FFXIII-2: Best Square Enix game...period?

PS2 box art (cropped)

So I've been playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIII-2 the past week and I am really, really enjoying it. I'm a stickler for RPGs, specifically Japanese developed RPGs, and FFXIII-2 has really hit home with me in terms of design, gameplay, story, and replayability. I'm a huge Squaresoft/Enix fan and have played probably 80-90% of the games they've released outside of Japan. I've gotta say, in my opinion, this is the best game they've put out. One major thing to note, Final Fantasy X (to the right), was a Squaresoft game. I'm not trying to say FFXIII-2 is better than FF7 or FF10 or whatever your favorite FF game is. I'm just simply stating that I think it's the best game the merged company has put out, and that's an incredibly good thing to happen now considering a lot of game critics and fans have ruled SE down and out and out of touch with today's gamer.

360 box art (cropped)

If you follow Square Enix or much video game blogging/discussion at all over the past few years, you've probably noticed a lot of talk about how Square Enix might be going into a lull or that they've lost their touch. I gotta say, after how much I wanted FFXIV to succeed and seeing how much it absolutely failed, I was a skeptic for a little bit as well. The argument against FFXIII was the linearity. I saw the linearity, and could see the frustration there, but I still enjoyed the game very much and put 120+ hours into it.

Having put roughly 40 hours into FFXIII-2, I've beaten the main story line and am beginning the process of trying to unlock all of the fragments, endings, etc. Like FFXIII, the side quests and optional content makes up a higher percentage of the overall playtime than the main storyline. I was a bit disappointed to see the main storyline of the game only last 25-30 hours, however I was excited to jump right back into things and look for alternate endings and more fragments.

The main reason I think this is Square Enix's strongest game is that they finally made a Final Fantasy game that had the feel and polish of one of their classics, but also incorporated modern RPG elements. Playing the game, it just felt like Square Enix had finally figured out the path they need to start taking with RPGs and I'm hoping they can continue to pump out more that feed off of this game in the future. I'd love to see SE create a brand new IP using and building off of elements they've developed and polished in FFXIII and FFXIII-2.

What do you think? Is this a valid argument to have? Am I way off? What's your favorite Square Enix game (cannot include Squaresoft or Enix made games)?


Recommended 3DS Screen Covers?

I'm looking for something to eliminate the small marks on the screen that occur when you close your 3DS for an extended period of time. The marks are caused by the frame of the bottom screen making contact with the top screen. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Any recommendations for remedying this? Whether it be a commercial product or a DIY at home fix. What do you do?


Xenoblade Chronicles: Post-game thoughts!

So, I went on a 20 hour binge of Xenoblade Chronicles over the past few days to finish it up in just a little over 80 hours. The playthrough consisted of quite a bit of side quests and collectible stuff, although no where close to finishing it 100%. There were plenty of things that could have kept me playing for longer if I didn't get hooked to the last 5 hours or so of play.

The game as a whole lived up to the hype. I absolutely loved the game and it's one of the better RPGs of this and the last generation (I include the last generation because I just haven't played many this generation =/). I'm kind of sad I already had imported this back in September way before the announcement was made that it would be brought over to the US.

The beginning arch and ending arch was great. I think there was about 10-15 hours in the middle that got a little repetitive or boring, but I ended up doing a lot of my side questing during that time to break up the grind. The ending hours were great. The last few bosses really were a challenge and delivered unique boss experiences in new ways. The ending was awesome as well! For the first time in quite a while, I got a good sense of accomplishment as I saw the ending and credits roll.

For those that imported this game, what were your favorite parts and did you have a set party throughout most of the game? I played the first 75% of the game with Shulk, Dunban, Sharla. The rest of the game, including the ending, I took out Dunban for Reyn since he seemed to be leaps and bounds ahead of Dunban in tanking.

For those that are waiting to buy the US version of the game, as you know by now, it's WELL deserving of a purchase. Any questions you have regarding gameplay, etc?


Skyward Sword: Post-game thoughts!

Whew! What a final 5 hours! I must say, in true Zelda fashion, the last dungeon, mini-boss, and boss sequence really made up for a lot of the issues and downfalls I saw in the game. The last dungeon was really well put together and enjoyable. It required extra thought then the others in a new way and it really found a way to get you to use all of your gear and items you had gotten up to that point in the game.

The areas after the last dungeon threw a variety of things at you that kept it refreshing and new even though it was a lot of content. I'll save the mini-bosses/bosses discussion for another time, maybe farther away from the release, but they were really great as well.

Closing thoughts on the game... I think I would put it right up there with Wind Waker and Link to the Past, but still one step behind Ocarina of Time. It introduced quite a bit of new concepts and ideas to the Zelda series and most (minus the controls) all of them were a blast. I can't wait to see what comes next, and plan on taking part of the 'extra replayability' sometime down the road. Cheers!

