Ys I & II Chronicles

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Gameplay – 5/10

+ YS1 Bump system was quite fun. Dark Fact was a challenging boss and every run of it is different.
– YS1 felt a little level gated with how much damage you gain per level and the HP you get.
– YS2 magic was overwhelmingly strong and broke the game for sure, as soon as you get the homing upgrades there’s not much of a point to fighting things normally.

Visuals – 4/10

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+ Environments looked pretty nice.
– A lot of the samey areas or areas that felt similar.
= Not many animations as you basically just run into things.

Story – 3/10

= The books of YS and their descendants were an interesting concept at least.
+ Reah and Feena being recurring and seeing the faces from YS1 in YS2 again was cool.
– Nothing really interesting about it though.

Content – 5/10

– Very short games.
+ Some neat sidequests that are hidden here and there or items you can get.
= Low level caps mean you can’t grind yourself out of an undesirable situation. Some fights can remain hard if you aren’t prepared.

Music – 8/10

+ Not Falcom’s best work, but definitely has some good tracks. Bless JDK.
+ Notable tracks include First Step Towards Wars, Tower of the Shadow of Death, Dreaming, Tender People.

Extra Notes

= Some funny stuff in this game, like sleeping in other girl’s beds or sizing them up. Adol is quite the guy, even way back.

25/50

Silverae Notes

– I actually wanted to play this entry eventually especially because of the Zanmai version of First Step Towards Wars.

Ys I & II Chronicles

Tales of the Abyss

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Gameplay – 7.5/10

+ This game is considered the blueprint for future Tales of games, sporting free run and the HP/TP system. AI isn’t too challenging with free run though, and the game does just have better artes for certain characters (Void Tempest, Rending Thrust, etc).
+ Boss battles were fun, especially the six God Generals, All 6 characters were pretty fun to play at times as well.
– Higher difficulties can be statchecky at times, see Unknown mode Liger Queen.

Visuals – 5/10

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– Bad framerate makes things look choppy.
+ Some artes/FOFs are pretty cool looking, but overall leave a lot to be expired. Jade’s spells are a highlight.
– Models and animations outside of battle seem choppy or slow.
+ General art assets are fine.

Story – 9.5/10

+ I really enjoyed all the characters in this game, they all have their own motivations for what they do, including the antagonists.
+ Sidequests bolster the amount of lore and backstory between characters like Tear and Legretta, or even minor characters.
+ The world is pretty well built, Auldrant has some really neat lore behind it.
+ I really think life being bound to prophecy and religion was an interesting concept and it was executed well in this game. It was really interesting how the characters fell into the prophecy and the decisions they took regarding their own destinies.

Content – 8/10

= There is always a lot to do in the story, although it doesn’t always feel fulfilling.
+ A lot of sidequests that are meaningful. Jewel of Gardios, Cecile/Frings, and various costumes are nice to have. I like how every playable character has their own artes sidequest line as well.
– Lots of backtracking.

Music – 4/10

= Standard Motoi Sakuraba fare of music. Some really boring music like the Baticul sewers but some pretty good music at times. Motoo Fujiwara’s contributions to the game are very enjoyable though.
+ Standouts include mirrors, finish the promise, abyss.

Extra Notes

+ FOF circles were the gimmick in this game, they actually make the game way more enjoyable in combat. (+1)
+ Multiplayer was good in this game, the camera zooms out further the more players you have. Doing the Arena Team Exhibition Battle with my sister was really a highlight of my younger years. (+1)

36/50

Silverae Notes

– Loading times are pretty bad.
– I love this game despite the lower score, I played it a ton with my sister and I have a lot of nostalgia for this game, but replaying it kinda let me see it’s flaws as well. It’s really fun to play with someone.
– Sunlight Chamber on Guy is super fun.
– I like Jade, Guy, and Tear a lot.

Tales of the Abyss

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

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Gameplay – 7.5/10

+ This game has a pretty unique grid based battle system, and it’s pretty enjoyable.
+ Endgame combat has some really big highs, like 10 turns in a row with turn break and crazy damage multipliers from Rosch’s 7 hit/Gafka’s 9 hit combo. I had a lot of fun with this system, the highs are super high but the lows are pretty low too. Stacking enemies with positionals is pretty fun though.
+ Character usability is great in this game, every character has a niche they perform, and even Stocke doesn’t have the most amazing MC privilege like some MCs do, but he is still very strong.
– Party experience isn’t quite split evenly which always bothers me.
– It doesn’t teach you the system or what combos do very efficiently, and fighting mobs without AoE/speed/all positionals at the start of the game is kinda not good (Sand Fortress).

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Visuals – 7.5/10

+ Nice sprites all with distinct animations. It’s funny how Raynie and Marco use similar animations to regular mercs, but I guess they are regular mercs but a bit stronger. Stocke’s sword flashing and Eruca’s gun animations standout quite well.
= Pretty regular portrait art and map design.

