Jrpg Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Jrpg RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network Dragon Quest 3: The Seeds of Salvation Review — A JRPG Classic Revisited https://www.gameskinny.com/bxyki/dragon-quest-3-the-seeds-of-salvation-review-a-jrpg-classic-revisited https://www.gameskinny.com/bxyki/dragon-quest-3-the-seeds-of-salvation-review-a-jrpg-classic-revisited Mon, 11 Nov 2019 16:12:04 -0500 David Jagneaux

Did you know the Dragon Quest franchise has been around even longer than Final Fantasy? Dating all the way back to the NES days and originally named Dragon Warrior in North America, it's one of the first examples of what we now identify as the JRPG genre. Defined by massive, explorable worlds, slow-pacing, and turn-based combat, JRPGs are some of my favorite games of all time.

That being said, I haven't played a lot of Dragon Quest games other than Dragon Quest 4, Dragon Quest 8, and Dragon Quest 9, but I have played almost every mainline Final Fantasy game and several other lesser-known genre staples.

Since I approached Dragon Quest 3 with a completely blank slate, I can say that the Switch version holds up as an excellent port. It's a great example of why good writing, strong game design, and timeless mechanics can ensure a game is enjoyed through the decades.

Updating for the Modern Era

Dragon Quest 3: The Seeds of Salvation is actually a prequel to Dragon Quest and serves as the first game in the series' chronology. You take control of the hero that eventually goes down in legend and is later referenced in the first two games in the series.

While all Dragon Quest games are technically standalone stories that function just fine on their own, they do have a lot of intertwining bits of lore that connect them a more than the games in the Final Fantasy series, for example.

I've played a lot of well-made ports and some really bad ones. Usually, if a game is getting ported to a modern console, that means it was either extremely beloved and considered a standout in its era, or it was underappreciated but regarded as a cult classic that deserves more attention.

But then, sometimes, you get games like Dragon Quest 3, games that were lauded in some regions of the world (Japan in this case) but not as well-received elsewhere, like North America. Now that the West has started to come around on JRPGs — and Japanese games more as a whole now  it's a different market.

If you've ever played a JRPG, then you know what to expect here. You'll walk around a top-down 2D map fighting enemies in random encounters, collecting items and gear, and talking to people as you pluck your way through a 30-ish hour-long adventure. It's very traditional for obvious reasons.

Dragon Quest 3 isn't the kind of game that's going to turn you into a fan of JRPGs if you've never liked the genre. In a lot of ways, it comes off as cliche and stereotypical because, when it came out over 30 years ago, it was laying the foundation for what are now considered overdone tropes.

Visually, the art style seems much more consistent in Dragon Quest 3 than in the other two ports, Dragon Quest and Dragon Quest 2. Character art still appears higher resolution than the pixel-style backgrounds, but the style and colors are all very consistent this time. They thankfully don't stick out like a sore thumb in this one.

The excellent MIDI soundtrack plays a big role in keeping you hooked as well.

Combat and Pacing

The story follows the main hero on a journey to vanquish evil, with a few twists throughout. It is certainly far more gripping than the first two games in the series. One neat bit that I enjoyed is that you can recruit/create the rest of your party at the Inn to pad out whatever types of characters you want to bring along for your journey.

And for the first time in the series, Dragon Quest 3 has a class-based system that adds some much-needed depth and nuance. Overall, it's still a pretty simplistic combat system that's slow-paced and strategic by design, but there's at least more going on here that just attacking back and forth over and over. 

Perhaps the biggest issue in the way of finding enjoyment out of Dragon Quest 3 is going to be the same today as it was 30 years ago: pacing. If you're a fan of JRPGs and don't mind reading lots of text or exploring a world to uncover details on your own, then this could be for you. But if slower pacing and the potential of needing to grind a lot at the end sounds off-putting, then this might not be worth a look.

Pros:
  • Great, consistent art style
  • Excellent soundtrack that stands out
  • Enjoyable story that keeps you engaged
  • Good enemy variety and fun designs
Cons:
  • Only the main character is part of the actual plot
  • Relatively simplistic combat system
  • Lots of grinding near the end

In an age where games are often ported, upgraded, or remade after just a few years, it's refreshing to see a revamp of a truly old game that needed the facelift. Dragon Quest 3 first released over 30 years ago and despite the fact that it certainly shows its age with some of its stiffer designs and outdated principles, it remains a testament to an era of timeless ideas and forward-thinking creativity.

If you only want to buy one of the re-released Dragon Quest ports on Switch then Dragon Quest 3 is definitely the one to get.

[Note: Square Enix provided a copy of Dragon Quest 3: The Seeds of Salvation for the purpose of this review.]

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Meet Sophia, the Girl Who Lives in Your Phone in Persona 5 Scramble https://www.gameskinny.com/b37od/meet-sophia-the-girl-who-lives-in-your-phone-in-persona-5-scramble https://www.gameskinny.com/b37od/meet-sophia-the-girl-who-lives-in-your-phone-in-persona-5-scramble Mon, 11 Nov 2019 11:33:21 -0500 Joshua Broadwell

Atlus provided yet another character trailer for Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers, this time showcasing Sophia, the girl with the red pig-tails — only, she's not your average girl.

Sophia, code-named Sophie, is the AI program that lives in the protagonist's phone. It's not completely clear who she is or how she came to be, or if she's the one in charge of the Metaverse Nav app from Persona 5

Although she lost her memories and can be a little difficult to understand, she is very reliable in battle, acting as a healer and a skilled fighter using Bless skills. What she doesn't use, though, is a Persona. Sophie uses things called Pythos to activate skills that are identical to what Personas can use.

Despite getting a lengthy demonstration video and knowing Persona 5 Scramble is meant to be Persona 5's direct sequel, we still don't know all that much about the game's story and why Palaces are reappearing all across Japan.

Japanese PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch players will figure out the mystery on February 20, 2020. Those of us in the West will have to wait until sometime later to get our hands on the game.

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Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout Review — Crafting A Brighter Future https://www.gameskinny.com/2wyas/atelier-ryza-ever-darkness-and-the-secret-hideout-review-crafting-a-brighter-future https://www.gameskinny.com/2wyas/atelier-ryza-ever-darkness-and-the-secret-hideout-review-crafting-a-brighter-future Tue, 29 Oct 2019 15:31:51 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Imagine you live in a sheltered part of the world, where few people dream of leaving. You've got big dreams, though, and one day, something happens that changes everything. You can leave to pursue those dreams, and along the way, you discover the world is bigger than you ever thought it could be. It's filled with good, but there's darkness lurking under the surface.

You've just imagined the plot of countless RPGs over the years — and it also happens to be the backbone of Atelier Ryza's narrative. That would qualify as being a bit ho-hum, overdone, and not too interesting for a typical RPG. However, it'd be a mistake to approach Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout as a typical RPG, because it certainly isn't, and that's a very good thing for this entry.

There are a couple of things working together to keep this setup from holding Ryza back. One is the game's characters.

On the surface, the characters don't break new ground. Ryza is the spunky, hotheaded type, Tao is the shy bookwork, Lent wants to get stronger, and Klaudia is the reserved and quiet foil to Ryza. As per usual with the Atelier series, though, these types are presented so well and so earnestly that it's difficult to take any issue with them, however well-worn they might be.

And that's also partly because of one other factor: how the story is structured. You spend a lot of the game's early hours on Kurken Island or exploring the nearby portion of the world's mainland. Initially, you start from absolutely nothing — no alchemy skills, rudimentary combat abilities, and no way to survive for long.

That only changes once Ryza and friends meet up with Empel and Lila, a seasoned alchemist and warrior respectively. Eventually, you learn these outsiders who have traveled the world hold the key to Ryza, Lent, and Tao's dreams. Ryza finds she has a talent for alchemy, Tao receives help studying the island's ancient ruins, and Lent finds a capable teacher in Lila.

Not that other people in the village take them seriously, though. Kurken Island is the universal representation of a small town that isn't too keen on change, and you feel that as the story unfolds. If the group isn't being ridiculed for chasing their silly dreams or getting shouted at for being lazy and avoiding farm work, they're having to sneak off the island to gather materials, study, and train.

Of course, all that changes over time, when the islanders realize how helpful and necessary alchemy and strong warriors can be — but it takes a while. Still, the pacing is actually a boon and a storytelling device here. Just when you get tired of the island or your new playground on the mainland, the story moves on and opens up another new location, with plenty of materials to experiment with.

It's an interestingly organic method of progression that ties in smoothly with how Ryza and her friends gradually see more of the world, and it makes things like finally establishing your own atelier and making an "official" new friend feel like genuine accomplishments.

In between all that is a wide variety of quests and story skits exploring the island's history and character backgrounds or showing off more character interaction than you get in the main story. These are also a series staple, but they're deeper and more interesting than previous ones as well.

Where, for example, some of the early skits in Atelier Lulua focused on how much Lulua loved food or how everyone thought the barmaid was hot, skits in Ryza focus on how relationships soured between the island's children thanks to one family lording it over everyone else or how Lent's father is an abusive alcoholic and drove Lent's mother away.

These quests and skits sometimes offer another viewpoint on the story and its themes. The main thrust is exploring the world and getting off the backwards, sometimes closed-minded island, true. But those who've already seen the world and experienced its less pleasant side will tell you why Kurken Island isn't so bad after all, once you learn adventures aren't always so great. The only "wrong" viewpoint here is the one that refuses to accept anything new just for the sake of it.

It's a surprisingly nuanced take on the setting and plot, especially when Atelier is usually about wearing a frilly skirt and trying your best.

It all takes place in a gorgeous world spanning a variety of locations, and every important scene is voiced as well. Like Atelier Lulua earlier in the year, Ryza only has a Japanese voice option, but unlike Lulua, the Japanese voices are much more moderate, better suited to characters and situations. There are, mercifully, far fewer "I FOUND SOME GRASS IN A HIGH PITCHED VOICE" moments.

That's not to say Ryza will win a storytelling of the year award. Some of the skits will be seen out of sequence with the main story because of how you access them, by going to a specific place after a certain point, and other characters don't really do or say much outside the skits and quests. However, it's great to see the series' slice-of-life emphasis used to such good effect by being intertwined with an actual story, and it is most definitely a big step up from previous entries.

The series' gameplay loop is as addictive and satisfying as ever, too: explore, gather materials, make stuff, complete quests, make more stuff, fight things, make stuff again, complete story quests, repeat. Quests are numerous and varied, ranging from monster hunting to synthesis and material gathering. You aren't restricted as to when you complete them, but who you have in your party and where you're at in the story determines when quests unlock, plus you get your rewards as soon as they're completed.

On top of these traditional Atelier elements is the chance to customize your Atelier after a certain point in the story, including the wallpaper, furniture, shingles, and basically almost everything.

An excellent fast travel system streamlines all the back-and-forthing needed to complete quests and gather materials and furnishings, and it's even easier and faster when you get access to the world map. There's even a mechanic that rewards you for fully exploring a region. One drawback here, though, is that the regular map is a bit sparse, and it's not always easy to figure out where you need to go (or when) without checking your in-game memo after an event.

