Tales Of Symphonia Review

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I don’t talk enough about the Tales series, maybe because the series has burned me out. I’ve been seeing more and more Tales games get shoveled out every year and each time I see them I kinda get a bitter taste in my mouth. Ever since the release of Star Ocean 5 and Exist Archive, my interest in the Tales series started to dwindle to the point where I had just lost interest in it.

However there’s nothing like a great Tales game to satisfy one’s JRPG cravings and Tales Of Symphonia is the first game that comes to mind when It comes to playing a good old-fashioned run of the mill JRPG. You see, Tales Of Symphonia doesn’t present itself as anything new. At first sight it’s easy to be misled by the game’s slow pacing but I’d advise you not to judge a book by its cover. Tales Of Symphonia is definitely a must play for any JRPG fan, particularly those who enjoy action RPG’s over the conventional turned based.

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As and action RPG, Tales Of Symphonia is often seen as a benchmark and rightfully so.  It was the first 3D Japanese Action RPG to give us a deep and engaging combat system and ultimately served as the demise for the Star Ocean series as a whole. If it wasn’t for Tales Of Symphonia, I don’t think the Tales series would have lasted as long as it has. The series has had a pretty huge legacy and Tales Of Symphonia serves as the pillar that holds it all in place.

Tales Of Symphonia might not seem much at first glance but as a game released in 2003 it has aged magnificently… most of it that is. A lot of people question the popularity of Symphonia, often comparing it to other games in the series. While the Tales series has evolved considerably, there have been a lot of changes to the series that have improved on the formula set by Tales Of Symphonia. As good as this was, future games in the series failed to stand out from its predecessor. While I won’t deny that there were some solid Tales games released after Symphonia, Symphonia kinda feels different from those games.

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There is something about Symphonia that keeps me coming back to it and I think I’ve found out what that something is. For starters, one of the things that made Tales Of Symphonia so iconic is its diverse array of content. There’s no shortage of things to do in this game as the main story has a pretty sizable length and there are plenty of sidequests to experience as you progress through the story and many of them offer some great rewards, usually in the form of titles.

The title system allows players to collect special titles that will alter the character’s stat growth. These titles can be carried over in a new game plus which allows players to customize their character’s growth in future playthroughs. Knowing that nearly every sidequest you complete contributes towards each playthrough gives you more of an incentive to complete them, when it comes to rewarding players, Tales Of Symphonia has a lot to offer.

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This alone would be a mere novelty. What truly makes Tales Of Symphonia a memorable experience lies in its gameplay and story. While the story of Tales Of Symphonia might appear quite generic at first glance, it manages to stay fresh with its strong themes. The characters themselves are very much the same, on the surface they are cardboard cut outs but each of them has their own place in the game’s story and play their role well enough. Rather than focusing on the characters individually, the game uses them as a means to portray the strong themes the game’s story revolves around. I don’t want to go into too much detail on these themes for fear of spoilers.

I’m not going to lie, Tales Of Symphonia’s story isn’t going to blow you away, it’s pretty bog standard for today’s standards but it was executed well enough to create a memorable experience. So long as you don’t set your expectations too high, you might be pleasantly surprised by the game’s story. If you do want to get the most out of the game’s story though, you’ll want to engage in some of the game’s many side quests as a lot of the story is hidden behind them. There are also skits which can help shed a light on some of the characters too.

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What makes this game truly stand out from other games in the series is its affection system. Tales Of Symphonia steals borrows this idea from the Star Ocean series which allowed you to partake in special events known as private actions which allowed certain scenarios to influence variables. These variables would affect the ending the player would obtain and each character would have their own adjustable variable value. As such the player may opt to avoid certain scenario’s or backtrack for specific scenarios in order to build up their desired variable.

In Tales Of Symphonia the way you interact with characters is different from the Star Ocean series. While lot of the choices you make throughout the game will affect the amount of affection each character has for the main character Lloyd, the actual process of acquiring these affection points is a lot more streamlined for the most part often forcing choices onto the player as they make progress though the game’s story. That’s not to say that there aren’t any optional interactions. Many of the sidequests can also affect a particular character’s affection for Lloyd. There are also optional skit points where you can engage in a skit conversations with other characters in which the player’s choices affect the character’s affection for Lloyd.

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Sadly this feature never made it into any of the future Tales games which is a shame. Unlike the Star Ocean series however, the affection system doesn’t affect the game’s ending, rather it changes up many of the game’s cut scenes. Once you reach a certain point in the main story, the characters with the highest affection will be able to partake in a cut scene with Lloyd, this scene will solidify that character as the one with the highest affection for Lloyd, essentially replacing the multiple character endings the Star Ocean series has. As a fan of the Star Ocean series I really enjoyed the inclusion of this feature as it allowed me to get more invested in the story and characters. Plus it allowed me to personalize my experience more which is always a good thing.

The Tales series is known for its fast paced real-time action battle systems and Tales Of Symphonia is no exception. Even today, Tales Of Symphonia holds up well despite it being rather basic. If you’ve played any other Tales game then you’ll know what to expect here. Tales Of Symphonia uses a side scrolling battle system in a 3D battle arena. This means that by changing targets you are able to spread your party out. So despite the fact that it is a side scrolling action RPG, it really feels like a free moving combat system.

 

 

Tales Of Symphonia was the first game in the series to offer serious competition to the Star Ocean games and for good reason. Rather than simply having players barrage foes with attacks, Tales Of Symphonia focuses on chaining hits to build up combos. While the ability to combo was somewhat prominent it still felt rather unrefined. Tales Of Symphonia’s combat offers a more refined combo system allowing players to chain up to 3 techs and alternate between 6 different techs per character at a time. This was a big deal back then as ARPG’s often lacked variety back in their early years. Tales Of Symphonia was one of the first ARPG’s that added a considerable amount of depth making it capable enough to rival that of a turned based RPG.

