How to control your backlog and spending habits in gaming

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As a reviewer, I often find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility to buy and play lots of different games and as such I am left with a huge backlog of games just lying around waiting to be played… but then a new game catches my attention and I drop everything just to play it. Then I get fed up again.

Now you must understand that I have been writing on the Destructoid C blogs for 3 years now. I used to be a proactive writer, I would take a pick out of a game that took my fancy and just throw out a review. However, the quality of them was appalling among other things. To make a review is pretty easy if you think about it, all you need to do is write what you’re thinking. However it’s not easy to make a solid review. In fact the moment you start improving as a reviewer is the moment when you start to realize that it is hard work.

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Sure there are a lot more harder things to do but reviewing is considered a hobby to me. Unfortunately with this mindset, I have to become a lot more close-minded. Since this isn’t my job, I’m not going to play every single game on the face of the earth and throw out a review… though I may occasionally try something new, I want to stick to writing about games that I am passionate about or manage to gain my full attention and considering the fact that the gaming industry is changing for the better, I have to change to adapt to that, as a writer.

In any case, how is this relevant to controlling your backlog/spending? Well you see in the latter half of the seventh generation, I hit a massive burnout. Games just stopped coming out (games that I cared about anyways) and I had to change myself as a gamer, I had to be open-minded and explore new areas of gaming which I hadn’t before. In a way, I had grown as a gamer, I had grown away from my nostalgia barrier that led me down a narrow path in gaming. I feel better as a gamer for doing that and to be honest, I don’t think I would have become inspired to write without that.

With this however came its own issues. Though I am often careful with my money, I came to the point where I simply couldn’t turn down a cheap deal. If there was a game that interested me even a little, I would buy it without a moment’s hesitation. This had it’s fair share of ups and downs. I got to discover new games that I otherwise would have never tried but I also picked up some dreadful games that I simply got tired with.

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Despite what many people believe, I played Painkiller on a whim and guess what? I loved it!

I’m a cynic, I hate what the gaming industry has become and this changed my perception on gaming but it was more than just that, the industry’s change affected the games available. It is the end of 2016 now and games have been great this year but the past few years have been utterly dreadful, it was like a gaming drought. Trying to find a top quality game was a nightmare. Many of the top rated games I have reviewed are from past generations. Those days were good, it wasn’t until 2010 where things started going wrong.

I still say that 2011 was the worst year for gaming since the videogame crash, only 1 game released in 2011 managed to entertain me and that was Kirby’s Adventure Wii. Everything else was horrifically bad or just mediocre. 2012 wasn’t much better, Farcry 3 was probably my game of the year and that’s not saying much considering the fact that the game was an open world shooter with a dubstep soundtrack… ehhh.

The biggest question was “where are all the JRPG’s”? We had our Tales, we had our NIS shovelware along with a few others which were equally as bland. Seriously why do the Hyperdimentional Neptunia games still sell? Those games depress me because they take away all the passion and the effort that went into old school JRPG’s and instead these games are released every single year and as such the quality of those games takes a nose dive (at least in my opinion).

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Sure Exist Archive may have re-used assets and all that but at least they were trying. Most JRPG’s of recent years don’t even feel like they are trying to impress us. Someone has to give all those lazy JRPG devs a boot up the ass so we don’t get shit like Time and Eternity anymore, that game was an insult to all JRPG fans.

Sorry about my soapbox rant but I’m trying to get you to understand why I felt the need to spend money when in truth you really don’t. I was prepared to give anything a go because I was lost in the massive labyrinth of gaming. I was desperate, I needed a game, anything to keep my passion inflated, a passion that I knew still existed after I was reminded by Grandia 2. There was still something there… the world just moved on and abandoned passion but I hadn’t given up, even now I’m still confident that we will someday see rainfall again in the gaming industry, Star Ocean 5 gave me hope, hope that I had been praying for years.

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Grandia 2 re-ignited my passion for gaming

In fact it amazes me that games such as Halo can be considered classics now, yes I’m talking about Halo 3. How can a game like that be considered a classic by today’s standards I cannot fathom… but it is, it has been nearly 10 years since it was released. The state of the gaming industry completely blinded me of just how much time had passed, it was a depressing time for me and possibly for many others. Heck I was on the “Gaming industry is dying” bandwagon at one point, even people like Razorfist mentioned it in one of his videos during the dark days of the year 2013… that was a terrible year for a lot of reasons… and for gaming also.

Now that we have hit the eighth generation, as bad as the modern consoles are, there is still hope for change. A fresh start, something the industry has needed for a while. Now it has come to the point that there are far too many games coming out that I simply can’t keep up, I just have to buy them all, I owe it to myself and the readers to do so… or do I?

Not only does buying lots of games cost money but the more games you buy, the less invested you become in them. Here’s one of the reasons some of us younger gamers are possibly suffering from this gaming “spending spree” and what we need to do to prevent it is:

1. Think back to when you were younger…

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It sounds so simple doesn’t it. For some, it may work better than others. If you were spoiled as a child, this may not be the way for you, if you are an older gamer, this may also not be the one for you but if you are in your 20’s like myself and think back to your childhood, you will remember the small selection of games you owned and how dedicated you were to finishing them. They were all you had and you made the most of them. Be is Pokemon Red/Blue Legend Of Zelda Ocarina Of Time or for the older gamers perhaps it was Castlevania.

We valued our games back then because we didn’t have the ability to purchase them ourselves, we were funneled gifts from our parents at xmas or our birthdays and those were usually videogames (for those who were lucky). We were all excited back then. I remember the excitement of getting not only a Gamecube for my birthday but also A Playstation 2. Those were the best consoles I played in my life (well besides the SNES which was before my time but we’re talking about my childhood here). I had so many great moments on both systems, especially the Gamecube. There were so many games to play… but I couldn’t play them all. All I had to play was Smash Bros and a few other games. It wasn’t until way later where I looked back and tried out other games such as the legendary F-Zero GX.

