Saturday, November 05, 2005

Retro Review: Final Fantasy IX

Hallo everyone, these posts will probably continue to be late for a while, but hopefully all will be well soon. Here's a review I did in 2005, it's a decent one I think. Just in case you didn't know, my daughter, Vivi, was named after a character in this game. Enjoy.

"If you love the others, more than likely you will love this."
 

Introduction
Final Fantasy IX was the last Final Fantasy to be released on the Playstation, after switching from the Super Nintendo in 1997. After great success from Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Final Fantasy IX had very high expectations. Many believe IX to be disappointing, where as others believe it to be better than both its successors. Here is what I think.

Gameplay
Comparing IX to the previous Playstation releases, IX is a very moody game. The gameplay feels very negative, as there is a great structure around the gameplay. This may sound good; however, if you bring it to a duel between you and the computer, the advantages are greatly on the computer. In both previous Final Fantasies, there were many high chances of exceeding a 9999HP damage limit. Considering in the entire summons (bar the final summon in VIII) the maximum damage you can give or take is 9999, you could exceed this amount by combo attacking (specifically in limit breaks by both main characters). This is completely taken away in Final Fantasy IX. The odds are against you, because not only is it hard to actually gain maximum damage, you cannot create ways to exceed it. In the final stages of the game, many of the bosses will damage you multiply with almost maximum damage. This factor means there is a far higher difficulty level involved, which puts some of the lighter players right off, as this structure cannot be broken.
In VIII, there were six main characters. This has been increased to eight, and as always, these are eight strongly created characters, with their own personalities and opinions. As in most FF games, this game has some of the greatest characters from gaming history, from the lady-loving Zidane, to the all-so cute Vivi, to the stupidly dopey Steiner.
A new addition to IX is the approach of having four members fighting at the same time, a feature that has not been used in a Final Fantasy game since 1994's Final Fantasy VI. The fact that four members fighting instead of three makes fighting a lot more complex, giving you many strategies to create and many techniques to experiment.
Like most FF games, you build your characters by level, and learning abilities. In Final Fantasy VII materia was used to learn magic spells and abilities, where as Guardian Forces were used to learn abilities in VIII. In IX, your abilities are learned by your equipment. By equipping a weapon, shield, etc, some characters can use certain abilities with that item. If your character equips items with that certain ability for a certain period of time, the character can use the ability without equipping that item. Each item has different abilities that can learn one character an ability, where as if you equip that item to someone else, they may not be able to learn it at all. So it is basically mixing equipment around to make all your characters learn their abilities. That is not all though. Each character has each own set of “Magic Stones”, which a certain amount is needed to actually use that ability during battle. This means that it does not matter if your character has learnt every ability for him/her to learn, he can only equip few into battle, depending on how many magic stones are needed for it to be used. So a lot is going on in the preparing side of IX.
Mentioning limit breaks above, this has been cancelled from IX, and replaced with a “Trance”. Like Final Fantasy VII's Limit Break, you have Trance gauge that will build up as you get attacked. Trance powers up your character, many in different ways, for example your mages can use double the magic in one go. One character can deliver two to three times more damage than usual. Each character has their own unique skills and trance develops these skills into better ones. However, a huge downfall on this side is the fact that if you do not use your Trance before the end of the battle, it cancels and will make the whole process a complete waste of time, which frustrate us FF fans off big time, trust me.
As mentioned, each character has each own unique skills. Some are mages, others can throw special weapons at their enemies, and others can perform dragoon skills. Another big downfall to IX is the main character; Zidane has a very small unique skill. Zidane is a thief, and like Final Fantasy VI before it, “stealing” items off enemies is not as great as magic usage, summoning, and knight skills. Zidane's stealing ability becomes essential in some boss battles, as the majority of bosses in the game possess great items, which are very helpful to steal. And because these items are good, stealing can become a pain, as the harder to steal items can become VERY hard to steal. You can be there for an hour, literally, trying to steal just one item off a boss, before killing him by mistake. Once again, this does frustrate a lot of people off, and puts them off the game completely.
On the whole, the gameplay is great. The use of four characters over three was a great hype, and it delivered very well. Two big downfalls as mentioned bring the game down, however on the whole, the gameplay is magnificent, and battles can be fun. At most times…
Gameplay: 9/10

