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  1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 got the reverse delay; it will now release July 29th instead of its original release month of September! Also announced was a Special Edition that is a My Nintendo Store exclusive.
  2. So I did that post on Nsider2 about Final Fantasy VII when I first played it back in 2015. I was convinced I had a unique perspective, never having played anything Final Fantasy until then. Recounting my experience of the game oft praised as the greatest RPG of all time through a set of eyes weathered by RPGs not from Square Soft was a lot of fun, and I figured I'd do it again when I got around to playing another Final Fantasy, to sort of chronicle my journey through the most historically important series of my favorite genre. So here goes. Be warned of late-game spoilers. This isn't a review, just my organized thoughts on the game. Truthfully, I don't really even care if anyone reads this. I just had fun writing it. In recent months my experience with Final Fantasy VII has retroactively become- in my own mind- decidedly holistic. As it stands now, it very nearly reaches the transcendental heights of some of my favorite RPGs like Radiant Historia, Chrono Cross, and Xenoblade Chronicles. It isn't often I develop nostalgia so quickly for a game, but despite its shortcomings, VII became something truly special for me. I closed the book on Final Fantasy VII faced with the strange reality that I actually care about the fate of the dubious upcoming remake. That is a weeeeird place to be for someone like me, to whom Final Fantasy for so many years was just a name repeated to the point of self-parody. Suddenly I understood all of the ranting and raving over this PS1 classic, and though I don't share the fanbase's rabid fanaticism or the desire to explore the other games in the Final Fantasy VII subseries, I do have a deep love for the original game. So as time went by I began to yearn to recapture the joy of Final Fantasy, and there is yet a lot ahead of me. Fast forward. Late summer, 2017. Enter Final Fantasy IX. While it doesn't carry the legacy of its predecessor or the pedigree of being the first of its kind, this one was built up for me over a period of years by a few of my dearest friends. Coming away from it, my experience was one altogether more candid than my experience with VII. Admittedly, a lot of that has to do with the fact that not as much of IX has been absorbed into the inescapable lexicon of pop culture, so I was able to experience it as it was meant to be, without major plot points having been spoiled for me years before picking it up. I was not surprised to find the ATB system of Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger fame in play here. I've always appreciated the sense of urgency this approach brings to battles, though the frequency of its random encounter system is still a little on the high side. Fortunately, I quickly began to notice that IX fixes one of the bigger issues I had with VII. Contrary to VII, where any character could more or less fulfill any role depending on Materia loadouts, each character in IX serves their own function in a greater team, and feels like their own distinct class due to them having a unique moveset learned from equipment as well as an innate ability that costs no MP. This is a welcome development on the gameplay side of things, and I do prefer this to VII's dominant strategy of bottlenecking each character into a jack of all trades just in case a character leaves the party. On the other hand, Trance is a mechanic I can take or leave. I thought Limit Break was a more usable mechanic, since it comes into play more often. I'll take a marginally less useful mechanic that I can control over something that can trigger due to no fault of my own and be wasted right before a boss (or, for that matter, waste a boss by accident while trying to steal a rare drop). But I do have to admit, when the stars align and it triggers when you need it, it feels amazing. if Final Fantasy IX has a real weak point, it's the card game element. The rules, which are never really explained, are esoteric and at times feel arbitrary. Each time I thought I had it figured out and worked out my master stratagem to claim the opponent's cards, the game would show me just how little I understood about the minigame's mechanics, and I'd lose an important card. To be honest I gave up on it early in Disc 1. It only ever comes into play in the plot once at the beginning of Disc 3, and while I appreciate the idea of tying it into the plot, it can be won easily by picking the cards with the highest numbers on them. Even so, in this case I was glad to leave it well enough alone. But if the weak point of the game is some silly diversionary minigame, I think we're doing alright. Learning abilities through items is a refreshingly unique idea, and I do prefer it to the Materia system, even if it does facilitate grinding more than VII. Granted, some of the item and ability descriptions are really unhelpful, giving you a pretty poor idea of what something does until you actually use it, but more importantly, it mitigates the effect of having precious equipment closed off to you when you need it most, as most items grant abilities on a character-specific basis, meaning if you don't have access to a character, their equipment would likely be