Ehrgeiz

ehrgeiz

One of the more obscure games with Final Fantasy characters came out on the Playstation. With Squaresoft growing power with such great titles as Final Fantasy VII and Saga Frontier it was time to take it to the ring with their own style. Enter Ehrgeiz! With such a unique way that rivals those of Tobal who of course was also made by Squaresoft. The game itself is a joy to play especially as there are different ways to play it.

ehrgeiz

 

You have the basic story mode which you’ll pick a character (including Cloud, Tifa, and Sephiroth) To battle against others to the end. I played through it and it’s quite an enjoyable experience especially if you find the bugs to make the fights even easier. The does show the Squaresoft brand with the quest mode as you can pick from two characters that will go to the dungeon, level up, and explore. This is where this game hits the high point. If you want an incredible explorer experience with RPG elements, then this is all you need to look for.

ehrgeiz

The game’s music is lacking as there isn’t any. the game is as quiet a game will get. I’m not sure if this is the same deal with the Japanese release but we’ll just leave it at that. The sound effects though are enduring and sound like how they are supposed to. Even the Final Fantasy characters have voices believe it or not which are brief but understandable.

ehrgeiz

The graphics are very good and sharp. The game does deliver some of the best graphics for its day. Squaresoft did a good job making the characters look how they are supposed to. Just think about this, remember how the Final Fantasy VII characters looked in the game? Well, look at them in this game and tell me they don’t look better. Tifa’s boobs are yummier than ever!

ehrgeiz

The gameplay as I mentioned before is quite enjoyable. You can play through the story mode in less than half an hour but the quest mode will take a lot longer. You have to use your best skills in order to get through the quest. But, the controller will take you to wherever you need to go, that’s for sure!

ehrgeiz

As for replay value, you have a lot to replay here. If you want to beat the story mode with all the different characters, you can do that although you’ll battle through all of them in the same order which makes it repetitive. This brings me to the fact that you are better off playing the quest mode as there are different places to explore and it will keep you interested over and over. But once it’s over, you are welcomed to try again.

Overall it’s a great game that you shouldn’t miss and even though it could be a little pricey on the bay, I wouldn’t mind spending the extra bucks for it. I hope you enjoyed this week’s retro game of the week. Until next week!

Classic Games you would give as gifts today

Video Game Stocking

True story, I was in a Kay Bee toy store several years before they closed and was looking for some discounted games. An older woman comes in and asks about the Playstation2 which was brand new at the time. The guy behind the counter tells her the Atari Jaguar would be much better liked for her son and showed her a wonder bundle of games and told her he could give them all to her for one special price.

Well, if you know anything about the Atari Jaguar you know any kid would not want that over a brand new PS2. Now yes, I could have said something, but I was an evil teenager at the time and I was hoping to be there after the holidays when she would have to return it in a panic.

I was thinking about that story the other day and with the holidays almost here I thought about great games that would make great gifts today. Now of course if you gave most people an old game instead of something new like Call of Duty or Skyrim they would freak. However, what if it would be appreciated, what classic game would you proudly give as a gift?

Sonic 2

Sonic 2

For me this was Sonic perfection, the level design the music and everything in-between made this a great game. Even today it is the type of game you can load up and enjoy a quick run through. It may not have the graphics of today, but people are liking Sonic Generations and its look back to classic Sonic so as a retro stocking stuffer this game would be received well.

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG

When you mix the fun world of Mario with the RPG nature of the Squaresoft games you get an adventure that stands the test of time. Super Mario RPG had it all, a good storyline, great characters, wonderful music and a fun battle system with boss fights and secret areas and the game was pretty long to boot. Compared to later games like Final Fantasy 7, it may seem lacking, but in its time it was ahead of its day and led to many great Paper Mario games.

Final Fantasy 7

final-fantasy-7

Speaking of FF7, most people crown this game the king of the series and even though you might get tired of seeing people pretend they are Sephiroth or horrible cosplay of Tifa, the game itself was a masterpiece. Again we have the perfect combination of story, characters, gameplay and music and all were rated five stars. Many gamers still want a remake and not the one on the PSP. No doubt the painted ground and other outdated graphics might look strange to today’s gamer, but for a classic game this must rank as one of the all-time greats.

Super Castlevania

Super Castlevania

How many of you have played this in some form in the last year or so. For many it is like going to church, you do it once or twice a year. Super Castlevania is one of those games that every once in a while you have to play through because of how fun it was and I have to toss  STON in there as well because they were both so well done that even with outdated graphics the game is still awesome. The point is that great games are great games regardless of their outdated look. Castlevania was fun to play and it did not matter if that bat looked more like a dust bunny or that the whip was seriously pixelated. Once you saw someone playing it or a video or even a mention you most likely loaded it up yourself. Come on, you know right now you are thinking about it.

Stocking Stuffer

Now obviously there are a ton of great games I missed, but that is for you to tell us. In fact we will make it a contest. Tell us what classic game would be worth giving as a gift this holiday season and the best written one will be featured in an article and you will win a prize. Detail is the key here and the better you make your case the better your chance to win. Even if you do not want to participate in the contest we want to know which game you think should be on this list.

Saga Frontier

Saga Frontier - PS1 Disc Front

This week we have a game that is said to take 140 hours to complete! At least that’s what it says so on the box and they are quite close to it. Not only do you have to have a memory card just for that game but there are seven quests to complete in order to see the ending! Each quest has their own ending. Be sure to keep an eye on each ending as each is just bizarre. From all of them, I think Blue’s ending is the most bizarre but I won’t spoil that for you. Just play the god damn game!

