Final Fantasy VII (Review)

FF7Logo

Boy, am I ever starting to feel old. It’s hard to believe that it has been sixteen years since Final Fantasy VII was released. What’s less hard to believe is that the game has been given a brand new release on Steam so many years later because, hey, Final Fantasy games stand the test of time perhaps greater than almost any other franchise out there. So, to celebrate the return of Final Fantasy VII on Steam, I’m going to review the game for those who haven’t played the game. Yes, there are still people in this day and age who haven’t played this massive game! Continue reading

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Final Fantasy VII Coming to PC (Again)

Final Fantasy VII is headed to PCs. No, you’re not going crazy. Yes, this game was already relased for PC in 1998. So what’s going on? Square-Enix has decided to unleash an updated version of the game upon PC users. The game will be available for download on Square-Enix’s official website and a Steam version has also been heavily hinted at. Considering how pretty much every Square-Enix PC game ends up on Steam, it’s really not too far fetched to expect it to appear on Valve’s service.

So what is Square-Enix promising with this version and why should you buy it? Well, unless you missed out on the game when it was originally released (how?!) or are a rabid fan of the title, there isn’t much reason to really lay down the cash for it. Here’s what we know is being included:

  • Achievements: A whopping thirty six of them.
  • Character Boost: A feature for casuals that increases character stats. Isn’t this game already easy enough?
  • Cloud Saves: Must… resist urge… to make a corny joke!

I would say that HD and widescreen compatibility modes are sure definites for the game though neither have been confirmed. The original music from the Playstation version of the game will surely (and hopefully) be included. Many will probably recall that the original PC version came with an awful sounding MIDI soundtrack instead which could only be remedied through the use of various unofficial plugins.

Final Fantasy VII is expected to sell for somewhere in the range of $10 to $15. Watch for it soon!

Final Fantasy VI – The After Years

A new little pet project of mine is a continuation of Final Fantasy VI. It is simply being called Final Fantasy VI: The After Years. I am aiming to set my take on FF6’s post game apart from the various fangames and such out there by straying away from making it about things I personally would like to see and more about what I think would make an interesting story.

So, how did Final Fantasy VI end? Well magic disappeared from the world as the heroes fled from Kefka’s Tower. After making it back to their airship and taking flight, we were able to observe the world slowly turning back into a somewhat green world. The transition from Ruin back to Balance appeared to be remarkably quick!

My take on everything will still have magic gone, and the world will still have the World of Ruin layout but will be green and lush again ala World of Balance. With seven years having gone by since the end of Final Fantasy VI, I’d expect the world to be in good shape again since the mere act of defeating Kefka immediately threw the world back on track.

So, who will be featured and why?

The central protagonist is Relm. Yes, Relm. She is now older, more mature, and certain circumstances in her life have hardened her such as Strago passing away and being left to fend for herself in Zozo (which is now free of crime). It’s not all bad though! Relm has her loyal friend Interceptor to keep her company. Since seven years have passed, Interceptor is a bit of an old pooch now. However, despite a few problems like not being able to jump up on Relm’s bed on his own, Interceptor is still an energetic and lively dog.

As for other characters…

Celes and Locke are now married and living in Jidoor where Locke manages the local auction house.

Cyan returned to Doma with the sole sentry who survived Kefka’s poison attack and has become Regent Lord of the kingdom which has since rebounded from the disasters it had suffered at the hands of the Empire and Kefka. He is married to Lola, a girl from Maranda. The single sentry that survived Kefka’s poison attack, named Lyon, has donned Cyan’s old armor and is the new Retainer of Doma.

Edgar’s reign as King of Figaro has continued uninterrupted, and he has also taken on a wife who has given birth to a young son. Sabin has given up his life of solitude to assist with the runnings of Figaro which has become the world’s strongest kingdom and has become known as “The Empire” after the original Empire and Vector fell. Sabin serves as Chancellor of Figaro, assisting with the day to day runnings of the kingdom while also leading Figaro’s blossoming military.

The Returners have settled into new roles as well. Arvis has taken up the mantle of Elder in the town of Narshe which has been repopulated (though the mines are still dangerous and are patrolled by militia who regularly hunt an enraged Umaro). Meanwhile Banon has settled in Nikeah as a doctor.

