Review: Resident Evil 2

Back in November I reviewed the original Resident Evil game. Today, I’m going to take a look at the sequel. As most gamers are aware, the first Resident Evil proved to be an extremely successful game.  It spawned a slew of sequels, remakes, and even films. The original game has gone down in history as a classic. So, you might wonder how the successor of such an iconic game might stand up…  let’s find out.

First, let’s discuss the version of the game I played for this review. For this playthrough, I used Resident Evil 2 (Dualshock Version). This is the only edition of the game available on the US Playstation Store. It features the original release with added rumble controller support.  This version also includes two additional unlockable modes of play. The Dualshock Version is widely considered to be the definitive version of the game.  Is important to note that there was a Nintendo 64 port of the game. The N64 version did include some interesting additions such as alternate costumes, etc. But excludes some of the features from the Dualshock Version.  Finally, there was a release for the Gamecube as well. However, this version is nothing more than a direct port of Dualshock edition on a Gamecube disc.

This game takes place about two months after the end of the first title. (If you’ve not played the first game, it’s highly recommend that you do before jumping into Resident Evil 2 – the game will make little sense if you don’t.) By this time, the T-Virus has spread like wildfire and Raccoon City is teeming with zombies.  The game follows the stories of two individuals; Claire Redfield  (sister of Chris Redfield from the original game) and a Raccoon City police officer – Leon Kennedy.  Claire has come to Raccoon City in hopes of finding her brother, unaware of the virus and the current state of affairs. It doesn’t take her long to realize that something is terribly wrong. After a nearly fatal encounter with a zombie, she is rescued by Leon. Together the two of them head towards the police station hoping to find both shelter and answers. However, a tragic accident causes the two to become separated.  Split up and alone, Claire and Leon must explore the seemingly abandoned police station in search of answers. Assuming of course, they can manage to survive…

In many ways, Resident Evil 2 is very similar to the original game. The controls, the graphics, and the overall presentation are nearly identical. Like the first game, players can choose between three difficulty levels. There’s also an arranged (Rookie) version of the game as well.  Also, like the first game, players can choose which character to play (Leon or Claire). The main difference here is that the experience for one character can change slightly depending on choices made when playing the other character. For example, if you choose to play as Leon, you can either take of leave some items that you come across during your playthrough. If you decide to leave them, then once you complete the game – you can play again from Claire’s perspective. During this second playthrough, the item that Leon left behind will be available for Claire to find and use.  To get the full experience of Resident Evil 2, you will want to play through the game with each character.

The game originally came on two different discs. A Leon disc and a Claire disc. When starting the game for the first time, you can choose to start with either character. So, this really gives you a total of four different scenarios in which to enjoy the game;  Leon’s story followed by Claire’s, or Claire’s Story followed by Leon’s.  The gameplay does changes slightly depending on which order you decide to go with. – Completing all four will unlock a little mini game-mode called “Extreme Battle”.

From a lore perspective, Resident Evil 2 does a fantastic job of taking the storyline from the original game and expanding on it. In the first game, the backstory was interesting, but seemed a bit shallow at times.  In Resident Evil 2, more behind the scenes info is revealed. Suddenly, I found myself hooked on the lore behind the game.  The storytelling is told through a combination of exposition, cutscenes, and in-game breadcrumbs. So, the more you explore, the more easter eggs and details you can manage to discover. It’s all masterfully done.

Just like the original, Resident Evil 2 does a good job of building tension in attempts to scare the crap out of players. The spooky environments, ambient noises and jump scares are all very well done. In some ways, even more so than in the original. The voice acting in this title also seems to be a tad better than that of the original game, but… not by much.

My biggest fault with the title is again, the clumsy controls. This game works just like it’s predecessor. Again, are stuck with a stiff, tank-style movement scheme. Which, at the time, was pretty standard. But these days, the playcontrol is cumbersome and archaic. Despite this issue, I found the game to very enjoyable. The good certainly outweighs the bad.

Difficulty: Variable –  The Dualshock version features three levels of difficulty: Easy, Normal and Arranged. Just like with the original game, the easy option reduces the difficulty of the game considerably. Monsters are weaker, and ammunition is more plentiful than in Normal mode. The Arranged version here is different than “the arranged version” found in the first game. Here, “Arranged” (AKA: Rookie Mode) starts you off with access to some very powerful weapons and infinite ammo.  – Regardless of which version you play, I found the game only gets easier as it goes along. The first few moments of the game can be very intense and you’re often being swarmed. But as you play and manage to secure areas and increase your arsenal – things get a lot easier.

Story: This came continues the story laid out in the original game. More details are provided that help to clarify some of the more mundane aspects and to really flesh things out. Despite introducing us to some new characters, the connections to the first game are clear and very well done.

Originality: In many ways, there’s a lot about this game is very familiar to the first title. But, Capcom managed to keep things feeling fresh with a change of scenery and a few new enhancements. Having multiple/concurrent character scenarios is quite an original idea that really sets this game apart as well. While Resident Evil 2 is very much a sequel to the original, it manages to stand on it’s own.

Soundtrack: Just like with the first game, the soundtrack is very minimal. The music is sparse and often used as a tool to build tension. But, when there is music to hear, I found it to be an improvement over that found in the original game. RE2 also uses ambient sounds to help set a spooky tone. All of it is very well done. The only complaint I have here are some minor gripes with the voice acting. But to be honest, I’ve heard worse.

Fun: Resident Evil 2 is a fun, entertaining successor to the first title. Again, it would be the perfect game to play on a dreary stormy afternoon or late in the evening with all the lights off.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Just like with Resident Evil, RE2 still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to unnerve it’s fans. 

Playcontrol:  Again, this is one the weakest point of the game for me. The characters in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable with a little practice.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I have to give this game a four star review, but for slightly different reasons than the original. Whereas the first game scored some major points with atmosphere, this game beats it on storyline. Plus, being able to experience it from multiple scenarios and actually have them inter-lap to some extend is brilliant. At the time, it was a brand new experience.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps

Review: Resident Evil (Director’s Cut)

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Proceeding with both my PS1 era and creepy Autumn game initiative, I now present a review of the Playstation classic: Resident Evil. This is a title that is heralded among gamers as one of the greatest survival horror titles of all time. Without a doubt, this is the game that really launched the genre into the mainstream. My very first experience with Resident Evil was the enhanced remake of this game back on the Nintendo Gamecube, but for this review I wanted to go back to the roots of the series. So I chose to play through the Director’s Cut edition of game.

That being stated, let’s go ahead and take a moment to clear up any confusion regarding the different retail versions of Resident Evil that exist.