Saga Frontier - Title Screen

Square released a whole line up of RPGs including Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy Tactics, and others during the 1997-1998 era. It was an era where the RPGs flourished and were finally respected and known by everyone especially due to Final Fantasy 7, you couldn’t ask for anything better. This is where Saga Frontier came in with their traditional gameplay and big battle system. You can have up to 15 characters in your party although you can only use 5 at a time. Before every battle, you can pick which party you are going to bring out so it’s quite interesting build your party for each kind of scenario. As for myself, I would only use one party filled with humans as they are the best race of all in the game at least. The game also has a very different level up system which only levels up attributes you have used up. For example, if you have taken a hit then your HP will level up and if you have used magic then your MP will level up. It’s very weird but it works especially for humans.

Saga Frontier - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The world is huge and the music is very catchy. You will be leveling up a lot and barely getting through dungeons as the difficulty is very moderate and sometimes frustrating but I’m sure if I was able to get through them, you are too. My favorite feature of the game is the combos with other members of your party. You can have up to five combined combos which means all the members will combine their attacks into one for massive damage. This is by far the best feature of the game and it’s what keeps the battles interesting. There are also villages you can travel to where you can get some new power ups and magic which is crucial for being able to advance in the game. The number one rule of this game is pick up Gen at the bar in the Junk city! You must add this bastard! He may be a drunk but he comes in handy in any quest. You also gotta love his victory action! He rocks!

Saga Frontier - Gen_Headshot
To conclude, the game is quite entertaining but not for everyone. The stories aren’t that strong but they are strong enough to make you wanna see what comes up next. Be sure you pick this one up when you have a chance as there is a lot to love about this game. You can’t beat 140 hours of gameplay!

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQTWMPLY4Ug[/youtube]

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger - PS1 Box

This game was one of the reasons I fell in love with RPGs. It had pretty much everything you could ask for in a game. Great story, great characters, and of course great gameplay is only a few of the amazing features this game brought. The story is the usual gotta save the world from evil but in the end it’s a fun story to play through. The game also has multiple endings so it’ll keep you coming back and fix what you did wrong to get the better ending. The gameplay is pure genius as you battle Final Fantasy style but instead of going to another screen like most RPGs. Your battle will happen wherever you find your enemies. It’s simple, fun, and exciting to battle these monsters.

 

ChronoTrigger - Gameplay Screenshot

Another feature of the battle system is the combined attack combos where you can apply combos with your allies for higher damage. You’ll of course need both allies to have their battle gauge filled and for them to have enough points to complete the attack. If one player doesn’t have enough MP, then you are out of luck.

 

Furthermore, the game features side quests that you can accomplish when you get tired of following the story among many other things. The best feature of the story that I like is the time travel factor. You can travel through time to help save the world, how fantastic! So that’s about it, be sure to pick this one out as I highly recommend it. Until next week!

Did you know? There was a text based game called Radical Dreamers that unveils a lot of info of both Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross games. Neat huh?

The Interview: Steve Gray

Steve Gray
Steve Gray

Steve Gray

When you have a gaming resume with names like Electronic Arts, Squaresoft and THQ there is little doubt that you know gaming. Obsolete Gamer was given the opportunity to talk with Steve Gray about his gaming career that started with EA Canada his time at Squaresoft and his work on Parasite eve. From there he created his own studio (Heavy Iron) which he sold to THQ in 1999. From there he returned to EA where he worked on many games including The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Third Age and Tactics. Currently Steve Gray is the executive in charge of production at Tencent who is China’s largest developer and publisher and operator of online games.

We wanted to get a behind the scenes look at his time in the gaming industry and his many accomplishments from his work in Video FX to building the first Motion Capture Lab at EA Canada.

EA Canada logo
EA Canada logo

Obsolete Gamer: When did you know you would want to work in the video game industry?

Steve Gray: I originally wanted to be a Rock Star (just like Tremmel) and I played the clubs a lot in LA and up and down the California coast.  At that time I also worked in the feature film special effects business.  Which I continued to do until the early 90’s when I was VP Technology at Digital Domain (that’s when we made True Lies, Interview with the Vampire, Apollo 13, …).  When the PS1 came out I decided I really wanted to get into video games instead.

Obsolete Gamer: What was your first exposure to games?

Steve Gray: Asteroids in the arcades.

Obsolete Gamer: What was the first video game that hooked you?

Steve Gray: Asteroids in the arcades!!

Obsolete Gamer: Now before beginning work in the gaming industry you had quite the career in Visual Effects and working in television and movies can you tell us about that time?

Steve Gray: I worked at Robert Abel & Associates when I first moved to LA (to be a Rock Star).  Entry Level Rock Star doesn’t pay very well, actually… not at all.  RA&A worked on Tron, Star Trek 1, and a ton of really cool CG TV commercials.  Also with Omnibus and Digital Pictures we were really the first big CG effects house.  It was a great place to work, everyone was really young and crazy… we worked super hard, partied super hard.  It was a good time… late 80’s in LA was a fun time and place.  Guns and Roses was playing the clubs, the Sunset Strip was rockin’.  Then I went on to work at Rhythm & Hues as head of the Software department.  We wrote all our own CG tools then, because there really weren’t any commercially available packages yet.  I mostly wrote partical systems and rendering code, along with managing the team.  After R&H I moved over to Digital Domain, which was a lot of crazy house.  But we worked on really great movies… and working with Stan Winston and Jim Cameron was pretty amazing.

Obsolete Gamer: So you began the video game part of your career at Electronic Arts Canada, how did that job come to be?

Steve Gray: Digital Domain wanted to get into the video games business… so me and Chris McKibbin (then CFO of DD – different Chris than Chris Tremmel) went around to all the big game companies in the US and Japan trying to get someone to do a project with us… no one really wanted to do that because they (rightly) said we had no idea what we were doing.  Don Mattrick offered me and McKibbin both jobs at EAC.  So we thought about that and both took his offer.

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working at EA Canada?

Steve Gray: It was really interesting. I learned a lot there.  A lot of really talented guys.  But unfortunately I discovered that making sports games wasn’t really my thing.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you think of the changing in video game technology at the time with the PlayStation One and the use of full motion video in games?