The combat focuses on synchronizing your attacks with the AI (or other players) in order to build up a combo. This idea would later be used in other games such as Valkyrie Profile 2 which allowed players to take control over all four characters in battle, managing them all simultaneously. Tales Of Symphonia was one of the first to focus primarily on combo focused gameplay and offers a wide variety of options in battle.

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Unfortunately like in all real-time action RPG’s with AI controlled party members, the combat suffers from having a lack of control over multiple characters. This is a problem that is not exclusive to Tales Of Symphonia but is worth bringing up considering the fact that Tales Of Symphonia is one of the pioneers that established the more modern style of real time action RPG’s and as such it is important to keep in mind that relying on the AI is essentially a big part of the gameplay.

For this reason, playing the game with a friend is probably going to be a far better experience than playing alone. Much like Secret of Mana was a more co-op orientated game, Tales Of Symphonia appears to be very similar. However players managed to enjoy playing Tales Of Symphonia as a single player game so it’s not impossible to enjoy playing it alone, rather there are some flaws to be aware of in terms of the AI. I will say though that for the most part, the AI aren’t all that bad in Tales Of Symphonia and if you can learn the AI’s patterns, you can really build up some awesome combo’s.

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Still, my philosophy on these type of games is that they were actually built with co-op in mind originally but the early games in the series along with all of the Star Ocean games seem to have forgotten this. Regardless, I judge these types of games in four different categories: flexibility, intuition, smoothness and AI behavior and considering the time this game was released, Tales Of Symphonia is above average in all four of these categories making for a very well-rounded combat system. Like I said before, you have 6 attacks at your disposal and they can all be mixed up in any order you choose as well as several regular attacks to mix things up more. While that may not sound like much today, back in 2003 this was a pretty big deal in terms of flexibility.

Now I never had the chance to play the original Gamecube release (which is quite ironic since the Gamecube is my favourite console) but based on the PS3 release, the controls are very simple and easy to use. You can guard and dodge using the square button, use normal attacks with X and artes using O. Comboing is simple enough, using a combination of normal attacks and artes as well as the AI’s attacks you can build up some crazy combos which are still really fun to pull off today and it’s easy to build up those hits, you never feel like you have to do too much busy work to pull them off like in Star Ocean Till The End Of Time which required the player to constantly swap characters in order to juggle their enemies.

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To add to all this you also have unison attacks. This was cool because you got to stop the enemy in their tracks while you get to perform any move of your choosing. Performing certain moves allows you use a compound special attacks which were a combination of two different artes with two different characters. It was a flashy and cool way to finish off enemies. I really liked the unison attack system and building the unison gauge was never too much of a hassle. It just gives you more control over battles and adds some extra flashiness to the combo’s.

To make things even crazier, the PS3 version (based on the Japanese PS2 version) adds mystic artes which are an alternate finisher that allow specific characters to pull off a unique special attack much like the purify weird soul attacks in Valkyrie Profile. These are used as finishers but unlike Unison Attacks they are pretty hard to pull off and can sometimes be completely forgotten about. This is due to the fact that the overlimit gauge didn’t exist yet and overlimits were built up over time much like trance in Final Fantasy IX in the sense that you cannot trigger it at will. Since most mystic artes required the character be in overlimit or at low hp, they were difficult to pull off.

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Regardless I can easily say that Tales Of Symphonia’s battle system stands the test of time, while other games in the series may be better in some areas, few games come close to the polished smoothness of Tales Of Symphonia’s combat. It is one of those combat systems that keeps you coming back for more due to how simple yet polished it is. To put it more accurately Tales Of Symphonia’s battle system is the benchmark of any real-time action JRPG combat and is what all real time action JRPG’s should aspire to be.

Aside from combat you do get a little bit of character management here, while not as deep as it is in the Star Ocean series, Tales Of Symphonia offers the player a few choices in regards to character management in the form of EX skills. These skills alter several different properties of each character giving them special passive abilities or allowing them to be played in a unique way. Sadly in future games such as Tales Of The Abyss, EX skills were learned in a more linear fashion and rather than picking and choosing, you get given all the EX skills over the course of the game which ruined the whole point of having EX skills. Regardless this was a great addition which adds a little bit of experimentation to the game.

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Other than that however, character management is very basic, learning new artes can be quite complicated as there are two different combat styles to learn: strike and technical. Each style has its own set of artes and is influenced by the player’s EX skills. Strike artes are mostly powerful attacks which focus on knockback. Technical artes focus more on delivering more hits and are usually a lot flashier than strike artes. Then you have magic which is completely different depending on the character. For example, you could have Raine be a strong party healer and teach her technical moves like Revitalize. On the other hand you could teach her stronger single target healing abilities and the ability to give your characters an auto-revive buff.

You can mix between strike and technical artes by changing your EX skills to favor the opposite style just before you learn a new move, you can also forget certain moves and swap them for their alternate move should you wish. Or you could just stick with either style and see what you get. This makes the game more interesting as there are so many different combinations of moves you can have at your disposal, some may see it as limiting but that’s kinda the point, by limiting the player, you are making them choose between two variants of moves based on which they prefer.

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Do they want to focus on dealing raw damage and knockbacks or so they want to focus on building up more hits? By limiting your game for the sake of choices, you’re actually providing a more rewarding experience since the choice the player makes equates to that of rewarding players with personalization. This is what many of the other Tales games failed to realize, by breaking these limits and just giving all the abilities away to the player, they are essentially removing that element of choice which made Tales Of Symphonia feel so rewarding… at least in terms of personalization.

So Tales Of Symphonia does a lot of things right with its gameplay and while the story starts off quite slow, it picks up later on. In theory this alone should provide a highly engaging experience and it does… for the most part. You see Tales Of Symphonia may be the series’ benchmark but it isn’t without its flaws. For starters, the dungeons of Tales Of Symphonia tend to really bog the game down in monotony as there are plenty of dungeons in the game that just flat-out suck. Why is this you ask? That’s simple, puzzles and when I say puzzles I mean hours upon hours of tedium.

