Final Fantasy II Review


This game has certainly been sitting on the backburner for many years. After beating the original Final Fantasy I tried to get in on the action with the sequel but I just couldn’t pull it off. The gameplay didn’t click. Well, I finally played it from start to finish and I have to say that my view hasn’t changed a whole lot. The story is the strongest part of the game even if it doesn’t touch the newer ones.

The basic plot is that the world is under attack by the Emperor. He has decided to rule over everything just because he can. The heroes are in a rough spot so the queen will now rely on a talented swordsman named Firian, a mage known as Maria, and a strong axe user named Guy. The three of them will need to travel the world and get strong enough to defeat the Emperor. Do they actually have enough strength to do so though? The Emperor has many powerful allies as well as pretty impressive tech at his disposal as well.

This is one of the first games where it took me way longer to complete than the estimated time on the “How long to beat” site. My time nearly doubled it I think at around 20 hours. It’s pretty difficult and that’s due in large part to how the level up system works. See, you don’t have straight level ups like 1, 2, 3. Instead you level up your proficiencies and stats in battle one by one.

Lets say you defeat a minion but you took a hit in the process. You have the potential to increase your max health, speed, defense, and attack power. If you used magic during the battle you may increase that as well. You passively level up your weapon skill as well depending on which kind you have equipped. You can already see how a lot of this is luck based. You increase the chance of increasing your proficiency but it’s not guaranteed. There are a lot of other factors here as well like the strength of your opponents and the duration of the match.

It’s not a very satisfying way to level up though because it’s hard to see when you’re really getting better. You also need to make sure you choose the right spells and weapons or you’ll be wasting your time leveling up something that you’ll never need. Your 4th member of the team also tends to change every other chapter so don’t get too attached. Often times when they leave they will never return so say good bye to any level ups you got.

The weapons also don’t seem very balanced to the point where I discarded them entirely by around the halfway point of the game. Instead I focused on using the barehanded techniques for the climax and honestly they seemed better than weapons anyway. I would always deal heavy damage while the weapons would falter at the worst moments. I have little doubt that the weapons would ultimately be better than bare handed but at least to the point where I was up to this did not seem to be the case.

The final boss was very difficult to defeat like this though. RNG is partially what got me through. See, his attacks were strong enough to not only finish me in a single hit but also replenish almost all of his health. Of course, that was only with physical attacks. On one of my runs I got lucky because he kept spamming magical spells which deal far less damage. I was able to buy just enough time to defeat him before he healed. Even now I think I would have a very hard time trying to defeat him again. It’s rare for things to work out in quite the same way they did here.

I don’t understand why the game went so far as to also make the equipment work against you. Wearing heavier items makes it harder to dodge but you can’t see how heavy something is without going to your character status page and leaving the item screen. Everything just did not feel very intuitive at all. Perhaps there was an easier way and I just didn’t find it. It seems like Final Fantasy II was meant to be very experimental but in this case I felt like it just back fired completely.

FF II’s spawn rate is also extremely high. Enemies are constantly attacking you every few steps. I was able to get in a lot of good reading during every dungeon. I would just keep spamming the attack button as I read through the God of High School chapters. I finished over 100 chapters as I played through this game because the battles took forever and there were so many of them. It was also uniquely useful to multi task in this game since I didn’t need spells and could just use normal attacks for every minion encounter. If I had nothing to distract myself with that would have hurt though.

Final Fantasy II also suffers from being unclear at times. You just don’t know where to go or what to do in order to advance the plot. The worst is when you’re supposed to talk to someone again and forgot to do so. So you go to the next temple but it’s still closed so you have to travel the world again in order to open it. You don’t get to fly until the very end of the game so prepare for a ton of walking. The game doesn’t give you any real shortcuts either so you really feel like an explorer. Just not in a fun way this time.

I could go on, but as you can tell pretty much none of the gameplay elements worked for me. It’s just a title that offered no qualify of life features. The graphics are good though. The character portraits are on point and I did like the minion designs. The game has a very retro sprite look which works well enough. The soundtrack is also very classic Final Fantasy with how each tune sounds. It’s all got a lot of energy and works really well.

As for replay value, by beating the game it seems like you do unlock some kind of new game+. I’m sure that will take you quite a while. Considering that the game is 20 hours long to defeat once, this is probably a 40 hour game or so. I’m not sure what the price is nowadays but it was pretty cheap before so I doubt it would set you back all that much.

Overall, Final Fantasy II is one of the weakest Final Fantasy games for me. In fact, I would have to say it loses to Final Fantasy VII and is my least favorite title. VII has the better gameplay, characters, and stories so II loses around the board to me. Don’t get me wrong, the story is fun and all but it just doesn’t make up for the game’s weaknesses. I don’t really see myself recommending this title to others as well. I’m glad that it helped continue the franchise into its current state but this is an entry you can skip.

Overall 5/10

Pokemon Unite Review


Pokemon Unite is the latest free to play Pokemon title out there. It’s loaded with all the microtransactions you want though so you can buy just about anything if you want to give some money to the gam. There was some potential to be had here for sure but ultimately I don’t think Unite quite lived up to it. The main issue with the game is how long each battle takes so I feel like you need a complete overhaul of the gameplay mechanics in order to go farther.

