November 28, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend - Ranking

Story & World

I think my disdain for both story and world is covered in enough detail in the postings.  Now purging from RAM.  1/10

Character Development

The three racial development systems are very distinct from one another and is FFL's strongest point.  To have an entire party comprised of a single race would completely change how the game is played.  An all-human group would mean a heavy workload of grinding while a group of monsters would require none.  Also appreciated is the ratio of control vs. chance between each race.  Human development is completely controlled by the player, monsters are driven by luck, and mutants are in the middle of the two extremes. 

The diversity of equipment and items is what one would expect from a Final Fantasy game (not that this is really a Final Fantasy game — damn marketers).  The only aspect lacking is having weapons or armour imbued with special effects or abilities.  Every weapon comes with a set amount of uses, after which it breaks.  This adds another level of complexity to inventory management and encourages experimentation with various weaponry.

A minor annoyance in regards to the inventory system.  When a key item has served its purpose, it stays in the inventory screen.  With a limit of eight items, every slot counts and it would have been nice to know when an item can be discarded.  I held onto certain items way too long, not knowing if discarding them would pooch my entire game.  Overall, a great system that has the ability to appease a multitude of play styles.  17/20

Combat & Monsters

Following the trail blazed by racial character development, combat complexity and difficulty is based off party composition.  The more humans in the group, the more stable (and boring) the entire party will be.  Mutants and monsters will keep one from just mashing the attack button and instead try out their constantly changing abilities.  Due to this uncertainty principle, every excursion out has a palpable amount of tension.  As an example from my own playthrough, when both mutants lost their damaging abilities, it was like slamming on the brakes.  All of a sudden, the group was unable to take out huge stacks of enemies and instead had to fight them one by one.  Targeting in combat works like FF1's, where a character will waste his attack if his targeted enemy dies before his turn (a plus in my book).

The monster selection, much like the story, is all over the place.  Some monsters would only be found in their appropriately themed world but others would should up regardless of the setting (e.g. werewolves in the middle of the ocean).  There are very few special attacks available to them; I only came across poison and blind.  To counteract these negative aspects, there is hot monster-eating-monster action.  There's nothing like watching the group's pet monster devour the carcass of a boss and coming out better for it.  13/20

Graphics & Sound

Greyscale doesn't bother me so much but lack of graphics does.  The background, at times, would become a homogeneous white (or a simple pattern) with nothing to anchor the eye.  It really distorted my sense of direction and I don't think that was the intention.  Monster sprites are nice although they get recycled a lot for different monsters of the same type.  Needed more / different attack animations as well.  The score was provided by Final Fantasy mainstay, Nobuo Uematsu, and works well given the Game Boy's propensity to be high pitched (I'm a bass bitch).  I think there were a few beeps and thuds that were suppose to be sound effects but I could have just been hungry.  11/20

Gameplay

Though still a short game, it dragged on a little too long.  Too much tower climbing at the end.  It really goes to show how a stronger story could endure such a burden but here it just becomes a chore under so much fluff.  Having said that, a replay could still be fun if one approached it with a dungeon crawl mindset.  Just thinking about an all-mutant or all-monster party gives me spine a slight shiver (just imagine a whole group of wolfmans!).  Such an odd party selection would also give a big boost to difficulty.  Money problems are entirely dependent on how many humans are in the group for the reasons mentioned under character development.  For this run, money was tight in the beginning and then stabilized for the rest of the game; I was never too rich or too poor.  14/20

Final Ranking:  56/100

November 27, 2012

Final Fantasy Legend - End Game

Oh, hello Mr. and Mrs. Legend.  I'm so glad you could make it tonight.  Please, have a seat.  It pains me to say this, but I'm afraid it's my recommendation that li'l Final should attend summer school until he learns to make a cohesive storyline.  Seriously, d00dz, it's all over the place and shit.  We just keep climbing this damn tower with all its random worlds.  We went from water land to air world to some post-apocalyptic ruins with hoverbikes and lightsabers.  After wading through all that nonsense, we finally came across the diabolical archfiend mastermind, Ash--, um, Ash-something (I think he was only mentioned once before we happened upon him).