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The puzzles in Tales Of Symphonia are quite possibly some of the most irritating puzzles I have ever seen in an RPG. While the first few dungeons have very simple, yet boring puzzles, later puzzles can become quite tedious and annoying to do. One puzzle in particular literally has you moving blocks of garbage and dropping it off a catwalk for no other reason than to pan out game time. To make things worse you have the sorcerers ring with its many functions. I absolutely loathe the inclusion of this feature because there are times where you have to switch between ring modes to accomplish certain tasks the game gives you to do like shooting braziers and shooting a bomb to blow up a rock.

Maybe this is just a personal issue but I honestly do not see how anyone can enjoy slogging through such horrendous dungeons. The most infamous of dungeons require you to guide several blobs to a certain position. These blobs will follow you but it is a nightmare to keep them all together. All you do is run around the area aimlessly pushing switches and trying to find all the blobs and trying to keep them altogether. To make things worse pushing in certain switches pushes other switches out. It’s a nightmare for people like me who want to get straight to the action. Even if I were to like puzzles, I cannot see myself not getting frustrated in that horrendous place.

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The dungeons are the biggest problem with this game and they are one of the few things that hinder the game’s replay value. However there is also another problem that many games released back in 2003 suffered from, unskippable cutscenes. That’s right one of the most irritating parts of replaying a JRPG is to have to press X/A to keep the text moving so you get back to the action. I wish that players could just skip the cutscenes and move on. Why this isn’t a thing in the PS3 port I cannot fathom.

Despite all this, I managed to slog through another playthrough and while it did have its annoying parts, the amount of rewarding content this game offered convinced me to play through it again and once I reached the second half of the game, my engagement levels rose a ton. Tales Of Symphonia offers a new game plus feature. By spending grade you are able to unlock certain perks which you can carry over to each playthrough. After unlocking the combo’s perk the game felt extremely rewarding to play in terms of growth as it rewards you with experience based on the highest combo you perform in the fight. This made every boss fight feel different and added an extra layer of depth to the game.

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It was this second playthrough that convinced me to review this game as I felt that being able to play through a game such as this a second time alone is something worth noting since I don’t normally do such things in videogames. I will say though that the second playthrough did have its annoying moments, particularly in the dungeons but I believe if you are truly willing to give the game another shot, by all means do so.

This game has a lot of replay value to balance out the horror of having to slog through those painful dungeons again and as someone who dislikes replaying videogames in general, I can confirm that there is some value to be had in doing so, it just takes a bit of patience because Tales Of Symphonia is quite a lengthy ordeal as it can take around 40 – 50 hours to finish the story. I assure you, once you endure the first half of the game, the game opens up fairly quickly and you feel like you’re playing through a whole new experience entirely. There are still the painful moments but if you are willing to endure some of that pain, it’s definitely worth playing through this game multiple times.

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As far as music is concerned, the game’s soundtrack does a reasonable job of keeping players engaged in the experience but doesn’t go the extra mile to deliver something particularly noteworthy. There are some good tracks here and there, ironically the best tracks tend to play in some of the most tedious dungeons, kinda fitting considering the fact that you’ll be spending a lot of your time in these places. Some tracks are better than others but for the most part I’d say that the soundtrack does its job reasonably well.

In terms of art direction, Tales Of Symphonia takes a very vivid approach depicting a bright, colorful cel-shaded world. While some may find this kind of contradictory to many of the game’s themes I feel that it serves to make the world more likable and makes the locations more memorable due to this distinct art style. After all, sometimes you want a break from the more darker styled games and you want something bright and colorful as a refreshment. As such I feel that the art design fits this game rather well, it really fools you into believing that the game is very plain and simple at first but when things start to get more interesting as the story clashes with other themes, the art direction really stands out.

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When it comes to choosing whether or not to play Tales Of Symphonia, ask yourself what exactly you are looking for in a JRPG at this point? While I do believe that every JRPG fan should give this game a shot at some point, I don’t think this is a game people should rush towards for the sake of it. If you’re going to play Tales Of Symphonia then you want to be in the right mood for it.

If you’re tired of the more conventional RPG and want something different, Tales Of Symphonia can be quite difficult to get into. On the other hand if you’re looking to escape from more modern, avant-garde JRPG experiences then you should definitely give Tales Of Symphonia a go. I do think that the game starts off quite slow and it can be an arduous task to get to the meaty stuff but when you do I believe that you will enjoy what you see.


Story/Plot: Good
Visuals: Good
Music: Satisfactory
Gameplay: Great
Lifespan: Quite Long

Overall: Great

 


Value: £40.00

 
Purchase Tales of Symphonia (PS3)

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Star Ocean 5 Stream – The Value Of Gaming Discussion, Games I’m Looking Forward To, E-Sports Are Trash

0:00 – 7:00 Updates and stuff

7:00 – 11:33 Talking about Star Ocean 5

11:33 – 19:00 My opinion on alcohol and the hypocrisy of people who don’t drink it for health reasons.

19:00 – 32:45 Why consumer criticism is undervalued

32:45 – 41:30 Why I want to grow an audience on Cynical Gaming Blog/Youtube

41:30 – 45:15 Talking about Star Ocean 5 some more

45:15 – 49:50 Being in minority groups, going against the masses

49:50 – 54:50 Measuring games in terms of popularity and value are completely different things.

54:50 – 1:00:00 The need for intellectual gaming discussion and why I need your input

1:00:00 – 1:09:46 Getting rid of Steam Greenlight was a bad idea. How the problem needs to be solved.

1:09:46 – 1:11:10 ReviewTechUSA stealing Silent Rob’s video

1:11:10 – 1:15:48 Explaining my principles

1:15:48 – 1:27:00 The importance of focused game design

1:27:00 – 1:32:27 Talking about Sidequests and how games need to focus on solving problems by improving pre-established features

1:32:27 – 1:39:50 How influencing the mass market is like playing the game design lottery and why it’s so important to do so

1:39:50 – 1:48:38 The truth about Tri-Ace and why Star Ocean 5 was poorly received.

