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!

Why I Can’t Leave Persona 1 Alone

For those who don’t know, I started a YouTube/Twitch playthrough for Shin Megami Tensei: Persona last year, specifically, the PSP version with a patch that includes the original PS1 soundtrack. After over a year of hardship with the game, I finally got to the end and technically beat it, though the recording containing the ending was lost. It didn’t matter anyway, since it was the bad ending of the SEBEC chapter. I didn’t even get to see the full game. Once that was over with, I was also “done” with the game. As much as I enjoyed the characters, the atmosphere, and the story, some of the RNG was just so annoying to deal with that I couldn’t play it any longer.

Or so I thought.

It’s been about a month now since I got the bad ending and attempted to go back for the first time, and I’ve been thinking about the game. I’ve been listening to the music, thinking about the characters, and figuring out why I can’t just leave it be. It got to me bad enough to completely rid me of any motivation I originally had to play it. Why am I still thinking about it?

The answer’s simple: I actually enjoy the game despite what I keep telling myself. The RNG might be brutal, but it is by no means a bad game. It could absolutely benefit from a remaster that, at the very least, elaborates on the characters more and fixes some of the balancing issues in combat, but it’s still amazing as is.

With that being said, I ended up making and releasing an announcement video on my YouTube channel for the playthrough in which I go back to this game and play it all the way through, including both the SEBEC and Ice Queen chapters. I will be playing on the Beginner difficulty for both playthroughs in hopes that the RNG is a little nicer to me, because I’m just in this for the story, really. The game is about 55% combat anyway, so I’d rather get through battles quickly so I can see more of the story and how things develop over time.

If you’d like to see the announcement video I made (people seem to like it), feel free to check it out below! The hope is that I will be releasing Persona 1 videos every Tuesday and Thursday starting tomorrow. I hope to see you there!

A Song That Inspires Courage

I might not have been in this life for particularly long, but I’ve definitely experienced the fear of regular things in life that not only happen all the time, but are things I feel like we shouldn’t even be afraid of. I experienced this same feeling of dread and even despair just this morning, so it’s not exactly the greatest way to start the day. I panicked because after getting paid, I realized I wouldn’t have enough money to pay my phone bill (or anything else) after paying my rent, which was definitely priority number one.

I feel like the reason it hit so hard was because it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. For many of us, 2020 has been a rough year. Things always seem to get worse and worse. It’s been incredibly easy even for me to succumb to the despair of feeling like things can’t get better, and I’ve always been known to be a rather optimistic person. (A little nihilistic as well, but I feel like a small dose of that helps with the optimism.) Just this year alone, I admit that I’ve thought numerous times that it’d be much easier to just die than put up with all of this. The thought of pushing through all the troubles that I just know are ahead almost brings me tears because I know how difficult and painful it will be.

But this morning, after that feeling of panic and dread started, a simple yet beloved song of mine came to mind, and I had to listen to it.

(Here’s to hoping the video isn’t taken down.)

There’s something special about this particular theme, both this version and the original version from the GameBoy. It starts off with the familiar Legend of Zelda main theme, but then breaks off into a new section that I personally feel is even better than the original Zelda theme. Anyone who’s played a Zelda game gets the basic idea of the concept. You play as the young protagonist Link, travel a dangerous world, crawl through dark dungeons, take on huge enemies, solve puzzles, and you save the world. You endure much hardship in these games, but at the end, you never see Link give up. (So long as you play through the whole game, that is.) You see him find a way to keep moving, because he knows as well as you do that it will be worth it in the end to have fought through it all.

Listening to this theme again warmed my heart, reminded me to take a deep breath, and to remember that life is more than the trouble we endure. We have people we care about, we have things we enjoy doing. That’s what life is about, and in the famous words of Talesin Jaffe, life needs things to live. As silly a quote as this was in context, it rings true. We all need each other. And even though we’re in a time of separation right now, we’re still connected even if we don’t know each other.

This theme has reminded me to keep my own courage up. I acknowledge my feelings and concerns, but then I must cast them aside, because if I don’t, how am I supposed to move forward? It’s like my childhood experience with Zelda games. It’d take me years to beat one because I was so afraid of failure that I’d put off taking on the next boss for long amounts of time. I’d still do it, though, because I wanted to see more of the game. I wanted to experience the rest of the game’s world, meet the people who populate it, and see Link come out on top. This same wish applies to my real life. I want to surpass my trials now so I can keep moving forward, to one day see the rest of the incredible world we live in, to meet the wonderful people who live in it, and to eventually see that I might be able to make a career from my writing.

