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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

Megaman 3 and the Rise of Rush

Despite my classes starting back up, I have been able to do a couple of retro game replays. I decided to continue on my Megaman kick by replaying Megaman 3 and 4. I may get to 5 before I get too busy but we’ll see. So here’s a nice little review of Megaman 3 for you all.

Story

The story is pretty much the same as it was before – Dr. Light has something good, Dr. Wiley steals it, Megaman has to go save the world. This time, the story focused on Dr. Light creating a new cyborg construct known as Gamma which would supposedly help fight Dr. Wiley’s robot masters in the future. As soon as Dr. Wiley got wind of this, he launched a technique to steal Gamma (how he steals something that big without anyone noticing, I don’t know). Once again, Dr. Light calls Roll to don the blue helmet and become Mega Man to battle the monsters and restore order. Of course, Megaman happily accepts the requests and dashes off to face 8 robot masters and retrieve Gamma.

Gameplay

Much like the other Megaman series’ games, Megaman 3 features exactly what you would expect. You face the robot masters in a series of themed worlds. Once you beat them, Megaman acquires their power and uses it to face off against other robot masters. One interesting change that occurred in this game that has stuck with the rest of the series (even up to the MMZ era) is the introduction of the ‘slide’ technique. A player can press down and the jump button and Megaman will turn sideways and slide through small crevices in the game. In some cases, the player cannot even pass a section of the level without using the technique.

This game also features the first appearance of Protoman (named Breakman for some reason) who is later revealed to be Megaman’s brother. For some reason, Protoman will randomly show up in the game at various points in the game when Megaman lands in certain rooms. You will know he is coming when you hear a high-pitched whistle melody and the screen seems to freeze temporarily. Protoman will leap down dressed in purple with a scarf and shield and begin attacking you. At some point, presumably when he has taken enough damage, he will disappear, usually breaking a hole in the room so that you can continue on.

Another new addition that remained within the Megaman world until Megaman X was the famous mechanical canine, Rush. Rush is used to replace the previously strange named Item-1, Item-2 and Item-3 from Megaman 2 and takes one one of three forms: Rush Coil which is basically a giant spring, Rush Marine – a literal doggy submarine, and Rush Jet  – one of the most useful (and easily abused) tools in the game – a rocket platform that you can ride around on. When using Rush, Megaman will change into the Red/White motif from Megaman 2’s Item-1/2/3 library but when you click the attack button, rush will teleport down as whatever function you chose much like Megaman teleports upwards when leaving a stage. Just like the other weapons Megaman accquires, using Rush will deplete your energy and you will need to grab power-ups to restore it. Also, like the Items from Megaman 2, Megaman does not start with all of Rush’s forms, they are added to your inventory after beating various robot bosses. Speaking of which…

Robot Masters

Following the recipe of the other successful Megaman series, MM3 features 8 robot masters, each with the eponymous ‘Man’ at the end of their element: Magnet Man, Gemini Man, Spark Man, Hard Man, Shadow Man, Top Man, Needle Man, and Snake Man. Once you complete the Robot Master’s stage, you face the robot master himself. As in other installments, certain bosses are weak against the weapon of another boss even though one could conceivably beat them with the Mega Buster, Mega man’s default blaster weapon. One interesting change this time around is that once Megaman beats the robot boss, he leaps to the center of the room and several energy orbs encircle him before they are absorbed into his body – the first time we see him ‘gaining’ the ability of his foe.

Upon completing the battles with all 8 bosses, the player would assume that they would be taken to Dr. Wiley’s castle but this is not the case. The four corners of the ‘boss grid’ are replaced with darkened images of robots replacing the portrait of the original robot master. When you select that stage, the fanfare screen that usually presents the picture of the robot master is replaced with an orange question mark. These stages are known as the ‘Dark Robot Master’ stages which are essentially harder versions of the original stages (Spark Man, Gemini Man, Needle Man and Shadow Man). At the halfway point and the end of these stages, you face a ‘Dark Robot Master’ which is basically a doppelganger robot that takes on the powers of the robot bosses from Megaman 2. The sprite of the old robot will float down into the body of the dark robot master and you will have to fight them as they were in MM2.