When you first start the game you get a pretty nice cinematic. The graphics are really on point and you can tell that you’re about to jump into the crazy world of Pokemon. I allowed my hopes to jump up as I told myself that this would be one of the greatest Pokemon spinoffs of all time. Then you’re taken to the main menu where you learn about the game. There’s a lot to the gameplay so it’s tricky to explain but here’s the basic rundown.

Unite is a 5 on 5 Pokemon battle that uses a real time overhead view. The goal is to knock out wild Pokemon or opposing team members to store up some energy. You then go to one of the opponent’s cores and use the energy to take it over. When you have accumulated enough energy to do so, you slam the energy down in a Basketball slam dunk of sorts and take over the area. Rinse and repeat until the time limit is up and the match is over.

Each match is around 10 or more minutes so that’s a lot of time to run around and explore. You will want to try and coordinate with your teammates but that isn’t easy in an online lobby. I’m not sure if you are able to connect your microphone but if you can then that is probably your best bet to get everyone on the same page. You can send generic orders using the control pad as well though.

Whether you run straight at the enemy or try and protect your own bases initially, it’s your call. There’s no best strategy I’d say, it’s really about how you execute it. Each Pokemon has their normal attack, two special moves, and a final smash. Yo want to master each ability so you’re ready for action. Of course, when the match is starting everyone has to scramble to choose which Pokemon they want to play so the odds of you getting to play the same one a lot is pretty rare. Unless you like playing as Slowbro or something since nobody seems to want to play as him.

Charizard is probably the best Pokemon from the ones that I played. Note that you start out as the Pokemon’s rookie form and gradually move up by defeating opponents. Eventually you will level up during the match and then you repeat the process for future rounds. So this all sounds pretty decent right?

Well, the gameplay is good in theory but it just didn’t really mesh with me. The time limit is too long for starters, I’d prefer a stock ruleset as opposed to time. Maybe do it by score instead but the problem with time though is that you will probably know if you are going to win or lose by the middle of the match. So you can either quit and live to fight another day or just stick it through. I’m not sure if you keep the EXP if you quit so keep that in mind. I didn’t put that to the test here.

The battles also feel repetitive very quickly. You don’t feel any real weight behind the blows. I think a 1 vs 1 battle or 2 vs 2 would have worked better than 5 v 5. This is really aiming more at the World of Warcraft/League of Legends crowd with the widespread battles. I can’t speak to those titles since I haven’t played them but for Pokemon it hasn’t yet worked. The game is a little too limiting.

So even though it’s free I don’t see you sticking with this one for very long. Ultimately it’s a fun game to bide your time with but that’s about it. Eventually you’ll be ready for the next thing. Still, I will say that the graphics are good even after the opening cinematic. The Pokemon character models are on point. Additionally, I’d say that the soundtrack is pretty solid as well. You get some classic Pokemon themes. Maybe nothing too exciting but it’s good enough as background music to keep you going.

Ultimately to move up this game just needs more content. Whether they add in a 1 vs 1 mode or maybe even a story mode, that would help immensely. You need that here to give the game an extra kick. Something to help it stand out in a crowd and give you reason to play it. Otherwise there are just too many good alternatives out there and you don’t want to miss any of those.

Overall, Pokemon Unite may not have lived up to the hype for me but it was fun to give it a shot. The game may appear very greedy with how it wants money for everything but it is still a true free to play in the sense that you don’t need to buy anything. Stick on the free path and you will still have every option available to you. Now that’s a good bargain if I’ve ever seen one right? What we need now is a free to play Pokemon runner game. Now that would have lots of potential.

Overall 5/10

The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask 3D Review


As I entered the final dungeon, I started writing this review back in April 2015. Little did I know that I would be stuck in that same dungeon for the next 6 years. It’s pretty fun to see how I may have sounded 6 years ago and why waste the writing right? So I’ve kept my old review in italics and will throw in some additions at the very end of this review for some modern thoughts
Majora’s Mask is one of the few Legend of Zelda games that is a direct sequel. It takes place after Ocarina of Time. Despite this it seems to be forgotten or pushed to the wayside more than the other big titles. Part of the reason is that it is a sequel so it could not be thought of as the next core Zelda game. That being said, it does have a strong fan following and it is talked about to this day.

Link’s adventure begins suddenly as he is confronted by a mysterious kid. He calls himself Skull Kid and his powers are incredible. He takes Epona away and transforms Link into a scrub. Link will have to stop strong guardians in different parts of the world if he is to stop the moon from crashing. He only has 3 days to do this, but let’s not forget that he is the hero of time! Time has never been a problem for Link before and it won’t be one now.

Graphically, the game holds up pretty well. You are bound to feel nostalgic if you played Ocarina of Time. Of course, the area is not quite as happy as it used to be so things are also different. I am also sure that you are familiar with the many fan theories for this game. There are loads and loads of them to be found and the developers likely had this in mind when they were making the game. It is certainly a lot darker than the average Legend of Zelda game.

The sad fact for the resistance is that Link is simply too late this time. Most of the heroes are already dead and Link simply pretends to be them so that he can inherit their powers and keep up morale. It is certainly scary just how many casualties there were in this game and the whole atmosphere can seem depressing at times. It is as if all hope is lost.

The soundtrack is a little limited, but it is still good. The danger theme holds up well and that’s the main one that I continue to remember. It is catchy and returns again and again as you play the game.