Steve Gray: We all though FMVs in games were super cool.  And actually I eventually built a game at my own company Heavy Iron that used FMV backgrounds in a “Resident Evil” type of game… except our backgrounds were pre-rendered videos instead of pre-rendered stills.  But that was on PS2.  It was the first Evil Dead game that THQ released.  But fundamentally I now think that FMVs kind of suck.  Or at least over use of FMVs kind of suck.  I like what we did in “Lord of the Rings The Third Age” with the transitions from FMV to In-Game Cinematic to Game Play.  And I’m definitely more of a fan of in-game cinematics now, especially if the player can customize his or her avatar, and that customized avatar shows up in the In-Game Cinematic.  But in general, I’m not a huge fan of linear content in games anymore.  Of course, working at Square we made tons of FMVs… but Square’s console RPGs are almost more of a big movie with some game play bits squeezed in there.   Which I still like.

Obsolete Gamer: What were the day to day activities of running the software tools group at EA Canada?

Steve Gray: Not really that interesting.  Just managed the tools group, tried to make sure that we really built things that were useful for the projects right now… no “ivory tower research” allowed.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about building the first Motion Capture Lab at EAC?

Steve Gray: In the beginning the EAC guys didn’t believe in it so we had basically no budget and had to rent out the auto-repair stall to use as our capture studio.  The guys in the auto repair shops around us all through we must be shooting porno movies because we brought in all this high-end camera gear… they kept wanting to know when the girls were going to be there.  Unfortunately it was just a bunch of geeky game developers.  Later we got a bigger a much nicer warehouse to work in…

Squaresoft logo
Squaresoft logo

Obsolete Gamer: How did the transition from EAC to Squaresoft take place?

Steve Gray: I knew some Square guys from various places in the past, plus I’ve always been a fan of their games.  When Sakaguchi-san asked me to join the company I couldn’t say yes fast enough.   Some of the other guys at Square invited me to Tokyo to meet Sakaguchi and we were in a private booth overlooking the massive dance club called “Welfare”, he asked me to join square and put out his hand… I shook it and the other Japanese guys asked me “do you know you just signed the deal”, to which I answered “yes”!!

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time at EAC?

Steve Gray: I think the day we installed the flying-faders audio mixing board in the sound lab was the best day.  Back then those things were super crazy expensive, and as a musician I’d always wanted to have one to play with.

Obsolete Gamer: What was it like working at Squaresoft?

Steve Gray: Working at Square was the best of times and in some ways the worst of times.  Working with Sakaguchi-san was extremely challenging because his standards are insanely high.  Which is a good thing, but it can be tough.  Also the cultural and language differences between the Japanese and Western teams we not really understood or managed very well.  I’m sure we were one of the first projects to be developed by a “mixed” team.  Of course now this is happening more and more, and people have gotten much better at managing those situations, but we were really on the bleeding edge, so to speak.

Obsolete Gamer: What were some of the challenges in directing Parasite Eve?

Steve Gray: The biggest issues were really finding consensus and understanding between the Japanese crew, many of whom had been at Square for many years and were used to their style of working… which was actually very “agile” though they didn’t call it that.  The Western team was much more into what’s now referred to as Waterfall project management… which we didn’t call it that either.  We didn’t really think about this sort of thing, and didn’t understand the differences, and basically made a big mess.  But the game did quite well when it came out, so that’s great!

Obsolete Gamer: Now the game was a sequel to the book correct?

Steve Gray: The game wasn’t a sequel really, it was based on a Japanese novel.  There is also a Japanese movie based on the same book… with some cool VFX from Toyo Links (Japanese VFX company).

Obsolete Gamer: There are many fans who loved that game, but some felt it did not get the attention it deserved, do you feel that way as well?

Steve Gray: It sold over 2.5 million units world wide I think, and sold something like 1.6 million units in like a week in Japan or something crazy like that.  Not quite Final Fantasy numbers, but pretty good.  I’m happy with it.

Obsolete Gamer: What did you think of Parasite Eve 2?

Steve Gray: I think the graphics and FMVs are probably better… I haven’t really played it all the way through, so I don’t have a lot to say about the game.  I was a little bitter with the way things ended up at Square, so I cop’ed an attitude and only played it a bit.

Obsolete Gamer: There were rumors of making a Parasite Eve 3 but it did not happen would you want to see a part 3 made?

Steve Gray: Only if I make it!!!  I don’t know.  Don’t really care.  I don’t think the franchise really took off enough to warrent a whole long series of games.

Parasite Eve box
Parasite Eve box

Obsolete Gamer: You also contributed to Final Fantasy 7 while at Square, can you tell us about that?

Steve Gray: Mostly I just helped another team at Square LA work on some maps.   Square LA did a bunch of maps for FF VII.  I don’t remember how many or what percentage of the total maps were done there.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time at Square?

Steve Gray: Ha.  The stories I have to share involve other Square employees, cute Japanese girls at various locations in Tokyo at night.  They are not fit for public consumption… so I’ll let you guys imagine some of the trouble we got into.

Obsolete Gamer: What made you want to open your own game development company?

Steve Gray: After we finished PE1 at Square, a core group of us thought we were super badass game developers and that publishing companies would fall over themselves to give us projects and money.  That was not entirely true.  We worked on a bunch of games that never saw the light of day, and then finally landed the gig with THQ building Evil Dead 1.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about Heavy Iron Studios?

Steve Gray: It was originally called Chemistry Entertainment.  For a while we partnered with the Canadian VFX Company called Rainmaker.  Heavy Iron didn’t really 100% work out as we hoped.  But a bunch of really great people worked there, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the game industry… for example my partner Marcel Samek went on to be CTO at EALA for many years.  Shiraz Akmal ran the central outsourcing group at THQ… Matt Coohill continued to work at Heavy Iron for a long time, and is now up in Seattle at Microsoft working cool stuff there.  And many others…

Obsolete Gamer: How did it differ from running your own company than working at EAC and SS?