I'd love to hear thoughts on the last 5 hours, basically last dungeon and on. Of course, if there's spoilers, remember to use the spoiler tags.


On the home stretch (or am I?)

I've spent another 20 hours with Zelda since my last post and I'm still going strong! The game definitely seems to be winding down, however, it does seem to be getting a little bit more repetitive than I would like or expect. At this point in the game I'm going back to the 3 main areas for the 3rd time now. Each time I have a new objective, yet still going back to the same place. Sure, there is a slightly new appearance to the place or a new part of the map to explore, but it feels a little too repetitive for a Zelda game.

There have been a few parts of the game that have been quite frustrating as far as the controls go. Either the game is being a little bit too relentless with the positioning of the controller swipes or the controls are forcing me to twist my wrist like I'm the girl from Exorcist or something. The culmination of both of these issues has my wrist feeling sore. I have never been a fan of the motion control idea and I still am not. It still has not revolutionized gaming like it was promised. Show me a game where the motion controls give me a better play experience than regular analog sticks and I'll reconsider. However, so far, every time a hear about a great game on the Wii, I shudder to think that I'll have to play through it with motion controls (unless your Xenoblade Chronicles, and not have a single bit of motion controlling in the game... thank you!).

Anyways, I'm 40+ hours in with the end of the main story in sight, yet still plenty of side things to do. I'm not sure exactly how much of the side quests I'll finish out before beating the game, but it will definitely be a few. I really enjoy seeking out those purple treasure chests and opening them in the sky for some reason. It's a great feeling getting to see what is inside the random chest. I presume my next post will be about the game as a whole and it's ending.

So... motion controls for Skyward Sword.. love or hate?


Zelda!!! 20 hours in.

Let me preface this post by making it very clear that I am hugely biased to Zelda. I'm not ashamed of it. The games have always been spectacular and extremely open ended and fun to play. This year is the 25th anniversary for Zelda games, and guess what, this year is my 25th anniversary of living! From this, I can deduce that this franchise and I were meant to be together... ok, enough of the worshipping. I'll quit now.

Moving on.. I pre-ordered this Skyward Sword at Best Buy online, so that I could pick it up at the store. I bypassed the whole 'midnight release' thing from GameStop for the sole reason that I'll be refusing to spend my money at GameStop anymore. I'm sure the situation there is public and apparent enough for me to not have to explain myself on that, but maybe I'll save that for a different post (if it's already not over done). I did get the Collector's Edition bundle pack which includes the special gold Wii Motion Plus controller (my first Motion plus WiiMote, love it!).

Considering my PS3 went out a few weeks ago, this was the perfect time to have a couple of Wii games to hold me over. I've been playing Xenoblade Chronicles for the last few weeks (imported it, GET IT NOW if you own a Wii and enjoy RPGs). I am putting that game on hold for the remainder of my time with Skyward Sword, and rightfully so. Skyward Sword has really been great so far. The new additions to the gameplay and dramatic sequences have really been great and have added a nice dynamic to a franchise that just continues to get better and fresh even after what... 15+ games? I've got to say my favorite new item so far (I'm just venturing in Faron Woods for the 2nd time), is the Flying Beetle. It's a blast to maneuver this thing, although writing this I just remembered that I upgraded it fully and haven't gotten a chance to try it out yet! If it wasn't so late I'd hop back on just to do that, but it'll have to wait.

Another sweet addition is the 'chat bubbles' that appear over NPCs heads when they have something new or pertinent to say. This helps a lot with starting and completing side missions. Speaking of side missions, they are still there and the same has in past games. Some give you items, others Rupees or hearts. Gratitude Crystals have been added and you can collect them for helping people out. I do have to say, having only seen one town so far and feeling like I'm at least half-way through the game is a little odd. Granted, there are tons of things to do and keep me busy, it just is a little odd to have only come across one town or 'NPC area' so far in the game.

So far, I've had a blast with the game. I've put roughly 21 hours into the game and am definitely taking my time. Every chance I've gotten so far to do a side quest or collection quest I've taken it. I've also spent a good amount of time exploring the Sky and collecting bugs. The game controls and feels great with the Wii Motion Plus controller as well. Aside from the game only having 1 town so far (maybe it only has 1 total?), the only other thing that has bothered me is that the first boss has litterally been leaps and bounds harder/more annoying than any of the other bosses so far... Frustrating..

Can't wait for more! How's your play experience going so far??


SW:TOR Beta Weekend Part 2

Day 2 of my SW:TOR experience was a much different sort of day then the first. I focused on getting the feel of the game as a whole, rather than just playing my main character I started with. I did start out the day, however, with continuing the story line of my Sith Warrior. I'll continue to approve of the early leveling aspects of the game. It really draws you in and makes you want to continue to see what is going to happen next.

