Category : Super Nintendo

Hello Retro Fans!

It’s a wonderful beginning to spring in my part of the world. If there’s one thing that Spring makes me want to do, it’s SPEND MORE TIME INSIDE! Just Kidding (maybe not) but it is hotter during the day and with the high temperature in Spring reaching near all time highs, I shudder to think what the summer might be like. In any case, after spending a few months bouncing around from trying to play SWTOR with my critically low-speed (3 mbps on a good day) internet while my wife streams her Netflix and after spending another few months playing some highly modified Skyrim, I decided to take a break from all of that and return to… you guessed it… RETRO GAMES!

So what did I decide upon? Well, I normally do a yearly play through of Final Fantasy 2 (FF4 Japan) but honestly I have not done that in a few years. I almost did that but ultimately, I realized that I had only done one full play through of Final Fantasy 3 (FF6 in Japan) in recent memory so I decided to do it again. Ah… to walk through the 16-bit fields of snow toward Narshe in my MagiTek armor… what fun! Plus, in reviewing my site, I have never actually made an RGB style review of this game so I will do so when I am done.

At this point, I am only about 4 hours in to the game, I am about to finish all the ‘scenario’ quests after your crew flees Figaro Castle. I already did Locke’s scenario and Sabin’s scenario so now I just need to do the Edgar, Terra and Bannon scenario. I also am trying to develop some more of the characters that I usually don’t do much with (such as Gau and Gogo) to add a new spin. Of course, if any of you have played this epic game, you know it is VERY large and one of the most complex games of its time. Even the brief time I have spent in this world has reminded me of the greatness of this game and the series as a whole. I also am surprised to realize that I actually don’t remember as much of the story as I thought. Of course, I remember the key components: Empire, Returners, Terra, Espers, etc., but some of the finer points are still blurry. That’s a good thing, like having semi-fresh eyes.

On another note, I did something else to feed my retro soul. If you were a kid who grew up in the 90’s like me, you probably watched Mighy Morphin’ Power Rangers. I don’t know if you made it into Zeo, Dino Squad, Space Force, etc., but you probably at least remember: “Mastadon! Pterodactyl! Saber-Toothed Tiger! Triceratops! Tyrannosaurus! and Dragon Power!” You probably are also aware that Haim Saban is at it again and is planning on releasing a ‘darker and more adult-themed’ version of the Power Rangers for the movie coming out in a few days. I want to see this movie, have wanted to ever since I heard it was coming out and only moreso as I have watched trailers and researched it. I first decided to remind myself of the awesomeness of the original series (cheesy dialogue aside) by watching it over. I am almost done with Season 1.

However, I also remembered that a majority of the footage from the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was initially drawn from “Kyuryu Sentai Zyuranger” (Kyuriyu SIN-tie JYU-rain-jer) which came out in Japan about a year prior to the show we saw. To my excitement, Shout Factory picked up the original series some years ago because of its impacts on pop culture. It was not available to watch on any standard streaming service I found, BUT my Amazon Prime account allowed me to pay $2.99 per month extra to access the “Shout Factory” Channel with… YOU GUESSED IT… Zyuranger! So I decided to watch it (subtitles and all).

Wow… the character that Rita Repulsa (the main bad guy in MMPR) is based off of, “Evil Witch Bandora” is FREAKING evil. WAY worse than Rita ever was. In that story, she’s the “most powerful force of darkness this world has ever known” and she makes you believe that. Not to mention, her assistants (that are loosely used in MMPR) are much more capable (though still annoying) than their MMPR counterparts. In almost every episode, Rit…err… Bandora, always has some children (like young kids.. like 10 and even younger) in danger. Not just kidnapping them… no… more like shrinking them into a miniature space shuttle that is locked in place with a time-triggered IRON MACE BALL ready to drop and crush them if the Pow…I mean… Zyurangers don’t save them in time. Oh and that other kid who SHE TURNS TO STONE BECAUSE SHE IS EVIL is also a good example. I can imagine being a Japanese child in that era and literally being scared to death of Bandora.

Also, the rangers themselves are much less one-dimensional than their American counterparts (though only slightly). They represent 5 different tribes of prehistoric dino-worshiping people each with their respective creature of power… you guessed it: a Mammoth, a Pterodactyl, a Saber-Tooth Tiger, a Triceratops and a Tyrannosaurus (I have not yet gotten to the Green Ranger story). Each ranger was frozen for “170 million years” so they could defend the Earth when Bandora rose again. They appear to have no stupid high school drama to deal with (dude… they missed like… a ton of reunions) but also seem very much content to just sort of hang out with “Mysterious Sage Barza” (their version of Zordon but without the stupid “Ay yi yi yi” of Alpha 5) in his magical palace until they need to go fight Bandora’s baddies. I have only seen them do a few ‘non-fighting’ scenes so far but they appear to have at least some inkling of depth.

In any case, I am actually excited to learn how their story diverges from the story I know. I did figure out why Trini always looked ‘flat’ in her ranger suit. That’s because the Yellow Ranger in Zyuranger is actually a boy. He’s so much of a boy that his name is ACTUALLY ‘Boi’. Although the pink ranger is still a girl but her name is Mei and her favorite thing to do appears to be helping other people and saying “okay!” in perfect English when her ranger colleagues tell her to do something in Japanese. Barza is…well… strange. The verdict is still out on him.

See you guys later! I have watching and gaming to do!

Hey there fans! It’s time for the second installment of “RGB Questions”. I was asked before what my favorite RPG of all time was and why. I answered with a glowing description of my favorite, Final Fantasy 4. I was recently asked by a good friend what the scariest retro gaming boss I have ever faced was and why. It did not take me long to figure out the answer…

1. Introduction
2. A Little Backstory
3. Why so Scary?
4. Conclusion

Introduction:

In my opinion, the scariest boss I have ever faced in a retro game is none other than Giygas from Earthbound.

Giygas - Earthbound (SNES)

Giygas – Earthbound (SNES)

Now, let me explain something about the way I read this question. Sometimes when someone asks this kind of question, they might be actually asking what boss is the TOUGHEST. If that were the case, it would be a tie between NeoExDeath from FF5 or Raglan from Skyblazer. However, they are NOWHERE near as scary as Giygas. Don’t worry, I will explain to you why… (Top)

A Little Backstory

So who or what is Giygas? Well, therein is a little story. You see, the creator of the the Mother series (Earthbound is technically Mother 2) is a man with amazing talents named Shigesato Itoi. Although Itoi has done a number of things in Japan, the only thing we would know of him in America is Earthbound. When Itoi was a little boy about 5 or 6, he went to a movie theater in Japan with his family to watch a family friendly movie. At some point during the movie, he got up and went to the bathroom and got lost on the way back to his theater. He accidentally walked in on ‘Kenpei to Barabara Shibijin’ (The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty) in a scene where a character is being killed and thrown into the river. However, the young Itoi thought the scene was a rape scene and the sounds and words he heard from the character who was being killed (or raped in his mind) gave him horrible nightmares.

The entire game is extremely eerie in tone despite its rather cartoon like characters and happy-go-lucky music. But the last boss fight requires the characters to enter the “Nightmare” of the main character Ness to destroy the evil that is lurking there. Guess what nightmare that is? The nightmare of Itoi and the woman being killed. You work your way through several odd and scary nightmare scenes until you walk forward and meet the source of all evil… a psychic monstrosity known as Giygas. (Top)

Why so Scary?

He is scary for many reasons…

Well probably the scariest thing about him is that you CAN’T SEE HIM. He’s not invisible… oh no.. you just can’t see something psychic in nature. If you look at the image above, you will see a wavy background with crazy colors. THAT is what Giygas looks like in the game. The more damage you do to him, the more wild and crazy the image in the background becomes. It starts out as this eerie bluish red color with some weird figures waving in and out like they were a mirage from the ground. In the final stages of this battle the colors are dark red, black and orange and the images look more like a twisted demon face. Let’s take a close look. On the left, you will see a picture of a normal background in a battle (This one is the boss “Titan Ant”). Then, look to your left and see a closeup of the face in the background that is ‘Giygas’. Horrified yet?

earthboundbg1 giygascloseup

Secondarily… the music is INSANE! The entire game has a great track list with some awesome music that runs from rock and roll to deep techno music. The music in each section of the game is very organic and it fits the tone of the area you are in. Caves have a deep and hissing music track, some towns have happy music while others have sad music. The area LEADING UP to Giygas has NO music… just this creepy water dripping sound. When you finally face off against him, as you do more damage, the music gets crazier and crazier. It loops this creepy music that sounds like crying mixed with murder if you can imagine it. Sometimes the music will do a spinback (like old DJ’s did when they scratched a record and play a part over). By the time you beat Giygas, the music is dizzying, horrifying and makes you feel alone and sad.

Thirdly… is HOW you beat him. Now, different final bosses have some unique ways you have to fight them. Raglan from Skyblazer requires you to be a ‘firebird’ form or your character will do NO damage. You can actually get to Raglan without this power but he will kill you because you can’t hurt him. Or perhaps you remember Zemus (the first form of Zeromus from FF2), he won’t transform into Zeromus unless you use the “Power of the Crystals” on him. You can hit him all you like but it will do nothing. So what about Giygas? Well, you can have the greatest attack power in the whole game, complete every side quest, get every Psi power that you have and it WON’T TOUCH HIM. The only way that you can beat Giygas is to use the girl character, Paula’s “Pray” ability. That’s right… you can’t kill him, you have to pray until he goes away. Sure, you can strike him with your weapons and the game will act like it did damage but he doesn’t die. I have proven this fact. I actually setup an emulator on one of my computers, loaded the save state fighting Giygas, and set Ness (the main character) to attack on auto. I also used a cheat code to make him invincible. I left it running for THREE DAYS and he was still alive. That’s 72 hours of whacking Giygas and he STILL won’t die. It takes about 5 or 7 prayers for him to finally go away but if Paula ever dies and you can’t bring her back. Too bad… you will lose.

Lastly, Giygas uses more mental things to screw with the player than any other attack. And no, I am not talking about your characters in the game… he messes with YOU! First of all, as you can see from the image above, my HP meter is all whacked out looking. That’s not because of a bug. When you first fight Giygas he uses a weird technique to screw up your HP meter so you have NO IDEA how much damage he is dealing you. Also, he says horrible things to you like “It hurts, Ness.. why does it hurt?” or “why do I dream of my own death?” and the scariest one “Ness… don’t take me.” BLARGGH! You notice how two of the characters on that screen have this little eyeball with a line on it? That’s because these ‘attacks’ by Giygas saying creepy words MAKE YOUR CHARACTERS CRY. Add all of this stuff to the ever changing background and screwed up music and you feel like you need to cry in a corner for hours after you fight this dude. (Top)

Conclusion

So let’s recap… Giygas is EVERYTHING and NOTHING at the same time. He is only able to be killed by praying A LOT. He says horrifying things to you as you fight him and he is based off of the nightmares of a 5 year old boy who walked in on a murder scene in a movie. All of these things together are what make Giygas horrifying. I say MANY times when I face him “Ack! Stop it!” or “No more crazy music!” and I almost always say after I beat him.. “Wow… he is so horrifying.” So that’s why I feel that Giygas is the scariest retro enemy of all time. Not the hardest to beat (if you can deal with being mentally wounded while you fight him)but easily one of the scariest things I have ever faced. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash my skin with scalding water to get the evil off of me. RGB Out!(Top)

Final Fantasy V – The Missing RPG Link

RGB is back in action with yet another review! This time I chose to review the often mysterious Final Fantasy V for the SNES. I hope you enjoy reading this review as much as I enjoyed making it!

  1. Foreword
  2. Story
  3. Gameplay
  4. Review
    1. The Good
    2. The Bad
    3. The Ugly
  5. Final Thoughts

Foreword

As I eluded to in my post regarding Final Fantasy II/IV, there were actually 3 Final Fantasy games created for the SNES but due to some continuity issues, Final Fantasy IV was released as FF2 in America, the real FF5 was skipped and then FF3 was released even though it was technically FF6. So, FF5 is the only SNES Final Fantasy that never made it to America until emulation made it happen.

Let’s get visual here to understand where this fits:

fftimeSo what we have here is basically a great game that Square didn’t publish in the USA. Why is that? Well, it is very simple. The original game was designed to be a direct sequel of FF4 (FF2 USA) – and you can tell – but it also featured  the job system introduced in FF3 (the actual one, not FF6).  For whatever reason, Square felt that the game would be too jarring for the US gamer and the inclusion of the job system would be too confusing for people who were expecting a game that played very similar to what they knew as FF2. In the end, the game was never released to America on the SNES.

However, as the emulation world began to explode in the USA in the early 2000’s, a team of fans created the first ever fan-subbed version of a video game. Later on, the game was re-released in many different formats – Playstation saw it released with the Final Fantasy Anthology, GBA saw it released as ‘Final Fantasy V Advance’, it was even released for iOS. But for my intents and purposes, I played the ‘De-Jap’ translation of the game on my SNES emulator. I am, however, going to use the names and styles of both English translations rather than strictly the De-Jap (for instance, I refuse to call the main character Butz as he was improperly called in the translation but I don’t want to call Cara Krile as that just sounds weird).

Now! Without further ado! I bring you the RGB review of the classic RPG: Final Fantasy V!

ff5intro

The Story

(( WARNING! Some Spoilers Ahead!))

The game opens rather abruptly with a young girl, Princess Lenna of Tycoon, pleading with her father not to leave without her. King Tycoon mounts a dragon (called Hiryuu) and tells his daughter that the wind is getting very weak and he is worried about the wind crystal. After some discussion, King T flies off into the distance and Lenna cries before going back inside. Next, the king arrives at the wind palace where the crystal is stored and tries to calm the people stationed at the palace. The King goes in to the Crystal Room and watches with horror as the crystal shatters into shards. Next the story returns to Castle Tycoon and Lenna realizes that the wind has fully stopped now and she is very worried when Hiryuu returns to Castle Tycoon without her father on its back. She resolves that she will take the Hiryuu to the palace and check on her father even though the Chancellor requests her to wait. However, the Hiryuu appears to have been badly injured and Lenna sets out on foot.