Alchemy, the series' biggest draw, makes a bigger impact in Ryza as well. As is always the case in a new arc for the series, the alchemy system is completely different from what came before. This time around, it's based on the Material Loop system. Each recipe has a number of different loops requiring different item types and items of a specific element (thunder, fire, wind, or ice). The pre-set loops have their own qualities they add to the finished product, like increasing a specific stat or granting some ability; every item you add has quality level and trait that affect the end result as well.

Traits and quality are standard in Atelier games. But you'll actually need to pay closer attention to these earlier on in the game than usual, especially quality. That's because several optional and story quests require items of a specific quality level. I can't speak for every Atelier game, but the ones I have played usually make quality an optional thing, or it won't come into play until later. So this was a refreshing change of pace that really made me focus on what I was adding and which Material Loops I prioritized over others.

Envision is a new alchemy feature that lets you uncover new recipes as well, without having to buy them. Despite being called an alchemist's ability, it basically just means checking to see if a recipe has an alternate form, then looking at the Material Loop map to see how you can unlock it. You'll be doing this a lot, and it, combined with the basic Material Loop system, makes gathering as many materials as you can during every exploration trip more worthwhile than it's ever been.

There's even an item rebuild feature you unlock a bit later, where — for a steep price of gems — you can add to an existing item to improve its quality or give it new traits.

Since the number of items you can add is limited, there's also a greater element of planning involved. Do you want to level up one loop and increase quality? Or should you just add items of a different element that won't help much, but will unlock the next loop with that extra damage trait your bombs need or a new recipe?

Taking item traits and weapon crafting into consideration is something else you'll be doing more of in Atelier Ryza's combat. In a substantial change from previous games, Ryza's combat swaps out traditional turn-based battles for a system based around an Active Time Battle (ATB) meter, and you'll only control one character at a time.

This has the big benefit of making battles feel more tense and hectic, something which the generally higher difficulty helps as well. Enemy strengths and weaknesses play a much bigger role from the beginning, and you'll need to consider item management on top of individual actions. Items this time aren't just stored in the Basket; instead, they're infused in Core Crystals (no, Blades don't pop out of them) and equipped to specific characters. They only have so many uses before you have to infuse them from the item menu by using up an existing item in your inventory.

Obviously, infusing items with traits that either inflict conditions, heal HP, or deal extra damage is highly desirable, as is exploring hidden recipes for new armor with its own special traits and higher stats that you can't buy in the store.

And, in addition to all that, is how you consider what moves to use. In place of MP determining what special moves you can make, you get Action Points, earned through making regular attacks. You can spend these on skills, or you can save up increments of 10 and increase your Tactics level, which gives everyone a stat boost and increases the number of basic attacks you perform.

Combat has always been a bit of an iffy area for the series. You’d have all these attack options and different things you can craft into your items, but enemies outside optional bosses were woefully simple to beat, and it ended up just being a chore. Ryza goes a long way in fixing that issue, which, combined with the better-integrated story and expanded synthesis systems, makes the game a much more unified whole than its predecessors.

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Pros:
  • More engaging story than previous entries that's better integrated as well
  • Refreshing take on the coming of age story
  • Extremely addictive and rewarding synthesis system
  • Expansive and varied world to explore
  • Extensive amount of content
  • Long-needed changes to the combat system and difficulty
  • Much better coherence between the three main pillars of story, crafting, and combat
Cons
  • Only one ending
  • Some discontinuity between scripted skits and story events
  • Might be too slow and tame for those wanting an epic RPG

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout is a must-play for series fans, whether you've played every entry or just one.

The big question is whether it will change the minds of those who've passed the series over before. The answer depends. If you're wanting an epic RPG with conflict and deep characterization, well, don't get this. If you want something a bit more sedate that rewards the time and effort you put into its different systems, it might just be worth a try.

[Note: Koei Tecmo provided a copy of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout for the purpose of this review.]

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Persona 5 Scramble is Persona 5's Direct Sequel https://www.gameskinny.com/nkxdu/persona-5-scramble-is-persona-5s-direct-sequel https://www.gameskinny.com/nkxdu/persona-5-scramble-is-persona-5s-direct-sequel Thu, 24 Oct 2019 17:27:44 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Remember earlier this year, when everyone thought Persona 5 was coming to the Switch? (We do). Persona 5S didn't turn out to be the Switch version of the massive RPG, but it's more closely connected to it than the original trailer first suggested.

In fact, Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom Strikers is apparently a direct sequel to Persona 5, even more so than Persona 4: Dancing all Night was a direct sequel to Persona 4.

Persona 5 Scramble takes place six months after the events of Persona 5 and is said to be much more reliant on story than most musou-style games. It's summer vacation, but the Phantom Thieves of Hearts end up caught in another round of trouble. But this time, it takes them all across Japan. Apparently, Palaces are manifesting themselves again, and Shadows run rampant in the streets.

Here, players can control all the Phantom Thieves directly, unleashing the grand, destructive combos typical of Warriors-style games. It looks like Palace exploration will be making a return as well, which isn't really a surprise given the premise.

Based on the trailer, they'll run the gamut of locales, from an ice-themed land perfect for series mascot Jack Frost to an Alice in Wonderland area that looks suspiciously Persona Q inspired.

The Japanese version is offering early-purchase DLC that unlocks access to the main BGMs from all previous Persona games that players can swap out in Scramble. It's set for a February 20, 2020, release date in Japan, and while there's no word when the Western release date will be yet, there's little reason to think the West won't get the same BGM DLC when it does happen.

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Persona 5 Scramble news as it develops.

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 Review — Forward, Relentlessly https://www.gameskinny.com/ag4bm/the-legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-3-review-forward-relentlessly https://www.gameskinny.com/ag4bm/the-legend-of-heroes-trails-of-cold-steel-3-review-forward-relentlessly Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:36:11 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

With his last breath, a particular character near the end of Trails of Cold Steel 2 encourages his former classmates to move forward, relentlessly, if they hope to achieve their goals and see peace reign in Erebonia once more.

It's a moment and sentiment that aptly summarizes the game's follow-up. Trails of Cold Steel 3 pushes the entire series forward in narrative, scope, and mechanics, improving on previous titles' foibles to deliver a JRPG masterpiece.

Note: small story spoilers for Trails of Cold Steel 2 follow. 

Back to School: The Branch Campus Edition

The game starts a year and a half after Cold Steel 2 ends. The civil war might be over, but the Erebonian Empire is in a state of flux. Chancellor Giliath Osborne moves towards achieving his goals — though precious few people know what those are — completely reshaping the empire, its government, and its social structure in the process.

Dissent ferments under the surface thanks to his actions. However, there are many more actors on the stage than the Blood and Iron Chancellor. They are all equally determined to leave their mark on the world.

Amid this vortex of unrest is Rean Schwarzer, hailed as the champion of the civil war, navigating between his duties as a government agent and an instructor at the newly established Thors Military Academy Branch Campus.

Though it takes place partly at a military academy (again), you quickly learn this isn't just another school story.

Cold Steel 3 is the point where plot threads from the Trails in the Sky games and the unlocalized Trails to Zero and Trails of Azure start to come together at last. These narrative pieces combine into a lens that gives a more in-depth look into the true nature of the Erebonian Empire, one that goes beyond politics and military machinations. Though those are undoubtedly important, it delves into the darker side the first two games only hinted at.

It's a vast game, but the way major plot points and characters are handled means you’re pulled in from the start. There’s never a dull moment, with some significant and unexpected events taking place as early as midway through the first chapter.

I'm roughly past the halfway point, but thanks to accidentally spoiling the major plot points a while ago, I can say everything combines seamlessly to culminate in an explosive finale. Cold Steel 3 does a superb job of building on everything that came before, but even standing alone, the entire experience is utterly compelling and masterfully delivered throughout.

No story can hold its own without quality characters, and fortunately, Cold Steel 3 has those in spades. The new Class VII is immediately likable and exciting, benefiting from you getting some characterization and backstory right away. Not only is Class VII instantly engaging, but the entire Branch Campus is full of distinct personalities, personalities who also get interwoven in the story much more than the old Thors students did.

However, that two-game long buildup does pay off well for Old Class VII. As they gradually reunite with Rean throughout the story, you'll see each of them, including Rean, has a noticeably more-defined personality.

Improvements All-Around

The V.O. performances are better than ever as well, especially for Rean and Old Class VII. Voice work in the first two Cold Steel games wasn't bad by any means, but it definitely seems like all the actors have made the characters their own, which fits perfectly with Old Class VII's confidence in their new paths as well.

It's worth noting the localization is very good throughout. For the most part, you wouldn't really know the translation and localization were handled by a different publisher this time around. It's that seamless. If anything, the script seems a bit livelier than the previous Cold Steel games, though that could just be the source material, too.

There are some typos and a few other issues, perhaps more than one might hope for. But these are outside the main storyline. They don't amount to much more than a missing letter or word here and there, with a few exceptions.

Sometimes, the flow is a bit rough, and one or two NPC comments require a few seconds to work out, but it should also be said these are nothing as problematic as the original Ys VIII translation. NISA is set to fix these with a Day-One patch anyway. 

On the visual side of things, Erebonia looks better than ever. Being built natively for the PS4 gives the presentation a huge boost, which, even though it's not taking full advantage of the system's capabilities, is still a significant change for a Falcom game. Colors are brighter, the gameplay is silky smooth with hardly any loading times (a huge blessing for those coming from the Vita games), and character models are much more detailed than before.

These improved character models lend themselves to a greater range of expression during dialogue, too. The days of that gorgeous 2D artwork accompanying dialogue boxes in Falcom games are well and truly gone. Still, the flexibility of expression and better fidelity in modeling makes the digital models pretty darn close to the 2D artwork.

The presentation is helped along by an outstanding soundtrack as well, one that's a step up in sophistication from previous titles. If you check it out on Spotify, you'll notice it's divided into four albums. That's because almost every track used is brand-new for this game, ranging from the sweeping and evocative to lighthearted and bubbly as needed.

Granted, there's no specific stand-out track like Azure's "Omen" or Cold Steel's "Atrocious Raid." But at the expense of one track that tells you "Ah yes, the shit is indeed hitting the fan," you get a full-bodied, tonally and thematically unified work throughout the entire game.

The Eighth in the Third Arc in the What Now?

With all those layers and nods to other games, you're probably wondering whether Trails of Cold Steel 3 is a good starting point for the series. You might be surprised to hear that, despite relying in part on the plots of all the other story arcs, the answer is "yes," with just a couple of caveats.

Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo has mentioned in multiple interviews that, by the time development of the Cold Steel series began, the team realized the backstory and density might make it rather tricky for newcomers to get into the series. So, the Cold Steel games were meant to both continue the series and welcome those who'd never touched a Trails game before.