About 1-2 hours in, I decided I wanted to see what else the game had to offer. I created a Rebel faction Smuggler class. The opening cinematics have been amazing so far. I had the thought while watching them that they were even more fun to watch then most of the action scenes in the Star Wars movies. The cinematics team really did a great job. The Smuggler class seems to have quite a bit of potential but for some reason I just wasn't feeling it at the start. It might be that it felt like the same thing I had done with my Sith Warrior just a few hours ago, or it could have been the story for this class was less involved... I'm not sure. Either way, this is the first time I began to think how this game might not have a lasting factor.

If you have played enough MMOs, you'll know that the first few hours of almost all MMOs seem really great. You can't really judge the fun factor or lasting value of an MMO until you play for a week or so. It takes that long to really see if the game gets repetitive or if it can keep throwing new things at you to keep you entertained. Starting a new character gave me that feeling you get when you realize an MMO is going to be really repetitive from here on out.

Now I won't lie, I am still wanting to level up my Sith Warrior to at least level 10 so that I can see what the 'Advanced' jobs are all about. I'm just still unsure if the game will be getting my 60+ dollars here in a few months or if this will be the last time I play it. I'll need to research the end game aspects of the game to see what they are all about.


SW:TOR Beta Weekend Part 1

So tonight was my first night of playing the new Star Wars MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was invited to the weekend beta this week and spent the past few days making sure I had everything downloaded for the imminent start time of 5pm CST! The game had a 20GB download initially which seemed pretty steep to me for a beta version of a game. Then again, this game has the most cutscenes and voice acting of any MMO I know of.

The start of the weekend stress test actually went a lot better than I had expected. With most, beta version stress tests, I feel like the first few hours are always hell. Either you can't get into the game because of never ending load times or you get into the game only to be watching a picture flipbook on the screen and ultimately erroring or lagging out of the game. Quite the contrary for SW:TOR! I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get right into the game and start designing my character right at 5pm CST.

So, I get into the game, select my server and it was on to the character select screen. I planned on getting some screen shots, but either Bioware disabled that in the beta version or I can't find the folder they are in. I zipped through the character creation screens on the notion that I just wanted to see as much as I could in the few minutes I had to initially play. I chose a Sith Warrior and started my journey. Right off the bat, the game is very theatrical and really sets the tone for how the game will play. Lots of great Star Wars-esque music and scenes. Bioware really did a great job here.

The main thing you notice about the game is the extensive voice acting in the cutscenes. It is so refreshing to see this sort of thing in an MMO and I feel it will really set the standard in games to come. Another great thing is the combat. The abilities and moves you get in this game really flow well, not to mention the lightsabers sound SPOT ON! There's nothing like hearing the sounds of lightsabers hitting and dodging other lightsabers while you are mashing your keys. It really has been a lot of fun so far just wrecking face every where I go with my lightsaber.

So far in the game I've been mostly questing and leveling up solo. I have done a couple group quests which have been a blast. They basically just consist of higher level monsters so far that you couldn't kill without a group, however I'm hoping to see some dungeons in the game for groups to go through. Obviously, I've only scratched the surface of this game, but it's been a real treat so far.



So I've been making my way through Star Ocean: The Second Story and for the most part I am enjoying it!  Recently, I've had a craving to play some JPRGs and playing this one and it's predecessor have been a real treat.  Star Ocean introduced me to the series in a grand way that I won't soon forget.  The game's have a lot of customization in them along with pretty decent story lines.  As soon as I beat the first game, I got on Ebay and bought the PS1 and PS2 games.  I'll have to dig around for the Game Boy game here soon.   
What really sprung me to write up a blog on my experiences is the amount of times Star Ocean: The Second Story puts restrictions on you during your playthrough.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm ok with a little bit of 'gentle pushing' along the way to get the player going in the right direction.  However, the restrictions I'm talking about go above and beyond a 'gentle push'.  I'm talking about things like entering towns and not allowing you to leave until you've performed a specific action.  Or, entering into an event or dungeon and not being allowed to leave until you've completed the event from start to finish or made it through the dungeon. 
What were the developers thinking when they decided to restrict the ability for the player to make their own decisions when it comes to playing through the game.  I'd like the ability to save when I want to (after navigating out to the world map, of course).  I'd like the ability to grind a couple more levels if need be.  I'd like the ability to stay at an inn or buy some items from the item shop.  Star Ocean: The Second Story takes the ability for me to do all of those things MANY, many times throughout the game and it really just makes me wonder what the reasoning behind this was.  I can understand the developer wanting to guide the player along, but there comes a point when the nuisance outweighs the guidance and I think this game has crossed WAY over that line!

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