At the end of the day, we are not the same as our problems nor our thoughts. We are ourselves, and we are each strong enough to overcome these struggles. I have faith in myself, and I have faith in you, as you should. Keep going. Fight. Show the same courage our boy in green always has, and I hope you can be proud of yourself for doing so.

(Here’s the GameBoy version if you feel like listening to it.)

Important Changes to Black Crystal

Author’s Notes
Let’s get one thing out of the way: I was in the process of editing and revising the first three books in the series to match the current canon of the Black Crystal series, and I managed to succeed at doing so with The Origin, the first book in the series! But after looking at both The Essence and Elysium, the longest goddamn book I’ve ever written, I determined that I’m too lazy and tired to even try editing those books to match the current canon and revisions to the series’ world, lore, and all that good shit. At the time of writing this little “essay”, so to say, I’ve been putting The Kingdom, the fourth installment in the series, on hold for well over half a year without any progress due to a lack of motivation, and because I’ve been stuck with the past few books. Sure, a good author might stick with the program and do what they can to make sure all the books are as best as they can be, but who said I was a good author? People might like my stories, but my methods are far from effective. The older I get, the more tired I get, so I’d much rather just move forward with the story than feel stagnant and try making everything work with shit I already wrote. Don’t get me wrong. I am beyond passionate about this series. It just feels redundant to republish books that have been out for the past few years just because of a few revisions, so I’m making this recap free to read and open to the public. I hope this helps!

Revisions
Starting off, I would like to provide clarification to all the revisions that have been made to the Black Crystal canon so we’re all on the same page by the time The Kingdom is out. Ever since beginning my D&D campaign Legends of the Black Crystal, a few things have been changed for the sake of continuity, or rather, to make more sense. The most important thing is the relation between Chris and the Royal Family from the 1800s. The Essence originally indicated that 200 years passed between the Royal Family being turned to stone and Chris’s story beginning in the surprisingly modern city of Nakura, but this is officially false as of the new canon. 

I’ll explain it in more detail in the section of this essay detailing the plot of The Essence, but what happened was that Bartholomew’s curse spread around the world of Inclusia, which is where the series takes place, turning everyone to stone. The cities of Alswell and Nakura were constructed by a select group of people who had knowledge on interdimensional travel to house refugees who managed to escape the curse’s grasp. A barrier was placed around the two cities, and that barrier was set to protect everyone living in the two cities. However, since the people contracted to build them were familiar with interdimensional travel, they took inspiration from modern day Earth, which is indeed a part of the Black Crystal multiverse, since the characters Arianna Hernandez and Leon LaHayes both come from our little Blue Planet. As a result, it gives the aura of what 2017 in our world would look like, but it is still the 1800s in the rest of Inclusia. The contractors also had the ability to alter the memories of those who lived in the two cities, convincing many of the younger generations to believe they grew up on Earth and not Inclusia, which is why finding out what the world truly is becomes such a shock to the cast. The true amount of time has only been a few decades. Chris is actually the grandson of Garen and Lenora. Chris’s mother Elena and her sister Misty are Garen and Lenora’s children.

The next big thing is the geographical changes. Originally, the nation the story took place in was called the 48 Provinces, indicative of an alternate version of the United States, and Nakura was originally set to be in that world’s version of Canada. However, after deciding that my D&D campaign would take place in this world, I decided to flesh the world of Inclusia out more and give the world more original names. This is indicated in the rewritten version of The Origin, but the continent is now called Unistylaad, and there are only nine provinces. Orelivia is what used to be Oregon, and Washorick is what used to be Washington. I made sure the names were still close to the original so it wasn’t difficult to get used to them, especially for people who have read the original editions of these books. The city of Portland became the city of Livia, the city of Olympia simply turned into Olympe, the river crossing outpost Hood River became Hooded River, the militarized city of Eugene became Eugelene, and the village of Grants Pass was named Alorae. There are more towns than these, but these are the ones most prominent at the beginning of the series, so I wanted to provide clarification for them. There are six more provinces, which we will touch upon one day, but I’ll name them here: Ishtorai is a desert nation to the east of Washorick and Orelivia. South of Ishtorai is a smaller province named Selmor, where many witches practice arcane arts deemed illegal by the sovereign of Ishtorai. On a southmost peninsula below the entire continent are two isolated provinces named Caligri and Decimbra. To the far east are the three united provinces: Ohren, Flarioc, and the empire of Yorjun, which is where the provincial leaders meet to discuss political matters every few years.