useless to you, anyway. This all but eliminates the problem I encountered in VII, when a character would leave my party and take all of my best Materia with them. The game takes very special care to make sure you always have access to a well-balanced party. In this way it's a more guided experience than VII, and though there is something to be said for the freedom offered by the arguably more versatile Materia system, it feels to me like less is wasted here. One of the ways Final Fantasy IX accomplishes this is by telling its story from multiple characters' perspectives, making use of all of the playable characters in both its storytelling and gameplay. VII was content to let you pick a party of three and stick with it for the most part, allowing each party member to have his or her episodic moment of character development and then letting them fade into the background. There were rare exceptions- I still hold that Tifa is one of the best supporting characters in the series- based on what I've played- because the story doesn't toss her aside once she's shown some character development. Her arc is spread over the entire game, and her development is central to fleshing out Cloud's foggy past in Disc 3. Unlike say, Cid, whose shenanigans in his hometown culminate in Cloud's party gaining access to the obligatory airship, after which his arc levels off as the story narrows its focus on Cloud and Sephiroth. In contrast, IX achieves the best of its character development in a few different ways. It not only forces you to play as different characters when the party splits up, but lets you listen in on what the other protagonists are doing while you're in town, offering a different perspective and reinforcing the idea that your allies have lives outside of what they do in the game. The all-encompassing quest you've undertaken together is but one small part of the stories of their lives, even if it is the defining moment therein. They came from somewhere. They had a history that led them to the exact moment in time they became your ally, and that history has fundamentally shaped the way they view the world. In this way IX treats its characters as ever-changing people, and their arcs happen all together as the story's events affect them each on an individual level. Vivi constantly wrestles with his own mortality, and despite his youth sees the game's events through the eyes of a dying man, desperate to find some meaning in his life that will affirm his right to exist. Steiner faces the quandary of doing his duty versus doing good, even when they're not one and the same. And poor Freya has everything taken from her- her home, her lover, and her people, and constantly fights to stave off despair. Even Amarant- whose entire arc as the group's resident edgelord is defined by slowly realizing how much weaker he is when he closes himself off to others- undergoes a gradual change that feels organic and real, and becomes rather likable toward the end of the game. Each of the characters in IX feels more like a Tifa, and less like a Cid or Vincent. The game isn't afraid to take its time unpacking its characters. The result is an arguably more natural flow in both writing and plot structure. I'm quickly beginning to discover that even among its contemporaries, one of Final Fantasy's strengths as a series is its ability to create a natural sense of story progression for characters that feel like ordinary people. Where modern RPGs like Bravely Default and Fire Emblem beat you over the head with grandiose save-the-world plots and tried anime tropes, Final Fantasy takes a calmer, slower, more nuanced approach to building narrative. Nothing is overblown, everything happens at its own pace. Your main character is not the warrior chosen by fate to save the world, or the hero of a great war with unmatched combat prowess. You're not as special as all of that. You're more relatable than that. You're Zidane Tribal, a philandering thief with a heart of gold posing as a humble play actor. You keep company with a nervous street urchin with a penchant for magic, a princess constrained by the sheltered life she's led, and a duty-bound but uptight royal guard who sees you for the lawbreaker you are. There's more to each of them, of course, but in a genre that favors war heroes and living weapons, they all come off as fairly ordinary and profoundly relatable, even where those tropes do come into play. This reinforces the idea that they're just people whom events pushed together, and who save the world in the process of discovering their own place within it. This is especially true- and rightfully so- of characters like Zidane and Garnet, who throughout Disc 1 and 2 travel together for decidedly circumstantial reasons. Indeed, the beginning of Disc 3 explores what happens to a party of adventurers after the adventuring is all over. What happens when the last boss falls, and our heroes must return to normal life? They don't always become best friends forever. We find that sometimes the adventure is the only thing uniting our heroes. Royals immerse themselves in the politics of coronation and reconstruction. The thief falls back in with his old gang. The knight errant sets out to rebuild the remains of her kingdom. They see each other around, but their friendship was built on the quest they undertook. With that gone, they no longer have anything in common. But those relationships served as