Looks more like a Vishnu to me.

Of course, Ashnu is not the final boss.  Before I get into the gripping climax of more tower climbing, let's discuss the characters and mechanics a little more.  With their high mana and group-damaging abilities, the mutantic duo blazed, froze, and electrocuted the party well into midgame.  Chance caught up with them here as both their damage factories shut down and they ended up with four Barrier spells and a couple of ESPs instead.  While they would go on to gain a damaging ability here and there throughout the rest of the game, they never regained the glory they once had.  This was mitigated somewhat by the P- series of weapons, which are powered by a characters mana stat instead of strength.  With these weapons, both muties became the dominant fighters, sending the genetically lame Shen to the third spot in the party order.  It wouldn't be until Shen acquired the Glass and Masmune swords near the end that he'd bump back up to doing respectable damage.

Our dear pet, Food, came into his own by the end.  Every form he'd take was able to dish out and receive more punishment.  Most forms also had a full set of special abilities, giving each form a versatility not present earlier.  We're talkin' multiple spread attacks and healing abilities here.  It was only Shen's own already damaged pride that kept Food from expelling him from his precious #3 slot.

You've come a long way, monsie.

The final climbing of the tower managed to take the previous tower climbing and make it feel like bungee jumping into a hot tub of bikini models and pudding while Painkiller blares away at volume 11.  All of the bosses previously defeated are here to fight again in their second form.  For each of these boss sections, the path is graphically identical and repeated at least five times.  It felt more like a tower climbing simulator than a RPG.

This is one SimTower you don't wanna play.

So guess who the real final boss is in the surprising twist ending?  Could it be that mysterious being that we see from time to time (sometimes balls deep in a monster-infested area)?  Yes, that being turns out to be the Creator who masterminded the palmy design behind Paradise.  He had created the tower as a way to test the courage of the populace.  At least I think that's what he was getting at; we were too busy making fun of his digs.

A table, couple stools, and a bed?
Truly, THIS is paradise!


I think we were overheard because before we knew it, we were balls deep into battle.

Okay, okay!  Your two evergreens
are pretty sweet.

With Glass and P-swords on our side and the Creator's tendency to just to sit there, it didn't take long to dissipate him into nothingness.  Anticipating end credits, my sphincter clenched up big time when the characters discovered a door which apparently led to "their world".

I hear there's even bigger towers there!

So we weren't even from this world?  Why was this never mentioned?  And why... why am I bothering to nitpick this horrendously broken story?  I should just be happy the end credits were behind the door after all.


November 24, 2012

[Game 029] Final Fantasy Legend (GB - 1989)


What better way to usher in the era of handheld RPGs than with another installment from the massive Final Fantasy franchise.  Once again the four party system is used but the character classes are quite different than those found in FF1 or FF2.  There are three main choices: human, mutant, and monster.  Humans and mutants are further distinguished by having a selectable gender.  I think the only difference in genders is that males are predisposed to strength and females to agility.  There are no strict class definitions; instead, each type gains stats and abilities in a different way.  Humans require gold to purchase stat-boosting items and have eight slots for weapons and armour.  Mutants gain stats randomly and have four slots available for special abilities and four slots for equipment.  Monsters take on different forms if they eat the flesh of a defeated enemy and have no slots available for anything other than innate abilities.

Does it come with wafers?

I initially had a group of two humans, a mutant, and a monster but humans are boring and take too much golds so I switched to a single human, two mutants (one of each gender), and a pet monster.  So far, mutants are by far the most fun to have in the party.  They gain and lose abilities like mad and that unpredictability is keeping me on my toes.  It's awesome when they gain group-damaging spells such as flame and ice but one never knows how long they'll have them.  This erratic behaviour also helps to generate personality for the characters.  For example, the screenshots below show two very different characters; one is kick-ass and useful and the other is worthless garbage.