Unfortunately, I do think that this game is a big step down from the average Zelda game. It certainly loses to all of the big titles. There are two main reasons for this. The first of which is the new 3 day system. As it is, the 3DS version added more save features to make this a little less tedious, but the system still hurts the game. It is a unique gimmick as Pikmin is the only other game that I can think of which uses it. That being said, it simply acts to delay you. If you are in a dungeon when the 3 days are up…then too bad. You can slow down time to make it more manageable, but it is still an issue which the adventure could do without.

What acts as the ultimate 1-2 punch here is the large amount of puzzles. Legend of Zelda has always had this element to separate it from the traditional hack and slash games. In the past, it has worked really well like with Wind Waker and Skyward Sword. (Which was still a very fun game) Unfortunately, Majora’s Mask is unable to find a good mix of puzzle and action. It is skewed heavily in favor of puzzles. Towards the end of the game, we finally get more action but for the first 70-80% of the game the action is minimal.

Puzzles can be fun if handled right. You always felt a sense of accomplishment when you solved one in Wind Waker. Of course, there was no timer there. Even without a timer, Majora’s Mask’s quests are not nearly as fun as they could have been. One big reason is the actual gameplay.

The gameplay is your average 3D title. You can’t jump, but you have a lot of gadgets and you traverse through the unknown. It works very well for the action segments. The puzzles are the dicey part. Some temples like the water one require you to walk a great distance between areas multiple times. Link isn’t very fast so it makes the experience that much worse when you have to head back to a place where you have already been. It is not as if Link is abnormally slow, but for some reason, if just feels like it can take forever to get to where you want to go at times.

Many of the puzzles simply start as well and you just have to wander around until you find out what to do. It is difficult, but in more of an artificial way. I love a nice challenge, but not because I am unsure of what to do. Look at Capcom vs SNK’s God Rugal/Regal boss or the Subspace Emissary on intense in Super Smash. Those can be very difficult, but you do know what to do from the start. It will test your gaming ability, but in a fun way.

After all, you are playing to have a good time and that is one area where Majora’s Mask is lacking. It simply isn’t fun at times, which certainly hurts the score. It takes away the replay value factor and makes this title dangerously close to not being a good game. All right, that’s enough for negatives, let’s close out with what the game did right.

While the gameplay doesn’t suit the puzzles, it is still a lot of fun for the combat. Striking with a sword or using one of your gadgets ensures that you are in for a very flexible boss battle. The boss fights are also fun. They can be direct like in traditional 3D fighters, but often times they are unique in a good way. The ocean boss fight with the large fish was certainly fun. A lot of the boss designs are certainly good. It is also fun to see the ReDeads/Undead appear once more to strike fear into the hearts of many. They are still one of the most intense minions out there and facing them is always a lot of fun.

Link is naturally about as heroic as you would expect. He tackles the enemies with complete confidence in his abilities and never loses sight of his goals. Naturally, this game came out a long time ago so it can’t make him look quite as epic as a modern title would, but Link tries his best and that’s the important part. He is knocked down many times, but he always makes sure to get back up.

I am definitely not a fan of Skull Kid though. He is lacking in willpower from the start and he just isn’t my kind of villain. His design certainly isn’t bad though. Majora is the real threat and makes for a really epic villain. Even before playing the game you’ll have seen this guy’s crazy super form designs since it’s so iconic. The developers really gave it their all to ensure that Majora would spook the audience as the fight began. Certainly an epic way to end the game.

Finally, Majora’s Mask is very interesting. It is like looking at a twisted alternate reality if Link had not saved the world from Ganondorf. Which, it is still surprising that Ganon completely missed out on this title. That is certainly rare for a LoZ game.

Overall, Majora’s Mask 3D will continue to be known as the deepest Zelda game. It has the mechanics of Ocarina of Time, but ends up losing out due to the extreme number of puzzles as well as the two gimmicks. Those being the masks and the 3 Day system. More action and play time as Link would have done much to improve this title. Either way, the graphics and soundtrack hold up well. The iconic “You’ve met with a terrible fate haven’t you?” line holds up very well to this day. It makes the merchant appear to be sympathetic, sarcastic, or gleeful depending on how you read it. I wouldn’t trust him though since it seems like he destroyed Mario…heh heh. If you are looking for a nice challenge for your puzzle skills or are a big Legend of Zelda fan, I recommend checking this one out. It is also a good bet if you just want to analyze the game and create some theories of your own about it. If not, Skyward Sword is probably a better bet.

My views on the game haven’t really changed much since I originally played the title. I would still say this is certainly the weakest of the 3DS titles. It really boils down to the 3 day system more than anything else. It adds a layer of pressure to the puzzles to be sure, but in a way where you dread them rather than enjoy them. After playing through the stone temple dozens and dozens of times, you start wanting some qualify of life updates like not having to solve the room’s puzzle every time you have to go back and forth. Being able to equip more items at once so you don’t have to keep on substituting them out would be ideal as well.

I didn’t get to play as Fierce Deity Link so that was too bad. I guess maybe that’s more of a bonus thing if you get all of the masks or something like that. At least you definitely can’t say that the game is short though. It took me over 50 hours to conquer and even then there is a lot of extra content to try and grab like the masks and collectibles. Finding everything in this world is definitely not for the faint of heart and not something that can be sped through. You’ll really want to master these temples.

Overall, if you really enjoy puzzles and like the idea of the day system resetting your temple progress every 3 days then it’s probably about time you picked this one up. Otherwise I would say to just buy Ocarina of Time or Skyward Sword instead if you want more of a definitive Link experience. Both of those 2 are what I would call the definitive title in the franchise because they capture everything you would expect to see in a Link title. If we ever get a Majora’s Mask sequel, I’m confident it would work out a lot better since the 3 day system should be gone…at least in theory.