Steve Gray: We had no money.  I didn’t really like running my own company that much… I thought it would give me the freedom to work on the kinds of projects I really like.  But instead I got to be an administrator and was always managing cash flow and trying to make payroll.  Not cool.

Obsolete Gamer: When did you make the decision to sell to THQ?

Steve Gray: When we were starting on Evil Dead 1, it was going to be one of the biggest projects THQ had ever done… and they really wanted to have us be part of THQ so that they would be building equity in the team.  And honestly, Marcel and I were a bit tired of managing the company instead of making games, so we decided to join THQ.  Of course, we also got paid some money (stock).  When I left THQ, their stock was at an all-time high… this was a good thing.

Obsolete Gamer: Do you have a story or memory you’d like to share about your time with Heavy Iron Studios?

Steve Gray: When we were finalizing Evil Dead, I was basically living at the office.  We had a group of THQ QA guys in the first floor, and they would find bugs, we’d fix them… I’d burn new test disks… they bang away at them.  It was a crazy project.  But then many things I’ve worked on have been crazy and hard… but that’s what makes it fun.

Obsolete Gamer: Then it was a return to EA what was that like?

Steve Gray: I came back to EA to join my original Digital Domain friend, Chris McKibbin, to help run what was called the “Worlds Channel” in EA.com.  We were all the entertainment products, meaning all the MMOs.  I guess younger readers may not know about EA.com – EA.com was EA’s first big jump into online games, and think we were a bit ahead of the times… EA.com didn’t work out, and got closed down, and many of the people merged back into the other EA Studios.  That was pretty rough because many people were also laid off, and as one of the senior guys there it fell to me to do a lot of layoffs.  But it’s lame to feel bad for yourself in that situation because it’s 100x worse for the people getting laid off.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about the development process with creating the Lord of the Rings games?

Steve Gray: We kicked some serious ass on Lord of the Rings.  First out at Stormfront, then internally at EA Redwood Shores.  Those were great games, beautiful games, built on very tight schedules under difficult circumstances and they were really good.  I credit my time and Square and my experiences working with Sakaguchi for my ability to really focus on quality… and of course, Neil Young was a great EP on the first two, I learned a lot working with him as well.  I have very happy memories of that time… though I did get diss’ed pretty hard in the infamous “EA Wife” blog.  I think our FMV->game play transition stuff which I mentioned earlier was a first for the industry, and we really set the standard for quality in movie games… a standard that has rarely been met since, in my opinion.

Heavy Iron logo
Heavy Iron logo

Obsolete Gamer: How did your experience with EAC, Square and owning Heavy Iron Studios factor into your return to EA and working on those games?

Steve Gray: I really credit Sakaguchi-san for helping me understand how to build great games.  I have to say that at the time, when I was at Square, I didn’t really agree 100% with how he wanted to do things… but in the following years I came to really appreciate how his approach to game development is able to consistently create such high quality product.  Now I’ve rarely (never) had the freedom he has as a developer, but his ideas fit into development even if you have to pay more attention to the schedule.  Heavy Iron gave me a lot of respect for how hard it is to run a business… and at EA I learned a lot about why publishers work the way they do, and why publishers make what seem to the developers like evil and unwarranted decisions.  That changed my understanding of the game business a lot.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about your work on Neverwinter Nights 2?

Steve Gray: This is a mistake in some profiles on me… I never worked on Neverwinter Nights 2.

Obsolete Gamer: With all your time in the gaming industry which prior of your career did you enjoy the most?

Steve Gray: I really really enjoyed working on the Lord of the Rings games.  The team was so fantastic.  Everyone was great to work with and super talented.  We may have had our struggles and moments of anger with each other, but I wouldn’t trade that time with those people for anything.  I am also really enjoying working at Tencent…

Tencent logo
Tencent logo

Obsolete Gamer: Can you tell us about what you are working on currently?

Steve Gray: I am currently Executive in Charge of Prodution at Tencent in China.  Tencent is China’s largest developer, publisher and operator of on-line games, we have a huge IM client (over 1 billion accounts), we run China’s largest portals, etc…  I work with all of our Studios, of which we have 9… with about 3500 employees across all of them.  But there are some projects I’m particularly focused on.

Unfortunately I can’t really tell you about them, because most are unannounced.  However one I can mention is NBA 2K Online, which is a co-development project with 2K Sports in the US.  It’s a bit weird because I didn’t really like working on Sports games at EAC… but this is really more of a Sports RPG or something like that.  It’s really cool… it’s going to be a monster hit here in China.  Working with Visual Concepts (the 2K Games Studio that builds NBA2K) is really great, working with 2K China is great… our team in Shanghai is great.

It’s really fun.  It’s amazing how Tencent builds online games and how big we are (we have 4 games that have more than 1 million people playing simultaneously every day).  We get to work so closely with our customers… in a way you can never do on a console game.  Also the scale we operate at is just stunning… QQ IM (our IM client) routinely has over 100,000,000 people logged into it every day.  Yes – that’s the right number of zeros… 100,000,000.

Obsolete Gamer: With all that you do you must have little free time, but when you do if you play any games what are they?

Steve Gray: I rarely play any games other than the games I’m working on, or directly competing product… which I can’t say what they are, because that would be a dead giveaway of what we’re building.  I don’t really play games for “fun” in my free time… well, what free time, for one thing.  But I have a lot of fun playing the games I’m building or those few other games I play to understand what the competition is up to.