Once you vanquish all the Dark Robot Masters, the “Stage Select” screen changes again and now you see a picture of Protoman (Break Man) and you must face him again. The battle with Protoman is short lived and as usual, he runs away after a certain amount of damage is taken. FINALLY you are able to move on to Wiley’s castle. Just like the other games, you have to beat various challenges that are essentially harder versions of various robot masters stages and a range of weird bosses that must be vanquished. You have to face off against all the old Robot Masters from earlier in the standard ‘teleport tube’ room. You also have to face off against a weird three-copy Megaman clone. Finally, you face Wiley himself.

Dr. Wiley and the End Sequence

The fight with Wiley is much like many other fights with him. You first encounter a HUGE robot with a platform to climb and face. Once can guess by the symbol on the robot, this is Gamma which Dr. Light claimed was stolen. After you beat Gamma, Wiley’s UFO lands inside of Gamma’s body and you face a more powerful version of Wiley. After the battle is over, Wiley falls to the ground and appears to be begging for mercy. When you approach, however, his head pops off like a jack-in-the-box and you realize you have been duped. The stage ends and you have one more level of Wiley’s castle to beat before you face the real madman.

After another longish battle, Wiley finally gives up and throws himself on the floor to beg for mercy. This time it is legit. However, as you approach, giant debris fall on both Megaman and Wiley and you see a weird cloaked robot leap down and bust the blocks. The screen fades to black and Megaman wakes up to find himself in Dr. Light’s office. Dr. Light explains that Wiley’s castle was destroyed but nobody could find Megaman. Suddenly he appeared asleep at Light’s lab. I wonder who did this? I will give you two guesses but you will only need one.

At this point the credits roll in the now standard ‘asteroid belt’ fashion with a stripe in the middle of the screen as the various pen names of the MM3 creators are scrolling. Finally you reach the famous ‘Presented by Capcom’ screen and the credits are over. End Game.

Review

Megaman 3 is a fun game and is a solid addition to the Megaman lineup. Each of the robot masters is unique and different and their stages require some good finger punching skills. This is easily one of the hardest games in the series thus far and is also one of the longest in the history of the game. I found that many of the platforms and challenges felt overly hard and you literally were just panting for breath hoping you could get through to the next level without dying. There are several jumps that will not work unless you stand PERFECTLY before you go. There are some areas where you really can’t get around without your various Rush accessories and even then it can be very hard.

I did find, however, that if you were to use the Rush Jet frequently in the various platforms of death that you could pretty much avoid all trouble. I guess that is why the usage of this ability is highly limited. As a play test, I turned on the code to allow me to have unlimited use of the Rush jet and I found that the game became pitifully easy. Of course, once I tested this, I turned off the cheat and started various stages over. The mechanic of the Rush Jet can be great but can also be heavily abused. I also felt sad that you don’t use a majority of the weapons you acquire other than for one or two bosses. Even then, you only use a limited amount of abilities, most often the Shadow Star (from Shadow Man) and the Magnet Missiles (from Magnet Man).

I think that the introduction of Rush was a great way to unify the support items from the series but I wonder if it caused the game to become unbalanced. Throughout the rest of the Megaman series (up to Megaman X), Rush remains a very critical character even though the methods used to summon him change but to what end? I think Capcom tried their best to balance the challenges of the game with the unique usage of tools/items but sometimes it seems a little extreme – why can’t I find a different way to get through this one stage without using the Rush Marine? (for example). But all in all, the game’s challenge was well worth the effort.

In conclusion, Megaman 3 was definitely a turning point in the NES franchise and added several new features that were eventually added to the ‘recipe’ for the next 4 games. You will find the game quite challenging not only from a navigation perspective but also from a sheer volume of effort it will require to stick it out to the end. Unfortunately, the end is not uplifting enough to make up for the effort required but it will certainly be a badge of effort to run this one from start to conclusion.

 

Faxanadu – Dwarves Elves and Evil Oh My!

I told you all that I was digging into the barrel of NES games that I wanted to complete now that my JNES emulator is working. I just finished off another one of them last night. The platform-RP (picking up on a trend yet?) Faxanadu by Hudson Soft.