First, there is the original release: This is the game in it’s purist form. The US version of the original game came under heavy criticism for being censored. For whatever reason, Capcom decided to remove references to smoking and also some of the more violent imagery was cut from these opening scenes as well. Regardless, the game still received a Mature rating. So, to me and many others, the decision to censor the game made little sense.

Second, The Director’s Cut: Originally marketed as being uncensored, but later found to contain the same edits as the vanilla release (apparently due to an error). This version of the game features some basic enhancements to the playcontrol, as well as a new Beginner Mode and “Arranged Mode” (sort of a remix for item and monster placement). A second version of the Director’s Cut also added controller vibration support. For many, this is considered to be definitive PlayStation version of the game – and this is the version I’m focusing on for this review.

Third, The remake: In 2002, a remake of the original game was released exclusively on the Nintendo Gamecube. This was the first version of the game that I experienced. This version includes revamped graphics and sound, a higher degree of difficulty, and some other major and minor changes.  Recently, an enhanced HD version of the remake was released. I have decided to review this new version separately at a later time. So for now… on the the review.

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The set up for Resident Evil is simple; the game takes place in the fictional locale of Raccoon City. Recently a number of bizarre murders have occurred on the outskirts of the area. An elite group of police officers known as STARS were sent to investigate. When this group did not return, a second team was dispatched to investigate the situation. The game begins when this second crew locates the crashed helicopter of the original team. While investigating the crash, the team is attacked by a pack of enraged, monstrous dogs. Unable to combat them effectively, the STARS officers run to a nearby mansion for shelter. Inevitably, the team gets split up in the chaos. The goal of the game is locate your missing companion(s) and explore the mansion for clues regarding the whereabouts of the former STARS team members. As the player, you can choose to control either STARS’ member Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. Each character has their own set pros and cons, and the flow of the story will change slightly depending on which you choose. Regardless, the overall plot is the same.

It doesn’t take long for the hero to realize that things at the mansion and surrounding area are far from normal. The place is crawling with… zombies! As you continue to play and explore, the story-line that unfolds is one of classic B-movie horror.

The basic premise of the game is to explore the mansion and locate your fellow STARs members so that you can escape the nightmare in which you find yourself. Initially, a large part of the mansion is closed off, but as you explore and obtains keys and other items of interest, you are able to continually probe deeper and deeper into the mysteries that lie before you.

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As each new area is unlocked, each step into the unknown is wrought with danger. As you play, you’ll soon learn that the comfort of trekking through familiar territory is quickly replaced with dread each time you set foot into a new unexplored wing of the mansion. You never know what type of horror may be lurking around the corner. To make matters worse, weapons and ammunition are scarce and a valuable commodity.  This is made even more so by a very limited inventory space. Your character can only hold so many items. So often, you will find yourself stumbling upon something of value, with no way to hold it. Luckily, there are special storage boxes located at various locales in the game. These can be used to store your valuables and free up precious inventory slots.

Resident Evil does a masterful job of keeping the tension at a fever pitch. Everything from the creepy atmospheres, to the music, to the gruesome monsters is masterfully crafted. The game does lack in a few crucial areas however. The first, being the play control. This game controls very similarly to many of the early third-person 3D games of the era, which I’ve always found to be somewhat problematic. Your character moves in a tank-like fashion. You point them in a specific direction and then move them forward. This makes for some rather stiff and clunky navigation. Combine this with turning the corner into a room full of zombies and it can make for a easy death – simply due to the difficulty of trying to navigate away from danger. As I mentioned, other games of the time had the same control scheme (Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, etc). Second, the voice acting is simply horrid. I mean, it’s REALLY bad. But I’m able to overlook it by imagining the whole thing is a spoof of a terrible B-movie. (Sadly, I don’t think that was the actual intention of the developers.) Finally, the whole inventory system is overly cumbersome. I understand how space-management can be an important aspect for some games, but in the case of Resident Evil, I feel it’s largely unnecessary.  For example, to even save your game you are required to keep “Ink Ribbons”. These are a consumable item that can be used at typewriters you may find scattered around. Using a ribbon in a typewriter will allow you to save your progress. So yes… you can technically blow all of your saves by running out of ribbons and find yourself in a heap of trouble late in the game.

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Despite these annoyances, the game is a masterpiece. It’s certainly worthy of the hype it receives. On top of the excellent storytelling and tension that you get from the game itself. Having two characters to choose from adds a good level of replay-ability to the game. While the background story for both Jill and Chris are the same, each characters sees the scenario unfold differently. Plus, there are differences when it comes to playing the two characters. For example, Chris is a bit tougher and can seem to take more of a beating. But Jill can hold more gear and is able to pick locks, this allows here access to more of the mansion right from the beginning. And if that’s not enough, the Arranged Mode featured in the Director’s Cut mixes things up even more, giving even veteran players a new experience.

All in all, I recommend Resident Evil for nearly anyone who loves retro gaming. For fans of the survival horror genre, this is a must-play. I know that the new HD Remake of the game is shiny and tempting, but there’s really something charming about the original PS1 version that is also deserving of your attention.

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Difficulty: Variable –  The Director’s Cut version features three levels of difficulty: Beginner, Original and Arranged. The Beginner option reduces the difficulty of the game dramatically. Monsters are weaker, ammunition is more plentiful, and there seem to be fewer monsters overall. Original difficulty matches that of the game during it’s original release. Arranged is a bit of a different bag. Arranged Made changes the location of items and monsters, making the game completely different for players that already know their way around. – Generally speaking – I do recommend the Original mode of difficulty for most players. But gamers that simply want to enjoy the storyline may find Beginner mode more suited to their tastes.

Story: The story line behind Resident Evil is surprisingly complex. It’s starts out simple, but slowly builds as layer upon layer is uncovered by the player as they proceed through the game. Much of the plot reminds me of what you might find in a cheesy B-grade horror flick, which is fine by me. It works well here. I have not played any other games in the series yet, but I think it’s safe to assume that the plot will only expand in later games. I’m interested to see what’s to come.

Originality: For many, Resident Evil is the original survival horror title. It may not technically be the first in the genre, but it certainly paved the way. A lot of the game design elements seen in Resident Evil come from other games, but it’s combined here in a way and in an atmosphere that makes it all unique and memorable.

Soundtrack: This game features a very minimalist soundtrack, which works very well. Music is used to queue up tension, or in some cases even relief. (Anyone exploring the mansion who opens an unknown door – only to hear the “Storage Room Music” knows exactly what I mean.) Sadly, the game suffers from some pretty terrible voice acting.

Fun: Resident Evil is the perfect game for late Autumn nights. This is one to play in a quiet house with the lights off. I had a blast with this game. Admittedly, more than I expected to.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and the low resolution FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. Despite the dated look, Resident Evil still manages to capture the spooky atmosphere it needs to succeed. 

