PS4

Final Fantasy XV

Format Played: PS4
Publisher(s): Square Enix
Developer(s): Square Enix Business Division 2
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Platinum Trophy: Yes
Score: 8.1/10

I remember the day clearly when I watched the trailer for what would be Final Fantasy XIII Versus. It looked outstanding compared to 13 and I just couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. 10 years later a re branding and a few grey hairs I finally got my chance to play the very different Final Fantasy XV. The latest Final Fantasy game from the long running series completely differs from the very linier FFXIII, they clearly have been listening to fan feedback making FFXV completely open world……….well for the most part!

There is no getting away with how good the game looks, visually it’s pretty stunning and I can see why there has been so much praise around it. What I cannot get my head around is all the high scores this game has received. The story line is pretty much non-existent and in some areas pointless. The characters aren’t particularly loveable like previous titles as I never really felt myself connect with them or even care much about their story. Once let lose to your freedom in the open world most gamers leave the story and start exploring the open world and it’s side quests which is where this game shines.

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FFXV is huge and is packed with many sidequests to complete however you will find the typical fetch quests now and again which seem to be a typical thing to add in RPG. I understand they get you learning the layout of the map however they can become very boring especially when you find yourself doing them for a cat later on in the game.
There are various methods of transport; the car journeys are pretty boring and even having it set to manual feels like driving on a set track like a really slow roller-coaster. Leaving it on Auto is the way to go, at least you can listen to classic Final Fantasy music and watch as your passengers talk and animate with each other……………no wait that gets boring fast too.! Thank god for fast travel at a very minimal price! Still you are force to drive to new area’s you haven’t visited yet and even if you have already been to some area’s later the game decides which places you can and can’t fast travel too! I mean why! more often than not the one you want to go to is blocked and you are forced to sit through a tedious journey. To top off this annoyance the car has to be topped up with fuel quicker than a Bugatti Veyron.
You can however style your car if you wish, adding stickers or a new lick of paint but I found myself going back to its original colour after a few hours.
Apart from on foot the only other method of travel is by beloved chocobo which can come whenever called no matter where you are, you can even change its colour and it level itself up when ridden for long distances gaining new abilities like assisting and healing during fights.

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The combat in this game is very rewarding, not only is it easy to get to grips with it does not force you to have long winded training like FF13 did. My only problem with the combat system is you only command the main character so the healing system once knocked down is via other members of your party. You have the option to run over to them during combat to heal one of your team mates if needed however they can be difficult to find in the heat of battle. Should you need healing yourself however; more often than not you will be waiting ages for someone who is stood right next to you to come to your aid. While the combat is fun it can sometimes be difficult when the screen is packed with enemies and the camera can go haywire! This especially is a problem when fighting the extra boss Adamantoise. This fight in my opinion takes little skill and just seems to be a sponge for attacks! He’s slow but can take off a lot of damage if caught unguarded, you can quickly learn his moves but after 20 mins you find yourself bored! I would rather have had something that took a little bit of skill and had far less HP.

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There are a few challenges though but most of them come from hunting down the games high powered weapons (One of which you can access very early on). Apart from the battle system FFXV does have a lot of things I did enjoy like fishing (if a little frustrating at times) and lots of monster hunts.
Your team also have their own level up systems of fishing, cooking, exploration and photography which is just a way for Square-Enix to show off how good the game looks by fans like me posting on social media and on here.

Going back to the start where I said for most part you will have an open world to explore, well this changes later on in the chapters if you are following the storyline. At some point the open world map is taken away from you and is replaced by a very liner path like FF13 which will force you to carry on with the story however you are given ability to return should you wish. During said storyline you will be placed at some point in a city much like Venice where I feel the game really changes for the worse as the landscape is confusing to navigate and is filled with pointless side quests.
As much as I point out the negative bits of this game I really did love the open world, dungeons, battle mechanics and the hunts. I played the game to platinum for a reason however as a fan of the series I feel that it’s lost its way since FFXII trying to please both fans and newcomers but you just can’t keep everyone happy.