Group protection, major group damage x2,
and paralysis abilities.
Weakness to fire; ability which does
nothing; ability which probably
does nothing; and nothing.

Though their sprites remain static, I can't help but see the mutants more like writhing masses of organic flesh, constantly e- and de-volving new appendages (Tetsuoooooo!).  So much for having Pris as a female love interest for Shen.  Although... hmmm... naw, still gross.  So how has the monster class been performing?  He can do a few tricks but has been pretty disappointing so far.  He likes to stay at about half to a quarter of the stats of the others and that's in the better forms.  Occasionally he also likes to transform back into some of the earliest and weakest forms, just to make himself extra unuseful.  But I still love him; he's just relegated to the bottom of the party order.

How could I stay mad at a face like that?

The story thus far has been underwhelming.  It's a very disjointed affair with each "chapter" having little to do with one another.  Our main objective is to open the door on the huge tower we start near so that we can reach Paradise.  We need a magic sphere to open it but where could it be?  Before we have a chance to look into that, we get involved in a quest to retrieve three pieces of equipment to put on some naked statue in the first town.  Each piece is held by a different king, all of whom are located in convenient, nearby castles.

"Now to begin our epic quest to seek
the first of the — Hey, there it is!"

Each of the king's quests are straightforward and must be done in a certain order (the above castle is actually done last).  The first king wants to be able to wed his girlfriend but the leader of a group of bandits wants her as well and is threatening her village.  To solve this delicate love triangle, our heroes do what fantasy heroes everywhere do — murder the most obtuse one to get the reward we want.

Sorry dude, but we REALLY
want to dress up that statue.

The next king does not have such deep and complex quest storyline; he just foolishly challenges all four of us to a fight and is simultaneously burnt and frozen to death by the mutants.

Blasted the armour right off that moron.

The last king is murdered by his right-hand man who is then murderized by us.  With all three pieces in our possession, it's time to pretty up that statue and probably something will happen.  Of course the sphere pops out and just as we are leaving we are assaulted by a guardian named Gen-Bu.

We gots this, Food.  You can
go get us coffees or sumthin'.

Once the tower is opened, it's a short trip up into Paradise where there are no shops because nobody has to work.  Instead, they spend all day wandering in a random direction every two seconds.

Paradise apparently being a small square
plot of nothing but palm trees.

With absolutely nothing happening in Paradise, the next floor up held a purgatory, where also nothing else happened.  Now we're in a water world of some kind, driving islands around and fighting werewolves out in the middle of the ocean.

This actually makes the most sense so far.

Okay.   Game?  Come on over here.  At the beginning, you said that we were seeking Paradise through that tower.  We achieved that.  So now why are we in this aqua wonderland doing quests for no reason?  Why are there even other worlds above Paradise?  Can we pretty much expect earth, wind, and fire worlds as well?  Are you going to try harder to tie these worlds together, game?  Look at me, game.  Are you?  Aaaarrrre yooouuuu?  Keep in mind that Story & World is worth 20% of your final mark.  Alright, now off you go and I hope we'll see a better effort from you in the near future.

November 18, 2012

Sweet Home - Ranking

Story & World

I can't help but give a few points just for the unique setting and storyline; a refreshing change from having to stop some wizard or demon from taking over the world.  The very dark plot and gory imagery ensured that it would never get an official North American release.  I guess Nintendo of America thought us westerners just didn't have the stomach for such a title (I only puked once).  Throughout the game, I never felt like my band of regular folk were anything close to heroic.  No, I definitely felt that we were in over our heads, so to speak.  This aspect was crucial to the survival feel of the game.  The numerous traps and group-splitting tactics that the game used kept a sense of high tension, even after the battles themselves became quite easy.  The manor itself is enjoyable to explore with very distinctive areas and various methods to create different flavours of terror.  18/20

