Ys I & II Chronicles – First Impressions

Feels like it’s been a while since I wrote one of these “reviews.” Probably because it’s been a while since I felt so passionate about the beginning of a game. (Depression’s a jerk, that’s for sure.) However, I just started playing this game last night, and let me tell you: the impression it made on me is so incredible. Last time a game’s intro got to me this much was when I played Persona 3 for the first time.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I’m far more of a turn-based RPG fan. I got this game because it’s made by Nihon Falcom, the creators of one of my favorite RPGs of all time: Trails of Cold Steel. With that, I was expecting it to be a turn-based game, but when I realized it was an action RPG, it slightly turned me away. Only for a little bit, however. I gave it a day’s thought, then booted the game up last night. Let me say I was blown away.

The combat in Ys I is very simplistic. It was designed with accessibility in mind, so basically, all you need is the D-pad or analog stick to fight. You ram into the enemy, and if you hit them from the right angle, you can damage them without taking damage yourself. It’s simple, but when you get into a rhythm of ramming into enemies and grinding, it gets rather fun!

I can’t say much about the plot yet since I’m only two hours into the game and just made it to the first dungeon, but I can say that it’s one of those stories where less is really more. The game focuses a lot more on exploration and combat, but the story is very present. You know the protagonist well (for the most part), you understand the circumstances, and the plot still progresses. A lot of the dialogue mostly comes from talking to NPCs in the various towns, but that’s also where you get more insight on the plot. So in a way, you can sort of choose how much information you as the player take in.

Enough about that. The thing that really stuck out to me was the music. As a fan of the Legend of Heroes series, it’s no secret to me that Falcom games have kickass music, and this game is no exception. You start out in a town, and once you’ve done your exploring and talking to NPCs, the only other step you can think to do is to leave town despite everyone’s warnings saying it’s dangerous out there. However, the moment you step outside, you’re greeted by one of the most kickass overworld themes I think I’ve ever heard.

Let’s hope YouTube doesn’t take this video down.

Once I heard this song and got used to the incredibly addicting combat system, let’s just say I was absolutely hooked. This song, along with the simplistic-yet-amazing combat, makes you feel like a total badass when you’re going around wiping out the monsters threatening the local towns. I spent forever just grinding last night because this music never got old.

I certainly plan on playing the rest of the series after beating this game, that’s for sure. This was way too good of a first impression for me to pass up on the rest of the games.

Making a Game

I’m not what you’d call an expert developer. Hell, I’m hardly a developer as is. I only know basic coding for games, and I generally work with premade engines like RPG Maker and such so I only have to worry about the game itself. Even so, I find that developing a game, especially as a solo developer, has been a whole chore in itself.

For well over a year, I’ve been using RPG Maker MV to create a story-driven fantasy RPG called The Crystal’s Tale. This game is inspired by the plot of the first novel I have ever written and maintains the original concept while taking the many things I’ve learned over the past 17 years as an author into consideration. And in that past year, I have completed the Prologue chapter, and as of this article being written, I am still not done with Chapter One.

It’s not like what I’ve created is short, either. For only being the prologue and first chapter, the game has quite a bit of substance to it, lasting almost four hours long counting the duration of the optional dungeon. (Even then, the optional dungeon takes up about an hour or less depending on when you choose to go in.) But still, for how long I’ve been working on it, you would expect that I would be a little further along in the process. That’s what I assumed, at least. That’s a long time to be working on a game.

But of course, there are more factors in this process than have been accounted for. Life events and changes, work, other creative endeavors (I’m an author first and foremost, so the game comes secondary to my writing work), the list goes on. However, even if you take those out of the way, I still probably wouldn’t have been finished with the first chapter yet. Why is that? Because of the work that goes into making a game by yourself.