The next thing isn’t a super prominent thing in the books, at least, but I thought it deserved attention: the mystery of the moon in Hooded River. At night, the moon turns green and demons emerge from the darkness. In the original version of The Origin, this was never explained. I meant for it to be more important, but I was writing the original version of the book on a deadline, and I think I just didn’t have the time to explain it. This was finally explained in our D&D campaign. This anomaly is called the Emerald Moon. Hooded River is a weak spot in reality. In other words, it’s a door to a place called the Road Between Realms. The veil that protects the prime material plane from other planes of existence is particularly weak in Hooded River, so at night, creatures from other dimensions, including those of the Infernal type who come from Hell itself, can easily pass through and enter the prime material plane from Hooded River. This was how Bartholomew managed to get such a massive legion of demons on his side in The Origin. But what does this have to do with the Emerald Moon? It’s a bit strange, you see. There are legends in Inclusia of the gods. Inclusia is a world that was not created by gods (we’ll get into that later), so the gods themselves are fascinated by this planet. Many of the gods worshipped by people living in Inclusia grew jealous of the fact that a world could exist without their will sustaining it, and thought the world deserved to be destroyed. Other gods knew this was wrong and tried to prevent them from destroying it, causing a war among the celestials. The gods who decided Inclusia was not worthy of existing were deemed “fallen gods” and were sealed away in the moon as punishment for their attempted crime. Legends say the moon turns green at certain places in the world because those are the only places where the blood of the fallen gods are visible.

Whew; that was a longer explanation than I thought. We’ll get to lore at some point, but I wanted to let you guys know some of the things that changed. Another small detail is that Chris isn’t actually “in love” with Mallory; he’s just infatuated with her, but he doesn’t really know the difference. That’s about it, in terms of revisions. If I come up with more, I’ll probably add them in the plot explanations.

The History of Inclusia
Ah, here’s something I’ve been wanting to explain for a long time—the interesting past of the world of Inclusia. I’ll keep it short though, because you can’t reveal everything; it wouldn’t be fun that way, but here’s some basic history most characters in the series are at least somewhat aware of, so I feel that you as the reader deserve to know as well.

Like I said before, Inclusia was not created by gods. It was created during a time long gone here on Earth. Long ago, we had humans and other non-humans, like monsters and elves, living among one another. Many of these people felt invisible because society shunned them or ignored them, making them feel like the world didn’t even belong to them. Some of these people even took their lives, but those who lived through it wished for a world they could call their own. Their will was so powerful that one day, these people found themselves plucked from their own reality and brought to a new planet specifically for them. This was created by a power named the Will of the Forgotten. The people who felt they didn’t belong anywhere found a home here in Inclusia, and created a society based on never making people feel alone and forgotten like they were on Earth. Hence the name Inclusia: the world was meant to be inclusive.

For many millennia, this form of society worked well. The world was big enough to carry all the people who belonged to it. The planet was quite literally made for them, by them. It fit everyone’s needs as their society developed. But one day, the peace came to an end. No one truly knows when or how it began, but humans began going around killing everything that wasn’t human or elven, believing that they would rise up and overpower humanity as they grew power-hungry. Just like the humans back on Earth. Humans wanted to make sure they stayed on top and weren’t wiped out, and ended up committing genocide in their act of trying to avoid genocide. After a hundred years of slaughter, the monsters evolved to the constant barrage of violence and got strong enough to provide a threat to the humans. The fighting only escalated until the world was literally stained with blood. Tired of the bloodshed, an elven woman named Sylvia Godswood rose to power and traveled the world, using diplomacy and kindness, and occasional head-busting, to quell the violence. It is said that her benevolence was so radiant that those who saw her beauty and heard her voice immediately stopped fighting and wept for the world, their ancestors, and the people they once considered their enemies. Sylvia slapped some sense into the people of Inclusia, reminding them what the whole point of the world was supposed to be, and they began rebuilding.