Final Fantasy I: OST

Final Fantasy I: OST

It all began here with composer Nobuo Uematsu who created so much of the great music found in the Final Fantasy series. Fans and critics alike agree that the music in Final Fantasy has been excellent and even starting with the first one the quality of the sound was ahead of its time. The music drew you in, it was powerful when it was supposed to be and made you feel the emotion of the game.  The music could make you laugh, make you cry and drive you to kick the bad guys ass.

Final Fantasy I and II cover

How it all began

The story goes that while working in a music rental shop Uematsu was approached by a woman working in the art department at Square. At the time Uematsu didn’t consider it a career move in fact he thought of it as a part time job, a place to make a little extra cash and in the end would not last long. When he took the job Uematsu met Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi who asked him to compose some much for his games. In the end there were only a few requirements which included adding “battle” and “town” music, but besides that Uematsu had free reign to create the music as he saw fit and we all experienced and enjoyed the results.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Fantasy I Want No Part Of

FFXIV online logo
FFXIV online logo

E3 2009 took us by surprise when Square-Enix opened up with the trailer for Final Fantasy XIV. It wasn’t expected to be announced and was rather hush-hush until the presentation. What really blew people away, in my opinion, was its suggested release date. When an MMO is normally announced to be in production you expect 2-3 years from that date or more for the game to be complete and released. Releasing such a big brand name in such a short time made me insinuate that this project must have been in works for quite some time in silence. As with most utterings of a Final Fantasy game being released, high expectations are hoped to be met by their fan base. Can Square-Enix bring out a AAA title in such a short time frame? The company certainly has not released anything close to AAA quality in quite some time and this MMORPG must have occupied many of the company’s resources for its production.

Final Fantasy XI was a highly acclaimed MMORPG in Japan and did moderately successful worldwide. With the juggernaut that is World of Warcraft, a company like Square-Enix seemed like the most powerful competitor to steal some WoW’s players. The time to capitalize on the market of people waiting for the next big MMO was netted in by this announcement. With Star Wars: The Old Republic not ready to debut until Spring 2011, Final Fantasy XIV had a chance to pull in a strong player base of MMO nomads.

As the release date began to draw near, open beta was announced and it was time to check out what Square-Enix was hiding behind the curtain. After getting my beta invite email I decided to follow the instructions. I was taken to a link that I had assumed would have a registration key and login section to get this fixation underway. Instead, the link took me to a portal with the “requirements” to play the beta. There were no links to sign into my Square-Enix account and the page was outright inadequate. Their “System Requirements” section on the page just directs you to another page with the information on the minimum system requirements. This portal page was completely and utterly useless and vague at best.

I finally decided to just go to the Final Fantasy XIV official page to login and see if I can find a registration code. Finding any reference to this code in my account page was impossible and adding Final Fantasy XIV to my service only asked me for a code anyway. When I finally did find the code page, they had closed registration codes for the time being and will release more at a later date. After spamming the refresh button a million times I eventually did get this code for my wife and myself to play.

Finding the download section for the game was another hassle as it wouldn’t open up the torrent file at all. I eventually had to find it off another site to begin the patch. My download time for this nearly 8GB file was 5 weeks. My wife’s download time was an hour and thirty minutes. After some surfing on the internet I saw a ton of people were having a problem with the game patching in a reasonable time frame. I guess we got lucky my wife’s download was speedy. When her download finished I just transferred a copy of the completed files to my computer so we could get started.
Now, onto the meat of this review. The game itself.

Performance: My machine is fairly new so I’m not even going to rate the performance based on that. My wife’s unit is older and has an Intel quad-core clocked at 2.40GHZ, 4GB of DDR2 memory, and an ATI 5870. The game ran beautifully. There was little to no chopping even in the populated cities with the settings set to max. Particle effects offered zero lag and the game probably ran the smoothest out of any next-gen MMORPG we’ve played in the past 3 years. For an open beta, this was highly impressive. Any midrange computer can handle this game at full settings with just a bit of tweaking if a hitch ever came up.

Controls: Developers of this game came out straight and said this game was designed to have the UI revolve around the use of a controller. Just like in Final Fantasy XI, this unrelated sequel of sorts incorporates the use of a controller even for the PC. It is not keyboard and mouse friendly at all. For God’s sake, you can’t even hotkey anything. For some of the most simple tasks you have to take a journey through a plethora of menus for miniscule options. It is ridiculous, cumbersome, and ill planned. Yes, the game is releasing for the PS3 and these controls must be comfortable for them but guess what? They aren’t releasing the PS3 version until sometime next year. What is the purpose of releasing the PC version with this horrid UI and control scheme if the focus of its movement isn’t even releasing until the following year? It makes little to no sense. It seems to me they are releasing this version of the game just to make the deadline “promise” they made at E3 2009.

LOL Wut Pirate Final Fantasy XIV
LOL Wut Pirate Final Fantasy XIV

Sound: Classic Final Fantasy sounds make their appearance in this game. It is clear and sounds great. The music really puts you in that role-playing mood if you’re into that sort of thing. It shoves you into this world and makes it come to life. As always, Nobuo Uematsu knows how to compose some grand and fantastical musical choices. Unfortunately, all this goes to hell the moment the voice-overs pop in. The studio that handled the voice acting must have hired the student’s from Ms.Spifz’s High School English Class. The actors sounded as though they were involuntarily picked to read aloud to the class the next section of The Great Gatsby. The voices are uninspired, bland, and lacking any emotion. The music sets you up for this grand adventure and then the actors from Twilight decide to make an appearance as voice actors and ruin the entire mood. I felt blue balled.

Gameplay: I know this is what you all have been waiting to hear, so here it is. The game immediately tosses you into this adventure to go kill whatever furry monstrosity is waiting for you in the newbie area, the inauguration for every great RPG adventure. If it isn’t stomping on giant rats, its killing boars or bunnies. After going through a thousand clicks to accept the quest, I opened my map to see where I should begin my journey. The newbie zone was right on the edge of town. Guess where they started me? At the OTHER side of this 5 mile city! Not only was it difficult to find my way around but I couldn’t leap down staircases to make shortcuts. And with that we bring up my biggest peeve in anything ever!
I hate games that don’t let me jump.