 
Story

There is no doubt that Final Fantasy IX's story is far from amazing. From six main characters in Final Fantasy VIII, it has been increased to eight. This to some people might mean that there is less concentration on the characters; however it does blend in with the gameplay very well. There at least two main scenes concentrated at one character throughout the game.
The main character is Zidane, who is a thief with his fellow “brothers” of Tantalus. Tantalus has been set a job to do, and that job is to kidnap the princess of the big city of Alexandria. However, the story is a lot more complex than that, because for some reason, the princess Garnet actually wants to be kidnapped. The meeting of Zidane and Garnet will change the world of Gaia forever. Want to know more? Play the game. In my opinion FF8 the characters stories build up slowly, and are actually rather stale in the first disk. This is not the case in IX, as the first four characters you get are concentrated on right from the beginning. The four characters you get further on in the game are not as concentrated as deep as the first four, but every characters feelings and emotions are expressed realistically throughout the game.
Story: 10/10

 
Graphics

Generally, the graphics on FFIX are not as impressive as in Final Fantasy VIII. The FMV's featured are just as mind blowing however. I believe that FF8 contains the best graphics on the Playstation console, and to come from FF8 with high hopes for FF9, there is a little disappointment with the graphics Final Fantasy IX's FMV's are just as good as in FF8's, however, smooth graphics of Final Fantasy 8's gameplay possibly feels decreased in IX. The character models do not look completely human anymore, they look like midget people (not that I have a problem against midgets…). As Final Fantasy VIII had very tall figures, IX's modelling system has made the characters a lot smaller, and sometimes these smaller figures are not as much as a standout in the game as IX. Nevertheless the graphics are really good, but not an improvement from its predecessor.
Graphics: 9/10

 
Sound

I am sure a lot of people will disagree with me, but I think that Final Fantasy IX's sound is possibly the best in the whole series. It is at least par with Final Fantasy VII, which in many ways considered the best title in the series. Some of the music is simply amazing, and I think a lot of the sound and game music cannot be improved in any way whatsoever. Final Fantasy IX contains a complete perfect score in my eyes.
Sound: 10/10

 
Controls

The controls in this game have improved from Final Fantasy VIII. The main controls are blended with the gameplay perfectly, and sometimes there are certain mini games that require great use of the control pad. If there is any dislike with the controls, they can be adjusted in the “Config” menu anyway. The controls in my opinion cannot be improved, and there is a nice use of the buttons throughout the whole game.
Controls: 10/10

 
Extras

The side quests are once again brilliant in Final Fantasy IX. There is possibly less side quests than that there was in VIII, however each one is enjoyable… almost. There are some huge side quests featured in the game that are rather pathetic. One example of this is a side quest that requires you to get to the end of the game within a time limit. This side quest is EXTREMELY difficult to accomplish, and it can be very frustrating to do, as the further you get in the game, your characters have very low levels, and bosses can do damage that can cleanly sweep your whole party in one move. However the majority of the side quests are great, time worthy and enjoyable, it is just that one or two are pathetically difficult or just plain boring and possibly pointless.
Extras: 9/10

 
Challenge

Final Fantasy IX is a very difficult game. It is a lot more difficult than Final Fantasy VIII, and this is actually a good thing. As I said in the Gameplay section, there is not much chance of exceeding 9999HP damage, which in FF7 and FF8 was possible. This makes the game a whole lot more difficult, and more of a challenge for the player.
Challenge 10/10

 
Replay

Replay value??? It is amazing. Like every other, you would probably want to play this game again. Complete it, then give it a year or two, and the rush to play the game again will be back. I think I have said enough.
Replay: 10/10

 
Overall
Overall, this is a brilliant game. There is a lot of amazing things in Final Fantasy IX; however there are few flaws too. The flaws can annoy you and make you want to punch the wall, however in the end you can forgive Square and tell them thank you for making once again a classic piece of gameness. Hey, it is Final Fantasy. If you love the others, more than likely you will love this. For people who have never played a Final Fantasy, this is a decent game to get started with. However possibly the best to properly begin your collection with would be VII, and if you enjoy that, get this. It is well worth the money and will be a game you will play and keep for years. Rent or buy? If you have played another FF title in the series, I would say buy. If you have never played a FF game before, then I would rent to be on the safe side. Final Fantasy is not for everyone, but it is highly respected.
Overall: 77/80 = 96% = 10/10
 
 
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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Retro Review: Pokemon Gold and Silver

Hello everyone, I said yesterday most of my stuff that I have written in the past has now disappeared off the internet. Most of it that is. But I do have some reviews on GameFAQs, and if I look hard enough, I might be able to find some music reviews too. But for now, I'd like to bring you a review I did on Pokemon Gold and Silver, that I wrote when I was 16. Enjoy.