While the plots and other characters are undoubtedly crucial to what's going on in the series, Cold Steel 3 in particular, the majority of it isn't presented as if you should know it already. What's happened outside the first two Cold Steel games isn't really known by the core cast anyway. This creates a narrative where you learn about pivotal events and people as Rean-and-co. do, giving you enough information to understand what's going on without expecting you to play all the other games first.

The other thing that lets Cold Steel 3 do this is the way the Cold Steel arc's narrative is structured, to begin with. The first two games don't really emphasize the major plot elements, focusing on Erebonian politics instead. Cold Steel 3 builds on those political happenings but ties them to new and more significant plot points.

Of course, this means you'd do well to at least have played the first two Cold Steel games, so you have a clearer understanding of who everyone is and what went down. If you're curious about this specific entry or really want to experience it without spending the time to play the first two, though, that's still possible.

Like its predecessor, Cold Steel 3 includes a generous backstory section in the start menu, where you can either catch up on what happened before and who was involved or learn about it for the first time.

There's also the game's official website, which NISA has turned into a veritable encyclopedia of information. Between those two things, you might still feel adrift at times, but you could still certainly enjoy the game as your first one.

Field Triiiip!

The story and all its trappings unfold in a way similar to other entries in the series. Each chapter segment brings with it a variety of tasks to complete, including required and optional tasks, and you'll start at the Thors Branch Campus.

Campus tasks range from training in Einhel Keep, which benefits from being a much more interesting place than the Old Schoolhouse to helping out the folks of Leeves, and offering some assistance either to your fellow instructors or your students.

The entire branch campus goes on Field Exercises every chapter as well. These might sound like the quintessential school activities, but they're actually full-blown military exercises. The Branch Campus investigates various, potentially deadly, disturbances in the western empire and the province of Crossbell while the imperial army is busy fending off an invasion in the east.

So they're sort of like field trips from hell in that respect. Fortunately, you meet a ton of interesting people along the way.

Tasks during these exercises are similar but with a twist. You'll help out the citizens of whatever area you're in at the time, but with some crucial quests mixed in with the optional ones.

Completing quests always rewards you with money, items, or both. Doing so also increases your Academy Points. As your Academy rank goes up, you get unique, often useful, items as rewards. Plus, along with unlocking a trophy for maxing your AP, the data carries over into the next game with some extra bonuses.

On top of those optional and crucial quests are the objectives the government wants Class VII to fulfill. These typically entail gathering information, exploring a specific location, and uncovering just a bit more about what's going on in that location and Erebonia in general.

As always, each segment has at least one missable sidequest that isn't on your to-do list, but this time around, they get quest markers anyway. They're still easy to miss unless you check your map constantly, though, so it doesn't take away from that feeling of discovery when you stumble on a hidden quest.

Even still, it's worth wandering around and speaking to the NPCs you meet. Vibrant NPCs with their own unique stories that change as the game progresses is one of the series' hallmarks, and Cold Steel 3 is no different. Whether it's gaining a new perspective on an important plot event or watching NPC relationships grow and develop, Erebonia feels even more alive and dynamic thanks to these extra touches.

CS3 introduces two additional sidequest types, too, one where you're tasked with finding radio material for the Leeves branch of Radio Trista, and the other where you take landscape photos for a former Thors classmate turned journalist.

There's also the in-game card game, Vantage Masters, a replacement for Blade from the first two games that lets you challenge certain characters and party members to strategic card battles just for the fun of it.

In short, it's a massive world, with a wide variety of things to do and see.

Let's not forget the improved fishing mini-game, too!

Previous games in the series sometimes struggled with balancing optional quests and activities with the main plot, but Cold Steel 3 handles them in a way that feels better balanced and more streamlined. That's in part thanks to an improved fast travel system that lets you navigate to specific parts of the highway or a side area, making monster quests — and the almost inevitable trek back to town to buy necessities — so much faster and easier.

The quest structure works in the game's favor, as well. Most of your sidequests are assigned early on in an area, and they help you navigate that new area. By the time events really start to kick-off, the quest volume drops, so you don't have four or more quests hanging over you while you choose between them and the main story. 

Overcoming Barriers

The combat system has also received an overhaul. It's still based on the same concepts and systems as the first two Cold Steel games, but it's faster, smoother, and more strategic.

The old ring menu system is gone, replaced by a Persona 5-inspired layout with actions mapped to face buttons and directional arrows. It's a pretty simple change, but it has a surprisingly noticeable effect on how smooth the action feels.

Divine Knight battles are much more involved and entertaining than in Cold Steel 2, and with the ubiquity of Panzer Soldats, other characters piloting their giant mechs regularly join you.

The PlayStation 4's capabilities also seem to have affected the game's smooth combat. Movements are faster and less blocky, animations for arts and crafts unfold quickly, and the overall tempo just seems faster. If it's still too slow, there's even a Turbo feature you can activate to make it move even quicker, added in just for the English release.

There are some other big, new highlights for the combat system as well. Enemies now have a Break meter that gradually depletes as you attack them, with specific crafts causing more considerable Break damage. Once an enemy's Break gauge reaches zero, it's immobilized for a turn. 

Brave Orders are another new feature, one that gives added purpose to the Bravery Points (BP) you get from unbalancing foes. Each character has at least one Brave Order they can activate for a set number of BP, with effects ranging from increasing defense, reflecting attacks, or multiplying Break damage to shortening action delay and cutting received damage in half.

If you're playing on normal, it's incredibly easy and satisfying to break the game using Break and Brave Orders. If you're playing on hard, these features are vital for making it through. Fortunately, the difficulty is adjustable at any time, except Nightmare mode, so you're free to experiment as you see fit.

Finally is the addition of a second Master Quartz slot, which opens up character build customization even more than before.

Determining when to use BP for an Order or a rush attack, whether to prioritize Breaking or defense, and figuring out what Quartz combinations suit the situation or your playstyle make this the most involved and engaging combat system in the series to date.

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The Verdict

Pros:
  • Deeply layered story, tightly knit, and full of surprises
  • Massive and engaging world
  • So much to do — or not, if you don't want to
  • Brilliant characters and characterization
  • Improved combat system
  • Numerous quality of life enhancements over previous entries
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Best visuals in the series to date
  • Surprisingly accessible for newcomers
Cons:
  • A few slow areas
  • Doesn't take full advantage of the PS4's capabilities

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 is a shining example of how to improve on a winning formula. Practically everything is improved compared to previous releases, from combat and narrative pacing to voice acting and visuals.

The story might be dense, but it's one of the most intricate and finely crafted in gaming and fantasy. That's due in part to building so well on what came before. Yet it still manages to welcome newcomers if you're willing to do a bit of reading to catch up.

All in all, if you're an RPG fan or are just curious what the fuss is all about, you owe it to yourself to give Cold Steel 3 a try.

[Note: A copy of The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 was provided by NISA for the purpose of this review.]

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Dragon Quest Switch Review: Erred-rick https://www.gameskinny.com/7a6ye/dragon-quest-switch-review-erred-rick https://www.gameskinny.com/7a6ye/dragon-quest-switch-review-erred-rick Fri, 04 Oct 2019 13:39:26 -0400 RobotsFightingDinosaurs

What can be said about Dragon Quest that hasn't already been said? It, along with its cohorts, originated the role-playing-game genre, and it was the first one to appear on consoles. It's legendary both on its own merits and also for inspiring pretty much every Japanese role-playing-game that came after it.

The game was wildly ambitious in its time, and though some aspects of the game have aged poorly, that's only because its contemporaries have built on the formula that Dragon Quest created. 

I say all of that to say this: reviewing an RPG that came out in 1986 by today's standards is a bit unfair. Instead, this review will focus on the newly-released Dragon Quest port for the Nintendo Switch, and how it's been updated for a modern audience.

Unfortunately, Square Enix sure made it difficult for new players to jump in.

Quest Log

If you're new to Dragon Quest, you'll likely be surprised by the open nature of the game. From the moment you start, there are no forced tutorials. No part of the map is off-limits, save for the final castle. You're free to visit any of the game's towns or dungeons at your leisure. The only thing stopping you is all the murderous Akira Toriyama-designed wizards, skeletons, and beasts that want you dead.

Other than that, the gameplay loop will be familiar to anyone who's ever played an RPG because, well, Dragon Quest invented the gameplay loop. Take on monsters, level up, buy equipment, find items, learn spells, loot dungeons, and eventually save the world. Specifically, it's your quest to defeat the Dragonlord by building a rainbow bridge to his island fortress and then besting him in combat. 

There are a few other unique gameplay hooks in the first Dragon Quest, namely the (relatively annoying) fact that each one of the dungeons is dark, so you need to use a torch to see further than one tile away, and the use of magic keys to open doors around the world. Other than that, any RPG lover will feel very much at home with Dragon Quest, from its random encounters right down to its cheesy-yet-clever Olde English dialogue.

A Quest for a Modern Era

If you're going into this game knowing that it's not going to have many, or really any, of the modern quality-of-life advancements that came to the RPG genre after 1986, you're likely going to be satisfied plunking down $5 to experience this five-ish-hour piece of history.

But that's not all you're getting here. This game has been updated in a variety of ways to appeal to a modern audience, and the most notable change is in the visuals. This is generally a matter of taste, but I typically prefer the original blocky, pixelized feel to the ultra-smoothed-out art style of many modern remakes. That said, the upgraded enemy portraits and battle backdrops are a delight, bringing Akira Toriyama's original designs to life in a new way. 

There are a few other quality of life changes, too.

Prices of magic keys have been reduced, and spell names have been changed to make them a little clearer. There's also a quick-save system, meaning you don't have to trek all the way to the castle to save your game. In a baffling move, however, the game hides it in the "Misc." section of the menu, along with a group of tutorials that take new players through the game's mechanics.

The game never tells you that this is where the save function and tutorials are, so they're pretty easy to miss. It's hilarious that the tutorial you already found in the "Misc." menu tells you explicitly to check out the "Misc." menu because it's easy to miss.

A Medieval Life

Pros:
  • Dragon Quest is legendary for a reason
  • The remastered battle visuals are great 
  • The remastered music is great
  • It's $5
Cons:
  • Despite not being a faithful remake, the game offers very few quality of life updates
  • The general sprite aesthetic could be a turn-off for some

Given the small tweaks made to the game in advance of its release on the Switch, it's baffling that Square left certain other aspects of the game alone. 

Your inventory is laughably small, and the only way to expand it is to sock your items away in a vault in one specific town. There's no way to deposit or retrieve these items without trekking all the way back to town.

There's no fast travel either, which would be fine except for the fact that frequent random encounters make necessary treks back to a castle or town frustrating. Adding to this frustration is the fact that when you do get to a town to buy items, you can't purchase keys or healing items in bulk. You have to buy them one at a time, in distinct transactions. 

It's a death by a thousand cuts. None of these issues are damning on their own, but given the other tweaks made to the game before its release, it means that Dragon Quest for the Switch now occupies a strange remake middle ground. The visual changes and quick-save function mean that it's not intended to be a faithful recreation of a classic RPG, so the question then becomes, "Why did the developers not go one step further to make the game friendlier and less frustrating?". 