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PS3

Ni No Kuni

Format Played: PS3
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai
Developer(s):Level-5 & Studio Ghibli[1]
Release Date: February 1, 2013
Score: 9.3/10

BeinNiNoKunig a huge fan of Studio Ghibli and also a fan of Level 5’s previous work I was stoked to hear that there was going to be a RPG collaboration between the two. When I finally got to see some screen shots from the game I was completely hooked to purchase on day of release, something I have moved away from doing now and even opted for the Wizards Edition despite being a little short on coin!
The Wizard edition comes in a beautiful well-presented box, with fantastic artwork around the outside. Inside consists of the game, a well-made Plush toy of Drippy and the Wizard Companion book. The Wizard Companion is also featured in game and you will collect pages as you progress but its nice having to actual book in front of you and it really is a beautiful book.

The graphics are stunning and so too is the soundtrack. Some of the cut scenes are anime style straight from Studio Ghibli which is fantastic to watch and others are taken with in game graphics. One issue I had was that not all the cut scenes are voiced and you will find that the ones that do start off with voices but then quickly revers to text. As the voice acting is superb I couldn’t understand why they chose to do this and it does take away some of the games charm.

The controls and battle system is easy to pick up, you collect familiars as you progress through the game which are enemies you have converted to your side and fight on your behalf. Each familiar can be leveled up, trained, morphed and given new equipment. There are loads of them in the game and there is even a trophy for getting 250 different ones which seemed to me a bit excessive considering I finished the game at 80 hours with 128 which is only over half the needed amount. During battle each of the three characters you have will hold up to 3 familiars. At the end of each battle all 9 familiars and 3 characters will gain experience whether you use them or not. This is a handy way of leveling up new familiars or leveling up ones you have just morphed as once they change they fall back to a level 1. You can swap and chose your familiars and characters during a battle which is wise as different characters will affect enemies in different ways. The battles are flawless however I did have an issue with defense. You get an option to give an order for an all-out attack or defend by clicking one button however this does not include your own character, if you are in the middle of attacking you have to cancel the attack then chose defend from the battle options. This can take some time and sometimes when you are under pressure you can get flustered trying to get everyone in a defense position. It’s not an issue with low level enemies but can be later in the game when tackling the harder bosses and hunts it becomes a real issue.

The story is everything I expected it to be, its fresh colorful and warm hearted with a splash of darkness which I loved. Later in the game the story really opens up and without saying too much there is a couple of nice twists I didn’t see coming.

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Ni No Kuni also has side quests however most of them are the same and can become repetitive. The hunts are a nice touch, I always like RPG’s with Enemy hunts in however 95% of them were very easy to do but provided a nice bit of EXP.

There is also a tournament which was challenging near the end, a casino which features slots and card games and a puzzle game which uses the left and right analogue sticks to get two characters through a maze which I found very challenging yet ingenious.
My issues with this game are only small and I have mentioned both already. These are the defense system and repetitive side quests; apart from this I absolutely loved the game. I managed to get all but two trophies in 80 hours; I could easily get the other two however it involves a hell of a lot of grinding and luck. If you are a JRPG don’t let this game pass you by.

Wii

Pandora’s Tower

Format Played: Nintendo Wii
Publisher(s): Nintendo
Developer(s): Ganbarion
Release Date: April 13, 2012
Rating: PEGI 12
Score: 8.1/10

 

Out of the three big JRPG’s for the Nintendo Wii this was the only one I heard very little of.  It’s amazing how out of Xenoblade, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower all get talked about together on the internet that some people mistake them for being part of the same story which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Even Nintendo gave 3 Coins to anyone who registered buying all three (thanks Nintendo by the way) yet all three games are very different from one another.

