Crystal Project, one month later

I've played it off and on over the last month, now up to 56.9 hours total play time according to Steam. I can definitely say I've made a lot of progress over this time, though usually in small bursts. There are times I've picked it up, explored a little bit, but ultimately didn't do anything of note before putting it back down. There was a long time there where I was stumped on where to go next, but that time is largely over.

Back then I don't believe I even had my first mount yet, a lizard that can run fast and do a longer horizontal jump, but sucks for vertical jumps; it's called a Quintar. You can get a pass to rent them if you find 7 Crystals, or you can trade a rare Quintar Eye to an enthusiast for a free pass, regardless of how many crystals you've found. An even rarer Quintar Eye will net you an item called a Quintar Flute, which lets you call a Quintar whenever you want and is never used up.

That Quintar mount is useful for exploring an area that you can only get to at first by warping, the Poko Poko Desert. Full of strong monsters (for that time), you basically need to race south to the Sara Sara Bazaar. Doing things there will eventually lead you to a dungeon that rewards you with the Ibek Bell, and item that calls a goat-like mount called an Ibek which can charge jumps up to three tiles high, but moves at normal speeds.

This was where I had been left at for a long time. The Ibek let me get all kinds of places that I couldn't before, but nothing was really much of progress. I was able to explore a snowy area, but certain things gatekeeped me there for some time. Finally I managed to beat some NPCs that were in my way and could climb an area called Land's End, which ended in a tower high in the sky guarded by a giant owlbear. It took a few tries to beat that boss, but once I did, I was able to collect a warp stone and finally got my hands on the Owl Drum, an item that lets me summon an Owl mount. The Owl can't fly, but it can glide; it gets a bit of a start and jumps two tiles up, then starts gliding down. From a high place like the tower at Land's End, it's possible to reach a lot of places you otherwise couldn't. It's this that let me reach the top of the Ancient Labyrinth, and a large island in the southeast of the map.

That island has a dungeon on it which leads you to what I believe is the final mount of the game. The Salmon Violin summons a fish friend that finally lets you explore on and under the water. And let me tell you, the water is truly the final frontier, as not only is there The Open Sea (on the surface) and The Deep Sea (well beneath the waves), but there's also the Depths, which is waaaaaaaaay below the surface, and is full of massive bosses that are all very, very difficult to deal with.

Of course I've been collecting plenty of Crystals along the way. The game starts you with six classes, and each crystal gives you one new class. I detailed the starting classes previously, but in addition to these, I've picked up the classes of Fencer, Shaman, Scholar, Aegis, Hunter, Reaper, Beatsmith, Dervish, Ninja, Samurai, Assassin, Weaver, Nomad, Summoner, and Valkyrie. I've used most of these, and yes, there are many analogues to favorites in other series. The classic Black Mage is split between several classes, with Wizard getting fire and lightning magic, Shaman getting status and draining magic, Dervish getting earth and wind magic, and Nomad getting water and ice magic. Weaver is this game's Time Mage. Ninja don't throw things, but they do use scrolls for all of their abilities and seems to mostly be able maximizing evasion and making enemies more vulnerable to the different elements. Reaper is unique in that it splits between sacrificing a percentage of HP to deal damage, and abilities that absorb HP from damage dealt. The one that's most interesting to me is the Valkyrie, which seems to be based more on the Valkyrie class from Wizardry, what with having an innate ability to revive from death once per battle, and can learn an ability that give that re-raise status for five turns.

I've got at least 15 Crystals, and I know where another one is, though I can't quite get to it as there's a boss in the way that I can't quite kill just yet. I do have two dungeons that are available to me right now, the Ancient Labyrinth and The Sequoia. The first is a dungeon that only allows the casting of magic abilities, not even basic physical attacks (I haven't tested weapons that replace the basic physical attack with a cast spell). The second I don't have a lot of information about, but it starts with an underwater tunnel, and what I've seen of it involves platforming across floating water "platforms". Unfortunately, the fish mount is slippery enough that it's easy to fall off and have to start over. I got a certain distance in here before running into an enemy that killed me, so I was spit back out elsewhere.

I am enjoying myself with this game, though. I have access to what would be the end of the game, but I am in no way prepared for that yet. I more than just recommend this game, though. Any JRPG fan would likely have a lot of fun with it.


So I picked up Crystal Project

Yeah, I know I said I'd be posting about the Pixel Remasters of 2 and 3, but that was close to 8 months ago, and I need to replay them to say anything about them. Also played through 4 for the first time via Pixel Remaster. I've gotten about a quarter of the way through 5 but stopped months ago and never picked it back up.