Now we are taken to a boy and his Chocobo – the main character Bartz is a wandering adventurer who tends to explore the world on the back of Boko, his yellow chocobo. As he is resting in the woods near Tycoon, a huge meteor strikes the ground nearby and he goes to investigate. Upon arriving, Bartz finds Lenna unconscious at the meteor impact site and wakes her. Just as she is coming around, a guy with partial amnesia named Galuf stumbles out of the meteor. Galuf remembers that he was supposed to go to the Wind Shrine as well and decides to go along with Lenna. Bartz, however, decides that he doesn’t want to get mixed up in that mess and bids them farewell. However, Bartz begins to feel guilty leaving a young girl and amnesiac man to fend for themselves but just as he begins debating whether or not to go back for them, an earthquake strikes him and traps him in a valley. Soon, he meets back up with Lenna and Galuf and decides to help them. The team ends up finding their way into a pirate’s headquarters and convinces the pirate captain, Faris, to sail them to the wind shrine using his pet hydra as an engine. Unfortunately, the boat is shipwrecked after battling a monster in a valley. The group of 4 makes their way through the ship graveyard and arrives at the Wind Shrine.

ff5shatterUpon arriving at the crystal room, the party realizes that the Wind Crystal is gone but the shards begin to shine and declares the four party members to be the “Warriors of Dawn”. King Tycoon appears as a vapor and warns them that the other three crystals are in danger  and the party must save them or the world will be destroyed (sounds familiar eh?). The team attempts to save the Water crystal by climbing its tower. Upon reaching the top, they face an enemy and this crystal shatters, giving its powers to the Warriors of Dawn. The team rushes to Karn to attempt to save the Fire crystal and find that the brilliant engineer Cid (sounds familiar, too, eh?) created a machine that uses the power of the crystal to make a ship that runs without wind and powers many machines. The team rushes to stop the machine with Cid’s help only to find that the machine has been cranked up to its highest power level and it has overloaded the crystal. As soon as the team arrives to the crystal, it is destroyed and the same reaction occurs. With Cid’s help, the team attempts to save the Earth Crystal but find that its temple is actually a machine in of itself that is designed to activate a flying weapon system when it sensed it was in danger – yup – now it is in danger. So the team must battle a flying fortress after Cid makes the airship capable of flying high enough to reach it. Just as you might have guessed, the team battles through the fortress only to witness – a shattering crystal that reacts to the heroes – oh and then the whole thing falls out of the sky.

Finally, Galuf meets up with Cara, his granddaughter, when she arrives in a meteor after the fortress falls and she restores his memory. Turns out that Galuf is actually from another world. He and 3 other warriors sealed a monster named Exdeath and sent the crystals to THIS planet when he was unable to be destroyed. However, the 4 crystals sealed his power. Now that they are broken, he has been reborn on Galuf’s world and Cara is freaking out! Galuf confirms that he must now go back home and save the planet. He and Cara hop back on a meteor and return back to Galuf’s homeworld while the other teammates are left behind.

Bartz and crew are now stuck with a moral quandary – their world is about to fall into nothingness since all of the crystals have been destroyed. But Galuf told them that he had to fight alone and he took the last working meteor back to his homeland. But that won’t stop Cid! He and his grandson, Mid, work together to create a power source that can allow the team to warp and save the world. The team warps to Galuf’s world and land on an abandoned island. When they attempt to sleep, a monster captures them and takes them prisoner to Exdeath’s fortress. Meanwhile, Galuf and his team have staged an attack on Exdeath’s fortress via the ‘Big Bridge’. Exdeath shows Galuf that he has captured his friends and warns him to cease his attack or he will kill them. Galuf storms the castle himself and saves the other three teammates. But just as he does so, Exdeath activates a barrier around his whole area and the force blows the team to a distant island.

The team finds out that this world is actually a twin world to their own and that when Exdeath was sealed, the warriors split the crystals into two pieces, creating two worlds. But if the crystals in this world are destroyed, then the two worlds will be reunited into one so Exdeath must be beaten before that can happen. The crew begins making their way to each crystal in this world only to find that Exdeath is already one step ahead of them. They find out Exdeath is actually a spirit that is stored in a tree in an Ancient Forest and the key to maintaining that seal is embedded in the eldest tree. The team attempts to reach the tree to destroy the key only to have Exdeath torch the forest and make it impossible to speak to the Guardian tree. The team faces Exdeath at the tree and are promptly beaten while Cara attempts to save them. At one point, all of the characters are blown back by Exdeath, Galuf stands up and takes Exdeath himself. He manages to weaken Exdeath enough to send him back to his castle at the cost of his own life. Cara wakes up and finds her grandfather is dead but his spirit returns and grants Cara all his powers.

ff5voidOnce the rest of the team awakes and get word of Galuf’s demise and final gift. Newly impassioned, Bartz, Lenna, Faris and Cara try to take Exdeath’s castle. They get help from Zeza, the last remaining of the original warriors. Zeza and his team destroy the power on one of Exdeath’s barrier towers, costing Zeza his life but allowing the team to attack the castle. The team climbs Exdeath’s tower and he appears to fade away but the crystals are already shattered and the two worlds have merged. The team seeks out a sage who says he has important news about Exdeath. Upon reaching the sage, Exdeath appears as a splinter that had lodged itself in Faris’ hand. He beats the sage and now is restored to full power. He also shows them the power of the Void which was unlocked when the final  crystal broke. This power allows him to banish entire cities to the “Cleft of Dimensions’ which is basically a hole in the fabric of time and space. He banishes Tycoon castle, the Ancient Library, Bartz’ hometown of Rikks, and a few other places.

With the help of Mid, Cid’s grandson, the heroes find that there are 4 tablets in this world that seal the power of the weapons used to banish Exdeath and some of the strongest powers in the world. Only by collecting these weapons and magic can they hope to beat him. Of course, the team collects the weapons as well as the ultimate spells (Meteo, Flare, and Holy), summons (Bahamut, Leviathan and Odin) and powers. They storm the Cleft of Dimension and take him on once and for all. Upon beating Exdeath, he loses control of the Void and it engulfs him. The new, Void controlled, Neo-Exdeath faces the Four Warriors of Dawn and is defeated. The crystals are restored. The land returns to normal (as a merged land) and the credits roll… end of story.

Gameplay

ff5menuThis game plays almost identical to its predecessor, FF4. In fact, the world map and the character ‘status’ screen look very similar to that of FF4 except that the characters’ faces are replaced by their sprite. This is likely because of the Job system (which I will discuss next)  in that when you assign a character a new job, their appearance (clothes, headgear, etc) changes. This game features the good ol’ Active Time Battle System (ATB) that I cheered about in other posts. However, this one is truly the next evolutionary step. See, in FF4, the game had an ATB but you really had no way of knowing when the character would be ready to act until their sprite became highlighted on the battle screen. In this game, the developers wisely installed an ‘Action Bar’ which builds on the right side of each character’s HP on the battle screen. When it fills completely, it is that character’s attack! This same bar appears in FF6, 7 and most others in the FF series for many generations (I don’t know if it is in modern FF games because I have not played them). This is the first of many evolutions you will see happening in this game.

ff5jobThe next element of interest in the gameplay is the use of the “Job” system. You remember all those times I mentioned in the story (see above) where the crystals shattered and reacted to the team? Each time you get a crystal shard, it gives your characters more “Jobs” they can take. This includes some common things like Black Mage, White Mage, Summoner (Caller), Monk, Knight, etc. There are also some other, stranger classes, such as the Berserker (he literally just goes berserk), the Trainer (think Pokemon), and even the scientist (he makes potions). This is also the first game to show Blue Mages (think Gau the wild boy from FF6), Time Mages (spells such as Demi, Slow, Haste, Stop, etc.), Magic Knights (enchant swords) etc. Basically, when you assign a character a Job, their appearance changes to match their job as well as their equipment must be modified to match. With each battle, you gain a certain amount of Ability Points (ABP) that help you earn levels in your job. So, if you keep someone as a Black Mage until they have reached Master (Job Level 7 in that case), they now have full access to the Black spells in the game even if you make them a monk! This is because each character has a primary and secondary skill. The primary is assigned by default from the Job (say BlkMagic for Black Mage) and then you can select a second skill even if the character has not reached full Master in that Job. For example, I made Cara my mage most of the time and I started her as a White Mage (or rather started Galuf as a white mage and she got his powers) and she eventually maxed out the White Mage. So then, I made her Job Black Mage but assigned a secondary skill of WhtMgc. The end result? A mage who can use the most powerful BLACK and WHITE spells! Likewise, I made Lenna my Summoner early in the game and then later needed a Time Mage so I changed her job to Time Mage. Eventually she became a Master of the Time Mage job so I made her a Summoner and then assigned a second skill of TMagic – the result? A bad-ass Summoner who could also stop you, haste the team or drop Meteo on you (Meteo is the strongest Time Mage spell). It was this job system that made the game ‘unusual’ for the American Market but I have no idea why.  In fact, the Job system was the ULTIMATE core for the Final Fantasy Tactics Series which later on became huge in America.

Now, I will admit that when I first started using the job system, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out what jobs I wanted the people to do and what benefits/drawbacks each job provided. However, after a few hours of game time, you start to see areas where certain jobs would be very helpful and certain jobs would be useless. For instance, in one particular area there were several monsters which took no damage from Magic but if I turned two of my teammates into Monks, the most powerful physical class, I could destroy the enemies easily. Admittedly, I didn’t get REALLY good at bouncing people from class to class until about halfway through the game but by then I had extensive time giving people different classes and I was able to figure out the best mixture for them all. It is certainly something that isn’t natural to a player of SNES RPG’s at the time but it takes very little time to get really good at using the Job System.

Outside of the standard RPG gameplay elements, FF5 offered only one more notable difference – climbing. Now, don’t misunderstand me, it is pretty common to have your characters climb stairs or ladders in almost any SNES RPG of the era but what about climbing walls or climbing vines? There were many times that you could not advance in a particular area of the game if you didn’t happen to figure out that you could climb vines or walls. Granted, you may look silly at times having your characters walk mindlessly against the wall and pressing the action button but if I didn’t do that alot, I would never have known that Odin’s temple (where you get the summon Odin) was reached by climbing a wall in this rather uninteresting cave. This is also the first RPG (especially in the Final Fantasy series) that featured the ability to ‘fall’. Yes, I know games like Zelda and later games like Chrono Trigger allowed you to ‘fall’ through holes in the floor to get to other places but I don’t think your standard RPG’s of the time did that. In fact, I can’t think of one time that you could fall into a hole in FF4. But in FF5, holes are EVERYWHERE! In fact, there is even a job class (Geomancer I believe) that helped you detect holes in the floor so you don’t fall in. Weird but interesting nonetheless.

ff5subBeyond that, the game offers you many methods of travel that you are quite used to with the old FF games. You start the game riding the Chocobo Boko (and yes the music is almost the same as it is in FF4). There is a point in time where you get to take off and ride a Black Chocobo (flying) and it has a similar crazy music to that of FF4. One unique ride that you get to take from time to time is the Hiryuu. Granted, IT flies you more often than you actually get to fly it but there are various times in the game where you can just hop on the Hiryuu and go somewhere as the story requires. You get a few opportunities to drive Faris’ pirate boat with her Hydra pulling you. After Cid’s creation ‘the steam ship’ destroys the Fire Crystal, he modifies it to use standard steam and you can drive it around the waterways. Later, the ship is modified to become an airship (which of course is my preferred transportation) that can be transformed into a boat for the sea or uses special equipment to climb to higher altitude (only used to fight the Earth Crystal’s palace when it becomes a fortress). However, there is one new transportation item that is highly unusual for games of the time – a submarine! At one point in the game, Cid and Mid transform your boat/airship into a submarine as well so you can go underwater, ride on the sea as a boat and later fly an airship. It seems trivial but the inclusion of submarine capability makes certain areas completely accessible only when using that format, it opens a whole layer of the world that was previously not available. I can’t think of any RPG at the time that included a submarine and even in the rest of the RPG stock for SNES, I can’t recall seeing a true submarine (though Earthbound uses ones briefly). Another thing that makes the transportation unique in FF5 is the fact that ALL of the ships you get are actually the same one. in FF4, you got to a point where the crew had a hovercraft, an airship for the overworld, an airship for the underworld, an airship with a drill and the Big Whale airship for space. That sure is an awful lot of vehicles just laying around, it almost seems wasteful. In FF6, you get all kinds of different airships, etc. But not in FF5, you just keep the same one and they modify it as needed which is a nice nuance.

What about the other elements of gameplay? Well, the music in the game is FANTASTIC and I think that the music really fits the environments you are in. The game still features the classic “Song of the Crystals” (aka the rising and falling harp music) in various crystal rooms. It features the Main Theme of Final Fantasy which is found in FF4 as well, you would remember this music playing in FF4 when Cecil and Kain depart Baron for the first time and you see the prophecy scroll on the screen, it is the same song that is played when the FF4 crew battles Zeromus and all of the people on Earth send their “Wishes” from the Tower of Wishes in Mysidia (*cough* house of prayer *cough*). Also, the music for scenes involving Exdeath is horrifying for SNES games, it is this heavy dramatic music with, suspenseful harps,  electric guitars and this chilling music that sounds like a twisted monster laughing as part of the melody line… you just have to hear it. By and large, you will find many of the music pieces you heard in FF4 appear in FF5 even if they are slightly different.