Playcontrol: This is one of the weaker points for the game. The character in the game is controlled using the old, clunky “compass rose tank” style of movement. Players used to modern 360 degree movement will need some time to get adjusted. Overall the controls feel stiff and antiquated. But in the long run, they are manageable.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Extreme violence and gore. Some language. 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $9.99. Even today, this price is well worth it.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – If you’re curious to see what the hype is all about, or if you’re interested in the seeing the origins of the survival horror genre, this is the game for you. In fact, as long as you’re not completely adverse to games that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up… I recommend Resident Evil to nearly anyone old enough to play it. It’s a real classic.

Available on: PSN

 

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Resident Evil  –  Resident Evil 2  –  Resident Evil 3: Nemesis  –  Resident Evil: Code Veronica  –   Resident Evil Zero  –  Resident Evil 4  –  Resident Evil 5   –   Resident Evil: Revelations   –  Resident Evil 6  –  Resident Evil: Revelations 2   –   Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil HD Remake

The Umbrella Chronicles   –  The Darkside Chronicles

Umbrella Corps

 

 

Review: Silent Hill

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Happy Halloween! I’m keeping with my tradition and reviewing a spooky game for the month of October. It’s always my goal to try to do as many as possible but sometimes due to work and other schedule demands, I’m not always able to accommodate more than one title. But fear not! With so many PS-era titles to choose from, I’m going to keep the horror game reviews coming into the month of November.

For my actual Halloween review, I played through the PS1 classic, Silent Hill. This is a title that I bought many years ago when I first purchased my PS2, but no sooner did I acquire it, I found myself as a new parent and in the middle of a hectic move. As a result, the game sat on my shelf. Well, I’ve finally dusted it off and played it from start to finish. I’m here to share my throughts on this legendary title.

If I had to classify it, Silent Hill is a survival-horror game. But in truth, it’s also very much a mystery game. In Silent Hill, you play the character of Harry Mason. The game begins when Harry and his daughter Cheryl arrive in the small resort town of Silent Hill for vacation. Their trip takes an unexpected turn when Harry veers from the road to avoid striking a woman with his car. Harry wakes up to find himself in his wrecked car with Cheryl nowhere in sight.  The game involves Harry searching for his missing daughter in the mysterious ghost town of Silent Hill. It doesn’t take long to realize that things in Silent Hill are very far from normal.

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Something strange is afoot in the small town of Silent Hill. A thick fog descends over the town, as does an endless flurry of snow. The town is largely abandoned with the exception of horrific creatures and few other survivors that you will encounter along the way. As if that isn’t frightening enough, as you play you’ll find yourself phasing in an out of a strange mirror dimension filled with even more horrific sights.

The game is very atmospheric. The creepy foggy or dim-light areas work well to build tension with the player. As does the camera angle and ambient sounds. You see, Silent Hill is a third-person game but unlike many, it does not feature a user-controlled camera. Instead, the game relies on an automatic camera that will adjust itself as needed, but often works to a dramatic effect.  The soundtrack in the game is dynamic with creepy music that fades in rarely, but at very appropriate times. For the most part, there is very little music in the game. The game instead relies on ambient sounds to invoke fear. For example, Harry carries a pocket radio with him that emits static whenever there is danger near. You may be walking along fat, dumb and happy when suddenly the radio kicks it – causing you to draw your weapon and proceed with caution.

I’ve read that the real reason for the fog and low lighting was to lessen the memory burden for the game. At the time this game was released, 3D titles on the console were still in their infancy and rendering them could bring consoles to their knees. So developers often relied on little tricks to try to limit draw distances, etc. But whatever the reason, it works very well here. In fact, the thick fog has become one of the game’s most memorable features.

Silent Hill takes players through some classic creepy environments; An abandoned school, a hospital, and even the city sewers. Playing the game is a bit akin to watching and episode of Ghost Adventures, but with an interactive element.

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What’s also great about the game is the strange and unusual story. What starts out as a simple plot device (find your missing daughter), but soon unravels into a dark and complex tale. Players who are willing to take their time and explore the city and read all of the clues presented to them will certainly get more out of the game than those that try to speed through it. Aside from exploration, the game does feature a few puzzles and riddles that players must solve to proceed.

All in all, I found Silent Hill to be the perfect game to play on a late October night with the lights off.

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Difficulty: Variable –  Silent Hill offers three levels of difficulty. I experimented with all three and found them to be quite appropriate. For most players, I would recommend the middle setting. But for those players who are veteran survival horror gamers, the more difficult setting may be more your speed.

Story: The set up for the game is simple, but as you play and uncover the backstory of Silent Hill things do tend to get muddled and a bit confusing. The backstory is very cerebral and can be a bit difficult to follow if you’re not paying attention. The game itself has multiple endings depending on certain actions taken in the game.

Originality: Released in 1999, the game is certainly not the first in the Survival Horror genre. But I chose it for my playthrough due to the psychological elements that it leans on. Up to this point, most other horror games relied on jump scares and gory imagery to frighten players. While there are bits of both in Silent Hill, the majority of “scary” atmosphere found in this game is in the mind of the player – put in place by the wonderful visual and auditory elements by the game’s designers.

Soundtrack: Aside the intro and ending music, there’s little in terms of an actual musical soundtrack. The game instead relies on ambient thumps, creaks, moans, and of course the ever trusty radio static to scare the living daylights out of players.

Fun: If you like spooky/horror games, this is a classic. As far as games go, it’s a bit slow-paced. This is fine with me, but I can imagine that some players may find it boring. It’s certainly a game designed for a specific audience, but to those target players it’s going to be very appealing.

Graphics: For it’s time, Silent Hill was top of the line. It features a mix of pre-rendered video with blocky 3D textures. By today’s standards, it’s certainly dated and aged. But at the time of release, this was as good as it got for consoles.

Playcontrol: The controls are a bit stiff and clunky. As mentioned in the review, there’s no manual camera control. So it takes a few minutes to get the hang of things. You soon learn how to rotate the character, instead of the camera – before moving in the desired direction. By today’s standards, the playcontrol does seem antiquated and slightly inefficient.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: Violent and grotesque imagery. Occult references and an overall horrific atmosphere.

Value:  These days, Silent Hill is available on PSN for about $6.00. For this price, the game is a steal.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – If you’re a fan of survival horror or even mystery games, Silent Hill is a must-play. I can’t believe I waited so long to play this classic title. Aside from some minor frustration with the play control, I found this to be the perfect title for a spooky, late-night playthrough.

