Shelf Review | Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

I have a long and complicated history with Final Fantasy XII. Despite owning the 2006 PS2 release for a good five years, I could never get into the game. I sat down and restarted it multiple times, leveling grinding harder, attempting to be more strategic, but each run ended with me reaching a certain plateau where I would just sigh and give up.

Part of this was admittedly due to my lack of skill. When I first tried to play the game back in 2012 I had only just become accustomed to JRPGs. But even without considering my ineptitude, I had a lot of problems with the game’s core design. The license board was an unwieldy upgrade system that left each of my character’s without any real focus in battle, the battle system could be slow and confusing, and in general I found it hard to get a grasp on the game’s mechanics. It was a game I wanted to appreciate as a fan of the franchise, but couldn’t.

So with that in mind, it may come as a surprise that I was immediately excited upon hearing the announcement of the Zodiac Age PS4 remaster. After all, with so many failed attempts to enjoy the game beforehand, you’d think I would have given up on it a long time ago. But really, the main selling point for me wasn’t the improved graphics or the fact that I had another chance to try out the game again, it was the Zodiac Job System. Continue reading

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A Brief Overlook | Xenogears Disc 2

A Rushed Apotheosis

If there’s one thing most JRPG fans remember Xenogears for, it’s the game’s infamous second disc. When a critical discussion of this game comes up, the second disc will usually be a talking point. Going into this thing, I knew that it was likely going to be a messy, somewhat rushed experience, and while my predictions were correct, I didn’t think it would be this bad.

The second disc of Xenogears knocked the wind out of me, and not in a good way. For every moment of beautiful storytelling on this thing, there’s a boring info dump, forced gameplay, or sometimes both back to back. Playing through it made me actively miss the first disc, which is amazing considering I wasn’t even really a fan of that one to begin with. And yet by the end of the game’s credits, I was exhausted and burnt out by the game’s squandered potential. Continue reading

A Brief Overlook | Xenogears Disc 1

Ambition & Perdition

As someone who plays a lot of JRPGs, it’s hard to ignore Xenogears. When fans talk about classics of the original Playstation era, it’s always bound to come up due to its massive critical acclaim and dedicated cult following. In many ways, the title defines Squaresoft’s ambition at the time, with Xenogears being the peak of their willingness to take risks. Initially pitched as a concept for Final Fantasy VII, the idea was rejected due to its dark and intense subject matter. And yet they still greenlit it as a separate project, sending director Tetsuya Takahashi down his long path of increasingly ambitious projects that has lasted up until this current console generation with Xenoblade Chronicles 2.

It’s hard to deny that the game has left a mark on genre fans. And yet, I somehow feel like it’s impact has only lessened over time. Like Chrono Cross, Xenogears no longer seems to be a title people instantly think of when they think about good JRPGs. The game is still the subject of a lot of speculation and debate, but I don’t think anyone would put it on the level of the Final Fantasy games of the same era in terms of popularity. Then again, comparing a niche game to one of the most mainstream RPG franchises of all time may be flawed argument to begin with.

But it still begs the question of how this game has held up over the past 19 years. Is it still the daring title it was all those many years ago? And better yet, was it ever any good to begin with? Continue reading

A Brief Overlook | Chrono Cross

Crossing the Ocean

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

Out of all the JRPG’s I’ve played on the PS1, Chrono Cross may be the most brilliant and strange. In a console library dominated by classics from the genre, the game stands out among the rest by just being so, well, bizarre. As a sequel to Chrono Trigger you’d expect something more traditional, a title hoping to live up to the soaring heights of its genre defining predecessor. But the game itself is anything but typical, featuring a battle system unlike any others before or since, and a story that seemingly tries to make things confusing. When you look up anything about the game’s endings, you’ll find that most search bars will bring up Chrono Cross ending explanation as a secondary option. The game is a puzzle to say the least.

And yet, in spite of how obtuse it can be, whether it be because of the massive exposition dumps that dominate the game’s latter half, or the strange logic of its multi-dimensional mechanics, I can’t help but love it. Because at the end of it all, when you look past the Dragon Gods and supercomputers called FATE, Chrono Cross has a very well thought out message. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Final Fantasy Stuff

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Hey everyone! You know how I said I was going to have a Persona 4 Arena review out by the end of this week? Well that’s not going to happen, ha ha… Yeah, I sadly just don’t feel like writing up a review for that game. In my opinion there wasn’t enough interesting material to justify the time it would take to write and edit it. So to make up for that I’m going to write up some of my random thoughts on the once illustrious Final Fantasy series. After all, I have recently been playing through Final Fantasy IX, and I figured it would be pretty easy for me to splurge my opinions about the series into a post. Now before we start, I’d like to warn you that it’s been quite a while since I’ve written about a video game topic, so if this post is a little messy that’s why. Continue reading