One final gameplay element that deserves some recognition is the enhanced amount of sprite movement. In the other RPGs of the time, the sprites did very little aside from walking and occasionally jumping or bowing their head. Not so in FF5! Granted these are still 16-bit sprites so the amount of functionality they have is limited but this game features a few interesting sprite motions that I didn’t see before now. You will see the first obvious use of the ‘hand wave’ that the sprites in FF6 did enough to make you nauseous, it features many instances where the sprites literally knock each other over, in one comical storyline, the hero, Bartz, is kicked by a sheep into a pasture, etc. There are scenes where Exdeath blasts your party with magic beams that look like Darth Vader blasting people with the Force. When I think of the way sprites moved in FF4 and the way they moved in FF6, I can clearly see how FF5 was the evolutionary stage of this feature.

I could go on and on about this but I am sure that you would like the actual review, yes? Well, now that I have gone over the main focus of the game, it is time for the review!  Enjoy!

Review

All in all, I was very pleased with FF5. The game features a solid storyline, it reminds me fondly of my favorite RPG, FF4, and shows itself to be a true classic in the Retro RPG space. The game easily bridges the gap between FF4 and FF6 and it’s a shame that it never made it to the US during the SNES era. I suppose that if all things are created equal, I could see why the job system proved to be unusual to the American RPG playing population but I am glad that it made its mark in the future. Those expecting a standard issue SNES RPG of the era will be dissatisfied but if you want something new and interesting that still reminds you of your old friends, then this is the game for you. In my standard fashion, I will review the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for Final Fantasy 5!

The Good

First and foremost, the storyline for Final Fantasy 5 is an enjoyable and fresh one that kept me wondering well into the final stages. I have read a few other reviews that say that the story was lame and predictable but I am not exactly sure what these folks are comparing it too. The story features many of the common core elements of any good RPG storyline – world in peril, hero rises, team of heroes forms, heroes fight, evil looses, world returns to peace. But all of these things are the stuff of almost any good legend and they are not carried out in stereotypical ways most of the time. As explained earlier, the game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy 4 and you can certainly see many of the same things – the four elemental crystals, the four crystals in another world, the ultimate danger being released when the crystals are damaged/taken, etc. But that is where the similarities end. The elements will actually stop functioning when the crystals are destroyed (as far as I know the story of FF4 didn’t point to any dire problems if they are taken other than the evil seal), the world has been literally cleaved in half and neither world truly knows about the other. Overall, I was quite confused about what was happening when the game began and even after the story was revealed, I didn’t know what to expect. Once they actually released the bad guy, the game makes you FEAR HIM (more on that later). The story did have some stale points such as leaning on the prophecy of old for hope and such but the game didn’t live and die by these items. When the game finally reaches its conclusion, you really cared about the world and you really were drawn into the personal lives of all the people that the game parades in front of you. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and success when I completed the game and restored the world and I think that is very important! Also, unlike the mute Crono from Chrono Trigger, the hero of FF5, Bartz, speaks a lot and you can see how his internal moral compass forced him to make the decisions he needed to make and drove him to be the hero.

Another thing that I really like about FF5 was the thing that made it what it is – the job system. Yes, it is a major switch from what was expected at the time the game was released but it was orchestrated well. In an RPG, it is common to see characters fall into ‘archetypes’. There is the brash main hero with his sword and special power, there is the support girl who likely becomes the love interest later on, there is the mysterious ninja/fighter, there is even the mystery girl who is her own person and quite brash. Your support characters likely end up being white magic users (Think Rosa in FF4, Merle in Chrono Trigger, Nina in Breath of Fire, etc.) then your mysterious ninja/fighter usually has a love interest for the mystery girl (Think Edge and Rydia in FF2, Locke and Terra in FF6, etc.) In this game, you can literally make the characters do exactly what you want them to do and then mix and match the functions that you like. For instance, Bartz worked as a Knight, a Monk, a Samurai and even a Dragoon. When the last battle came, he was able to use the Gill Toss skill (Samurai) that allows you to throw your money and do 9999 damage each time, he also had the ability to do the Jump technique like a Dragoon (allowing him to be safely off screen during many of the mega spells ExDeath uses), and his time as a knight made him able to hold the Excalibur sword in Both hands to double the damage (Knight) so he could also do 9999 damage with each sword slash. I also talked about how I turned Cara into a Black and White Mage capable of using either of the most powerful spells in those fields. Now, I didn’t make Faris do much  besides thief job and time mage because I really liked the ability for thieves to move fast (allow me to run in the dungeons/buildings) and see hidden doors and hallways but the fact remains that I could have had her do whatever skill I wanted. Basically if you wanted to make your characters as specialized as possible, the game allowed for that and you saw many benefits in doing so. Few other games of the time allowed as much specialization as this and it meant that every person who played the game could pretty much build the party in whatever way they see fit. I am sure many people could even add some levels of difficulty by changing the party to all blue mages or something of the sort and attempting to beat the game. Whatever way you like to play your game, FF5 allowed you to do so.

ff5exdeathThe last thing I want to point out about the great things offered in FF5 is the amazing evilness of the final boss – Exdeath. You might recall from my discussion of Chrono Trigger that I really disliked it’s final boss. I felt that the game hyped him up so much only to let us down in the final battle (remember the dumb dancing robot of doom). In the case of FF4, the main baddy for most of the game was Golbez and you certainly feel the chill when the echoing minor chords that signified his theme began playing but he later becomes a good guy (of sorts) and you have only a short time to really develop the anger and passion to really battle the true boss – Zeromus. Neither of these was the case with FF5! You don’t even really meet the ultimate bad guy, Exdeath, until halfway through the game but when you do… oh my goodness… what a monster! Everything that Exdeath does reeks of pure evil! From the first moment that you meet him, he strikes fear into your heart and he continues to incite fear and anger with each interaction. You start to feel somewhat like a tiny fish in a fishbowl at the liberty of this monstrous thing that can strike with little or no warning. While it could be said that the recycling of the old ‘ultimate and historic evil’ adage to explain Exdeath, that entire mentality is pushed to the curb when you learn that he is essentially an ancient tree that collected the souls of all the evil and badness in the world (although it is kind of a weird story). With everything that Exdeath does, you see no sign of humanity within him, he truly is a monster that you cannot help but be scared of (the music doesn’t help). I am further reminded of the evilness he is capable of when he hijacks himself as a SPLINTER into a whole new world to destroy. Then, when he starts using the Void to literally erase entire areas of the map, you not only fear him but you hate him in a personal and indignant sort of way. When you finally face him and he becomes ‘one with the Void’ (aka Neo-Exdeath), not only is all trace of humanity gone but now he even says that all he wants is to turn the whole world into the Void for no other reason except so that everything will cease to exist. Holy shit Batman! After beating him and knowing that this monster of Hades can no longer do any harm, there is definitely a sense of catharsis that you don’t get with vanquishing many other RPG ‘ultimate evils’. The only time I have been moved as much by killing a monster is when I took out Kefka in FF6 (Yes, Sephiroth was worse but I was so damn tired of fighting him the 50th regeneration that I didn’t care anymore). As I expressed in my discussion on CT, I really want to feel like I want to be the hero of the RPG and beat the bad guy. I got both of these when I played FF5 and you will too.

I want to go on and on about the many good things this game offers including some of the great moments (such as finding out the Faris is a girl), watching Bartz attempt to communicate with a Moogle (yes they are in here) and ending up feeling like a medieval knight trying to talk to the minions from Despicable Me. Or about the totally crazy dungeons the game puts you through including the deadly library of doom, the underwater tower of Walz where you actually can’t breathe and so on. However, you can play the game to get those things. So we’ll move on to the bad parts of the game.

The Bad

Despite all the good things this game offers, there are a few things in it that I didn’t care for. Granted, some of the things that I dislike are due to the fact that I played the game on the fan-translated SNES port as opposed to the GBA version or various others but we’ll get to that. The game has a few things that are just annoying.

First, as I mentioned before, I chose to download the De-Jap fan translation of the SNES console which means regular people just like me were in charge of translation As a result there are some things that were translated very badly. First, the main character in the standard translation is actually named ‘Butz” (think Bah-tzu in romanji) instead of Bartz. I am sorry, but I refuse to refer to the good guy as someone’s bum! There were some sections of the story where I actually had to go “excuse me?” such as the time that I was told that the only way to save the Hiryuu is to fly the Hiryuu to the Valley of Hiryuu and kill the Dragon Hiryuu dragon killer (that actually is the Dragon-Killer plant). Or the mystical pot (freaky enemy that you can’t beat) who is referred to as ‘PotHead’ among others. At times, the translators literally just quit trying to translate things – for instance – in the 3rd (or 4th) tablet dungeon where you have to go to the sea trench, the enemies are weird and fugly but you never knew what you were fighting because ALL of the enemies’ names on the battle screen were simply ‘Unknown’ even though I know they had names. Sure, I picked up a few “There” instead of “their” grammatical things but I can overlook those since there aren’t instances like those in Tales of Phantasia’s Fan translation where you would see this extremely important plot point simply replaced with ‘(complete later)’ REALLY? So yes, I can download one of the many actual translations of this game but it might not technically be ‘retro’ by then.

The second thing I noticed that I disliked about the game is that it is TOO SIMILAR to FF4. Yes, I know… FF4 is my favorite game and it seems only sensible that I would be excited to live there again. There was some of that in the game but when it comes down to it, I am trying to review the game on its own merits but if you count the number of times I typed “FF4” when describing the game (Go ahead… I’ll wait while you use CTRL+F) it becomes painfully apparent that the developers on FF5 REALLY wanted to make FF4-2 (hey they made FFX-2 later, right). For instance, the sprite for Bartz when he’s a Dragoon… dude – it’s freaking Kain from FF4, don’t believe me? Download the game, you’ll see! Or what about the crystals? They seem to get in more trouble than Princess Toadstool in the Mario world. When I was trying to find the crystals in FF5, I uttered the phrase ‘I am sorry Bartz but your crystal is in another castle!’ at least 4 times. Oh yeah… later on you meet some dwarves in the depths of the earth… there are 5 of them and they look IDENTICAL to the sprites for the dwarves in FF4 – they even say “Lalli-Ho” and jump up. You can easily see that these guys might have been intended to show that the Dwarves lived on after FF4 but began to die out. They don’t do anything in the game, they are just there – digging a hole for no apparent reason. Guess who the ultimate summons in the game is? Bahamut! Guess what happens when you try to get Odin as a summons in FF5? You have 1 minute to do as much damage as possible before he does his death slice and bifurcates the entire team JUST LIKE FF4. The list goes on. I think that if the game had been released in the USA just behind FF2, it would have had enough similarities that it would have done well but c’est la vie.

Lastly, although I enjoyed the fact that the game had many ways to travel, I found that travel was much more difficult than I had expected. Sure, when you are in the early stages of the game, it makes sense that you can only travel to certain areas until you are ready to go to others but when you are in the endgame, it really should not be that difficult to get around but it WAS! For instance, you can only get to one area if you fly the airship to this place, get your yellow Chocobo and then walk him through this tiny area of the map, make your way to the desert, and run like a madman with your head on fire…etc. And as much of a novel invention as the game’s use of the submarine was, that sucker was hard to use correctly. When you travel underwater, you really can’t tell where you are without looking at the map repeatedly and even then you may only see points of interest on the sub map even if they don’t necessarily line up with ‘upper world’ map points. It is also quite difficult to use landmarks to figure out where you are. Since you essentially travel around in 3 different worlds (the first world, Galuf’s world, the merged world) which have many similarities to each other, it is really hard to figure out where you are and the world doesn’t look very different from place to place. I can’t count the number of times that I flew to Castle Surrogate when I was trying to fly to Castle Kuzar for instance (Trust me, if you have played this game, you are nodding your head like a bobblehead on a washboard road right now). Plus, there are certain places that you can’t get to without the submarine even though it would be much easier to fly there. Furthermore, when Exdeath starts opening Void holes all over the place, it is REALLY easy to accidentally fly into them which causes a seemingly useless cutscene where you lose control of the airship because you are in the Void and then suddenly the game goes back to normal. The only Void entrance you actually want to use is the one over Tycoon Castle as that takes you to the ‘Cleft of Dimensions’ where you do the final stages of the game but I don’t even think you can go through the Void until you actually complete all four of the Tablet dungeons…. of course it would sure suck to be transported to the Void when you were not completely ready because you can’t really leave.

Okay, these items mentioned are just the bad stuff… there are still some things that really make me cringe. For the final portion of the review, I want to discuss the UGLY things in FF5. You have to just suck these up if you want to enjoy the game.