the basis of their lives for so long. Each of them feels appropriately lost, disconnected as much from the world as from their dearest friends. This served as perhaps one of the most true-to-life moments in an RPG I've experienced. Zidane's plight- the aimlessness of not knowing how to go forward after the adventure of a lifetime- feels emotionally crushing. Especially given that he desperately wanted his friendship with Garnet to blossom into something more, only to have it cut short by her early coronation. A lesser RPG would have ended at Disc 2, and never fully realized its narrative potential. And I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about our hero. On the surface, Zidane is the polar opposite of someone like Cloud. Zidane is plucky and friendly where Cloud is standoffish and anti-social. But there is a fundamental similarity they share that turns them each from merely good protagonists into fully believable characters. More than demeanor or disposition, it is the way in which they both come to terms with loneliness and self-doubt that defines them. And in this, they have a lot more in common than meets the eye, as both Cloud and Zidane spend much of their adventures trying to hide their insecurities behind a mask. And although there isn't as much brooding navel-gazing on display in Final Fantasy IX, Zidane, too, must come to terms with an uncomfortable truth about who he believes himself to be, and it nearly destroys him. For the first three discs, Zidane acts like the kind of protagonist you'd want to hang out with. He's selfless and protective, always ready to lend a helping hand. He offers friendship to the outcasts, preaching of the give and take of friendship. He's most comfortable when he's supporting his friends, and is always willing to be the pillar of strength when someone needs it. This is who he is. But at the end of Disc 3, when it comes time for him to lean on someone else, he can't bring himself to let them get close, can't stand to place a burden on them. To do so would go against his caring, supportive nature. Because he's always been the protector, allowing himself to be protected is naturally difficult for him. In this way Zidane feels more human than the vast majority of RPG protagonists, and I certainly feel more kinship with Zidane than even someone like Cloud, who is brilliant in his own way. Where Cloud had amnesia and a life's worth of fabricated memories to service the story, Zidane's vulnerability stems from his own personality. It doesn't make for as dramatic a reveal, but it does make him a better character. The music, as always, shines as a high point and beautifully realizes the world of Gaia, and there are quite a few standout tracks for me. The foreboding weirdness of Gargan Roo. The utterly pleasant jangly mandolin of Eiko's Theme. The majestic, delicate mysticism of Esto Gaza. The raw power of the synths in Mt. Gulug. The ethereal, serene sense of mystery in Terra and the despairing heroism on display in You Are Not Alone, which plays over perhaps the most emotionally charged moment in the game. So how does it stack up against Final Fantasy VII? At the risk of copping out, it's difficult for me to say at this point. VII has the benefit of two years' burgeoning nostalgia. But IX has the benefit of being fresh in my mind, and the game I'm still sort of riding the kick from. VII has a better story, with a fascinating lore that is instantly engaging, and a roller coaster plot that continuously blindsided me despite my knowing the biggest twist was coming. IX has better characters, speaking broadly, and takes its time to unpack them in a way that avoids the gamey pitfall of episodically compartmentalizing character arcs. VII has Cloud, who serves as an allegorical stand-in for the player's own latent self-doubt and underlying fear of rejection. XI has Zidane, who displays the complexities and contradictions of a real person, and represents stoic protectiveness and selflessness, but also intensely relatable self-loathing and fear of vulnerability. I might give a slight edge to IX for its earnest storytelling and the sincerity of its characters, but it's a close call. That doesn't feel like an objective analysis, however, so I may need to let time weather my impressions of VII and IX. Perhaps it's telling that I don't consider myself at liberty to definitively choose a favorite at the moment- It's little wonder this series became the apotheosis of the genre. Between these two different flavors of this classic series, I've been able to identify what I like best about each, but more importantly, I think, I've gained an understanding of what it is they share. Video games are such a surface-level medium. We often talk about things we can see, hear, and palpably feel, and gloss over important through-lines such as tone and character. When one talks about what defines the soul of a game- or of a series, for that matter- we don't have to mean familiar gameplay elements or a continuing story. Despite tackling the genre with a completely different tone, Final Fantasy IX has something in common with VII that defies common explanation. It's less straightforward than simply having the same gameplay mechanics or the same composer. All of the game's elements come together in a very specific way that other RPGs can only mimic, and the result is something that is unquestionably, profoundly, simply Final Fantasy.