So try to remember those moments and be responsible for your spending. I don’t care how well off you are. Be responsible for the psychological impact that buying tonnes of games brings and try to pick and choose your games. I know it’s hard for the more dedicated individuals out there such as myself but remember, gaming isn’t going anywhere, you can always pop round at a later date and play them when they’re cheaper, sure you’ll miss all the craze but for single player games especially, it may be for the best. However you might want to:

2. Avoid using digital distribution services like Steam/GOG/Humble Bundle

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My Steam Library is chock full of unfinished games

Ah the temptation of steam sales. That moment when you realize just how cheap games can be. The moment when you find out that just about everyone can be a gamer regardless of how poor they are. Not only that but you can also help charity’s through gaming too? It sounds like heaven doesn’t it? Well… it’s kinda cool at first, however you don’t want to overdose on this trend. Remember, these are digital games, they cannot be sold off when you’re done with them (though you can refund them on steam but that’s not what I’m talking about) nor can you keep them on your shelf as memorabilia. These games are the equivalent of an economy flight to Benidorm, a cheap break-away but it gets old after a while.

As a PC gamer, reviews are more important than ever because there is so much choice. However you cannot just read reviews that say “this game is awesome” you have to be 100% sure that you are prepared to play the whole way through because only then will you get your money’s worth. If it helps you can:

3. Play games with a shorter length

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Need For Speed Carbon may be short but it keeps me engaged better than any other game in the series.

For the casual audience, this is your best bet. Games like Child Of Light are great, yet small diversions away from the gaming ghetto bringing back the quality of old games at the cost of its length. Sure I would have liked it better if the game had an epic final dungeon at the end but to be honest, I was glad that it was short. It gave me the quality I was looking for without the investment required, plus it was a challenge.

However it can be difficult to know when games are short or not. If you’re looking for more detailed information on length for any game I reviewed, just leave a comment. I will tell you a more detailed explanation. For the most part I will only cover it if it’s relevant to the game overall such as Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky. However, I have and can not play every game out there so relying on me isn’t always the best bet. I can only try my best after all. As such one thing you really need to do is:

4. Do your research!!!

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Spec Ops: The Line wasn’t a bad game, it just wasn’t for me.

Do you really want a game? Do you want it enough to work for it? To find out if it’s really worth your hard-earned money? Reviewers like me exist for a reason, demos exist too, so do forums and wiki’s. Look up everything you can about the game. Watch lets plays if you have to. I’ve always had a saying that you shouldn’t just read 1 review, you should read 50 because every review is different, if there was truly a definitive review out there, I wouldn’t be writing reviews to begin with.

If you aren’t wetting your pants with excitement, consider waiting. Sure you might not get that pre-order bonus but chances are it will be available as paid DLC later on anyways and if not, it’s not like you missed much. However wasting £40.00 on a game you get burned out on isn’t worth it and you want to get the most out of your money. You may also want to consider doing some price comparison, if you can find the game considerably cheaper elsewhere, you may re-think whether or not the game is worth giving a go, however don’t forget that price isn’t everything and that you also have to control your backlog. Make sure it’s a game that you can dedicate your time to finishing, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just finish it!

Finally the last and most simple way is:

5. Take a break from gaming

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This doesn’t mean you have to quit gaming, maybe your gaming lifestyle needs adjusting… or perhaps you need to bring a few friends over or just consider doing something else with your time for a while. Consider what I do as being a “productive gaming hobby” I’m not playing anything as I write this, I’m doing this simply because I would rather spend my time writing rather than gaming right now. Even the most die-hard gamers know that gaming 100% of the time isn’t fun, you have to break it up. I don’t care how you do it but you need to change every so often. Heck it could be as simple as playing 2 games as once and going back and forth. Be warned though as this can cause more backlog issues. As such, Pick a game that you have already beaten and try replaying it again. That way you can play both familiar and new games so you have a mixture.

Variety is the spice of life, its never fun to be doing 1 thing constantly every single day, though some people would disagree with that (I.E MMO gamers) but the majority of gamers want something more from gaming rather than something to sink time into. Games need quality to make the experience memorable. It’s why I hate on games like Legend Of Dragoon so much (you probably won’t know that unless you read some of my old Destructoid blogs though), that game was ridiculously long. It wasn’t a bad game by any means but it over-stayed its welcome. It took years for me to finally complete it. Never again. Oh and also:

6. Know your limits

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I want to play God Hand, I really do, but if it’s going to be another masochistic game then I’m just going to have to pass up on it, at least for now. Sometimes you just want a nice relaxing game that you can just pick up and play rather than something which is going to kick your ass on a consistent basis. Think people! Before you pick up Dark Souls 3, think for a moment, are you truly prepared? Do you truly seek a challenge? Or are you simply starved for a new game and like the look of it? If the latter, put it off. I swear if you can’t handle those types of games it is often the best idea to just save them for later. There’s a time and a place for game like that, moments when you feel like you’re up for a challenge.

Games like God Hand and Devil May Cry are designed with replay-ability in mind, they are designed for players who want to invest time into the meta-game and constantly learn. F-Zero GX is the same, by all means as much as I love to preach about it, don’t just dive straight into it if you aren’t ready. F-Zero GX may be the best racing game ever but to truly embrace the awesomeness that F-Zero GX is you must develop patience and determination to get through it. Until you attain those qualities you are unfit for the task. Playing F-Zero GX is a reward in itself, a reward you should savor for a time in your life when you’re feeling like a winner. A time where you’re motivated to experience a true adrenaline rush. Of course you don’t want to hold off on getting F-Zero GX by any means, get it as soon as you are ready for some hardcore action. Heck if you really can’t cope with hard games, just play it on Novice. It’s not that hard.