1:48:38 – 1:54:45 Learning and setting skills

1:54:45 – 2:04:35 Looking For Sidequests and Private Actions

2:04:35 – 2:58:30 Games I’m looking forward to playing in 2018 + Witcher 3 Rant

2:58:30 – 3:21:40 Experimenting with Synthesis and Item Creation

3:21:40 – 3:25:25 Continuing with main story

3:25:25 – 3:47:00 The problem with E-sports and why I think we’d be more better off without them

3:47:00 – 3:50:47 Stream ends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Ocean 5 Stream – The Purpose Of Invested Empowerment In RPG’s, Valkyrie Profile 3

0:00 – 5:45 Introduction/Updates.

5:45 – 46:35 Talking about invested empowerment in RPG’s and whether or not leveling systems matter in RPG’s anymore.

46:35 – 1:14:30 Talking about the Star Ocean series.

1:14:30 – 2:05:31 Talking about other games (SEGA games, Level 5 games, other tri-Ace games and F-Zero GX) and Star Ocean 5’s story.

2:05:31 – 2:14:27 Talking about what I want to see in Valkyrie Profile 3, if it ever happens.

 

Grandia 3 Review

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So after years of waiting, we finally got Grandia 3 in the UK via Playstation Store. It was a hassle to access the US Playstation store but regardless, I have finally finished it and quite frankly I’m quite glad I got to experience this game, even if it is a bit rough around the edges. What do I mean by this? Well it is pretty much the opposite of everything that made Grandia 2 so great in the first place.

Allow me to elaborate. When this game was first released, people were in uproar about it, some consider it the death of the Grandia series, others just consider it to be a mediocre title which was nothing more than a disappointment. Hey, that sounds like the perfect game for me to review. So I picked the game up and gave it a go. How bad could it possibly be?

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First of all, I would like to talk about the visuals of this game since they are a considerable improvement from Grandia 2. The world of Grandia 3 is certainly a looker, not the best looking game I’ve seen but it has certainly been given a makeover that stands out if you’ve played any of the previous Grandia games. It feels great to actually play a Grandia game with such great visuals. Sure Grandia 2 Anniversary Edition improved on the visuals somewhat and made them a lot easier on the eyes and actually made them quite likable but Grandia 3 really has a fresh new style that is unlike any of the previous Grandia games.

One thing I would like to note is that Grandia 3 feels like a much more open-ended game than Grandia 2 but don’t let this fool you, the game is every bit as linear as its predecessor though to be fair, you are able to backtrack this time around thanks to the game’s flight system which allows you to freely roam the world map in a similar way to Lost Odyssey in the sense that it is very restrictive and in a lot of ways kinda pointless considering the linear nature of this game.

Grandia 3 Flying around is kinda pointless

For a theme centered around freedom to roam the skies, you’d expect the game to deliver that feeling of freedom in its structure but sadly this is not the case, instead when you approach certain areas, you merely get a text box telling you about it, kinda like in Mass Effect. It’s such a shame since there is a huge world out there to fly around in yet you only get to explore a small portion of it. It’s such a shame really.

While we are on the topic of the game’s theme, let’s get straight to business and talk about the games laughable story. Where do I even begin? For starters after having played the legendary Grandia 2, it is easy to see how this game has come to receive such a negative reception. You would think that after playing a game like Grandia 2, the story would be exciting and fresh, sadly this is not the case this time around, the story of Grandia 3 is about as exciting as a baked potato.

Grandia 3 Trying really hard not to make a dick joke

Trying really hard not to make a dick joke

While Grandia 2 went off the beaten track with its protagonist, in Grandia 3, you are presented with Yuki who follows just about every single cliché in the book as a JRPG protagonist. His only standout feature is his love for planes… not that I consider that a good thing, rather It comes across as obnoxious more than anything else. Typically the game starts off with the protagonist, Yuki getting scolded by his mother Miranda for being too obsessive over his hobby.

But believe me, Yuki doesn’t get any sympathy from me. After crashing his plane like an idiot, he is left stranded in the middle of a forest a couple of miles from his hometown and encounters a young girl named Alfina… you know what this means don’t you? That’s right, get ready for some boy meets girl action in the form of yet another bland, uninspired romance that contributes absolutely nothing to the plot… hurray!

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Little did I know that the entire build up of Yuki’s character was about to capsize from here on out. Now Yuki must escort Miss Bigears to a place called Arcriff, a place of worship dedicated to communicating with the guardians. Sound familiar? Anyways the story starts getting duller and duller from there.

Put simply if you’ve played any JRPG, you’ve seen Grandia 3’s storyline already. It pretty much deflates into a quest for macguffins once you reach the halfway mark and by that point, the story never really evolves past that until you face the big bad evil thing at the end.

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To make things even more insulting, the only two redeeming characters leave the party early on in the story. This cripples the story as they are replaced by two dull characters who barely have anything to offer in terms of personality and they are mostly cardboard cut outs. In fact, these characters are so bad that you could remove them from the game and it wouldn’t change a thing.

Now in a game like Grandia, this is particularly worrying since the Grandia series has always revolved around its interaction between characters and with a cast of characters as dry as oatmeal, its efforts to focus on character interaction are pretty much wasted.

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The nature of the Grandia series remains unchanged however. Grandia 3 follows the same formula as the previous games. Its focus on NPC interaction is still an all you can eat buffet of narrative and the dinner scenes return to add more flavor.

You can tell that Game Arts were trying to focus on building a strong narrative as they continue to use the same tools that made Grandia 2’s story so engaging, it’s just a shame that the characters and the plot of Grandia 3 are so sterile otherwise it could have made for yet another memorable and engaging storyline.

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Where the game truly shines however is in its battle system. Like the previous Grandia titles, Grandia 3 uses an active time based (ATB) battle system with a heavy emphasis on changing the flow of battles through cancelling enemy attacks and manipulating the IP gauge to intercept enemy turns.