Overall 5/10

Transformers Battlegrounds Review


When this Transformers game came out there definitely was not a whole lot of fanfare and hype. For the most part people just kept going about their business and that was the end of that. I probably wasn’t going to get it myself for a while but the price was right so why not? It’s a pretty solid strategy game that you just wish was a little longer. It really ends up flying by so you’ll have it completed within a few days. The game isn’t exactly built for replay value either so there isn’t a ton to do afterwards.

The general plot of the game has the Autobots on the run once more. The Decepticons have taken an overwhelming advantage in numbers and are getting closer to finding the All Spark. The Autobots have split up as Prime focuses on finding it first while Bumblebee defends the city. The Autobots realize that they will need to reunite in order to stop Megatron’s ambitions though and will have to fight their way past the other Decepticons in order to do it. Can they pull this off!?

The gameplay is your classic XCom style as each character gets a turn as you move them around the board. You have to decide what action to have them take, whether it’s an attack, hiding for cover, or doing something else. Each character has 3 “actions” they can take per turn so spending them wisely is important. If you don’t have to spend one moving then you can fire off a level 3 attack right away. Alternately you might be too far and will have to waste all of your points on moving.

It’s important to keep in mind your next turn as well since if you move 3 spots and just barely don’t reach the opponent, that’s basically tell him to take a free shot. You don’t want to go too aggressive in these things or it could really end up backfiring on you quite a bit. The game’s difficulty is not that high so you should be fine either way but you don’t want to pick up any bad habits for when you’re challenging more difficult games. At that point you’ll be glad to have picked up some legitimate tactics.

I’ll give the game credit for making each character feel different. These guys aren’t clones and all have very unique abilities and special moves at their disposal. Even their power level ranges quite a lot as Grimlock and Prime can deal 3 damage with even their weakest attacks while the others are stuck at 2. The health points also vary as some characters might have around 7 while others have 20+.

Each character is also customizable. You can use the points you accumulate from your victories in order to buy new weapons/abilities to make your characters real threats out on the field. By the time you beat the game you won’t have nearly enough points to buy all the upgrades but you can buy most. Within 2 paythroughs you will have them all. That being said, I actually preferred the default blasters to a lot of the more unique weapons. The blasters just did the trick, after all with those you can hit someone from long range while a lot of the other attacks require you to be up close and personal. I can’t stress enough how useful long range options are.

For levels where you have a healer on board, definitely keep them to the back. You don’t want them taking too much damage and healing 3-4 points a turn is incredibly valuable. It can turn the tides of any match without a doubt. Then you’ve also got super attacks once you have collected enough energon. You fill up this meter by completing turns and also ending them while still having some action points left. So that’s another thing to consider, sometimes it’s best to leave some turns on the table so to speak because they allow you to fire off more ultimate moves.

Another bonus on that is that the special moves don’t take up any action points. So on the next turn one of your characters will effectively have 4 points. Pretty sweet right? So these are all just things to keep in mind and they’ll eventually help you out if you get yourself into a tough spot.

The graphics are pretty solid. I wouldn’t say they’re anything to write home about but they’re colorful and distinct. The character designs are on point and the levels look good. It’s definitely got a retro look to it and doesn’t appear as detailed at other games but at the same time I never had an issue with it. The colorful atmosphere fits right in with this part of the franchise.

The soundtrack is very uninspired though. You won’t be able to recall any key tunes here as it all feels as generic as possible. The gameplay will have you focusing so hard that you’ll barely hear the music as well. It’s not bad but it doesn’t leave any kind of impact and in some ways that is an issue of its own.

As for replay value, as I mentioned earlier it’s a bit on the small side. You can work on buying the rest of the upgrades I suppose but it’s not like there are extra levels to use them on. You do need to complete the game on hard mode for one of the trophies so I suppose that is a good place to start. Obtaining the Platinum trophy will definitely take a lot of time and adding content is definitely a perk of having trophies.

Overall, Transformers Battleground may not be the most impressive Transformers game but it’s always fun to revisit the XCom gameplay. The title just needed to have a longer story though and give you more things to do. At the end of the day I feel like you would be left very unsatisfied if you bought it at opening price. For $12, it’s not a bad bargain though. The gameplay is strong and the story is fully voice acted which always helps make things feel a lot more grand and official. I’d recommend checking this one out and seeing what you think.

Overall 7/10

My Hero Academia: The Strongest Hero Review


The next mobile game I gave a whirl was the My Hero Academia title. This one was getting a good amount of promotion and it’s clear that there was a good budget behind it. As MHA is really big right now they wouldn’t want to weaken the brand with a total cash-in. The title definitely delivers on that front although at the same time it’s so high budget that it has the same weakness as the Sword Art Online title in that it’s a lot harder to just pick up and play.

The game starts you off with a nice introduction movie complete with cinematics and voice acting. You learn about who Deku and All Might is before being thrown further into the story. You’re working with pro heroes on taking down crooks so I want to say at minimum this takes place midway through season 2. Deku seems to have a good handle on his Full Cowl already after all and while the gameplay uses his shoot style, that may be more of a mechanic than confirming that this is in season 3.