Interceptor being by Relm’s side clearly means that Shadow perished when Kefka’s Tower was destroyed. However, the other member of the “Shadow Bandits” has resurfaced in the new world having somehow escaped death years ago. Baram, leader of the New Shadow Bandits, is a ruthless crime lord of the underworld. His whereabouts, however, are unknown.

Duane and Katarin, though still young, are the community leaders of Mobliz. Duane is content leading the small town, but Katarin’s heart yearns for something more.

Setzer serves as an Imperial Airship Engineer based out of a facility within Figaro’s borders. Thanks to him, Figaro has a vast fleet of airships that are mostly used for rescue and transport purposes. The Blackjack II serves has his personal airship.

Terra has settled in the town of Albrook in the home of her boyfriend, and Imperial Captain named Zwei. She has adjusted to life without magic and it is now something she hardly even thinks about.

Gau has become civilized and lives with his elderly father who has become senile and very dependent on Gau’s care.

Gogo and Mog have both vanished without a trace and seemingly exist as nothing more than memories.

World famous swordsman Siegfried has become a highly sought after sword for hire as he travels the world searching for purpose.

Cid, Daryl, Gestahl, Kefka, and Leo are still all as dead as doorknobs.

I’ll post more when I have additional info, but for now here is a picture from the intro sequence.

Crystal Defenders (Review)

“A surprisingly pleasantly tower defense game that can roll with the best of them.”

It’s difficult for any tower defense game aspiring to be the “next big thing” to really make it on the scene anymore thanks to PopCap’s Plants vs Zombies. Crystal Defenders, by Square-Enix, is one of those rare tower defense games that is not only very enjoyable, but is good enough to challenge the behemoth that is Plants vs Zombies.

Crystal Defenders is a Final Fantasy themed tower defense game that takes place on fairly large maps which require the player to place various different units down to deter the oncoming waves of monsters. The objective is to prevent the monsters from reaching your crystals at the end of the path. Each map is essentially just a long road that the monsters walk. They never attack you directly, but the threat of them snatching your crystals is always very real. If you lose all twenty crystals, it’s game over.

The selection of units appears limited when you first play, but you quickly get used to it. There are six classes to choose from most of the time and the most common are soldier, black mage, archer, white monk, thief, and time mage. Soldiers are the brute force of your army and essentially just hit hard – really hard! Black mages thrust fire spells at oncoming monsters and, along with the long range archers, are able to hit airborne monsters. White monks are average fighters who do not hit as hard as soldiers, but they have the ability to hit several monsters at once. Thieves cannot attack, but if a monster dies within their line of sight, you will get a huge cash bonus. Time mages, of course, possess weak attacks and the ability to slow monsters down.

There are various summons as well, each consuming five crystals when called, making them very risky to use. One summon, Phoenix, pumps up the attack and abilities of your army for the duration of the attack wave, while the Ramuh summon unleashes a devastating lightning attack across the entire map that will deliver lethal damage to all living monsters. Both sound very useful but, as I said, they consume five crystals when summoned. The whole point of the game is to protect the crystals, so really the only time to use one of these summons is when you believe that five or more monsters will reach the end, since most monsters steal one crystal each.

With each kill, you are awarded gold which goes towards leveling up your units. Once you are several waves in, it becomes apparent that the key to success isn’t placing many units but leveling up the ones you have already deployed instead.

The gameplay is simple and never gets too complicated, but it is extremely strategic and, when you clear a wave of monsters that seems particularly difficult or frustrating, you get a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Winning in Crystal Defenders really does feel extremely rewarding due to it’s ruthless nature, which is much more than I can say for the casual-friendly Plants vs Zombies.

The graphics are pretty basic and look like late PS1 or early PS2 graphics. The entire map and all units are 2D sprites, but since this is Square-Enix you just know that the graphics have to be at the very least decent looking. They’re not overglorified, but they do the job and are in some ways mildly cute.

Crystal Defenders’ music is very impressive, though. It sounds a lot like the music from Final Fantasy Tactics, which is no bad thing at all. The music may seem like a bit too much for a tower defense game at times, but that does not hurt the game or the music at all. Crystal Defenders is a real joy to listen to, believe me.

Overall, Crystal Defenders is a fantastic tower defense game and I feel that it is impossible for me to choose between this and Plants vs Zombies as the better tower defense game. If you’re a fan of old school tower defense games, or like Plants vs Zombies but want something a little rougher, then this is the game for you.