  3. Indivisible is a Platformer/RPG hybrid currently in development for PS4, Xbox One, and Steam, and today they just announced it will also release on the Nintendo Switch alongside all other versions in early 2018. The game is developed by Lab Zero Games, the studio behind the Skullgirls fighting game, and published by 505 Games. In Indivisible you play as Anja, a good-natured tomboy whose home is attacked, sparking a mysterious power within her. Anja will explore a vast 2D world via side-scrolling platformer gameplay, and she can summon incarnations of other warriors to fight alongside her in RPG style battles. Indivisible boasts hand-drawn 2D animation and a soundtrack from legendary Japanese game composer Hiroki Kikuta. Indivisible will also have a collector's edition release featuring a custom tin, art manual, and physical edition of the game. You can pre-order at their website http://www.indivisiblegame.com/ and check out more information on the game there. ****************************************** I hadn't heard of this game before now but it looks beautiful. I'm definitely going to keep an eye on its release now.
  4. The 3rd annual Steam Anime Sale is on now until Monday (April 3rd) at 10AM PDT http://store.steampowered.com/sale/anime-weekend-sale/ http://store.steampowered.com/search/?tags=4085&specials=1 If you've been waiting on a sale for some Anime RPG's or even Anime movies on PC, there's some great deals at the moment.
  5. So Atlus has some interesting news. They just put up a site teasing something new for Radiant Historia. The teaser site is little more than some nebulous artwork and a lone suggestion to check the weekly Famitsu on March 23rd. That's Thursday, folks. Maybe this should come as less of a surprise, given that the director of the first game, Mitsuru Hirata, has expressed interest in making a sequel before. Nevertheless, I'm stoked. Radiant Historia remains one of my favorite RPGs to this day, up with the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Truth be told, I'm not sure how much it needs a sequel, but if the team who masterminded the first game thinks they can do it justice, I'm hard pressed to find a reason to complain.
  6. Three years ago I would have been shocked to see just one of the Dragon Quest 3DS games released in North America. I never would have believed that we would get both in a roughly four month time span. But here we are, with Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King easily playable on a handheld, and continuing last year's trend of great RPGs on the 3DS. The DQ series has always catered to the more dedicated fans of RPGs, but that doesn't stop Journey of the Cursed King from being an engrossing, addictive adventure complete with new features for the 3DS. Journey of the Cursed King starts somewhat in medias res, but it's quickly clear that the silent hero and his travel companions are on a quest to save the kingdom of Trodain which has been cursed by a jester named Dhoulmagus. Along the way the plot expands to the typical "save the world" storyline, complete with ancient evils that need to be prevented from rising again. The writing might have been disappointingly trite if not for the lovable cast of characters you meet on the journey. The pool of playable characters is small but each is charming and memorable, particularly Yangus's Cockney accent and frequent use as comic relief. Consulting your teammates doesn't just yield helpful hints toward your next goal, it adds some fun dialogue that you might otherwise miss. Tthe NPCs add a lot of flavor to the game as well, and even when their storylines aren't directly relevant to the overarching story they help flesh out some of the best moments of the game. The core gameplay follows all the classic elements of RPGs: turn-based battles, a large world to explore, a leveling system, and plenty of equipment to find or purchase. Journey of the Cursed King has a few unique features as well, including a skill system for each character that lets you choose new abilities for each type of weapon that character can equip. For example, the hero can use swords, spears, and boomerangs. Each weapon has a list of upgrades including new combat abilities and passive upgrades like increased damage. Each character also has a unique attribute that can add special abilities as well. You can customize how your party members develop which can add a lot of variety to how each person approaches the game. The downside is that skill points are fairly limited so it's unwise to spread your skill points too wide, at least if you want to have the best skills by the time you reach the final boss. But this also means you can replay the game with a completely different approach to how you battle, so in that regard it adds some unique replay value. Journey of the Cursed King also features the Alchemy Pot which allows you to create new items out of two or three ingredients. This is needed to get some of the best equipment in the game, and can even be used as an effective way to make some money if you sell your creations. However, using the pot can feel a bit daunting, especially late in the game when certain ingredients are more rare. You can find recipes hidden throughout the game, typically on bookshelves, but there is still a lot that isn't easy to learn without looking up a guide. You don't want to end up wasting a valuable item on something that isn't even that useful in the long run. On the plus side though, the Alchemy Pot is now much faster to use in this 3DS version. In the original you had to wait for recipes to finish "cooking" in the pot; now your creations are available instantaneously. With some