The bottom line is that even with these issues, Dragon Quest is still worth the $5 you'll spend on it. It's legendary for a good reason, and playing through it is cozily nostalgic, even if you didn't play the original back in 1986. It's just frustrating that the team behind the Switch version didn't lower the barrier of entry.

[Note: A copy of Dragon Quest was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.]

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Dragon Quest 2 Switch Review: Let the Past Shine Once More https://www.gameskinny.com/7m22b/dragon-quest-2-switch-review-let-the-past-shine-once-more https://www.gameskinny.com/7m22b/dragon-quest-2-switch-review-let-the-past-shine-once-more Fri, 04 Oct 2019 10:08:43 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Long ago, Enix released an RPG that would revolutionize gaming and spawn a series still going strong today. Dragon Warrior was the first of its kind, though rather basic in scope and mechanics.

Not long after it released came Dragon Warrior II. It provided a host of improvements over its predecessor, with expanded combat options, more characters, and a broader story carrying on the Erdrick saga. It was ported to Android and iOS as Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and that's the version the recent PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch ports are based on.

It boasts the usual improvements modern ports of older games tend to feature, such as some quality of life upgrades, better soundtracks, tweaked scripts, and much nicer looking sprites.

Yet the big, loaded question is whether Dragon Quest 2 is worth playing this many years later, even with these improvements.

That's not an easy one to answer.

Go Forth, Young Prince

Dragon Quest 2's story is standard for a late '80s game, but that doesn't mean it's bad; it's just fairly simple.

It takes place long after the events of the first Dragon Quest, starring three of Erdrick's illustrious descendants — the titular Luminaries, a name which should sound familiar to anyone who's played even a bit of Dragon Quest XI.

One day, the fiendish followers of Hargon invade the peaceful kingdom of Middenhall, destroying its castle and king along with it. It falls to your character to venture forth and gather the Prince of Cannock and the Princess of Moonbroke to eventually take the fight to Hargon.

That's pretty much all there is to the story. You travel around and gather your cousins, then travel some more, conquering dungeons and gathering the necessary sigils to successfully defeat Hargon at the end of the road.

Dragon Quest stories tend to be fairly conservative on the scale of RPG narrative innovation to begin with, though DQ 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor when it released.

The world is much bigger, and you have party members this time. Though the plot is ultimately a variation of "Hero defeats evil villain," it does continue the story told in the original game, unlike Final Fantasy.

We take these things for granted now, but it doesn't take away from appreciating that kind of continuity and improvement put into older games.

Simple Can Be Good

How this resonates with you today depends on your expectations. But, in a world that sets 100+ hour character-driven epics as the standard, there's something refreshing about a simple game you can finish in under 20 hours. That goes double for a game that's mostly straightforward, one you can just have fun working through.

The same kind of simple setup applies to the game's mechanics. Combat is rudimentary, though still more involved than the first Dragon Quest. Apart from two additional party members, DQ 2 also introduced the seeds of what would become the series' class system.

The Prince of Midenhall (aka you) is the warrior type and can't actually use magic, unlike most DQ heroes. Cannock's prince is a mixture of warrior and mage, learning spells like Heal and Sizz without excelling in physical or magical strength. The Princess of Moonbroke is the only one who fits the usual mage class, being squishy but magically powerful.

The game has more combat abilities than its predecessor, though the range of spells and physical attacks is still limited.

Fights are in first-person, like most of the series' fights until DQ 8. Just like you have more party members, your foes can come at you in larger groups as well, and unlike the original DQ 2, these fights take place on animated backgrounds. Sprites are static, though that and the first-person perspective are actually a big boon.

Why? Because it means combat goes faster without snazzy animations and detailed models. That's a good thing because you're in combat a lot.

The random encounter rate in Dragon Quest 2 is almost obscene, with fights occurring as frequently as every step you take. Yet you do also need to fight most of these. DQII is no exception to the Dragon Quest rule of requiring lots of experience points to level up.

Most fights are stingy in the amount of experience and gold you get from them, but if you run from too many, you'll find you die more quickly than you'd like later on.

It creates an interesting, if sometimes tedious, balance between dealing with a highly intrusive encounter rate on and short fight times. You'll grind because you have to — but not for endless hours.

Thankfully, there are no transition screens or load screens when you begin and end a battle, which helps make them go even faster. However, it would have been nice to have an option to reduce the rate. This is 2019, after all.

Ye Olde Adventure

There is a caveat to all this simplicity and streamlining, though, and it's one you'll want to keep in mind if this is your first Dragon Quest game.

"Simple" and "straightforward" might be friends in a thesaurus, but they're miles apart in Dragon Quest 2. Being a game from the '80s means Dragon Quest 2 expects you to either play it very frequently, take notes, or use the 21st-century version of the playground information network (online guides).

Naturally, you don't get objective markers, your map features no names, and you'll need to talk to townsfolk to get a clue about where you need to go next.

Don't forget that clue, because there's no "story up to now" feature either. The trouble is, these clues can be very vague indeed. It's all well and good to describe a specific location, but when you've never been there, and the map isn't the best at showing landforms and the like, there's still a bit of guesswork and extra travel involved.

There's no bag feature like later Dragon Quest entries either, so your inventory capacity is significantly limited. You also don't get HP and MP restored upon leveling up.

You'll burn through Medicinal Herbs and MP using Heal pretty quickly at first, which means it's back to town using a Chimera Wing (assuming you remembered to buy one), then another monster-filled slog to whatever dungeon you had to evacuate from.

Save points are infrequent. You can save by speaking to the kings of each castle and some other NPCs in certain places, but unless it's a king, there's no way of knowing who will let you save. Fortunately, there is a quick save feature.

Your cousins don't get any character development either, which is a big difference from later DQ games that interweave character stories with the overall plot.

These setbacks, plus the encounter rate and somewhat barebones plot work much better for those who are already fans of the series or who have a good tolerance level for older games. Others might walk away wondering what all the fuss is about this Dragon Quest thing.

Some Improvements

Some things did get updated, though. Unlike the port of Romancing Saga 2, this port is solid in terms of text size, interface, and general appearance.

The graphics got a new coat of paint, so they're upgraded even from the SNES version — more vibrant colors, just a bit of extra detail to help make environment models look nice, and as mentioned, backgrounds for combat.

There's always some chatter about character sprites in Square Enix's mobile games. While there is a slight disconnect between their style and color and the style and color of the environments, it's not that much of an assault on the eyes.

DQ 2's soundtrack is also simple, but it's a great example of why soundtracks usually don't change much. They just work — really well. It's made even more pleasant thanks to the MIDI treatment the original chiptune tracks received, which puts the soundtrack just a bit below the quality of the DQ IV, V, and VI remakes on the DS.

Finally, the text. Later Dragon Quest games add in a variety of dialects depending on location and specific individuals. Dragon Quest 2, like its brethren, uses just a variant of old English instead of including different dialects, but it's definitely been spiced up from the original text as well.

It's cute, too, and adds a bit of verve to all the dialogue, unlike the medieval literature that is a certain H'aanit's dialogue in Octopath Traveler.

Plus it gives you scenes like this:

The glory of no context

Pros:
  • Still solid gameplay, after two decades
  • More varied combat, even if still limited compared to what the third entry brings
  • Fast and simple combat
  • Something you can reasonably expect to finish in a month or two
  • A chance to experience part of the series' origins on consoles again
Cons:
  • It's obviously a two-decade-old game
  • That encounter rate
  • Would have benefited from additional QoL enhancements

In the end, this is a game you can't really assign a score to. On the one hand, Dragon Quest 2 is completely solid and enjoyable by itself. The port is good in terms of presentation, but it really did need some extra attention to help ease that transition into the modern era.

If you're good with retro blemishes and don't mind having to put up with some iffy features, then jump right in. If not, you'd probably want to look elsewhere for your first, or next, Dragon Quest experience.

[Note: Square Enix provided a copy of Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line for this review.]

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Dragon Quest Switch Ports to Receive Western Release https://www.gameskinny.com/u17wg/dragon-quest-switch-ports-to-receive-western-release https://www.gameskinny.com/u17wg/dragon-quest-switch-ports-to-receive-western-release Mon, 16 Sep 2019 11:06:50 -0400 Erroll Maas

Square Enix has announced that the Nintendo Switch versions of Dragon QuestDragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation, will be released in Western territories on the Nintendo Switch eShop on September 27.

They come alongside the Japanese release.

The three ports are the same games that released on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo 3DS in Japan on August 10, 2017. The Nintendo Switch release will be the first time they are available outside of Japan.

Dragon QuestDragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, and Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation cost $4.99, $6.49, and $12.49, respectively. Though a physical version of the official Western release has not yet been confirmed, a physical version with English language support can be purchased from Play-Asia.

The most recent game in the main series, Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition, an enhanced Nintendo Switch version of Dragon Quest XI, will also release worldwide on September 27, both physically and digitally. A demo for Dragon Quest XI S is currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop and save data can be transferred to the full game.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake's Classic Mode Plays Similar to the Original https://www.gameskinny.com/ux2i6/final-fantasy-vii-remakes-classic-mode-plays-similar-to-the-original https://www.gameskinny.com/ux2i6/final-fantasy-vii-remakes-classic-mode-plays-similar-to-the-original Mon, 16 Sep 2019 10:46:12 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Final Fantasy VII Remake was shown off during an extended stage presentation at last week's Tokyo Game Show, and one of the features shown was Classic Mode.

Square Enix later summarized the mode's key features on Twitter, and that it lets players experience FFV7R in a way that feels most comfortable to them. Square Enix said of the mode:

...anyone playing #FinalFantasy VII Remake in Classic Mode does not have to worry about the action side of the combat system, and can instead focus on selecting commands, making it possible to play #FF7R as if it were a classic menu-based RPG!

In regular mode, the Active Time Battle (ATB) gauge fills when players land basic attacks; once full, players can then unleash special skills or use magic.

However, in Classic Mode, the game handles basic attacks on its own, so the ATB gauge fills automatically, sort of like it did in the original Final Fantasy VII. The player's main focus is then choosing commands from the menu.

The new FFVII Remake TGS trailer showed movement on the battlefield as an important part of the game's combat. Whether Classic Mode would also handle that movement and keep party members from hurting each other isn't certain, though.

This new mode was actually hinted at during E3 2019, when Square Enix said players could treat the game like a menu-based JRPG by pausing the action to choose their next move from a menu. While the game's first episode will only focus on Midgar, it certainly seems like it'll be packed full of features and gameplay variety to keep things interesting.

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Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC Wave 2 Has Arrived, Along with Maddening Mode https://www.gameskinny.com/amegq/fire-emblem-three-houses-dlc-wave-2-has-arrived-along-with-maddening-mode https://www.gameskinny.com/amegq/fire-emblem-three-houses-dlc-wave-2-has-arrived-along-with-maddening-mode Wed, 11 Sep 2019 14:01:44 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

As Nintendo promised not too long ago, the second wave of Fire Emblem: Three Houses DLC is available now, and a separate — free — update also introduced the game's version of Lunatic difficulty: Maddening Mode.

