25th Anniversary of Final Fantasy VI

What haven't I said about Final Fantasy VI (III)? Probably one of the greatest jrpgs of the 16 bit generation, Final Fantasy VI was peak Square firing on all cylinders.

On this 25th anniversary of the Japanese launch, the editors of Game Informer held an interview with some of the original development team which provides some incites into some things I never realized about the game. Originally a city building portion was planned and the opera scene was someone only a 1 line instruction in the original design.

While SquareEnix hasn't done a re-release of the original SNES game (that smart phone port still burns) for modern consoles, Octopath Traveller at least captures the essence of what they were going for. I'm glad Final Fantasy III was included in the SNES Classic though and gives fans a chance to replay the game on something resembling the original hardware it was released on.


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Favorite Games of 2018

While the world had its share of difficulties in 2018, the video game releases this year on the other hand were mostly excellent. The first part of the year started slowly enough with only a few titles taking the spotlight but the 2nd half of the year was absolutely packed with great releases. Several series finally got proper sequels including Red Dead, Hitman, Valkyria Chronicles and Super Smash Brothers. Games like Monster Hunter World finally allowed a series to show its true potential to the general audience. Overall, this was a banner year for game releases with lots of hit series returning with (mostly) good sequels.

Best Games of 2018

1. Red Dead Redemption IIIn terms of scope and scale, nothing beats Red Dead Redemption 2 this year. The story of a cowboy at the end of the era of outlaws, Red Dead does its best to simulate the highlights of living the country life in the frontier. Mixed with a colorful cast of fellow bandits and outlaws, the game deftly deals with telling its own story while also setting up elements referenced in the first game. Highlights include a showdown at a southern plantation, while the game stumbles in a few places such as an overly long epilogue sequence. However, when the game fires on all cylinders, none of the other games this year top those moments.
2. Hitman 2Hitman 2 continues the murder sandbox that I loved so much in the first game. Small improvements to the game help make the world feel more alive from blending into crowds to more interactions with npcs. Highlights include more intricate story interactions and a briefcase that finally allows easier transport of restricted items. As a bonus, stages from the first game can be imported (with the new game's features added) and played in one long campaign.
4. Super Smash Bros. UltimateSuper Smash Bros. Ultimate declares: Everybody is here! In terms of scope, Smash Bros. certainly holds my attention more than the WiiU iteration. With a focus on the more classic modes, a new adventure mode and of course, every previous Smash Bros. character included (and most of the previous stages as well), Smash Ultimate really does fell like the most well rounded package the series has seen in a long time. Combined with the largest soundtrack spanning multiple series and remixes, Smash has lots of reasons to keep playing whether to unlock characters, progress the adventure mode or enjoy tributes to multiple game franchises.
3. Octopath TravelerTime and time again, there's a part of me that wants to go back and play an old style jrpg like the old 16-bit era Super Nintendo games of my youth. Square Enix (after trying Bravely Default on the 3DS) finally returns with a console-ish game and boy does it delivery. Octopath Traveler feels and plays almost exactly like a game from that era. From old school turn based combat to environments and sprites that look straight out of a Super Nintendo. Add on top a soundtrack that matches the quality of early Final Fantasy games and this game is a must play for any old school jrpg fan. If the game stumbles in one area, its that the characters don't crossover as much as I'd like and not every story grabs my attention equally. Yet, Octopath Traveler is still something that fills the void for an era that modern jrpgs have long left behind.
5. God of WarGod of War does something that I didn't think was possible for the series: it recasts Kratos and makes him a more interesting character. Set in a Norse legends inspired world, Kratos being out of place helps the story and contributes to one of my top moments of the year when his past in the past games is briefly revisited. My only major problem with the game is most of the combat is handled with only a few enemy types (with varying elements applied to them) and only a few distinct bosses for such a globe trotting adventure.
7. Detroit: Become HumanDetroit: Become Human is a flawed game but one that I couldn't stop playing when I started it. While not every theme and plotline works, there was just enough that kept me hooked and wanting to know the next story beat. The police story is the one that kept me the most interested with the oddly mismatched pair of Connor the android and his gruff partner Hank Anderson. Their interactions and investigations presented in a police procedural kept me hooked and looking forward to the next sequence featuring them.
11. The Awesome Adventures of Captain SpiritAs a free bonus before the release of Life is Strange 2, Captain Spirit is actually a decent open slice of a Life is Strange game. While very short, the game gives enough for us to understand how the Life is Strange universe works and tells a good self contained story.
9. Valkyria Chronicles 4Since the release of the first Valkyria Chronicles back on the PlayStation 3, I have been hoping for a proper console sequel for years. 10 years later Valkyria Chronicles 4 tells the story from the frontline of the main front of the war. The core gameplay of mixed infantry/tank tactics remains intact and the soundtrack is still good.
8. Monster Hunter: WorldMonster Hunter World finally allowed me to understand the core loop that is a Monster Hunter game. Capcom really stepped up to help new players understand the core Monster Hunter gameplay loop. On top of that, the world feels alive with a monster hierarchy system for the different areas and the majority of the large monsters feeling unique.
10. Bloodstained: Curse of the MoonAn old school Castlevania style adventure for fans of the series. Taking a lot of cues from Castlevania 3, Bloodstained Curse of the Moon is a nice throwback game.
12. MoonlighterWhat if Recettear had an older sprite based Legend of Zelda look? The answer is Moonlighter. I didn't get to play much of it but the obvious influences are there.
6. Assassin's Creed OdysseyAssassin's Creed heads to Ancient Greece. Improving on the formula of last year's Assassin's Creed Origins, the game actually adds a lot of light rpg systems that make it feel more like the early Mass Effect games. Some choices matter and in some cases have huge repercussions late in the story. Coupled with 3 interesting main plots including cults, family and mythical beasts, only Assassin's Creed Odyssey manages to weave them all together in way that makes sense (for Assassin's Creed). If I have one gripe with the game, is it suffers from too much bloat with icons still thrown all over the map to show how much content there is to do and complete.
13. Mega Man 11An old school MegaMan style action gamefor fans of the series. While the double gear system is felt somewhat limited in its usefulness, MegaMan 11 still had that old action style feel. And even though Capcom 'fixed' the gate jump screen slide, I'm glad Capcom is giving MegaMan another shot.
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The mysterious Super Nintendo CD rom

