Welcome to RPGamer's Week Two update! The staff have been hard at work playing some JRPGs. Here's a look at what progress has been made by each of the staff members participating.
Sam "Nyx" Wachter:
My progress in Okage: Shadow King slowed down a bit this week, as real life kind of decided it had to take priority. Since the last update I've made it to Chapter 4, and from what I've gathered: it seems like everyone wants to be an Evil King! After fetching all the cards needed to meet "Mr. Big" and the wild goose chase that was being stuck in a tree, I think I'm close to finishing up this long chapter after 9 hours of play. I'm sure the grinding is finally going to really make itself known soon, but so far so good.
I feel like this screenshot does a great job of sharing my feelings about this week's progress. Oh Stan, you ask the most special of questions.
Let's be honest, I'd be playing more Okage: Shadow King if The Banner Saga 2 hadn't also been wanting my attention this week. Let's hope I finish that first so then I can get back into my sweet Okage adventure.
Pascal "SquigglyLeo" Tekaia:
I thought for sure I'd be finishing Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force this week. Didn't happen. Now 28 hours in, I still think I'm mere minutes away from completing it. We'll see in next week's write-up.
The good news is, after finding and using the Faith Drop that I mentioned in last week's article, the story has taken some interesting turns. Without spoiling too much, time travel has been introduced into the narrative, and character interactions have been a bit more intriguing as they relive a slightly altered version of previously-known events. Whereas conversations before the singularity (as the game calls the moment time shifted) were either very to-the-point or completely beside it, this second half of the game finally sees some characters growing, particularly Fang and Tiara, making for a much more stimulating story.
There's been a major drawback, too. During the first half of the game, you played through each dungeon between two and four times - once for story content, usually a second time for a bonus Fury, and possibly a few more times if fetch or kill quests required you to battle the enemies native to it again. Now, with history literally repeating itself, so are the dungeons, with only very few exceptions. That means I've now went through some dungeons half a dozen times or more already, and this is making the already fun-challenged battle system become mighty stale. The only times I am enjoying combat at all are the late-game boss battles, some of which actually pose enough of a challenge to make me use my noggin.
I'm looking forward to completing this game in the immediate future. The one thing drawing me back to it at this stage is the story, which is more like a visual novel than RPG. I'm curious how it all concludes, but will welcome an end to the grind.
Kelley "redrock963" Ryan:
It is week two of Wild Arms 5. While I have not had as much time to play as I would like, I have been cruising along at a decent pace.
I just got my most recent (and favorite) party Member, Greg. Greg looks like he is an early prototype for McCree from Overwatch. He reminds me so much of McCree, that I am genuinely surprised that one of his lines is not "It's High Noon."
I've also continued to enjoy the dungeons and battles. The latest dungeon I went through took place in an old west ghost town, which is an exciting setting for a western themed RPG.
One thing I forgot to mention last week, is that there's a way you can turn off encounters in dungeons. You do it by beating an enemy called a "Sol Niger" that's encased in a shrine. Once this enemy is defeated, you can turn encounters on and off at will. This is also part of a larger side quest where you have to find all of the Sol Nigers for Kanon (a Wild ARMs character re-appearing from 2). This is great for re-exploring dungeons to get treasure chests you missed.
Hopefully I will get through more of the game next week.
Nathan "TwinBahamut" Schlothan:
In the last week, I've managed to add another eleven hours onto my Romancing SaGa 2 save file's game clock and make it partway into the fifth generation. The story has now skimmed past more than four hundred years of the history of the expanding Avalonian Empire. I gained the assistance of the nomads of the southern tundra, brought peace to the steppe, protected the people of the savannah from an army of gigantic intelligent termites, and subdued a pirate rebellion. In the midst of all of this, I defeated Bokhohn and Dantarg, two more of the Seven Heroes. I have no idea how much further I have to go, especially since my expansion of the Empire has slowed down, but it is nice to keep up this level of progress.
Despite my continuing good progress, the further I go the more Romancing SaGa 2 reminds me that it is still a SaGa game. Early in the game it did a lot to clearly point me towards various objectives, but this far in it is asking a lot more from me. Quests have become more complex and require more footwork and piecing together lots of little clues. Dungeons have grown from small two-room structures into massive labyrinths with all manner of false paths and dead ends. At the same time, battles have grown far more difficult, and my failure to significantly improve my armor over the last few generations is beginning to haunt me. The battle against Dantarg was a very long, desperate fight with party members falling over and losing Life Points constantly. All this challenge has been very exciting and rewarding so far.