So keep this in mind when you are considering purchasing games. Don’t just purchase something because everybody else is playing it. Find out whether or not the game is going to be valuable to you first. Read reviews (not just the ones on mainstream sites like Destructoid/IGN), research as much as possible, pay close attention to trailers and you may notice a few things that may alter your experience for better or worse.

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Don’t make the same mistake…

Have a great new year everyone… and don’t forget to keep your wallets sealed during the January sales unless there is something you absolutely must have.

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Why Do I Support #Performancematters

Here’s a detailed look on the strike and my thoughts on what is going on and what I personally believe from a consumer’s perspective which outcome would be of the greatest benefit. There are a few inaccuracies in the video such as mentioning 2K games when I was talking about the Duke Nukem anniversary remaster which is apparently not true. Apparently Gearbox were solely responsible for it.

In addition, subsistence farming is the word I was looking for when describing farming. The point I was trying to make is that the game is their idea, not the publishers and they are making the game to bring about their vision using the publishers to fund their project. Probably not the best example but that’s the only thing I could come up with at the time.

Ultimately I do support the strike and even though there are some potential issues that could come from this strike, I believe in the long run that it will be for the better. To me, this goes beyond merely the voice actors themselves, this concerns publisher ethics in general and if they are forced to make more ethical decisions with voice actors, it will essentially make a point. The fact that people are even opposing them is enough to give credit to this strike.

Oh and for those who do not know, the union which organized the strike goes by the name of SAG-AFTRA. However many voice actors/actresses have banded together from outside the unions to support this, others are undecided on it. The terms are simple. Voice actors want a safer work environment, they want to be more informed about their roles and what they are working on and they also want residuals to be paid out so that they can earn money that other actors do for other media.

Most publishers and developers have agreed to these terms and the strike is only occurring because of a small group of big name publishers, namely EA and Activision (no surprise there) are too stubborn to let the unions have their way.

A few things have happened after the recording. The publishers have brought lawyers and have claimed that voice actors make only a small percentage of a game’s total assets. However, let me remind you that Publishers contribute almost zero percent of a game’s total asses and in most cases it pretty much is zero. So who deserves the money more?

As for developers, regardless of what happens, they aren’t getting anything out of this, they’re still going to struggle no matter what the outcome.

Make your own judgement but please be civil and understand mine. Plus please understand the situation fully and provide more information if you can. Leave me your thoughts on this topic. Are there any voice actors you particularly like? If so, mention them in the comments.

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.

 

Exist Archive: The Other Side Of The Sky Review

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In case you’re wondering what I’ve been busy doing in the past few weeks, I’ve been playing Exist Archive The Other Side Of The Sky, a game developed by tri-Ace. This game is a Japanese import I have been eager to pick up since it was announced last year. Exist Archive presents itself as the spiritual successor to the Valkyrie Profile series, a series which spawned the legendary Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria, my favorite game of all time and naturally I have waited for a sequel (or in this case a pseudo sequel) to this wonderful game for years. So does Exist Archive manage to deliver the same amount of quality that Valkyrie Profile 2 managed to capture?

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Well I’m going to get straight to the point and put it bluntly. The answer is unsurprisingly no, it doesn’t. So how much quality does this game deliver to us, the player? Well that’s what we’re going to look into right now aren’t we.

Now before I start I want to make all of you aware that comparing Exist Archive to Valkyrie Profile 2 is just plain unfair. How could I possibly compare such games? I mean, Valkyrie Profile 2 is a masterpiece, how could that game be topped? Oh and I’m not saying that as a close minded idiot who is blinded by nostalgia, I’m saying it as a rational individual who is well aware as to how quality is measured up and I will tell you one thing. Exist Archive doesn’t seem to realize that sometimes, less is more but believe me, if I told you I didn’t get my money’s worth out of it, I’d be lying. Exist Archive is an excellent attempt at not only reviving what seemed to be a dead franchise but also refining it to a degree. It’s one of those games that tries it’s damn hardest to squeeze all the juice it can from what little it has.

Mmm... juicy goodness

Mmm… juicy goodness

However we have to remember that tri-Ace are not independent developer’s like they used to be, they are a subsidiary now. Not only that but all of their games with the exception of maybe Judas Code has been published under other companies, like most game development teams so forgive me for having very little sympathy when I say that Exist Archive could have done a lot better.

Or could it? This is a tough question isn’t it. We now find ourselves in a whole new territory as Japanese publisher Spike Chunsoft has taken the reigns. Now I don’t know very much about Spike Chunsoft (which is probably for the best since most publishers I know are just plain savages towards consumers) aside from the fact that they’ve published handheld games such as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.

 

“It’s one of those games that tries it’s damn hardest to squeeze all the juice it can from what little it has”

 

However with this new, lesser known publisher at the helm, it is very difficult to set our expectations high for lesser known publishers tend to be financially unstable. As a result, to expect a localization for this game is absolute fucking bonkers so I bought it off of Play Asia anyways so that I could take a gander for myself and write this review in hopes that I could re-live the experiences of the Valkyrie Profile series once more.

So before I get on with the more intricate points in the review, I want to briefly cover the story. Now first of all, I don’t understand a single word of Japanese and although some of the cutscenes manages to make me chuckle somehow, I still don’t really get what’s going on. However this is not to the game’s detriment rather it is my own detriment. As such I can’t really recommend this game as a whole to those who cannot speak the language.

