Sadness and Great Music – Trails in the Sky FC Spoiler-Free “Review”

Just last night, I finally beat this incredible game after trying to play it since November of 2020. I have quite a story to tell with this one, but we’ll get to all of that soon enough. Starting off, I’d like to give my actual official opinion of the game after having played it all the way through, at last. Honestly, even though this game is just merely the prologue to a much, much longer story, I felt that it could stand well on its own. This game is definitely slow and takes a long time for the plot to get going, but the slowness doesn’t make it bad, if you ask me. This game fulfills its purpose by getting you attached to the characters and the kingdom of Liberl, one of the three main countries on the continent of Zemuria. It makes you, the player, spend plenty of time in this world, getting to know all the characters both playable and otherwise, and even though the plot may take a while to pick up, it has a warm, cozy feeling to it. It really makes you feel at home in this kingdom, and the more you play and uncover, the more you wish to protect everyone and everything within it and beyond, especially as you start meeting people from the other countries in Zemuria. I absolutely loved this game, and though I may have had a difficult time with many of the boss fights, even I, someone who struggles with most video games, managed to beat it on the standard difficulty setting and enjoyed every second of the game.

Now that I’ve stated my official opinion, I’d like to start with my own personal story, then talk about the things I liked and slightly disliked about the game specifically.

My personal story with this game is a bit weird. It starts with one of the games that came long after it: Trails of Cold Steel. At the time of being introduced to it, I was getting burned out on the RPGs I’d been playing mostly at the time and asked a co-worker of mine to recommend RPGs that weren’t Final Fantasy, Shin Megami Tensei, or Dragon Quest. I just wanted to try something different. On that list he sent. Trails of Cold Steel came up. It was a somewhat familiar name. At least, the Trails name was familiar. I’d seen it years before when I watched an old friend stream one of the Trails in the Sky games, but that was long before I knew anything about the series. At any rate, I got Trails of Cold Steel and absolutely fell in love with it. It made me want to look into the rest of the series and play as much of it as I could, knowing that all the games followed a single plotline. I found out that the original Trails in the Sky was originally on the PSP. At the time, I was unemployed and unable to purchase any new games, so I got the game on an emulator at first and played it that way.

I made it pretty far that way originally, but then my girlfriend and I moved to Ohio, and the computer I was using got busted in the move, so I lost all that progress. I decided to give it another go using my old, rather terrible laptop, and it worked just fine, much to my surprise. I ended up making it much further that way. I think I even got to the end of Chapter Three before I stopped playing. I was finally at a point where I could afford things again. Understanding how much I knew I’d love this series, I wanted to get the games officially and support the wonderful creators that came up with this amazing story, so I bought the entire Trails in the Sky trilogy on Steam. I had to restart from the beginning for a fourth time (the third time I didn’t mention was for a Let’s Play I planned on doing for the PSP version that I had to quit due to accidentally saving over my file), but that wasn’t an issue. I was admittedly pretty burned out on the first two chapters of the game because of this, but I still pushed through, eager to see what resided beyond the parts of the game I’d already seen so many times.

At long last, after months of playing, my first journey through the kingdom of Liberl came to an end. I was definitely in tears by the end, I will most definitely admit, but I loved it. Seeing this world from the perspective of the game’s central protagonists Estelle and Joshua Bright was an unforgettable experience, and one I will think of for many years to come. Especially now that I’m playing its direct sequel, of course. But that is my story with this game.

To jump into specifics, I’ll start with the things I didn’t like real quick, because there weren’t many things to dislike, to be honest. Now that I’m thinking about the game from as much of an objective standpoint as I can take, there’s really only one thing I even sort of dislike, and it’s hardly anything. The only thing that I wasn’t a big fan of was how slow the story can be at times. I personally had no issue with it; like I said, I enjoyed every second I played of this game. But when recommending this game to people, it’s a little difficult, because a lot of people tend to lack patience. A lot of people out there aren’t playing a video game to read a book; they want to jump right into the action, which I don’t fault them for at all; that’s what most video games are about anyway, but that is not what the Trails series is about. The Trails series does more than just provide a source of entertainment; it’s an experience, something to truly dig into and enjoy. Something worth investing your time in. It is indeed like reading a book, I’d say. Dialogue among characters is a major focus on this game, and that brings me to the things I really liked.