But now I have a game on my PC called Crystal Project. My friend took one look at it and called it Voxel FF5. It has a very Minecraft aesthetic, but since it's not first person, you don't get a whole lot of ugly close-up textures to have to deal with. The class system is very FF5, it uses individual skill trees for each class that are not all that hard to master, 8-direction movement on the map and platforming while exploring. Battles use a charge time system that is incredibly similar to Final Fantasy 10, which is always a good thing to have in an RPG. Encounters aren't random, but show up as colored flames on the map that will charge at you when you are in line-of-sight. The color of the flame denotes the strength, which grey meaning you severely outclass the enemy, green you are stronger, blue you are about equal in strength, orange you are weaker, red you are severely outclassed, and black denotes bosses.

Money in the game is called Gold, but is split between gold, silver, and copper coins; 100 copper is one silver, 100 silver is one gold. It's also been fairly scarce throughout the game so far. Enemies don't drop much, and there's always nice things to spend money on, whether is be consumables or equipment. You will quickly keep an eye out for any method to save on spending on healing, which is money better spent elsewhere.

Of course, this is called Crystal Project for a reason. As you explore the world, you will find large crystals that will grant you a job for having found them. You start with six jobs available: Warrior, Monk, Rogue, Cleric, Wizard, and Warlock. Crystals will give you a new job each, with names like Aegis, Hunter, and Scholar you will find them to be some favorites from the Final Fantasy series, though slightly differently named. You don't get anything in particular for mastering a job by learning all the skills, though if you do master a job, you can find someone that will reward you with an accessory that will make it easier to earn LP experience for that class (I think this stands for Learn Points, which is spent to buy skills).

All in all, it's a fun game. Can get kind of confusing about where to go and what to do. Sometimes I found myself stuck on where to go next, stopped, came back to it later, and discovered that I'd missed a route that would let me through to a new area. There's lots of secrets to explore as well. And of course, jumping puzzles that also hide routes to new areas and secrets that take a lot of three dimensional thinking to figure out.

Yeah, I'm loving this game. I have no idea what the end game is going to be all about. It bills itself as a game that you can explore as you want; do what you want. I'm finding, though, that there's a lot of gatekeeping behind how many Crystals you've found. In fact, there's some evidence that the game world is trying to dictate that the only purpose is locating crystals. I guess I'll find out as I play it.


Final Fantasy 1 Pixel Remaster!

So, I preordered them when the option to get them as a bundle was opened up. I've now played through the first three and I have to say that these feel like the definitive versions to play. Largely based on the original Famicom releases, but with most/all of the bugs fixed and some quality of life added for good measure. This post is to talk about the first game.

So first things first, the leveling. On NES, max level was 50, but getting there was a massive chore, so you are likely to only be level 28-30 by the end of the game. Starting with Easy on Origins, and every release since, max level is 99. This one is also level 99 max, and the level curve matches with a max of 99. What's strange, though, is that this is using the same Spell Charge growth as the original NES version. So you are earning charges for spell levels that you can't possibly get spells for way earlier than NES normal. Plus, spell charges max at 9 (as compared to Easy on PSX, which max at 99). This is a little weird, but not entirely unwelcome.

Now, let's talk items. Start with consumables. Available from the start, Potions, Hi Potions, Antidotes, Eye Drops, Echo Herbs, Ethers, Phoenix Downs, and Sleeping Bags. Also available for sale later on are Gold Needles, Tents, and Cottages. Ethers will restore one spell charge per level, and aren't all that expensive (same price as Hi Potions). Tents restore two spell charges per level, while Cottages restore all spell charges. Also available in limited quantities are X Potions and Elixirs. Not for sale, but can be found in several late game chests. Casting magic from items is still king, but the availability of Ethers makes them less necessary by comparison.

Accuracy maxes out at 100%, and you get additional attacks at lower multipliers than previous... seems like every 12% instead of every 32%.

Monster formations are a little strange, but no unwelcome. On every other version, you can have up to 4 Large Monsters, 9 Small Monsters, or a combination of up to 2 Large and 6 Small Monsters. On Pixel Remaster you can still only have up to 9 Small Monsters, but you can potentially have up to 7 Large Monsters, and some greater combinations of Large and Small Monsters. Stranger still, monsters flee combat. Like, they could do that on any version, but here Goblins are running at level 1. Giants are running on first encounters. It's weird.

All in all, though, I'd say this is the best version of this game I've ever played. Numerous bugs were fixed, including the Intellect bug, which prevented the stat from affecting spells at all. Now they definitely get stronger as your Intellect increases. Some people are sore that the bugged enemy encounter zone northeast of Pravoka being fixed is a bad thing, but I say no; there's nothing wrong with that being gone, since you don't need it for grinding, anyways.

I'll be posting follow up posts for 2 and 3, soon.