Crystal Defenders is available on the 360, PSP, Playstation 3, Wii, and most mobile phones. Since pretty much everyone owns at least one of those platforms, there really is no excuse to miss this game if tower defense is your thing. Check it out.

Final Score

8.6/10

Einhander (Retro Review)

“One of the absolute best games to ever grace the original Playstation.”

If, in 1997, I was told by someone that the makers of the Final Fantasy series would soon be releasing what would undoubtedly the best space shooter on the Playstation, I would’ve called them crazy. Well, in 1998, Squaresoft had done just that. Einhander is the best space shooter on the Playstation and perhaps even one of the best ever.

Einhander is a fantastic game that, in 1998, had it all. It looked awesome, had a stunning soundtrack, and had amazing gameplay. Twelve years later, and Einhander still plays and sounds like a gift from the heavens despite looking dated, though not at all ugly.

In Einhander, the player takes control of a ship belonging to the Moon’s military forces and must blast through several unforgivingly tough levels. Despite being an amazing game to play even by today’s standards, Einhander is not for the weak of heart. Don’t let the fact that it was made by Squaresoft, creators of the easiest RPGs ever, fool you. Einhander is tough as nails and doesn’t hold your hand at all.

As a space shooter, Einhander plays like many classic favourites such as Gradius or R-Type, but shakes the formula up a bit. The player is able to mount weapons onto their ship that drop off of enemies, and the position of mounting can be changed by the player at will. By default, weapons normally attach to the bottom of the ship. However, with the press of a button, the mounted weapon will swap to the top of the ship. This changes the firing arc of the weapon entirely. If the player’s ship has two mountings, then they can hold two weapons at once, which can also be fired simultaneously. It’s worth noting that no weapons that are picked up replace the default rapid fire gun that the ship comes with, with pretty much means that if you have two weapons at any given time, you can obliterate anything in your path by using all three weapons. Now that’s pretty badass.

Most enemies are pretty easy to get past. Lowly enemy ships and turrets are destoyed with ease, but the difficulty spikes dramatically upon encountering a mid-boss or level end boss. All bosses, regardless of whether or not they’re at the end of the level, are remorseless and will do everything they can possibly think of to destroy you. Most bosses have clever attacks that will catch you off-guard, while other bosses just rely on the old “spray the entire screen with dozens of bullets” routine. It’s worth noting that bosses can change their attack patterns as well if you destroy certain parts of them. That is one of the joys of Einhander, being able to destroy bosses in whatever way you wish since they are mostly all fully destructable. Few games offered this in 1998, so it was welcomed by many.

The graphics in Einhander were absolutely stunning in 1998, but today they are understandably outdated. Visually the game has stood the test of time fairly well. While most aspects of the game really don’t look impressive at all anymore, nothing stands out as being unpleasant to look at. As one of the original Playstation’s better looking games, Einhander simply looks “passable” in this day and age.

The music and sound effects have managed better than the game’s graphics and are just as good now as they were twelve years ago. Einhander’s soundtrack is mostly made up of “moody techno” sort of music tracks, which is really cool. For the most part, music takes a backseat and stays fairly quiet and in the background until players encounter a boss. It is at this time that the boss theme, which sounds freaking awesome, kicks in.

Click here to listen to Einhander’s boss theme.

Sound effects fit the mood just as well. Explosions sound gritty but muffled, and sounds given off by the heavy bodies of the game’s bosses are heavy and metallic. Most of the weapons sound pretty generic, but are anything but disappointing.

Overall Einhander is a truly awesome game that, despite not being a smash hit when it was first released in North America, has become one of the original Playstation’s most popular games over the past decade. If you’re a fan of space shooters, you should definitely get your hands on a copy of this game to enjoy on your PS3 or emulator.

Final Score

9/10

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (Review)

“Lara Croft’s brave new adventure is certainly one of her best.”

First off, I’ve never been a huge Tomb Raider fan. While the Tomb Raider games are fun to play, I’ve never really considered them to be really noteworthy games that deserve high amounts of praise. If anything, I think that the Tomb Raider games have worked best as diversions for gamers while waiting for more high profile games to be released. Because of my stance Tomb Raider, the fact that I think Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light is a stellar game says something.