While we’re on the note of dialogue, let’s talk about that, shall we? The writing style of the Trails series is something that really stands out to me. After playing Persona 3, the game that essentially changed how I view games in general, something I always appreciate in a video game is what I call an “honest writing style.” By that, what I mean is that the dialogue between characters has a human feel. Not everything is grammatically correct all the time. People shorten words or use abbreviated versions. They often use strange combinations of words. They have differing dialects depending on regional differences. (Though that last one is something to be used carefully, I’d say. You definitely don’t want it to be overdone to the point of being offensive, like what some Dragon Quest games do with their heavily-forced Spanish accented characters.) Trails in the Sky excels at that, and it really gives the whole game a more human feel to it. It makes you feel like the characters in the world are very real, including the NPCs.

That brings me to another note on this same topic. Something that the Trails series does that I absolutely love is how they treat their NPCs. In every region you go to, there’s a collection of NPCs with their own stories, and if you take the time to talk to them as you progress the plot, you get to see their stories advance. They don’t stay static. They move forward and grow, just like you do and the protagonists do. They endure their own hardships along with yours, and sometimes, their lives even change depending on your own actions. I can understand why some people wouldn’t have the patience to go around and talk to every single NPC every time the story progressed; even I didn’t when I was at the end of Trails of Cold Steel because I was just ready to progress the plot, but it’s really rewarding if you’re someone who appreciates good writing and wonderful attention to detail.

Another thing I love is the game’s central protagonist: Estelle Bright. I always appreciate when a game actually has a female lead as the protagonist, and Estelle is absolutely incredible. I wish I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you guys, so I’ll just leave it at saying that she is a wonderful protagonist in every way and I’d recommend playing it just to see how her story evolves throughout the game.

To wrap things up, this game is, as I’ve said, an experience that goes beyond simply playing a video game. It has so much humanity within its storytelling. The music portrays the game’s emotions perfectly. The writing for every single character blows me away with how well it’s done. The kingdom of Liberl itself is full of so many wonderfully strange people and mysteries. I cannot recommend this game enough. If you are even remotely interested in playing, this game is on Steam for a pretty reasonable price for how much story and gameplay you get with this game, if I recall correctly. If you haven’t played it before but decide to try it because of this, feel free to let me know how your journey through the kingdom of Liberl goes! Or if you have already played the game, also let me know! I always enjoy meeting fellow Trails fans.

Philosophy in Dragon Quest

As shown above, I recently made the decision to revisit the Dragon Quest series after quite some time away from it. My recent obsession has been with games made by Falcom, primarily the Ys series and the Legend of Heroes series. But in my own personal life recently, I’ve been going through somewhat of a difficult time. It made me want to go back to something simpler, something I’ve been meaning to get back into but just haven’t done so.

Enter Dragon Quest. A game that had so much of an impact that it even managed to make its way into the Yakuza series. I’ve been in the middle of playing three Dragon Quest games at a time: 3, 8, and 11, though I’ve been very on and off about playing them. But last night, when I was deciding what to stream, I decided I wanted to play something that didn’t require too much thought or investment into the story. The first Dragon Quest was the first game to come to mind, and I’m honestly so happy I came back to this incredible game.

By modern RPG standards, it can certainly be seen as a bit of a slog to get through. Hell, I’m surprised I managed to make a three-hour stream out of it, to tell the truth. But something about the stresses of life bogging me down brought me back to what I love about this series most, and it’s the fact that things are tough to get through.

When I started playing again, I decided to challenge myself by getting the hero to the maximum level capacity, which I believe is level 30 in the version I’m playing. It’ll be a long road, but the longer I played last night, the more comfort I found in the idea of spending so much time getting stronger. I spent a fair amount of time fighting against weaker enemies and slowly gaining levels, but it reminded me of a quote from Yakuza: Like a Dragon that really stood out to me. “If you fight enough slimes, you eventually level up.” In context, this quote referred to the two main characters up to that point, about how they were both middle-aged men with a bit of a history and unsure how they could move forward in life given that they were both homeless, but they decided to try moving forward anyway against all odds. That got me thinking about the game and how willing I was to endure the fights, knowing that each and every battle I fought brought me another step closer to the level I wanted to be at. Then that got me thinking about how much these RPGs really reflect life.