Story

Faxanadu centers around an unnamed hero who evidently did something great for the land of Faxanadu many years ago and then he just left and journeyed the world. Well, when the game starts, he has come back to his hometown to find that it is overrun by monsters and there is evidently a war going on between the elves and the dwarves (I think the hero is considered an Elf but you can’t tell). This guy is so well known that the King of the Elves calls him to his throne immediately. He tells the hero that the wells of life that keep the Elves alive have started to dry up and now all the dwarves have become monsters. Man! It’s a good thing the hero came home! Evidently there is some meteorite that fell from space and has corrupted the Dwarves and you have to fix it.

So as the adventure goes on, your hero travels throughout the world of Faxanadu setting right what is wrong. He must restore the water flowing to the wells of life and also figure out just what’s got the dwarves so mad. You adventure through a series of ‘towns’ where you gather information and items and then you travel to various towers (dungeons), the completion of which will either restore a fountain, provide a powerful item needed to restore order or simply give you more clues about what happened.

Game-play

Faxanadu is light years ahead of its time (common for HudsonSoft games) and features a great gameplay, an extensible item system, magic and weapons. The music is pretty good for an 8bit 1988 game. The world features several different environments and color palettes and a wide variety of interesting puzzles. One thing that REALLY jumped out to me is that the store owners you meet have FULL MOTION ‘portrait’ screens when you speak to them. The tools owner is a portly man with a beard who reminds me of Bill Dautrieve from King of the Hill whose mouth and belly moves as he talks. The key shop owner reminds me of Billy Idol and has a moving cigarette in his mouth. The ‘guru’ in each of the town’s churches looks like an elf from the Hobbit (sans ears of course) with curly hair and the meat salesman reminds me of an older Ned Flanders with a bald spot. At the time that this game was created, there were NO portraits that I can recall and certainly not portraits that moved as you talked.

Your hero can choose from a finite but useful set of actions. He can attack with his various swords (the looks of which actually changed based off the sword you have), he can cast one of 5 spells (you must buy these over time) by pushing the Up arrow and attack, and you can jump. Certain special items such as the keys have no visible change when equipped, you will either receive a messages that the door has a keyhole with the words “Jack” or “King” etc. above the keyhole or (if you have equipped the correct key) you will simply see a message that says “I used the key” and it is removed from your inventory. There are 5 different keys you can acquire through various means: The most common key is the Jack Key (listed as Key J in inventory), the Joker Key (listed as Key JO in inventory), the Queen Key (listed as Key Q), the King Key (listed as Key K) and the super-special Ace key (listed as Key A). Each door will only accept ONE key, you cannot use a higher ranking key (aka King Key to open a Jack door) on a lower ranking door and vice versa. You can acquire a J Key, Q Key, and K Key from the various key makers (different towns have different keys) but you can only acquire the Joker key and the Ace key from special people at certain points in the game.

Outside of these things, you basically jump, hack, blast (magic), and climb (ladders) your way around the game. You face enemies such as Duckmen, Death Angels, Hornets, Frogmen, Gladiators, and my personal favorite for messed up names – the Bone Demon Dog… yes… that is what he is called. Your character can collect golds (that’s actually what they are called) which he uses to buy armor, spells, potions, keys, etc. He also can collect ointments which will restore his HP and make him auto-heal for a brief period of time, he can collect a power glove that will make his attacks stronger for a short period of time, and a few other things. You can also purchase a unique item called the Wing Boots (I usually buy a few pair when I find them in a store) which will allow you to float around for a brief period of time and are required to use in one particular event in the game (flying to restore the water to the sky fountain). There are various rings you are given that allow you to enter certain doors and will also be required to speak to certain people.

As you progress, your hero can purchase stronger weapons and stronger magic and eventually acquire 3 pieces of magical equipment (The Battle suit, the Battle Helm and the Dragonslayer sword) which are required to beat the final boss. When you equip new armor or weapons, the character’s appearance changes accordingly which was rare in those days. You start out looking like some sort of Roman man in a toga and end up looking like a true knight. Once you have restored all the fountains and acquired the Battle Suit and Battle Helm, you must square off against the King Dwarf (who is later revealed to be named Grieve) who has hidden the Dragonslayer sword in his body to protect it from the Evil One. You defeat King Dwarf and receive the Dragonslayer and now you can pound on the Evil One.

So after getting a magic ring from the last guru, you enter the confusing, though relatively short, final dungeon. You make your way to the core of the Evil One’s palace and defeat him. Once he is defeated, the dwarves are no longer possessed and order is restored. What does the hero do now? Easy! He just leaves again after getting a gracious thank you from the King of the Elves. The hero is seen walking away from the Tree of Life and Faxanadu and the game ends.

