By Video_Game_King 45 Comments
Breath of Death VII: The Beginning
(Man, if ever there was a game that described me perfectly, this would be it.) Think about it: this is both an old school RPG AND a Steam indie game, covering both things I tend to cover in these things. Its humor mainly consists of referencing obscure shit you've certainly never heard of, so you can't tell if it's actually funny. And to top it off, you'll acknowledge it as decent and then forget about it entirely two days from now. Just like me!......That's fucking depressing.
Which is a perfect transition into the story for two reasons. First, it's all about death. (Fans of breath, beginnings, or colons need not apply.) Every character you encounter is dead, and there's only one human the entire time. I'd make a Fragile Dreams comparison, but here comes that other reason: there is no story. There's really nothing here resembling a character arc or a plot line or....anything, really. It's just your characters clumsily bouncing from goal to goal until the game decides it's had enough. Not that that's a bad thing; it's part of what gives the game its charm. A lot of the fun comes from it just mocking every goddamn RPG trope imaginable (usually through the sardonic DEM (presumable last name: BONES)), and for the most part, it works out pretty well. The blunt stuff is pretty cool, but the subtle stuff is what really makes the game work. You know, things like this and this are the reasons why you play this game. (Unless, of course, some dickhead spoils it for you.)
Now there's a reason why I said "for the most part": the game references. Turns out Breath of Death loves referencing other video games for a lot of its jokes, even though this is usually where the game falters a bit. Part of it is simply because a few of the references are too obscure for most people to get. Yes, I know what Langrisser is, but does anybody else? After something like that, I was expecting a Witch of Salzburg or Mystic Dragoons reference somewhere just for the hell of it. Certainly wouldn't be the first time it happened. In fact, a lot of the reference jokes don't seem to mesh too well with the story. A robot tells you that he is error for no reason outside his robotic nature and the fact that Zelda 2 did it. It's confusing if you don't get the reference, utterly lame if you do. Lesson of this paragraph? Don't let Family Guy Seth MacFarlane write your jokes. Leave that shit to Johnny Bravo Seth MacFarlane.
Has Seth MacFarlane done any work on RPGs? Because otherwise, I have no goddamn clue how I'm gonna transition into something like that. Hell, I can't even make the obvious cutaway gag reference, since the random encounters here are actually kinda cool. There's a certain rhythm to it, where each round lasts only a few seconds and your random combo meter increases like crazy. But don't think it's some mindless button masher (at least not yet); you still have to pay attention to your HP and heal accordingly, risking the destruction of your meaningless combo in the process. It's a fun balancing act, especially in the boss battles, and is at least part of the reason why the game is so balls hard. I don't know which is more confusing: that undead characters managed to die so damn much, or that I came back so often. I also don't know which of the two is more numerous.
Unfortunately, a lot of the battles tend to devolve into simply mashing Enter until you hear elevator music. (Not the dumbest Mass Effect reference the game makes.) Part of this is because of the aforementioned rhythm, but a lot of it is because the systems are simply bloated. This becomes pretty obvious with each level-up, wherein you might be confronted with a choice between two abilities. OK, so most of them actually do provide a hard choice, but it's not quite there. For whatever reason, I never really felt like I missed out on anything when making any of those choices. Still, it's a lot better than the team attacks, for which I could never find a use. Why bother using two characters for one attack when they can separate and be FAR more useful?
This would be the part where I tell you that there's more to this game than the battles, but I'm not that much of an idiot. So excuse me while I get completely goddamn plastered.
Well, it turns out that alcohol poisoning wasn't the inspiration I thought it would be. Although I did get a few ideas from the things that blonde girl was yelling at me. What was I talking about? Oh, right: the dungeons. They're....something. It's gonna be hard to complain about them, but I oddly have a lot to complain about. Every single one of them is a long winding path that often bends into itself simply to fuck with you. You can see why I'd like to complain, but, well, isn't that the point? Isn't Breath of Death VII trying to parody old school RPGs by pointing out how dumb they were? Then again, you probably shouldn't do that by being dumb in the first place. Then again again, these long dungeons pretty much force you into a million battles, which, as I've already discussed, are pretty goddamn cool. Then again again AGAIN, they also m...you know what? Ignore the dungeons. Instead, try to focus on the cool combo stuff and the sarcastic bag of bones thinking things at you. That's what the game's gonna give you, anyway.