careful saving you can even experiment for a while to see what you can make and then reload without wasting anything. Speaking of 3DS additions, there are a few other ways that this version of Journey of the Cursed King speeds up the game. Just like the DQVII remake there are no more random encounters and instead monsters are visible while you are exploring. Unlike DQVII it's much easier to dodge these monsters, so when you just need to get somewhere quickly you can get around these fights pretty easily. There is also an option to increase battle speed. Battles may not seem particularly slow on the normal setting but once you speed them up it's hard to go back–it's just nice not to waste too much time on things like spell animations. The new additions aren't just small adjustments either. There are two new post-game dungeons so you'll get even more content out of the game, plus there are two new playable characters. Although the main cast of four works so well together that it's a little hard to break away from them, especially since you don't get the additional characters until late in the game. Still, for anyone that is already well familiar with Journey of the Cursed King, having two new characters offers a great new way to play the game. And finally, the last major addition to the 3DS version is Cameron Obscura's camera challenge. After meeting Cameron players can take pictures anywhere in the game which are then saved the SD card. More importantly, Cameron gives you a list of challenges to complete–typically to snap a picture of important characters, locations, or monsters. Sometimes you have to figure out exactly what he's asking for, but for the most part this is a pretty simple side quest. He does reward you with items and equipment though, so taking a few seconds to take a few pictures is a worthwhile endeavor. The controls have also gotten a small improvement. All the normal controls are simple enough but Journey of the Cursed King on the 3DS adds a touch screen button with shortcuts. You can't customize these but it's still a nice addition–one less menu to click through for some of the more common actions in the game, particularly for travel. Additionally the touch screen displays a map at all times which is always useful in big RPGs like this and especially in caves and dungeons so that you know you've explored them fully. Whereas DQVII on the 3DS was completely remade with 3D graphics, DQVIII already used 3D models back on the PS2. As such the game isn't really an improvement over the original's visuals, but Journey of the Cursed King still looks great on the 3DS. The graphics are particularly smooth, with few of the jagged edges usually seen in 3D games on the 3DS. And although the 3DS version does not have the orchestral soundtrack of the original, the music sounds just fine. Unless you are particularly nitpicky or remember the original perfectly the change to MIDI sound doesn't change the fact that the soundtrack is wonderfully lively and fun. Despite these small downgrades to the game's presentation on the 3DS voice acting has been retained and does a fantastic job of bringing these characters to life. After hearing a few of their voices it's hard to imagine playing the game without them, exaggerated Cockney accents and all. Although not quite as incredibly long as DQVII, Journey of the Cursed King still lasts a good 60 hours or so. The good news is that the game doesn't feel long–you never really have to spend time grinding, and there's always something to do whether it's for the main quest or a side quest, so you'll never feel bored. As mentioned there are some post-game dungeons as well so the game can last even longer than that. Plus there are the usual DQ side quests–mini-medals, casino–and a monster arena that lets you catch and battle monsters, so there's plenty to occupy your time even beyond the lengthy main quest. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is a magical RPG adventure. Even while retaining many traditional aspects of the genre and the Dragon Quest franchise specifically, the game is fairly accessible to anyone interested in a lengthy RPG experience. More importantly, that length never brings the game down, and instead just means that there is always something to uncover in the game. The new additions help streamline the game further without sacrificing the thrill of adventure or the charm of the Dragon Quest series. Rating: 9 out of 10 Slimes
  7. So to the two people out there besides me who played The Legend of Legacy, this might be of interest to you. FuRyu has released the first round of details for a new RPG from the same team. The Alliance Alive looks to be an RPG cut from similar cloth as its predecessor, but seemingly with a focus on an actual narrative, promising to weave together the individual and holistic tales of nine protagonists into a single playthrough, as opposed to each character having their own campaign. Personally, my biggest gripe with Legend of Legacy was the total lack of plot, so this is a welcome change. The information we've been given details the nine protagonists, establishes the world history, and briefly touches on the battle system, which seems to feature the formation system from the previous game. Here's the trailer. If you watch it all the way to the end, you'll see the evidence of the narrative that I'm talking about. It seems to be taking a more cinematic approach to the presentation overall, and the music is as awesome as it was in Legend of Legacy. The Alliance Alive is set for Japanese release in Spring 2017. I don't know if Legend of Legacy sold well enough for Atlus to bother localizing this, but we can hope.