Review

As I  mentioned earlier, Faxanadu was a game that was well ahead of its time. It did an amazing job at using the full graphic power of the 8-Bit NES system and its sound processor. The world is relatively lush for 8-bit and contains a wide variety of enemies and puzzles. If you haven’t understood how awesome it is to see a full character portrait when you speak to shop-keepers, let me remind you that this is NINTENDO, this is 1988. Sure, you might see a full screen graphic for the title screen of a game and maybe a fancy full screen for a major scene or the end sequence but that’s it. Faxanadu did it. Granted, the shopkeepers ALL look the same based on the shop they run but it’s’ still cool.

Much like Castlevania 2, the world of Faxanadu is relatively open. Granted, you will eventually be blocked by a door or other barricades at the end of certain areas but otherwise you can pretty much cruise around the world in no particular order. You could use the J key on a different door, for instance, and go to a different part of the game. Overall, you can explore a large part of the game map without any issue at all.

The fact that the game features in-game menus to allow you switch between different items, armor, and magic makes it more similar to an RPG than a platformer even though the battles always occur in real-time instead of turns. The equipment and spells, though limited, offer a great variety to the game play and make it easy to try multiple different ways to defeat a bad guy until you find the way that you prefer. The more enemies you beat, the gurus will provide you different titles which become more unique as the game progresses until you reach the class of “Champion” which can be considered as a character advancement (though it doesn’t actually impact play). Overall, the game features many RPG elements that became the staple of the genre even to modern day games.

All in all, Faxanadu is a fun game. It is well translated with virtually no “Engrish” found within the script. The story is a bit strange and leaves some to be desired in the motivational department but not enough to bore the player. The platforms and puzzles of the game are just challenging enough to require precision but not so much so that the games seems overly difficult. I found that the range of enemies was decent enough for a game of the era and the different environments are also interesting to the player. The game may not offer too much in replay value for high-end gamers or those seeking a mind bending challenge but for a retro gamer boy just wanting to relive the old world of games, it won’t disappoint.

Until next time, this is Retro Gamer Boy signing off!

 

Castlevania 2 – A Game Ahead of Its Time

One of the most prominent games in the Castlevania line of games is the famous “Symphony of the Night” for the Playstation. If you look at the original Castlevania game that started its life as an arcade game (which I easily spent hundreds of dollars in quarters playing in my hometown’s skating rink/arcade) and compare it to SOTN, you might say that you have no idea how the game progressed from here to there.  Believe it or not, it all started with the NES title Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest.

The Story

The premise of the game seems pretty simple. After Simon Belmont battled the famous Count Dracula at the end of the original game, he managed to beat Dracula but it left a curse on the land. Now, when night falls, people in the area become zombies and werewolves and all kinds of wonderfully nasty things. Simon decides that if he collects all of the pieces of Dracula (his rib, his heart, his eye, and his ring) and resurrects him, then kills him again, the curse will end. Sounds logical right? Well that’s what he does. Unlike the original game, this game takes place in a world that allows you to travel all over the ‘world’ to collect Dracula’s pieces. There is some logical order as you need certain things to get certain other things that will be needed to complete the game but otherwise the world is pretty open.

A game that features an ‘open world’ concept is pretty much standard fare for most modern games but back in 1988, such things were unheard of. The game also has a timer feature that makes the game fade from day to night and then back again – also rather rare in the time this game was created. If you take out those elements, the game plays very similar to the original games. You play Simon Belmont who looks mostly the same as he did in the original. You still have the Vampire Killer, the famous expanding whip of the Belmont clan even though you have to locate characters throughout the game to expand it (leather, chain, long chain, morning star and finally flame whip) instead of picking up power-ups. You still have the list of ‘thrown weapons’ which is familiar to the original and you still break through walls with the holy water as in the first game. A majority of the world is still in platforms as the game is famous for and many of the enemies remain there and are largely unchanged. However, it is at this point that the similarities end.

