How I Got Into RPGs

OK, so you’ve got your hobbies. But have you ever thought about why you enjoy them or how you got into them? Gaming is one of my “hobbies” in the sense that I enjoy spending time and money on it. Role-Playing is my favorite genre of video game. How or why did I become a fan? Read on.


Act I

My gaming started in the 80’s with Atari and Nintendo. It wasn’t until circa 1994 that I ever played an RPG.

I had a little money saved up and one day was at Walmart browsing the shelves in the Electronics Dept. The hunt: find my next Super Nintendo game to play. Being a teenager then, I didn’t come by money often. So my next game cartridge was a serious purchase; it had to count.

But I didn’t have the internet back then to tell me which game might be worth it. The best I could do was walk over to where the magazines in the store were and hope to find an article on whatever game I might want. I did have a subscription to Nintendo Power at the time, which was my only real guide.

So I was scanning the box art of each SNES game at Walmart. And there was one game that stood out from the rest due to its relatively simple design. It looked serious, refined, and mysterious. It said to me that it was special. That game was Final Fantasy III.

I mean, surely any game that uses roman numerals in the title had to be remarkable. Final Fantasy, The Third.

On top of that, I swear it was priced at a whopping $70. Even now, that’s a high cost for a top-tier video game. So the box art, title, and price convinced me that the game was going to “change my life” or at least make me happy for a while.

Final Fantasy III Box Art
Final Fantasy III Box Art

Act II

After I got home and first tried to play it, I was not happy. Instead, I was totally dismayed. What happened?

I recall the opening screen, the descending view over clouds sparked with lightning, and the ominous 16-bit organ music building up. Then the fancy game title rose, backlit by flames! What an impressive intro!

But then I tried the gameplay. It was like eating vegetables. Bitter. Yuck! This game was supposed to be good for me, but instead it seemed to be a major let-down. What is this thing? I felt robbed. And there was no getting my hard-earned money back.

Like I mentioned, I had never played an RPG before. FFIII (what was truly FFVI) is one of the best JRPGs ever, and it was a pretty hard-core one to start with.

And I just totally didn’t get it.

I was exploring a town with my sprite-based character who couldn’t jump like Mario or shoot like Samus in Super Metriod, and all I could do was talk to people. Boring.

But then, while walking around, sometimes I would suddenly be jolted into a “battle-screen” lined up with enemies. I had to wait my turn to pick an action…from a menu. The choices were weird. And if I won the fight, my sprite-person would dance and I’d get weird point things and money.

And the process would repeat. Random encounters were annoying interruptions. The classic gameplay that traditional JRPGs are known for was too foreign to me.

To make things more frustrating, all the gameplay weirdness was supposedly tied together by an epic unfolding story. But it just seemed out of reach, a story you must play out for hours and hours, sort of solving it like a puzzle.


Act III

Thankfully, I had something more valuable than the $70 dud of a game. I had a friend. He had already been into RPGs. So he told me to bring the game over and he would teach me how to play it. Sure, what did I have to lose?

This is a very fond memory of mine. I sat on the floor with my friend as he walked me through the first part of the game. He explained the basics while showing me how it all worked and was supposed to play out. I watched. I asked questions.

My friend encouraged me and was happy for me to have such a cool game to play. (Later, he let me borrow his copy of EarthBound. Wow! The box had scratch-n-sniff stickers. Such a fun and cool RPG.)

After a while, my understanding of the game grew. The basics were simple enough. You had to level up your character over time with experience. There were many stats you could affect! This wasn’t as simple as growing from small Mario to big Mario in an instant with a mushroom. This was realistic growth!

I also recall being particularly impressed by the freedom to choose a cool magic-based attack instead of a physical attack in battle mode. There were options!

The strategy of battle pulled me in. Not only could I choose magic over sword swinging. I could choose a type of magic, like fire versus ice. And the choice made a difference; it all depended. Then I learned of greater choices like Fire2 versus Fire1. I could do more damage at once, and the magic looked more awesome!

And all that hooked me. The depth, the options, the battle strategy. But then, what reeled me in was the grand story, the world building, the many characters you could play as. You played many roles!

Ah…click! A role-playing game.

I beat my first RPG, Final Fantasy III, many weeks later. It took that long to progress through the story – and what a story! To this day, it remains one of my favorites. Grinding and all.