  8. After Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past released on the 3DS in Japan back in 2013, fans waited for an English localization, some going so far as to contact Square Enix and Nintendo to request a localized version. Years passed until finally, in November of 2015, a Nintendo Direct announced the game would reach Western audiences in 2016. Better late than never, as they say. Fragments of the Forgotten Past is an RPG for RPG fans, with all of the classic elements of the Dragon Quest franchise wrapped up in an epic length story and addictive class change system. There are some annoying quirks of the RPG genre found here as well, but this adventure is well worth playing despite some of its tedious moments. The story in Fragments of the Forgotten Past is almost ridiculously large. You play as the average son of a fisherman, prone to getting into small adventures with his best friend, Prince Kiefer. While on one of these typical adventures together they discover that the small, ho-hum island that you live on may not be the only one in the world. There were once numerous islands, entire continents even. When the hero, Prince Keifer, and their occasionally bossy friend Maribel discover an old shrine, they find a way to transport themselves back to the past on different islands, each of which is facing some kind of problem. As is so often the case in RPGs this culminates in a quest to save the entire world. For such a big RPG, just using the touch screen for a map is still a big help. What makes the story so huge is that every single island you visit has its own backstory, its own little vignette for you to explore. The developers do a fine job of making sure each location has its own sense of personality so it's fun to explore all of these small stories. And although the playable characters aren't too involved in the story itself there are plenty of odd and entertaining characters to meet on your quest. But admittedly Fragments of the Forgotten Past can be a bit long-winded. There is a ridiculous amount of dialogue in this game, and sometimes it feels like the game just isn't respecting your time when your goal is to simply talk to everyone in one location, then go to a new place and talk to everyone there. This remake cuts down on some of the excessive length of Dragon Quest VII but the game can still be tediously slow at times. The gameplay itself is classic RPG fare in Fragments of the Forgotten Past. Turn-based battles, monster filled caves, plenty of equipment to buy/find, etc. Unlike more recent RPGs Fragments of the Forgotten Past makes few concessions to inexperienced players, so be prepared for some traditional RPG challenges. The game is never overwhelmingly difficult though. At times you may find yourself a bit lost with little hint as to what to do next, and the advertised "no random encounters" doesn't mean much when monsters can be as wide as a hallway which prevents you from passing without a fight anyway, but for the most part the game has a comfortable sense of challenge. Battles pay homage to the first-person perspective of the series but also has more stylish effects as well. And although a job class system isn't anything new for RPGs, in Fragments of the Forgotten Past it can be pretty addictive to level up jobs and unlock new ones. And there are a ton of abilities that each character in your party can learn. In advanced classes you only retain certain skills while you're in that class, but for basic classes and monster classes you'll keep your abilities which gives you a decent amount of room to experiment with party compositions. The downside is that the game doesn't always give you a good reason to use varied abilities. Many of them have essentially the same effect, so your ability list sometimes feels redundant and inconveniently long. There's also a bit of awkward game balancing concerning certain abilities that cost zero magic power. Some of these abilities are frankly overpowered considering they cost nothing to use and some of them can hit every enemy on screen. This also trivializes a lot of actual magic spells that become, by comparison, too costly. Obviously the solution for the player is to not use abilities that make the game too easy but perhaps the long list of skills in Fragments of the Forgotten Past could have used some pruning and balancing. Fragments of the Forgotten Past also has its share of minor inconveniences that sometimes arise simply