 "Pokemon GnS are great games to play if you are on the road with your Game Boy Color, with no console around."
 
Introduction

Pokemon was a huge franchise in the late nineties. Pokemon had its own T.V. series, cards, movies and games. After Pokemon Red and Blue came out on the Game Boy in 1996/97, Nintendo had its most successful money-maker since Super Mario. The Game Boy was probably the oldest game system that was STILL selling games over ten years later. However the Game Boy had to meet its end someday, and a new Game Boy came out. The Game Boy Color came out in 1998/99, along with new games now in colour. As Pokemon was possibly the best selling Game Boy game ever, colour versions were made for the new game system. The games were called Pokemon Gold and Silver.
Before I begin, Pokemon Gold and Silver (along with Red and Blue) are two games that are generally the same. The only difference between the two is that certain Pokemon (mystical creatures that can be used as pets or for duelling) can only be found on one game. Certain Pokemon from the Gold version cannot be caught on the Silver version, and vice versa.
 
Gameplay

Pretty much exactly the same as the Red and Blue versions. Gold and Silver (now being abbreviated to GnS), basically concentrates on one person, a little boy of your choice in name who is starting his journey to become the Pokemon master. You go around from city to city, battling Pokemon trainers and villains and getting gym badges from eight (or sixteen) major cities around the world. After getting all eight gym badges, your little fellow can challenge the Elite Four, the apparent test to prove if you are the best Pokemon trainer in the world.
Each Pokemon (a total of over 250, a bigger number from the original Red and Blue versions, which only had 151) has its own moves, types and advantages as well as disadvantages. You can carry a total of six Pokemon at a time, so considering there is a huge choice of over 250 Pokemon, there is also a good strategy involved in what Pokemon to bring. The strategies don't just end there, as each Pokemon can only carry up to four moves, and a good selection of moves can be learnt as your Pokemon grows stronger. Also HMs and TMs (items that can automatically teach Pokemon moves) are featured in the game, and certain HMs and TMs can only be used on a certain fraction of the Pokemon in the game. So there is a lot of planning involved in this game, and it's fun choosing what Pokemon to use and what moves to give them. Also like the majority of RPGs, Pokemon uses the experience system to level up their Pokemon.

As previously mentioned, the gameplay is pretty much the same as Red and Blue. However it's the same thing, and a little more. There are a few new features involved in the game. The first and most important is the time. You can actually set a time to the game, and set it exactly to the time in your part of the world, and play the game in time with your environment. Or you can set the time to a different time to the real time, it's up to you. The time in the game affects the gameplay a lot, there are secrets and special events that only occur on certain days or/and at certain times. Different Pokemon are around at different times, for example, a HootHoot is an owl Pokemon, and can only be caught at the night time. The time makes the gameplay that much more exciting and strategic.
Another addition to the game is the Pokegear system. Your Pokegear is basically everything you own, in Red and Blue you had your backpack which could hold up to twenty items (if I'm correct… I might need to check into that) which includes Pokeballs, HMs, TMs, and items. Your Pokegear however splits this up into different parts of the backpack, so there is a section for Pokeballs, a section for HMs and TMs, a section for key items and a section for your normal use items. This is a nice little improvement to the game, which helps cure for the limited item storage that was a pain in the previous games. Also featured is a Phone book, which can store numbers of important people and Pokemon trainers you have previously fought. Sometimes old trainers might want to have a rematch, or they might want to just have a chat. Also sometimes if a rare Pokemon appears around their area in a swarm, they will tell you about it, which can be helpful for catching a Pokemon that was not easy to find in that area previously.