Begin Final Act

Final Fantasy III was a big investment for me as a kid in several ways. A high purchase cost. Weeks devoted to playing. Pushing through its challenges. What was almost a total let-down turned out to be one of the best game pay-offs ever!

An RPG fan was born.

Final Fantasy was the only RPG franchise I knew back then. I went on to play FFVII, VIII, and IX on the PS1. I also played EarthBound and Super Mario RPG on SNES. DragonQuest wasn’t on my radar.

Over the years, I sought out other RPGs; it’s my favorite genre to this day. As an adult with kids and a full-time job, I don’t get to escape into video games quite like I did in my youth. But I do find time to role-play.

These days, I’m pursuing RPGs more like a hobby, collecting promising titles in my backlog and anticipating new ones as they’re released. At night after the kids are to bed, I like to immerse myself into whatever current RPG I’m playing. As of this writing, I’m 42 hours into Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on my Nintendo Switch. It’s a gem!

A good RPG might be more important to me now as an adult versus when I was a kid. Why? Because as one with a life full of adult responsibilities and stresses, video gaming is a helpful way to escape into some fun. And the immersive world-building and story-telling of an RPG is one of the best forms of escapism to enjoy.


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Fantasian Looks Fantastic

A Final Fantasy type game is coming to Apple Arcade! Both the renown director and the legendary composer for the Final Fantasy series of JRPG games have teamed up to develop a new title, Fantasian. It looks and sounds fantastic! I have two questions. One, will it eventually come to Nintendo Switch? And two, how am I going to keep up with a frontlog and a backlog of games!?


The Game

Before I address the above questions, let’s talk about the game itself. It’s from Mistwalker, the company formed by legendary Final Fantasy creator and JRPG veteran, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Composer Nobuo Uematsu is scoring the soundtrack for the game too!

To see some preliminary design behind-the-scenes, watch this video starting at 1:15.

The game features dioramas (real-life hand-made 3D mini-models) that were used to create scenes and environments, which give the game a remarkable aesthetic! Computers were then used to add lighting and special effects. Images and a video show it off; my eyes like what they see.

Two other note-worthy points are about the gameplay.

First, in the overworld areas, instead of fighting monsters on the spot, you can send them to a weird battle dimension to fight at a later time. This allows you to explore a level with fewer interruptions. I like that benefit; exploration is one of the funnest things in gaming. But it does seem weird to me that you must fight battles removed from both space and time. It’s less realistic (albeit fantastic). You’d expect to fight in the moment you meet an enemy. Maybe the story provides an explanation to this game mechanic.

Second, in battle-mode, there appears to be a focus on aiming or controlling your attacks along a chosen trajectory to strategically take out multiple targets. This looks and sounds very interesting. I think it will be fun to play and will add a breath of fresh air to time-based JRPG battles.

Overall, the game excites me because it’s a traditional turn-based JRPG. I don’t mind grinding it out. While I do enjoy action-RPGs, I still prefer strictly turn-based ones that allow time to think about my game plan and also sit back and enjoy the graphic visuals of the magic spells and physical attacks. (Just don’t do overly long summons like Final Fantasy VIII did please.)

Fantasian screeshot
Image credit: Mistwalker

The Switch

The game is referred to as a console JRPG playable on mobile; it’s coming to iOS as an Apple Arcade exclusive. And yes, you can use a controller to play the game on Apple TV. But the problem to me is that most gamers play console games on…you know it’s coming…consoles.

I have a Nintendo Switch and controllers for it. That’s all. I don’t own 3rd party controllers to play on Apple TV. Also, I don’t own an Apple TV. Or an iPad (yet). The good news is that Fantasian, while it is starting as an Apple Arcade exclusive, could arrive on the Switch. Another game, Oceanhorn 2, was once found only on Apple’s Arcade service. But now it’s on the Switch. Maybe by the time I complete other games on my backlog, Fantasian will be available on the Switch.

The Log

Speaking of the backlog (and the frontlog) the number of great games to play keeps growing nearly by the day! I suppose this is a perpetual “problem” I must embrace. I mean, it’s a good problem to have. So one must rely on quality game review sites to help weed out lesser titles, saving time to play only the best of the best games. That said, I like to discover hidden gems and try indie games sometimes because you never know how one will connect with you.