Character Development

Stats consist of life points, prayer points, and attack power.  Each level gained sees a significant jump in all three and attack power is further modified by weapons.  A single level can make the current set of enemies in an area far too easy, usually killing them off before they get a chance to fight back.  However, this is only when there is a full, three-member party; when a character gets whisked off on their own, the difficulty spikes back up until they rejoin the rest of the cast.  Most times I'd send a party of two on a rescue mission but occasionally I'd risk trying to get the lost character back on their own (unless it was Emi, the poor soul).  While the simplicity of the development system makes sense for this RPG / adventure hybrid, it's still a little underwhelming.  5/20

Combat & Monsters

Much like character development, combat is stripped down to the bare bones.  There are no tactical considerations or choices for anything other than attacking with melee weapons.  The monsters, while pants-stainingly frightening, are likewise lacking in combative variation.  A few monsters are able to duplicate the whisking spirits ability during battle, but this is both annoying and dumb.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Solid gold medal awards for all participants here.  The five main characters are distinguishable from one another and remind me quite a bit of the character sprites in Ultima: Quest of the Avatar.  The monster sprites really stand out and push the NES to its scariness limit.  Usable items on screen are well-represented visually and always stand out against the background.  The music really takes the atmosphere to a whole other level.  The slow and foreboding tune while wandering the dark halls lulls one into letting their guard down before building up to high-energy battle tune.  All the music selections helped tremendously to set the tone of the game.  Sound effects tried their hardest to be creepy and, for some of them, the limitations of the NES sound chip worked in its favour.  17/20

Gameplay

Even though I'm not a huge fan of the horror or adventure genres, Sweet Home somehow manages to take the two and make them greater than the sum of their parts.  While there was quite a bit of backtracking to acquire old items that were now needed (recall that each character can only hold two such items), the areas are rife with shortcuts and item duplicates are plentiful.  The pacing of the game is spot on and nicely balances the story progression with puzzle elements and infrequent random encounters.  Replay is unlikely although a hardcore mode could be done by just picking two characters and sticking with them (all the signature items of a character have a counterpart in game).  A solo run would not be possible as there needs to be four item slots available for the showdown with Lady Mamiya.  16/20

Final Ranking:  60/100

November 15, 2012

Sweet Home - End Game

The Low Key we acquired from the memorial tower granted us access to a new section of the manor.  Here we found a safe room occupied by the spirits of the servants of the Mamiya household.  They were a downtrodden bunch, regaling us with the tales of Lady Mamiya's descent into madness and how they have remained hidden from her wrath... for now.

All right!  Let's get this party started!

We used this room as a base of operations for awhile but the servants were such buzzkillers that we decided to take our chances with the wraiths and ghouls instead.  We found the way to the Mad Lady's bedroom but it was blocked by an unfightable servant.  Ichirou, the head of the household, had apparently ordered this ghostly guard to prevent anyone other than himself from accessing the bedroom.  We tried everything in our inventories to get passed this barrier but it was all for naught.

Even the fake moustache
and glasses didn't work.

After searching the house again from top to bottom, our whole crew was still stumped.  Turns out we had the two correct items all along but it was just that they both had to be held by a single person.  The extra levels gained from all the dicking about eased our collective pain.  As we approached the lady's sleeping quarters, we were approached once again by Yamamura; a spirit that has helped us a few times in the past.  He gave us words of encouragement and then sacrificed his life (again?) in order to bring down an energy barrier just before the bedroom.

I have this sudden craving for
some braised short ribs.

Filled with dread, we entered the long-sealed room and braced ourselves for the final confrontation with Lady Mamiya.  We could only surmise what horrors lay in wait for us in the Lady's lair.  Decades of madness hath surely twisted her innermost sanctum into a vile den of unspeakable terror.

First we'll have a tea party and then we'll
play Barbies.  AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAH!

