Home

Hugh Likes Video Games: Octopath Traveller

Leave a comment

Octopath Traveller
Developed by Acquire
Published by Square Enix
Nintendo Switch

quiz-bg.jpg

The Skinny: This retro-styled JRPG creates a miniature clockwork world to explore.

I love me some Old School Japanese Role Playing Games. As a kid, I looked on with envy as my friends talked about the then mind-blowing scope of Dragon Warrior, and the Unprecedented drama of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. When I grew older and had the means to play them myself, I lost myself in their fast maps and intricate mechanical systems. But trends come and go in gaming, and while these classics are remembered fondly, they just don’t make them anymore.
Except, of course, when they do. Octopath Traveller is a return to subgenre form, complete with pixelated sprites and tangled leveling systems. But it brings a lot of new stuff to the table as well.
The player chooses their starting character from a cast of eight protagonists, from erudite but occasionally naive scholar Cyrus to cynical thief Therion. After playing through the character’s ‘Chapter’ you leave your starting town and recruit the other characters, and play their stories as well. While you can have up to four characters in your party, each character’s story plays out as though they were alone, although you can access character asides where the others will give that character advice, or other dialog that doesn’t impact the scene.
Octopath Traveller is a remarkable success in so many ways. The visuals, a mix of pixel art and modern particle effects serve to create the illusion of a miniature world on the switch’s screen. Sand, snow and water all sparkle, and shimmer on the screen, creating not exactly realism, but an almost tactile effect. The locations look like vastly complex models. The music is gorgeous and cleverly constructed. The writing is smart, engaging, and doesn’t suffer from the bowdlerization so often present in 90’s translations. Combat is strategic and tricky. It is a joy to play.
But as much fun as it is, the game never quite breaks its illusions. The systems never let the player forget that it is a game. Its use of story as another system is interesting, and fun for me, but I found myself wishing that the characters had a bit more interaction with one another. If I have a Healer in my party, why can’t he heal the Cleric’s ill adoptive father? If another character is looking for a criminal, why can’t the Thief use their contacts to speed the process along? These barriers were a distraction to me at times.
Also, having one character that never left the party made them way more powerful than anybody else. There didn’t seem to be a reason to alway have them in the group, and by the end there was a huge gap. These are both aspects I hope they address in any potential sequels.
Octopath Traveller is an incredible JRPG experience for Nintendo Switch that is both full of warm, gooey nostalgia, and genuinely unlike anything else out there. If you have a Nintendo Switch and a hundred hours to spare, this is a must play.

Advertisements

Hugh Likes Video Games-Adventures of Mana

Leave a comment

Adventures of mana

Adventures of Mana
Published by Square Enix
Played on PS Vita

The Skinny: This slightly buggy 3D remake of Final Fantasy Adventure solves little of that game’s frustrations, and adds a host of new ones, but is still an easy way to play a somewhat lost gem.

With Secret of Mana getting a full HD remake this month, I decided to give the remake of its predecessor a try. The original Seiken Densetsu, known in the west as Final Fantasy Adventure, was a Game Boy action RPG that pushed the little black-and-white console to the edge. Adventures of Mana certainly captures the feel of FFA, but that may not necessarily be a good thing.
Designed for mobile devices and ported to the PS Vita, Adventures is a perfect remake in a lot of ways. I reviewed the original back in 2015, and recently decided to give the update a try.  Even with its upgraded polygonal graphics and orchestral sound, it feels exactly like Final Fantasy Adventure. But unfortunately, as often that not, that feeling is frustration. Everything that’s enjoyable about the game is retained, the variety of weapons, spells, and characters are all here, and the sweeping story is intact. But almost all the limitations of the game are here as well. AI companions still have little to no intelligence, and dungeons remain a set of confusing, boxy rooms that all look alike. Frustratingly, the map is harder to get to than in FFA, being mapped to a sub-menu on the triangle button on the PSV version. The game doesn’t seem to have received any upgrades to the code at all, as the screen-based grid of the original is still loaded separately from the background, usually with a lag of about a second or so. Unfortunately, this version allows the player to move while they’re loading, and has a much more zoomed in camera, which resulted in my character being hit by spawning monsters before I even saw them. The inventory has been overhauled somewhat with a ring-style menu after later installments, and works pretty well, but is still only sixteen slots, with no way to increase it. But at least weapons and armor are stored separately, which frees up a little space. There are a few new bugs added in the conversion as well, such as one which froze my hero’s sprite in mid-leap, but those were minor complaints.
Adventures of Mana felt a little disappointing, but if you are a fan of the oldest of the old school action RPGs, and don’t have access to the physical copy of the original, it is a cheap and somewhat satisfying trip down memory lane. Just be prepared; rose-colored glasses not included.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed it, please share it! You can also support me on Patreon for stories, reviews, podcasts, and more!

Hugh Likes Video Games: Bravely Default

Leave a comment

Hugh Likes Video Games:  Bravely Default
Published by Square Enix
Nintendo 3DS

Bravely Default is a Playstation One or Super Nintendo era RPG that didn’t exist before.  It’s old school in all the right ways, with suprisingly deft use of 3DS features.
Why this wasn’t released as “Final Fantasy” is a mystery to me, because it is a beautiful love letter to the series.
“Bravely Default” is a fantasy role playing game following the journey of a sheltered, yet self-composed priestess and her friends.  Their goal is to reignite the power of four elemental crystals, saving them from the machinations of an evil empire bent on using they crystals to its own ends.  Along the way, they’ll fight enemies by changing classes, transforming from anything to black mages to spear-wielding fighters capable of jumping high into the air.  Let me know when it starts feeling familiar.
With absolutely gorgeous designs by Akihiko Yoshida and an engine clearly updated from the DS ports of Final Fantasy III and IV, It certainly belongs in that venerable pantheon of titles.  But as closely as it resembles Final Fantasy, there are also touches of Enix’s beloved franchise, “Dragon Warrior.”  Much like the Super Nintendo classic “Chrono Trigger,” it is a triumph greater than the sum of its parts, if they’re the sort of thing you’re into, of course.
As old-school as “Bravely Default” is, it incorporates a lot of neat touches that take advantage of the 3DS’s standby and Streetpass functions.  At the beginning of the game, one of the main characters’ village is destroyed.  By passing other players when your 3DS is in standby, and spending money on work orders, you can rebuild the town, which serves as an investment that really pays off as the game progresses.  The shops in the town will create special items that you can buy from traders throughout the game, and will send you free samples based when you rest the game.  There are even hidden bosses that can be exchanged and fought via Streetpass.  Players can also register friends to assist in battle or give characters bonuses.
The classic style of the game isn’t all great news, though.  The game is old-school tough, with lots of grinding and collecting to be done, even with the help of friends and townsfolk.  It’s also a very long game, so be prepared to invest some serious hours if you’re hoping to see the end credits.
“Bravely Default” is a master class in classic JRPG design and construction.  If you’re a long-time fan of the genre, or you were afraid that Square Enix had lost their touch, this is the game for you.  “Bravely Default” is available for the 3DS.