Grandia 3 enhances the system by rebalancing the game’s difficulty to make for a more challenging experience. In addition, the game adds new aerial combos in an attempt to mix things up. Sadly while aerial combos have their uses early on in the game, their effectiveness diminishes later on as enemies are given insane amounts of health and this tends to make many of the boss fights a slog.

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Fortunately many of the boss fights are varied, some of which can be quite difficult to figure out at first. The game keeps things fresh by offering plenty of devastating abilities to be used by both the player and the enemy. It is important to stay on your toes in all battles as you are usually outnumbered by multiple enemies and if your characters are widely spread out on the IP gauge, you may find yourself in a compromising situation if you make the wrong move.

Thankfully the game offers a wide assortment of abilities in the form of moves/magic to bolster your arsenal. Every ability is useful, you just need to find the right one for the job. That’s JRPG combat 101 right there and while many JRPG’s forget the significance of this, Grandia 3’s combat focuses heavily on making the player’s choices feel important. Add to that the need to manage SP more carefully (due to the lack of SP restoration items available) and you have a surprisingly deep combat system which offers plenty of variety to keep things fresh for the entire duration of the game.

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Character Management is different this time around. New moves are learned via leveling up rather than with special coins. Moves are enhanced at random. I personally dislike this as it can sometimes screw you over in battles since attacks will be pulled off instantly when a new secret method is learned (the process of leveling up moves) which can ruin a potentially well-timed cancel. I also dislike the randomness of move leveling. Grandia 2 gave the player total freedom with learning moves which led to several balancing issues, however this method is still preferable to the method used in Grandia 3, at least in my opinion.

Magic is pretty interesting this time around. While the spells in your arsenal are more-or-less the same, the method of learning magic has drastically changed from that of Grandia 2. On one hand it complicates the progression system, on the other hand it is a more balanced system that prevents players from acquiring high level spells too early. Magic eggs can be dropped by most enemies and are surprisingly very common, they can be used to enhance the effects of spells or they can be consumed to learn new spells. Abilities work the same way allowing you to equip skill books to increase the potency of specific skills or consume them to learn new skills. These can be equipped at any save point.

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In addition, there are higher level eggs available which can easily be acquired through mana egg fusion. This allows you to access powerful magic when you wouldn’t normally be able to. It is important to note however that characters have a set magic level depending on how high of a level they are. As such the system is balanced and you can never learn spells that are too powerful. To some, this could be seen as a bad thing, however mana eggs can still be equipped to increase the potency of spells to make up for this allowing you to grow stronger should you wish to.

Ultimately when comparing the gameplay of Grandia 2 and Grandia 3, Grandia 3 comes on top just by a small margin, this isn’t to say that Grandia 2’s gameplay was bad, many of the fundamentals that make Grandia 3’s gameplay so great were lifted straight out of Grandia 2, they have just been improved this time round which is expected of a successor. Sadly it is difficult to call Grandia 3 a true successor to Grandia 2 as it falls short in the department Grandia games are known for, story.

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Personally, I do not often prioritize story in videogames. Grandia 2 was an exception for me and I honestly didn’t expect Grandia 3 to be anything quite like Grandia 2 but the combat is ultimately what won over my interest in this game. While I disagree with some of the systems used in Grandia 3’s character management, the combat itself is actually quite engaging to say the least. As such I cannot say that my experience with Grandia 3 was as bad as many people make it out to be. To be honest I quite enjoyed it.

The music is what sealed the deal for me, despite this games shortcomings, it still has a solid soundtrack, not as good as Grandia 2’s but a solid soundtrack nonetheless. Add to that the eye-catching visuals and you have yourself an enjoyable game. That being said, I can understand the negative reception this game has received, as a Grandia game it is pretty weak and its linear story focused structure limits its potential. Add to that a couple of irritating songs and a few lackluster dungeons leaving you with just another run-of-the-mill JRPG which just falls short of being yet another classic PS2 RPG.

Grandia 3 Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the evilist of them all

Truly a work of art! Oh wait, that’s a mirror, never mind…

So all in all, Grandia 3 is not as bad as people make it out to be, while it is far from being a true successor to Grandia 2, it is still worth the experience. If you can find the game for cheap, give it a try. It’s not a bad game, just don’t expect too much out of it. Put simply if you’re starving for some JRPG action and you’ve played all the best, you aren’t doing yourself a disservice by playing this game, you should be able to find some enjoyment out of it. While this may come as a surprise to you all, I actually had a hard time tearing this game to shreds as much as I’d have liked to.

I really didn’t expect to like this game. Though the story may have been laughably bad and cringeworthy at times, I’ve definitely experienced worse (*cough*White Knight Chronicles*cough*). It gave me some good laughs at least… seriously what is with the blatant similarities between the story of Grandia 2/3 and Devil May Cry 4? Even the voices for Yuki and Alfina return to play the same roles in Devil May Cry 4 as Nero and Kyrie… plus why does the villain look so much like Ganondorf and why does he wear black patches on his face? Seriously dude, grow a beard or something. Plus what is with that wannabe Arngrim guy named Kornell? Why is he such a doofus? What is his purpose in the plot besides being comic relief? We may never find an answer to these questions. All I can do is give the game its final score.

Grandia 3 Could he possibly be evil

Seriously who the fuck is this guy!? What is his purpose in this game besides just being there?


Story/plot: Pretty Bad
Visuals: Good
Gameplay: Great
Music: Good
Lifespan: Decent Length
Would You Replay? No

 

Overall: Satisfactory

 


 

Value: £15.00

For a more in-depth look at the story, watch this video:

Exist Archive + Nier Automata Stream – Talking About Nintendo

 

Plenty of Nintendo talk and other stuff, couldn’t exactly come up with a better topic to talk about so I was mostly playing along enjoying my time playing the game. I have some more content coming up but it’s been delayed due to the fact that my splitters have et to arrive. I also discuss my troubles with let’s playing and coming up with an alternative idea to bring more filler content to the site because as we all know, people love some filler content.

