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.

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

Final Fantasy VI (SNES, 1994)

INFO: My “Retro Vault” reviews are not scored. Instead, I just talk about why I have fond memories of whichever game I’m writing about at the time. Generally, I won’t pick out any bad games for the Retro Vault feature, so scoring them is essentially useless anyway. Enjoy the read.

Most gamers these days tend to say that their favourite Final Fantasy is VII, which is cool. It was a well made game and Square really did a good job with it. There is one game in the series that gives VII a run for it’s money in terms of popularity with the fans however, and interestingly enough it is not one of the 3D installments. No, the game in question is the 16-bit 2D Final Fantasy VI.

The fact that a two dimensional installment in the series is in constant contention for “best of the entire series” says quite a lot about the game, I think. Obviously the graphics aren’t fully up to par anymore, so folks who held onto their dicks while playing the gorgeous Final Fantasy XIII are unlikely to be blown away by much in Final Fantasy VI. When the game was released however, the graphics were fairly pretty. Fortunately, the graphics were only a plus back in the day, a nice addition on top of an already stellar package.

So, if Final Fantasy VI does not get so much love for it’s visuals, then what has the series’ fans talking about the game even today? Turn your eyes to Final Fantasy VII, which unfortunately looks like ass by today’s standards. The character models were already kind of crumby when the game was first released for whatever reason, so it’s understandable that Final Fantasy VII’s visuals can almost induce vomiting these days. The game is ugly as hell, but it’s still loved for it’s story and characters. The exact same applies to Final Fantasy VI, and I’m going to explain why I feel that this game, my favourite in the series, has a leg up on it’s older and younger siblings.

Like most RPGs during the 16 bit era, Final Fantasy VI opening sequences hinted at a great war that took place hundreds of years ago. In this game’s case, it was the War of the Magi. This war was fought between Espers and Humans, and nearly destroyed the world. The war ended with the Humans exiling Espers to their own domain. The victory was not one sided however, as the Human civilization was set back hundreds of years, losing their technological advances and being forced to start over again. By the time the present day rolls around, it’s pretty clear that the dark ages are gone as the player gets a glimpse of Vector’s technologically impressive (and menacing) castle.

After the introduction sequence explains the war briefly, it ends after posing a “what if the war happens again?” sort of question before introducing a few playable characters. A girl and two Imperial soldiers (Biggs/Vicks and Wedge) appear over the town of Narshe where an Esper was recently found. This would be pretty big news considering the fact that Espers almost wiped out the Human race one thousand years ago.

So the player takes control of the three characters in their attack on Narshe as they attempt to capture the Esper. I can’t help but think that this was bad writing on Square’s part. In a real life situation, I’m sure that an Imperial Empire would send more than three people to capture a powerful creature. Perhaps an entire squad? It would have made more sense to do so since the two soldiers are killed off by the Esper, Tritoch. The girl survives and is revealed to be Terra, one of the game’s three main protagonists.

For the first several hours, the player spends their time learning about Terra, the Empire, the Returners, and much more. I won’t really go into the story too much since I assume that just about anyone reading this has either completed the game and doesn’t need a refresher, or is interested in playing the game and would probably prefer not to be spoiled. So, ignoring the story for the rest of this article, I think it’s time to talk about other aspects of the game.

The cast of characters is pretty staggering for a Final Fantasy. In fact, Final Fantasy VI has the largest character roster out of all the games. There is plenty of variety so most people will be able to enjoy their own little “favourite teams” so to speak. The joy of having so many characters is the development that you get out of several of them. Only a few characters receive little character development, which is alright. Some characters such as Terra, Locke, Celes, or Cyan have quite a lot of backstory that is a lot of fun to learn about. Cyan in particular is one character who my heart always goes out to, as he went through hell and back throughout the game. By the end of the game, he’s probably still going through his own personal hell that he keeps to himself and you really have to feel bad for the guy.

Opposite the playable characters is the game’s central antagonist, Kefka. I explained in my “top 5 Final Fantasy villains” why I think Kefka is the absolute best villain in the series, so I won’t rehash what I said there. You can check it out for yourself by going to the “top 5” submenu at the top of the page, just under the Review Depot banner. I praised Kefka for being so deliciously evil, and he does it all too well. Even Sephiroth would be jealous of Kefka’s antics. Throughout the course of the game, Kefka does so much evil that you truly do want to punish his sadistic ass, though you love the guy at the same time for being so off the wall and insane. Square really did a fantastic job of making a funny, goofy character so evil and despicable. They have never managed to make a villain quite like Kefka ever since, though they came close with Kuja.