That was 12,000 years ago now. Save for some skirmishes and outside threats from other dimensions, Inclusia has not seen a battle quite as large as that battle, which was called the War of Cleansing. The only battle in recorded history that comes close is the War of 1806. Bartholomew Cadence, a mysterious man collaborating with the seemingly malevolent deity the Black Crystal, brought a legion of demons in an attempt to overthrow the kingdom of Livia. At the same time, Chancellor Anthony Guinness launched an attack on Livia with his own military force to take advantage of the fact that they were preoccupied with Bartholomew’s forces. Though the losses were heavy, Queen Maevis Morenthia managed to drive their foes away with magic unlike anything people in Orelivia or Washorick had ever seen. Bartholomew disappeared after the defeat of his demons, but came back later, revealing his power to possess the bodies of others.

Conclusion
The story’s weird, basically. Feel free to read the books as they are, and if you need reference for the revisions, they are all here. And if you do have any questions about the series, feel free to ask in the comments section of this website, or the YouTube video if you’re watching that version (which will come out soon if it isn’t already out). Either way, it’s time for me to finally get back to work on The Kingdom, so I hope you all have a great day and look forward to it!

Tales of Vesperia – First Impressions

The Tales series is something I meant to get into way sooner than I actually did. Back when I was a teenager, I guess you can say I started with Tales of Phantasia, only it was before there was an English patch for it. I just remember being astonished at not only the visual style for it being a SNES game, but also surprised that there was voice acting in it. I didn’t play much of it because of the language barrier, but still, this is a series that has always been at the back of my mind. Even when I was a younger teenager, I’d heard some of Motoi Sakuraba’s work from Tales of Symphonia. Since then, I’d been wanting to play this series even more.

Flash forward six or seven years into the future. As an adult, I’ve spent most of my gaming time with Persona, Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, and Dragon Quest, and I’ve played most, if not all the games in each series so far. (I haven’t beaten them yet because it takes me forever to get through games, but still.) I’m rather burned out on the RPGs I’d been playing, so I ask a good friend of mine what RPGs he’d recommend that aren’t in those series, so later, he sends me this massive list of recommendations. One of the games on there was Tales of Vesperia. I’m pretty sure that game is available on most modern gen consoles now, but I decided to grab the PS4 version. (Though if I knew it was on the Switch, I probably would have gotten it for that instead.)

The moment I booted up the game, I fell in love with the anime-esque art style. Sakuraba’s music hit me with a wave of nostalgia from my years of listening to Tales of Symphonia music. The voice actors all sounded familiar and almost embraced me emotionally with a sense of welcoming, like I was coming home from a long journey, if that cheesy comparison makes any sense. After the prologue, I was raring to go. I loved how the dungeon-crawling worked, though I did admittedly get lost frequently in the first dungeon because I was just not all that observant. It took me a little bit to adapt to the combat style, but eventually, I got the hang of it. It reminded me of what a traditional turn-based RPG would look like if it all played out in real time, and I still love it. It makes grinding not feel as much like a grind.

I don’t really have much to say since I’m only seven hours in and haven’t had much time to play it since booting it up, but I can safely say I am absolutely in love with this game. The characters are all so charming, the world feels amazing, the classic RPG elements make it feel familiar and comfortable to play, and even though I’m currently stuck on a boss right now, I’m still having an amazing time with the game. If you’re looking for a fresh RPG that also shares similarities with what we RPG fanatics have come to know and love, I’d highly recommend picking it up, or at least listening to the music. Motoi Sakuraba is a genius.

Thoughts on Chapter Five in Bravely Default

Warning: there may potentially be spoilers ahead.

I’m a major fan of Bravely Default. I love the characters, I love the story, the art style, the unique take on turn-based combat, and the soundtrack of course. (All hail our lord and savior Revo, who is making a return in Bravely Default II.) I still have year to beat the game, but I am working on it as we speak. I spent 40 grinding, which is why it’s taken me so long to get through the plot, but when you play the game, you understand why. There’s a good incentive for grinding. Anyway, once that was done, I finally got the rest of the job classes I was missing, at least, the ones I could access, and progressed the story.