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The premise (from what I can tell) seems to be the JRPG equivalent of a fantasy world reality TV show which throws a bunch of school kids (and a few older folks) into a fantasy world where they must survive the harsh wilderness infested with monsters designed to look like cutesy chibi plushies (well… some of them). Take this for what you will but I cannot deny that it’s quite an original story concept for a JRPG, somewhat ambitious one could say.

Nevertheless, I find the execution of the early game plot to be somewhat repetitive as it revolves around a recurring plot device known as existence crystals and you will have to collect them in order to move on with the plot. Even though the plot is pretty bog standard and repetitive early on, there are plenty of scenes involving character interaction throughout the game to keep things fresh. Much like in the original Valkyrie Profile, Exist Archive doesn’t focus too much on its over-arching plot but unlike Valkyrie Profile there is plenty of character interaction to be had and you can learn more about the characters over the course of the game.

Now there is a bit of abstract in the game’s story. It seems they took a page from Valkyrie Profile 2’s book which is admirable. There are optional existence crystals you can interact with in dungeons for some extra dialogue revolving around what appears to be flashbacks of the other characters. A rather innovative and ambitious attempt at developing the characters for sure though as to how well it does, I cannot say. It is nice that they’re there though and they appear on your collections screen.

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Existence Crystals are essentially the JRPG equivalent of audio logs though to be honest I think it’s mostly used as a replacement for Valkyrie Profile 2’s einherjar. They are also fully voiced through the PS4’s controller. An interesting idea for sure though I kinda feel sorry for those who want to record footage of the game. Nevertheless you have gotta give it to the developers for making the effort as these scenes don’t seem to be half-baked.

So overall, regardless of my feelings of the game’s story as a whole, I’m going to abstain from making any judgments on it due to my complete and utter lack of understanding of the Japanese language. I do apologize if this bothers you but at least you know whether or not it’s worth importing or not if you don’t understand Japanese.

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Visually the game is quite stunning, once again they have taken a page from Valkyrie Profile 2’s book with this one. The level of detail in many of the locations is staggering. The backdrops are also incredible to look at. The enemy designs are quite unusual. One of the enemies looks like Solo from the new Strider, another enemy looks like Ardjet from Zone Of The Enders. There are quite a few enemy designs despite many people’s complaints. Some are better looking than others.

Exist Archive suffers from what I like to call Final Fantasy II syndrome, no I’m not talking about the repeated usage of spells to make them stronger and level up, I’m talking about the shameless re-usage of enemies. Like one minute you’re in a boss fight against an enemy, the next minute that boss fight becomes a regular enemy in future encounters, usually re-skinned.

In fact I was shaking in fear once I saw the enemy that looked like Solo in a regular battle as that guy kicked my sorry ass when I fought him the first time. Then I kicked his ass and I wondered how he had gotten so weak. Needless to say, he was just a re-used asset. Well Tales Of Phantasia did it too and I didn’t complain so I don’t think it’s too much of an issue.

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The biggest problem with Exist Archive’s visuals are the character models. Though to be honest we are digging knee-deep into the realm of controversy when we talk about this. A lot of people shunned this game at launch for its Xbox Live Avatar compatibility. I don’t know why people showed such disdain at this somewhat innovative feature which allowed me to bring my now short-white haired Xbox live Ava- oh wait… this is PS4 isn’t it? How!? Sony, you have a lot to answer for, you stole Microsoft’s idea didn’t you! On second thoughts… why am I rooting for Moneysoft when I despise them so much?

In all seriousness, let us take time to celebrate the long-awaited return of big head mode! Remember those times where you could enter a cheat into the game and when you activated it your character’s head was puffed up like a balloon? Well tri-Ace saved us the trouble and gave us this feature right off the bat. Thanks tri-Ace, you know what we gamer’s want. I’m not going to touch on the character models any further because… well I don’t mind them. Do you know why? Because I don’t nitpick every single little tiny thing about a videogame and base my judgement solely on it! You got that? Good, let’s move on.

It's morphin' time!

It’s morphin’ time!

The music in Exist Archive feels somewhat unusual compared with Motoi Sakuraba’s usual work and this is definitely not a bad thing. There are some nice tracks in there, some even reminiscent of Valkyrie Profile 2’s style. The music that plays in the main hub area at the top of the tower is very relaxing. The dungeon music seems to follow the first Valkyrie Profile’s style in the sense that is dynamic and somewhat catchy.

The only issue I have with the game’s soundtrack is… well, there’s just not enough of it. The bonus soundtrack that came with the game has 11 tracks in it, that’s almost half the number of tracks found in the game itself. This is quite worrying. However quality over quantity comes to mind here and I will say for what it’s worth, the soundtrack is very enjoyable nonetheless.

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Speaking of quality over quantity, this game doesn’t seem to realize when enough is enough when it comes to filler content. I swear you will go through so many dungeons in this game and since the dungeons themselves are mostly re-skins of other dungeons, this can quickly become quite dull at times.

Now to add to this, it is also impossible to save inside a dungeon, rather the game expects you to get through it in one sitting. This can be a bit of a pain for those who have OCD when it comes to fighting every single enemy in the dungeon without a break and after doing it for a significant amount of time, it does get quite tiring after a while. Heck I still haven’t finished this game yet whilst writing this.

You can leave the dungeon at any time but if you do...

You can leave the dungeon at any time but if you do…

However I decided to make a start on this review and finish it off when I have finished the game. By the time this review is up, I will have already finished it, so bear in mind that I never review unfinished games… OK, I lied, I did it once with Warhammer 40K Space Marine but I got to the last boss in that game and could never beat him. I promise not to do so again if I can help it. In any case, this game has a lot of content available and it can be daunting to try and get through it all.

