Friday, October 28, 2011

Almost Got 'Em #1: Breath of Fire III

As I promised I would, I've begun going back through my game library and finding the old classics I've left unfinished. These are all titles I made it all the way to the end of, and then stopped right before vanquishing evil for good and all. There's a lot of ground to cover, but I began this journey of a thousand steps with Breath of Fire III. After about 70 hours of gameplay, reliving my favorite moments from this classic from Capcom's library (including one of "Hey, I didn't suck all those years ago! This last boss really IS hard!), I can count this one as off the Backlog.

I first picked up Breath of Fire III when it was practically a new release. I loved the first two games, the second one especially I could play for ages. With the third, I found a title which still tied in to the history of the first two games, but was a unique story at the same time. It didn't lose any of the charm the first two had, and in fact used the hardware advantages it had to add to the traditional presentation the series is known for. Vibrant colors, lively cities, sweeping adventure and subdued, subtle moments; this game had it all. I played it for dozens of hours, all the way through to the end.

Though many of those hours were spent listening to the jazzy overworld theme.

Then, in the last dungeon, I stumbled across the last boss before I was ready for her. She made mincemeat of my team and I hadn't saved in hours.

So, that was that. I turned it off and never played it again. However much I loved this game, whatever kind of attachment I had to seeing it through all the way to the end, it just wasn't worth it to me to walk through that last dungeon again. I'm sure at the time I told myself "oh, well that's an upsetting loss, I'll put this down until tomorrow." Well, tomorrow took about 13 years to get here, but it's finally arrived. Breath of Fire III has been vanquished, and it's time to move on to the next game on my list.

But playing through it gave me reason to stop and take stock of why this gem never really caught on. It did well enough in sales and reviews, and as I've previously stated, it's at least as fun as some of the best-selling games of today, but Breath of Fire III tends to get lost in the shuffle when talking about the great RPGs of the Playstation-era. So before I get into my personal experience with going back and enjoying my adventure with Ryu and the gang again after all these years, let me begin the first part of this post with a different topic.

Timing a release.

More important than you might think.

And that's just one example.

When you're releasing some new media, you want to make sure you don't do so at a time when something similar, and possibly superior, is also hitting the market. You want to offer something unique to the world, at least for awhile. You want to be the thing that everyone tries to copy; the first of a new wave of pop singer, the first comic character in a string of gritty reboots, the first fast food restaurant to offer a new and exciting way to kill yourself.

Narrowly beating out Wendy's lard milkshake.

The worst thing to be is something released almost simultaneously. At least the hordes of copycats which invariably follow a success can ride the coattails of the initial wave of public interest for awhile. If you come out with your media at the same time as something else which catches on more easily, that's the end of you. It was the poor timing of this nature that gave us a world where Garbage succeeded instead of Republica, where 30 Rock graces television sets instead of Studio 54, and where Armageddon is remembered as "that meteor movie" instead of Deep Impact. Although to be fair to Deep Impact, it predicted that there would be a black president, whereas Armageddon predicted that Liv Tyler would be a solid leading actress, and so far only one of these predictions has come true.

He's hoping he can reach a middle ground with the meteor.

Of course, there's one more form of bad timing. The kind that happens when you release something in the same category as something else which was SO big, and SO popular, and SO pervasive in the market that fans aren't going to be happy with anything less than more of that same thing. Instead of drumming up interest, this monument to a genre actually hinders your success, because people take a look at what you have to offer and say "well that's nothing like that other thing we like." Fans don't expect you to reinvent the wheel, they expect you to be the exact same wheel as the wheel they already own and have driven the last hundred thousand miles on.

With that in mind, let's talk about Capcom's first post-Final Fantasy VII RPG release, Breath of Fire III

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

David and Ayn talk BoF3

As David puts the finishing touches on his Breath of Fire III post, he and I discuss ending plot points.  Be warned, spoilers lie below.

David 10:06 pm
One thing I realized while thinking about the game that I didn't even really realize while playing;
Myria has absolutely no henchmen.
The only thing that keeps you from getting to her are natural physical barriers.
The only recurring villains in the game are the crime syndicate, and you've killed their main muscle and their boss by around the halfway point.