Trying New Things

The first new things one will find is the use of ‘towns’ which look just like regular levels (ripe with platforms and stairs) but with people and different music. You can find townspeople who will either lie to you or offer you very cryptic hints about the game (which may also be lies). You will find ‘cloaked men’ scattered around towns that will sell you items for ‘hearts’ (the same ones you use to fire your weapons). Often these guys will be hiding in buildings that appear empty until you drop some holy water on the floor and break through. Sometimes they will even appear in mansions (which are like the dungeons of the game but will be discussed later) and may not appear at all until you do a certain thing (such as dropping some garlic on the ground). They always sell you items that you must use to complete the game and sometimes they will offer you refills of perishable items such as laurels. The game also features colored crystals of varying degrees that do everything from open secret doors to create platforms in mansions that would otherwise make the stage impassible.

Another feature that is new are the ‘mansions’ which are essentially the dungeons of the game. The owners of these mansions must be creepy as they tend to hide pieces of Dracula in their mansions and hire monsters to guard them. I mean, really, would you just like to have Dracula’s eye chilling in a vase at your house? It would likely be a freaky conversation piece. So within these mansions, you basically hack and slash your way through countless monsters and occasionally a boss or two. Somewhere in the mansion is one of those cloak-covered merchants who will sell you an Oak Stake. You use this oak stake when you finally reach the blinking orb that contains the piece of Dracula in that mansion. Shatter the orb and take the part and move on. That’s what you do with each mansion.

The Final Boss

After you have completed all of the mansions in the game and have collected all pieces of Dracula, you can start the end game. In the end game portion, you will navigate to the ruins of Dracula’s castle (which is disturbingly close to the original starting city in the game). Despite the insanity of the mansions and the tendency for end game stages to be nightmarish, Dracula’s keep is actually quite short and has NO enemies. I am not kidding, you walk right in, go around a few platform mazes and there is the last room. Kind of anti-climatic if you ask me. Anyway, you will eventually make your way to a pedestal in the keep and the various parts of Dracula will fly off Simon and land in a torch base. The torch lights on fire and old Dracula appears and is ready to fight. Much like the stage that leads to him, Dracula’s battle is very anti-climatic. He basically flies around the room throwing boomerangs or ribs at you. If you hide in the bottom right corner of the screen he usually doesn’t hit you very much. When you land enough hits on the Prince of Darkness, he bursts into flames and disappears. Yay! You have won!

Endings

Now here is one of the other areas that is unique to this game and the series at this point – multiple endings. If you complete the game in 8 game days or less (remember the whole day and night thing based off time) you will receive the best ending. If you complete the game in 9-12 game days you get a slightly better ending. Lastly, if you take longer than that, you get the bad ending. In the ‘best’ ending (see my gallery for a screenshot), Simon is kneeling at Dracula’s grave and places a rose on it. The game tells you that the reign of terror is finally over and that peace has been restored. It also tells you that by some creepy magic, the blood and sweat of Simon on the earth will be turned into magic which can be used to defend Transylvania (eww!). After the screen cuts, you see the grave by itself and suddenly an earthquake happens and Dracula’s hand rises from the grave (did you really think they would end this cash cow that easily?). In the ‘okay’ ending, you see the same grave as before but no Simon. We are told that although Simon beat Dracula, he was mortally wounded and soon passes away and that soon enough Dracula will rise again and a new hero will be needed. The last ending tells you that the curse is not broken and now Simon is dead (Gee thanks! That’s reassuring).

Evaluation of the Game

All in all the game was miles ahead of its time and was pulled off quite well given the capability of the NES and the many new methods used in this game. Unfortunately there were some bad issues as well. One glaring thing I noticed is the presence of good Ol’ Engrish. When you shatter each orb to retrieve each Dracula relic, the screen prompts you “You now PROSESS Dracula’s… (insert part).” Prosess? Eh? I have no idea what that word means. Strangely, when you acquire other things such as the red crystal, the game tells you that you “Possess” that item. Looks like the right hand was not talking to the left at this studio. Also, one of the most infamous hints you receive in the game is “You can break a hole in Deborah’s cliff with your head.” What? Is that a sexual innuendo? Truth be told, what you actually do is use crystal at the base of the Debra Cliff to summon a whirlwind to carry you to another mansion. What on earth this has to do with a hole in the cliff I have NO idea. That also explains why few people figured out this trick without some sort of hint or FAQ.