The story is separated into chapters which are separated into acts. Each act has a few missions which range from finding civilians to taking down villains. You can also navigate through the city to locate radio towers and collectibles which increases your view of the city. I have no doubt that the objectives in each level will continue to expand as you play through the game.

For the combat this is a 3D action title. You use the buttons on the touchscreen to attack, use super moves, and dodge. By mixing light and heavy attacks you can also perform various combos to take the enemy down more quickly. The gameplay is pretty versatile with each hats yet having many moves and they are all upgradable.

The hub world is also quite large. You aren’t really allowed to explore until you cover the first 2 chapters but after that you can have some fun looking around. The graphics are really solid and would not be out of place on the home consoles. Once again I wonder why mobile games are not automatically ported to console at this point, perhaps there is some kind of licensing angle that would make it slightly more expensive than being a mobile exclusive. Since being a mobile title can be super profitable anyway, I could see that as a reason on why you would not port it. 

The soundtrack has a lot of the classic tunes from the show so you’re in good hands there. It goes without saying that there is a tremendous amount of content here. Just completing the current story chapters available will take you several hours. After that you also have all of the bonus missions to go through and then you can work on leveling up your characters as you wait for the updates. Usually this kind of game will update fairly quick with new levels and event missions so I don’t think you will have anything to worry about on that front. Each special event gives you the chance to farm materials and gems. Right now I’m not too familiar with each of the gem mechanics but one important rule for all gatcha games is that you want to save your gems for a long while. Never spend your gems early on because you need time to understand their true value and the game itself. Only then should you start spending them. The replay value here is quite extensive.

As mentioned, the game’s only weakness is in how expansive it is. One of the strengths of mobile games is being able to just turn it on real quick and knock out some levels. Perhaps while you are on the train or playing a bit before bed. This one needs a solid WiFi signal at all times so the train is out of the question. It also isn’t easy to just play for a few minutes because the loading times are quite long to boot up the game as it goes through the companies and loads the environments. It’s something you don’t really care about if you’re about to play the game for hours but if you’re looking to play for 20-30 minutes then suddenly that seems a little less worth it.

The Strongest Hero is definitely a game meant to be played like a console title. To make the most of it you really need to have some time and then crack down on it. It will be a very rewarding experience but at times you will feel like this should have gone on the PS4. I haven’t rolled too many characters yet so I can’t speak to how good the gotcha system is. At first they always appear to be pretty good and this one’s no different. Of course it’s easy to roll a new character when I only had one previously. I got Kaminari on my first spin which is cool, his gameplay is definitely fun to have. Naturally I was hoping for Bakugo but I suppose you can’t get there best character on your first spin. Right now characters are still being added to the game but we already have most of the important Class 1A characters waiting in the lottery zone.

Overall, My Hero Academia The Strongest Hero is definitely a mobile game I would recommend. It may need some more time than the others on the market but at the same time that speaks to the level of effort that went into this game. As I mentioned many times, it really could pass for a console experience. I definitely couldn’t complain if all mobile games were at this level. I’ve had a rather rocky string of mobile games up til this one so I was glad that it broke the streak.

Overall 8/10

Tales of Phantasia Review


I haven’t played a lot of Tales of titles yet but I’m working on it. Over the last year or two I played the two Symphonias and Legendia. Now with Phantasia I’m one step closer to getting the full Tales experience. This one’s definitely a lot of fun and feels old in all the right ways. The turn based combat is simple yet effective. Now, I would still have to put it under both Symphonia titles but I dare say this one actually does beat Legendia.

The game follows a guy named Cress who has to go through a rather sad origin story as all Tales of characters do. Cress’ village is attacked by an evil mastermind who murders his family as well as his best friend Chester’s family. The whole village is burned to the ground and the main characters want vengeance. This won’t be quite so easy though. For starters, this is a battle that has been going on for generations. The villain is reviving an evil threat from 1000 years ago, Dhaos. Dhaos has mastery over time and space. The heroes will need to find a way to traverse time as well or they will ultimately be left behind to continue holding those Ls. Let me tell you, the Ls weigh a whole lot after a while.

For the gameplay, it’s not strictly speaking turn based combat. You do take turns when using spells but otherwise you can all move at the same time. The game is in 2D which is an interesting twist since you have to cram all of the characters together as you attack the villains. Since it’s not as close to 3D as the others, it can get a little tricky at times with your A.I. partners getting in the way. The game seems to intentionally get these guys to sabotage you as they’ll use the worst possible spells against the bosses.

No worries though you can keep pausing the game to give them manual commands. It’s a little extra work but it is worth it most of the time. You can see the areas where the series was still finding its footing with the gameplay mechanics. The game has to freeze whenever someone uses a spell which is pretty much every few seconds so that extends the length of each battle. That’s something future games stopped doing which is for the best.

So those are the weak points of the gameplay but the positives definitely outweigh those. For starters it’s always fun to learn new spells and try them out. The EXP system is very straightforward and the level ups make a difference. The most crucial part of the game is making sure you have the right equipment though. You want the pendent that cuts the spell time in half. It’s the most valuable item in the game by far and it would have been difficult to beat some of the bosses without it. You can effectively spam magical spells at your opponent which is incredibly handy.

As for the graphics, it looks pretty good. Some of the sprites may not be as descriptive as in other games like the Mana titles but you can still tell what is going on. The character illustrations may look a little different than the sprites but that’s hard to get around. The game does like to show off its graphics at times though like with the cutscene where we blow up a lot of monsters. That was definitely impressive.