The gameplay of Final Fantasy VI is fairly standard. There isn’t a lot to the game that raised the bar back in 1994, and the most complicated gameplay feature was the method used to learn new spells. The Esper system was a lot like a barebones Materia system in which characters learned new spells from Espers from gaining AP in battle. It wasn’t revolutionary, but it worked fairly well.

Aside from the characters, the aspect of Final Fantasy VI that still stands the test of time to me is the music. For a sixteen year old 16 bit RPG, this game sounds pretty awesome. The overworld map music (at the beginning and towards the end) is very compelling and engaging, and some character themes such as Celes’ saddening overture can very well almost bring a tear to your eyes – and it may very well do so at one point in the game. Kefka, considering how evil the man is, has one of the silliest themes I have ever heard, but it works so well for him. Figaro’s theme, the boss music, and even the entire Opera sequence sound brilliant, and Nobuo Uematsu really did an amazing job in this game. I cannot help but admire the music of Final Fantasy VI.

Everything I have mentioned comes together to make this my favourite game in the entire series, as well as one of my favourite games of all time. No Final Fantasy can truly compare to this one, except perhaps Final Fantasy VII.

If you have never played this 16 bit masterpiece, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on it one way or another.

Gyromancer (Review)

“PopCap and and Square Enix team up to create the successor to Bejeweled.”

Successor to Bejeweled, you say? Very much so. Gyromancer is collaboration between PopCap Games and Square Enix, and is admittedly a fairly unique experience, combining the successful puzzle formula of Bejeweled with interesting RPG mechanics. Can PopCap’s Bejeweled formula really mesh well with the RPG obsessed Square Enix? Well, I’ll tell you.

The game opens in the typical epic and flashy manner that all Square Enix RPGs do, though this really is a puzzle game at heart. This can easily be forgotten when you click the new game option and are immediately thrust into a story starring a young mage named Rivel who sets out to capture a man named Quraist Kingsley after he assassinates a member of the royal family.

After you are treated to a few story sequences, you get to play through a tutorial level with Rivel. Each level is essentially a series of paths on the screen which lead to treasure chests, monsters, and other such things. The player moves Rivel by clicking along the dotted path, telling the hero where to go. Upon encountering a monster, the game transitions to the battle screen which looks like a cross between Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest. Like in Bejeweled Twist, the player can only move blocks by rotating them in a clockwise direction. The objective is still to make lines of four identical blocks, which increases your attack gauge. By filling up your attack gauge, you can unleash damaging attacks upon your opponent, which depletes their hit points. You will actually conduct these “battles” with self-selected monsters which each have an affinity towards certain coloured blocks. For example, the firebreathing wyrm monster that you can use likes red blocks. If you destroy more red blocks in your combinations, your gauge bars will fill up faster, which puts a special gem into the playing field which, when destroyed, unleashes the attacks specific to whatever monster you are using.

The opponent has their own attacks as well. Each time the player rotates a group of blocks, the opponent’s own gauge bars will fill up slightly. When their bars are full, their own special gems will be deployed. If the player does not destroy these within a set number of turns, then they will be attacked and lose their own hit points. Obviously the point of each “battle” is to create as many beneficial combinations as possible so that you can attack the enemy frequently, thus overpowering them and defeating them.

You will want to win each battle quickly, since there are many monsters in each stage. Luckily, you are allowed to enter each stage with three monsters. If one perishes, it simply has to sit out for the rest of the stage. If you lose all three monsters, then you are removed from the stage after incurring a slight penalty and are then free to try again. Each stage typically ends with a boss fight, followed by a cutscene which progresses the story which, unfortunately, isn’t very gripping or exciting.

The artwork in the game is quite nice to look at, and I am under the impression that Square Enix probably handled most of the artwork. While the stages never look terribly interesting, battle sequences are the opposite. Monster portraits look spectacular and very threatening, and the animations caused by gems being swapped and special attacks being performed are quite good too. Character artwork is also very nice looking and is certainly above average.

The game’s music was written by Tsuyoshi Sekito, who has been involved in several Square-Enix games over the years. The music is actually very good, and sounds like it came straight out of a console RPG from Japan. Many of the tracks sound like they drew inspiration from games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, or perhaps Final Fantasy XII. Since the composer has worked on the Final Fantasy series, this isn’t terribly surprising. Overall, it makes for a wonderful soundtrack to listen to while playing what is essentially a puzzle game on steroids.

Fans of Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, or Square-Enix games should find an ample amount to enjoy in this game, as it masterfully combines two genres, resulting in a very fun and interesting collaboration project. For a much cheaper price than commercial games, you can’t go wrong.

Final Score

8.4/10