 

First off the controls, took me a while to get into because I was using the classic controller like the previous two JRPG’s however the game is designed to be used with the nunchuck much like Zelda’s Skyward Sword.  The Nunchuck is used to move your character, pick up items and release your chain which is a secondary weapon and used to grab out of reach items, swing and entangle enemies while the wiimote can be used to pull the chain back with a slick flick of your wrist.  The controls work quite well once you get used to it, ‘A’ is used to attack but one of my biggest issues with the ’A‘ button is the fact it’s also used as action so if you are dodging attacks while fighting enemies and get too close to a door you may find yourself opening the door instead of making an attack!

 

Pandora’s Tower dives you straight into the story without much explanation to begin with but stick with it as everything will be explained as the game progresses.    You take the role of Aeron who is only accompanied by your friend Elaina who has been cursed, slowly turning into a monster and Mavda a merchant who tags along and seems to know what has happened to Elaina.  The idea of the game is to feed Elaina 12 pieces of Master flesh from 13 towers in order to release the curse afflicted upon her.

 

Your main hub is a small building just outside the towers which you will spend most of your time as you have to come back to it quite frequently.  This is where any dialogue will take place as once you enter the towers you are on your own without any other characters to interact with.  The main hub is where you can store items, save, bond with Elaina and upgrade/buy or make items from Mavda.

What most people find annoying about the game is the fact Elaina is slowly turning into a monster and apart from the Master Flesh she is constantly on a timer.  The only thing that can delay this is Beast flesh found throughout the towers by yanking it from fallen enemies.  You are forced to return to Elaina every 30-40 minutes to feed this too her to delay the curse.  At first this is very annoying but for me it became part of the game and as I found I was finding more items then I could carry it was the perfect opportunity to offload some and save.   You do get the same cut scene of Elaina eating flesh every time you give her some but thankfully this can be skipped.

 

Your main weapon is a sword but you will find more items along the way, each can be upgraded with the right items which can be found or crafted.    You have a limit to for items you can carry or attach to your person, luckily you can increase your bag to attach more items and there is a chest at the main hub where you can store all unwanted items.  I found that I never used half the potions I collected along the way and mainly only used the healing ones.

 

The graphics are not stunning but stand up to the grainy sort of games we have seen from the likes of The Last Story.  The big disappointment for me is the lack of imagination for level designs, you will find that towers 6-10 have just the same layout as the first 5 and the only big change in the way they are tackled doesn’t come until towers 11 & 12.  The game is relatively short taking approx. 17-20 hours of gameplay however there is a game play plus mode which unlocks after completion which opens new doors, items and weapons and there are  5 (I believe) different endings to try open.

 

All in all an enjoyable game, all the bosses apart from one are challenging and fun to beat.  The game isn’t perfect with dodgy camera angles and lack of level design but a break from the norm.

Wii

The Last Story

Format Played: Nintendo Wii
Publisher(s): Nintendo & Xseed Games
Developer(s): Mistwalker & AQ Interactive
Release Date: February 24, 2012
Rating: PEGI 16
Score: 9.0/10

 

When I came across screen shots from a Japanese magazine article for The Last Story it immediately struck my interest as a game I would love to play however I was quickly brought back down to Earth when there was no plans for a release in the UK.  When the game was released in Japan it immediately hit the number 1 spot making thousands of JRPG fans extremely jealous and I remember signing a petition to get the game released in the UK.

To make matters worse I decided to watch some video’s players had created and uploaded onto You Tube and also some of the music, everything was wetting my appetite for this game that when it finally got a UK announcement date I was over the moon and even more so when we were getting a limited edition version.

As much as I love the Final Fantasy games they have seemed to become too big for themselves losing their way a bit from what really stands out in a JRPG.  The Last Story is what I would call a new version of an old style JRPG, the look and feel is familiar yet new.  The Last Story’s Graphics, The Story and the music all remind me of classic Final Fantasy games, the music is especially good and so it should be as Final Fantasy’s old composer Nobuo Uematsu was brought in by creator Hironobu Sakaguchi another old Final Fantasy creator back in the Squaresoft days.