Apple has a good strategy in play. Get awesome games exclusive to Apple Arcade, making it irresistible. And maybe it’s working. It would only cost me $1 extra per month to subscribe to Apple Arcade! Seriously! But then, I’ll be more tempted to buy an Apple TV and a PlayStation controller.

Like I said, these are good problems. And I’m glad traditional JRPGs are enjoying a resurgence!

Is Fantasian on your wishlist? It’s already on mine. How do you cope with your game backlog?

(Thanks to 9to5mac for their write-up of Fantasian!)


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Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis

Oh, wow! As if I didn’t have enough games to play, Square Enix just announced another must-play game coming to iOS and Android (and hopefully the Switch!). It’s called Final Fantasy VII: Ever Crisis. It has gaming content from every iteration of Final Fantasy VII, including the original game remastered (not a remake?) with modern HD graphics! I think this is better than the FFVII Remake that came out for the PS4 in 2020!


Based on videos and reviews online, the PS4 Remake of FFVII looks graphically spectacular and has expanded story content. So, yes, objectively the game is awesome (note: I haven’t played it). But a straight Remaster of FFVII with the original story and play-through intact looks better to me. Why? The magic word: nostalgia.

I replayed FFVII on the Switch last year, re-finishing it for the first time since circa 1997. The graphics are pretty much the same as what I recall on the PS1. Simple yet effective. But I would love to replay it again with modern HD graphics. And I’m talking not just up-rezzed textures but especially increased polygon count! And yeah, add in realistic lighting and volumetric effects. Expand and upgrade the cut-scenes too.

Otherwise, I’d like the game elements to remain as the original. Scale, locations, travel, hidden items, weapons, materia, all the same. I think it would be like the new remaster of Link’s Awakening. That game started life on the GameBoy. The Switch version is basically the same but with modern HD graphics. It looks superb, and it’s been great playing it as a traditional top-down 2D adventure game. It’s classic Zelda stuff, so that helps.

So with the upcoming remaster of FFVII Ever Crisis, I’m looking forward to definitely playing through it. Again! I’ve already added it to my wish-list on Grouvee. Until then, I’m eager for more info as it hits the internet.

PS – Let’s call games on our wishlist or not-yet-released our “Frontlog” because my Backlog is getting too big. I must divide it up.

What new games are you looking forward to!?


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Playing All The Roles

Hey blog buds and fellow web surfers, I hope your holiday season is cheerful. In my time off, I’ve been able to get more work done around the house (project backlog) and also play Nintendo! Fun times of escape going on here. So many good role-playing games! So allow me to explore, expound, and exclaim a bit.


Roles Played

A quick review of RPGs I finished this year. Winter started with Pokemon Sword. Next, Octopath Traveler (this is one I’ve yet to complete). Spring and early Summer were filled with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and reading a bunch of books – so no RPGs then.

But late Summer and Fall were fantastic. I re-finished Final Fantasy VII. Then I finally played and finished, for the first time, Final Fantasy X – HD Remaster.

That’s a lot of RPG goodness!

To see all the RPGs I’ve played to date, go to my Grouvee list.

Role Playing Now

The current RPG I’m playing, which I started this Fall, is none other than Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. In short, I’m around 20 hours into it, and it’s marvelous! I’m SO enjoying every bit of it! And there’s still much great stuff in the game to look forward to. This game deserves its own full blog post!

So that’s 5 RPGs I’ve played this year – lots to like – yet I can’t resist also looking forward to many other RPGs on my backlog – so many good ones, so little time!

Roles To Play

Next on my to-play list is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. What will be my first Tales game ever, it’s an action-RPG like Ni No Kuni, also with an anime art style. It will be cool to compare the two once I’ve played them.

After that, oh my, it’s hard to choose. I plan to go back at some point and enjoy finishing Octopath Traveler – it’s a great game!

But Square Enix is releasing a new turn-based RPG early next year: Bravely Default II. It looks like I MUST play it! If I don’t, it’ll be one that I wish I hadn’t passed up. So I’d like to grab whatever special edition may be released for it – a physical copy.

There’s also the much loved and lauded Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition action-RPG. It originally came out on the Wii; I’ve never played it! But I have played about 20 hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I have an idea of what it’s like. It should be awesome, so I’ve got that on my wishlist too.

