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 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.

The Magic of Final Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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