Think back, way back to the early 90s. A new storage medium was on the horizon the Compact Disk. The future of technology! The CD would allow the storage of much larger amounts of data (which back then was a premium considering 2.5 inch floppy disks were the standard. Everyone, including videogame companies, were trying to figure out how to use this new technology.

Famously, Nintendo would partner with Sony to develop a CD rom add-on for the Super Nintendo codenamed Playstation. While the add on would never appear, Sony would reuse the concept to launch the PlayStation console and the rest is history.

Yet there are parts of the story we're still missing like what games were developed for the add on, why did Nintendo decide to change their minds and partner with Phillips (for the infamous CDi console) and ultimately what happened behind the scenes of this failed Nintendo add-on.


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Of Kung Fu

Kung Fu was one of the first NES games we ever got. A rather simplistic side scrolling action game now, at the time I remember its bright colors, difficult gameplay and pretty cool soundtrack. Being an NES game (and a kid) I'll never forget the likes of the families nicknames for 'stick guy' 'bomerang man' and of course the sinister Mr. X.

I'm not surprised the creator of Kung Fu went on to create the fighting game genre but what did surprise me was its ties to a Jackie Chan movie.

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Best Games of 2017

As Vinny so often says on the Beastcast: "It's the best time to be playing videogames" and 2017 had one of the strongest games lineups in recent memory. Japanese developers made a strong showing in the first part of the year, while American and European releases held down the the second part. The Nintendo Switch launched, the PS4 hit it's stride and Xbox One X finally got Microsoft back on track. Major franchises reinvented themselves, while others made improvements to their existing formulas. This was the first year in a long time where there were a wide variety of games for all styles and formats. A small stumble with the sudden heavy push towards loot boxes near the end of the year soured the mood but one can only hope that developers/publishers have learned their lesson.

One can only hope that 2018 can continue this trend of great games.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildNintendo's major redesign of the Legend of Zelda games doesn't disappoint. Offering an open ended structure and an excellent world to explore, Breath of the Wild shows that open world games can be more than a mess of icons that show the player where to go and instead let them explore and enjoy the world at their pace.
2. Super Mario OdysseyIt doesn't reinvent the Mario series like Breath of the Wild did for Zelda but Mario offers larger worlds and unique challenges that's been missing since the Galaxy games.
3. Wolfenstein II: The New ColossusWolfenstein 2 offers a combination over the top action, serious moments and the absurd yet manages to mix them together in a way that works.
4. Persona 5If the award was for best soundtrack of the year, Persona 5 would win hands down for me. The menus, the characters and the environments come together to have some of the best style in games this year that help depict each character and scenario with their own unique flair.
5. Resident Evil 7 biohazardWelcome to the family. After the disastrous Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 7 reboots the series with a smaller scale but succeeds in still feeling like Resident Evil.
6. What Remains of Edith FinchTelling the story of a doomed family Edith Finch is a series of experiences that don't overstay their welcome. Each one unique in style and presentation, Edith Finch is something worth checking out for the few hours that it lasts.
7. Destiny 2The shoot, loot, repeat loop that made Destiny so good is back in a great follow up.
8. Sonic ManiaI'm surprised Sega didn't try this sooner, but this sprite based follow up to the classic Sonic games finally hits the mark of platforming and speed that we haven't seen since the Genesis era Sonic games.
9. Gravity Rush 2A sequel that probably shouldn't exist but does, Gravity Rush 2 expands on the original Vita game in all the right places.
10. Star Fox 2The Super FX chip is pushed to the limit and Star Fox 2 is an oddity. But the fact that I can finally play this missing piece of Star Fox history earns a place on my list just for Nintendo releasing this game a little later than expected.
11. Rock of Ages II: Bigger & BoulderThe sequel to one of the quirkiest games I've ever played, if you miss Katamari it's worth checking this out.
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The board games of the Famicom era

Really interesting article on Metropal about the history of cheap board games of the Famicom era. Based on being cheap, easy to store and easy to travel, these games have some history with the growth of the NES/Famicom with licensed counterparts. While we've only gotten Mario Monopoly pretty recently these early era NES board game counterparts, while simple, are a fascinating part of videogame and board game history.

Well worth a read/look.

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Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary

Personal Favorite Final Fantasy games by console generation:

Nintendo - Final Fantasy

Super Nintendo - Final Fantasy VI

PlayStation - Final Fantasy IX

PlayStation 2 - Final Fantasy X

PlayStation 3 - Final Fantasy XIII

PlayStation 4 - Final Fantasy XV (by default I guess for now)

Happy anniversary Final Fantasy, and here's to many more anniversaries in the future.

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