Available on: PSN

Review: Slender – The Arrival

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Next up on the spooky game list is a title that I’ve had sitting in my Steam library for awhile. Slender – The Arrival. Now, before playing this game I actually knew very little about the “Slenderman” phenomena. I knew that the character of Slenderman was born from some creepy Internet meme,  but I was completely ignorant regarding the background story or mythology behind the character. I think my lack of knowledge actually made the game seem even weirder and creepier than it would have been otherwise.

First off, I should mention that the day before this review was posted, a major update to the game was released. This update is quite literally, a game changer. The 2.0 updated added new levels, better performance, and many needed quality of life improvements. I was almost done with my playthrough of this game when the patch hit and it actually made me start all over so that I could re-experience the game from the ground up.

So let’s get started. Slender – The Arrival is your typical survival horror game. In this game, you start off playing a girl named Lauren who is on her way to visit an old childhood friend at her home. On the way there, the road leading to her house is blocked by a fallen tree and you’re forced to walk the last mile or so on foot. As you approach her home, it suddenly grows unusually dark. Once entering the house, you are quick to realize that some strange has happened. The house is in shambles and there’s weird scribbles all over the wall. You find a flashlight and begin to search the house for clues. Eventually, you hear a scream from outside the window and proceed to investigate. This is where the game really begins.

Apparently, your friend Kate has become obsessed with a supernatural entity known as Slenderman. A faceless being that is rumored to chase and abduct children. Throughout your search for Kate, you are relentlessly pursued by Slenderman and some of his other creepy friends. For some reason, I never really understood, your character carries a video camera with her at all times. The game experienced through the eyes of the camera. The picture will jump or distort if Slender draws near. So it serves as a bit of a warning device. At the end of the game, it seems to become clear that you, the player, are watching the recorded footage – so there’s that. But again…. why is this girl video taping everything?

As you proceed through the game, more details regarding the backstory begin to emerge. Some levels are actually played through the perspective of other characters in the game. All in all, as the plot thickens, the game manages to actually get even creepier.

The gameplay itself is quite basic. There’s no combat. Most levels have a series of objectives that need to be completed to move on to the next stage. However, each time you complete an objective, Slenderman appears more often and begins to pursue you relentlessly. If you get caught by him, it is game over.

As far as games go, there’s not a lot of content here really. Even with the new levels brought in by the update, the game can easily be completed in a couple of hours if you’ve got the hang of things. To me, the experience provided by this game is more focused on scaring you than actually timesinking content. This game has moments that are downright chilling. Everything from the level design, to the atmosphere created within the game is frightening. There were times while playing, where I was so close to completing the level only to see the screen start to distort and hear the swelling of the background music – I’d get goosebumps knowing that just around the corner I was going to see that pale white face, in the dark suit staring blankly in my direction. Fantastic.

In a lot of way, the environments and atmosphere created by game designers are often freakier than the protagonists. If you’re looking for something to put a little fright into you on a dark night, this game is worth a look.

Difficulty: Moderate –  There are two difficulty settings. Normal and Hardcore. The later is only available after beating the game on the original difficulty setting. Overall, the game is pretty middle of the road. Early on, I died a lot. But once I got a feel for the game’s mechanics, it did become a little easier. Hardcore mode is just that. In this mode, there are often additional steps required to complete a level as well as a big increase in the aggression of Slender Man.
Story: For such an inexpensive title, there is a surprising amount of storyline here. However, it is not spoon-fed to you. The story behind the game is uncovered as you play. If you take the time to pay attention and actually read many of the news-clippings and notes that you find throughout the game, much of the background begins to become very clear.
Originality: These days, survival horror games are nothing new. But Slender manages to keep things unique with it’s unusual presentation and rich character-based storyline.
Soundtrack: The score for this game is subtle, but overall I found it to be well done. The music is dynamic and does a great job at setting the tone for the game as well as adding to the suspense.
Fun: If you enjoy horror/survival games this is certainly a title that worth your time. It’s spooky, anxiety-laden, and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Graphics: The new “2.0” version of the game is a big improvement over the original edition. If you’re new to this title, this is version that is now available on Steam as well as PSN and Xbox Arcade. So no matter what platform, you’re sure to get the latest version. The graphics were always well rendered but now include motion blur effects, and better lighting enhancements as well. Not to mention the overall graphics performance has been tweaked big time.
Playcontrol: This title is playable both on the keyboard and with a gamepad. Either way seemed both fitting and natural.
Mature Content: YES- Gruesome violence. Language. Horror elements.
Value:  For $10, this game offers quite a bit of bang for your buck. It is somewhat short, yes. But I feel that it is very much worth the experience. — If you played this game when it first came out, the new version included new levels integrated into the game itself. So veterans might want to take a second look.
Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – This game may seem a little unusual to casual players. But fans of the survival horror genre have a lot to appreciate here. However, even for a casual gamer, the $10.00 pricetag certainly makes Slender a purchase to consider. This game offers a true horror experience at a budget price.
Currently available on: Steam, PSN, Xbox Arcade

Review: Final Fantasy VI

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Here we are with the third and last Final Fantasy title in the 16-bit era. Final Fantasy VI. This game also marks the end of the “number confusion”. Originally released in the US as Final Fantasy III, this was the west’s second taste of 16-bit FF glory.

These days, there’s a few options for the people looking to play the game. The original FF3 version is available on the Wii virtual console. The playstation network sports another, better rendition of the game, complete with the correct title and an improved translation. However, the latest release is Final Fantasy VI advance for the GBA. This version features updated visuals, improved translation as well as some additional content (spells, espers and optional dungeon). Having never played this version before, I chose the GBA version for this playthrough.

The game begins with two Imperial soldiers escorting a mysterious girl into a town. The three of them are piloting walking war-machines (aka Magi-Tech Armor). It is revealed that they have been sent to capture a frozen beast, known as an Esper, that was recently uncovered on the outskirts of town. The three of them encounter resistance from the locals and it is revealed that girl is under some sort of mind control. The Esper reacts to the attack and fights back, in the scuffle, the mind control over the girl is broken. But she is suffering from a case of amnesia. She is taken in by a local who recruits her into a secret group of rebels. The story unfolds from here…

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Like it’s predecessors, Final Fantasy VI features a lush and brilliantly crafted storyline. It is often considered to be one of the best in the series. The game features a cast of characters that are impossible to forget, each with their own background and personality. While this has become a staple of the series, it really shines here. This game also features one of the most sadistic and insane arch-villains in video game history. I’m not going to spoil anything, but even in the old days where Nintendo censored just about everything, the wartime tactics of Kefka were jaw-dropping.

As if the story wasn’t enough, it’s made even more potent due to the amazing game soundtrack. Again, I’m tempted to say it is also, best in the series. I’ve been told that some selections of the score are even taught in Japanese schools beside other classical music masterpieces.