When you’re a solo developer, you are the whole dev team. You’re the writer, the programmer, the artist, the music composer, the director, the producer, and so much more, even when using an engine as simple and easy to use as RPG Maker. RPG Maker has some amazing artwork, music, and sound effects built into the engine, which are amazing as placeholders or if you just want to make a game with the default assets. I’m using the art in the engine for now since doing all my art for this game that will potentially last 30-80 hours would take much longer, and I want the base game finished before I do all of that.

However, there is something I am doing that impedes my progress, and that is composing every single track in the game.

I have a background in music. Nothing extensive; I took four months of music theory, eight years of choir, a couple years of musical theatre, and I’ve been experimenting in music composition since I was 14 years old. And as a fan of video game music, developing my own game and putting my own music in it sounds ideal. But with this, the problem lies with the fact that I want the soundtrack to have a unique song for almost every situation. I even want the main battle theme to change every time you start a new chapter. Doing this, though, results in me stopping the progress of my game for weeks, sometimes months, until I get the music I want written. That’s just how my work flow has been, since I’m not always in the mood to work on my music.

With that being said, it will likely take plenty of time for me to get this game finished, especially as a solo developer who is way too determined to make sure the soundtrack is as good as can be. However, I am excited to share it with you guys. I plan on releasing it completely for free to the public once it is finished, and I will provide updates here! If you are familiar with RPG Maker and have any suggestions or tips or anything, feel free to let me know!

Here are some samples of the game’s soundtrack so far!

This is the Overworld theme. At least, the first one.
This is the theme of the first town in the game.
This is the first main battle theme in the game.
And here’s my personal favorite. This track plays during battles in the first optional dungeon.

What Made You Fall in Love With Video Games?

This is a question I am genuinely curious about for pretty much anyone. If you’re passionate about video games, then at some point in time, there was one game that sparked that passion. In the comments, let me know what is that video game that made you fall in love with the whole medium, and what about that game is what made you feel that way?

Nostalgia in Video Games

I’ve been on a Final Fantasy kick the past few days, going back and playing a bunch at once, which is never a good idea, but I like to keep my options open, so I generally play multiple games at a time instead of focusing on one. (Gotta love starting with a run-on sentence.) But after playing them for a while, I got to thinking about my feelings regarding the series. Primarily, the fact that my tastes have changed.

Growing up, Final Fantasy IX was my go-to game, at least until my PS1 broke. Then I just got the port on the PSP and PS3 before it was released on the current gen consoles. There was something I loved about its world, the characters, and the story it had to tell. Back then, I didn’t have as much experience with the series as I do now. I was still new to RPGs in general. But after spending almost 50 hours on the game in my current playthrough, I’ve realized that I don’t quite feel its magic as much as I used to. Granted, that could be because of dealing with adult life in the middle of a pandemic and a screwed up government, so magic is pretty hard to come by these days, but still.

Whether it’s that or the fact that I just burned myself out on the game, I don’t feel it the way I used to. With that, I decided to take a break from Final Fantasy IX and start a new file in Final Fantasy VII instead. (With the help of my girlfriend, because I am indecisive and couldn’t choose between VII and VIII, so she chose for me.) The moment I booted the game up and heard the opening theme, I felt right back at home. Even as I write this post, I’m blaring the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. I’m already three hours in with Aerith in Wall Market, and still having a blast.

After playing it for just a few minutes, however, I realized something. I even talked to my brother about it to see if he felt the same. I have the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and I have absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I seem to enjoy the original game more despite the fact that the remake added so many amazing new parts and fixed many of the narrative issues the original game had. But why is that, when the remake is most definitely an improvement? My brother got back to me and said he felt the same way, and explained it’s because of the nostalgia we have attached to the game.

As kids, even though we never had a copy of the game because it was too expensive online due to scalpers, we were super into Final Fantasy VII‘s lore, the characters, the story, the music, everything. We’d seen Advent Children multiple times, we had a copy of Crisis Core that we played the hell out of, we watched playthroughs, we pretended to be characters from the game when playing outside, and we even attempted to dress as Cloud and Sephiroth one Halloween.