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Story – 10/10

+ Honestly? I had such a good time with the writing and characters in this game. Time travel plots are really enjoyable to me if done well, and this wasn’t any exception.
+ The characters are all written very well and aren’t one dimensional and have their own lives apart from the MC, including NPCs. They all have their own reasons for doing the things they do, and I found that pretty refreshing.
+ There was always something interesting keeping me in the story, even if one timeline was boring at a time, the other one was interesting during that timespan, and the ending is easily one of the best I’ve seen to a JRPG.

Content – 9/10

– I’m a little iffy on the stuff they added in the Perfect Chronology version… especially the extra ending.. (Hugo? Protea? ????) but it is more content, I just don’t know if it’s actually good content.
+ The base game has a plethora of content, and some of the sidequests contribute to a true ending which is nice, they don’t feel just like fetch quests. Everything you do feels rewarding.
+ Each character has a sidequest that nets them more abilities which is nice, no character is valued over the other.

Music – 6/10

= A lot of music that is just befitting to the area that isn’t too memorable.
+ That being said, Shimomura did make some bangers this game, notably Mechanical Kingdom, Blue Radiance, The Edge of Green, and The Garden Where the Celestite Lies.

Extra Notes

+1 for that ending, jeez.

41/50

Silverae Notes

– Master Vainqueur has to be one of the worst optional boss fights I’ve ever played.. please don’t have optional bosses you do 1 damage to even at endgame.
– I find it interesting how they updated the portrait art from the original DS game..
– I didn’t actually learn combos increased combo damage significantly until the final chapter lmao.
– I wanted to fight Dias and Selvan so badly..
– Stocke, Rosch, and Raul are the boys. I love Rosch’s relationship dynamic with Sonja. I really appreciate Raul’s cynicism, he’s the sort of character I can really appreciate since it’s not easy to notice what you’re doing wrong is actually wrong in the moment and regress.
– Really enjoyed the atmosphere in this game, some games that include war don’t feel like there are actual battles taking place, but this game has good pacing.
– Funny how Raynie and Marco have the same VA as Io and Daichi from Devil Survivor 2, I got deja-vu right away since I came off of that.

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ~ Torna: The Golden Country

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Gameplay – 10/10

+ Felt like a step up from the original Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Battle System.
+ Swapping Blades and Drivers with unique switch arts as well as freestyle blade combos was nice, even though it kept the extra depth with special blade combos.
+ I already loved the base game’s battle system, but it felt a lot nicer to be able to play as different characters in battle.

Visuals – 10/10

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+ Honestly felt like the graphics improved from the base game, and that they mastered the system.
+ Cutscenes were still great as ever, a particular favorite of mine (spoilers).
+ Landscapes and level design were nice as usual from the Monolith team, and combat specials felt smooth and nice to look at.

Story – 5/10 (8/10 if you’ve played Xenoblade Chronicles 2)

– I feel like the story left us still with a lot of questions, especially if the base game has been played.
+ Some things were done well, such as the explaining of the Tornan Titan and how Lora meets Addam amongst other things.
– They could have used some more time developing characters with Hugo and Aegeaon coming to mind specifically.

Content – 4/10

+- A lot of sidequests to do, this is good because it adds gameplay and exploration, however they pad the story content with mandatory sidequests. This has good plot connotations because of the fact that Addam is seen as a hero though, however.
– A lot of the game would be better if the story was just a little longer.
+ Camping and crafts were a nice touch.

Music – 10/10

+ This is impossible not to give a 10/10, considering I had this theme on loop for like 3 weeks straight.
+ I would give it a 10 just for that theme, but here are some more. Gormott, The Acting God, The Kingdom of Torna (Day),
+ Mitsuda, Kenji Hiramatsu, ACE+, and Kiyota do it again. The use of different instruments for arrangements from the base game is super nice. The Kingdom of Torna is super relaxing.

Extra Notes

+ All in all, I think Nintendo and Monolith Soft did a great job with this expansion DLC, it felt really fruitful to play and I enjoyed it a lot.

39/50

Silverae Notes

– I can’t believe they did almost the full combat tutorial in one battle.
– I really enjoyed Minoth, Haze, Hugo, Jin, and Addam in this DLC.
– The themes in this game carry over to the base game really well, and I felt terrible for Jin. Jin is such a good boy. I ship Jin and Lora for sure.
– I wish we could have seen where Lora resonates with Haze, since Haze seems to be a special blade. And maybe a bit of Hugo and Addam’s interactions in the past, but I just wanted to see more since I love Xenoblade Chronicles 2 so much.
– Gort was really creepy.

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Protect this hecking good boy, please.

 

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ~ Torna: The Golden Country

Best Gameplay/Content/Story of 2017

Best Gameplay

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I really love XB2’s battle system, there’s so much depth to it and it feels like a hybrid of a lot of battle systems I like a lot, notably Paper Mario/Final Fantasy 12 with a really unique combo system. You start off auto-attacking when you enter battle and it charges your Blade arts, which are basically your special battle moves. The auto-attack combo has 3 attacks to it with each attack progressively becoming more strong, and you can cancel those with good timing to keep the damage multipliers onto your arts. By using Blade arts, you charge your special Arts, which in term do the most amounts of damage and are elemental typed from level 1 to 4.