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The graphics are certainly a step up from FFIV and V. These are slightly improved again in the GBA version. Detail on the character sprites are done pretty well, but most gorgeous art in the game comes from the scenery and monster art.

Much like Final Fantasy IV, there are no pre-set character jobs, but each character has their own role and set of skills. In early parts of the game, your hand is held a bit when it comes to party formation, but later on in the title you have the ability to create a group using the entire roster. This is where personal preference and deep understanding of each character and their abilities really shines.

Having played this time a number of times over the years, I was excited to see what changes the GBA version brought. There are four new Espers available to Terra as wells a several spells and a new dungeon. The dungeon features an optional and ultimate boss, the Kaiser Dragon. This boss is legendary among fans because it was discovered to have been coded into the original game, but there was no way to encounter it. Apparently cut out of the title at the last minute, it is finally available for those wanting a real challenge.

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Difficulty: Medium  – This game is on par with the rest of the series. The patient will survive. Players can grind their way to ease if they really feel so inclined. But the real trick to the game is learning each character and their abilities and then applying them to overcome obstacles. The new optional content in the GBA is quite difficult and is really included for veteran players.

Story: Final Fantasy VI features what can arguably be called one of the greatest RPG storylines of all time, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s that good. My summary above covers about the first five minutes of the game, if I were to try to summarize this entire plot, we’d be here for hours. And the kicker is, there’s never a dull moment. This was the title that showed the world why Final Fantasy would become synonymous with RPG genre as a whole.

Originality: In reality, there’s not a lot of new ideas brought to the table. Everything in this title, storyline aside, has been seen elsewhere in the series. However, the biggest difference here is that everything has now been polished to perfection.

Soundtrack: One of Uematsu’s best works, and arguably one of the best game soundtracks to date. I literally have three different version of the game soundtrack in my personal library. Everything about the music in this game is sheer perfection. It’s truly art.

Fun: This is one game that never leaves me disappointed. It’s very fun and addictive title. So much so that it is often the title I recommend to those looking for a starting point in the series. The story sucks you in and the gameplay makes sure you don’t let go until the very end.

Graphics: Again, an improvement of the previous entry in the series. This game pretty much set the bar for RPGs in terms of what to expect visually. As I mentioned above, the monster art and scenery are amazing. The Mystic Forest area of the game was, at it’s time, breathtaking.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should with one exception. The character Sabin features some special abilities that rely on fighting-style button combos to execute. While these are fairly easy to input on Nintendo style gamepads, I’ve found them to be a bit trickier on Sony hardware. Nothing major, but worthy of mention.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – For many players, myself included, this game *IS* Final Fantasy. I am a fan of the entire series, but for me, VI represents everything that made the series great. The storyline, the music, the art – it’s all here. If you are looking to escape reality, or if you’re curious what all the hype is about, this is the game to play.

Currently available on:  Wii Virtual Console and PSN.

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy V

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Onward with the 16-bit Final Fantasy playthrough, we have one of the more obscure entries in the early series, Final Fantasy V. Again, this is another title that was not available in the US upon it’s original release. Released in 1992, North American players did not get a taste of the game until 1999 when the game was bundled with Final Fantasy VI for a Playstation compilation called the Final Fantasy Anthology. This collection was my first taste of the game.

Sadly, I can’t claim it was a very enjoyable experience. I never owned an original Playstation. My first Sony system was the Playstation 2. Final Fantasy V and the PS2 didn’t get along very well. There was a terrible graphical corruption bug that would rear it’s ugly head 90% of the time you tried to save or load your game in FFV. This only occurred on the PS2. Determined not to let that hold me back, I eventually memorized the layout of the save screen and was able to save the game blindly.

Luckily, this issue was eliminated with a later release for the Game Boy Advance. For the sake of this playthrough (and my sanity), I used the GBA version. Like many of the other re-releases in the series, the remake contains some content not found in the original game. Aside from a much improved translation, the GBA version also includes four new jobs (more on this later) and as usual, an optional dungeon.

Before continuing, I will note that while I consider the GBA remake to be the definitive version of the game, there is actually a newer version of FFV released on iOS. Personally, I don’t consider iPhones or iPads to be viable gaming devices. I play and enjoy iOS games, but I feel like playing something like Final Fantasy on a touch-screen is far from ideal. That being said, the iOS version features improved graphics. There has been talk of a 3DS version, but at the time of this writing, nothing has materialized.

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Final Fantasy V focuses very heavily on story. This playthrough took me over 40 hours, the longest so far. The game focuses mainly on a young man named Bartz and his pet chocobo. Bartz witnesses the crash of a meteor in a nearby forest and decides to investigate. There he meets a strange old man who is seemingly suffering from amnesia. The two travel together to a nearby kingdom where their adventure begins. Throughout the game’s story, more heroes join the fold and team learns that a magical seal that has long kept an evil warrior at bane has been shattered. As one might imagine, there’s a lot more to it than that, and like all the other games in the series, the story should be experienced firsthand and not read.

One interesting element this game brings back is the Job System from FFIII. Throughout the game new lobs are unlocked and can be assigned to characters at will. Over time, skills from the job equipped can be permanently learned by that character. The original release of the game contained 22 jobs, while the GBA version has 26.

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Graphically, the game is on par with FFIV. The GBA version does feature slightly smoother graphics, but nothing too noticeable. When it comes to music, the game has some interesting pieces. Overall, the soundtrack is fitting and very well done, but I do feel is pales in comparison to the wonderful score of Final Fantasy IV.

With me, typically, my favorite part of playing a Final Fantasy game is the story and the atmosphere. This game, is an odd exception. My favorite part about FFV is actually the gameplay. The Job System is very well done and lots of fun. Grinding away to unlock abilities might be part of what made my playthrough so long. The storyline of FFV is great, don’t misunderstand. There’s plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested, but overall, it is probably my least favorite. Many people may disagree, but that’s just my opinion. It’s hard to follow up a game like Final Fantasy V, and I feel like it shows with this title.

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Difficulty: Medium  – The same rules apply here as with the rest of the series, patience is key. Mastering the Job System is the trick to the whole game. In today’s world of digital hand-holding, I wonder how that will sit with many younger players. For this reason, I feel that FFV is a little harder than other entries in the early series. But still, overall much easier to master than some of the twitchy platformers of the 16bit era.

Story: Final Fantasy V features a very rich and detailed story. It’s excellent, but just not as good as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, even the worst Final Fantasy storyline beats most other RPGs hands down. It just didn’t light the same fire in me as other titles in the series. Regardless, the game does have some very memorable characters. Lenna always puts a smile on my face.