The Ugly

So there are lots of awesome things about Final Fantasy 5 and there are lots of annoying things about them. Among those annoying things, there are a few that are downright horrible. I can give you many reasons to enjoy this game but you will have to accept a few things that may be hard to swallow.

ff5memeFirst of all zOMG Random Encounters! The random encounters in FF5 S U C K ! Now I am aware that the random encounter has long been the staple for RPGs. I mean… come on! Who didn’t do the famous RPG technique where they walked circles around a city fighting as many baddies as they could fight to gain levels? That’s all good and well,  as those encounters occurred every… eh… 10 seconds or so? In FF5, they occur almost every 5 seconds. In some areas it is WORSE! For instance, in the Deep Sea Trench Dungeon where you get the third tablet (or fourth depending on what order you choose) there is a random encounter every 2 map squares.I AM NOT KIDDING. It has been many years since I have felt the urge to hurl my game controller into a wall but I almost did that with this game. Several times, I was walking through a dungeon and I would actually shout “really?” and occasionally a curse word. In the submerged Walz Tower (where you get the final crystal shard for the Mime job) you have 7 minutes to climb to the top, beat the guardian boss (Gogo… remember him?), and then run back out or you will all die (that’s what sucks about underwater places with no air). No big deal, right? SURE! It would not be a big deal IF FF5 didn’t have random encounters cranked up to HOLYCRAPYOUWILLDIE but they do! By the time I went through that dungeon, and got out, I had 30 seconds remaining. If I didn’t have a thief with the run ability and characters already leveled to 99, I probably would not have made it through on my first try. But it gets worse! When you finally reach the inner sanctum of the Cleft of Dimensions, the dungeon where you finally face Exdeath for the final fight – not only are there random encounters every 3-4 squares – they are HARD! Many of those monsters can deal 4500 a pop to you characters. But the way that I really determined that the developers of FF5 are truly sadistic sociopaths is in the final floor before you get to Exdeath. Do you recall those monsters dealing 4500 damage I mentioned?  So you have been through 4 floors of this madness without a save point. You have to beat a REALLY hard monster to make the last save point appear. By this point, your characters are probably down to under 1000 HP and almost no MP, one of them might even be dead. You survive this monster guarding the save point and you are screaming in agony. Well… you finally use one of the TWO cabins you have left (a tent won’t restore all HP/MP at this stage in the game) and you are excited because you might actually have the energy to face Exdeath. Now you have a problem…. you have to RUN through the last…oh…250 squares to get to the door that takes you to Exdeath. This little area is CRAWLING with monsters that do lots of damage. Ok.. no big deal! You can run away from most battles to save your MP/HP, right? WRONG! At least 65% of the monsters in that little stretch between you and the final boss WILL NOT LET YOU RUN AWAY! One of them has an attack that deals about 6,000 damage. So what happens if you are beaten up bad? Sure… you can run back to the save point, sleep in a cabin and restore back but that will be your LAST cabin EVER and you STILL have to run BACK THROUGH HELL to reach the last boss and you MAY NOT GET AWAY from battles. Even with the use of those handy ‘save state’ options in my emulator, I still didn’t make it to Exdeath without being dropped to around half my max HP. Developers for FF5? You guys are twisted and evil people! Yes, I know the games are harder in Japan but just… ugh.

The first ugly item I mentioned is a great transition to the second one. The game has a very limited supply of good items to keep your characters alive. Sure, there is the standard fair of potions and hi-potions, ether (for MP), elixirs (later on) and the various things you need to recover from status ailments. But once you reach the higher levels, there are not a lot of items to help you out. For instance, there are NO stronger HP restoring potions than Hi-Potions and those only restore about 200 HP. Are you kidding me? Bartz alone would have to quaff…like… 40 of those to reach full HP. Sure, you can use Elixirs but you can’t BUY them anywhere and in the entire play-through, I collected about 40 Elixirs total. There are also no other MP restoring items beyond the standard Ether… do you KNOW how many Ethers it takes to restore 999 MP? Like… 30… and when you have to restore 999 MP for 4 characters… 120. Wow! now, this wouldn’t be a big deal if the game offered you the ability to buy Cabins. In FF4, I remember that if I went to the Namingway Village on the Moon I could buy Cabins. Sure, the cabins cost around 10000 GP a piece but at least you had the option. NOT in FF5! Just like the Elixirs, I never found a place that I could buy the cabins and throughout the whole game I think I found about 25 cabins and that was IT. The game is clearly designed to make things much harder as you reach the higher levels and I get that. However, there needs to be a certain amount of checks and balances to keep the game reasonable and FF5 pretty much throws that out the window when you reach about level 60. Furthermore, there are some messed up items in this game that you are likely to encounter. The first one is the Bone Mail that I discovered in a pile of Dragon Bones in the Hiryuu Valley in Galuf’s world. They offered some of the best defense for armor-capable character jobs until you get some of the special armor in the merged world. Yeah… but if you use ANY healing things (spells or items) on someone wearing this armor, it HURTS them. Okay, I thought the  game was playing with my head so I decided to try casting Fire on my character wearing the Bone Armor (thinking that since undead are usually hurt by fire and curative items, it might backfire) unfortunately it makes the damage 4X higher… that is great to know AFTER I killed Bartz during a hard battle. Don’t get me started on the Cursed Ring… it also offers you high defense but slowly drains your HP as you go and if someone casts a death spell on you it WILL work… EVERY TIME. Developers? Did you not get held enough when you were children? You have some warped minds! So let’s recap… the game has lots of baddies that hurt you pretty badly and the random encounters are set to psycho so you are likely to take more damage overall. Then, you have the lack of good items and the presence of many evil items and you have a bad mixture. Sure, I know that if you train the scientist class high enough they can make Elixirs but they can’t make cabins…

This brings us to my final ugly thought about Final Fantasy 5. The job system makes it easy to cheat. Now, considering that the game is harder than most RPGs of the era, the fact that you can cheat doesn’t necessarily count as a bad thing since you almost HAVE to cheat if you are going to survive. But I found that the way that the job system is built is good in theory – make several things available that would not otherwise be available and let the character pick and choose. Well, here’s this thing with that. Even after you reach Level 99 for all of your characters (which I did right before I started the side quests but prior to entering the Cleft of Dimensions) you still get Ability Points (ABP) after every battle. The harder the enemies you beat, generally the higher the amount of ABP you will receive after battle (one monster of death in the final stage of the Cleft of Dimensions gives 199 ABP each time) . When  you consider that most of the job levels only require between 20 and 100 ABP per level (obviously the higher the level of a job, the more ABP it takes) you can see how taking a person with zero levels in a particular job to a harder area in the game (maybe the Deep Sea Trench with its ridiculous random encounter rate) and beat a few battles, you can max out almost EVERY job class. Furthermore, classes such as the Monk class are kind of unbalanced because they can do ridiculous amounts of physical damage and they usually hit twice per combat round. If you get a Lvl. 99 monk character, he can do almost 9999 damage (Split across two hits) to a single enemy and if you do the Kick technique (think of Yang from FF4), you can easily do about 4500 damage per enemy which is enough to kill almost anything. All this is to say that if I took a character through Deep Sea Trench twice, they could build up to almost master level  for say a black mage and a monk – this means that they could use the Monk’s kick attack as well as cast the most horrific Black Magic spells in the game which makes them a killing machine. If you repeated this process for all characters in your party but maybe had two people max out black mage and two max out white mage, you could have an unstoppable killing party – well, until you run out of MP (see item two above). Especially in the magic using jobs, it is pitifully easy to have someone master an entire field of magic and then shortly thereafter max out another field and then you have situations like the one I mentioned with Cara in my game, I made her able to cast the strongest black magic and white magic in the game so as long as she could keep her MP up, she could decimate almost anything. So this is the rub… the game makes things very hard but it also makes it easy to cheat if you know how to use the class system and don’t mind some elbow grease (or grinding as the MMORPG’ers like to say).. is that a bad thing or not? I leave you to decide. Personally I think that anything that can so sharply polarize a game is not a good thing.

Final Thoughts

So now we come to the end of my review for Final Fantasy 5 and my what a wild ride it has been. This game is most definitely a game that serves as a good connector between FF4 and FF6. If you liked FF4, odds are you will also like this game but if you hated FF4, I doubt you will like this game. But since I loved FF4, this game is a very good game in my mind. The game features all of the ingredients to make it a great RPG. It has a good story that draws you in quickly but also keeps you guessing until the end. It features a great use of the ATB but includes the first ever use of the ATB bar. FF5 is one of the first in the FF franchise to establish several elements that became staples of the future games including Espers, Moogles, Blue Magic, and various other elements. Yet is also the only entry in the franchise (that I am aware of) which features a world tree like the Secret of Mana series and the only RPG of the time that features a submarine. The ability to change between jobs makes the game more interesting but also can make it too easy in some respects. As always, the music of the game is terrific and shows the great variety of sounds that 32bit consoles were capable of at the time. The final boss is one of the best final bosses I have fought in the SNES RPG world and I was greatly satisfied when I finally beat him.

Unfortunately, the greatness of the game is a little overshadowed by a few items. If you want a good translation of this game, do yourself a favor and get either the GBA version of the game or the Playstation version (not sure about the iOS version) because you will likely enjoy the story more. Also, be forewarned that the game will look graphically very similar to FF4 and you will see a great deal of things that remind you of the it when you play FF5. Don’t kid yourself, learning to get around in this game is not going to be easy. You will have 3 totally different worlds to travel through and many locations are extremely difficult to find if you are not paying attention to the entire layout of the world map. Prepare yourself to spend a lot of game time just traveling from point A to point B.

This game is H A R D! It is obvious from the get-go that Japanese games are naturally harder than their American cousins. The random encounters make this game exceedingly challenging, especially as you climb to the higher levels. Be prepared for murderous dungeons with encounters frequently and an overall lack of curative items that will make the game insanely difficult. In fact, there are two bosses in the final dungeon, Omega and Shinryuu that are designed to be impossible to beat. Those that have actually beaten them have expressed that it took everything they had to survive the incident and most FAQ writers specifically avoid encountering these monsters. You will find that although the Job system is a unique element to the game, it is possible to use it to achieve results that seem like cheating even though it serves to balance out the gameplay. If you are not ready for a very hard game, you will not like this game one bit.

In the end, the game is a great RPG with many elements that make it terrific. Those that love FF4 or Final Fantasy Tactics will enjoy this game very much and it is an obvious evolutionary milestone between FF4 and FF6. If you are ready for a challenging RPG that was often forgotten by the Final Fantasy world, you need to check this one out. The game may be very challenging but I think that the story and the end sequence actually make it worth the try, not to mention the joy you get out of beating a REALLY evil final boss. Give this one a try but don’t say you weren’t warned! That’s it for now!

Final Fantasy 5 is Beaten!

Hooray! I beat Final Fantasy 5. I didn’t realize it until I started playing through the later stages… I never actually finished this game the first time. I started to but then I got caught up in Tales of Phantasia so I stopped playing FF5, what a shame. It was worth it! I will give a full on review of this game shortly but for now… you can enjoy the picture of the game’s evil baddy – ExDeath. Enjoy!

Exdeath1-ff5

Chrono Trigger – The Legendary RPG

If a retro gamer were to approach a group of nerds who are at least in their late 20’s or early 30’s and ask them what the best RPG of all time is, you are likely to hear at least half of them (probably almost all of them) shouting the words “CHRONO TRIGGER!” In the world of RPG’s, Chrono Trigger is the stuff of legend. The game came out in August 1995 (in North America) with little fanfare but it literally turned the world of console RPG’s on its nose. the game set more standards in RPG epicness than any other console before and arguably more than any other RPG ever made. If I were to approach the same group and simply shout the words “Chrono Trigger!” without asking about their RPG preferences, I would likely be met with cheers of support and make instant friends. I have played this game more times than I can count but have never reviewed it on here. Per the request of one of my site fans, I decided to review the legendary RPG “Chrono Trigger”.

  1. Foreword
  2. The Story
  3. Gameplay
  4. Review
    1. The Good
    2. The Bad
    3. The Ugly
  5. Final Thoughts

Foreword

Before I start this post, however, I want to discuss a few items. I have always thought Chrono Trigger is a great game and I hope that this post reflects my high opinion. The thing that I disagree with is that I don’t think the game needed as much hype as other gamers give it. It is one of the best RPG’s out there even though it is not my favorite RPG. When I expressed to some readers that CT was not my favorite, this was somehow misconstrued as “RGB doesn’t like Chrono Trigger”. I do like the game and you will see why. I just like the story and concepts in some other games better. Lastly, before I review a game, I feel it is only logical to play it recently so that I have a fresh opinion. This case is no different. I played CT from beginning to end right before this post. Also, I promised myself that I would try to play the game as though I have never played it bef0re and try to give opinions based off that. Are we clear? Okay! Enjoy my review of the game, the myth, the legendary…CHRONO TRIGGAA!!

Chrono Trigger Intro

The Story (highly condensed)

Welcome to Truce Village in 1000 AD. The sound of ‘Leene’s Bell’ rings clear and loud to signal the beginning of the Millennial Fair in Leene’s Square. We are introduced to Crono, a spiky red-haired youth who is woken up by his mother so he doesn’t miss the fair (Trivia Note – The main character’s name is technically ‘Chrono’ but when the game was ported to the American SNES, the name variable only allowed 5 characters instead of 6). Crono heads out to the door only to be reminded that his childhood best friend, the brilliant girl genius Lucca Ashtear will be showing off ‘her craziest invention yet’. When Crono arrives at the fair, he meets a pretty blond girl who appears lost or so excited that she can’t focus. Crono bumps into her and knocks her over, dropping her pendant. When Crono returns the pendant, the girl identifies herself as Marle (I always pronounce it like Mar-Lee) and asks if he wouldn’t mind exploring the fair with her. Crono agrees and the two soon find that they enjoy each others’ company. Together Crono and Marle find their way to Lucca’s invention expo. It turns out that the girl genius has created a short distance teleporter which she dubs “The Telepad”. After very little convincing, Crono agrees to be the guinea pig and steps on to the telepod. Lucca and her father Taban (also a brilliant inventor) fire up the telepod and ZOOM Crono appears on the other side of the teleporter. Excited by this, Marle says that she wants to try it next. When Marle steps onto the telepod, however, something reacts to her pendant and she is sucked into a blue vortex and vanishes leaving her pendant behind. Crono agrees to go through the vortex the same way as Marle in hopes of saving her. He holds the pendant and steps on the device. In much the same way, he disappears into the vortex only this time, the player sees him travel through a whirling colorful mist and POOF he ends up in Truce Canyon 400 years in the past (600 AD).

From here, we learn that Marle is actually Princess Nadia, princess of the Guardia Castle in 1000AD but she bears an uncanny resemblance to Queen Leene, the queen in 600 AD and the namesake of Leene Square and Leene’s Bell. Turns out that the real Queen Leene has been kidnapped by someone and was being searched for but when Nadia (Marle) was found wandering in Truce Canyon, they assumed she was the queen and called off the search. Your character heads to the castle and meets Marle even though everyone thinks she is the Queen. However, Marle soon vanishes and says she feels that she is being ‘torn apart’. Turns out that because her heir, the real Queen was not found, Marle ceased to exist! So, the game now unfolds into the true theme of the game – time travel.

