I knew was that it was some crossover between Fire Emblem, a series I had become well-acquainted with over the years thanks to my co-author, and Shin Megami Tensei, a series I’d only heard of, and I was interested in seeing what it was like.

I bought the game digitally when I had just gotten my Wii U and gave it a try. From what I can recall, I enjoyed it. Like most modern Fire Emblem games, it’s full of fan service, but when you set that fact aside, it’s a pretty solid RPG. The music is great, the dialogue is well-written, the visual style is very vibrant and unique, the gameplay is rather reminiscent of Persona 3 Portable‘s system.

Instead of using the “1 More” system or “press-turn” combat from its parent games, it uses a fun “Session” battle system. Attacking an enemy’s weakness will allow your allies to use special Session skills as long as your attack meets the criteria required for their skill to activate. It’s simpler than it sounds, but it’s a great and very unique system!

Well, I ended up needing to delete the game due to storage issues, but whenever I tried to reinstall it, it would give me an error and wouldn’t work. I finally just invested in a physical copy, and totally forgot I ordered it until it arrived today, as a matter of fact. I wanted to wait until a little later in the evening to play it, since I usually like to spend time with my family when I’m off work.

I excitedly put the game in and when I started it, I was thoroughly impressed with its overall presentation. Some people may find it cheesy, but I love that about it. It does not at all feel out of place. Even though it’s technically a Shin Megami Tensei game, it feels like it would totally fit as a mainline Persona entry. Atlus really did an incredible job on this sorely underrated game. Even though I hear the US release was heavily censored in comparison to the original Japanese version, I honestly don’t care that much about that. The game is just sheer fun.

Like any other Shin Megami Tensei game, the difficulty is, well, I wouldn’t say too difficult, but when playing on Normal mode like I am, it feels well-balanced. It provides just enough of a challenge to not feel unfair, but to where it feels like you actually need to provide thought and strategy into what you use your turns for. Like I mentioned before, buffs and debuffs are your friend, especially in the first boss fight. Even though I had all my party members up to level 5 by the boss fight in the Prologue, it proved to be quite a challenging fight. Fortunately, two of the protagonists both learn buffs to boost offense and defense for the whole party by the time they reach level 5, so that helped quite a lot.

All this rambling aside, I just want to say that even though I just started this game, it was well worth the money, and listening to “Reincarnation” just makes me so happy. I can’t wait to play more of this game. I’d highly recommend picking it up if you can if you like RPGs in general, especially if you enjoy Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, or preferably, all three.