At that point, I finally made it to Chapter Five. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is a point in the story where the story sort of repeats itself in a way. You have to go around the world again and re-awaken the Four Crystals of Light, and every single boss you’ve fought in the game is back for you to thwart again. Before going into the game, I’d heard complaints about this part of the game. Perhaps it’s because I’m not far enough myself, but I don’t quite understand the complaints. People talk about it being redundant and boring, which I can understand. It is redundant, I will agree with that, but you’re not just playing the same part of the game all over again. It’s much more than that.

That is where my love for this part of the game comes in. The moment I heard the familiar voice greeting Tiz back in Caldisla after entering the Holy Pillar, I got chills. When I saw that it was just Tiz in the inn, I was a little worried. It made me wonder if the entire story as a whole would just reset, like what I’ve heard Bravely Second does if you don’t press the Start button at a certain point in time, but once the rest of the group come back up talking about how weird everything is, my worries disappeared.

Sure, the plot sort of “reset” itself in a way, but not in the way you might think. After the four protagonists discussed the matter and looked around a little, they realized that it wasn’t time travel. They were in another version of the world they knew. The people who entered the Holy Pillar with them aboard Grandship also were aware of these changes, so not everything was the same.

One of my favorite elements of this parallel world deal was how the boss fights were treated. The fights are pretty much the same as they were in the initial world, only they have higher stats, essentially. It wasn’t the fights themselves, however. It was the context behind them. Many of the bosses acted as though they knew the protagonists, some of them seemed confused by their existence. Some of them even had an inkling that they didn’t belong in that world.

The first time you fight all these bosses, they feel like such evil, almost stereotypical villainous archetypes. However, when you fight them the second time, they suddenly feel more human. Even the protagonists suddenly start feeling bad for killing some of them. The best/worst part is that it’s all optional. You could go this entire chapter without killing these bosses, but you do it because you want to see everything the story has to offer. That’s the case for me, at least. I admittedly did feel bad killing some of them. I suppose that’s the genius behind this game.

Regardless, all of this is to say that Chapter Five of Bravely Default is actually really good. Despite its redundancy, the narrative finds a way to make the game feel fresh, and show you that there’s more than one side to everything. Now after writing this, I’m in the mood to play more, so I think I’ll do just that. I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Thoughts on Final Fantasy VII Remake

With all the hype surrounding games coming out soon, Final Fantasy VII Remake has been one of the many incredible games announced to come out soon. The original Final Fantasy VII had such a major impact on the gaming world in 1997 that it seemed near impossible to reach that level with a remake.

Enter Square Enix.

They managed to capture the original essence of the game so well while making it feel like a new game entirely in such a perfect way that it’s unbelievable. The characters feel more alive than they ever have, the world feels fleshed out and refined, and the music is the best we have ever heard it. Bringing back original composer Nobuo Uematsu was an incredible move on the dev team’s part, because the reorchestrated soundtrack does more justice for the original music than expected. If you have a PS4 and you haven’t tried it yet, the demo is available for free on there. Feel free to give it a go if you want to feel how it plays!

My history with Final Fantasy VII is a little strange, I’ll admit. I actually have an old YouTube video from two years ago where I discussed half-assed reasons why I didn’t like the game at the time. Which is ironic when you consider what this blog page is all about. My philosophy on video games has changed so much in recent years. If you’re interested in watching past me try to explain stuff that doesn’t make sense, here is the video for you.

dat thumbnail tho

My history with Final Fantasy VII began when I was about 14 years old. I was just getting into the series at the time. Before I was 12, I didn’t even know what Final Fantasy was. All I knew of it was the name. My love for the series started with a classic DS game called Ring of Fates, which was part of the Crystal Chronicles spinoff series, and the GameBoy Advance port of Final Fantasy IV. Both games inspired my love of the series, and the latter was what sparked my love for combining fantasy with sci-fi.

I had more access to the internet when I was 12 years old, so when I was working on my books at the time, I would listen to music from the Final Fantasy series almost exclusively. I was obsessed with Uematsu’s work, especially with the music from his former band The Black Mages. Combining metal and rock with Final Fantasy music? Count me in.