As for the soundtrack, it’s a little less memorable than some of the others but the final boss theme is definitely fun. I liked the castle in general and the game does have a lot of energy. This one uses a style where the music will completely cut out a lot of the time. That’s something that I think the game should have changed. The situation getting dramatically quiet can be effective but not when you use it constantly. Then it doesn’t quite work.

If you like time travel then you will definitely enjoy the story quite a lot. As with most RPGs the story is very satisfying and a lot happens. Jumping from the past to the future is always fun and there are a lot of moments where it seems like the game is ending and then you jump back into it. Additionally The campaign took me close to 30 hours and after that there is still a lot of replay value to be had. You can try to complete side quests, get more level ups, and things like that. I don’t know of any significant post game though so it’s not quite as much of a post game as many RPGs. Still, with the base game being so long you shouldn’t have any issues there.

As a main character Cress is pretty reasonable. He’s a nice guy who does what he can to save the world. He may have a little less character than some of the other big RPG heroes but I wouldn’t say he has any real faults. Chester makes for a good friend but he misses out on a considerable portion of the game. By the time he rejoins the party you may not feel like putting him back in the rotation since your team is already set.

Mint also tends to miss a lot of the game. Unlike Chester she is around the whole time but doesn’t get to talk a lot. She’s a nice enough mage though. Claus gets more and more broken as the game goes on since he is able to summon all of the elemental spirits in the game. A large chunk of the adventure is supplying him with these creatures so he can fight off anyone who gets in his way. Then you have Arche who is a spell expert and can deal out a ton of damage. In most battles you just need her and Claus to take out the enemies since the other characters can barely even contribute in comparison. Arche has a lot of fun trolling the cast which is always good for the dynamic.

Finally you have the villain Dhaos. At times it’s hard to say if the game was really trying to make him sympathetic or not. Either way I wouldn’t say it succeeded as we needed to see more about his goal. No matter how he may have acted at the very end, it’s hard to get the feeling that this guy was ever in it for anything but himself. He makes for a great villain, no doubt about that. I just wouldn’t consider him anything but a full fledged villain.

Overall, Tales of Phantasia is another great RPG to add to the pile. It’s easy to see how this would help kickstart the Tales of series into becoming the huge title that it is today. I’m not sure when I’ll be checking out my next Tales of title but there are certainly a lot of other options to choose from. If you want to check out a very retro version of the franchise this is the one to pick up.

Overall 8/10

James Bond 007: From Russia with Love Review


From Russia With Love certainly left quite an impact to even get its own video game eventually. Bond has had quite a few games which tend to range from being first person shooters to third person. Fortunately this one is the latter as I tend to prefer that style. It’s a pretty good retelling of the movie’s story and even throws in some extra moments to extend the playthrough. The game’s at a reasonable length and has some bonus levels to strive for as well.

The basic plot is that the villains at Octopus (Yeah that’s their new name now instead of Spectre) have decided to trick Bond once again. They get a former Russian agent known as Tatiana to pretend to work with Bond and get him to take many risks in obtaining a device. She believes this is a legitimate mission from Russia and doesn’t realize that it’s a trap. Bond knows it’s a trap but wants to enjoy himself so he looks the other way. The characters are now on a collision course and Bond will have to watch out for an assassin that is coming after him. Will Bond be able to survive?

There are around 22 levels in the game and the goal is usually to grab some intel or just make it to the end in time. Each level has a few different objectives and once you complete them all then the mission is over. Pro tip, if you’re close to dying but about to clear the objective, just run as fast as you can. If you complete it even for a second before dying, it will create a new checkpoint so you recover all of your health when you wake up. This saved me quite a few times.

The game is rather difficult so you really need to make each shot count. Just go in guns blazing and don’t worry about the rest. The toughest enemy to deal with is a big guy who runs in with a machine gun. He can completely destroy you with just a few hits so you desperately need to pepper him with assault rifle rounds of your own or it’s game over. It’s really impressive just how daunting of an opponent he is to fight. If you lower your guard that’s it. He’s even stronger than most bosses.

Most of my losses in the game are due to this guy showing up. You can switch through your weapons and gadgets during gameplay so always try to keep an eye on which one has ammo. Another tip is that most guns have a second kind of ammo so if you run out of the first, go into the menu to switch to the other one. For that reason you should start with the backup ammo since when you finish it automatically cycles back to the normal one. It’s a pretty good way to do things.

The stealth mechanics are also handy. If you sneak up on an opponent from behind you can take him out in a single blow. This can often be very handy since you don’t have to use up any health. It’s also worth noting that the game has an upgrades section. You can build up your guns or even your armor by spending achievement points. I never quite figured out how you earn those points but by the end of the game you should have a good amount. I highly recommend using these on your armor since it extends the health bar which is incredibly useful.

If you ever do end up getting stuck in the game you could probably go back to old levels to earn more points. I assume that would work and the more level ups you get the easier the game would be. That being said, you should be in a good spot for most of these levels. The toughest level in the game by far is the first boat level. I lost that one many times before finally winning. It’s definitely difficult when you’re not at the wheel. The driver really tends to turn at the worst moments.