Lastly, I might also play one other biggun’ – Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is grandiose! It would be my first ever DQ game. Slimes! Yeah, I’ve got to play this one too.

So I guesstimate I have about 330 hours of awesome roles to play in 2021:

  1. Ni No Kuni – 45 hours remaining
  2. Octopath Travler – 25 hours remaining
  3. Tales of Vesperia – 60 hours
  4. Bravely Default II – 60 hours
  5. Xenoblade Chronicles – 70 hours
  6. Dragonquest XI – 70 hours

Yeah, wow! And I’m not really in a hurry. I enjoy immersing in the gameworld, taking on the role of hero, growing characters, discovering secrets, solving puzzles, battling monsters, applying strategy, and usually saving the world from evil catastophe.

By the way, all these games are on Nintendo Switch. And besides the games above that I plan to play in the future, there are more RPG options! For example, I already own Final Fantasy X-2 and Legrand Legacy: Tales of the Fatebounds; I can give those a try. And I’m also interested in Trails of Cold Steel III and Star Renegades.

So anyways, 2021 is looking promising, at least in virtual reality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in the new year? Let me hear it in the comments below!


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I Beat Final Fantasy X!

Hey blog friends, I’ve not posted lately because I’ve been focused elsewhere – perish the thought! True though. The whole Presidential election was kind of a distraction, go figure. But my gaze has really been offline and inside escapist role-playing games! And finally, I beat Final Fantasy X!


So back in the very beginning of September – technically the Summer! – I started playing Final Fantasy X for the first time ever, on Nintendo Switch. I averaged about an hour a night, skipping a few here and there.

In the end, about 2 months or 65 hours later, I “beat the game!” So I finished the main story; I didn’t 100% the game with all its extras. Maybe I would if I didn’t have a game backlog.

JRPG Game Hiview (Not Review)

What a game! Square-Enix, in their line of FF games, did not disappoint. I really don’t know where I’d rank number ten among its siblings. For comparison, I’ve played through four other games in the franchise: FFVI, VII, and most of VIII and IX.

Story

It was a little complex or convoluted – no surprise there. The game is very linear, the worldbuilding is nice, the settings are beautiful, the characters are very likeable and believable.

I thought it was a strange choice to have a story with such strong tones of religion, but I think that’s a nice break from ones all about politics. The main character, Tidus, I liked him a lot! He was such a breath of fresh air compared to the quirky, jaded, or sulky male protagonists of yore.

Gameplay

Fantastic battle system! It was a departure from the active time battle system of the past, being fully turned based. You could take your sweet time on your turn, think about your strategy, the best move, and execute.

I loved that you could finally swap out party members on the fly during battle and even swap out their weapons or armor too! There was more emphasis on status effects than previous games, if you ask me, and I loved this too. Even summoned monsters were more like playable characters.

Leveling system – it was cool, fresh. I liked the Sphere Grid used to level up party members because it gave a sense of control and direction. You had a choice in exactly what skills or traits your characters upgraded, unlike previous games. Yet there’s still something I like about the simplicity of stats automatically increasing at level-ups.

Graphics

This game is almost 20 years old, PS2 level graphics. But being the HD remaster, it looked great overall. I have not played many modern games, and I had just re-finished FFVII right before FFX, so there was a giant leap in stunning visual design. Loved it.

What I didn’t like, though: No overworld map! No free 360 camera control. Almost zero exploration. The trials (temple puzzles) were okay.

Music

Excellent scores and tracks for the most part. Nobuo Uematsu made great music again, but so did new-to-me artists too. I have several favorites I listen to on my phone now.

Overall

The game was a really great experience and challenge. I had to level-grind in some areas, especially at the end of the game. But I like grinding in a JRPG, I’m used to it. It makes me feel like I’m working towards a goal and earning my level-ups. The rewards are thus more enjoyed.

The cinematic presentation was top-notch, which was expected but no less appreciated!

Will I play FFX-2 or FFXII on Switch? What about FFXIII on PS3..? Maybe I’ll play FFX-2 since I already own it, but it’ll be a while.

I’m currently playing a new JRPG called Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. And I’ve got Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition lined up after that!

Till next time, have fun!


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