Now to end this review on a high note, the gameplay of Exist Archive is where I really start singing praises. Exist Archive’s battle system is reminiscent of the original Valkyrie Profile but with a few ideas from Valkyrie Profile 2 thrown in there too (thank god they brought back the AP gauge, praise be to tri-Ace).

Like Valkyrie Profile, the battle system is turned based and the characters attack using the face buttons. You control every character on the field and can press the menu button (options) to use certain spells and items. Sound similar to Valkyrie Profile doesn’t it? Well the similarities end there.

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Rather than focusing on comboing enemies, Exist Archive’s battle system is more strategic and forces you to think more. Though it may lack the flashiness of Valkyrie Profile 2’s combat system, it makes up for with it’s simple, yet somewhat intricate combat system which manages to keep players on their toes. There is so much to like about Exist Archive’s battle system and so much to cover, so let’s get straight to business.

First I’d like to touch on the differences between Valkyrie Profile and Exist Archive’s battle system and this lies in the enemy placement and the weapon range. Enemies are all bunched up together. Some are more further apart from others, some are stronger than others. The gauge on the bottom left hand side of the screen (the one shaped like red diamonds) is the demon’s greed gauge. To fill it up you have to attack enemies, just like the heat gauge in Valkyrie Profile.

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Unlike Valkyrie Profile however, the demon’s greed gauge isn’t drained when you’re not attacking so rather than focusing on chaining your combo’s your focus is to target either specific enemies or groups of enemies and deal the most hits and damage.

Attacking multiple enemies simultaneously can help build up your demon’s greed faster however it may be important to target specific enemies first, particularly if they are spiked enemies who deal damage to melee. As such, each battle requires a different approach in order to bring in the best results.

Your tactical choice can depend on your setup. Exist Archive is probably the first game of its kind to offer a class system. Yes, much like Final Fantasy V your characters can change classes with other characters by gaining affection with said characters. Gaining affection works similar to private actions in the Star Ocean series… but without the private actions.

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The more you battle with people, the higher your affection grows. Eventually once your affection is high enough you will be able to share skills between your party. This is extremely handy as unlike Valkyrie Profile 2 where you had to grind for skills. In this game you pick a skill for each character and once their affection is high enough, everyone will learn each other’s skill. Pretty neat if you ask me.

Each class has its ups and downs and it’s up to the player to find the right synergy, much like Valkyrie Profile 2. Swords are well-balanced weapons, they’re pretty fast and cover a wide area though their damage is pretty average. Katana’s deal heavy damage to enemies but cover a shorter range than swords, their attacks vary in speed and their attacks require precision to get the most out of them. Whips however cover a very wide area and can also deal multiple hits to enemies, they’re great for gaining heat but they’re not very powerful.

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In addition to melee weapons, there are ranged weapons. These are mostly gun-based classes and are used to attack enemies from afar. This can be useful for breaking an enemy’s guard with a barrage of hits allowing you to avoid getting intercepted. They can also be useful at hitting spiked enemies as they won’t take damage when attacking unlike melee.

Mage classes are based on multiple elements. These are fire, ice, wind and lightning. Fire magic deals the most damage to single targets, wind magic is often best for dealing with multiple enemies. Lightning mages deal decent damage but also have de-buffs which can be handy. Ice mages have buffs and are mostly single target casters like fire mages.

Your current setup not working out for you? Time for a class change.

Your current setup not working out for you? Time for a class change!

You can’t rely on a single class type throughout the entire game, you will need to experiment with multiple class combinations and find what works for you. The class change system allows you to bring your favorite characters into the party and change their class on the fly, keeping their levels and demons greed. The class system could be seen as detrimental to those who want the characters to have more individuality but if that doesn’t bother you, it’s a pretty cool addition.

Once you reach a certain point in the game you are able to access a new feature called greed mode. I love greed mode, more games should have greed mode. Heck I think games should also provide the same level of empowerment and challenge that greed mode offers. Rather than forcing players to grind for power leveling, greed mode gives a higher rate of chain encounters. This means you have one long battle of up to 5 encounters stacked on top of one another.

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You can make this faster than simply fighting multiple battles by conserving your AP and demon’s greed for the next battle which allows you to end it quicker. At the end of the battle gauntlet, you are given bonus experience for your efforts, the higher the chain encounter, the more xp you acquire.

This can make you very powerful very quickly without the need to grind. Sadly this doesn’t manage to completely counteract my OCD when it comes to fighting every single enemy in my path. Nevertheless it is a wonderful addition to the game which more games should employ. Consider it a revamped version of Star Ocean 4’s bonus board but better in every way.

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However greed mode isn’t all fun and games. Once you are in greed mode, you are unable to heal up your party with spells/items. So you will have to survive a gauntlet of monsters without healing making it kinda like a risk/reward gimmick. It can make battles a lot more exhilarating though when you know there are more battles to come and you have to survive them all by taking minimal damage. One way to reduce damage is by guarding.

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Guarding in Exist Archive is extremely important, unlike Baten Kaitos and Eternal Sonata however, you do not have to time it perfectly. Instead Guards last for a certain period of time and continue until you are guard braked. When you are guard braked you may re-instigate the guard but only at the cost of AP. So you have to guard sparingly as it otherwise will cost you precious AP which you can use to get demon’s greed.

However Guarding proves especially useful for farming drops as there is yet another feature in the game’s battle system. The risk gauge. Your risk gauge is depicted as a number in a similar fashion to the d-ratio in Breath Of Fire Dragon Quarter. When you accumulate red gems, instead of replenishing charge time or replenishing AP, red orbs increase the drop rate of items through the risk gauge. The better you time your attacks and combo your enemies well, the higher the risk you obtain as well as the chance to gain drops.