Originality: A lot of this game is borrowed from other titles, and that’s ok. The job system is revamped enough from FFIII to seem original. But other elements of the game do tend to fall into the “standard Final Fantasy experience”.

Soundtrack: Good score, but not great. Not my favorite that’s for sure.

Fun: As I stated earlier, the job system can be a lot of fun even if the rest of the game drags a bit. I did enjoy my time playing the game, but I felt like it was a little too long

Graphics: The graphics are about what you’d expect. The GBA provide a nice little boost and of course the iOS version is beautiful. It’s a mixed bag depending on the version you’re playing. I do feel that the original developers could have been able to squeeze a little more “pretty” out of the game if they tried harder. But, the art is certainly acceptable.

Playcontrol: As with most RPGs, control is not an issue. All works as it should.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – As I mentioned, FFV is a good game. If you’re a fan of the series, it’s certainly worthy of playing. Personally, I don’t feel it reflects the best the series has to offer. Even though it is currently out of print, if you can get your hands on the GBA version, this is the one I recommend. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a more modern remake.

Currently available on:  PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

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Before leaving my reviews of classic 8-bit games behind and moving on to other horizons, I figured I would take the time to check out a title that I never actually played before. That would be ever elusive Metal Gear 2.

Much like some of the early Final Fantasy games, US gamers had to wait a long time to play an official version of MG2. Originally released in Japan only for the MSX computer system, it was finally officially made available in certain versions of Metal Gear Solid 3, along with the original true version of the first Metal Gear.

Now, for many years, I owned and played what I thought was the sequel to the first Metal Gear game. Due to the success of MG in the western market, Konami commissioned a sequel known as Snake’s Revenge for western audiences. While not a bad game in it’s own right, it certainly lacked a lot of that Metal Gear vibe.

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Screenshot of the unofficial sequel “Snake’s Revenge”

Here, we have a game that looks and feels a lot like the original, only with a deeper story and a few new tricks up it’s sleeve. In this title, Solid Snake is called back into action to find a missing scientist. Intelligence reports indicate he is being held in the remote military-junta controlled nation of Zanzibar Land. As Snake penetrates his way deeper into the enemy base things slowly reveal to be more than they appear. It turns our the nation is actually operated by none-other than Fox Hound’s old leader, Big Boss. After apparently surviving the Outer Heaven incident, Big Boss and many other of Fox Hound’s members founded the mercenary run nation of Zanzibar Land…

The gameplay in this game is very similar to the original version. One thing that makes things a bit different is the new anti-personnel radar. This is a beacon of sorts that allows the player to see enemy movements on the surrounding screen. At first, I had a hard time getting the hang of it, which resulted in many detections and a rough start to the game, but after a while I got used to it.

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In this title, the environment plays a bigger part. Snake can punch walls to distract enemies and even hide under trucks and tables to avoid detection. So compared to the original, it does take a little getting used to. I found the game to be quite challenging at first, but it becomes easier as it goes on.

Difficulty: Medium – Like the original game, once you have mastered the art of sneaking around, and you’ve managed to earn a little gear and health, the game is not overly difficult. However, until you reach that point things can be pretty tough.

Story: Right from the start, the storyline is an improvement over the original. This game feature more two-sided conversations than the original. Plus, the background story of the game is much richer in detail than the first Metal Gear.

Originality: This game takes all of the stealth tactics from the first game, and adds a new level of depth. It’s familiar yet new at the same time.

Soundtrack: At first the soundtrack did not impress me at all. I found it to be dull and uninspiring. Oddly enough, as the game progresses it did grow on me a bit. But there’s still nothing worthy of mention here. One of the tunes is a direct rip off of the Rambo theme, in my opinion.

Fun: For the first quarter of the game, I found myself frustrated by the mechanics of the game. I guess I was expecting things to work exactly as they did in Metal Gear. They do not. Once I learned the new system and got the hang of things, I found myself enjoying the game much more.

Graphics: The graphics are very similar to the first Metal Gear for MSX. Appropriate for the title at the time. Not bad or specifically spectacular.

Playcontrol: As far as response goes, there’s no issues at all. Sneaking around takes bit getting used to, but the game handles well.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – I found this game to be slightly less enjoyable that the original. But, honestly, this is probably due to my own expectations for the game. That being said, I did enjoy the game. More than I thought I would. I think my love for the original Metal Gear just overshadowed this title by a small margin.


Currently available on: PS3 and Xbox 360 (MSX Version is included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Legacy Collection, as a bonus game)

Other Reviews In This Series:

MGMG2MGS – MGS2 – MGS3 – Portable Ops – MGS4 – Peace Walker -MG Rising: Revengeance-  MGS5 Ground Zeros- MGS5 Phantom PainGhost Babel – Acid – Acid 2

Review: Final Fantasy III

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Having completed FF II, it is time to move on the next chapter. Final Fantasy III. This game is quite an interesting case, compared to the others. Final Fantasy III was not officially brought to the US until 2006, despite having been previously released on the Famicom in Japan back in 1990.

Until the US release, only unofficial hacked/translated ROMS of the 8-bit game were available. I played the game on an emulator years ago, but I do prefer the official version much more. The US version was a major revamp. The graphics were upgraded in 3D, the original game had 4 generic nameless characters, the re-release has given them names, and personalities and interwoven them into the story line itself. This might seem like blasphemy to a purist like me, but actually it is so well done, that I feel it is truly superior. Nothing is lost in the update and so much more is gained. The only oddity I found is the small change made to the job system by including Freelancer and hiding away the Onion Knight job (more on this later).

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Very recently, the game was updated slightly and released again for iOS devices and also made available for PSP and Vita users on PSN. Since I played DS version a few years ago, I decided to give the newest version a go this time around.

The modern version of Final Fantasy III is an amazing game, regardless of what system you play it on. From the introductory movie, to the various optional content – I was hooked. It is after all the game that introduced Moogles to the series!

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The storyline begins pretty simply, an earthquake reveals a long forgotten cave on the outskirts of town. The game begins with our main hero Luneth falling into the cave. Inside, he discovers a magical crystal that speaks to him and tells him to gather his friends and return. From here, we are slowly introduced to the gameplay basics and to the other characters. After assembling the team and returning to the crystal, the game truly begins.