Thinking about it that way, it occurred to me that the nostalgia was a big reason why I had such an attachment to the original game. Playing it brings me back to that point in time when life wasn’t so crazy. But of course, that’s just looking at life through rose-tinted glasses. We often make the past seem much grander than it really was, especially when the present day feels so hopeless. While it’s fine to reminisce on the past, it’s important to avoid over glorifying it, since that makes us resent the present even more. At least, in my experience. The point is that Final Fantasy VII gives me this feeling of being right at home. On top of that, I just enjoy the turn-based combat system more.

While I personally enjoy the original Final Fantasy VII more than the remake, that doesn’t mean I think any less of the remake. Heck, even now, I also feel like playing that. What it means is that this solidifies that our tastes are purely subjective, because we don’t all share the same memories. The collective unconscious might be a thing, but at the end of the day, we’ve all lived our own lives and made our own memories. We each have memories attached to things like video games, music, books, shows, movies, etc. That’s often why we get attached to them. It’s not the only reason we get attached to them, of course. That’s a whole other article in itself right there. But it is a common reason.

While nostalgia does often increase our love for a game, I’ve noticed that a lot of people either use it against others, or get defensive if others don’t like a game they enjoyed, or if someone likes a game they did not enjoy. Looking at it from a psychological point of view, I always saw this as a case of someone making the things they like part of their identity. So when someone dislikes something they like, it’s as though they feel like those people are disliking them, and they take it personally, intentional or not. I say that because that’s how I used to be and still sometimes feel.

When that happens, I reevaluate myself. The world is crazy right now. With social media being a thing, it’s easy for us to lose our sense of self. Perhaps it’s a feeling of inadequacy, helplessness, loneliness, or we’re lacking something important in our lives, like serotonin. Something makes us latch onto the things we enjoy and treat them like they’re an extension of ourselves, and that becomes a very thin shield to protect our rather fragile hearts. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a game, especially if it brings back wonderful memories. We all need any bit of happiness we can get. It’s equally important to not forget our sense of self.

Persona 3’s Unique Effect

Persona 3 is a game I’ve written about before, but I wanted to go back to it for a little bit to discuss it from a more personal perspective. Over the years, I’ve noticed a particular effect this game has on myself and others alike. That effect has become even more apparent to me now. Part of it is the fact that I keep coming back to it. When I deal with depression, I’m usually not in the mood for any game, nor am I in the mood to write. (Which leads to other complications, but that’s another story.) However, I restarted this game today, and played for almost three hours without even realizing it.

There’s a certain charm to Persona 3, specifically the PS2 versions. Don’t get me wrong; the PSP version is amazing and I absolutely adore the female protagonist. But something about the PS2 version feels different, and keeps me coming back even after I’ve fallen victim to Night Queen for the billionth time. The obvious answer would probably be nostalgia, since FES was the game that started my passion for the Megaten series. However, I feel like that’s just looking at it from the surface. I think there’s more to it.

Persona 3’s themes cover an internal struggle, overcoming grief and depression, and perhaps one of the hardest things we as humans must face: accepting the inevitability of our deaths. The first line in the game is “Time waits for no one. It delivers us all to the same end.” I didn’t realize the significance of that intro until long after I played the game for the first time and started understanding the true meaning behind the game. While it is about death and depression, that’s not all it’s about.

I feel like everyone could come up with their own interpretation for the game’s deeper implications, but here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s less about the sorrowful elements of the themes and more about how accepting the inevitability of death is only half of the equation. Once you’ve accepted that and acknowledged that you have a limited amount of time here, enjoy the time you have. Tell the people closest to you that you love them. We never know what tomorrow may bring, so treasure the time we have today.