Once I started high school, many of the people I met there were fans of the series and helped me access it a little more. By that, I mean introducing me to the age-old solution for playing games when you’re part of a middle-lower class family: emulation. Sure, it’s illegal, but my rebel teenage self didn’t give a rip. (Full disclosure: I still use emulators, but only to play games I already own legally on my computer and to play fan translations of Japanese SNES games. Even then, I still buy legal copies of said Japanese games when I can afford them for the sake of legality.)

I finally looked into the rest of the series and played the games my old 1GB Windows XP computer could run, which was pretty much anything for NES, SNES, and GBA. One game I always wanted to play myself was the aforementioned Final Fantasy VII. It was one of the games in the series that always seemed to evade me for the longest time. I knew the gist of the plot, the characters, and I’d heard the incredible soundtrack, but never got to play it. I saw a few episodes from a Let’s Play for it back in the day (by the YouTuber HCBailly, if anyone’s interested; he’s a great RPG YouTuber and I’d recommend checking his stuff out), and I even saw the movie Advent Children multiple times and played Crisis Core, but other than that, I never got to see the game firsthand.

It wasn’t until I was 18 years old and working full time that I got the opportunity to try Final Fantasy VII for the first time. I got the port of it for the PS3, and I did enjoy it, though over time, I began to wonder why it was so beloved. Like I mention in the video I posted, most of the Final Fantasy hoodies I found online were for Final Fantasy VII. Nowadays, I understand why, but back then, not so much, and it annoyed me, which, for some reason, ruined my experience at the time. I have no idea why. I was young and dumb, apparently.

A couple years ago, however, I finally gave the game another shot and pushed past the point in the game I never made it past. I reached the point where you learn the story of Red XIII and Cosmo Canyon, and I cried like a baby. It was that point in the game where I finally understood why this game was so beloved. It wasn’t just an overhyped game. It was a storytelling masterpiece. The cinematic elements, the character stories, the music, everything about it was perfect. Save for a few typos, but almost every game, if not every game, has a typo somewhere.

I still have yet to beat it; I got to the final Sephiroth fight about a month ago, but he just spammed status ailments on my party and I could never beat him for that reason (I can only blame myself for not being as prepared as I expected), but still, I got to experience the rest of the game in my 70-hour playthrough, and it was amazing. There were very few parts of the game I actually disliked, and they were just minigames. I loved everything else about the game.

With the release of the demo, I was immediately on it. I initially had my doubts, like I’m sure many people did. Or perhaps it wasn’t as much “doubt” as it was reluctance. The original Final Fantasy VII tells its story in such an incredible way. It was anyone’s guess as to whether it would feel the same, or even better.

I can confirm that it truly does the original game justice. Of course, that’s just my opinion and you can form any opinion on the game you’d like, but I personally love it. Cloud’s snarky attitude is back, the members of AVALANCHE feel more alive and fleshed out than they ever did, the combat feels fluid and smooth and combines turn-based with real-time combat perfectly, the writing is clever, witty, and somehow different from the original enough to feel fresh, but also similar enough to where you can tell it’s the final draft version of the original script. Not to mention the soundtrack. The reorchestrated music still gives me chills. It has what’s called a “dynamic soundtrack”, where the music fluidly changes depending on the circumstances, like whether or not you’re in battle and such things like that.

All in all, I can safely say that this remake is going to be mind-blowing to those willing to let their minds be blown. When you play it, go into it with an open mindset. Whether or not you enjoy it will be up to your own personal tastes, but if you were a fan of the original and are willing to adapt to the new combat system (which is really easy to get the hang of, especially for someone like me, who sucks at action-based combat), I think you’re really going to enjoy this game. I may even start a playthrough of it on the day of release on my Twitch and YouTube. We’ll have to see.

Thoughts on Final Fantasy XV

Look at these good bois.

This game has been a big discussion point among the RPG community, or pretty much anyone who wanted to give this game a try. As is expected in this day and age of Gamers™ thinking they know better than developers, it’s received its fair share of harsh criticism and unnecessary backlash. Before anyone gets all up in arms, I will say that yes, criticism is fine, but negative attitudes and dragging people down for actually enjoying this game is not. Neither is insulting the developers, especially when they went through hell to get this game made. If you want to be angry at someone, blame the corporate side of Square Enix for putting such strenuous deadlines on the developers when they were already having a tough time. Regardless, this game has been out for almost a few years now and I’ve beaten it a couple times, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on it.