Life is a series of struggles. We’re constantly faced with problems and adversity in general. Oftentimes, it feels like we’re never truly making progress because we’re so quick to judge ourselves that we forget progress isn’t seen. Not immediately, anyway. But every battle we face, even the smallest of battles like getting out of bed in the morning during a time when our depression is just too strong, we’re gaining experience, just like the hero gaining his own experience fighting the smallest monsters and overcoming the challenge. In such an RPG, patience is required to enjoy the game to its fullest. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like life as well? There’s no use rushing everything, because before you know it, the game will be over. Your life will come to a close and you’ll realize that you missed so much of what happened because you were in so much of a hurry to get to some destination or another. Life happens day by day, not event by event. We’re here for the long run, just like if you decide to settle in with an RPG, so why not enjoy the journey?

Playing Dragon Quest last night brought about an entirely new appreciation for the game as well. The more I played and took my time to admire the artwork, the simplistic gameplay, the music, and the writing, the more good I saw in it all. People often talk crap about the Switch ports of the Erdrick trilogy because they’re just ports of the mobile versions of the game, but when I was playing last night, I saw so much love put into the game. Every second I played, it felt like I was playing something big, despite the game being decades old. It made me feel the same magic and wonder I used to feel when playing video games as a kid. It also made me learn something new.

The original Dragon Quest features a single playable character: you, the hero. As such, it can be believed that the story is about this sole hero saving the princess and striking down the Dragonlord (or joining him if you choose to get the bad ending). But as I played, it made me think of something. You encounter so many people on this rather short journey, so many others who may not be fighting directly beside you, but are helping you nonetheless. Townsfolk with gossip that proves to be a helpful hint, shopkeepers willing to give you better equipment to keep you alive on the battlefield, the sages who wish to ascertain your skill so they can assist you in your quest to defeat the Dragonlord, and the king of Alefgard, a man beset by grief from the loss of his wife and the kidnapping of his daughter, but he still remains strong because he knows you need him to be; he knows that his kingdom needs him to be. For how simplistic the original Dragon Quest is in its story, it has so much humanity and heart to it that I feel I’m seeing for the first time every time I play the game again, and it’s beautiful.

This realization of our hero’s journey made me think of life once more. How often do we feel isolated and alone in our aimless wanderings through life? Probably pretty often for a good majority of us. Social media doesn’t help that feeling all that much. Despite the word social being in the name, I feel it’s anything but that. It drives people apart and makes us feel even more isolated or inadequate. But in truth, we always have people in our corner. People who make the ingredients for the food we eat and keep us sustained, friends and family who may not always clearly have our backs but are watching out for us, people we don’t even know sending their wishes into the ether that those who feel alone may understand that there are people who care about them. We aren’t as alone as we often feel. Whether we’re aware of it or not, there’s someone there for us, hoping and wishing the best for us.

All that being said, you can probably tell that the original Dragon Quest is already proving to have a massive effect on me despite only being three hours into the journey. I’m more than okay with this, and I’m happy to continue this journey tonight. I hope you were able to get something of value from reading this, and if you wish to catch future streams live, I stream as frequently as I can on my Twitch channel.

Final Fantasy IX – Not Just a Game, But an Experience (Spoilers)

Final Fantasy IX is a game I’ve had quite a history with. It was the first of the 3D Final Fantasy games I played almost a decade ago, and I’ve always enjoyed its charm. But for some reason, I could never beat it. It was typically external reasons. The first time I tried, my PS1 broke and I could no longer play it. The second time was on someone else’s system, so I didn’t have enough time to get to the end. The list goes on. I’ve had multiple versions of the game over the years, but was never able to beat it for some reason.

Until yesterday, that is.

For the past few months, I’ve been playing the Switch port of the game. It was really quite nice, given the fast forward function makes level grinding significantly faster. There were a few glitches and my game crashed multiple times, but through all the struggles, I finally made it to the end of the game yesterday. I knew how it ended because I used to be obsessed with Final Fantasy stuff online, so I learned much about the plot of games through reading about them, but it was the first time I got to see it firsthand. It’s quite rare for me to beat a game I’ve never beaten before, as it takes me years to get through one, but anyone can tell you that there’s a big difference between just knowing how a game ends and experiencing it for yourself. The feeling of happiness and accomplishment that came from beating this game I’ve been trying to beat for almost 10 years was indescribable.