So, that’s my not-so-revolutionizing revolution about Persona 3’s themes. What does this have to do about its special effect? It’s the simple fact that even though these themes aren’t super obvious, the game was so well-crafted that it’s hidden everywhere in the subtlest of places. You can feel the passion behind the game, the care that was put into making sure it told the story it was meant to tell and to convey the messages the writers wanted to get across. It may not be my favorite Persona game, but it has changed my life for the better, and I will continue playing it for many years to come.

The Everlasting Appeal of Persona 4

If there’s one thing that’s been consistent about the RPG genre for the past decade, it’s that Persona 4 has always had a presence. Even before I knew what the series was, I’d heard of Persona 4 from at least some people. Though you might say what you wish about the game, it seems it has always had a place in people’s hearts, both classic fans and new. With the release of Persona 4 Golden on Steam, this point has once again been revived. What was once exclusive to a handheld console has become far more accessible. With this comes the increase in a player base. From what I heard, it sounds like the PC release of Persona 4 Golden was quite successful, even to the point where Atlus and Sega are considering PC releases of their other games.

That’s a point for another day though. The main point is that Persona 4, even nowadays, is still beloved by many. Even a friend of mine who normally does not like turn-based RPGs enjoys the game quite a lot. I’ve been thinking about why it’s still so popular even after all these years, since even I consider it my favorite game in the series. (I have played all six main games in the series, so I have given every game a fair chance as well.) The main reason I consider it my favorite game in the series can be put simply. In terms of the things I look for in a game, it hits all the marks perfectly. The writing is great, the music is incredible, the gameplay is simple but fun, the story is fascinating, and most importantly, the dynamic between the main characters is written wonderfully.

None of these are objective facts, since people’s opinions on writing and music are vastly different, but there’s a certain charm to Persona 4, its characters and setting in particular, that always stood out to me. After talking to my aforementioned friend about the game, I tried figuring out why this game is so beloved. It could be for a number of reasons. The story, the gameplay, the dating sim elements (gotta love the waifus and the husbandos you wish the game would let you date [just let me date Kanji, dammit]), the music, the list goes on.

Thinking about it, I broke it down to a rather simple idea. I think the reason why people love it so much is because the game treats the idea that less is more. The story and the setting are both rather simplistic when you really break it down. As a result, the game is able to focus much more on the actual characters themselves. It has a much heavier focus on hanging out with your friends and getting to know them, and it makes the game feel more personal in that way. You also get to see how the characters interact with each other as friends and it really makes the player feel like they’re part of this entertaining group of close friends living out in the countryside.

Persona 4 is like a comfort game in that way. During a time where we all feel uncertain and tired from the state of everything right now, Atlus re-released this game at the perfect time. If you enjoy RPGs and need a new comfort game, I would definitely recommend this game. It’s not for everyone, which can be said for pretty much every game in existence, but I can personally say that it has served as a perfect comfort game during these times of heavy stress and facing potential unemployment.

Why I Like RPGs

The turn-based RPG genre certainly has dedicated fans, but I know a few people who don’t fully understand the appeal. Honestly, I don’t blame them either. We as human beings have incredibly varying tastes. It’s only natural for one person to absolutely love something and another to completely dislike it. Granted, the people I know don’t completely dislike the genre, but they aren’t big fans of it. I’m sure there are many people who dislike or even completely hate it as well, which I understand. It’s not for everyone. But today, I decided I would like to break down what it is exactly about this genre of game that I really enjoy, and why I love diving deep into these typically long adventures fraught with danger, story, and stats.

When growing up, I didn’t even really know what RPGs were until I was 12 years old. The only games I knew were Mario, Zelda, Mortal Kombat, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, since they were the games my parents played. My dad told me a little bit about the Final Fantasy series as a kid, though all I knew about the series was that it had great music. When I was 12 years old, however, I got my first RPG: Final Fantasy IV on the GBA.