The graphics are definitely sharp. The game felt rather cinematic as it used cutscenes to reenact a lot of big moments from the film. We even get true fight scenes in the cutscenes which is impressive. The game put in a lot of effort and I’d say it was rewarded since the game is rather well known. This may be based on a movie but it’s no cash-in. The soundtrack is good as well with the classic Bond theme playing a few times. Aside from Bond’s voice sounding noticeably older, the game really sounds just like the movie.

So the base game is probably around 5-7 hours and then with the extra levels you can bump that up a bit. Earning all achievements should take a while too and then the game also has a big multiplayer mode. That really helps to amp up the replay value since you can have a blast staying there for hours. I’d expect no less from a big Gamecube game that’s for sure. The game was very well done and I look forward to seeing what Bond comes up with next. The series lends itself well to a third person shooter style.

I’d like the next ones to keep in the upgrading system as I always like things like that. It incentivizes you to grind the old levels to get stronger and stronger. If I had my way then all games would have some kind of level up system since it’s just so much fun to have. You never truly feel stuck when you can go back and get even stronger.

Overall, From Russia With Love is a pretty fun game. It’s a title that should be nostalgic for long time Bond fans. Even if you haven’t seen the movies you should be pretty well set here though since the game adapts the whole movie so it’s pretty new user friendly. At its core this is a story about agents from different countries all being manipulated by the villain organization. That’s a plot that you can dive into without any issues.

Overall 7/10

Taito Legends Power-Up Review


This is a game that I sort of got out of the blue because I wanted to finally check out the original Legend of Kage. Not only did this collection have the original but it also had the remade version that had a more 3D look to it. There’s a pretty solid collection of games here as well so it’s got some pretty decent value. At the end of the day it’s hard to really deny that this title has a lot of replay value. Surely you should be able to enjoy most if not all of the titles here.

None of the games really have much of a story mode of course since these are really arcade titles. Mainly the point of the game is to play all of these titles out and get your high scores in there. You’ve got sci-fi games, ninja titles, and even a game that’s sort of like Monkey Ball. The amount of variety here is impressive and while you may not put these games up against the true classics like Mario and Pac-Man, they hold up well enough.

Super old games are usually not really my thing since I can only play them so long before I need a break. That being said, I’ll still have fun while I’m along for the ride. Since Legend of Kage is the reason I was buying the game in the first place lets lead off with that. The game involves you throwing stars and slashing away at the enemies. The goal is to make it to the end of the game before they take you down. It’s a rather difficult game but with enough tries you should be able to conquer it. When you lose you can restart as many times as needed so you don’t need to worry about getting a game over. That would have definitely hurt the momentum.

You’ve got games that feature skiing, monkey ball, a bunch of sci-fi shooters, and a game that works a lot like Pac-Man. Basically you have to race around the stage and get all of the pellets before these opposing airships tag you. It’s very difficult because they are much faster than you. I don’t want to say that the game is luck based…but it sure feels that way at times. Escaping these guys is really hard to be sure.

As a collection Taito Legends accomplished what it set out to do. None of the games may stand out on their own but when together they make for a decent game. The graphics are pretty solid here so the quality of the old sprites is on point. The soundtracks are good too. I wouldn’t say they are particularly notable but they do have a lot of energy so they fit right in while you’re playing through the game. You probably won’t even notice the tracks a lot of the time. Maybe if there was some extra rock or something.

Since a few of the games have the original version as well as the enhanced remake it’ll be interesting to see if any of the originals can beat their powered up versions. I find it is usually very difficult to beat a newer version but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Sometimes the new version may try too hard in trying to be better and miss something that gave the original its charm. This title allows you to try both versions back to back to see how it really stands up.

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about the collection due to the nature of the game. Really this will either be your style or it won’t be but you should know right away based on the kinds of games you enjoy. That is really the deciding factor here. I’m not sure I would buy a future Taito collection but if they ever decided to bundle up a lot of very new games that could have a lot of potential.

Overall, Taito Legends Power-Up is a good game. I’d recommend checking it out if you like playing the classic Arcade Games. Naturally you would want to skip it if you’re more into the modern titles with story and cinematics. That’s mainly where I’m at but at the same time it can be fun to relive how the games used to be. After all, for their time I’m sure these were considered to be top notch.

Overall 6/10

Mario Party DS Review


Mario has returned. I’s been a little while since I played my last Mario game so naturally something had to give. I needed to be able to jump back into the Mario groove and really see how the series is doing. Fortunately that was absolutely part of the gameplan. Ebay had a good price on this one so I knew it was time for the plunge.

The story here is fairly basic as you’re likely here for the minigames anyway. Bowser tricks Mario and friends into heading over to his place for some food. They are all desperately hungry so they show up but promptly get cursed into being tiny by Bowser. Bowser’s just in a whole different league thanks to his magical abilities. The only way for the heroes to make a comeback is to find the legendary shards and become large again. It won’t be easy though as Bowser is up to something.

It’s reasonably short as the game only has around 5-6 worlds total. Each world is effectively a mini party mode that lasts for 10 turns. Your goal is to complete the game and come in first place by having the most Power Stars. If you come in second or later then you lose and have to start from scratch. Naturally that is the toughest part here. Mario Party has a lot of luck thrown into the mix after all in addition to skill. You may win a bunch of minigames or even all of them but you can still lose a match due to how that all works out. The computers put me through the wringer here.

So that should help extend the game’s play time a bit. I would say the game is only a few hours long otherwise. Of course one way that can help you with this a bit is the fact that you can reset the game if you have a bad turn. This will help nullify part of the luck factor as you can keep on spinning until things go well. From minigame results to power stars, the power is in your hand now.