You are soon reunited with Lucca who has called the vortex a ‘gate’ and has created a device called the “Gate Key” to allow you to transport through time. Eventually, you save the real queen and restore Marle but then you end up zapping off to 2300 AD, 301 years after the ‘apocalypse’ is triggered by an interstellar monster known as “Lavos”. You eventually learn that Lavos landed on earth in 65000 BC and has been absorbing the life force of the planet ever since. As the story progresses, your characters meet other people such as the cave girl Ayla from 65000BC. You meet Frog (originally a human named Glenn) from 600 AD. Robo the robot from 2300 AD and, if you follow the right path,  Magus joins you even though he spends the first half of the game as the main enemy.

Ultimately, the game’s major turning point occurs when the characters accidentally appear in 12,000 BC in the ‘Zeal Kingdom’ after the team interrupts Magus as he was summoning Lavos.It turns out that Queen Zeal, the leader of the kingdom created a massively advanced society by drawing upon the power of Lavos using a tool called the “Mammon Machine”. She introduced magic into the world and ushered into what appears to be a utopia. Unfortunately, the exposure to Lavos’ energy corrupts the Queen and she becomes so absorbed by the desire for power and immortality that she becomes the human manifestation of Lavos. Her actions in 12,000 BC cause a lasting scar on the entire future of the world and eventually she creates a trans dimensional  fortress called the Black Omen that allows her to exist as an immortal even at the cost of every fabric of her human conscience.

Finally, the team infiltrates the Black Omen, destroys the Mammon Machine, destroys Queen Zeal and must face off against Lavos itself (himself?) when its pawn (the Queen) is destroyed. After destroying the outer shell of Lavos, the team must battle the Lavos processing core and eventually Lavos ‘s true form, a highly evolved form of human conscience.Their exposure to the direct energy of Lavos causes them to realize that Lavos represents the highest form of human life and that the desires of the many humans Lavos controlled were combined into a single being… the ultimate wish of humans. Once the team beats Lavos, the space-time continuum is restored to normal and the future of the world is forever changed.

If you follow the steps to what many refer to as the “Best Ending” (though various events may change some portions of this) then this is what will happen. Crono wakes up in his house and is being summoned to the castle to stand trial for his involvement in the kidnapping of Princess Nadia (Marle). When he arrives, he ends up meeting with the king as all of the people from all of the different time frames (Kino from 65,000 BC, King Guardia XIII from 600 AD, and Doan (leader of the remaining people  from 2300 AD) who show that they are all ancestors of Princess Nadia and how Crono’s adventure not only saved the world but also made Nadia’s ancestors leaders of society throughout history. Crono and Marle are zoomed off to enjoy the Moonlight Festival which is the final event of the Millennial Fair. You can walk around and talk to most of your old friends right up until you go back to the telepod. At this point, you see a parade of the characters from the other eras as they return to their worlds – Ayla and Kino to Prehistory, Frog and King Guardia XIII to 600 AD, and Robo and Doan to Post Apocalypse. Lucca agrees that her Gate Key should be destroyed and the time machine (you acquire in the game) should be dismantled. The end credits roll as Marle and Crono go flying across the world in the time machine.

Gameplay

Example of the battle system from Chrono TriggerChrono Trigger launched a NUMBER of gameplay innovations that are part of what made it such a legendary game. The first element is the on-screen monster battles. In other RPGs of the time, most fights were strictly ‘random encounters’ (Outside of boss battles of course) wherein your characters would walk around on a world map and suddenly the screen would shift to a battle and bring up the menus for attack. Not in Chrono Trigger! The enemies you fight actually show up on screen (usually walking around or hopping out of hidden spaces). At this point, the battle music would start and you would suddenly have the various menus in a normal RPG battle screen. When the enemies are defeated, they disappear from the screen and you no longer fight them. Most of the time, if you kill the monsters in a particular room, they won’t come back unless you leave the area. Did I mention that CT also uses a derivative of Active Time Battles (much like I talked about in my FFIV post)? They do! Faster characters (and monsters) attack faster than others.

Another innovation found in CT was the use of ‘Techs”. Most other RPGs of the time featured specific character archetypes. The warrior folks can attack with weapons, the fighter guys can attack with their hands or karate or whatever, and the spellcasters cast magic. The secret to defeating a particular boss was usually to find the best individual actions for each character to perform to win. In this game ALL characters have techniques. Each battle ends with the characters earning experience points to allow them to level (up to 99 in this game), gold to help you buy stuff, and Tech Points. After a character earns enough Tech points, they are able to learn a new technique… sometimes many techs. Later in the game, your characters learn elemental magic such as Fire, Ice, Lightning and Shadow. But it doesn’t end there! Your characters can learn Dual Techs and even Triple Techs (the largest party at any given time is 3 characters). The Techs you learn depend on who you have in your party when the points are awarded. For instance, if you often travel with Crono, Lucca and Marle, you are likely to have the Ice and Fire Sword Techs (Crono and Marle or Crono and Lucca respectively) and you are also likely to have the Antipode tech which features Ice and Fire mixed together (Lucca and Marle). You might eventually get the Delta Attack which is Lightning, Fire, and Ice (Crono, Lucca and Marle). However, if you travel with Frog, Robo and Crono, you are more likely to learn things such as X-Strike (Crono and Frog)  or Maximum Cyclone (Crono and Robo). I never got any triple techs with that group but that is not to say that they don’t exist. Also, you can equip your characters with different colored orbs that you find along the way which will allow you to use certain triple techs even if the teammates don’t naturally have triple techs.

Many of the RPGs at the time of Chrono Trigger had a relatively linear storyline in which a particular chain of events lead the player through the full storyline from start to end with very little variation. One of the greatest innovations in this game was the more open storyline offered to the player. At the beginning of CT, the game’s storyline is relatively linear even though your characters are jumping through time. Midway through the game, the players are taken to the “End of Time” location and at this point the player can choose to attack the final boss at any time. Also, there are opportunities such as whether or not to fight Magus the second time or forgive him which can change the story of the game. Depending on the current storyline events your team has completed, going after Lavos changed the ending you received and the game becomes less linear. Finally, in the last chapter, “The Fated Hour” the player has completed all of the storyline up to the final boss fight but the player can choose to complete none, some, or all of the side quests. Each side quest required a varying amount of skill to complete and some were far more challenging than others even for a high level player. When the player completes ALL of the side quests, they STILL have multiple different methods in which they can engage the final boss and the decision they make can change the ending they receive. This was something that was completely unheard of at the time that CT was released.

The final gameplay innovation and possibly the greatest (or second greatest) innovation in Chrono Trigger is its accurate depiction of time. In the history of console RPG’s, no other RPG has come close to properly representing time travel and time manipulation better than CT. Other RPG’s tried to show time passed for the characters by random messages like “10 Years Later…” but these games didn’t make the player “FEEL” that time had passed. In Chrono Trigger, if the character completed an event in 600 AD, hopped through a gate and went to 1000 AD, the players could clearly see how an event in the past changed the future. For instance, when Crono finishes the first story arc in 600 AD (restoring Queen Leene to the throne), the King of 600 AD says that the kingdom must create some sort of justice system to punish future criminals. When Crono comes back to 1000 AD with Marle and attempts to return her safely to the castle, he is imprisoned and…you guessed it… subjected to the Guardia legal system. In another example, there are special treasure chests that are sealed by magic from 12000 BC that your team does not figure out how to unlock until later. If your character opens one of these treasure chests in 600 AD, it is NOT present in 1000 AD but if your character opens the chest in 1000 AD first, they can go back to 600 AD and the chest is still there. Even one of the main enemies in the early part of the game (Magus) has a story that explains why he acts the way he does because of an event in the past. Many of the end game side quests can only be accomplished by carrying out events in a specific order and time including the “Sun Stone” quest where you must beat a monster to acquire a ‘moonstone’ that is drained of energy. You take the moonstone to a location in 65000 BC and when your heroes zoom to 2300 AD the moonstone has become the Sun Stone (well, after completing a slightly humorous quest in 600 AD).

Lavos "Rain of Destruction"I could continue to write about the many innovations in this game but the review would become needlessly long but I will touch on a few quick points. First, the music was very good for the era and still has some of the most memorable audio tracks from any SNES games (the main Theme… Marle’s music-box style theme, Robo’s techno mechanical theme, etc.). The game made a terrific use of Mode 7 Graphics for many different aspects of the game including flying the Epoch, Lavos’ ‘Rain of Destruction’, and even some of the game’s version of cut-scenes (in the SNES version, not the PlayStation version). The game’s package and manual included artwork by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. Etc. Etc. But one of the final important things to discuss is the ability to use the New Game+ feature once you complete the game. When you beat the game, you unlock the New Game+ which allows you to start the game over from the beginning but keep all of your equipment and experience. This feature allows you to actually try all the other endings and to see what different results you might get if you did things differently in the game. Unfortunately, beating the game on New Game + does not change the final ending or any of the story.

Review

This part of my discussion on Chrono Trigger is one where I must tread lightly. To some gamers, saying anything negative about this game is the equivalent of blasphemy in religious circles. However, I must be bold and express my thoughts in an accurate and informative way. Is this game legendary? Yes! Is this game one of the most innovative games of the time? Yes!  Is it worth all the hype? No. Is it the best RPG ever? No. (I will pause to give those of you who disagree time to scream your insults. …. There… ready to move on? Let’s go!)

When the game was released, it received very little media coverage in the USA. In fact, I don’t think I even saw a commercial for it. It literally appeared on the shelf one day at my favorite game store with a price tag of $80 which is roughly equivalent to $125 in 2014. Let’s put this in perspective… Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a hot RPG for the PS4 today and on Amazon, even the Collector’s Edition only costs $50. Hopefully this helps drive home how expensive Chrono Trigger was at the time it was released. Even so, if you read the back of the game box and saw the images from the game, you could be easily convinced that it is worth the money – I know I did. From the moment that the player plugs in the Chrono Trigger cartridge (or ROM file) and starts up the game, it is apparent that this game is a whole other world of SNES RPG and a whole other world of RPG altogether. But in keeping with the spirit of many of my other reviews, I will start by discussing the Good, then the Bad and then the Ugly.

The Good

ooh! Time Travel!This game is amazing! Don’t get me wrong! When you look at other competing games of the time, Chrono Trigger offers a wealth of things that make it legendary. The graphics of the sprites and the world they inhabit are wonderful given the power of the SNES hardware at the time. The majority of the game world has smooth edges and quality finish. The sprites, though still sprites, are much more active and interesting to watch than others of the time – Crono moves his head, laughs, dances, even shows distress with full sprite motion which was relatively unheard of at the time. The game transitions from game area travel to battle and back to travel seamlessly which makes the progress of the story easier to follow. As mentioned earlier, the game makes highly effective use of Mode 7 graphics and even uses them in ways that were unusual for the time (such as the race with ‘Johnny” the robot across the wastelands of 2300 AD). I also enjoy the ‘wavy lines’ you see when your characters travel through a gate. The colors change rapidly and the color lines change direction quickly. Sure, it looks like an acid trip in some ways but that’s cool. It reminds me of the time travel sequences from the opening theme of the old Doctor Who.

I also think that the music is one of the things that makes this game so awesome. Every single song on the soundtrack fits perfectly where it appears on the game. When you are in the forest, the music has this weird forested feel where the sounds are kind of muted and the main melody sounds like it is composed of actual forest sounds. The desolate music and the solemn bell that rings when you are walking around in 2300 AD seems to fit the appearance and life of those who survived the Apocalypse so well. I still enjoy listening to the Zeal theme with its Kashmir sounding harps and Dobro music  that seems to fit the weird utopia in the world theme of that place and so on. The music really does a great deal to make the game seem organic. I mean, come on, there is even a ‘meow’ noise that plays when you try to ‘talk’ to one of the many cats in the game. Who thinks of that? Sure, I get kind of tired of hearing the ‘elephant’ sound when certain monsters attack and the ‘whistling’ sound of other monsters but that just serves to get your attention when you are mesmerized by whatever lush environment the game has you walking through.

Another great part about Chrono Trigger that really makes it a great game is the battle system. Again, other RPG’s at the time focused on random Crono casts Luminaireencounters as one walked around the map and then when a battle was triggered, the game would transition into the menu driven battle system that is the standard for most RPGs even now. Not CT… you could actually see most of the monsters as they approached and you knew that if you got too close to another monster, it would attack you. If you were tricky (or high level) you could avoid some of the monster fights by walking around the monsters which brought a more live-action element to the game. But once you were in a battle,  you found a battle system that was a cool mix of the old style battles (menu driven) but had some new elements such as the Double and Triple Techs, the Active Time Battle system which made battles between fast and slow characters more realistic. I also like that this is one of the first RPG’s of the time where the magic attack and techs were shown from start to finish. If Crono is going to blast someone with Luminaire, he would jump into the screen, bow his head as if to enchant and then unleash his zappy wrath upon the foe. As I mentioned before, depending on the other characters that you had in your party, the types of techniques learned were different. It was wise to change party members frequently so you could see all the cool different techs that the crews could learn. Furthermore, with only three party slots to fill, you really have to think HARD about the enemies you expect to face in this or that dungeon so that you bring the right party members. Sure, you could change them instantly once your characters go to the End of Time but that doesn’t’ help if you are being owned by the boss who’s immune to fire damage and you only have your fire casters and lightning caster in the party.