Ok, ok I get that people don’t care about this sort of content, I just want people to know that I’m here and that I’m working on stuff so by making filler content it gives me something to do in between other blogs or when I don’t have anything planned. Currently I have a review in the works but I am having issues getting the images due to a delay on the arrival of my composite cable splitters. Hopefully this will be resolved. As for Painkiller, I really don’t know how to solve that problem. I’m not calling off the series entirely but the possibility of being able to continue recording it is very low since OBS won’t work due to the fact that alt tabbing out of Painkiller causes the game to freeze.

For those interested in my Painkiller let’s play, head to my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/brainjuice654

If/when I finish the lets play I will be putting it up on the site but it is not yet finished sadly. Other than that, keep an eye out for some new content coming soon.

Star Ocean Till The End Of Time comes to PS4

It’s happening people, Star Ocean Till The End Of Time is getting ported to PS4. Now I don’t really care much for buying ports of games I already own but this is proof that tri-Ace know what they’re doing. I mentioned this in my Star Ocean 5 stream for a reason, this needed to happen one way or another and it is happening.

However this is not a fully fledged remake, it’s just a HD port with slightly better graphics and trophy support pretty much so I can’t say that I’m too excited for it but the fact that it exists is good news as it means that Square-Enix haven’t completely given up on the series.

star-ocean-3-hd

They are trying to gauge interest again by going the safe route with an HD port, while this may be lazy, it gives new players a chance to pick the game up digitally. This might not seem like an issue right now but once all the physical copies are gone, this will be the only option left for most people so it needed to happen.

I guess the ideal scenario of a re-worked combat system and seamless battles just wasn’t meant to be, here’s hoping that the game will sell well, considering it is the best-selling tri-Ace game it has to, if it doesn’t then the series may be in jeopardy.

What troubles me is the fact that people who already own the game may not be inclined to pick it up again and why would they want to? If they want to play it again they can just pull out their PS2 and play it on the disk. I doubt it will reach high sales numbers but hopefully it will receive a lot of purchases by new audiences and die-hard fans.

If it succeeds, the chance of getting a Valkyrie Profile 3 goes up by 1% so I’m thinking of purchasing it but I’m not going to dive straight in yet as I have numerous games I want to play. Plus I’m not particularly eager to experience that battle system/item creation again.

Source

Star Ocean 5 Stream: Talking about war and shit.

I cut to this point in the stream since my last stream had terrible sound. In any case It’s up here for anyone who wants to listen to me drone on about war and what video games would be the worst to live in. Plus about Star Ocean 5 in general.

I can post more streams on here in the future, sorry that I didn’t put all the previous streams up because the sound quality was terrible.

0:00 – 12:00

Talking about current situation/updates (resolved)

12:00 – 31:00

Talking about the gameplay of Star Ocean and Star Ocean 5 and comparing it to the Tales series

31:00 – 33:00

Talking about HD televisions and why I never use them (I have an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it policy when it comes to hardware”).

33:00 – 45:00

Making fun of the war scenario

45:00 – 46:00

Talking about landmines

46:00 – 47:30

Talking about Status recovery items

47:30 – 50:00

Talking about Star Ocean in general and why I love the series

50:00 – 55:00

Private Actions and Roles

55:00 – 58:00

Talking about flaws in the series and why they don’t ruin things for me

58:00 – 1:13:50

Talking about war in videogames and my thoughts on real life war

1:13:50 – 1:24:30

What videogame universe would be the worst to live in?

1:24:30 – 1:27:40

Explaining the reason why super armor exists in Star Ocean 5 (just watch it and you will see) and talking about flaws again.

1:27:40 – 1:30:20

Emmerson joins and I play as him, talking about my preference for close ranged fighters

1:30:20 – 1:42:00

Talking about draw distance/visuals as well as the combat system, why Star Ocean 5’s flaws don’t bother me. Talking about the hate Star Ocean 5 received.

1:42:00 – 1:46:00

Private Action stuff and talking about the purpose of entering residential buildings in JRPG’s

1:46:00 – 2:06:44

Talking about the future of tri-Ace again and other Star Ocean/Tales comparisons

 

 

 

Exist Archive Costs £49.99 at release. Is It Worth it?

Well in case you didn’t know, Exist Archive released today overseas and it turns out there are a few things to note about it after doing a bit of research. I have not yet played the localized version of the game but I have seen footage of it and found out a few important things.

First of all, the pricetag has escalated to £49.99 for the PS4 copy of the game. If you’re unfortunate to not own a Vita you’ll be forking out a lot for this game. Now I can see what they’re trying to do here, they’re trying to get rid of the DLC/Microtransactions. However, I am watching you Aksys Games, the moment I see the DLC costumes, I won’t be afraid to call you out on it.

Of course the Japanese release did have cosmetic DLC but I could accept it since it was just that, DLC. No strings attached, no fun money, no loot boxes, just straight up cosmetic DLC. That’s perfectly acceptable, plus we got some free costumes as well.

Oh and as for those free costumes we got in the Japanese version, you guys are gonna miss out on them. Now this might not be a big deal to the vast majority of people but it is a shame considering the fact that they were costumes from the Valkyrie Profile series. It seems Square-Enix weren’t willing to bargain with Aksys Games so I guess it’s not their fault.

In addition to this, the game also has an English dub and from what I have heard so far, the dub isn’t anything particularly special but my views on it could change when I actually do pick up the game. Regardless it is a nice surprise to see an English dub included in there as well. I know a lot of people hate English dubs but for me, it’s important because it makes it easier to understand the character’s emotion. However it’s not be all and end all, after all, back 20 years ago dubbing was a rarity as was voice acting so I could easily cope with it. This is a nice surprise regardless even though the voice actor for Kanata sounds like Dust from Dust an Elysian Tail which is… well, not my thing to be honest. However it was to be expected so there’s no point getting worked up about it.

As for when I’ll pick up the game… not sure, all I know is I will buy it eventually, maybe today or tomorrow, maybe when the price drops? I don’t really know. All I can say is that this release is definitely an interesting one. Lets put it this way, it’s been very uneventful. I thought I should at least post something about it to acknowledge its existence (see what i did there?) because nobody else is going to so I might as well considering the fact that I’m a huge tri-Ace and Valkyrie Profile 2 fan and all.