This new wave of DLC is part of the Three Houses season pass, and it can't be purchased separately. Those who wish to purchase it will need to shell out $29.99 for the full pass, which will eventually introduce new story content and characters.

Here's what wave two includes:

  • Five new auxiliary battles
  • A new auxiliary BGM track
  • New leisure costumes for most students
  • Glasses for Byleth
  • Four stat-boosting items (which, incidentally, we predicted a while ago)
    • Sacred Galewind Shoes — Movement+2
    • Sacred Floral Robe — HP+7
    • Sacred Snowmelt Drop — Strength+3
    • Sacred Moonstone — Speed+3

The next DLC wave will introduce even more new costumes and some new quests, among other things, and it'll be available sometime before December 31.

In a separate, free update, Nintendo also fulfilled its promise to release Three Houses' ultimate difficulty level: Maddening Mode.

While players are still just getting to grips with the differences in this mode, early impressions suggest Maddening Mode decreases experience gained, increases enemy levels, usually results in enemies getting two hits in one turn, and frequently leads to critical hits — even in the first main battle.

According to Nintendo of America, those who complete Maddening Mode in a new save file — without the benefits of New Game+ carryovers, in other words — will unlock a new main menu image.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake's New Trailer: Reno, Rude, Aerith's Dress, and Toads https://www.gameskinny.com/7b93n/final-fantasy-vii-remakes-new-trailer-reno-rude-aeriths-dress-and-toads https://www.gameskinny.com/7b93n/final-fantasy-vii-remakes-new-trailer-reno-rude-aeriths-dress-and-toads Wed, 11 Sep 2019 10:25:43 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

As promised yesterday, Square Enix dropped Final Fantasy VII Remake's Tokyo Game Show trailer this morning, and it showed off quite a bit of flash, along with some telling character inclusions.

Longtime Final Fantasy fans and those who played the other titles in the FFVII line, like Crisis Core, will immediately notice that Rude, and especially Reno, are getting much more time in the spotlight than they ever had in the original Final Fantasy VII.

Seeing as both played crucial roles in the spinoff titles, it seems Square Enix will be fleshing out FFVII Remake's story by building on events from those titles, which also likely means we can expect a much-expanded conflict between Avalanche and Shinra, too.

It looks like Square Enix also teased some expanded Golden Saucer and final date events, showing off Aerith in a brand-new outfit. Whether that holds true for everyone isn't certain, since Tifa still just gets her black tank-top.

Outside of that, we got a glimpse at some other important antagonists, but also at certain aspects of the battle system. It seems placement on the battefield will affect actions and reactions, with the trailer showing Aerith taking damage after an enemy chucks Cloud back into her.

Despite FFVII's famously darker setting and the remake's further emphasis on that darkness, it will still retain the series' trademark quirk as well. In the middle of a tense battle with bullets flying, Cloud gets hit by a magic blue puff of smoke and turns into a Toad for a while.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is set for a March 3, 2020 release date for PlayStation 4.

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Final Fantasy VIII Remastered Review: Preserving A Classic With Modern Enhancements https://www.gameskinny.com/dum9c/final-fantasy-viii-remastered-review-preserving-a-classic-with-modern-enhancements https://www.gameskinny.com/dum9c/final-fantasy-viii-remastered-review-preserving-a-classic-with-modern-enhancements Mon, 02 Sep 2019 10:15:38 -0400 David Jagneaux

Toeing the line between remastering a game and remaking a game is a difficult balance to strike. In the case of a full-on remake, entire game systems are often entirely redesigned and in many drastic cases, a game may no longer resemble the original very little or at all.

The upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake is a prime example: the story beats and characters are the same, but that's about it. Basically everything else was thrown out for something new.

But in the case of Final Fantasy VIII, what we've got instead is a remaster, similar to the remasters done for Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy X previously.

For all intents and purposes it's the same game but a bit cleaner, a bit more more streamlined, and a bit more accessible. That means if you didn't like VIII when it first came out because to its divisive changes to the established Final Fantasy formula, then you're probably going to feel the exact same way about it now. This is functionally the same game.

Bucking The Trend

In Final Fantasy VIII, you take on the role of Squall Leonhart, a young recruit for an elite mercenary group named SeeD. You live in a compound designed to educate and train new soldiers from a young age basically grooming child soldiers to rise in the ranks once they graduate. You'll travel the world, battle armies, fight off a sadistic witch, fall in love, and collect lots of cards and Guardian Forces (GFs) to summon.

Since this is a big budget remaster, let's take a step back and break down exactly what makes Final Fantasy VIII stick out from the pack and why it's such a divisive entry.

For starters, it dramatically changed everything about Final Fantasy combat other than the active-time battle system basis itself. You still wait for your gauge to fill up before you can issue a command to a character, but everything else is totally different.

For example, there isn't really any gear in Final Fantasy VIII, and you don't technically grow in strength and ability by leveling up. Instead, there's the junction system, where you "Draw" magic spells from enemies and store them with your party like other items.

Instead of an MP bar, each spell has a quantity listed, which is affected by drawing the spell out of enemies. You then junction those spells, or attach them, to your characters and their corresponding stats. You also acquire summons known as Guardian Forces that can be junctioned and leveled up as well.

It's a bit different than other systems, to say the least. The end result is something that, in theory, is rich with strategy and depth, but in practice is extremely annoying. Since magic is junctioned to characters to boost stats, this functionally means you're punished if you decide to ever cast any spells at all.

And that's not to mention that GF summons play a major role in this entry, which is a shift that has since been embraced, but at the time, it was a major departure.

Then there's also Triple Triad, the mini game that laid the foundation for basically all card-based diversions in RPGs for years to come. Dare I say there would be no Gwent without Triple Triad.

Personally, I never cared much for it, but it's got a lot of fans and is faithfully present in this version once again unchanged as far as I can tell.

Final Fantasy VIII isn't my favorite Final Fantasy game, that honor goes to either Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy IV depending on the day, but I'd still rank VIII in the top half. The soundtrack alone puts it above a lot of other entries and the intimate love story is one of the best video game romances you will ever experience.

Squall embracing Rinoa is the actual logo art work for the title, leaving zero question about what the center of the story is all about.

 

"The Best Looking Guy Here"

When it originally released, Final Fantasy VIII was renowned for its impressive pre-rendered backgrounds, soaring soundtrack, and fully 3D character models with articulated faces, hands, and full bodies, a departure from the almost chibi-style characters from Final Fantasy VII. Looking back, the jagged edges make it hard to even interpret what character is supposed to be doing half the time, leaving a lot to be desired.

Thankfully, the remaster fixes all of that.

My favorite way of describing a remaster like this is that it basically makes the game actually look and play like you think you remember it looking and playing. Nostalgia and fond memories can do quite a number on the mind, and we tend to gloss over visual discrepancies. Even the best of us imagine things in HD that were very much not in HD at their conception. Remasters fix that issue, and this is quite a fine transition when compared to its peers.

One of the funniest things to come out of the entire Final Fantasy VIII series is the meme focused on Squall's face when Rinoa tells him that he's, "the best looking guy here." Zooming in on his face, he barely looks like a person as all of the pixels are so jumbled and jagged. But now, the remaster fixes that and gives him a smooth, attractive mug instead.

Even the official Twitter account was getting in on the joke.

 

Unfortunately, that same tender love and care was not applied to the remaster's pre-rendered backgrounds, which were drawn at a specific resolution 20 years ago and are now being up-scaled. Short of remaking every background to match the remaster's higher-quality character models, there really isn't much to be done, so some scenes end up looking like the characters have been superimposed onto them. It's almost like looking at bad green screen in an old movie.

It's an unfortunate price to pay for better quality character models, but it is worth it overall. Since the camera likes to zoom in so much, especially during combat, you see much more of the new character models than the handful of noticeably bad backgrounds.

Since this is a modern remaster of a 20-year-old game, Square did include some new bells and whistles beyond just better graphics. For starters, you can now toggle random encounters on and off without entering the menu at all. It's a great feature if you're low on health and need to escape an area to heal, if you're backtracking out of an area, or if you just want to get through a region without getting bogged down in fights.

There are even options to speed things up a bit, which is a fortunate inclusion considering how frequent and prolonged animations for things like big spells, limit breaks, and summons can be.


Pros:
  • New character models look great
  • Still one of the best soundtracks in the entire franchise
  • Good romance story line with lots of well-developed characters
  • Welcomed accessibility and quality-of-life enhancements
Cons:
  • Junction system is still extremely inconvenient and annoying
  • One of the weakest casts of villains in the series

Final Fantasy VIII, despite its quirks and flaws, actually holds up quite well due in large part to its oddities. Rather than feeling like every other JRPG, it's decidedly different. From its bizarre initial plot and surprising focus on intimate relationships and internal dialogues, to the extremely unique (albeit often annoying) junction system and engaging pseudo-sci-fi setting, it still stands out even to this day.

The enhanced visuals quite literally take the edge off how old the game is and the quality of life enhancements really go a long way toward making it bearable by lessening the trudge of its systems.

[Note: A copy of Final Fantasy VIII Remastered was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review.]

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Oninaki Demo Impressions: Is It a Rehash or Rebirth for Tokyo RPG Factory? https://www.gameskinny.com/fhclt/oninaki-demo-impressions-is-it-a-rehash-or-rebirth-for-tokyo-rpg-factory https://www.gameskinny.com/fhclt/oninaki-demo-impressions-is-it-a-rehash-or-rebirth-for-tokyo-rpg-factory Wed, 24 Jul 2019 10:14:06 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Tokyo RPG Factory established a name for itself with its first release, I Am Setsuna. The problem is that it wasn't necessarily a good name.

Setsuna tried too hard to be like Chrono Trigger and ended up mimicking Final Fantasy X instead, with its complex skill tree and very, very familiar and comfortable story. Lost Sphear came later to shake things up, but it repeated some of Setsuna's faults, with repetitive and unbalanced gameplay, along with a definite sense of blandness.

Now we've got Oninaki coming up on August 22, with a demo that launched today for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Does it repeat the sins of the past or is it shaping up to be a quality experience?

Dying to Live

The world of Oninaki is built around death and rebirth, with the former tending to influence the latter. People who die with no regrets can move on to rebirth and a chance at living a better life. There's a catch, though. Loved ones who remain alive must swallow their grief, else it acts as a tether and turns souls into the Lost, which basically means they're ghosts who can't go anywhere.

Enter the Watchers, a group of people who can travel between the realms of the living and dead to help the Lost cross over. There's a third group of beings called Daemons who, for one reason or another, can't be banished or reborn; they form bonds with Watchers and help them in combat.

The worldbuilding and plot setup are surprisingly dark, rife with emotional trauma and a tangible sense of loss throughout the demo segment. Death is part of daily life in Oninaki, with people constantly dealing with it somehow or another, or not dealing with it, as the case may be.

