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.

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.

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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.