Lastly, the story itself is very complex. Do notice that I added the phrasing “Highly Condensed” to the end of the “Story” heading? That’s because if I typed the entire storyline of this game out on my blog, you would be reading for hours before you even saw the review. The story is not perfect (as I will discuss in the “Bad” section) but it is certainly complex and far reaching. The game’s story is written in a way that screams ‘It’s complicated’. You will spend the first half of the game wondering what the heck is going on and the second half of the game eating tiny morsels of what is going on until you suddenly empty the pantry and want more crumbs. Any game on the SNES hardware that can make a story as long as CT and as complicated deserves some merit. I can’t imagine the amount of compression that had to be performed just to fit the data on the game cartridge even though I can’t find any record of the game including an FX chip or any other on-cartridge chip (Think Starfox or Mega Man X2). That tells me that the programmers must have done some crazy stuff to make this game as big as it is. I think it seems only sensible that the developers released a PlayStation version of the game with CD-quality cut scenes and then a Nintendo DS version with even more storyline. Unfortunately it came too late for the SNES.

The Bad

One of the game’s strengths is also one of its weaknesses – the story is too complex. Now, don’t get me wrong, a great story is vitally important to a game. The problem with Chrono Trigger is that the game’s story was built with such complexity that it also seems glaringly incomplete in areas. For instance, there is a great deal of time between Pre-History (65,000 BC) and the Dark Ages (12,000 BC) and the player is left wondering how on earth the people became so advanced. Also, there is a great deal of time between 1999 AD, the “Day of Lavos” which brought on the Apocalypse and 2300 AD which is the farthest in the future that the game goes. Even upon completion of the game on the best possible ending, the game still does not tie in all story arcs. The game paints this amazing story in this world and gets the player excited only to leave them unfulfilled when it is completed.

In a similar fashion, the game has too many endings there, I said it! The game has TOO MANY ENDINGS. I am totally cool with a game that offers you a few different endings and even some modified versions of the same endings. But there are so many endings in Chrono Trigger that it is highly frustrating. If I did the research right, there are at least 7 distinct endings to the game and some of those endings change slightly based on certain events (Did you beat Magus the second time and restore Frog to Glenn? Did you save Lucca’s Mother? etc.) But then again, the game has enough unique options and potential areas that could change the ending that one must question if we have actually found all the endings. While I certainly get that the creators wanted to make sure the game had replay value for years to come (it still does almost 20 years later), it also cheapens the value of the ‘best ending’ because one must question if this really is the best ending.

The last of the ‘bad’ parts of this game is the way that the Active-Time Battle System runs sometimes. I already expressed that I think that ATB is awesome and one of the ways that the game excels but it can also be its downfall. It’s one thing to get beat up by the baddies, have a chance for one or two people to attack, then have another baddie wave, etc. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to take into account some of the speed bonuses it offers. You can find ‘tabs’ around the world that are supposed to increase a particular attribute (i.e. Power Tab or Speed Tab). However, it really seems like you must feed the characters EVERY speed tab you find just to make them a 1/2 second faster. The unfortunate result is that almost ALL battles seem to have the exact same battle order regardless of circumstances. This means that if you are in an area where battles are frequent such as the Tyrano Lair, the Ocean Palace and various others, it seems mind numbingly repetitive to face battles. Oh gee… Crono is attacking first.. what a surprise (sarcasm)… oh look there comes Marle… wow I didn’t see that coming… oh and *Gasp* now Lucca is attacking however did I guess? . Seriously…. that is what it felt like in most of the battles. Most of the time this is not too much of a problem but when you are fighting bad guy A and you KNOW that you need to do a particular Dual Tech to really damage this guy, you find you are constantly waiting for the characters action bar to fill up even though you have given them enough Speed Tabs to make them have Roid Rage. To make matters worse, if you are fighting an enemy who uses some kind of status attack that makes your characters confused or berserk, you may literally have to sit for round upon round of attacks from the enemy (and even your own team) until the status wears off. You would think that if all characters got a status the made them freeze, the game would at least give you a timer or something to know how long you have to sit there. Granted, I know that if all your characters have some kind of ailment that does not go away (like a freeze or something) then the battle simply ends and you have to return to your save point but it makes the great advancement of the ATB seem like a nuisance more than a cool bonus.

The Ugly

Now the two worst things about this game in my mind can be discussed. You can disagree with my next few statements if you would like but please understand that these are my opinions based off my extensive experience of playing retro games and RPGs and even modern games. The two worst parts about this game are actually two of the main characters: Crono and Lavos. The ultimate good guy and the game’s final bad guy! You can prep your tomatoes now…

cronoderpFirst of all, let’s talk about the main hero, Crono. WHY DOESN’T HE TALK? Seriously, this is one of the most annoying things about the main hero. I believe that a good story in an RPG requires the main hero to develop and grow and change over time. For example, the main hero in my favorite RPG, Final Fantasy II, Cecil, he starts the game as – by all intents and purposes – a bad guy. As the game progresses, he changes his ways and he grows. NOT CRONO. Nope, the dude doesn’t talk at all. So basically, we see all of the other people around him (Marle, Lucca, and Frog especially) grow and change as the game progresses. You start to feel for the characters and can even watch Marle falling for Crono as the game progresses. You even see the bad guys like Magus and Queen Zeal change over time (the latter becoming more insane as the game progresses). But not Crono… he doesn’t talk so therefore he cannot grow as a character. Now I KNOW what you are going to say! He doesn’t talk because you, as the player, are supposed to be Crono and your thoughts are his thoughts, your words his words…etc. MALARKEY! I can’t find myself emotionally engaged and attached to a character who does not express what is going on in the game. Last I checked I am not a 17 year old dude in Truce Village so how can I know/feel for the character.Sure, he nods his head in response to some questions and the fact that he goes along with the gang shows that he agrees. However, I can’t CARE about Crono as a hero. Why does Crono care if Lavos destroys the world? Does he even care that Marle has emotions for him? Does he care about Lucca’s heart? His lack of dialogue makes it impossible for me to really connect to him. If you want me to care for the character, he needs to grow and change as the story does and I have to see him motivated if I am truly to motivate myself as the player. Yes, I know that many characters of other RPG’s don’t talk either but most of them don’t necessarily have a story that is directly dependent on their actions alone or if they do, you can at least PICK what words your character says but this is not the case with CT. Still don’t believe me? Then answer this… in one instance of the game (spoiler alert) Crono ‘dies’ and the team carries on without him. You CAN actually beat the game without ever resurrecting the HERO! Granted, it’s not the best ending but it can happen and that is my point. What other game can actually be beaten without the hero? None that I know… Sorry CT but I really don’t like your hero.

Second, I think that game does a great deal to build up the horrific nature of Lavos as the game progresses. One Meme I found on the internet explains lavosmemeLavos pretty clearly “No talking,  no warning, just a horrifying scream and start killing shit”. This is how Lavos is presented throughout the game. Anyone who has played this game will connect the “gurgling water scream” of Lavos with chilling memories. When you battle him the first time you see this giant shell thing with a head that you cannot describe and he constantly changes attacks to match those you have fought before. Yeah… he is scary… UNTIL YOU BEAT HIS SHELL. Once you beat his shell, the only logical thing your team thinks of is “lets go through this hole in his face and see if there is something inside. Once inside you beat the mecha suit Lavos which looks like a pipe monster. Then you fight the REAL LAVOS he’s a.. umm… lunatic dancing robot of doom… WTF? (The picture caption to the right says: LAVOS Because when you think “Alien Parasitic Killing Machine” you think of a dancing alien.”). Seriously… look at how ridiculous this final boss is. If he is the highest form of evolution, I am thankful that I believe Darwin was full of it. LOL. With all the hype leading up to the boss, you finally fight him and he looks like a weird, chicken alien thing. Not to mention, if you read some of the internet chatter about him, the rumor is that Lavos is actually the Right Bit (little robot next to the chicken thing) and the middle character is just another support unit. But the bits bring me to another reason why I think that Lavos is a dumb final boss is because of his bits. Okay, I have seen some bosses do WEIRD things like Gygaz in Earthbound saying weird stuff as you fight him or bosses that do weird ultimate attacks. Lavos… THROWS A ROBOT AT YOU! Really? I mean REALLY? How am I supposed to take the dumb chicken dancing robot seriously if he also throws his own supports at you? I can’t. For all of the awesomeness that you are lead to believe about Lavos, he is a major letdown. In fact, he’s not even that hard to beat. Sure, if you read my review about RunSaber you will see that the final boss is extremely lame. YES but the game doesn’t hype him up the whole time either… now do they? When I see all the crazy stuff that Lavos does and how he exists throughout time and space, I expect to feel like I am challenging a demigod when I am in the final battle but instead, Lavos barely feels like a boss at all. Sorry but that is not acceptable!

Okay, I will now allow you to hurl your vegetables at me… okay… good! Now on to the conclusion!

Final Thoughts

So in summary, let me review. Chrono Trigger is a great game. It has an awesome graphics engine built into it that uses Mode 7 in new ways and breathtaking background environments. The music soundtrack is one of the best ones for the SNES era and if you visit OverClocked.Org you will here some amazing reworkings of the soundtrack. I also really liked the way that battles are carried out in the ATB, the extensive use of dual and triple techs and the on-screen enemy system. Lastly, I think that the storyline is really cool and is something that really was a paradigm shift in the gaming world and has yet to be properly mimicked in any other game.

Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of the game’s complete story. While I find the story very interesting, I feel that the length and breadth of the game was so large that many story items were not really addressed in a clean way. Secondarily, the games ridiculous number of endings makes the game feel like it was a bridge too far and a bridge that will never be completed. Lastly, the ATB is an awesome concept that took the RPG world by storm but due to other game mechanics in Chrono Trigger not quite adding up, the ATB ends up being more of a frustration than an asset to the game.

Worst of all in Chrono Trigger are the hero and the final villain. I believe that Crono makes a weak main character because the story does not really show his personality growing and advancing in the same way that the stories of the other characters are advanced. I simply cannot care as much about the main character and his mission when he seems like such a flat character that can even be left out of the game and still allow completion. I also think that the second and third forms of the last boss, Lavos, completely destroys any respect I had for this boss. What appears to be a psychotic killer mollusk ends up being a dumb dancing robot who throws things at you. I wish Lavos was cooler but he really isn’t. Now let’s address the actual questions I posed at the beginning of my review.

1.) Is this game legendary? Yes it is! The game did so many amazing things that were previously unheard of in the RPG world. No other RPG since has done such a good job at representing time and its relative flow nor has any other game at the time truly tested the limits of what the SNES console was capable of performing. Chrono Trigger set so many standards in the RPG world that continue to appear in modern games. Thanks to this game, the industry saw what RPG’s COULD be and changed things for the future of RPGs in general.

2.) Is the game one of the most innovative games of its time? Yes! I will wholeheartedly agree that this game broke plenty of new ground. It made the switch to on-screen battle and did away with random battles (sort of). It properly handled issues related to the flow of time in a way that few Sci-Fi movies even come close to. The use of double and triple techs in battle and the use of specialized attacks based off party members was a huge hit too. As I said earlier, the way that CT used Mode 7 and various other technologies made the game seem much more advanced than other games at the time. There is no doubt that the game did some amazing things and helped set standards that we still find in modern RPG’s. In many ways, Chrono Trigger was the progenitor of modern console RPGs.

3. Is it worth all the hype? No… I am sorry but it is not. There are many amazing things that the game does but they are not necessarily the first ones to do them. For instance, the Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu II) was released in 1993, a few years before Chrono Trigger. It featured a derivative of the real-time combat system used in CT and versions of the ATB. It featured a spiky haired character who did not talk much and he was accompanied by two other girls, one a yellow haired girl which a striking resemblance to Marle, and a red-haired sprite who looks similar to Lucca without a hat. In fact, when I saw Chrono Trigger’s box cover at my game store back in the day, I wondered if it was some kind of sequel to Secret of Mana. SOM also used the Mode 7 graphics to achieve many of the textures and graphics as CT did. So what I am getting at is that CT is not entirely a new concept (although I could say it is a refined example of many other games of the time). And honestly, when you boil it down, Chrono Trigger is a very standard RPG in that you have a hero trying to save the world from evil using a cool sword who is accompanied by other cool people (including a love interest). The heroes blast through baddies with magic spells and cool weapons, etc. Yes, the time travel element is a new device in some ways but not entirely. If you consider each “Time” to be likened to a separate world, RPG heroes have been blasting to other worlds since RPG’s began – the only major difference is that the ‘time worlds’ are linked together in the story of CT more closely than alternate worlds in other games. Chrono Trigger is unique but when you boil it down, it really is not much different than other RPGs of the era.

4. Is it the best RPG ever? In my opinion – No it isn’t. There are a number or reasons why I feel this way and I hope you will understand my angle. First of all, for me to call something “The Best RPG EVER”, that means every part of the game has to be the best ever. In Chrono Trigger’s case, I think that the story has many incomplete portions that leave me feeling unfulfilled – if it was the best RPG, I could not find anything wrong with the plot. Second of all, the best RPG ever needs to have a cast of truly remarkable characters that the player is devoted to and CT does not have this. Yes, some of the characters really grow and impress me such as Frog, Marle and Lucca, heck Magus’ story is even pretty cool – unfortunately THE MOST IMPORTANT character, Crono does not impress me much as a hero. If CT were the best RPG ever I would really want to BE that hero and I have no desire to become Crono. Another important thing preventing me from calling CT the best RPG ever is the ridiculousness of the final form of the last boss. Lavos is massively cooler when you see that he is this giant screaming killing machine but when you actually fight him in his final form, he is a dumb monster. I find him to be a major letdown as a final boss. I am not afraid of the inner core of Lavos AT.ALL. So when I finally do beat the inner core, I have lost all respect for the boss that I used to fear. I would have expected the inner core to be something more sinister than the dancing robot who throws stuff. I feel good that I put the abomination out of its misery but I feel bad that the game lets you down so much on the last boss – the ultimate fight of the game. The perfect RPG would have a final boss that I am scared to fight, who packs a wallop, and then makes me feel exhilarated when I defeat them – Chrono Trigger’s last boss does not offer this so it cannot be the best RPG ever.