- Geez, Lois, did you have to remind me of all those video game references? It's just like that time I tried watching an episode of Family Guy.
- OK, so a lot of the battle mechanics don't do jack shit, but the good ones actually do jack shit. (Jack shit is good. I should clarify.)
- The dungeons: they're like the first Dragon Quest, except without the suck.
Some RPG parodies, however, are...less successful.
The Final Fantasy Legend II
(Man, it's been a while since I've even touched a SaGa game.) In fact, I think the last time I did so was....yea, about two years ago with Romancing SaGa for the SNES. So has anything changed in the two years between these games? No, not really. True to its name (the Japanese one, at least), this game's battle systems are near impossible to understand, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Scratch that. I'd have it a few other ways. The translation, for one, could be a lot better. You know how it's been a while since I've touched a SaGa game? Well, it's also been a while since I've seen a translation this bad. I'd list off the reasons why, but it'd feel like I'm just listing off what not to do when translating a game. Might as well, though. First up: don't be so damn literal. I don't have to know the difference between あたし and 俺 to see that every single word was looked up in a Japanese-to-English dictionary. There's a reason most games don't do that: it makes the dialogue feel stilted and unnatural. It doesn't exactly help when the translation is flat-out wrong in several areas. Not in the predictable L/R way, but more in the less well known A/R way. Prepare to fight unquestionably living Orks and the fecal matter of a TF2 character while trying to figure out just what the hell is going on.
Then again, that last part is what makes the actual story kinda cool, so I can't berate it too much for that. It starts off the writers ignoring a three year gap so you can search for your father because he's the only person in the world who owns a hat, and gets weirder from there. Soon after that, you have to shrink down so you can fight horses and terrorists in a goddess' anus, something they're very clear about. And it gets weirder from there. Unfortunately, I can't give the game too much credit for its weirdness, because I don't think it's even aware of how strange this all is. Somebody should really send that Goatse video to Akitoshi Kawazu simply so he knows what can and cannot be found inside somebody's rectum. Yet even ignoring that (although I'm not sure how you can ignore something like "horses in a holy anus"), you still get a pretty involved plot outlining just how much gods suck. Yea, it sounds simple when I put it like that, and while it kinda is, it commits to the idea well enough to get something out of it.
Speaking of getting some, the ba-wait, what? How did that happen? I just wanted to talk about battles; I'm a fighter, not a lover. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that one of the battle system's main strengths is in customization. I mean, it certainly isn't in the actual battle system, which is just regular turn-based fare with a few quirks (no items, very limited defending capabilities, and a completely useless MAGI system). That leaves us with the deceptively strong customization. You only get four classes, but an oddly high amount of versatility between them. Monsters evolve by eating, mutants change at random (remember that), robots are a bit more fixed, and humans are. Already, there's a lot of room to craft your party to your liking, with tankish robots and mostly mediocre monsters, but things get even better when your stats actually come into play. In theory, your characters change according to how you play them, essentially letting you do whatever the hell you want with their stats. Do things right, and you're looking at an ultra versatile, ultra powerful party by the end of the game. Or maybe a bunch of paper dolls that can move between time. It's your call, really.
Of course, this is assuming that you know how the game actually works, and this is where things fall apart pretty fast. For you see, the game doesn't upgrade stats based on use. In fact, I don't know how it upgrades my stats. It's all so random and arcane that you're gonna spend a lot of time brute forcing battles until you get the right ability or monster form or whatever. It gets especially bad near the end, when every other battle is against a boss. OK, to be fair, I can understand the appeal in figuring all this shit out, but Final Fantasy Legend II certainly isn't gonna make it easy. Or maybe it will. I don't know. Sometimes, nothing will stand in your way, while other times, the enemies will be deeper in your ass than you were two worlds ago. The point is that the game can't even make its difficulty clear. In fact, that's probably the best way I could describe this game: I don't get it. How do I increase my defense? How challenging is this game? What are horses doing in this girl's anus? Is this a good game? I can't answer any of these questions. Truly, it is a mystery for the ages....that I can sum up in three bullet points.
- It's pretty cool that this game lets you do whatever the hell you want with your party.
- Now I just wish I knew how to do whatever the hell I want with my party.