Unlike the previous games in the series, our characters are not really typecast into specific roles. Instead, they are able to switch between various jobs. Many of the classic Final Fantasy jobs (or classes) were established in this game. At first, your characters are jobless, or Freelancers. The jobs bestowed by the crystal. At first, the jobs unlocked are pretty basic (the same found in the first Final Fantasy game), but as the game progresses, more advanced jobs become available, things such as Dragoon, Scholar, Geomancer, etc)

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This would be a good point to elaborate a bit on something I mentioned above. In the original release of the game, things started a bit different. Instead of beginning with just one character, all four youths were in the party immediately. Instead of being assigned the “blank” class of Freelancer, they are known as Onion Knights. This original job is also available in the modern version of the game as an unlockable. The DS version, really makes you jump through hoops to unlock the job. It involves communicating with other players through the in-game mail system, which for a game that over five years old, can be quite a chore. Thankfully, the PSP version eliminates this nonsense and allows the job to be unlocked with a simple in-game quest.

The job system aside, the game is quite impressive. Having played both, I found the PSP version to be overall more agreeable than the DS version. The dual screen features of the DS did not bother me or detract from the gameplay in any way, but having now played the game on a single screen, I find them to be somewhat unnecessary.

All in all, this is one of my favorite games in the series. All of the classic Final Fantasy elements can be found here.

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Difficulty: Medium – While still not overly difficult, this title can be quite challenging for those player unable to wrap their heads around the job system. Many obstacles in the game can be easily overcome but thoughtful use of the character jobs. You can switch on the fly for the most part, so don’t hesitate to try new things. Also, as usual in these remakes, the hardest content in the game tends to be the extra hidden bosses…

Story: The original version had quite a story, but this is only made better in the modern remake. Despite the political intrigue of Final Fantasy II, I have to say that the plot line of this game is much richer. Another excellent storyline from Square Enix.

Originality: Again, this game takes all of the great aspects of the previous games and builds on it. The job system is a completely original concept that really makes this game what it is. It was bold move at the time, but one that pays of big in terms of gameplay.

Soundtrack: Magical! The main theme is one of my favorite pieces of video game music. It is routinely played a the Final Fantasy concerts. Uematsu at his finest!

Fun: I absolutely love this game. The first time I played it, I had been put on bed rest due to back problems, and this game made the time fly by. It’s worth every penny.

Graphics: The original Famicom version was very similar to Final Fantasy 1 in many ways. That version still remains unreleased in the US. The modern version is a different story. Our Final Fantasy III is made of rich and colorful 3D graphics. Compared to most moderns games, things are little blocky, but this is a result of the port from the 3DS. Despite that, it’s not at all distracting and it is a vast improvement over the original.

Playcontrol : The 3DS version is a little wonky to control if you actually try to use the touchscreen. But most players stick with the standard controls. Going this route or if you’re playing on the PSP, there’s no issue with playcontrol at all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – Another excellent title with a perfect rating. I’m trying not to be biased, I swear. If you’re at all fan of RPGS or Japanese games, there is no excuse. This is a must have.

Available today on: DS, PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy II

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Man oh man, where to begin. Final Fantasy II is an interesting game to review. First of all, it did not see an official release in the US until sometime around 2001 or 2002. Up until that time, all we had were really bad hacked, fan-translated ROMs. The first official version released in the US was in the form of Final Fantasy Origins. I remember how excited I was when that game came out… In fact, it was the main reason I bought a PS2. I had seen the game in its original 8bit form during my time in Japan, but being unable to read Japanese, I knew little about the plot. All I knew is that there was a sequel to Final Fantasy that I was missing out on. Eventually, a game was released called Final Fantasy 2… Sadly, it knew right from the start it was NOT the same Final Fantasy II I had seen before.

(In a nutshell, Nintendo of American skipped over the second and third entries in the series and renamed Final Fantasy IV to Final Fantasy 2 for introduction to the western audience. It’s a long story.)

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   Original JP Version
 

There have been two other versions of the game released in the US since the Origins bundle. The Dawn of Souls version for the GBA, and the anniversary edition for the PSP. It is important to note that the GBA and PSP versions have a much superior script. The names of the characters are more accurately translated. For example: Gus is retranslated as Guy, Mindu is correct as Minwu, and Gareth is actually known as Ricard in all versions except for the Origins. (A Japanese friend told me once his name is Japan is “Rikadu”, so I don’t know where they got Gareth from.) So, as far as translations go, the PSP version is by far the best. It is considered by almost everyone to be the definitive version due to the graphical updates and the polished script.

One difference to note is the adjustment to the difficulty level. While the PS version remains untouched from it’s 8bit roots, the latter two have a reduced level of difficulty. They are cakewalk compared to the Famicom or Origins version. That being said, the introductions of the “Soul of Rebirth” scenario (from the GBA version) and additional optional content found in the PSP add a new level of challenge above that found in the main scenario.

 
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This game in many ways is big improvement over the original Final Fantasy. The soundtrack is marvelous, albeit a little repetitive. Whereas the original game was weak on story, this game almost has too much going on. My big gripe is the character advancement system. There is no such thing as a “level”, instead characters improve in the abilities that they use the most, or the weapons they wield more often. I think Square had their thinking in the right direction, but it just didn’t turn out as good as they planned. Regardless, it was a very innovative idea at the time.

Despite my griping, I enjoyed the game immensely. I mean, after all, this is the game where the lovable Chocobos were debuted! The story line focuses on four main characters for most of the game: Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon. The game begins with the four youths being attacked by black knights from the evil kingdom of Palamecia. The are left for dead at the conclusion of the battle but three of them are rescued by a group of rebels. Leon was not discovered among them.

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As the story progresses, the heroes are thrown into the ranks of the rebellion against the empire where the truth regarding the source of the Empire’s power is revealed. The heroes ultimately prevail against the demonic Emperor by confronting him in his palace located in the depths of hell itself!

In the later versions of the game, a short add-on scenario is unlocked upon the completion of the main title The Soul of Rebirth mission allows players to experience a new adventure featuring several of the fallen heroes from the main game. The difficulty of this scenario is greater than that of the main game, and is intended as a challenge for experienced players.

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Difficulty: Medium – Much like the original game in the series, the modern day version is quite a bit easier that the original 8bit release. However, again, the PSP version adds a new extremely challenging dungeon. And the Soul of Rebirth chapter is no walk in the park.

Story: The storyline here is much more in depth that the first entry in the series. The dialogue is engaging in a way that’s usual for more RPG. There is a bank of special keywords that you can mention during some NPC conversations that trigger events or allow you to obtain new information. I’ve heard some claim that the storyline is, on its surface, a blatant rip off of Star Wars (rebel alliance vs. an evil empire), but I found this is not so much the case.

Originality: This game took everything that was good about Final Fantasy and combined it with more in-depth storyline. The character advancement system, despite its flaws, was a bold step towards a more realistic system of character progression.

Soundtrack: Another classic soundtrack. The Rebel Theme alone is a masterpiece. If you remember any one thing about this game, it’s more than likely going to be the wonderful music included.