As for whether or not it is worth £49:99, check my review here: Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky Review

Bare in mind the story may be good or bad, I don’t know yet, I don’t think the story is going to be terrible though, I think they’re going for something interesting with this game story wise but I will wait till I actually play it in English to give my 2 cents on it.

In other news…. Star Ocean Anamnesis

No comment…

Seriously you should know by now what I think of this. All I can say is, it was bound to happen.

Star Ocean 5: My thoughts on the story (Spoilers)

So I finished the English version of Star Ocean 5 and having played it, the story is just as I expected really. In any case, the cast of characters were a lot better than Star Ocean 4’s cast if you ask me. As such I’m going to talk about all of the characters and what I personally thought of them.

Fidel Camuze: Without a doubt the best lead character in the series IMO. Why is this? That’s simple. Fidel isn’t a silent protagonist but his personality is kinda up to the player. A bit like Ludger from Tales Of Xillia 2 only he does have a baseline to work from in the sense that he’s a trained swordsman who desires to protect others. However aside from that he’s a pretty stoic hero with a blank slate personality. This works rather well in private actions since the choices you make pretty much define his character.

That’s not to say that he is completely devoid of personality though, he is still a decisive and dependable swordsman which makes him somewhat respectable unlike the rest of the cast (except maybe Roddick) and he still has that protective nature about him.

Overall, whilst he may not be my ideal character, Fidel represents the “Integrity” int he game’s title very well and the fact that he’s straightforward only makes him better for the lead character role. His character design helps this because it stands out very well.

As a fighter, I played him mostly as a tank. His guard counter is extremely useful and he has a lot of quick specials which allows him to exploit short counter windows without being hit.

Miki Sauvester: I knew I wasn’t going to like this character the moment I saw her. The standard moeblob childhood sweetheart does absolutely nothing for me at all other than serve as a huge obstacle in my attempt to get the ending I want.

I took great pleasure in pissing her off whenever I gad the opportunity and feeding her emotional destabilizers in order to lower her affection rating in my attempts to avoid getting the most generic ending in the game. Seriously though, why does every Star Ocean game make it so easy to get with the female lead? It’s beyond me and just plain absurd.

As a character, she isn’t half as irritating as Reimi and Milly thank god, I could just about put up with her, she’s decent at healing and she doesn’t constantly bitch about everything and instead tries to start comic relief at the other characters expense because who else is gonna do it? Miki is like the only character in the game who has absolutely zero street cred. She doesn’t have any military training, she isn’t a powerful signeturge, she doesn’t have a super powerful symbological sphere that slows down time. She’s just a barely looking 18-year-old who has a few symbological spells and thinks that makes her worthy of being amongst the rest of the cast. Oh and she likes to talk a lot… just a warning for you all.

Oh and to top things off, she has absolutely zero relevance to the plot. When you are upstaged by Ms Fanservice in this department, you might as well just give up.

Victor Oakville: At first I thought this guy was going to be another edgelord like Arumat, turns out I was wrong. At first this guy seems like a stoic and serious soldier, much like Fidel however after doing several private actions  I found that Victor appears to be quite the eccentric and quite possibly the most entertaining character in the game… even more so than Emmerson.

Just listen to his PA’s and you’ll see what I mean, this guy is the most interesting character in the game as well as the most interesting choice of voice. Crispin Freeman pulls this one off very well. Some of his lines are just hilarious and often the delivery of these lines makes him the star of the show.

I actually mained this guy for the vast majority of the game. His moveset just resonates with me. He is an excellent damage dealer with some really badass specials. Probably the most fun character I’ve had the pleasure of playing in a Star Ocean game. His reserve rush tops it all off though, divine wrath is quite possibly the best attack in the game in terms of dealing a fuck ton of damage.

Fiore Brunelli: And here’s the obligatory fanservice character, this time taken to the extreme. Thankfully she has more relevance to the plot than Myuria did and she does seem to make private actions a little more entertaining.

However as a fighter she’s… well, not the best. I just slapped the crusader role on her for double raise dead since symbology isn’t really the most fun role to play in Star Ocean. Like most casters in tri-Ace games, she is excellent at the start of the game and near obsolete at the end. This wouldn’t have been so bad if she wasn’t upstaged by Miki of all people in this department. Her reserve rush is interesting though.

Anne Partricianni: Probably the best female character of the bunch, that’s not saying much considering the fact that she’s the reason behind the infamous “kitty” PA’s. However Anne stands out due to not being a childhood friend, fanservice character or a loli. That alone puts her to the top. Plus as a cat person myself I can see where she’s coming from. She also serves as a good sparring partner with Emmerson when it comes to banter.

I didn’t use her as much as I could have but she seems like a balanced melee fighter. She has an anti air guard counter and interesting moves like acrobat locus and infinity kick. She has some great quick specials and great extended ones but sadly she isn’t much of a tank since she gets inferior armor to Fidel and Victor. However, that’s not to say you can’t tank with her should you choose to do so. She can do basically anything making her an ideal character to main.

Emmerson Kenny: This is the sort of guy you go drinking with but don’t associate anywhere else other than the pub. He’s essentially one of the lads. This is interesting when combined with his role as captain of the Charles D Goule. He’s a captain who isn’t completely stuck up like they are in most games and instead he’s a laid back playboy. Well I suppose if you’re a captain you can do whatever you want… including turning your entire spaceship into your own bachelor pad… just sayin. Plus his voice actor plays one of the Dreadlords in WOW, bonus points for that (even though it’s not original Warcraft).

Honestly though, it’s surprising how the Charles D Goule doesn’t have a private bar… and yet the Calnus in Star Ocean 4 does… I guess the Federation don’t commission those unlike the SRF. Shame.