I think that comes from the fact that you played through the game to thee end yourself. You experienced the same hardships as the characters in the game. You saw their emotions as the story developed, you were there with them the whole time. So to finally see the story come to a close brings a sense of satisfaction and, well, closure. I feel like that’s obvious to most people who play games, but to someone like me who never really gets that chance due to procrastination or what have you, it’s like a new realization. After beating it, even my girlfriend encouraged me to start beating more games I’ve been wanting to beat over the years to get that feeling of accomplishment and closure with all these games I’ve started but never finished. With that, I’m on a bit of a journey, though that’s all beside the point. I want to talk about my experience with Final Fantasy IX.

I’ve seen the beginning of this game so many times that I basically have it memorized. I don’t know if it’s a poor attention span or what, but that’s typically my Achilles’ heel when it comes to video games. I start these games over so much that I get bored and eventually procrastinate, making it to where I just never make progress. (That’s why I haven’t beaten Persona 5 Royal yet.) It’s also well-known that the combat speed in Final Fantasy IX is incredibly slow, especially when compared to the rest of the series. That’s a big part of why it took me so long to finally beat this gmae. However, once I got past that and just dealt with it, I started enjoying the game much more. When you play a Final Fantasy game, you’re usually in it for the story and characters, not the gameplay. (Though I do have a fondness for turn-based RPGs as a whole.) With that in mind, I appreciated the game more. I took more time looking at my surroundings, I read the dialogue with mindfulness, taking it all in, and just enjoying the music as a whole, adn I found it was far more enjoyable than I ever anticipated.

On top of that, reaching the end of the game was quite a trip. All the numerous storylines you’ve seen throughout the game coming together at the end was amazing. The last time I got to Disc Four of the game, I was still 14 years old, so seeing the endgame as an adult was like experiencing it for the first time. I’d heard that the ending feels rushed, and that the final boss doesn’t really make much sense, but when I played it myself, I feel like it worked well. The only part that felt rushed to me was the final dungeon itself, Memoria. It was relatively short, and while you did get some nice drops of lore, it felt rather vague. Perhaps that was intentional, because everything after Memoria no longer felt rushed to me.

I finally got to the two fights preceding the final boss. The first one was a fight I never won as a kid, so when I beat it, I was nervous but excited at the same time. I was ready to take Kuja on. I had a bit of trouble, but I had an incredibly solid team at the same time, so I took him down with relative “ease,” if you can even call it that. When I beat him, I wanted to stop for a moment, but I pressed on, ready to take on the true final boss, which is a character not technically mentioned at all throughout the game, which is why I feel people think it makes no sense. But it made sense to me. To me, the final boss represents death and the fear of death that many of us mortals feel. Beating the boss does not mean putting an end to death, but it’s like a symbolic fight where you cast away your fear of death and choose to live without that fear. That’s how I saw it. You come face-to-face with the fact that you will indeed die someda and when the fear of it comes up, instead of letting it consume your days alive, you fight the fear, telling it that you know it will happen someday, but there’s literally no reason to fear it. Especially when you still have life in you.

Final Fantasy IX, to me, is a game about that existentialism, the knowledge that you will die, but it’s okay. Right here and now, you’re alive. While you have this life, don’t stress out about the inevitable. Instead, just live. Don’t just survive: live. We’re not meant to live in fear, sadness, or anger. We’re not meant to be alone either. Love people. Love yourself especially. You may be your own worst critic, but if you were to ask your friends, if they are good friends who see the real you, they’d probably say you’re pretty damn great and are deserving of life. Like Zidane says to Kuja at the end, no one in the world is useless. So if you feel that way, that would be your emotions lying to you. I could just be getting preachy, but these are my honest feelings after having seen the whole game firsthand. Final Fantasy IX has an amazing message, one I think everyone needs to know.

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.

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.

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.

The Genesis – Persona 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persona Q2 – First Impressions (No spoilers)

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

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

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

And then this beautiful gem of a game was announced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Sadly, most of the songs I posted here were deleted.)