because of the size and scope of the game. In order the change classes or even check on your progress in leveling up a class you need to return to the Alltrades Abbey, which can be a slightly irritating interruption when you're in the middle of exploring a new island in the past. And like most RPGs there are a lot of menus to navigate in Fragments of the Forgotten Past but there's just a little bit of lag when moving your cursor through said menus. It's not a ton but it's enough to be noticeable and gives the game a slightly weighed down feel, like you're moving underwater. It's a small complaint but in a game that otherwise has perfectly simple controls, this one little irritant can stand out. When on the overworld map dodging enemies makes sense. In tight hallways, not so much. As with every Dragon Quest game Fragments of the Forgotten Past boasts the distinctive art style of Akira Toriyama. But compared to the PlayStation original, this 3DS version has had a complete visual overhaul with full 3D graphics. The 3DS may not be the most powerful hardware out there but the game looks great: the characters look charming, the monsters have a nice variety of designs, and even the scenery has a bit of personality. In a game this large there's going to be some repetition but otherwise the graphics look great. The soundtrack is in much the same boat. The key songs that you hear often may begin to lose their luster around the fifty hour mark, but the game does have some infectiously catchy tunes. Fragments of the Forgotten Past is meant for gamers ready to commit a serious chunk of time to the game. Even by RPG standards this is a long game, lasting at minimum around eighty hours, and that's with almost no time spent on the game's extras. If you want to try mastering every class available, take on the bonus dungeons in the post-game, or even just spend some time in the casino, you'll need an even bigger time commitment to Fragments of the Forgotten Past. The game also supports Streetpass which allows you to share traveler's tablets, used to access short extra dungeons ideal for grinding levels, classes, or for befriending monsters–yet another side venture which allows you to find still more traveler's tablets. Frankly the game can be overwhelming when you try to do everything it offers, but even while playing the bare minimum you can be sure you'll get your money's worth here. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past is a beast of an RPG, the kind that you can sink weeks and weeks of time into and still find more to do. It has its share of problems too in regards to pacing and just generally the speed at which you can navigate through menus, but the sheer size of the game helps soften some of those edges. The lengthy dialogue, classic turn-based battle system, and wealth of character class combos makes for a siren song to any RPG fans who, like me, grew up obsessing over RPGs in order to find every little challenge possible. Fragments of the Forgotten Past does a perfect job of capturing that good old fashioned sense of RPG adventure. Rating: 8 out of 10 stars
  9. Oddly coinciding with recent forum events is the North American release of Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse. The renowned hero Flynn prepares for the final showdown with Merkabah and Lucifer in new sequence of events set just before the end of Shin Megami Tensei 4. Hunter Cadets Nanashi and Asahi are training under their mentors for the upcoming battle when Lucifer's forces ambush them. Nanashi and his mentors are killed, but the Irish God Dagda revives Nanashi to serve as his Godslayer. Soon after, Flynn is kidnapped, and Nanashi must contend with the remnant forces of Lucifer, Merkabah, the Ring of Gaia, and the Ashura Kai, along with the newly formed Divine Powers. Shin Megami Tensei 4: Apocalypse features the signature Press Turn system, as well as a revamped Smirk system which provides more unique bonuses this time around. Which path will you lead? Peace? Or Anarchy? Unfortunately, I can't get the game at the moment, but I'd be interested to hear what others have to say about it. Flynn has voiced lines now, and the story looks very interesting. As usual, the music is fantastic, and many of the tracks feel a bit experimental. Also, there appear to be a few minor lines that were missed in translation; Atlus is saying it was because their QA team was too good.
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