Final Fantasy 15 is a terrible game

So for the past few months I've been watching HCBailly play FF15. Now I already didn't like the game, but he's been posting hour long videos and those are great for exercising since I don't have to pay full attention to them. But watching this game has basically reinforced my opinion that this game is terrible.

Let's start with the characters. Yeah, they have different personalities, but otherwise there's no real difference with them. For 95% of the game you are only playing as one person and can't control the others outside of these set "techniques" that you can command (if you have enough of the bar filled). And because of this, your main character is the only one with magic and this special "warp strike" attack. There's almost no true customization that you can do, yet there isn't any actual specialization for the characters, either (not like that would matter, since you can't control the others anyways).

The game's world isn't any better. It has the illusion of an open world, except it isn't truly. It's a chaptered game that funnels you from plot point to plot point, and only in the early game can you actually seemingly run around to wherever you want (though still actually blocked from going where you want since there are actual blockades on the road).

So then, what about the plot? One of the stupidest plots I've seen/heard of since Final Fantasy 8. An ancient immortal king and ancestor to the MC is pissed off that the gods didn't choose him, so he decides to end the world by ending his lineage, The Crystal, The Gods, and shrouding the world in eternal darkness, using The Empire Next Door as his weapon to do so. You run around gathering a set of legendary weapons that you will need to prevail, only not really because you actually need to persuade the gods to aid you, but no that's not enough either you need a ring that's passed down the royal lineage only not really because your fiancée, The Oracle, has it for some reason. So yeah, this plot makes zero sense and instead is just confusing.

And let's not forget the ending. Halfway through the game, while trying to convince Leviathan that you are worthy, The Oracle is murdered. Despite this, she continues to find ways to aid you despite this non-living status. And then in the end you manage to best everything The Big Bad throws at you, and what's your reward? You have to sacrifice yourself to relight The Crystal, thus ending the lineage that was apparently required to save the world, anyways. So, yes. Pointless. It only serves to piss off the player.

So no, don't play this game. It's bad. They wanted to try some things and didn't succeed.


Time for another complaint

So, last week a Twitch streamer that I frequently watch started playing Metroid: Other M. We've all heard that it's so bad, but I'm completely unbelieving that it's actually that bad. From what I can tell, most of the gameplay is tight, with the switch to first-person to fire missiles being a little janky. The problem people have with it is the story and the voice acting. What I saw of it last week, though, wasn't bad. No, it was needed is what it was.

Samus was a completely one-dimensional character up until the releases of Fusion and Zero Mission. Those were the first games to give any sort of voice to Samus. But even this only brings her to two-dimensional. We still have nearly zero backstory, with what little has been written either considered non-canonical, or has only been released in Japan and either still untranslated, or extremely rare to find. But since we have never before gotten any kind of truly backstory or characterization in the games until Other M, there wasn't enough to truly call Samus a character. More of an automaton that we had control over, that never felt fear or any other emotion, just ventured alone into certain danger and always came out unscathed.

Based on what I saw, Other M gives us what was sorely needed for Samus to actually develop as a character. The exposition and inner monologue actually lets us into the mind of who we are playing as, and finally lets us see what kind of person she's supposed to be. It honestly kind of burns me up that people actually disliked this. They wanted Samus to just continue to be the silent badass that can walk into any hopeless situation and come out victorious. That's not a character. That's an unfeeling robot.

What's worse is the streamer's reactions to it all. He was clearly horrified each and every time that Samus talked, and her interactions with others. It honestly ruined my experience watching him play it. I don't think I'll continue to do so, and will instead watch the playthrough I have bookmarked that has no commentary. Give me a chance to pay attention without the constant complaints and horrified responses...


Bed thoughts early this morning

Because who needs to sleep at decent hours, amiright?

So for some reason I was thinking about video game protagonists and that depending on the game, the main characters tend to have a certain level of incompetence inherent to them. And this is by design. Consider for a moment, you are playing an early 90's RPG. Tutorials haven't become common or standard; we are still in the age where manuals tend to give more than sufficient information because the developers actually believe they are being read. On the other hand, a lot of times there are things that just aren't explained in said manuals, so they have to go into them in the game itself, especially plot related things. The need to explain can be addressed in two ways: characters are summarizing what is going on, allowing the player to understand in case they missed anything beforehand, or a single character is having it explained to them because they didn't understand. The second feels more prevalent, especially in games originally made in Japan where the main character has speaking parts (isn't a silent protagonist).