Ayn 10:25 pm
If you think of it.
That's pretty damn impressive.
Well she does have one henchman.
As well as deception.
Who needs henchmen when you pretty much have the world fooled that you're a benevolent goddess?

David 10:38 pm
I suppose that's true.
It's quite a big step down from the Dark Dragon Empire and the Church of St. Eva though.

 Ayn 2:55 pm
I still maintain the Dark Dragon Empire was the coolest.
It's just a damn shame BoF1 was early in the series so they didn't have the time back then to properly develop it.

David 2:56 pm
It still did a better job of exemplifying what a big deal Myria was.

Ayn 2:57 pm
In 3 she had..

David 2:57 pm
Moreso than her first line of defense in BoF3, sand.

Ayn 2:57 pm
Sand is serious business. Fuck that desert.

David 2:58 pm
The desert wasn't as bad as I remembered it.
Granted I had a map this time.

Ayn 2:59 pm
Pretty sure in the world of BoF3, Myria made sure all the cartogrophers were killed along with the brood.
Hence a desert as the first line of defense is brilliant.

David 3:00 pm
So really her first line of defense was keeping people lazy and ignorant.

Ayn 3:00 pm

David 3:00 pm
I may have seriously underestimated how cunning Myria was here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Playing in style.

A short post for reflection today:

While Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm was the only fighting game on my backlog (I'm not necessarily counting Soul Calibur IV, or SSB Brawl), if I was going to play any fighting game, it'd be using this controller:

The buttons being on Bright's hand can't be coincidental.

... Heck, I'd even play an RPG using this, because there's no shortage of RPG protagonists that wouldn't benefit from a well-timed Brightslap.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Revisiting Gaming Goals from January..

So in an earlier post this year, I mentioned that my gaming goal for this year was to completely wipe out my non-import  PS2 backlog.  Have I been successful in that endeavor?

..Well, that's kind of a funny story, but the short answer is "no".  The usual obligations have impeded that progress somewhat (oh, pesky job, you always stand in my way), but I've also been sidetracked by games on my other consoles as well (which I also need to write about, I know).  Rather than lament my progress (or lack thereof), let's present what I still have to go through, and what might be hampering my progress there. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Final Fantasy 13.

Well.  That was unsatisfying.

It's currently October 5th as I'm writing this.  When I started this entry, getting as far as that first, tantalizing line of the post, it was September 21st.  Yesterday, I even made it as far as having a full blown out introduction to this post, but was unsatisfied.  So I'll give it to you in short.

Yes, I finally finished Final Fantasy XIII.  I've been struggling with this post because I don't want to bore you all with reading yet another take on a game there are thousands of posts on.  Look, I get that bashing just about any Final Fantasy game after the widely loved 7 (or, if you're particularly snobby, any Final Fantasy made after the SFC/SNES era) is pretty normal, so I definitely don't want to add to the already tired discourse bemoaning the fate of the series and how things were better "back in the good old days".

Back when we had to trudge through the snow for 15 miles to get our copy of FF.
I want to be clear that the game has a number of great things going for it.  I liked the combat system:  It was intensely fun, if at times frustrating.  Like any good SE game, the graphics are gorgeous, the enemies, even your rank and file fodder, look amazing.  It has a protagonist that doesn't need to be smacked:  Hell, if anything, she does a lot of the smacking for you!

Look, I know most of you reading this have probably read the reviews and criticisms of  Final Fantasy XIII.  While I don't want to rehash them, I'm sure you want to know what gives me a lukewarm reception to the game.  It wasn't the extreme linearity (save Gran Pulse).  It wasn't the combat system (I mentioned that I liked that).  It wasn't the lack of towns (because, while this was a peeve, given the story and the world, it made sense). It wasn't Vanille saying "what went wrong?!" in an annoying voice as I lost to her Eidolon yet again.

What it comes down to is this:  Final Fantasy XIII is, I repeat, not a bad game.  It's a game that squanders its potential.  While the story is convoluted, the lack of development on the part of the supporting cast, as well as the somewhat mediocre development of certain protagonists leaves one feeling unattached to the entire proceedings by the end of the game.

I wanted to care by the end, but frankly, I just didn't give a damn.

Sigh, even as I type this, I'm hardly inspired to continue on.  Oh well, let's get on with it.