Yet, despite all the challenge, it has been very fair. I've only looked up info on how to proceed through a quest once, only to realize that the answer was in the next place I was going to visit. The game sometimes only provides vague hints on how to proceed, but so far those have been sufficient to piece things together. The game has been challenging, but it gives you all the tools you need in order to progress, and a lot of tolerance for failure, particularly thanks to the multi-generation mechanics. The best example of this is the Life Point system. If a party member runs out of LP, they die. This is a genuine permadeath mechanic. Yet, even if your main character, the Emperor or Empress, runs out of LP it won't be the end. The torch will just be passed to a new ruler and the story will continue. Even after the worst of defeats you can just pick up the pieces and rebuild.
This is really an incredibly ambitious and creative RPG, and sometimes it is easy to forget that it was originally an SNES game. It is one of those instant classics that most of the world completely missed out on for decades, and I'm glad I finally have the chance to play it.
Robert "lolwhoops" Sinclair & Cassandra "Strawberry Eggs" Ramos:
RS: This last week has been an interesting one for me. Playing Bravely Second a bunch and got to the flower country Florem. So much has happened and I know some of it is supposed to be important but, man, this game keeps feeling more and more like a game I beat already. The periods of uninterrupted story scenes have really left me feeling like this game isn't working. I like the battle system as much as I did in Bravely Default and yet here I am with encounters turned off and just coasting by on the levels I gain from Baal Busting.
Maybe I'm just burnt out on it? Well, whatever it was that didn't agree with me made me put it aside for now and play a recently RPGamer reviewed 7th Dragon III: Code VFD and I have to say my gaming week turned right around. The game is great and I've only just downed the first true dragon. My team is varied and the customizing of each character and tweaking how it works as a party is really addictive. This is just what I need to wash away the bitter taste of a playing-it-too-safe Bravely Second.
CR: A lot happened over this past week in Bravely Second. The last two party members joined up, I obtained three more Asterisks, finished the prologue, and began chapter one. I didn't get the chance to play as much as I wanted and I may have spent a bit too much time fighting random encounters, but my progress is steady. The first of these two party members was Magnolia Arch, back again after her sudden departure in the demo. She is touched by meeting Yew again but she doesn't let on that she met him before. This doesn't stop Magnolia from flirting with the boy, though. It seems that French is the native language of Luxendarc's moon, at least if Magnolia is to be believed. It seems that her voice actress Amanda Winn-Lee doesn't speak very good French, although I certainly can't tell.
Tiz also joined up shortly thereafter. Despite his somewhat edgier look complete with a new hairdo, he's still the same old Tiz. Seeing Yew look up to him is adorable. With the party assembled, they had hoped to rescue Agnes while Kaiser Oblivion's Skyhold was docked at Eternia's Central Command, but seeing as it was still the prologue, that didn't happen. Oh well, it was still touching to see them all together, including Agnes through her broken pendant. The Skyhold has headed towards the continent of Harena, but it seems before we pursue it, it's off to check out the whereabouts of a Ba'al. Even before that, I believe I've stumbled upon one of the side quests in which I have to back one Eternian Asterisk bearer over the other. In this case it seems to be the Red Mage Fiore DeRosa vs. Jackal the Thief.
Anyway, I've unlocked the slider that allow me to adjust the encounter rate. I wondered why I couldn't before, and it seems it was because I needed Tiz in the party. Increasing the encounter rate helps me to fill in the Bestiary, which is especially good since the whole party now leaves comments on the monsters instead of just Yew. The exchanges among them can be quiet funny. I've also unlocked the Chomper-making mini-game, which I find pretty fun. What I really liked, though, was the wacky scene that introduced the mini-game. With the reconstruction of Magnolia's home on the moon, I think I've unlocked most of the game play systems by now. I'm leveling up jobs as they come, having everyone gain about five levels per job before switching to another. I'm keeping Tiz as a Bishop and will probably max out the job before I switch him to something else. I like having a healer at all times. The battle system is quick and fun, though going off of Bravely Default I'll love it even more I get more Asterisks and learn more abilities.
There's still a long way for me to go, and I doubt I'll finish this game before July is out. Early as I am in Bravely Second, I am quiet enjoying it. I am especially liking all of the character interaction and banter. Bravely Default also had many engaging and amusing scenes, but I'm hoping that Second's party will be more so. I like Yew more as a protagonist than Tiz, as he has more to his personality. Tiz is humble and optimistic, but he's also a little bland. Yew is excitable, determined and surprisingly scholarly, but also rash and occasionally cowardly. I don't know how much he'll develop if at all, but I already find him a more interesting character than most RPG protagonists. Time will time how engaged with the characters I'll stay. For now, though, I need to get through the Harena Ruins.