Each driver (or main character), can be binded to up to 3 Blades, one which they get as their main story Blade, and two others which you can get randomly. While a lot of people dislike pulling for Blades, personally I loved it because it forces you to adapt to certain playstyles, as each Blade has it’s own class from Attacker/Tank/Healer and it’s own respective weapon and element. This is the sort of thing that adds an intense level of replayability to me.

The fun starts when the game teaches you how to do Blade combos, which are basically special arts chained in a certain order with elements, and levels from 1 to 3. So essentially, you start the chain off with a level 1 special, then to continue you have a set amount of time to do a level 2 special, then a level 3 special. If you manage to make it all the way to the end, you inflict major damage, a status effect of some sort, and create an orb that is shatter-able in chain attacks to extend the length of the chain attack by an extra round. Shown below a fire-fire-fire chain is completed, sealing self-destruct so monsters you face cannot self-destruct.

Another mechanic is the driver combo, which relies on the abilities of each driver in the game. This is kind of the basic status effect chain that each RPG has, in that you inflict status effects in a certain order to maximize out your damage. The standard driver combo is Break-Topple-Launch-Smash, which adds two extra attacks to the predecessor as XB1 only had Break and Topple. If you manage to use both Blade and Driver combos simultaneously, you achieve a Fusion Combo as shown below, which maximizes your damage while the enemy cannot retaliate.

Finally, the chain attack system allows each Driver to perform a Blade Special starting at level 1 and increasing a level each time you break an orb and extend the chain attack. This is what does the most damage and the sole reason life bars are so big in this game, but I think that makes the game way more fun albeit I can see the argument for why people dislike the HP sponges in this game. I feel like if you play optimally though, enemies shouldn’t last very long.

Since it took me 5 paragraphs to explain how the battle system works, I’m pretty sure you can see the depth of the combat system within this game. I could talk about it some more but it’s a lot better to just experience. I can confirm that watching other people play this game probably wouldn’t be too fun, but playing it yourself is truly an experience. As someone who thought XB1’s weak point was the combat, Monolith did something amazing and gave me a battle system I’ll probably never forget.

Runner-up – Persona 5

Persona 5 didn’t really change up the uniform systems of the Persona system too much, but the additions it did add I thought were very fun. Notably, the gun and ammunition system gave the players another resource to manage in order to hit weak points, and was noticeably stronger than the basic attack. Demon Negotiation as a way to obtain Personas instead of shuffling cards was also a welcome addition, despite my disdain for attempting to recruit demons without weaknesses before you meet the Tower Confidant.

The addition of Confidant skills was much appreciated as well, as the Star Confidant lets you swap party members into your party. One thing I disliked about prior Persona games is that fact that experience wasn’t shared, so you’d get punished for using more than a main core party, but in Persona 5 I was able to completely utilize my whole party and all their strengths, and it made progressing through dungeons more fun. I’m sure the developers made the dungeons longer as well to balance the game as well. Some of the boss fights actually made me use my entire party to maximize SP usage.

Best Content

Content refers to depth of content offered, and quality of it.

Winner – Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I was really impressed with the level of content within the world of Alrest. XB2’s story is about 60-80~ hours even for a fast player like me, and the amount of affinity charts, sidequests, and rare Blades to find probably takes about as long as the main storyline itself. I really enjoy the sidequests in this game as they all force you to explore and find new areas, and the Xenoblade games are all about exploration. There’s always things to be doing, and I like to be preoccupied when I play video games, so there’s that. Merc Missions definitely could have been done better though.

Herald looks pretty badass, doesn’t she?

Runner-up – The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

I really enjoyed the Door system in Trails in the Sky the 3rd, as each door offers story content for specific party members, and there’s 25 of them to expand on the very large cast (20~) playable characters. The presentation of each of the door’s stories is quite good as well, and it really fleshes out the world of Zemuria. The doors are also optional, but easy to find which is really nice, as the majority of Trails 3rd is spent dungeon crawling. That means whenever you want a break from the dungeon crawling, you can open the door for some story content and extra rewards (money/equips) when you feel like it.

Have a wholesome Estelle. x)

Best Story

Winner – Nier: Automata

Taro Yoko is a genius for evicting so many emotions in me, and the presentation of Nier: Automata’s story along with Keiichi Okabe’s music was nothing short of stellar. The premise of androids trying to fight invaders that drove the humans off quickly becomes a story where you question the humanity of everything that exists, and the actions and motivations that drive people. This game is capable of evicting basically every single emotion from a player, and for me I definitely felt the impact of all this games hard-hitting decisions and scenes.

Runner-up – The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky the 3rd

I knew kind of how this game operated before I bought it, but the execution of it still surprised me. Kevin Graham, as a priest of the Church gets tasked to retrieve an artifact and analyze it while pulling off some crazy stunts, and manages to get himself pulled into an alternate universe where the entire Sky cast also ends up. As the artifact’s world is shaped by the denizens of it, the characters experience fragments of their past and various other surprises as they try to escape and get back to their own world. The highlight for me is obviously Kevin’s character and story, as he doesn’t get a lot of screen-time in SC but is shown to be doing some very important things behind the scenes.

Best Gameplay/Content/Story of 2017