I don’t care how good it is.

I hate not jumping.

Walls that were two feet high were preventing me from crossing the fastest way possible. I had to trek all the way across the wall just to get around. I can shoot fireballs from my hands and cleave through the sturdy flesh of an Orc but I can’t hop over a small bump in the ground. I hate being bored in groups and not being able to prance around the dungeon as we continue onward. I hate not being able to cancel my spells with a small little hop. The lack of a jumping feature takes away from the gaming experience for me. I can’t even vault over the damn thing like in Gears of War.

Go To Hell Taru Final Fantasy XIV
Go To Hell Taru Final Fantasy XIV

Finally reaching the newbie area was probably the most frustrating part of the game. The mob I needed to kill sparsely speckled the newbie zone and the amount of new players looking to kill this mob were outnumbering its spawn rate. The hotbar techniques only correspond to the number on your NUMPAD. I couldn’t find any other way to map it elsewhere for more convenience. After spending maybe an hour searching for three of these mobs without any luck I decided to uppercut a Dodo bird which kept running by me constantly. Instead of considering its level, I shoved my lancer’s spear into his face and I was quickly dismembered in only a few seconds. As I laid dead on the ground I began to wonder when my release timer would come up so I could respawn. After a minute of waiting I began to realize why I saw so many dead players that hadn’t released their corpse earlier in my adventure. There is no release button. You have to excavate through your menu and find a “Return” button to get released to a spawn point. Nicely done, Square-Enix. Your vague manner really helped me there.

After calming down and letting my heart rate return to a safe set of beating, I decided to return to town and try out the crafting professions. I always liked fishing in an MMO so I decided to take up Fishing as my career choice. I needed some money to buy some of the equipment needed to pursue my profession so I sold some vendor trash and went ahead on my new path. After equipping my pole and bait I went ahead to begin the process of being a bad ass fisherman. After spending 4 minutes wondering how to even begin fishing since the keyboard controls were complete garbage, I got on my way. The whole fishing endeavor was much more complicated than I thought. I had to choose my depth, the quality of the water I was fishing from, and the casting point. When the message that something had bit my line appeared, I had to begin a struggle with the fish to drag it out of the water. You have to constantly “Jig” with the fish back and worth as it tries to take the line till the fish is too tired to struggle and you capture him. It’s basically the combat mechanics of a Pokemon battle. I found fishing way more enjoyable than the actual game’s combat since I spent most of the time running around with my spear trying to find rats to poke. I could easily see someone making their crafting profession their main source of entertainment in the game as it is rather enthralling.

The fatigue system was something I didn’t really experience as I gave up just way too soon on this game from sheer lack of enjoyment. From what I’ve been told by friends and from other sources, you can’t barrel through the game. Powergamers will not find any euphoria in this game as the fatigue system penalizes you for using one class for too long. After 8 hours of gameplay, your character will hit a block in progression that will offer them no experience points. They will have to change classes and try something else for another eight hours. Each week the debuff is cleansed and you are allowed to continue on with the class that was previously penalized. What does this sound like to me? It sounds like this game is probably two-thirds complete and they are putting roadblocks so they can successfully complete their endgame. By the time the PS3 version of the game releases, I prophesize that this system will be scrapped since the game will be officially completed.

Final Verdict: This game falls short in so many places. It is beautiful and quite breathtaking. It isn’t as user friendly as one would hope. Newer gamers to the Final Fantasy Online universe can easily get lost in the complexity of its interface and mechanics. It does require a bit more patience than most MMOs and getting the hang of it right out of the box isn’t something that will come easily. A small fraction of brain power is needed to solve the puzzles of the menu and to get used to some of the mechanics for the crafting professions. If you’re looking for something to dive into right away, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re looking for a powergaming experience, this game isn’t for you. If you enjoy excelling in one area, this isn’t the game for you. If you’re looking for beautiful graphics and dream inspired settings with an enjoyable RPG experience filled with the wonder and adventure of killing large rats and Dodo birds, this is the game you’re looking for! Overall, the game failed to grasp my attention for longer than five hours.

For something that was expected to take the MMORPG genre a step forward, this title took two steps backs and one step forward. What was expected to be a monsoon of intrigue and JRPG adventure ended up becoming nothing more than a minor swell lost in a sea of upcoming MMOs.

Super Mario RPG OST

Super Mario RPG OST

What can I say I fell in love with this game. I was always a big Mario fan and shortly before its release I got big into Final Fantasy so when I saw a Squaresoft (Square Enix now) RPG built around Super Mario Bros I had to get it and was not disappointed.

Super Mario RPG OST

The gameplay was fun keeping the humor and character of Mario and adding in the role playing and battle elements of Sqaure. The story was well done as were many of the boss battles and puzzles and the music, some of the best at the time.

Check out the Classic Gaming Profile for Super Mario RPG

As always Obsolete Gamer supports the artists and composers of our favorite video game music. Support great work by purchasing the original soundtrack.

Japan, I Left Your RPGs On The Sidewalk And Changed The Locks. We’re Through!

Chrono Trigger cry
Chrono Trigger cry

Japan, I Left Your RPGs On The Sidewalk And Changed The Locks. We’re Through!

Dear Japan,
My dear and sweet Japan, it breaks my heart to write this message. I hope this tear stained letter lets you know that the way I felt about you… about us was something I will always cherish. While the flickering flame on the candle that represented my love for you has been snuffed, the moments we shared will always be emblazoned into my mind and heart.

