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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The more I listen to this song, the more fascinating it becomes. I’ll start off by saying that unlike many others, Nocturne was not my introduction to the series. I actually started off with Shin Megami Tensei I and IV at the same time and quickly became obsessed with the series. I fell in love with the intro of this theme, and wondered what in the world the vocal craziness in the background was all about.
A few of the battle themes in this game have the same garbled vocals in them, and one day when I was looking through the YouTube comments on one of the songs, I found out that they aren’t just demonic-sounding chants. They’re legitimate lyrics, and most interpretations of them say they’re from high angelic figures speaking out against the Demi-Fiend, which is the main character of our story. In this particular song, I’ve seen interpretations saying that it’s the highest angel Metatron trying to frighten and intimidate the protagonist, and honestly, I just find that so fascinating.
People have all sorts of interpretations as to what the lyrics actually are, and perhaps that’s intentional on Shoji Meguro’s part. It’s meant to be heard differently, other than the most famous lyrics: “One more God rejected.” Here is what I hear:
I’m heaven above outside you I have your back to the wall Survived the fall from grace Drink of the wine of the wrath of God One more God rejected I’m heaven above outside you One more God rejected I have your back to the wall One more God rejected Survived the fall from grace Thou shall not oppose the wrath of God Fear Fear God and give glory to Him For the hour of His judgement has come to you. Now When a thousand years have expired, Satan will be released Judgement has come to you.
When you look at it like that, it definitely sounds like it’s Metatron or another angel of some sort trying to intimidate the protagonist. I’ll admit that I am of faith (even though I don’t consider myself part of any religious group), but I still find this so fascinating to listen to. Feel free to leave a comment about your own interpretations! I’d love to discuss further meanings of the song and see what you guys think.
One thing that the Shin Megami Tensei and Persona games do is that they make you rethink everything you know about turn-based RPGs. A very clear example of this is that in the Final Fantasy series, you don’t really worry about increasing evasion or attack, but when you’re wandering about the ruins of Tokyo and you suddenly encounter Matador in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, you’d better learn how to use buffs and debuffs, because that guy is no joke.
As difficult as it may seem, it’s quite a smart battle system. I know that when many of my friends think of turn-based RPGs, they associate it with hours of level grinding, like the stuff you’d find in the Dragon Quest games. While there is definitely grinding involved with Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, it’s not for the same purpose.
In other RPGs, generally you’ll play the game, enjoy the story, and eventually you run into a boss that’s way stronger than you. What time is it? Time to grind until you’re about 10 levels higher and can summon Neo Bahamut or something like that so you can just annihilate the boss in one fell swoop. Well, the Shin Megami Tensei/Persona series changed that formula up a bit, and here, I’ll be talking more about Persona 4 in general, since that’s the game where I ran into this roadblock.
I won’t give out any major story spoilers for people who haven’t played it yet, but there’s this boss at what I assume is near the end of the game that gave me trouble. I’ve been playing Persona 4 Golden on Easy mode since I just want to experience the story before playing it again on a higher difficulty, and until now, I haven’t had much trouble. A couple enemies here and there would throw a curveball, but nothing too tricky.
And then this boss shows up and turns out to be way more difficult than I expected.
At this point, I thought I was over-leveled. I have the protagonist almost up to level 60 and most enemies are pushovers as soon as I know what their weaknesses are, but then this boss shows me that I am far from over-leveled. Or rather that I was unprepared.
There’s one move the boss uses where he possesses the minds of your party members and turns them against you. The first time he does it, he only does it to one person, but during the second time, he turns all three of them on you. It was at that moment I knew I was screwed from over-leveling, because my party members were too strong. I died before all three of them could attack me and got a game over for the first time since I’ve owned the game.
I haven’t played it since, but afterwards, I was reflecting on what could have been done to prevent that. Level grinding wouldn’t help unless I went in solo, and I didn’t want to risk that. Then I remembered that each Persona you equip has particular strengths and weaknesses to different types of attacks. It was then that I realized having a Persona to entirely block or absorb physical attacks would be the best way to go.
Until then, I completely forgot that was an option. When I use Personas, I only really focus on their skills and elemental strengths and weaknesses rather than how they react to physical attacks. When I play the game next, I’m going to do some Persona experimentation and see if I can find something that works. Perhaps I’ll even write a follow-up entry to this one afterward.
Either way, my whole point is that Shin Megami Tensei and Persona are amazing in the way that you aren’t required to level grind when you hit a roadblock like this. And instead, you can figure out which of your Personas can entirely negate that damage, or fuse one if you don’t have one already. I love this series, and I’ll certainly be writing about it quite a bit in the future. Hopefully I can convince those who haven’t played the games yet to give them a try. They’re not everyone’s cup of coffee, but I certainly love them.