Allow me to apologize for my initial frustration regarding the topic. As a fan of the game myself, I’ve heard my fair share of berating and have grown rather tired of it. Thankfully, I don’t hear it as much these days, but it was particularly bad over the past few years. With the remake of Final Fantasy VII coming out in just barely under a month, everyone’s attention is turned towards that anyway. Mine included, to be perfectly honest, but that’s a conversation for another post at another time. (Right now, I’m just getting through my backlog of drafted posts I never finished. Hashtag procrastination.)

Final Fantasy XV was a magical experience for me. That could be said for every game in the series. Over the years, I had the amazing opportunity to play every game in the series. Unfortunately, not FFXI, but that’s simply due to a lack of access. Regardless, the point remains. Ever since I was a kid, Final Fantasy has always intrigued me, and it inspired my love of combining sci-fi and fantasy into one genre in my own writing. Something about the music, the combat, the setting, the stories, the characters, all of it was majorly influential on my career as an author and even a music composer. FFXV was my first PS4 game. It was the reason I bought a PS4 in the first place, and I was beyond excited about it.

I remember first seeing screenshots of it in an old Game Informer magazine back in 2010 (I think) when it was called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. I remember the old slogan “A fantasy based on reality.” I remember eagerly following every trailer or article on this new game for the duration of the development process and becoming enamored with this mystery game. Then I remember the day they revealed the title change and decided to simply call it Final Fantasy XV. I still have chills remembering the hype surrounding that reveal trailer. It was incredible, and remembering that feeling reminds me of my passion for video games all over again.

The moment Kingsglaive came out, I bought it as quickly as I could. I wanted to get my hands on anything related to Final Fantasy XV, and that was my first stop. While it was downloading, however, I saw that there was a livestream for the Abbey Road Studios performance of select songs from the FFXV soundtrack, a concert where Yoko Shimomura herself, the composer, would be attending, so I had to watch that. That was my first true glimpse into the music. I was already well in love with Shimomura’s work from some of the other games she’s done music for, but this concert put me in a trance. The music was just so beautiful, and getting to hear it performed live, even from a computer, was a worthwhile experience. Afterward, I got to watch Kingsglaive, a film designed to be watched before playing the actual game since it helps fill some of the plot in that you might not understand otherwise. Even the film was amazing as well, and a perfect compliment to the adventure that would soon follow. I won’t spoil any of the plot if you haven’t seen it, but if you like FFXV at all, I would highly recommend it.

Finally, the moment of truth. The game came out in November of 2016, if I recall correctly. It was around the time that I was finally regaining my passion for writing after a year of stagnation. I bought the game a week before I could even afford a PS4. I just wanted to assure that I had a copy before anything else. Then once I got a PS4, I could only think about getting the game booted up and finally giving it a try. I had to work all day that day, so I simply had to wait.

Once I got home and booted the game up, I was immediately in love. The brotherly dynamic between the four protagonists, the compelling story that begins where it ends and then takes you back to where it all started, and the oddly real yet fantastical world you get to spend the game in all drew me into the world of FFXV, and I loved every moment of the game.

I’d spend as much time as I could doing sidequests, exploring dungeons, anything to allow me to stay in this amazing world for as long as I could. I’d look for every radio in the game to listen to the numerous NPCs that spoke on it. I had so much fun with the game, and it was just such a wonderful experience.

The last few chapters hit like a truck, though. I played from chapter 11 to the end of the game in one sitting, and it was emotionally overwhelming, to say the least. By the time I beat the game, I actually had to set it aside for a few months before revisiting it. I did not expect the game to go that hard on the story, nor that it would be that emotional. The first eight chapters set up a false sense of security in a way, only for the last chapters of the story to break your heart.

Even so, my love for the game has not wavered. I still enjoy the game every time I play it. Since more time has passed since its release, they have also added many new features that make the game feel better to play as well, so I’d say now’s as good a time as any to play it. Especially with the release of the Royal Edition. I’m such a fan of the game that I have both the day one release and the Royal Edition, mostly for collector’s sake, but still. This game is an incredible experience, and I would definitely recommend playing it with an open mind. Just don’t play the end of the game as quickly as I did if you get emotionally overwhelmed easily.