Do you remember when we first met, my childhood friend? I was seven years old walking through the SNES rental section of Blockbuster looking for a new game to rent. My little childish sticky hands were all over the Aladdin rental box, a smile stretching from ear to ear as I imagined taking the fight to Jaffar. I skipped down the aisle looking for my mommy so that I could go home with Aladdin and enjoy the adventures of an Arabian night. The other games looked on as I gleefully took flight down towards the register. I was blind to their laminated glare.

Like a rifle’s laser scope, I could feel the pressure of a presence weighing down upon me. This entity’s gaze was fixated on me, reaching out for a friend. Slowly turning to my left, my heart went a flutter. Behind the plastic wrappings of the case was an unknown creature holding a wicked sword. Its white fur and pink nose were innocent yet it held a darkened tormenting blade that screamed out to me like a van with free candy. My grip on Aladdin loosened as he fell to the ground face down and like a handicapped older woman was unable to get up without my help. That is where Aladdin would remain though, living away his last breaths as I stepped closer to examine the enigma in front of me. My fingers raced against the title as I dared to utter the name, your name…
Final Fantasy III.

At the time I was ignorant to your true identity. How could I have known? I was only a child and you offered me the ambrosia of adventure. I brought you into my home and for the first time in my life, I learned from a game. I read, I established connections with a game’s characters, I felt remorse for a fictional struggle, and I…

Well, you know…

I fell in love.

Yes, I said it. I fell in love with you, Japan and your RPGs. I still wanted to take that magic carpet ride but not with Aladdin. You engrossed me into your adventures and made me actually care about story and my characters. I chose characters who statistically sucked but because I felt for their background, I strived to turn them into weapons of perfection so we could see their adventure through to the end. I never thought I would experience anything like this ever again. I thought our love was a once in a life time voyage, a one night stand that left me laying in my motel room bed dripping like a used whore.

I was wrong. You kindled my heart through and through for the years. You invaded my life like a powerful militant country raping and pillaging my childhood for resources. You attempted to take them by force but you didn’t expect one thing, Japan. I welcomed you with open arms.

Like Teth-Adam meeting his Isis, your power and my love for you flourished for years to come. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Suikoden, and the others. Month after month, year after year, it seemed like an eternity that our love would last.

Then things changed…

You became predictable. Another story about a hero who has amnesia? Another villain who dresses like David Bowie? What was that? Someone wants to destroy the world for no fucking reason? Wait, what? The hero can’t speak and can only express themselves by exclamation points and question marks? This is what you bring me?

Like a disgruntled woman on her anniversary, discontent with the predictable present of flowers and a dinner at Bennigan’s, my loins yearned for more than what you had to offer. I had seen too many movies on Lifetime. You were the villain in all of this. You were the man who didn’t lust for me and you know what, Japan? I stopped lusting for you. I went back home. I went West. I went to America.
The West showed me something that you couldn’t show me. They showed me how my actions can change the story. They showed me how my hero was capable of the greater good or the most unspeakable horror. America wasn’t one dimensional. They let me choose.

You forced me into this linear adventure with the same old characters. You took away the tragedy that I loved in you. There wasn’t any drama. You filled your games with twelve year old heroes who from the very beginning accepted their role as a savior. You are nothing like America and I’m sorry for that.

I love my complicated and deep storylines. I love my free reign in the events to unfold. I love not playing as a clean shaven emotionally complicated hero. I love The West’s Clint Eastwood attitude. It makes me feel like I’m in control. Not you! Me!

Knights of the Old Republic, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age have yanked me from your grasp. I didn’t secretly leave you. The evidence was there the whole time. They took what your wrought and pushed it to another level… a level that I’m afraid you won’t reach.

Japan, you are the clean shaven boy with flowers who took me to the prom, the one who promised to bring me home before 11pm. America is the boy I want to leave with after 11pm. He has tattoos, he smokes, and his motorcycle is fueled by the blood of kittens. At the end of that night, you hope I give you a kiss but America hopes they can pop all my cherries in one session.

I’m sorry Japan, but for now this is good bye. Your lack of creativity, your undying urge to force me into a position I don’t think I want to be in, your inability to manifest a story that hasn’t already been done, and making me play as a he-she has forced this.

Is this the life that you want to lead? Will you take the road that has been laid out before you or will we meet again somewhere else in our lives?

Good bye Japan…
Your Umi-kins.

Dear Game Industry, Hire Some Real Writers

Dragon Age Origins bitches
Dragon Age Origins bitches

I don’t want to sound bias but do video games lacking story make you want to play the sequel or even finish the game? I think a well-established story can motivate you to playing a game to its full completion. There are so many video games that I have picked up that I just can’t finish because the story and game play are so bad that I don’t even want to bother completing it. Do game companies just think of a good game mechanic and just say “Ya know what? Let’s just build something decent around this engine and hope it sells.” I honestly believe that even a game with a shitty engine could sell well if its story is captivating.

I used to be part the creative team for an online forum text based role-playing game. The game mechanics were simple. Write a 1,000 word role-play depicting what you’re doing that day in your adventure and myself or one of the moderators will come in and grade your writing and let you know how much damage you did if you were fighting, what you would be fighting, or how you should proceed given the options you are left with. Sounds tedious doesn’t it? Writing over 1,000 words just to illustrate what you were doing is a bit obnoxious but we did it this way so we got players to make actual stories and not just “NATHANIEL WALKED INTO DA BAR AND PUNCHED MACARTHUR SO HARD!” and then we’d have to moderate that. Instead we got a short story about the character’s adventure. You may ask yourself why anyone would play this game if it was obviously so tiresome to make a post this long just to advance. Well, compared to other message boards of the same category, we were the largest with around 150-200 active members. What made people keep playing and want to part of this world? It was our story, the world, and the characters within it. It ran for about three years with constant activity until we finally shut it down because we couldn’t handle the work load with our current staff and also come up with more stories since we spent way too much time moderating. The story overtook game play and also made a lot of people much better writers than they were when they first began at the site.