Outside of the story you have a lot of other modes of course like minigame mode and local multiplayer. There isn’t really a lack of content here which isn’t surprising since Nintendo always gives you a lot of bang for your buck. In this case all of these extra modes and impressive array of minigames will ensure that you can keep on playing for a long while. At 10 bucks it was quite the steal.

The best minigames here might be the hide and seek one or some of the combat types. For Hide and Seek I like the idea of running around and looking for someone even if it feels like it is heavily favored against the one person who is alone. Dodging everyone for the duration of the match sounds crazy. Of course then you have minigames like with the coins falling where if anything it is really easy for the player to get most of the coins. I’d say it balances out in the end.

As expected the soundtrack is also pretty good. Don’t expect the same level of intensity as in the mainline Mario games but it still has a high energy feel to it. This is all AAA music. The you have the graphics which have aged well on the DS. All of the characters are on point and the backgrounds are good. It would be nice if you could taunt like in the other games but it’s really not a big deal. It’s the kind of thing you notice for a few minutes and then forget about entirely.

Mario Party DS is a rather simple game which is executed well. You could even say that the title would live or die based on the quality of its minigames. A game like this can’t work nearly as well if you don’t have fun games to play. If they were to drag on then that would take the fun away right then and there. A good minigame should be short and to the point which this game really nails down.

Overall, I would say this game is a big step up from the Mario Party for GBA. It’s not quite touching any of the big console ones yet though. There are still a few more portable Mario party games I don’t have yet though so we’ll see if they continue to improve. If you like the Mario Party series then you should definitely get this one. There’s no reason you wouldn’t like the hand held version. Additionally while it may be old, I wouldn’t say it’s out dated or anything like that. You can easily plug and play at any time. Just work on grabbing those unlockables to really fill the game up.

Overall 7/10

The Legend of Kage 2 Review


This is a game I bought at Gamestop a long time ago but I hadn’t gotten around to playing the original so I just kept it on the backburner. Well, I finally got around to beating the original (Review coming soon) and the sequel does a good job of really improving upon the original in every way. We now have a real story and more streamlined gameplay.

The game starts with Kage being given a new mission. He is to protect the princess who turns out to be his childhood friend. It’s really not a bad gig but unfortunately he does not know the true dangers that are around him. A group of villains want to kidnap the princess because she has latent abilities that could allow them to conquer the world. Clearly the stakes have been raised but will Kage be able to raise his skill level to match?

Right away I liked the visual style of the game. It handles the energy effects well from how the blue and red blades look to how the whole game’s atmosphere is. Ultimately this game looks very good. The boss designs are on point as well and if the game ever got an anime, I’d want them to use the designs from this game rather than the original.

The gameplay is pretty simple and to the point. You can jump extremely high and swing away at enemies with your blade. A new addition to the series is that you actually have special abilities now. You can increase your attack, defense, or even shoot out projectiles. Personally I recommend sticking to the attack and defense options since those are really the best bets. The difference is actually noticeable here.

Now the main knock against the game is the length. It’s around 3 hours which is pretty bad. The original game was only about an hour or even less but it could get away with it more since this was the original title. For a big sequel that’s a little harder to overlook because you just expect a certain amount of length. Imagine buying this day 1? That would probably get pretty dicey and you would feel cheated out of your cash.

There is some replay value I suppose in that you can try to grab more collectibles in the level. If you grab everything then you’ll be really powerful but the main issue is that there would be nothing to do with it. There are no bonus levels or anything so you would just be flexing on minions. Certainly that’s cool and all if you are having a blast with the gameplay but it’s not enough for me to say the game truly has real replay value.

This is the kind of title you are really playing as a one and done experience. It is a fun experience at least for the reasons I stated above. The main rival makes for a really good antagonist. He’s quite skilled but also has an honor code. The fact that he fought to the end while remaining as a human as an impressive twist. It shows Kage that you can become truly strong even without becoming a monster. The other characters didn’t always seem to have such fortitude.

Hanzo was also very interesting. He spends the entire game getting beaten up left and right but then you see that he is actually a whole lot more skilled than we may expect. Personally I still think Kage and the blue rival are too powerful for him but maybe he would be third in the verse. A third game seems unlikely but I would definitely be really hyped to see that at some point.

My main gameplay tip here is to just experiment. When you die you can always continue again so see what went wrong the first time and adapt. There is no penalty for trying a lot as you get your health and magic meter restored to the sky’s really the limit. The only chance of failure is if you give up. Additionally, the bosses have very set movement patterns so once you memorize them then you really should not have any problems here.

I wouldn’t say the soundtrack is super memorable but the tunes aren’t bad. You have a pretty good idea of what is going on and it fits with the ninja theme. I’d love some more rock based music themes of course but it’s hard not to be satisfied with what we did get. The boss battles are also intense as you would expect.

Overall, Legend of Kage 2 was a lot of fun. The only thing keeping me from calling it a great game is how short it is. No matter how polished the gameplay or interesting the story, there is only so much you can do in 3 hours. Maybe the developers weren’t given enough time but still wanted to make a high quality game so instead of sacrificing that, they cut off the length. If they were forced to make such a choice then I definitely have to say that I agreed with the call. Better to have a short high quality title than a long one that’s not very good. Better luck next time for Kage but if you find this game for $5 like I did then it is definitely worth it.

Overall 7/10