This replaces Valkyrie Profile 2’s breaking feature which was awesome but sadly it’s no longer present in this game. Regardless, the risk gauge will carry over between battles. As such it feels even closer to the bonus board from Star Ocean 4 in the sense that if you get hit by an attack you didn’t block or get intercepted by a guarding enemy, you have a chance to get a bonus break which reduces your risk gauge and also any magic crystal XP gains to zero which you don’t want to happen.

With proper timing, you are able to intercept enemy attacks by guarding.

With proper timing, you are able to intercept enemy attacks by guarding.

As such you are encouraged to block quite often in Exist Archive, however not all attacks can be blocked through normal means. Magic attacks and breath attacks can pierce your blocks. I’m not sure but I think I heard there was a skill that allowed you to block magic attacks but I’m not all that sure as I couldn’t read the Japanese text properly. Just something to keep in mind.

 

 

“The better you time your attacks and combo your enemies well, the higher the risk you obtain as well as the chance to gain drops”

 

So all in all, the risk gauge and greed mode manages to keep players on their toes in battle and makes battles all the more intense and rewarding. In addition to drop rate increase, by increasing your risk gauge to a high enough percentage, you are also eligible for title drops. These drops are enhanced versions of regular drops which have additional factors and bonuses.

There are two tiers of these drops, title and title rank. Title rank is simply a better version of a title drop as it enhances stats or applies extra factors to your equipment to make it more powerful. As such, it’s rather satisfying and quite rewarding to get new drops. Better yet, unlike Valkyrie Profile, the weapons actually have cosmetic alterations too which is cool.

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The skill system of Exist Archive is reminiscent of the first Valkyrie Profile as it allows you to put points into skills rather than learning from equipment runes like in Valkyrie Profile 2. The skills themselves however are rather interesting. Rather than simply boosting stats, skills can be used to alter certain actions in battle. Each skill is split into categories and you can equip 1 skill in each category. For example, defensive skills alter your guarding ability and offensive skills add modifiers to certain attacks to give them extra hits etc.

Shopping in Exist Archive works like Valkyrie Profile. This would be rather sad if it wasn’t for the premise of the game. As such, it makes sense that they wouldn’t include conventional shops like other RPGs. Instead you shop in the main hub where you can buy items from Amatsume using a currency you gain from selling items you acquire from enemies (AMP). The items you can buy are mostly potions and usually outdated equipment. I kinda find shopping to be pointless in this game aside from replenishing your potion supply but at least it gives you a place to dump all your unneeded loot which is nice considering the fact that there is an inventory cap.

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Seriously of all the games to do this, why does a game like Exist Archive have an inventory limit? It’s just annoying to have to constantly be removing items from my inventory after every battle just to fit new ones in. Can’t we just have a bottomless inventory like most RPGs? I mean why does this game of all things try to be realistic when it comes to inventory storage when it has you fighting dancing plushies which explode on contact and pull out giant pots which shoot bullets at you right out of their mouths? It’s nothing more than a painful ordeal that I tire of having to constantly deal with.

Anyways back to the battle system. Like I mentioned before, you can stack up to 4 demon’s greed attacks (one for each character) and they can be activated by pressing the L2 button at any moment during an attack. Your demon’s greed is reset after every battle. However like I mentioned before, your demon’s greed gauge doesn’t reset after a combo so you can save it for when you need it, should you choose to do so. As such, unlike in Valkyrie Profile, you cannot chain your special attacks if you only have 1 crystal lit up as you can only use 1 character’s special attack. However if you rise it to 4 crystals (which is maximum) you can use all 4 of your characters attacks in any order you choose.

This can be really handy in chain encounters as it doesn’t reset after each wave. Oh and in case you didn’t already realize, yes your demon’s greed attacks are essentially the replacement of soul crushes/purify weird soul attacks from the Valkyrie Profile series and whilst they aren’t as flashy as Valkyrie Profile 2’s soul crushes, they’re still pretty cool to look at. I love how all the special attacks summon part of the god’s power stored inside each character.

Button mashing is fun... but Namero takes it a bit too far...

Button mashing is fun… but Namero takes it a bit too far…

Combat aside, the game’s platforming sections are handled quite well in this game. As you progress through the story, you will unlock more actions you can use to reach certain areas in the map (as well as other features found throughout the game).

The platforming seems to follow Valkyrie Profile 2’s style but rather than using photons to solve puzzles, Exist Archive allows you to transform enemies into come kind of boost mechanism, kinda like the cannon barrels in Donkey Kong which shoot you in the direction you choose.

Wheeee!

Wheeee!

Ultimately, the gameplay for me was the most stand-out feature in Exist Archive and that is never a bad thing. It’s a shame I was unable to truly experience the game to its fullest especially considering the story-driven nature of this game. I can only hope that this game was successful enough to warrant localizing it later down the line. There are so many scenes that looked interesting but because I couldn’t understand what was going on in them, I feel like I only played through half of a game which probably damaged my review in the process.

One thing to be aware of though is that this game is very prone to crashing/freezing. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if the game had save points in dungeons. However this can cause you to lose a lot of progress which can be very frustrating especially since many of the dungeons in later portions of the game can be very long and time-consuming. Not the best combination and it is the one thing holding this game back from getting an Excellent rating from me.

Nevertheless, this game has given me a lot to write about and although the budget constraints have caused to fall short in some areas, I still think it stands up as an enjoyable RPG and a great homage to the Valkyrie Profile series. If anything, this game is a message to Square-Enix telling them that Valkyrie Profile is far from dead and that they should continue it.

Say YES to Valkyrie Profile 3!