This leads to my thoughts about the specific incompetence of main characters. The one that I always seem to come back to in regards to this is Chaz Ashley in Phantasy Star 4; he's generally competent as he's able to hold his own in combat and grows, at least in ability to fight. On the other hand, listening to him talk in cutscenes shows that he's always flying by the seat of his pants and never seems to understand what is going on, always needing someone to explain things to him. Even right towards the end, when he listens to Le Roof on Rykros and finally gets set off, claiming that he wasn't doing anything for anybody that isn't even around to tell him what to do, he still didn't understand. It took Rune having him retrieve Elsydion from under Esper Mansion before he found his resolve and understanding.

Why is this so important to me? Because Chaz is basically the player avatar for his game, and it makes me feel like I'm stepping into the role of... maybe not an idiot, but someone of general unintelligence. And again, I know this is by design; it gives the party reason to have to explain things to the player. But it also feels bad.

Now, what prompted this was watching someone playing the sixth Ace Attorney game, Spirit of Justice. The fifth case opens with a civil suit in court, pitting the player as Apollo Justice against Phoenix Wright representing the Plaintiff in the case. Apollo acts like his usual self while we are in control, but Phoenix is mostly acting like the cool-and-in-control character throughout most of the trial, only seeming on edge or not in control towards the end when he's actually in danger of losing. And in a way, this makes sense. The Phoenix Wright games have to make it seem like the character doesn't know what's coming next or what is needed in order to prompt the player to have to think it through and find the correct answers. This is helped by the fact that the three we play as in the main series, Phoenix, Apollo, and Athena, are characters that we basically define as the series progresses.

Which brings me to the point. The Miles Edgeworth games. Edgeworth is a character that we are introduced to as a rival, or an adversary. We get to witness his character growth from the outside, and this his personality solidifies a little more than the defense attorneys that we control in the main games. But then there are his games, where we control him from the third person as he investigates crime scenes and makes deductions. He's an intelligent character as defined by his appearances in previous games, so while he doesn't always already know the answer, he does more often than not. He gathers the logic points, though we have to connect them. And it gives a different feeling than we get from, say, Phoenix Wright's perspective, where we have to come up with the answer because he can't seem to.

It just gives a different feel, I guess. And leads me into the need for things like Fan Fiction, because it will allow us to write the stories as they would have gone had they not been a video game. I've actually got a few of those stuck in my head over the years, and one of these days, I'll get them out of my head, proper. Until then, I guess I still have these posts to fall back on...


Day 30 - Credits Music

I completely forgot to post this yesterday. Well, it's less than an hour beyond yesterday, but still. The fact that it only happened twice in 30 days must be impressive.

Lots of credits music are really good. But again many of them are from games that would be a repeat of other days. As such, we must eliminate those and find one that isn't yet represented. On the other hand, I determined I wanted this one before I made most of my choices...

Is it cheating to use music from a game prototype? If so, I don't think I have it in me to care. This is nearly the same as the credits to Sonic & Knuckles, but also includes tracks from most of the Sonic 3 zones. The first time I heard this, it gave me chills. It's too bad they scrapped this version of the track when they scrapped the actual Sonic 3C cart they had been working on.


Day 29 - Final Boss Music

Oh my, it is late.

A couple weeks ago, I enumerated what boss music needed. Final boss music cranks that to, like, 15. Of course, there are some games with some real duds for final boss music. The game that I chose for this is one of them. So instead I choose to invalidate that as final boss music and instead use the music for the penultimate boss instead.

I've said it on this blog before, but Birth of a God is so much better as final boss music than One Winged Angel, it's truly not funny. Fact is, OWA just sounds squawky and annoying, and the Latin doesn't actually help it any. It doesn't even really mesh well against the rest of the series in regards to being final boss music. Birth of a God, on the other hand, fits far better both in its own game, as well as the series as a whole. I will never back down from this.


Day 28 - Music that makes you nostalgic

Gonna be honest, there's a lot of games that I've played while not listening to the music from said games. There was a time where I muted the TV and played other music entirely while listening through headphones. This is why when I play a few different games, I can still hear that music in my head rather than what's actually coming from the game. But this one... either I hadn't started doing that when I would play this game, or I just didn't do so.

So this is one that, if you play this game, you will easily get stuck in your head since it plays throughout the entire game. Anytime you are walking the overworld, or even in battles on the overworld, this is the track plays. And somehow of all the video games I've played, this track manages to trigger my nostalgia more than any other.


Day 27 - Music from a handheld game

Very nearly forgot to post this today...

So, as it turns out, there are a great many handheld games with excellent music (please note that I'm talking about games for systems that were specifically meant to be portable as their only original option, and also are only originally meant to be used for gaming, so this eliminates switch and phone games). But I think there's one track that I'll always come back to in regards to music from a handheld game...

Dear lord, this does more for dungeon music than it really ought to. I've always heard complaints about the Game Boy Advance sound chip, but never really understood what was so bad about it. You listen to this track, and you have to wonder at any complaints.