Released this year by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos (as well as publishers Square-Enix), Guardian of Light features everyone’s favourite female Indiana Jones in a brand new adventure that is told from a perspective that’s the furthest thing from the standard Tomb Raider formula. Rather than being a third person puzzle game with a bit of endangered animal slaughtering on the side, Guardian of Light is played from an isometric camera angle and is overflowing with intense action. This is not the Lara Croft that we grew up with! A lot of series have received reboots or reimaginings lately, and they’ve worked brilliantly in all cases. Guardian of Light is no exception as Lara fits comfortably into this new action oriented platformer.

First off, there’s the story. In all honesty, there’s not a lot here that is worth talking about. Lara is checking out a temple when some bad guys storm in and accidentally awaken an evil demon who quickly lays waste to the invaders. Lara on the other hand teams up with Totec, a guardian who is tasked with sealing away the evil demon once more. That is the gist of the story so, like I said, there’s not a lot worth mentioning there. It’s basically the sort of story you’d expect to find in a cheesy Hollywood adventure film.

The gameplay is what is strongest in this game, and it certainly does not disappoint. Guardian of Light plays a like a mix between Diablo and Tomb Raider. While the puzzle solving is pretty much all standard stuff for Tomb Raider veterans and isn’t much of a surprise, the constant action is. The Diablo vibe that I get comes from the isometric camera and the constant barrage of demons who are out for Lara’s blood. Lara is frequently confronted by a dozen creatures all at once, but fortunately most of them are easy to dispatch. There are a few larger demons who are pretty tough to take down, and they bring a lot of excitement and tension to the fast paced action. The boss fights are even better, especially the one with a firebreathing dinosaur. I won’t spoil the fight, but it’s really awesome and stands out as one of my favourite boss fights in recent memory.

The puzzles are pretty much exactly what you would expect from Tomb Raider. Lots of rooms that cave in on you, falling platforms, spike traps, and tons of “fetch item A to unlock to door A, then proceed to find item B for door B” scenarios. That’s the great thing about this game, the puzzle aspect of the game will feel very familiar to many players.

The controls work pretty well in Guardian of Light. Combat is a breeze with a keyboard and mouse combination and I had no troubles fighting anything in this game. Puzzles were a little different though, as I found that the game is little stubborn and does not like to register a lot of actions if you are pressing too many keys at once. For example, you cannot run diagonally and jump at the same time on the keyboard. Lara will run and the jump will not register. Because of this, I had to remap my controls frequently to get around that problem.

Guardian of Light has some fantastic level design. Each stage is brimming with exceptional detail, and there are many side quests and achievements to unlock in every stage. Some of them are fairly easy and just involve navigating Lara through an obstacle course, while others are so challenging that you will question whether or not they are even possible. Some achievements ask you to beat the levels in five or ten minutes each, which blows my mind because I had trouble completing some in under half an hour! There is a lot to do in this game in terms of optional content like that. Each level will have about four side objectives to complete, and there’s no way that you’ll be able to finish more than two (and that’s if you’re lucky) in a single run through a level. Finishing a level’s objectives will award Lara with new weapons, relics, and so forth. This makes replaying levels and completing the objectives very beneficial to the player.

Speaking of relics and weapons, Lara is now able to hold four weapons at a time. They can be assigned to the 1, 2, 3, and 4 keys. The weapon I found myself using the most was Totec’s spear, which not only kills foes easily, but can stick in walls and allow Lara to jump up to higher ground. Relics are interesting as well, as they provide Lara with interesting combat bonuses when equipped.

Online play has been promised and should be available soon, so I can’t comment on that. The only multiplayer available at the moment is local co-op, and I don’t think that I’m going to bring a friend over so that we can both play the game on the same computer, especially since my friends have already played the more multiplayer-friendly PS3 version. I have heard great things about the co-op though, with many professional reviewers claiming that it is absolutely essential that both players work together.

Overall, this is a pretty great game. It looks and sounds great, and the gameplay is possibly the best ever featuring Lara. This game is fantastic for fans of platformers and puzzle games. Tomb Raider fans should also find a lot to enjoy here. The big surprise, however, is that this game also should appeal to hack n’ slash fanatics. Like Diablo or Sacred? Despite this not being an open world RPG, I still recommend it as the combat system is very similar. In short, this game should have mass appeal and it’s very well made. Possibly Lara Croft’s best game ever. For about $15 on the Playstation Network, Steam, or XBox Live, you really can’t go wrong with this high quality game.

Final Score

9/10