Michael "GaijinMonogatari" Baker:
I'm a lot farther in Star Ocean Blue Sphere, though it's hard to feel it sometimes. There was this long period where I just had to keep working slowly at building up skill levels and learning how best to take out a gantlet of really nasty monsters, and then the plot suddenly went into overdrive and sped through a section that was almost paltry in how easy it was after the previous segment.
The ruins are still a big thing, but I've only really been forced to work through three of them, four if one counts the forest (which has plenty of ruined buildings in it). There are at least three others available to me now, plus several large extensions of the third ruin, none of which I really need to explore, but I'm enjoying it anyway.
Slowly but surely I'm getting better with the item-creation mini games, too. A monster in one of these side-dungeons regularly drops Moonite ore, so it's time to upgrade all my weapons.
Note: You can read a longer version of Gaijin's adventures here.
Anna Marie "Paws" Privitere & Zach Welhouse:
AMP: With only two days completed in the month, I was ready to hop into a new game – or a familiar game, anyway. I’ve participated in the Final Fantasy V Four Job Fiesta in the past, but have never completed the game. Usually I peter out at some point in World 2 and don’t end up going back. This year, I’m giving it a try again. I decided to play the PC version to mix things up a little.
The Four Job Fiesta challenges players to stick to only four jobs through their run. A classic run, like I’m playing, assigns one job from each of the four crystals – Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth. I started out on a high note, nabbing Black Mage as my first class. BLM is incredibly broken in FF5 as it permits users to “snap” rods; items that are normally just equipment which can be used in battle to inflict massive damage on an enemy in exchange for breaking the equipment. For the first half of the game, breaking a rod is superior to anything else a character can do.
My excitement dropped dramatically when I was assigned Berserker for my Water job. A class I can’t control and whose better off dead in many fights isn’t very exciting to play. I was especially frustrated to learn my Fire job was Geomancer…before discovering the class ability! Gaia was corrected for the PC version I was playing and was actually useful. Score! My final job, assigned from the Earth crystal, was Dragoon. Overall I was quite pleased with how things turned out; no healer, but I have a balance of two strong physical attackers and two magic-based characters.
Ultimately, this class combo served me well, until the final dungeon. Despite a dedicated amount of grinding, beating Exdeath Neo is not in the cards unless I’m willing to spend a significant number of hours raising my levels even further, or breaking away from the challenge and using more conventional strategies. Maybe one day I’ll come back to it and finish it up. But in the meantime, I’m moving on to 7th Dragon III: VFD for 3DS.
ZW: Is Overwatch a JRPG? What about Pokémon GO? They're not? I suppose I've also been playing Final Fantasy V for Four Job Fiesta. That has to count! It has levels, collectible monsters, and everything! It even has a goofy translation, thanks to the magic of the PSOne Classic edition on my PS3.
The Four Job Fiesta's sassy twitterbot assigned me four jobs with which to complete the game: White Mage, Time Mage, Ninja, and Samurai. As soon as I unlocked a new set of jobs, at least one of my party members had to switch to the new job. I can swap jobs around as long as each job is always spoken for. This meant the first few hours were a slog: white mages and time mages are slow lorises, even when boosted with Haste and Protect. Now that I've made it to the third world, my troubles seem to be over. I can crush my enemies with the samurai's prodigious wealth, cut them up with the ninja's double katanas, deal mass elemental damage with a mage-tossed ninja scroll, and keep my party hale and hearty with a variety of buffs and heals.
I've heard mixed opinions about making my first playthrough of FFV a gimmick run. However, I like how it's forcing me to try different strategies than I usually would. My ideal way to play a job-based RPG is to lean toward the classes that unlock extra material. This results in slow progress. Without the artificial restrictions, I'd be stealing from every enemy and tracking down all the summoned monsters. Unable to do that, I can step back and examine my routine. Ultimately, would I be happier in that expanded world? Probably not.
The story and the characters haven't grabbed me, so they're not the greatest enticement to dive deep. The job system is excellent, but really wringing the juice from it would require serious grinding. As it is, I'm listening to podcasts or reading while plowing through grunt battles. In its curtailed state, the job system presents me with a number of strategic options without overwhelming me. Bosses have unique stats and modes, so I often have to juggle around my skills to meet the challenge. It's fun, but it's a more stripped down, strategic fun than the accumulative excess that I usually chase. For that, I'm happy to have my first FFV experience take place during #JRPGJuly and the Four Job Fiesta.