At long last we have come to the end of my review of the epic Chrono Trigger. I hope that you have found my review helpful and that it increases your interest in the world of retro games. Until next time… this is Retro Gamer Boy signing off!

Chrono Triggered (Updated)

At the request of a fan, I have been asked to review Chrono Trigger for the SNES. I have always thought it is a great game, I just think it got a bit more hype than it was really due. I started the game from scratch about three weeks ago and will hopefully be done with it in a few more days. When I am finished with it, I am going to review it on here.

This time around, I am trying to review it as though I have never played it before. Should have some interesting information for you soon. Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  I have finished Chrono Trigger as of tonight. I have to finish my final tomorrow (and perhaps Sunday). Once the final is over, I will post my review!

RGB Question – My Favorite RPG

A question that I am asked frequently as a Retro Gamer is what is my favorite RPG. Honestly, if you travel or work with any nerdist culture, this question is vitally important and may truly cause you to win or lose friends. Lucky for me, I am secure enough in my social capabilities that I am not afraid to share it. So without further ado, here you go.

My favorite RPG is Final Fantasy II. Yes, I know it is FF4 in Japan but we live in America so deal with it! 🙂 This game was a great creation that came to life early in the Super Nintendo haze. Prior to the release of FF2, I had never actually played too much in the RPG world as most RPG’s on NES were far too difficult. Of course, when you consider that I was only 10 when this game came out and I would have been 9 or younger when NES RPG’s were released, it makes sense that FF2 would have been my first real exposure to the world of RPG’s.

ff2I could give an extensive review of the game but that is best saved for later. For a quick summary, the game was released for SNES as FFII and was the first major RPG available for the console. It follows the dramatic story of Cecil Harvey, a Dark Knight and orphan who gives his life to serve the city of Baron – the capitol city of the world. He leads the Baronian Air Force known as ‘The Red Wings’ and we find him as he attacks the defenseless people of Mysidia to steal the Water Crystal (one of the elemental power sources of the world). When he returns to Baron, he expresses his disdain for the actions and is relieved from his leadership post and sent on a quest to the village of Mist where he is supposed to deliver a package. His best friend, Kain, follows him and the two reach Mist only to have the package explode and burn down the village of defenseless summoners save the sole survivor, Rydia a young girl whose mother died after a battle with Cecil and Kain. Cecil realizes that Baron is evil and he is supporting the evil so he decides to rebel against the king. The king hires a dark man named Golbez to run the Red Wings and he ultimately is revealed to be Cecil’s brother Theodore who has been controlled by the ultimate evil. As the story goes, Cecil returns to Mysidia after a near-death experience as a dark knight where the people LOATHE him and try to find ways to hurt or kill him. He agrees to climb Mount Ordeals, face his darkness, and he is transformed into a Holy Paladin. From that point on, Cecil becomes a holy warrior and makes an amazing group of friends. In the end, he and his friends face off against the ultimate evil, a lunar monster named Zemus (later transformed into a being of pure hatred, Zeromus). Cecil and his team return to Earth as heroes, he marries Rosa, his childhood friend and the two become the new king and queen of Baron.

Why is it my favorite? Let me count the ways! – Reason One – A True Redemption Story

Cecil, Dark Knight and Paladin

So why is this game my favorite? Well there are many reasons. The first reason is that I love the idea of the central storyline which is that darkness can be transformed to light and that strength alone is not enough to win every time. The transformation of Cecil from Dark Knight to Paladin is a terrific and personal thing to me later in my life. In my early teens and even some of my early 20’s, I was a very dark person with many issues. I didn’t mind hurting people if I would gain from it and I didn’t believe much in any kind of moral or spiritual good. However, when I was 24 (circa 2005), I faced my own darkness when I risked losing my wife and many friends due to my own selfish behavior. I released the darkness and gave myself to God and let Christ change me through and through. Much as Cecil was a creature of darkness who gave up his darkness because he realized his life was on the wrong track, so did I. Very few RPG’s even now have truly done a good job at showing a true redemptive story like the one in FF2. The guy who willingly killed people and did bad things realized the error of his ways, repented, went through a major change and become the ultimate good guy. That’s a story that I can relate to and so can many other people.

Reason Two – The Amazing Storyline

If you didn’t grasp this with the first heading, let me re-iterate. The storyline of this game is amazing! Not just the main storyline of darkness being replaced by light. Every one of the twelve characters you can have in your party at various points have a great back story. They don’t just appear out of NPC Land and help you. You at least understand some of their stories as you meet them. As the game goes on, ALL of them grow and mature as people and their actions have a significant impact on the storyline and the player’s perception of the world. If one of the characters dies (which they do in this one) you actually feel genuinely sorry for them. When the game ends you will feel sad that you didn’t get to see how they all ended up in the future (though there are a few additional game ‘sequels’ that lets you catch up with your favorites). The world itself is a living, breathing story that you feel as you play the game and it makes me, as a player, genuinely care about the world my hero is trying to save. Before I played FF2, I didn’t even think video games really cared about a story and this one really changed that perspective for me. If the story of FF2 was made into a book or movie, I would read/watch it often. In fact, I loved the story so much that I actually wrote my own comic books with the characters in other stories (what is now known as Fanfiction) because I didn’t want it to end. Even now after I have played the game literally hundreds of times from start to finish, I still feel my old love for the story and characters with each play through. In fact, I usually play through it at least once a year even now.

Reason Three – The World is NOT Black and White

Rubicant, the Lord of Fire

Prior to the release of FF2, most of the video games I had played had a very black and white storyline. These people are the good guys, these people are the bad guys. The bad guys do bad things and the good guys win. You really never questioned the motives of the bad guys or even the good guys in the story of most games. But that all changed for me when I played FF2. Sure, the story does have a clear duality in that good and evil both coexist and one tempers the other, but the world is NOT black and white. I might face a villain in the game and my first impression is HAH! I am going to get you bad guy! Then they speak to you before the fight and tell you why they are doing things and I actually have to stop and think… wait… that’s not such a bad idea. The most prime example of this was the Lord of Fire named Rubicant (Fiend of Fire in the original English translation). Rubicant is the leader of the 4 elemental lords and is the right hand man to Golbez (the main bad guy for most of the game). He is vicious and is really hard to beat when you face him. But when you hear him talk you realize he has better morals than most of the ‘good guys’ Cecil encounters throughout the game. He expresses he is very sorry for what happened to one of the main character’s (Edge) parents and that he did not approve for them to be harmed. He talks about how he believes that the world is full of bad people and he has simply chosen to side with the “Least” bad person he can find. Did I mention that he even heals you before you fight him? After you defeat him, he ends up giving a pep talk to the character whose parents were recently killed and tries to teach him that rage and anger are dangerous and will lead to harming others – wait… isn’t he a “Fire” guy? That’s my point! The example I gave is one of the MANY examples found in the game. In fact, the reason the ultimate bad guy, Zeums, wants to destroy earth is that he believes that the people of the Earth are too weak and impressionable and he had been opposed to the people of the moon (Lunarians) having any allegiance with them. I mean it’s still a bad motive but you have have to pause and think about it.

Reason Four – Travel in Style!

The Big Whale Airship

Okay, so this reason is kind of petty but I don’t care. FF2 has a million different cool ways to get around in the game. When the game begins, your character is on an airship – one of my favorite RPG vehicles bar none (ask my IRL friends how many of my tabletop games DO NOT feature an airship. LOL). As the game goes on, you drive a hovercraft, you ride a boat, you can take a Chocobo anywhere (even flying black ones), etc. This game also has THE MOST airship choices in any FF game that I know of. Your first airship that you actually control is called ‘The Enterprise’ (Too bad it isn’t a starship) and you can fly it around for a good while. Then, you later acquire the Falcon (If they called it the Millennium Falcon I would KNOW something is up). When the Falcon crashes, you have to get it repaired and later you must use it to fly int the underground portion of the world. Later on you actually use a hook ON the Enterprise to pick up the the hovercraft. How cool is that? But the grandaddy of them all is the final airship – The Big Whale. Sure, the name is kind of weird but this airship is ACTUALLY a starship. Yup, you HAVE to use it to get to the moon to face the ultimate evil (TM) but you can actually pilot the thing around on Earth which is crazy because it is bigger than most of the cities (at least as far as map tiles go). This ship comes with a sleeping quarters and even a Big Chocobo on board. You can’t get much more Final Fantasy than that! I also love that the ultimate airship even has its own theme song that just oozes awesomeness. Sometimes I would just cruise around in the Big Whale to listen to its BGM.

Reason Five – Music!

Speaking of BGM, another great reason why FF2 is the best is the music scoring for the game. Yes, it is still MIDI as that was all that the SNES was capable of producing but the MIDIs were legendary. Let’s start with the title screen which features the “Final Fantasy Crystal Theme”. Words can’t describe the way this song is made but it is a pretty, harp-driven song which serves as the main theme for many of the future FF games, listen to the main themes of even FFVII and you will hear it! Then there is the Red Wings theme which you hear at the beginning of a new game – it is a pompous song with a ‘marching’ feel to it that will remind you somewhat of the Imperial March from Star Wars. At various points in the game, a main character or main supporting character may suffer an intense tragedy or even die. The music that is played is so haunting and painful that it still hurts me to hear it. Not sold yet? Well the Paladin theme that plays when Cecil transforms features this solitary tonal ‘gong’ sound in the early measures and eventually builds to this deep and emotional song with many different layers and you can feel the tension as Cecil turns back on the life he knew and starts a new one. Did I mention the awesome Big Whale song? What about the ‘Chocobo’ theme? All of these are awesome too. Golbez’s theme is one that strikes terror into your heart with this scary organ-sounding melody and minor chords. I could go on and on. The bottom line is the the music in a game or movie sets the tone for the scenes as the movie plays. Every BGM from the game is perfect for the time it is used. Don’t believe me? Check out OverClocked.org, the famous BGM remixing site. The remake gallery of FF2 music is one of the biggest ones on the site!

Reason Six-Paradigm Shifting of Gameplay

This reason is one that also encompasses most of the other items mentioned above but will tie this all together. FF2 hosts a MOTHERLODE of gameplay revolutions that were virtually unheard of prior to the game and became staples in the RPG video game world for years. The game had the ability to change the organization of your party members both on the battle field and on the  map. Your battle field allowed for two rows of heroes and many of them could not do their best work if they weren’t in the proper place (archers, for instance could not shoot unless they were on the back row). If you changed the position of the person in the ‘center’ of your party list, that person actually appeared to be walking around on the map. So if you got tired of looking at Cecil, put Rydia up front. The game also featured the first known use of ‘Monster Summoning’ which became a staple of the Final Fantasy series (and many others). The game was the first RPG of its time to feature the Active Timing Battle (ATB) system which made it so that faster characters (and enemies) attacked more often than their slower counterparts and allowed for the battles to play out more like they might in real time. Some of the enemies are impossible to beat if you don’t use the ‘Slow’ spell on the enemy or use Haste on yourself – they may attack 4 times per your team’s one time. The control interface made great use of the D-Pad, all 6 buttons (A, B, X, Y, L, R) and even start and select.

All in all, the game was an amazing accomplishment in gaming that has set more standards than any other game of its time and even since its time. Sure, the new games out there may have flashier graphics, full stereo music, 3D worlds, etc. But they just don’t have the same ‘soul’ as FF2. That is why I will forever consider FF2 as my favorite game and the best RPG I have ever played.  RGB is outta here!

 

Runsaber – Fun but a Letdown

I recently got all of my old ROMS and various tools moved from my old HD to a new HD and it occurred to me that although I managed to capture a screen cap of the End sequence of the ridiculously catchy Runsaber, I had never captured an image of the last boss. Come to think of it, I couldn’t even remember what the last boss of Runsaber looked like. So, I decided I needed to run back through the game again and capture this image. In fact, I realized that very little information is published about RunSaber and yet it is a pretty fun game.

The Story

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Runsaber was created in 1993 by Hori Electronic but published to Nintendo by Atlus Studios. The premise of the game is this… many years in the future the planet Earth is so polluted that no one can really live here and many people have moved to space stations (Elysium anyone?). Into this void, an unnamed scientist has created a revolutionary chemical that is designed to destroy all pollution on the planet and return life to normal. Unfortunately, when areas of the country are doused with the chemical, it doesn’t actually get rid of pollution, instead, it causes people and things to mutate and go out of control. The new super mutants basically spread across the world and cause so much havoc because normal people cannot hurt them. It seems as though the scientist knew about this ‘side effect’ before the chemical was released but he kept it a secret so that he could create his own army of super mutant killers. Into this darkness, a light is found when super human cyborgs known as “Sabers” under “Project Saber” are created to combat the menace. The first saber, Kurtz, is a fire saber but malfunctions and vanishes. This leaves the beta and gamma models… Allen, the lightning saber and Sheena the Ice saber. You take control of one of these two Sabers and go about ridding the world of the evil scientist’s mutant army.

The Sabers

So what is a saber? Well they look like a person but have – well – light sabers that look cooler than the ones Lucas invented. They also can generate energy to their feet as they kick which has presumably the same effect as the light saber. Lastly, each Saber can call out their ability and launch a full screen attack. Allen yells the word “Light!” and generates a lightning dragon and Sheena yells something and generates a rainstorm of ice. Allen appears to consist of greenish yellow energy as that is what his saber, kick and special attack appear as on the screen. Sheena’s is a purple/red colored energy of the same type. As you go about the game, you actually meet and subsequently fight Kurtz. He yells “Fire!” with his attack  but oddly, his energy appears to be white. They move pretty quickly and look downright awesome as they chop and kick their way through enemies. The game occasionally lags when you call out one of their special attacks because it does some pretty awesome stuff with the graphics of the time. I love that these guys are like ninjas. They literally climb all over walls, ceilings, scaffolds, you name it, they climb on it. You can actually crab walk in an entire circle around a scaffold and go from under it, to sideways, to walking on it without even moving the D Pad much. They move so fluidly that I often randomly grabbed things that I didn’t intend to grab and sometimes found specials that way.