To conclude the review on the gameplay, the gameplay is great on GnS, and a large improvement has been made from the previous series. There isn't much bad to say about the gameplay, other than it may become rather tedious after a while. Gameplay: 9/10

Story
The main disadvantage of the Pokemon games is exactly this. There is NO story involved. There is a storyline, but no story, there is no filler involved. Basically you control a boy who wants to become the Pokemon master, catching all the Pokemon, defeat your rival and eliminate Team Rocket. Other than that, there is nothing surrounding the storyline at all. However, to be fair the game does succeed without a story. The fact that there is very little story around makes the game a lot more for kids rather than adults, which is a good thing. A story can put the little kids off, as it may become too complicated to follow for someone at such a young age. It's hard to rate the story, but this is the best I can rate. Story: 7/10

Graphics
2D Game Boy graphics is what Pokemon suits best. The graphics are far from amazing, the Game Boy Color is no computer console, it's a handheld system. For Game Boy Color graphics, the graphics in GnS are top notch. However if you compare them to a game that came out at a similar time, (for instance, Final Fantasy IX) the graphics are terrible. For what it's worth, I will rate the graphics in between the two points above. In a positive way of reviewing, the colour use in the game is used well, and adding colour to a Pokemon game was well worth it. Graphics: 8/10

 Sound
The sound in the game is very similar to the previous games. The sound of the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games can be very irritating, as the music is very high pitched, simple, and repetitive. There are a few decent tunes in GnS, and for a GBA game, it's decent. Sound: 8/10

Controls
There are only four buttons involved on a GBA system, and GnS uses the buttons well. The controls are simple and easy to use. There are no flaws involved with the controls for the game. Controls: 10/10

Extras
The best thing about a Pokemon game is the rush to “Catch ‘em all”. Catching all the Pokemon in the game is an extremely long and fun journey to do. The fact that there is about 100 more Pokemon to catch in the game makes the game all that better. My proper opinion on the increasing number of Pokemon in the series, is positive, but goes no further from here. In the first two games, Red and Blue had 151 Pokemon, and the game was great. In this set of games, an extra 100ish Pokemon were added, and this was also good. However Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire (the two games for the next handheld Game Boy) added an extra 130ish, making the total to 380 or so. This in my opinion is going too far, and makes the game a lot more tedious. However back onto GnS, the main extra involved is catching all the Pokemon, and is a great side-quest to conquer. Also battling your Pokemon with other players (via Link Cable) is always fun, as well as trading Pokemon. There is a lot going on in the game that will keep you playing for hours. Extras: 10/10

Challenge
The Pokemon games are generally rather easy, if you know what you're doing. There are no limits to the difficulty however, as the Pokemon you decide to use can either “suck” or “rule”. The difficulty is completely up to you, depending on what Pokemon you use and how well you can use them. The challenge is varied so there is nothing wrong with that. Challenge: 10/10

Replay
Well you might play this once, and keep the game saved. Once you have everything done, the best thing to do then is most definitely battling your Pokemon with your friends. I have mixed feelings other than the point above about the replay value. You might want to play through the game again, or you might want to keep your game once in completion. The game is great, but after going through it once there is not much filler involved that will definitely make you want to play through the game again. Still you might want to, it depends on the person really. Replay: 8/10

Overall

This is a great set of games, and probably my favourite of the three sets Nintendo have brought out. If the games came out in the early nineties, the games would mean perfection. However the games came out in 1999, and there are far bigger and better games to play out there. If they somehow could make a decent 3D version for the Gamecube or something, then this game would be amazing. However, Nintendo generally fail to produce a good 3D Pokemon game, as in my opinion Pokemon Stadium and others were nowhere near as good as the Game Boy games, despite the 2D blocked graphics that are involved. Pokemon GnS are great games to play if you are on the road with your Game Boy Color, with no console around. At home however there are better RPGs around that can outdo the Pokemon games. On the whole the games are great, but not the best. Overall: 70/80 = 88% = 9/10
 
Obviously it's not the best review in the world, I think if I were to re-review the game it would be a much crisper review. But I was sixteen at the time. Any compliments or criticism are appreciated. I'd also like to say please vote on my poll, I'd like a bit of feedback. Have a good day.
 
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