Add a bizarre cult, mass suicide, and some unexpected plot developments early on that involve you murdering parents who want to join their dead son — at their request, no less — and you've got a hugely different setup from Lost Sphear and Setsuna. More importantly, it's a compelling narrative in its own right thanks to how it handles its themes. 

One of the most interesting elements is the Daemon Lore portion, where you can unlock the stories of your Daemon's past lives. It's a lot like Xenoblade Chronicles 2's Blade quests in how they vary the storytelling and characterization, only — surprise! — these tend to be heavier.

In general, characterization is somewhere between nuanced and cliched. Yet the setting keeps it from seeming stale, unlike earlier Tokyo RPG Factory offerings, even if it can't always save the dialogue from its stiffness.

Keeping Things Fresh

Oninaki's combat borrows a lot from franchises like Ys. Kagachi, the game's protagonist, has a basic attack you can chain together several times for a combo, plus special skills that come from the Daemons bonded with Kagachi at the time, of which he can hold four at any given moment. However, only one can Possess him, which is a sinister-sounding way of calling it the active Daemon.

Each Daemon starts with one combat skill and a secondary skill — like jump or dash — and others can be unlocked on a skill tree with Soulstones. Apart from combat skills, Daemons can have passive skills that increase Kagachi's stats as well. You can assign up to four skills once they're unlocked.

Part of the strategy in combat is figuring out which skills to use at what point because they all have a cooldown timer. The other part comes from choosing the right Daemon for each situation.

There's more to it, including managing Affinity rates in battle and ranking up your bonds. However, the gist of this is that it's all much more streamlined than Tokyo RPG Factory's previous efforts, and you actually have more opportunities to take advantage of the abilities made available.

There's no denying trash mobs are lame. They do low damage even on the Hard setting, and they usually stand around without doing anything anyway.

Swarms of them can cause problems, but the real challenge comes from larger monsters and bosses, which require careful Daemon management, pattern recognition, quick thinking, and thoughtful skill usage.

It's just a shame you don't see that until a bit later in the demo, though presumably, challenging combat and enemy variety will be more prominent as the game progresses.

Oninaki looks good, too, much better than Setsuna and Lost Sphear. It's not cutting edge by any means, and the character models are stiff in a way you'd expect from previous-gen games. However, it does make better thematic use of color, and the game's regions are wildly different from each other.

Ultimately, all ARPGs run the risk of being button-mashing grindfests, but Oninaki manages to keep things interesting with Daemon switching and skillsets. While the demo doesn't cover a whole lot, the plot and setting seem more than enough to set the game apart from its less interesting predecessors.

Oninaki has the misfortune of releasing right before Platinum's big-budget Astral Chain, but if you're looking to dig into an intriguing mid-tier game, the Oninaki demo is worth a try.

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Tetsuya Nomura Says FFVII Includes Modernized Honeybee Inn and Tifa https://www.gameskinny.com/f94g1/tetsuya-nomura-says-ffvii-includes-modernized-honeybee-inn-and-tifa https://www.gameskinny.com/f94g1/tetsuya-nomura-says-ffvii-includes-modernized-honeybee-inn-and-tifa Wed, 19 Jun 2019 10:26:20 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Final Fantasy VII Remake's director, Tetsuya Nomura, recently spoke with Famitsu magazine about the game and some aspects of it that were adapted for modern sensibilities. Gematsu translated key points of the interview.

As those familiar with the game would probably guess, the Honeybee Inn cross-dressing sequence was near the top of the list. FFVII Remake will include the Honeybee Inn, though certain aspects of it have been changed.

"We’ve made it more modern. If we made the facility like we did in the original game, the physical unease would be staggering, so that was no good…" Nomura said.

Nomura didn't give any hints about what exactly was changed or how.

Tifa Lockheart's character design was another topic of discussion. Her design in the original FFVII is somewhat infamous for its over-exaggerated proportions, proportions which essentially overshadowed other aspects of her physical depiction.

Not so with FFVII Remake. One of Tifa's features the team wanted to emphasize is her body type. Nomura said they gave her defined abs to help emphasize her athletic nature, and that emphasis helped make it easier to keep her signature outfit as well.

The Square Enix ethics department (and this is the first mention we've had that one even exists) also recommended her chest be tightened some, so as to not create "unnatural" situations during combat, hence the inclusion of a new undergarment to prevent problems during action sequences.

Tifa is also meant to be a deliberate foil for Aerith, with the former representing Eastern style and design, while the latter represents Western style.

The interview shifted gears and covered a few things longtime fans can expect that will help keep the game feeling fresh no matter how many times they've played the original. The May trailer showed mysterious black wisps circling Aeirth and Cloud, and Nomura named these entities the Watchmen of Fate; apparently, these beings will appear before the party no matter where they are.

New dialogue options and branching dialogue paths have been added to help give more weight to player choice. Whether these affect elements of the story isn't clear, but Nomura did say the team added several new scenarios to the game — hence the fact it takes up two Blu-Ray discs.

Final Fantasy VII Remake is set for a March 3, 2020 release. Those who didn't get a chance to experience the E3 demo of the game can check out our hands-on impressions to get an idea of what the game will offer.

For more on Final Fantasy VII Remake, see what Square needs to do to modernize the game's characters

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Dragon Star Varnir Review: Dark Magic https://www.gameskinny.com/rwd2e/dragon-star-varnir-review-dark-magic https://www.gameskinny.com/rwd2e/dragon-star-varnir-review-dark-magic Tue, 18 Jun 2019 11:13:56 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Idea Factory and Compile Heart's latest game to come West is Dragon Star Varnir. IF's titles aren't usually associated with much substance and tend to fit snugly into the niche category, but Varnir is a bit different.

It has its faults, for sure, including some less than spectacular writing and characterization that could do with some boosts. However, it boasts a compelling story set in a genuinely unique world, and it's not afraid to be dark and brutal in its narrative.

The combat system is dynamic as well and offers a substantial degree of freedom in how you customize your characters and approach combat.

It might not be for everyone, but Dragon Star Varnir is a solid RPG all around.

You're a Witch, Zephy

Dragon Star Varnir's story is an interesting one. Even though a fair bit of it ends up being predictable, the premise and build-up are compelling and unique enough to make up for the story beats you can see a mile off.

The game takes place in Varneria, a land that worships the divine savior Varnir. One group that defends the righteous on behalf of the emperor is the Knights of Requiem; they are dedicated to hunting and exterminating the witches who live in hiding throughout the land. As you'd expect, they believe there is no gray area here: witch = bad. Always.

They hunt dragons, too, but the player quickly finds out those are one and the same.

Without getting too spoilery for the story you can see coming a mile away, Zephy, the game's protagonist is a Knight of Requiem — for about 30 minutes, at least. Of course, all of this gets challenged when he's saved from near death and is imbued with power. 

Of course, Zephy deals with both a sense of abandonment because the Knights want to kill him now and astonishment of his new identity. His less assertive friend wants to subvert the Knights and help, the witches don't trust him, and *gasp* it's possible the nation's religion is corrupt.

Much of this is not only easy to see coming, but it's been done elsewhere in other forms. The game doesn't necessarily try to do anything new or innovative with these tropes either, and the writing can be fairly shallow at times.

However, the larger setting and plot these are wrapped in does go a long way in keeping things interesting. On whole, it's a pretty dark story, with lots of death and tragedy — not something you typically associate with Idea Factory.

Magical Personalities?

What you do typically associate with Compile Heart and Idea Factory is lots of innuendo, women with impossibly large, gravity-defying breasts, and a distinct lack of characterization.

Some of that is present here. Despite the fact that witches are generally depicted as sexy in culture to begin with, the majority of female characters, including non-witches, aren't designed with what you could call sensitive representation in mind.

For what it's worth, the designs aren't quite as provocative as Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and also like XC2, the game doesn't really do anything with the designs other than putting them out there; this isn't a Neptunia game with groping, sex jokes, and the like.

The characters themselves could do with some more personality, though it isn't dreadful by any means. For the most part, the writing is distinct enough to give an idea of the personality behind the words, but it does stray into generic territory before the story really gets going.

Here, too, the setting redeems what's missing in characterization. For example, Zephy might be the typical protagonist, but he's stuck in a difficult and dark situation, which casts his willingness to help and desire for approval in a less cliche light. The same goes for many of the witches, especially Minessa.

Despite featuring in the opening movie, Minessa doesn't have a very strong personality at first. Once you learn about her past and connection to the Witch of Hellfire, though, it's easier to see her as a more interesting character.

Then there's Laponette, whom you meet shortly after finishing the opening sequences. She seems like the younger and more innocent "little sister" character — only, she has the ability to see the fortunes of those she comes in contact with. In other words, she knows how and when her friends will die.

You'll encounter plenty of additional characters on the way who follow this same pattern of semi-tropiness, and it's nice to see how effectively the setting and plot are used to give more substance to the whole affair.

One other thing worth noting is the harem aspect. With such a setup, you might expect the game to drip with harem anime tropes. Since you can romance some of the older witches, it exists to an extent. But Dragons Star Varnir navigates these waters well, keeping things from becoming too cringey; luckily, it's not a major focus. 

Take to the Air

Where it falters with writing and characterization, Dragon Star Varnir really shines in its combat and character customization.

The basic setup is your typical turn-based system where each character has a type of physical attack — slash, hit, pierce — and elemental strengths and weaknesses, including fire, ice, water, earth, and light, among others.

In a bit of a twist, though, battles take place in midair, and the grid-based field is divided into three layers. Certain attacks can only be performed on a specific layer, some affect multiple squares, and some pierce all three layers. Not only do you need to plan your strategy around enemy placement, but you can also use the layers to push enemies into making certain moves.

It seems simple on the surface, but it rewards you for paying attention, for using space and movement alongside exploiting weaknesses.

For instance, say you know one character is weak to earth, and you don't want an enemy to spam two earth attacks in a row. You can split your party up so two are on one layer and one is further down (or above). At most, it's likely said boss will only use that attack once and spend the other attacking other layers with a spread-based attack.

Each character has a special set of Dragon Skills, with one, in particular, being most useful: Devour. It is what it says, and it lets you consume an enemy, should certain conditions be met, like the fear meter being raised through attacking their weaknesses. Devour grants the devour-er a special core with unlockable nodes that grant stat boosts or new skills. Boss dragons leave a core that every character can use, though.

That ends up being a lot of skills, though each category — physical, Dragon, etc — has a cap on how many skills you can take into battle with you. It's worth tinkering around with to find the best build for each character, and it can easily change over time.

Whether you want to make, say, Minessa a magic-focused character with spells ranging the gamut of elements or split her abilities between physical and magic is entirely up to you. Some characters are better suited for certain roles, like Laponette and, surprisingly, Karikaro (she wields a nasty looking spear but is stronger with magic). However, it's still a good idea to make sure a character can exploit at least two weaknesses, either physical or magical.

There are special Dragon Skills you can invest in as well that can only be used during Awakenings. These are a lot like Limit Breaks, really. Each party member has an Awakening meter that fills over the course of battle, and once it's full, they transform into a semi-dragon form, complete with stat boosts and the aforementioned superpowered Dragon Skills.

The downside to overusing these Dragon Skills is that they do a number on the character's balance and can hasten the dragon's birth inside that character.

All of these mechanics are explained via simple tutorial screens that give just enough information without outstaying their welcome; it can seem a bit overwhelming to have 10 tutorial pages to go through in a short time, but the way you implement what you just learned helps everything stick.

There's a lot going on, and it helps keep things interesting — which is good, because there is a risk of getting stale with the dungeon designs.

A Special Brew

Dragon Star Varnir is a peculiar mix of dungeon exploration, item crafting, combat, and visual novel. The vast majority of the game is told through still character portraits, with random segments showing 3D models and movement. The conversations tend to go on for a while. There's usually some interesting world-building involved or at least important exposition, though the writing often drags it down some.

Most of the navigation is done via menus, even in the den, and you pretty much only move around in 3D in the dungeons. Unfortunately, the dungeons tend to be a bit on the bland side.

You'll find lots of collection points, granting items you use to create elixirs and other important things, even more enemies, and very few puzzles. Those that do exist make use of party members' field skills, but they don't really require much thought; press the square button, and move on. It's all reminiscent of the PS2 era.

The visuals are as well, except the well-rendered portrait art. Models and enemies lack detail, movements on the field and in combat are very stiff, and overall, it doesn't take advantage of the PS4's capabilities.

How much of an issue that is depends on perspective. This is from a small developer and publisher, and a lot of RPGs don't prioritize cutting edge visuals. Those who aren't looking for the best graphics and smoothest animations likely won't find this too big of a problem.

The game's soundtrack is mostly good and makes good use of orchestral arrangements that fit a given area; the den is a particular favorite, partly because it's one of the few chipper areas and tunes in the game. Boss battles are a bit of a nuisance, though, since each repeats a rather grating chorale piece that overshadows any background instruments and consistently encouraged this writer to turn the volume down.

The game does sport an English voice track, which is a nice addition. It's a bit hit and miss at times, but the main gripe is just that a good chunk of the voiced exposition is delivered in a flat tone, even when it's meant to be emotional.

The Verdict

Pros
  • Unique story and setting helps rise above predictable tropes
  • Interesting characters and backstories
  • Deep combat and character customization
Cons
  • Some bland writing hampers characterization
  • Dated visuals and a few audio quirks might turn some away
  • Dungeon designs need some work

Dragon Star Varnir actually has a lot more going for it than the slightly stilted opening scenes and skimpy witch outfits might initially suggest. The setting and overarching plot are reason enough to see the journey through to the end, and the combat and customization make it easy to overlook some of the other problems you might encounter on the way.

It's not likely to convert newcomers to the genre or developer, but it's a worthy addition to the PS4's RPG library and tells a story you likely won't forget in a while.

[Note: A copy of Dragon Star Varnir was provided by Idea Factory for the purpose of this review.]

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Disgaea 4 Complete+ Announced, Out this Fall on PS4 and Switch https://www.gameskinny.com/ajcvg/disgaea-4-complete-announced-out-this-fall-on-ps4-and-switch https://www.gameskinny.com/ajcvg/disgaea-4-complete-announced-out-this-fall-on-ps4-and-switch Tue, 11 Jun 2019 11:21:04 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA) kicked E3 off with a bang today by announcing another Disgaea remake, this time of Disgaea 4 in the form of Disgaea 4 Complete+.

The game will include all existing content from the base Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten and its DLC packages, plus several new features as well (hence the + in the title). That DLC includes more than 30 unlockable characters, extra story campaigns, and some additional modern touches to smooth out the experience. One new feature is a social sharing option, though what it entails hasn't been revealed yet.

The game is currently set for a Fall 2019 release date on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, with no word on whether it'll come to PC.

Disgaea 4 Complete+ will come in two different versions: the "Promise of Sardines" Day One Edition and the special "HL-Raising" Limited Edition.

The Promise of Sardines edition comes with the game for PS4 or Switch with reversible cover, the "shiny motivational bookmark for Prinnies in Training" in the form of — what else? — a large sardine, and the special Valvatorez Cam-Pain poster.

Disgaea 4 Complete+'s HL-Raising edition includes all of that along with a special collector's box, official hardcover art book, and "The Unforgotten Melodies" soundtrack.

Currently, only the HL-Raising edition is up for pre-order on the NISA online store, for $64.99 both on Switch and PS4; the Promise of Sardines edition is "coming soon."

Disgaea 4 follows former vampire tyrant Valvatorez's attempts to overthrow the Corrupternment government and restore what he views as order to the Netherworld. The game features one of the series' zaniest casts as well, from werewolves to robots, failed bosses, and everything in between, not to mention the characteristically chaotic tactical combat and, of course, the option to level up all the way to 9,999.

Those who are interested can get a first look at the game in action this evening at 8 pm EST/5pm PST when NISA streams it live on its Twitch channel.

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Ni No Kuni Remastered Coming to PS4 and PC, Base Game Headed to Switch https://www.gameskinny.com/j6k6r/ni-no-kuni-remastered-coming-to-ps4-and-pc-base-game-headed-to-switch https://www.gameskinny.com/j6k6r/ni-no-kuni-remastered-coming-to-ps4-and-pc-base-game-headed-to-switch Tue, 11 Jun 2019 10:47:41 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

Yet another of Bandai Namco's many leaks from over the weekend has been confirmed as true: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is being remastered for PlayStation 4 and PC, while the Nintendo Switch is getting a port of the base game.

Both versions are set for a September 20 launch, though the remastered version really isn't all that different from what the Switch is getting, according to Bandai's official press release.

The main differences are framerate and resolution. Where the Switch version will run at 30 frames per second at 720p, the Remastered edition will run at 60 frames per second at 1080p. PS4 Pro owners can choose 4K resolution at 30 fps or 1440p at 60 fps as well.

The Switch version's specs will remain the same in handheld and docked mode.

This is the first time the full Wrath of the White Witch game will appear on a handheld; Japan got an abridged version with some changes for the DS, though it never made it West.

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch follows the story of Oliver, a young boy who faces a terrible tragedy shortly after the game begins. With the help of his mysterious, lantern-nosed, Welsh companion Mr. Drippy, Oliver makes his way to a strange new world where he finds he has magical powers — and an unexpected, dangerous foe — as he tries to find a way to rescue his mother from the clutches of death.

The game boasts an incredible art style created by Studio Ghibli and a sweeping soundtrack by Ghibli composer Joe Hisashi, of Spirited Away fame. It also offers a unique gameplay system where players tame and train familiars a la Pokemon and fight alongside them and AI partners in real-time battles.

The story, art, gameplay, and soundtrack combine to make what Bandai considers an "amazing adventure" they want to bring to anyone who has an interest in it. Specifically, Randy Le, Bandai's brand manager, said

A beautiful and compelling tale told by expert storytellers with a heartbreaking score, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch stands alongside the best games of the last generation. We’re excited to let gamers rediscover this rich world on modern systems.

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Final Fantasy VII Remake: Modernizing a Cast of Classic Characters https://www.gameskinny.com/c767l/final-fantasy-vii-remake-modernizing-a-cast-of-classic-characters https://www.gameskinny.com/c767l/final-fantasy-vii-remake-modernizing-a-cast-of-classic-characters Tue, 11 Jun 2019 10:07:19 -0400 John Schutt

The Final Fantasy VII Remake is officially on the calendar, and Square Enix has a huge task ahead of it: build and improve upon what many people consider to be the greatest game ever made.

It’s a herculean task, and there may not be any real right answer to everything everyone wants. That said, I’d like to talk about three areas where the Remake can and should take Final Fantasy VII: character, world, and story.

And because there’s a lot of ground to cover, this article is all about the characters we’ve seen so far, including those we saw at Square's E3 conference

Following articles will cover world and story separately.

Character: The Heart of Any RPG

So far, we’ve met some of the core members of the cast: Cloud, Barret, Aerith, and finally Tifa. The relationship between Cloud and the two other women is in many ways the heart and soul of the game, counterpointed somewhat by his growing friendship with the big guy with the gun arm.

The most important task for the writers of Final Fantasy VII Remake is to not only build on these characters but still stay true to their roots. Let’s look at each in turn, starting with Cloud.

Cloud Strife: SOLDIER, Leader, Damaged

Cloud is one of the most complex characters in classic JRPG history. He is a walking mass of conflictions, discordant memories, and competing desires. He wants to love and he wants revenge. He seeks a future without regard to the past, while at the same time being defined by it. If I contradict myself it is only because Cloud contradicts himself constantly.

For those of you who never played Final Fantasy VII, I won’t spoil some of the most poignant and powerful moments from the original game, but I will explain some of the building blocks Square Enix will have to use as a foundation for this first foray into Midgar.

The Cloud we meet at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII is sure of himself, somewhat distant, and generally apathetic of the plights of people around him. To those people who matter to him, he can be caring, understanding, and even warm. Still, there are pieces of himself he cannot properly categorize, and in attempting to save others from worry, hides these pieces deep in his heart.

To stave off any concern, he puts on a brave face, wrapping himself in the guise of a warrior willing to take almost any job for the right price.

As the story unfolds, we get to also see the more playful side of this young man as the women in his life work to open him up — either romantically or otherwise. When he’s free to be himself, Cloud can be silly and dopey, with a dry but ready wit and a kind heart. He’s good at many things but great at very few, and though aware of his shortcomings is loathe to let others see them.

The Remake needs to capture this Cloud, and there are two core tenants of his character they must maintain. They are:

1. He Finds his Own Purpose 

Or at least thinks he does.

Cloud, in the Remake, must remain a driven individual who’s willing to chart his own path without hesitation. He must be willing to entertain other people’s points of view and experiment with new things, but ultimately, he must believe his will to be his own. More than that, we need to come to understand that, even before he leaves Midgar at the end of this first game, that he carries a much greater weight on his shoulders than he lets anyone else know about.

Whether it’s through interactions with Sephiroth like we see in the trailer or through various glitches in memory that seem out of place to us but normal for Cloud, the Remake has to give us the impression that even after 30 hours, we only know a little bit of his story.

2. He is Capable of Great Things

Though not chosen by destiny, per se, the Remake needs to make clear that there is some greater purpose to everything Cloud does. He isn’t in the mercenary business to save the world, but we need to see events swirl around him in such a way that his natural instincts push him in that direction.

Primarily, we need to see his caring and selfless nature, but also his stubbornness and uncertainty in the face of things he doesn’t quite understand. Ultimately, we need to see that the Cloud of the Remake is sure and unsure of himself in equal measure, but that the former wins out more often than not.

Tifa Lockhart — Old Friend, Powerful Ally, Heart

No less conflicted than her childhood friend, Tifa is nonetheless the emotional center of Final Fantasy VII.

Before anyone else comes along, she shows that Cloud’s tough-guy routine isn’t fooling anyone, and that she remembers the warm, hopeful boy of their shared past. She understands the sacrifices she’s had to make, and the blood on her hands. However, she also wants to rediscover the person she’s not seen in five years, a boy turned young man she’s wondered about as she built a life in the slums of an enormous city.

The Remake trailer shows us this exact young woman, who’s shy, uncertain of the path forward but willing to see it through. We also see someone with real power who’s willing to let her fists do the talking when the moment calls for it. We also see a little bit of how she and Cloud interact, how they share their worries and their cares, if only because they come from the same place but have taken different journeys to get there.

In the original game, we learn how Tifa’s road to her Seventh Heaven bar is fraught with many dangers, but that she faced them eagerly for the chance to make the kind of difference she couldn’t years before. We learn that somewhere in her is the kind of strength found in the greatest heroes, but that it’s so tightly bound in doubt and anxiety she finds it difficult to call upon in dire moments.

And while I was impressed with how true Tifa’s character seemed in what little we saw of her in the Remake trailer, I think there are a couple of incredibly important points that Square Enix needs to hit if Tifa is to have the emotional resonance she deserves. They are:

1. Strength of More than Just a Fist

Though she’s shy and has difficulty expressing her true feelings, Tifa is an incredibly strong person, with the intent and will to accomplish almost anything. She can channel this power through her fists, of course, but her real potential is in the comfort and strength she can provide to the people around her.

Even if she isn’t feeling particularly together herself, Tifa in the Remake needs to go out of her way to ensure that those around her are ready and able to get their own jobs done and come home happy at the end of the day.

2. A Willingness to Sacrifice

In the Remake, Tifa should be willing to lay down everything for what she believes in, especially as it involves the people she cares about most. She is a loving person by nature, but she needs to have the will and the strength to put her foot down — especially to Cloud — so their mission ends in success.

Tifa also needs to sometimes wear her burdens visibly on her shoulders but be unwilling or unable to fully voice them, primarily so other people can understand that they are not the only ones with baggage  and that she’s there for them even under that immense emotional weight.

Aerith Gainsborough — Slum Girl, Savior, Mischief Maker

The Remake trailer doesn't paint Aerith in the same light we see her in for most of the original game. In Final Fantasy VII, Aerith is strong-willed, stubborn, sometimes fearless, sometimes frail, and somewhat mischevious. What she believes is, for her at least, what is. She’s able to read someone in just a few moments.

She’s also caring, kind-hearted, and generally open-minded about most things.

Buried beneath all that, however, is a deep-seated reservation about who and what she is. Hounded by ShinRa for her bloodline and its abilities, and accosted on all sides by the voices of the Planet and of the dead, Aerith understands that fate probably has something great in store for her, and that she is to play a vital role in some calamitous event.

In some ways, her burden is greater than almost any other character, and the flirting, snarking, and general forwardness are as much a cover for her own insecurities as they are a natural part of her personality.

The Remake needs to not abandon any of these important aspects of Aerith’s character. She get in the way, be nosy, accept everyone for who they are, and still be competent enough to feel like she can finish the jobs put before her.

If I could boil down Square’s tasks for Aerith in the Remake, they would be as follows:

1. A Plucky Girl From Far Beyond the Slums

Growing up in the slums of Sector 6, Aerith is no stranger to conflict, poverty, or hardship. Though her mother’s home is something of a secluded paradise in a grimy group of huts, she nonetheless lived a life filled with difficulties. ShinRa and her abilities notwithstanding.

We need to see how her experiences have both hardened her to the difficulties Cloud and co. face, but also how those made her empathetic to their struggles. More than that, we need to see even more about how her knowledge of her true nature plays into her interactions with those she’s closest to.

Does she confide more in Cloud than in the original game, and what would that knowledge spark in him if he discovers it, burdened as he is by Sephiroth?

2. Making Some Mischief

Aerith is incredibly perceptive, and no doubt sees the attraction Tifa feels for Cloud, regardless of the circumstances of their first meeting. Trouble is, she doesn't really care and goes a little out of her way to flirt and tempt Cloud when the chances arise.

It’s something Tifa — shy and uncertain as she is — finds incredibly vexing, and in the Remake, there’s plenty of additional space to explore the love triangle.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the cross-dressing scene and the pivotal role Aerith plays there. I mean, it was her idea for Cloud to dress up, and she takes no small delight in making sure everything goes perfectly.

If we don’t see that side of Aerith, I think Square’s done her a great disservice.

Barret Wallace — Terrorist, Hero, Father

One of the first things we learn about Barret, both in the original Final Fantasy VII and the trailer we recently watched, is that he believes in what he does, even as it costs thousands of people their lives.

As the leader of the AVALANCHE guerilla group — really a small band of ecoterrorists at this point — he will go to any lengths to see both ShinRa removed from power and the threat they pose to the planet eliminated.

He is also a caring father and someone who carries the weight of those deaths on his shoulders. Not proudly, per se, but as a burden he’s more than willing to bear for future generations. We get a glimpse of his relationship with his daughter Marlene in the trailer, and it’s clear that she means the world to him. The feeling is mutual, as it was in the first game.

From what we saw of Barret in the Remake trailer, there are a few things Square must continue to push forward on if they want to recreate Barret as both true to himself and true to what modern gamers expect out of a character.

1. Tough Guy with a Gooey Center

Barret’s character arc in the original Final Fantasy VII, boiled down to its essentials, is his coming to terms with the fact that what he wants and what he can do are two separate things. He must realize that he is ultimately too small, too vulnerable — even beneath his tough guy veneer — to make the kind of change he truly desires.

More than that, he has to discover that what really matters to him and what he thought mattered to him are also completely separate things. At the end of the day, we as players need to see Barret’s softer side come out, even as he puts on a brave face for everyone around him.

2. He’s Conflicted

Early in Final Fantasy VII, Barret and Cloud argue about the cause the former SOLDIER is being paid to fight for: saving the Planet. At some point in the conversation, Barret exclaims, “The Planet’s dyin’, Cloud!” The line, though only text, betrays something key about Barret’s character: he too sometimes doubts the inspirational speeches he tells his people about their mission.

In the Remake, we need to see Barret’s veneer crack, probably from some snappy wit or apathetic aside from Cloud. As the party grows in size and new people shine new perspectives on Barret’s worldview, it’s my hope that his Remake incarnation has moments of deeper reflection that we get to be a part of and that we can use to learn alongside him.

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While I hope these beloved characters grow, and Square explores them deeper in the Remake, we still have time to analyze, ponder, and find out. The Final Fantasy VII Remake is set to launch March 3, 2020. 

Be sure to check out our other Remake articles as well:

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Atlus Unveils Persona 5: The Royal, With More Info Teased for April 24 https://www.gameskinny.com/5fomb/atlus-unveils-persona-5-the-royal-with-more-info-teased-for-april-24 https://www.gameskinny.com/5fomb/atlus-unveils-persona-5-the-royal-with-more-info-teased-for-april-24 Sat, 23 Mar 2019 12:35:28 -0400 Joshua Broadwell

As promised, Atlus officially revealed Persona 5: The Royal, a brand-new Persona 5 RPG set to release for PlayStation 4. The announcement came today after the anime special Persona 5: The Stars and Ours.

While not much is revealed in the trailer, which you can see above, there are some noteworthy points of interest.

The trailer shows Shibuya Square, an important location in P5, with crowds of people looking up at the display screens in a downpour. The trailer then provides a few shots of a young, red-haired female standing alone in the crowd without an umbrella, before highlighting a few key aspects about her.

Naturally, the trailer is in Japanese, but the folks at Gematsu translated the  dialogue.

As the trailer opens, a voice asks "What do you think of the Phantom Thieves?” 

The female character responds:

I think helping people is a wonderful thing, but if I had to say, I don’t like them. I don’t think the Phantom Thieves’ methods will make the world a better place or help anyone. In the end, I feel like you can only solve that yourself.

The trailer offers nothing else, except announcing that more information will be revealed on April 24, the date of the Persona Super Live Concert.

While some aspects of the announcement might still be nebulous, one thing is certain: the "Royal" in the title isn't designating this as a fighting game or battle royale. The official P5R site has been updated saying P5: The Royal is an RPG.

Atlus is known for releasing expanded remakes of modern Persona games shortly after the original games release. Persona 3 received two: Persona 3 FES for PlayStation 2 and Persona 3 Portable for PlayStation Portable.

FES added a substantial endgame scenario that, while underwhelming from a gameplay perspective, greatly enhanced the story and characters. P3P included a female protagonist which was more than just a gender swap. It provided a new perspective on the story and characters, including new Social Links and a different take on established characters.

Persona 4 received a combination of the two approaches with Persona 4: Golden. It offered new Social Links; a new character, Marie, who was used to develop the game's foundational themes to a greater extent; and some new post-game scenarios and dungeons.

Despite initial appearances, what with the PlayStation 4 logo displaying at the trailer's beginning, it's also uncertain whether Persona 5, in any form, will make its way to the Nintendo Switch.

Toward the end of February, Twitter user DrHyperCake posted some information mined from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's update files related to Persona 5's Joker and his upcoming appearance in the game. There's the well-known file with code referencing Joker himself, with Atlus' naming convention for protagonists, Jack.

However, there are also strings referring to a "Jane" with a ponytail. Whether this means the female character will actually be a new protagonist or simply a skin for Joker in Smash, or The Royal or Persona 5 will be on the Switch, fans will just have to wait until April 24 to find out.

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New Ni No Kuni 2 DLC Releases In March https://www.gameskinny.com/80203/new-ni-no-kuni-2-dlc-releases-in-march https://www.gameskinny.com/80203/new-ni-no-kuni-2-dlc-releases-in-march Tue, 26 Feb 2019 12:08:23 -0500 QuintLyn

On March 19, players of Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom will be able to discover more about Evan and his friends with The Tale of a Timeless Tome update. This new episode will add new memories, locations, characters, and fighting methods to the game.

The Tale of a Timeless Tome begins when Evan and his friends learn of a rumor about a tuxedo-wearing rabbit hanging out in people's dreams. To investigate this mystery, Even heads to the Goldpaw Inn to stay the night. Upon falling asleep, he enters a dream world where he encounters the mysterious rabbit, otherwise known as "the conductor."

Nothing is known of this new character, and Evan must discover who he really is and what he wants. After all, no one invades people's dreams for no reason.

In addition to expanding the game's story, Tale of a Timeless Tome will also add new Methods, allowing players to customize their combat style in Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. One of these Methods, "Wizard's Companion," is a callback to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and it should be pretty familiar to anyone who's played that game.

Also included in the update is a new battle arena where players can challenge strong enemies. Players who are successful in combat in the Solosseum Slog, as the arena is named, will walk away with new reward items. What these items are has not been detailed.

Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom players on both PlayStation 4 and PC will be able to purchase The Tale of a Timeless Tome DLC when it launches on March 19 for $14.99. At present, there does not appear to be a pre-order option. However, those who already purchased the Season Pass will receive the update for free when it releases.

More details on The Tale of a Timeless Tome can be found on the PlayStation blog.

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