The World

Man… this game was WAY ahead of its time. The music is this awesome techno driven music that sounds pretty cool on an SNES console. Think beats that sort of “splat” crescendos much like the 90’s techno music of the day and highly techno sounding guitars. In fact, DJ6i’s first song, HeadAsplode would probably fit right in with the Run Saber soundtrack. The levels are pretty cool too… very polished and remind me of something like an SNES rendering of the world in Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ (my favorite movie of all time). The enemies are creepy and somewhat comical. The average soldier looks kind of like a human with a squid head that randomly turns into a machine gun (no… that’s not a typo). There are flying creatures that really have no description that do them justice. There are rolling cannon looking monsters that often cruise around the area you are in and blast you. Some monsters appear out of the walls while others are randomly walking around. There are countless pitfalls, spike roofs, changing terrain, invincible blasting machines shooting fire or electricity. The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately the world only has 5 levels… yup… 5. The first four are on your map when you begin the game (Taj Gate – kind of like West Coast USA, Tong City – Reminds me of Shanghai meets Blade Runner, Jod Valley – South American rain-forest with dinosaurs even, Grey Fac – Umm.. Greece and Paris?) and after you have beaten all of these, the scientist’s hideout, Bruford (looks like the island of Dr. Moreau on the outside) rises from the sea. Yeah… I guess all of those awesome soundtrack songs and the crazy graphics use didn’t leave much room on the cartridge for a fully immersed story and large world map.

Game Play

This is one of the things that sets this game apart from many of the other games of its time. I have already talked about how easy it is to control your saber and how quickly you can move about the platforms like a ninja. In the center of the character screen is a little square with a purple arrow that points you to the direction you need to head. When you consider how HUGE a single level is in this game, this is an amazingly useful tool. Also, the further you get from the intended target, the more incessant the blinking and ringing noises from the arrow get. Sure, you can see the place the map wants you to go but it is up to you to use ninja skills to reach your destination.

Each stage has a series of mini-bosses that prevent you from getting to your destination. They range from the unusual to freaking bizarre. The first mini boss is a mutant who busts out of an old missile casing and commences to shoot you with a bazooka and otherwise try to injure you. Then there is a boss that is basically tentacles or wiring (hard to tell based off the graphics) that shoots missiles out of the wall. Seem tame? Okay… at the beginning of the Jod Valley stage, you fight an Andean Condor – no big deal. But when you kill it, it’s head remains on the grass moving about as if talking and a random gray monster who utters a sound like the famous “Toasty!” from Mortal Kombat comes by and STEALS the head. Later on in the series, the same freaky monster drops the head of the condor on the ground and you faces a mutant zombie with a bird head… yeah… kind of an acid trip. As you approach the mini boss sections of the game, the guiding arrow mentioned earlier changes to blinking the word “Alert!!” and it will stay active the whole time you are fighting the boss because sometimes it is actually hard to tell when the fight is over.

Now the next game play item of note are the actual bosses. The first boss fight in the game has got to be one of the most interesting fights I have seen in a while. Your character has to jump on to a USAF jet (Harrier or F-16, hard to tell) and fight on the outside of the jet WHILE it is flying! Basically the jet has been ‘possessed’ by the mutants and you have to kill three of them. The first one is a creature who morphs out of the middle of the jet between the cockpit and the back fin. The next one morphs out of the tail wing. The final one is this floating head looking thing that busts out of the cockpit. The first two guys are easy enough but the last one fights you WHILE THE JET IS SPINNING around. If you fall, you die. When you finally kill the monsters, your character leaps from the jet like a boss and it blows up. How cool is that?

Boss number 2 actually created a fuss with Nintendo. She is a statue of a lady who waits for you on top of the highest point in Taj City. She is sitting on her side as if laying down and looking at you sideways. I guess the censorship rules were such that having a women laying in this pose even slightly seductively was against the rules at the time. Now, the woman’s head has been replaced with something like a corpse’s head which add to the further creepiness of this boss. The third boss is forgettable, it is basically a floating cyber head that spits fire at you and it growls angrily when you hit it. Even though it wasn’t a tough boss, the developers liked it enough that you see it again in the last stage. The fourth boss is certainly one of the weirder ones, it basically looks like a worm/slug thing that rises out of the floor and hurls fireballs at you but imagine that the snake/worm thing looks partially decayed and has a bulbous and vein covered head. When you beat him, this guy turns all 2D and falls off the screen.

Now, the map suddenly changes and you see a fifth location, Bruford, that emerges from the ocean and this is the hideout of Mr. Scientist. This stage is just funky and long. There are lots of long drops where you must kick at things as you go to kill them followed by climbing up an almost identical screen on a series of elevators and then going down again. Finally you must face Kurtz for the last time and then you drop through a hole and face the Scientist.

The Scientist – Last Boss

Easily one of the greatest let downs in Run Saber is the last boss… the Scientist. The story of the game doesn’t much talk about him other than mention that he created the mutant toxin and is trying to turn the world into zombies in his control. Do we get some crazy scene where the scientist explains why he did what he did then hops into some mutant contraption to fight you? Nope. The only way you even know this guy is the bad buy is because he has this eerie laugh that you start to hear at each boss fight and in this scene he does it aloud and you know it is him.

So what does he look like? Well… he’s a two story boss meaning you have two separate platforms at different levels which you must use to fight him. You only see him from the torso up and looks like he is basically a giant body with a skeleton and muscle layer but no skin. Honestly, he reminds me of what Freddy Krueger might look like if he took off his shirt and had no knife glove. Yeah… he looks like this:

The Scientist

So what does this dude do? Well… not a whole lot. He basically has three attacks. The first attack is that he spits these energy maggot looking things out of his mouth from both sides – nothing like having Freddy vomit maggots all over you. The other attack is to use either his right or left hand which hover on and off from their respective sides of the screen but they are large enough that you can see them a mile away. The other attack is more of a creative use of the environment. You have to hit his head to drop the protection on his stomach (presumably his weak spot) and then attack before the shield goes back up. Unfortunately, if you jump to avoid a flying fist or energy maggots then you may fall to your doom.

After hitting this dude several times and not knowing whether or not he is even feeling it, he will finally die. The screen basically goes bright and then you see several fireballs explode on his body and The Scientist is no more. That’s it! There’s no complicated death scene, you don’t even have to fight a second stage boss – the golden egg of console gaming. Nope… it’s just over.

The End

Okay, so maybe the let down of the boss fight is saved by a cool end scene. Maybe we get to see the amazing rebirth of our home planet as the pollution suddenly heals itself!  Maybe there is a cool scene that shows the player what good they did. Well??? NOPE. Unfortunately, there is no real closure in the end. Basically, the end scene shows the credits rolling in the foreground while the background features what appears to be a little girl running across the field. As the girl makes her way closer to the end of the scene, we see the forms of our two sabers watching on. The little girl is embraced by the parents that she has been running to throughout the entire end sequence and then it’s over. That’s it. You get nothing else!

Final Words

So now we have come to the end of Run Saber. I will call it my Final Words so Jerry Springer doesn’t come after me. The game is beautiful in design and has a totally awesome soundtrack that was way ahead of its time. The characters are awesome and fluid but have no real story behind them. You can attack with awesome light sabers and beat up mutants but in the end, the game leaves the player feeling somewhat let down. The story does not engage the player at the beginning and the progress of the game doesn’t really add to that engagement. Some of the worlds are very unique and interesting and it truly has some cool parts that make it fun to play. But in the end, you will find that you don’t really care about saving the Earth, the final boss makes it obvious why he failed at taking over the world and the end sequence is less than stellar. So if you want a fun and quick romp with characters that are a mix of ninja and Jedi and don’t really care if the story will interest you then Run Saber is a great game for you. If nothing else, play it once to see how awesome the characters are but don’t feel surprised if you are ultimately let down in the end.

RGB out!

Falling Apart for PLOK

Picture this… It is the early-mid 1990’s, the SNES system has already started to gobble up all of the market share for the console wars in North America. The console had it’s first platformer in Super Mario World, it has already started to catch the eye of many development companies in Japan who are considering making North America a major market and many American companies are starting to hop in on the bandwagon.

Platform games had become a staple of the SNES culture as they drew the attention of both newbies to the system and captured a niche market for the gamer who wanted to scour through levels upon levels of platforms, sometimes jumping off a cliff as they attempt to jump to what might be a secret platform in hopes of finding EVERY secret and reaping the rewards of getting ‘The Best Ending’ and bragging rights among their friends for being the first one to do so. Yet as the games became popular, they also became saturated in the market and one could almost guess that if they picked up a game from the now large array of SNES games in that section of their favorite movie/game store (yes, they used to be the rage) that they had a 50% chance of the game being a platformer, a 25% chance of it being an RPG, and a 25% chance of it being something that did not fit into any particular category. The platform genre for SNES  featured such heavy hitters as Super Mario World, Aladdin of the Disney fame, and Bubsy which was famed to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog (a lofty title it never attained).

Into this mixture enters the seasoned, yet often unknown Pickford Brothers,  Jon and Ste, who had created many games for everything from Atari to the IBM PC but rarely ever got their names includes in any of the credits. They wanted to release a game that was creative, unique, fun, and rather challenging. After discussing a strange world they had both dreamed up, they decided to create a map for “Akrillic” which was in the region of “Polyesta” (are you picking up on the theme here?). After some more concept work, the Pickford Bros. created Plok and it is one of their most commercially successful video games the two were credited directly on.

Your character, Plok, looks much like a Play-Doh experiment with 4 floating appendeges (similar to what a Mii looks like on the Wii). In the course of the game, you battle through the world of Akrillic beating up such unique things as the giant mouths with tuxedos known as the Bobbins Brothers, annoying and disgusting creatures known as Fleas that have infested the land, and many other strange monsters. What is unique is HOW you do so. You throw your arms and legs at your enemies (Ro-KE-to-PUNCH!) often in a succession, leaving Plok as nothing more than an immobile lump of clay while you wait for your appendeges to return.  Sometimes Plok must sacrifice one of his appendeges for a set period of time by punching or kicking at a ‘hanger’ switch which will retain your limb until you either complete a nearby task or until you make it to the end of the current level and on one or two occasions you actually have to fight a boss with less than your full array of limbs.

But don’t think you are limited to this option, what good would a platformer be if you did not have a few cool powerups? Scattered through the world are several “suits” that Plok will change into (in a humerous scene where he changes behind a curtain in the middle of the level) for power complete with specialized music for each suit. You can pick up the blunderbuss which changes Plok into an outfit Sherlock Holmes would be proud of and allows him to repeatedly shoot a blunderbuss with buckshot. Also, there is a flamethrower powerup which lets you blast gouts of huge flames at your foes as well as awesome boxing gear for much stronger punches, a badass rocket launcher suit and even twin pistols with a cowboy hat. This is a wonderful change from the duo-tone, rather undetailed primary sprite that is Plok. Did I mention the music?… oh the music!

Did you think it was over there? No! Not at all! If you really have the time to try and get to all kinds of odd and hard to reach places in the levels, you will find several “Presents” which Plok can use either for the level or for the entire game that make the going much easier including such things as the Buzzsaw jump among others. Furthermore, as you get deeper into the Brendammi Bog, the place where all Fleas come from, you will find that Plok gets to use all kinds of awesome vehicles to get through the levels here including a motorcycle, a jet bike and many others. You finally descend into the Flea Pit and beat the disgustingly cute “Flea Queen” and rid the land of Akrillic from Fleas forevermore!

This game is really a fantasic game with a breath of fresh air for when platform games are getting old and annoying. However, don’t expect the game to be easy. In fact, one of the biggest complaints the Pickford Bros received was that the game was too hard for the average gamer. I say NAY! Sure, you might have to devote several hours of time to getting all the secrets but the game’s universe is so quirky, strange, and fun that you won’t consider it a chore. Not to mention, the game features a much better music than a majority of the other platformers of the era and some of its most popular tunes from the score such as “Creepy Crag” and “The Flea Pit” live on as Overclocked.org remixes. Can’t get much more famous than that, can you? So clear out a few hours a night, fire up your emulator and give this cool platformer a go, you will be thankful that you did!

8 Bit Composition with Mario Paint

Super Mario Paint

Game cover of Super Mario Paint

I feel it is only fitting to begin my trek down memory lane with a look at Good Old “Mario Paint” composer since it was one of the first inspirations for this blog. The game itself actually had many pieces you could chose from. There was a PaintBrush like application where you could draw pictures and save them and then later on edit them. It also had a unique animation studio that, although quirky, was far too complicated for the average player and light years ahead of its time. Another fun option was the “Coffee Break” which was a strange game in which your cursor was a hand with a flyswatter and you would swat ‘gnats’ which made a humerous “ung” sound when killed and sometimes you faced a ‘boss’ gnat that was much harder and more dangerous.

But nothing else was quite as unique and fun as the “Composer” software. This part of the game was so exciting and interesting that it lives on as a flash download from UnFun Games and allows you to make complex music files and even arrange different songs together. A feature unheard of in the original game. This application and the game for that matter, received a revival in recent years and led to a stream of YouTube videos with Mario Paint renditions of such songs as “Through Fire and Flames” by Dragonforce, “What Is Love” by Haddaway. Just search on YouTube for the song and include “Mario Composer” as part of the search.

Thanks to an interest sparked by looking at Mario Paint, I found my way to another awesome software called MuseScore that lets you create music by placing real notes on a real clef. It’s also free! So if you have a desire in your heart to be a muiscal master, grab an emulator and play with Mario Paint or go grab the MarioPaint Composer from UnFun. Happy MIDI’ng!