The moment I played it, I fell in love. I’ve never been what one might consider “good” at video games, so the idea of a game where you choose the actions for your character to do rather than having to fight with your own skill was practically a godsend as a kid. Finally, a game I actually had a chance at beating. On top of the combat, I enjoyed the character-driven narrative. Before then, the only story I’d ever known in a video game was that the world was in danger and you had to save it. But with Final Fantasy IV, it dove deeper into the personal affairs and struggles of the game’s cast, showing the more human side of the characters you’re playing as. At that point, the game was more than a game: it became a story.

Nowadays, you can find these deep story-driven games in any genre. The Last of Us games are probably the biggest example of this, given their major cinematic approach to storytelling. However, I think the reason I enjoy them so much more in RPGs is because with the games being simpler mechanically, it allows more room for character growth and actual plot. That’s generally why RPGs are known as long games. They don’t always have to be, of course; you can still have a great story-driven RPG but have it only be a couple hours long. But as a kid with nothing much to do, my childhood self loved long games and knowing that it would take me a while to reach the end of the journey.

This has mostly been a rant on how I feel about the story-driven elements of these games, so I’ll get back on track before I digress more.

Despite my rants, the reason why I love RPGs is rather simple: because I think they’re fun. I understand that not everyone finds them fun because they would rather use their own skill and not depend on luck and numbers in combat, which is completely fine. I agree that things based on RNG can be annoying (like status ailments in Persona 1 ruining everything), but at the same time, there’s more to it in my mind.

When you’re playing an RPG, you become part of the world in the game. You get to see the lives of the characters and you join them on their journey. Much like real life, things happen that you simply can’t avoid. Even so, the game is meant for you to keep pushing forward. It’s especially compelling once you get attached to the characters. That’s why I’m continuing Persona 1 despite my previous protests to doing so. I’ve gotten too attached to the characters to just stop playing after getting one ending.

The other factor here is the mechanics. Most RPGs generally have simple mechanics in terms of combat that are easy to understand, and some have more complex mechanics. However, they generally follow the same formula. You fight enemies, you input commands, you gain experience in some way (either the traditional way or you gain points to allocate to different stats), and you get some form of treasure. Rinse and repeat. For many people, I’m sure this formula is quite boring. It can certainly be repetitive, yes, but there’s something I find comforting about it. Or perhaps cathartic.

I find enjoyment in the process of progressing the strength of the characters via this system. Xenoblade Chronicles is an example of what I personally think is the ideal character-building system. On top of gaining tradition level ups through EXP, you learn Arts and can level them up accordingly, you have skill trees which level up with SP, and you have the Gem system, where you can alter each character’s stats and abilities in combat and on the field. It is an incredible system of customization. It does require plenty of patience to go through so many menu screens to get the character build you want, but for someone like me, I think it’s perfect. It feels productive, and it feels fun.

Again, despite the ramblings of this nerd, the reason I enjoy RPGs is simple. I enjoy their narratives, I love the mechanics, I absolutely adore getting absorbed through the storytelling and the music especially, and I just like seeing the characters get stronger through numbers as well. I totally get why people would dislike it, and I would never dissuade people because of their opinions. This is merely the opinion of a tired nerd, even if it doesn’t fully make sense. Also, RPGs are a big reason why I’m an author now, so I have that bias going for me as well.

The Struggle Begins Anew

Well, as stated in my previous article, I am giving Persona 1 another try! As annoying as the game can be, I am excited to be back at it. Not only so I can experience this game again to its fullest, but because this series is getting me back into the video production process. On top of the skit I posted previously, I get to edit the videos in this series and have fun with it, providing more info than I can in the actual commentary with edits and the like. I think that once I start getting into the combat elements of this playthrough, I will even go so far as to provide the stats for every single demon, their strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps some information on the lore behind them! If it gets to be much, I can even make separate videos talking about them, since I want to go all-out with them.

The first episode of this playthrough is live on YouTube as of today! Feel free to check it below and let me know if you have any feedback!