The expected final fight was not to be had as the Lady just beaked at us and then buggered off.  There were still more items to be gathered and more secrets to be discovered.  Exploration by this point was made quite easy by the extra levels we had previously gained.  Most battles would be finished before the foe got a single hit in.  With the battle system being pretty much limited to button mashing, this allowed for greater focus on completing our quests of removing the curse and taking pictures of identical frescos.  Clues from our wanderings had informed us that we needed four items crucial to releasing Lady Mamiya's spirit.  These items have memories tied to them that will hopefully brute force the Lady to stop being such a Debbie Downer.  One of them is a coffin with her dead baby inside; if that doesn't work, nothing will.  The REAL final approach to Lady Mamiya was easily the most difficult part for us.  There are character-whisking spirits galore but thankfully there are places for all of us to hide.

Nothing to see here, dumb
spirits.  Move along.

After a couple hundred attempts to navigate this area, we were finally rewarded with facing the final boss, which turned out to be... Lady Mamiya!

Mamma mia!  It's Mamiya! (sorry... had to)

Instead of just wailing on her as in regular RPGs, the aforementioned four critical items had to be used in the proper order and at the proper time.  During the battle, the Lady is yelling at the characters and the items have to be used after a certain phrase is uttered.  Praying at specific times also has to be done.  If someone flubs their part, the process must be started again from the beginning.  If done successfully, Lady Mamiya unleashes a massive wail of anguish and transforms into some sort of ectoplasmic form that can be beat upon in the normal fashion.

Ah.  This is more like it.

With Lady Mamiya outnumbered three to one, it didn't take long to pummel her grotesque body into giving up the ghost.  Now freed from her self-inflicted anguish, her spirit can ascend to the great beyond.  She'll finally be reunited with her child and maybe she'll meet some of the parents of the other children she murdered.  As for us?  Well, I think we'll be getting a Pulitzer Prize out of this story.  Except for Emi she's going to be in the asylum for a long, long time.


Bonus material:  Character death scenes because death scenes.


November 08, 2012

Sweet Home - Spookshow Baby

As we delve deeper into the bowels of the manor, the restless undead continue to assault us at every turn.  The silver weapons we found work well enough against the unrelenting hordes but the battles are taking a mental toll on us all.  Poor Emi, the Key Bearer, is suffering more than anyone else.  She seems to be a favourite target for the whisking spirits.  These cunning spirits like nothing more than to transport one of us to a completely different location, alone and afraid.  So far, we have always managed to find the lost one by following their screams of terror.  After Emi's sixth abduction, though, we only found her by stumbling across her catatonic body located in the slime pits.  Ever since then, Emi has been very... quiet.

Oh Emi, please come back to us!

There are many frescos located within the manor, far more than we had originally thought.  Ghostly words appear in the fresco whenever Taro, the Capturer of Moments, photographs one.  Through these phrases, we have pieced together the tragic story of Lady Mamiya.  In days long since past, the Mamiya's were a happy household, quite content with their luxurious lifestyle.  This all abruptly changed when the Mamiya's two-year-old child accidentally fell into their incinerator and died.

How is babby burned?

Stricken with grief, Lady Mamiya lost her mind and began murdering children so that her child would have playmates in the afterlife.  When she realized what a monster she had become, she committed suicide and has been haunting the manor ever since.  This perhaps explains the overbearing sense of...  mmmm, it's a bit hard to describe...  despair that permeates the house; we've all felt its effects.  I don't know if we'll somehow be able to free Lady Mamiya from her cursed existence.  For now, our main concern is getting our own skins out of here alive.  We know that we need to find some keys to unlock the doors that Emi's key can't.  The first one lay hidden under a skull and stone memorial tower located on a small island in the nearby lake.  The entire perimeter of the lake is covered in vegetation so dense as to be impassable (yes, we did try to escape that way).  I suspect that the memorial tower is for the dead baby but that won't stop us from desecrating it for a key.

Let's hope Lady Mamiya isn't
watching us right now.

With the key in our possession, we can now access new locations in the house.  Our goal is to reach the second floor where we've been told Lady Mamiya's bedroom is.  I can only hope our willpower and fortitude can hold out long enough to get us there but I fear for Emi's sanity.