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Malik (4/12/10)

It's been a while. I was on vacation for the better part of the last week and a half. Unlike usual "vacations" in which I still try to go for an occasional post, I just needed a breather. I was hoping it would give me some time to think about some things, but I don't think it worked. What I mean by that is that there is just not much worth saying.

It feels a lot like the summer slump in gaming news right now, but it's a few months ahead of schedule. Yes, some big name games are out and pretty new, but I just can't get into God of War 3...and I don't even want to think anymore about Final Fantasy XIII. Of course, with these big name games new to the world, most other games that could be of interest are definitely not showing themselves. No sane publisher would try to battle in a marketplace that has two guaranteed big sellers.

I did finish Dragon Quest IV (DS) in the last week. I even finished the probably-non-cannon sixth chapter. I have to say that the sixth chapter felt a big worthless when you consider that you must see the ending of the game to unlock it. You unlock the final part only after saving your game after a long series of final credits. Then after you finish chapter six, you once again get the same ending, with one line changed in one scene, and a second scene replaced with an alternate version. In all, you get about 2% of the ending changed, and you still face a long blast of the same stuff you just witnessed (the final chapter is only a few hours long).

I'm still trying to finish FF9 for the second time. Well, I've played the game to the final disk a few times before, but I've only managed to finish the game my first time through. Something about the final part of the game just feels tedious...wait...maybe it's the non-stop blast of boss fight after boss fight. I mean the final dungeon(s) has about eight or so bosses with very little dungeon separating them. For a game that was pretty light on major boss fights, this doesn't make the ending feel like it's part of the same game.

Still, FF9 is a good game. I mean I can't complain. I especially can't complain when the game is giving me a few dozen hours of entertainment in a time when RPGs just seem lacking. So far, this current generation is lacking in RPGs like no previous generation. The few that do show up seem to be so determined to be "unique" that a fan of old school RPG glory, like myself, is in for constant disappointment. Maybe if Square Enix would hurry with the final Dragon Quest port for the DS (DQ6), I could feel a bit better. Then again, that's the only thing not lacking in the current generation; DS RPGs.

Anyway, with little else to keep me entertained, at least the Seattle sports season is kicking back into life. Without the NBA, there's a sad stretch between the Super Bowl and the start of the MLB or MLS seasons in which nothing important happens. Of course when you have two leagues coming back with two local teams that seem lost, it then just brings back that feeling of boredom. The Mariners are looking worse than last year so far (2-5), and the Sounders are also looking less than stellar (1-1-1) with a sloppiness that doesn't seem right after last year.


Malik (4/15/10)

Being sick sucks. Being sick while it's nice weather outside is just torture.

However, the one nice thing about being sick is that it gives me time to play and finish some games. In particular, I beat FF9 for a second time this week. I can't help but think one thing when I finished FF9 (and this applies to any recent Square Enix game that I've beaten recently); why do they love to encourage exploits?

The final boss fight(s) on FF9 are not hard, in a matter of speaking, but they are cheap. I mean most of the bosses on recent Square Enix games seem to come down to two types of fights; challenging or cheap. It's not that a given boss fits into one category. For example, when you fight against the two part final boss of FF9, you can either have a solid fight, or the boss can just get cheap and use two overly powerful attacks in a row with no time to compensate or heal. If this happens, you are stuck reloading your game and fighting again, while you are also stuck hoping for a fair fight and not something that involves two quick hits to wipe out your party.

However, to compensate (I think...), Square Enix likes to include the exploitable move. This has been around for quite some time on Square Enix games. FF Tactics had the math skills (use math skills on the final boss and the game ends with no effort), FF7 has Knights of the Round, and FF9 has the two ability combo of auto-regen and auto-potion. While a simple potion doesn't do much, it takes some time to be used and the auto-regen meanwhile is giving four digits of healing before the party is finished with 150 HP being restored from each person using a weak little potion. This means even the majority of cheap two hit kills from bosses will be negated as the party regains most of their HP.

The main problem with this type of exploit is that it not only compensates for cheap boss also ruins the challenge of a boss when it's not being some cheap little bitch. So, you end up with the option of either fighting a good battle that may turn cheap at any time or facing a battle that just poses no challenge. If you're an old school RPG fan who grew up on the reasonable challenge of games like FF1-FF6 or Dragon Quest1-DQ7 (DQ8 started some of the trend in the DQ world...probably due to being a post Square Enix merger DQ game), this is not a good option. I like a challenge, but I just don't understand cheapness being a part of any RPG.

Anyway, I decided to start another retro RPG now that I'm done with FF9. I don't know why, but I picked up Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PSX version). While it's a lot more expensive than the Sega CD version, and it's a lot more refined (visually and in terms of voice acting), it's just not as good of a game as the original Sega CD title. The main part that lacks on the PSX port is the spells/skills list. Where the Sega CD version had mages packing a dozen or more spells, the "Complete" remake dropped each character to eight or fewer skills. It just seems weird that a magic user is as limited in skills as a fighter. At least Lunar: Eternal Blue (at least the Sega CD version...never played the PSX port...yet...), which used the limited skill/spell ideal still had spells and skills get upgraded and replaced instead of just being limited.

I will not even get started on the two other major changes...ok...I'll just say quickly that non-random fights are not as cool to an old school RPG fan. Also, a world map free of fights seems to encourage too much exploration without structure.

Anyway, I think I'm playing the PSX version again for one reason above all others; The PS3 plays PSX games with wireless controllers and a lot of memory for saves. Meanwhile, the Sega CD has limited save space (especially since my extra save cart is MIA), wired controllers (with really short leashes), and my Sega CD is a pain to hook up since it's not in regular use.

After I finish, I think I'll dive into Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete. I never bought the PSX remake of this classic, but I lucked out with some internet shopping yesterday and should be set to play the game quite soon.


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