Say YES to Valkyrie Profile 3! Wait… hold on, did he just speak…

I strongly recommend this game if you can understand Japanese and enjoyed Valkyrie Profile. If you cannot understand Japanese and are intrigued by the gameplay, I’d say it’s worth a try too as I got my money’s worth out of it. If you’re not a fan of Valkyrie Profile and can’t speak Japanese, I doubt you’ll care to pick up this game and no matter how much I try to convince you to, If you can’t understand Japanese, there’s no point.

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Story/plot: Satisfactory
Visuals: Great
Music: Great
Gameplay: Excellent
Lifespan: Decent Length (but most of it is filler)
Would You Replay? Maybe

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Overall: Great

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Value: £40.00+

Purchase Exist Archive: Other Side of Sky

What a rip off…

 

Why do people in this day in age seem to treat the term “rip off” so negatively? I mean it’s not like I’m Jim Sterling number #356 trying to knock game publishers in the name of consumer justice… right? Right?

rip off

No, not that kind of rip off…

Ok, ok before people start throwing apples at me, let’s try to be rational about this. Jim Sterling himself is a rip off. I mean, we’re talking journalism here, In journalism you have the “yes” men and the “no fucking way” men (or women). Yes men pander to the publishers and just do as they are expected to do such as Geoff Keighley.

Why is Geoff Keighley such a successful journalist? Because he is a yes man. If he spoke out about certain publishers (lets forget the time he talked shit about Konami’s treatment of Kojima for a minute which considering Konami’s position, isn’t likely to affect him in any way, especially considering how diplomatically he put it) then he’d have nothing to cover and would lose a lot of his influence in the industry.

Then you have people like Jim Sterling, the “people’s journalist”, someone whom tries to relate to the woes of the general public at the risk of sounding controversial or radicalized. He’s a journalist who speaks his mind whatever it might be and although his points aren’t always widely agreed upon (seriously that review of Modern Warfare 3 was just…ugh), he manages to maintain a strong stature in the industry through his iron skin and his past accomplishments. His successes come from pandering to the consumer by enlightening people about the woes of the gaming industry and he does so in what seems to be an intentionally egotistical manner with quotes such as “Thank god for me”. It’s pretty obvious that Jim Sterling’s confidence in himself as a journalist is off the charts and that’s why he’s still going strong today.

But trying to be an inbetweener is futile. The industry doesn’t want original writers/journalists, they want people who can pander to a particular crowd and as such, they want extremists. Whether you want to be the ever lovable optimist or the strong idealistic pessimist is the question you should be asking yourself, you can’t be both and expect the same level of success because that’s inconsistent and inconsistency is poor journalism.

But lets stop talking about gaming media for now as I tire of hearing about it every single day. I already have the stupid SJW vs Gamergate breathing down my neck every day that the mere idea of discussing gaming politics is downright terrifying to say the least. Thankfully This article is more to do with videogames than writers, I was merely comparing myself to an established journalist.

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No… not that kind of rip off either

So I’ve used the term rip off before, even blatant rip off. However, would I say that being a rip off is a bad thing? Hell no. In fact I want to see more of it.

Videogames have been a passion for me, so why can’t they be a passion for game creators too? I mean surely you’ve been inspired by a videogame in your lifetime, I know I have. I wanted to work in-game design for a long time in my youth and for good reason too. Games are inspiring. If you’ve ever finished a videogame, you’ll know that as the credits roll, your mind is filled to the brim with ideas. Rather than watching the credits, you spend the whole time thinking about the game and developing ideas from it.

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Games like Space Engineers help satisfy my creative cravings.

With games as they are, it’s difficult not to think “What if they did it this way?” or “I wonder If I could do that?”. Inspiration goes beyond just videogames. Look at the recently deceased David Bowie for example (R.I.P man). That guy inspired countless people and has changed the way society works for the better. He was a revolutionary artist and people wanted to be like him. That is just the way things are with gaming too.

As such, how can we begrudge these people who want to bring their dreams to life? Their dreams based off of the dreams inspired through other dreams? Is it really wrong to think “Perhaps if I changed this a little, it could be like this”? I mean, if you are any kind of content creator, you will know that art breeds more art. It’s like a reproductory process. It’s like two ideas having intercourse. It is done out of passion (mostly) and it’s the same with games and other media.

So why should people have a problem with this? Because if you do have a problem with concepts ripping off of other concepts then take a good look at yourself because you yourself are a rip off, a mish-mash of genes from past ancestors. However you yourself are an individual. The same goes for videogames. Do I begrudge Warcraft 3 for being too much like Star Wars/Warhammer? Hell no. I love Warcraft lore (well I did before WOW was a thing), it is a well presented mish mash of countless stories told in a single book… only that the “Book” is technically a videogame.

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And before someone states “but this game is original, not like your crappy Warcraft game”, how do you know for sure that it isn’t based off of other media? Have you experienced everything life has to offer? Ha, you don’t live long enough for that I’m afraid. We can’t all be like Lezard Valeth and have the world’s knowledge in our hands… oh wait isn’t that character another rip off? Oh hell yeah he is and a well-known one too. He’s based off of JK Rowling’s very own Harry Potter (but with a bit of Medivh shoehorned in there too for good measure). And yet comparing Lezard Valeth to Harry Potter is like comparing a snail to a python. There’s just no similarities besides their appearance and their background.

And whilst we’re on the topic of Valkyrie Profile, lets talk about Arngrim. This character in particular is interesting and his name manages to remain relevant to norse mythology despite being a blatant rip off of Guts from Berserk. I mean, Arngrim is a badass mofo and so is Guts and they both have similar looks and personality. However if you look deeply into norse mythology, you will see a mention of another Arngrim with a similar background to the Arngrim of Valkyrie Profile, a berserker who wielded the sword Tyrfing (technically the ultimate heavy warrior weapon of Valkyrie Profile 2).