 

The battle mode takes the control away from you a bit which is difficult to get used to at first, just moving towards enemies for an automatic attack leaves you feeling a bit left out of the battle however this is built upon as you progress through the game working out certain patterns and techniques to get through parts of the story.    If there was a downside to the battle system I would say it comes during boss battles, once of your characters will shout out to you telling you exactly what to do to defeat it and if you don’t do it they will repeat and repeat it until you do.  Once you do know how to take down a boss the boss becomes almost too simple that battles can be over in next to no time.

The story like Xenoblade is pretty deep keeping your interest from the start until the end pretty easily.  The graphics are good despite being on the Nintendo Wii, every character is likable from the off and the British voice overs really suit the game to a T.

 

The game itself is quite short and the side quests don’t come up on your map so sometimes I forget what I have actually accepted to do.  There is only one town but it’s pretty big, big enough to get lost in without using the map, there are things to do just try not to take on to much at once.

 

Apart from a few minor bad points The Last Story is a very good game however IMO it’s not as good as Xenoblade which managed to hold my interest for over 120 Hours.

Xbox 360

Tales of Vesperia

Game: Tales of Vesperia
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: Namco Bandai
Formats: Xbox360 Played: Xbox360
Release Date: August 26, 2008
Genre: RPG

When this game was announced on the xbox I was slightly disappointed and I am not sure why, I think it was because I loved Tales of Symphonia on the gamecube and love platforms sticking to the platform I fell in love with on. [Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the new world, now available to pre order on the wii].

First thing I noticed about this game was the intro which shows an Anime cut scene showing all the characters in action along to a very catchy theme tune so much so I leave it a to run through before I play the game.
As a fan of the Tales series Vesperia does not disappoint at all and ticks all the boxes to be a very enjoyable game. All the characters you get and meet are very likable which is strange in most RPG’s as there is normally at least one that gets on your nerves and most of the time it’s the kid. Although we do have a couple of them in Vesperia they work well of each other and become likable, this is down to how well the script is written for these characters, there are lots of speaking parts and most are humours. The only thing that started to annoy me where at the end of a battle your characters will say something and this can get repetitive but thankfully they do change through the game and depending on what characters you have in your party and also can be skipped.

You play as Yuri Lowell. You’re an ex-soldier, living in the lower class world. Yuri quit the Knights because he was fed up with the way laws were stopping people get their just deserves and this as you will see when the game goes on is where Yuri comes into his own and shows a darker side to him. The first character you bump into and is also your healer is Estelle who is a vital character to have in your group of 4 but her whole “I am not coming with you anymore ok I will” attitude gets old very quickly.

Some people have said the battle system is just button mashing but there is so much more to in then this especially when facing bosses and harder enemies. It’s true that you would only use two attack buttons in a fight but you do need to block and watch everyone’s health as you are fighting. Also special attacks are provided later and can pop up in the middle of any fight. You would just control Yuri while the other 3 characters will attack and do their own thing around you, you can put your trust in your healer but it’s worth protecting her and stop her being attacked so she can cast. It would also be wise to watch her TP [Magic Meter] so she can cast, this can be replenished during battle slowly, after battle or through items.

As well as fighting and special attacks you will also pick up a limit meter which will increase as you play the game, this allows you a short burst of attacks without stopping and is great when under pressure. There were bosses where I would clean out some of my healing and Life items and it’s annoying that you are only limited to carry 15.

The usual RPG things apply like at the end of a battle you will gain experience, money and maybe new skills. You carry items for everything you need; you can change/upgrade weapons and clothing and carry a certain item to help you. And also for anyone who has played any of the previous games you can also cook certain foods which have different benefits.

I also love the soundtrack to this game; the music matches the mood of places you visit and the storyline which is a big factor of any RPG.

Alongside Lost Oddesy this is one of my favourite RPG’s on the Xbox 360, I wait with high hopes for the 2nd Tales of Symphonia game coming out on the Wii.

My Score 91%