Another common complaint is that the various people Simon encounters in towns (who are supposed to help him solve the riddles) were too cryptic and thus made the game more confusing. There is certainly some merit to that. When I first played this game, I clearly remember being confused constantly and never knowing what to do next (this was back before the internet and GameFAQs). I did call the Nintendo Power hotline a few times but that only served to get me past some of the easier (yet strange) puzzles such as the requirement of kneeling near a lake with a certain crystal to cause the map to scroll down and reveal a secret path to the next area. But I still couldn’t beat it. I finally rented a VHS tape that was the Nintendo Power walk through for Simon’s Quest until I finally found the way to beat the game. Nowadays I could probably find hundreds of guides and videos on YouTube and of course, GameFAQs but that was not the case in those days. You cannot imagine the excitement I had when I finally found Dracula and beat him.

So in summary, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest is an amazing game for the time and place in which it occurred. It essentially set the stage for many other open-world adventures including paving the way to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which included an open world, RP elements, many different endings based on performance of the player in the game, riddles and confusion to make the quest more difficult and so on. If you want to rack your brain for a bit in a fun and entertaining game of the NES era, definitely pick this one up!

Megaman 2 Is Still Awesome

Hello readers, I am sure that many of you get upset with my lack of updates to this blog. The truth is that I usually enjoy retro things but rarely give myself time to post about them. However, today is an exception. I am on a brief break before my final Master’s class in February and have been trying to fill it with awesome retro goodness. I dug way down into the retro barrel until I reached my NES games. The first one I picked up? Megaman 2.

Megaman 2 may be 25 years old and legally allowed to drink and smoke but it is still awesome. It was one of the defining moments in the platform genre and easily one of the first NES games after Mario Bros that I became inhumanly obsessed with. Although there is an original Megaman game, it does not have as many of the hallmarks that came with MM2. For instance, MM2 is the first MM game to feature 8 robot masters (the standard for the other games). It also was the first game to feature the ‘look’ of the main character that stayed with the series until it gave way to the Megaman X series. It also featured the use of specialized items that were not obtained from beating a robot master – the humorously vague Item-1, Item-2, and Item-3. In later installments of the game these items because more common and were eventually merged into the Megadog Rush. The original game did not have such items. It also introduced the amazing Energy tank (E Tank) that helped us all survive some of those crazy levels.

I re-played the game over the weekend and found that I still had almost a muscle memory of the levels, jumps and moves that I developed playing the game for 100s of hours as a kid. I still cringed as I ran away from the giant flying dragon that you face during the first level of Wiley’s castle, yelled loudly when I missed a jump by a half of a nanometer and hearing the famous (bloop bloop bloop) noise and rippling circles, and so on. This allowed me to come to the conclusion that even 25 years after it was made, Mega Man 2 is still awesome.

I also want to take a moment to note the awesomeness that is the latest installment of JNES, my flagship emulator. I had been using the 0.82 version for many years but due to some annoying graphical glitches in MM2, I downloaded the 1.1 version. It has a few issues ‘remembering’ some of my settings but it is much more stable than the other version. Also – Game Genie codes are hard coded into the system now. Granted, I only use those codes if I am trying to speed-run something or test a weird hypothesis but rather than digging around on the internet (GameFAQs appears to have discontinued posting Game Genie codes) for hours to find what might not even work in the game, you simply click on the Cheats tab and it will display the list of codes for the specific game you are playing and you simply check or un-check the cheat you wish to use and the gameplay is changed accordingly. How awesome is that?

It only took me about 5 hours of hard playing to get through the MM2 game in its entirety. I failed jumps frequently in the beginning but as my muscle memory warmed back up I noticed that my ability to plan my jumps and motions increased exponentially. Sure, the 8-bit sound effects are deafening even at low volume in high-def headphones and the graphics are nothing compared to even the visual effects on an older cellphone but the challenge and the joy was still there.

I have an extensive library of old school games on the NES that I now wish to play since the graphic glitches appear to have vanished in this JNES install and hope to knock out a few prior to starting my final class. I am certain that I won’t be able to get to all of them but here are a few that I plan to get through:

1. Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest
2. Wizards and Warriors 3: Kuros’ Visions of Power
3. Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link
4. Adventures of Lolo

That’s all for now but perhaps more will follow. This is the RetroGamerBoy saying “Your Princess is in another castle.”

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!