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However, the original story of Valkyrie Profile states that he owns a weapon called the Dragon Slayer which was apparently passed down by his father. This makes for a lot of interesting speculation such as “Is the world of Valkyrie Profile and Berserk intertwined?” Of course not, it’s just combining the ideas of berserk and norse mythology to make a character of their own. Though it’s pretty obvious where Masaki Norimoto’s inspiration’s came from

Speaking of Valkyrie Profile, Let’s talk about Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns, a game that I have secretly praised for ripping off Valkyrie Profile. However that praise still cannot get me over the fact that Lightning is the main character and that it is set in the same universe as Final Fantasy XIII. And so the director of Final Fantasy XIII thought “Let’s sacrifice originality for familiarity” and believe it or not, it worked… to some degree. However, Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns was an attempt to rectify an already broken series of games which should have been left behind. This I couldn’t ignore.

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However, with the release of tri-Ace’s Exist Archive. Tri-Ace were able to experiment with different ideas to make a completely different game. Valkyrie Profile was obviously partly an influence but it seems that other Japanese media had a huge influence in it as well and is probably the most exotic game tri-Ace has ever attempted at making. Nevertheless I’d rather play this game over Final Fantasy XIII Lightning Returns not because it’s original but because it’s not trying to shove an established concept into an already established world to try to compensate for the fact that the world itself sucks. As such, Lightning Returns is completely meaningless to me now.

Another example of a game that influenced many other games is Grandia 2. Grandia 2’s plot has been done to death now, so much so that its own plot comes across as cliché and generic. Games like Final Fantasy X, Tales Of Symphonia and Devil May Cry 4 may follow a similar plot formula but can we really say that they’re the same game? Devil May Cry 4 isn’t even an RPG for heaven’s sake, how can you compare it to Grandia 2? Then again, perhaps it’s not intentional. Perhaps the ideas that came up in the developer’s mind were of his own. Perhaps they never even played Grandia 2 to begin with, who knows?

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As for Tales Of Symphonia, that game took a step further in the plot. Although Grandia 2 executed it far better than Tales Of Symphonia, Tales Of Symphonia chose to rush that part of the plot so that they could focus on another one. As for Final Fantasy X, looking back, I’d say it’s probably the most generic of the bunch. To be honest, presentation aside. Final Fantasy X felt rushed, I felt the characters were rushed too. As for the presentation, the setting was cool and all but the story itself was presented in such a lazy manner compared with Grandia 2 that it felt like a bad rip off.

On the other hand, Tales Of Symphonia was a good rip off. It established a completely new story built up off of a trope set by Grandia 2 (or whatever game originally started that trope) which was executed extremely well as there is also a lot of depth to the world and lore. This is what I appreciated about Warcraft so much. Sure, the plot and characters may be generic but the world was designed so well that it doesn’t matter, I enjoyed it. It doesn’t hurt to enjoy games every now and again, even for a cynical prick like me.

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As for Devil May Cry 4, that game wasn’t even trying to tell an interesting story, it’s a series which has always been based around the gameplay over all else, so why should we care? The story works well enough for what it’s trying to do so that’s good enough if you ask me.

Now ever since the indie scene came to be, there have been some new ideas added to gaming such as Rocket League… oh wait, that was inspired by stuff like Top Gear. Uhh… how about Goat Simulator? Yeah, Goat Simulator is the perfect example of an original game… if you could call it that. Sure it has similar mechanics to Tony Hawk games but it’s not a Tony Hawk game, it’s a physics simulation game involving goats. Well technically speaking, it is kinda a mish-mash of other game mechanics such as skating games and MMO’s. Kinda like a parody. In a way, this makes it a completely original concept… using other concepts. Well that basically sums up how difficult it is to be original these days.

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But here’s the problem. People don’t want something new or different, they want more of the same. This is where Nostalgia comes in… and actually connects with the point of this article entirely. As much as people love originality, once the novelty dies out, people get tired of it and then they seek something that can bring them back to the days of old. However sometimes it’s not the player who desires it, it’s the developer. This is why you’re seeing so many spiritual successors of games appearing on Kickstarter right now. They want to bring back an audience of a game that was laid to rest or defiled by their respective developer.

Now remember the review I made recently of Tales Of Phantasia and how it pioneered the Japanese action role playing game? Well that game not only inspired other ideas for games but it was also inspired by other games that preceded it such as Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy. Didn’t you get the not-so-vague hint in my review?

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Well in any case, the spiritual successor to Tales Of Phantasia, Star Ocean is also a blatant rip off… just not of Secret Of Mana. Rather they combined both Tales Of Phantasia’s battle system with the story concept of Star Trek. Then it hit me, the reason why the intro cutscene to Star Ocean is voice acted in english, despite the fact that it is a Super Famicom exclusive game is simply because Star Trek was released in the west… and they wanted to emulate that.

I like the word emulate, even better than that of rip off simply because of its meaning “to imitate and or improve on”. This is exactly what developers try to do with their games. They brainstorm ideas from their mind (which is influenced by other media) and then they focus on making it the best they can. Every developer in the history of gaming has always developed a game with the mindset that it will be the best game ever made.

So before you start knocking games or any form of media for ripping off of other media. Remember that it is someone else’s image that has taken inspiration from something else. Be pleased for the games that rip off other games, do not scorn them. Instead, think of it as a form of alchemical art because that is what it is. People may disagree that videogames are art (which could be said for some… but then again games are a content medium and all content could be considered art in a way) but I find art to be the most fitting word to describe this as it is something all of us can relate to and appreciate.

If you want to see less and less games on the market, go ahead but know that 99% of the ideas in videogames are inspired by other forms of media or mythology or whatever. Just appreciate it for what it is for heaven’s sake.