Fun: This game for me, is a quite an enjoyable experience. Sadly, due to its belated release in the US, it has been largely ignored by the masses. I personally find the game to bring a lot of enjoyment.

Graphics: Much like the original game, the graphics of this title have been improved upon with each subsequent release. The PS1 version of the game featured sprites that were on par with the SNES games in the series. The PSP remake beings the art up another notch. There’s a lot of beauty to be found in the modern versions.

Playcontrol : This is not really an issue with this type of game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – I am a firm supporter of this title. I think it’s an unrecognized masterpiece. Everything from the lush soundtrack to the engaging storyline is top notch in my book.

Available today on: PSN (Origins), and PSP.

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight 

Review: Final Fantasy

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Aside from covering the random new release such as Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider, it is still a main focus of mine to re-live my early gamer days by chronicling my favorite games of yesteryear in a semi-accurate timeline. So far in the blog, I’ve covered my gaming experience starting with my days in a coin-op arcade, then moving on to first-gen home consoles like the Atari 2600, to the godfather of them all the NES. Sure, I’ve gone off on a few tangents like my Mega Man and Castlevania series playthroughs, in which I skipped around between various generations, but I’ve tried to keep a semi-linear timeline as the overall theme. Before moving on from the NES to the Gameboy days, I would be amiss if I didn’t take the time to remember what may be one of the most legendary 8bit RPGS of all time. Final Fantasy.

I can’t remember which game I experienced first, Final Fantasy or Wizardry. I was introduced to both of them around the same time in my life. I was living in Japan at the time Final Fantasy was released and I remember asking for it on a whim. I had never heard anything about it, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was not disappointed. The summer after my 6th grade year was spent either at the beach or in my room jamming to Paula Adbul (don’t ask) and grinding away at Final Fantasy. I put that game through it’s paces. Trying every combination of character class, exploring every nook and cranny, and leveling, leveling, leveling.

I’ve bought this game in one form or fashion many times of the years. In my current collection I have Final Fantasy 1 in the following formats:  NES, PS1, GBA, and PSP.

For this review I decided to play the most modern rendition, the PSP version. Aside from a few added dungeons, a sight modernization of the spell system, and a few extra monsters, the game is largely unchanged from the original in terms of gameplay. All of the new optional content can be found pretty much in one out-of-the-way dungeon and thus easily avoided if you’re a purist. The main reason to suggest one of the more modern versions is of course the sound and graphical upgrade. For the 20th anniversary release, Square Enix has really taken the time to make this game shine. To break it down:

For purists, the original 8 bit version will always standout.
For gamers who want original content, but updated sound a graphics, I recommend the PS version.
For people who want the best translation the most definitive version of the game I recommend the PSP version.
The GBA version falls somewhere in the middle.

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 Original NES Version    vs    Modern PSP remake
 

This is the game that started it all. At the time it was released it was a fantasy game unlike any ever seen. The storyline is simple; Four youths awake on a beach just outside of a grand kingdom. Each one possesses a dim crystal and has no memory of who they are. Throughout the game, they learn that the world is slowing being drained of its elemental power that their arrival has been prophesied as the ones who will restore order by bringing light to their faded crystals.

What starts off a simple tale of fantasy soon becomes quite a complicated plot involving a demon-possessed knight, a hidden conclave of sages, and a one thousand-year time loop that keeps repeating over and over and over…. yeah.

The player gets to choose from four of six classes when creating their character:

Warrior, Thief, Monk, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage.*  (In the original English version Warrior is known as Fighter, and Monk as Black Belt)* — These classes can later be leveled up to Knight, Ninja, Master, Red Wizard, White Wizard and Black Wizard.

Unlike the other games in the series, there are no default names provided to the characters. The biggest trick to the game is learning how to manage 4 different characters in a variety of situations. It’s a strategy game. You learn the strengths and weaknesses of each party member and how to compensate. How to exploit the weaknesses of your enemies, etc.

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To me, this game is a gem. But surprisingly there are many that disagree and cite the title’s weaknesses compared to future games in the series. One this most everyone agrees on, however, is the magic of the game soundtrack. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu It was pretty impressive for an 8-bit system, and the subsequent remakes have really brought a whole new level of wonder to the soundtrack with fully orchestrated music. In my opinion, Uematsu is a very talented composer. If he been born several centuries prior, perhaps he’d receive the level of praise he deserves.

This game included many things that would remain staples in the FF series as a whole. The diff jobs, characters and monsters that would reappear in later games, and the eco-friendly theme all started here.

Despite having played this game from start to finish over a dozen times in my life, I had a blast playing this title again. The new PSP exclusive dungeon and bosses were quite a refreshing challenge.

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Difficulty: MediumThe modern day version of the game is quite a bit easier that the original 8bit release. That being said, the PSP version adds a new extremely challenging dungeon. Many people have been critical of the watered-down difficulty of the modern remakes, but honestly, I think it makes for a good starting point for players new to the series.

Story: On it’s surface, the game story seems simplistic, but as you progress it becomes quite deep and convoluted. In the end, I’m not even sure I understand the subtle details of the whole time-loop scenario. The story is unfolded only by talking to NPCs.

Originality: For computer gaming, this was the start of something new. It was culture clash of both western D&D style fantasy and the exotic Japanese anime style. The game itself combined the overhead view introduced in games like Legend of Zelda with a framed, menu-driven combat system. It was the start of a new era

Soundtrack: Fantastic, catchy tunes. Just as enjoyable on the original 8bit hardware as they are performed by a full symphony orchestra.

Fun: For me, this game is top tier. It doesn’t seem to get old. For anyone just getting into the RPG scene, I always recommend this game and a nice introduction. All of the core elements are here in one form or another. It’s a perfect litmus test for the aspiring RPG gamer. Hours of enjoyment. 

Graphics: The original release is a bit rugged in many spots, even for it’s time. But considering all the things on the screen at once, it could have been worse. Over the years, the game has been improved upon. First, by giving SNES quality graphics and then upgraded even further.

Playcontrol : This is not really an issue with this type of game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – To me, this is one of the all-time classic NES titles. A must have really, regardless of the system you want to play it on. Perhaps I’m biased, but Final Fantasy is one of the greatest games of all time.

Available today on: Wii Virtual Console, PSN, and PSP.

Other Reviews In This Series:

IIIIIIIVVVI VIIVIIIIXXX2XIXII XIIIXIII 2XIII Lightning Returns XIV – XV 

IV: After YearsVII: Dirge of CerberusVII: Crisis CoreVII: Advent Children (Movie)XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s TaleXV: Brotherhood (Anime)XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 

Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2

Dissidia – Dissidia 012

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Dimensions – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight