Back in the late 90s/early 00s, I started playing a number of JRPGs. Final Fantasy 7 was the catalyst of it all. The gameplay and storytelling instantly clicked with me. From there, I started looking for other games like it. Some I liked, some I didn't. At one point, I ended up enjoying them so much that I actually started importing JRPGs that never made it to the UK. I couldn't get enough of them. It didn't help that I knew a few people who were into them at my college.
However, when I started university (yeah, it's different from a 'college' in North America) in 2007, I didn't really have the time for them. As a result, I drifted away from my favourite genre. There were plenty of games I wanted to play, but I knew it would be futile to start them with my busy schedule.
...it wasn't until this year when I finally got back into them. How did it happen, you ask? Let me explain...
Simply put, my old Xbox 360 died. As the 360 is pretty much my primary system for games, a huge chunk of my library was suddenly unavailable for me to play. While I also own a PS3, I only really buy exclusives for it, so there wasn't a great deal of choice for me from there. What I didn't have any shortage of was PS1 and PS2 games. Luckily for me, my PS3 is a launch unit, so both sets of games were available to me. Seeing as time was no longer an issue and I had nothing else to play, I decided to take the plunge and dive into...
I decided on FFV due to my past experience with Final Fantasy games. It's also one I didn't play a great deal of when I first bought it back in 2002 (as part of the EU edition of the FF Anthology). It proved to be the perfect choice, as the fun job system made it very easy to get into the idea of grinding. While I was going into primarily to learn new skills from a job, my characters were also levelling, which was very satisfying. I feel that my grinding ethic has improved a lot since I played through it.
When I completed it, I also hit a personal milestone. It was the first Final Fantasy game I had ever completed. Yep, I hadn't even completed FFVII, which is one of my favourite games. Never expected my first completed FF to be 5, but I guess life surprises you like that sometimes. From that point on, I wanted to play more RPGs.
Next up was Radiant Historia. Anything that combines time travel with a JRPG sounds like a good idea to me. While it was initially the time travel aspect that grabbed my interest (I love the concept of time travel), I also ended up liking the battle system. It's a system that rewards those who knock enemies into the same space, as you have the opportunity to cause damage to all of them in one turn. It even encourages chaining attacks together, as it builds up your special abilities.
Much to my delight, I managed to complete it. It was already my joint most-successful year with RPGs (the other being 2006, when I completed both Suikoden and Chrono Cross). Hot on the success from FFV and Radiant Historia, I decided to go back another game from back in the day...
Shadow Hearts really stood out for me because of the unique 'Judgement Ring' system. Basically, you must stop the spinning hand in the lit up areas to perform an action. You can also aim for the edge of these areas to make your attacks or spells more powerful. It really encourages a 'risk and reward' style of play. It can result in victory from the jaws of defeat or vice versa.
Another thing I like about Shadow Hearts is the dark setting it has. Its visuals are akin to a survival-horror game. It also doesn't shy away from gore, which is always welcome in my book. I kind of wish the voice acting was better, though (especially due to their accents not matching their nationalities).
The next RPG I tackled was Wild Arms 3, another PS2 game I bought a while back. Going into it, I was expecting much...but what I got was when one the best games I've played this year. The story went into directions I didn't expect and all the characters complimented each other very well. It felt like a bounty hunter anime in parts (such as Outlaw Star or Cowboy Bebop). The characters didn't always agree with each other, but they worked together regardless.
It wasn't without its problems. The style of the dungeon crawling system meant that it was pretty tiring, so I only played it around 1-2 hours each day. It took me a while to complete. Overall, it was definitely worth it. If you're looking for something a bit different, it might be worth giving it a shot.
Grandia was my next port of call. I had played a good chunk of it in the early 00s, but I didn't quite finish it off. This time, I was determined to finish it. It didn't take long to remind myself why I enjoyed so much the first time around. The whole game felt like an epic journey. I also found the battle system satisfying, as it allows for a lot of strategy. For example, there were moments where I had to decide whether to go for a powerful attack or block an incoming move from the enemies. It could be really tense at times.
Sure enough, I managed to complete it. All in all, it was a great game. The voice acting was very unfortunate (pretty sure they just went out onto the street and found some random people), but it doesn't really mar it too much.
My final completed RPG of the year was FFIV. Much like FFV, I hadn't played a lot of it before. I'd certainly heard it was regarded as one of the best FFs. Is it deserving of such praise? I'd say so. For a game of that era, the characters shined through very well (better than FFV did, which was a bit odd). The story, while clichéd, was also very interesting. The gameplay wasn't anything special, but it was certainly a lot easier without any additional levelling systems going on.
Despite all my successes, it wasn't all good news. I had the unfortunate experience of playing...
Yep. Dark Cloud. Never again. If the horrible taste of Lemsip became physical and could be played in a games console, it would result in that game. I gave it a fair crack (it actually had some things going for it), but it still turned around and bit me. Would I recommend the game? Sure...for masochists and a way of torturing your worst enemies. Otherwise, stay away from that game. Stay away. STAY AWAY, HEAR ME?! JUST STAY THE HELL AWAY! STAYYYYYYY AWAYYYYYYYYYYYYY! STAAAAAAA...
*Many apologies, but it appears that we're having some technical difficulties. For now, here is the test card and some music...*
...ahem, sorry about that. It's still a very raw subject for me. I'm all better now...
That brings my blog entry to a close. I've actually just started Persona 3 Portable, but it's pretty obvious I'm not going to complete it before the end of the year (unless I have some kind of crazy caffeine-fuelled marathon...hmmm...*ponders*). It's been a very successful year as far as RPGs are concerned. I'll definitely be playing more JRPGs next year. There's still so many I want to play...oh, so many...
...oh, and feel free to ask if you want more details about what I liked in the games I've mentioned. You can even ask about the infernal piece of crap I mentioned, but...just be gentle, okay?
Thanks for reading. :D
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