In battle he is insanely powerful. I played him for a bit and found him a bit too powerful so I swapped back to Victor. He is a ranged character with lots of extremely powerful attacks. I occasionally swapped him in when I wanted to get rid of trash encounters quickly as his crescent wings skill is extremely useful for clearing crowds of enemies.

Relia: This is the character who represents the “Faithlessness” in the title (I presume). The biggest irony here is that the VA for Relia makes her sound older than Miki. Plus this character is actually very important to the plot considering the fact that she’s the first protagonist chronologically able to use forbidden symbology.

Thankfully her VA isn’t half as obnoxious as Lymle’s and she throws a lot of interesting questions in private actions. You can’t control her in battle but I gave her roles such as Terror Knight to lower enemies actions.

So that’s the cast, now onto the story. The game starts off in the small village of Stahl and gets attacked by bandits so Fidel and co seek help from reselia against them. However they eventually find an unconcious Relia from a shuttle. This character is being tracked down by Kronos who have been researching relia and appear to have given the people of Trei-kur their technology to oppress the eastern lands which is due to either carelessness or a deal made with their leader. However the eastern lands refuse to surrender to this threat and war breaks out.

I like how the entire game revolves around this war as it works well together with the game’s cast of characters who are mostly combat veterans. There are several war battles throughout the game, my favourite being the invasion of Eastern Trei-Kur. I think they melded these two plot points rather well to keep the story more interesting. However I believe they could have done a bit more to connect things on the villain’s side of things. How did Trei-Kur gain access to Kronos’ technology? Regardless, Trei-Kur is like what Shinra is to Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII. They are the “in your face but still not the real baddies” faction whereas Kronos, the guys who gave them that technology (obviously) are the main bad guys of the game who desire to use Relia’s power.

The best part of the story is simply the fact that throughout the game you will see both sci-fi and fantasy melded together. So there is more consistency here than other Star Ocean games. In a way it’s pretty much Star Ocean Till The End Of Time had  the entire game taken place on Vanguard III but with a larger scale as it shows the horrors of what happens when the UP3 law is broken and why it is so significant. With new technology in Trei-Kur’s hands alongside their more primitive society, it leads to them using this technology recklessly which causes a lot of danger for Reselia.

A lot of the complaints were that the game takes place on only one planet. However this is not an issue at all simply due to the fact that the sci-fi and fantasy melds in perfectly well this time around so they don’t need multiple planets to show things off. They still manage to incorporate space travel in there too allowing you to travel to the Caverlero and the Alcatraz which is better than nothing so i’d say that this game still lives up to its “Star Ocean” identity.

Even though this concept has been explored before, it hasn’t been explored nearly as much as it has in Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness. It’s not the best story in the series but it’s refreshing to see a cast of characters that are actually…normal. At least after having played Star Ocean The Last Hope… *shudders*.

So my question is simple. This game or Star Ocean 1? Well Star Ocean 5 obviously has the better graphics and battle system but how about the story and characters? Well Star Ocean 1 still wins in that department to some degree as the characters are somewhat more interesting. I think both games equally give a great experience. In a way they are for the most part a similar game in terms of how the story plays out though I was surprised how that in the ending Fidel and co all go with Emmerson and Anne and many of whom join the Federation. That’s an interesting twist of events.

However you can’t beat that good old school feeling of the first game. I find that while Star Ocean 5 may objectively be the better game, I find myself undecided on this. The cast of the first game was pretty solid plus it had you choosing different party members each time which made things a bit more interesting. In addition, the first game explores more philosophy with its plot twist which Star Ocean 5 kinda doesn’t. Also I found that Star Ocean 5 lacked different races. I think it’s something the developers must have overlooked.

So I am left undecided. Perhaps its for the best really. Star Ocean 5 is everything I could have possibly wanted from a new Star Ocean game and I am glad I picked it up and played it. I may also add that there are battles in the game where you have to protect Anne. I had a lot of trouble in the Japanese version fighting these battles due to the fact that Anne is constantly bombarded by attacks and if she dies it’s game over.

However once I got the right setup, the battles weren’t too hard. I suppose having done it beforehand I knew what to expect. Just expect a bit of a difficulty spike there. I would have mentioned it in my review but it was a bit spoilery and I wasn’t sure if the game warned me or not. Turns out it does warn you at the start of the fight so I have no qualms with it. However you may have a bit of trouble in those fights.

Regardless, it’s not a huge flaw, just something to be mindful of, hence the reason why I didn’t mention it in my review. The game is still solid regardless. At least they warn you unlike Star Ocean Till The End Of Time where you die so easily in the Urssa Lava Caves due to MP death which is barely ever explained in-game.

So all in all, I liked Star Ocean 5 a lot. It brought everything I wanted to the table as a Star Ocean fan and was refreshing to play. I will never understand the severity of the criticisms. Sure it’s not perfect but it’s still a solid game and offers just what any Star Ocean fan could possibly want. People have nitpicked this game to death and quite frankly it doesn’t deserve this.

This game has given me an experience better than any JRPG I have played this decade and that is likely due to tri-Ace being tri-Ace. Exist Archive is a solid contender though. However I found that the game had a bit too much filler for my tastes. Still a solid game though. Why can’t people just accept games for being imperfect and move on? I blame the hype for all this. People buy way too much into the hype these days and then they shit on the games when they don’t live up to their expectations

So do yourself a favor and remember that just because the game isn’t as good as you expected it to be doesn’t make it a terrible game. Star Ocean 5 most certainly isn’t one. I knew that the game wasn’t going to be as great as the hype made it out to be. I analyzed it from the start and the score I gave it was predicted to be a “good” rating. Well I ended up giving it a “great” rating. It sure pays to be a cynical gamer because you know better than to trust hype bait and while the hype bait was definitely needed for this game, it still didn’t influence my purchase of the game at all. All I wanted was a new Star Ocean game and I got it… now I’m just waiting for a new Valkyrie Profile game. In any case I’m going to move on from Star Ocean 5, it and Exist Archive gave me more enjoyment than any other JRPG I’ve played in the past decade and it’s a sign that gaming is going up.