Lets take Final Fantasy for instance. Very few people actually anticipated the sequels to Final Fantasy because they needed their turn-based action. People kept playing Final Fantasy because the story made you want to fulfill the accomplishment of beating the game. You wanted to be that hero with the help of your ragtag group of adventurers, which saved the world. Stories make the game memorable and even make loyal fans keep playing. I still played Final Fantasy 13 even though I thought it was one of the worst stories in any Final Fantasy or RPG ever. I continued to play it because I believed that Square-Enix would turn the story around somewhere and make this an experience that was worth enduring the bland characters and adventure. Alas, ADD addled maniacs wrote it and it ended being a total piece of shit. I did think, though, that the game play was better but not worth the agonizingly retarded story. But you get where I’m going with this? I loved the Final Fantasy franchise because of the story and STILL completed this abomination of a sequel just because I loved previous stories and believed in the game’s track record.

There are games out there with good stories but are horribly paced. Red Dead Redemption has a good story from what I can tell by my six hours of game play that I put into it, however, I’ve had the game for almost 2 months now and I haven’t bothered to keep playing it because it is astoundingly drawn out. I don’t feel I’ve made a dent in the story because of all the “filler” non-sense in between pivotal moments in the game. The initial taste of story you are given doesn’t give you an urgency to want to see what happens next because the game takes so long to introduce you to anything worthwhile and intriguing.

Then, you have games that have a story that is apparently fleshed out but it sounds like a SyFy Channel Original Movie. I know it was a blockbuster game, but Assassin’s Creed’s story was horrible. The game play is atrocious and the story is almost vomit inducing. You know how in the Matrix when they upload the knowledge of Kung Fu into Neo’s head and it only takes a whole 5 seconds for him to be a total badass? Ok, imagine Neo learning Kung Fu but it requires him to deal with some past master’s life over the course of a few hours. That is Assassin’s Creed. The introduction to the sequel had me turning off my 360 almost instantly when they mentioned the word “Templar Masters.” For villains who take place in the modern era, aren’t masters kind of a childish thing to call them? That sounds like something a five year old who couldn’t think of a creative name made up while playing with his action figures. The main character himself looks like a chump and is way too foolish to be a hero, which is what this series is setting him up to be. He has to learn from his French ancestors how to fight better or something but if memory serves me right didn’t he learn how to be awesome in the first game? Apparently not, because he couldn’t even handle security guards who lacked batons or guns on his own. He needed a GIRL to save him. Good job, nerd. A chick had to back you up against rent-a-cops. I lost interest in this game within 30 minutes.

Some games have too much story. Think about Metal Gear Solid 4. Were we playing a game or an interactive movie? From what I recall, I got to sneak around some hallways for 5 minutes before being interrupted by 30 minutes of cinematic and dialog. If you’re going to make a game heavy in story make it interactive so I have something to do while you’re blabbing about your military and science bullshit. You know what I remember about the MGS4 story? Not much at all due to the fact that every single time the game would take control away from me I left the room to make tea or I put a pillow over my face and woke up when I noticed the talking ended. The story became way too encumbering and I only finished it because it was the finale to the series or so it was believed at that time.

If the gaming industry needs someone to look to in order to make games with decent game play but highly engrossing stories there is a little company called Bioware that completely decimates the industry with its captivating stories and player involvement. Dragon Age and Mass Effect are their two hottest franchises right now and it’s hard to argue that either has a monotonous story or boring main character. Commander Shepard is a bad ass and they sway from good or evil but the ends always justify the means regardless of the decision. The nameless Grey Warden leader in Dragon Age does what needs to get done despite the situation he/she is placed under. While I love both franchises, I dislike the villains and I feel they could do more than just have a villain who wants to shit dicks all over the world because they are evil. In Dragon Age, Loghain was a rather interesting character but they didn’t focus much on him. I feel if they did it would’ve been much more difficult to stomp on his dreams and kill him when it came down to it. The game always leaves you thinking that he is possessed by a demon or somehow working for the enemy, but he isn’t. He’s just a man with an opposing view and you aren’t really given a chance to understand his action because you get the option to decapitate him, which any reasonable person will do. Only a total pussy wouldn’t chop off someone’s head if given the option. Do note how I compliment the story so much in these Bioware games but I don’t even mention the game play experience. That would be because it is rather simple and nothing introduced has been revolutionary. It’s the story that kept me playing over and over and over.

So video game industry, this is what I’m demanding from you from now on. There will be no “ifs”, “ands” , or “buts” about this. I want a hero who isn’t a metrosexual and has a beard. Yeah I said it. I want more heroes with beards. I want a villain who has a really good reason to want to do the things they do other than just being a total chode. We need someone we could see siding with if given the appropriate circumstances. I don’t want “The dark forces of” to be part of a story anymore. I’m sick of one-dimensional villains. Why can’t it just be an opposing country or something? Sephiroth wasn’t born evil. He went bat shit when he found out how he was made and wanted to destroy the planet for his mama. See? I can side with that. He loved his mom so much he wanted to make her proud. I’m sick of Ganon being a total dick for no reason. I want likeable party members. I don’t need anymore Wakka’s or Snow’s who think they are hot shit but are incredibly obnoxious. Do the creators even play the games? Do they not notice how annoying these kinds of characters are? Get rid of them. If you want a fun loving side character make him a happy drunk or something. Don’t make the game a movie by leaving us on the sidelines with lack of interactivity. I don’t want to sit through dialog that I have no say in for thirty fucking minutes. If this scene really has to happen make it worth listening to. Don’t get all scientific and shit. I’m playing this game for entertainment, not to learn how to fucking make a clone in real life. This is all I demand from you. In return, I will give you my money if you don’t somehow fuck this up.

Do you guys think that the story matters in a game or are you fine with stories that are as bland as Tetris?