Sunday, March 29, 2015

Level Up: Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

… How to you even talk about a game like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest? I don’t mean that in an “I’m offended by it, don’t bring it up” way, I mean what can you actually? See, for those of you not in the know, Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is a game that was designed with the intention to be an easy RPG for the US market that wasn’t too embracing of RPGs at first(this isn’t even a guess: it’s called Final Fantasy USA in Japan). For this reason, this review might be about the things that AREN’T in this game over the things that are in it. Here is Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest for the Super Nintendo.
The game starts off with Benjamin- your pretty bland main character- climbing up a hill. He meets the standard wise old man who tells him about an impending disaster and what he can do to stop it. Benjamin accepts this role and goes off to save the world by finding 4 stones in the sections of (and I kid you not)- Foresta, Aquaria, FIREburg and WINDIA (they weren’t even trying for the last 2).
This story couldn’t be more generic if it was trying. The Crystals, the “Earth, Wind, Water, Fire” elements, having to save the world… It’s pretty much the default RPG story. That being said, there are a couple of things that’s kind of neat. First off, you’ll notice that I said Benjamin “accepts” his role. It’s cool that he isn’t a chosen one for a change, just someone who decided he would help out (it still isn’t the first time this happened though). Also, you only get 1 partner at a time, so the story has to compensate for this and give the characters a reason to leave and come back later on (which is cool that they do that too). It’s not anything deep, but it fleshes them out a bit more. At least more so than our boring hero…
While the story of this game is paper thin, that can be forgiven because its default for a reason (so many other games have done it). However, the basic game play can’t be, as by this point the concept of improving on the basic battle system was set. Here’s where I really talk about what’s missing from the game: you only ever have one partner, your armour is automatically equipped and you can’t sell them, spells are found instead of learned and there is no free roaming on the world map. That last one might especially damning to the game, because being linear is not a good thing for RPGs. If you want to explore, you’ll have to do that in the towns or in the dungeons.
However, this was all to guide the player along (this is an introduction RPG after all). What I really miss though are random battles. Remember I had said in Dragon Warrior that I like level grinding? That’s nearly impossible to do here.  In the dungeon areas, you see all the enemies you have to fight and they will stay still until YOU decide to fight them. The ones you can skip clearly outweigh the ones you need to fight. Level grinding is still possible… but in battle stations over the world map. They really make the fights become tedious, so I guess it works out that they’re so easy to avoid.
So you might think I believe this game to be boring…. But you’d be wrong. There is one thing that this game got so incredibly right that makes it worth it. Yeah, that’s right, I like Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest and I over look all its flaws because of the exploration. Unlike most top down RPG heroes, Benjamin can jump, and this is a mechanic that is used rather well for certain puzzles in a way that reminds me a bit of StarTropics, but less action and more cerebral. Beyond the jumping, you also have you weapons that are used as tools that will let you climb up walls or cut a path through trees (like a simple Legend of Zelda). It actually reminds me of the Paper Mario games, which is also an easy RPG that people enjoy.
It’s an unpopular opinion of mine that Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is actually as pretty good game, and for one big reason: it did its job. If this game was meant to ease people into playing more RPGs by providing a simple jumping off point, than I’d say that’s exactly what this is. It trims the fat off more complicated games of the genre so that you can pick up another one and easily build off what you already know. But in the discussion of what Mystic Quest doesn’t do, what it does do is over looked, and I think the puzzles and weapons gimmick is great. The music is rocking too and the graphics are fine (I like how the enemies show damage as you beat them). Granted it is hard to recommend this game now a days, as the fighting is boring, the plot almost not there and things are way more complex now,  but it really does have a very simplistic charm about it. It’s too light hearted for me to criticize harshly. I give Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest 7 levels out of 10.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Level Up: Back to the Future the Game

2015 is here! Hoverboards, flying cards and craaaaazy fashions! Hahaha-uuuuuggggghhhh. As a Back to the Future fan, I was tired of those jokes even before 2015. That being said, I do appreciate the reminder that one of my favorite movies is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. But when looking at video games based on McFly’s adventures in time, it sucks to say the one that gets the most attention is the LJN disaster. There’s one that I think deserves more attention: Back to the Future The Game available for the PS3, OSX and iOS, but I’ll be playing it on the Nintendo Wii and PC.
Back to the Future the Game is a point and click title. This should come as no surprise as this game is developed and published by Telltale games (who you might know from the Walking Dead game or the Wolf Among Us). The basic game is clicking around to interact with objects in order to reach certain goals. Some of it might be obvious while sometimes it requires some lateral thinking. Unlike The Cave, this style involves a lot more thinking and figuring out, and a lot less doing. I could see why people into more action based games would find this boring, but alternatively I can see people who aren’t into regular video games but enjoy puzzles more likely to play this.
But how does this game handle its puzzles? For the most part, they are straightforward, but there are times where you have to use an item that hasn’t come up in a while (so you’re not thinking about it). Luckily, this game has a hint system, so you’re not left on your own for those situations. However, there are also times that you’ll need to interact with small, hard to see objects. I have clear memories of being frustrated by them and had to look up where exactly I had to click (the Wii-mote pointing control didn’t help). I have to mention that this game comes after Telltale Game’s Tales of Monkey Island, which had an option to highlight all the objects you can interact with.
And there’s often a lot you can interact with, not just objects for the story. You can inspect things and talk to people that really serve no purpose other than maybe provide a red herring. Your gameplay time might significantly increase from wanting to see every option, but you sometimes just get one shot. I guess this was made so that it feels like your choices make a difference, but this is handled poorly, as McFly often spouts a combination of all choices or gets interrupted before saying it. This is one thing the Walking Dead game did much better. It is cool that your name choice is remembered though.
The story of Back to the Future the Game is really where its appeal comes from for BTTF fans. Taking place the year following the 3rd movie (well, in terms of where Marty is now, you know, due to that whole time travel thing), Doc Brown has been gone for some time and the state is selling off his estate. A disappointed Marty is trying to convince someone to stop it, when the Delorean appears. Einstein comes out, but the only clue to the Doc’s location is a recording he left explaining that he set the Delorean to go to that time automatically if he can’t get to it for whatever reason. After a bit of puzzle solving, you find that you have to travel back to Hill Valley in 1931 (full swing of the prohibition era).
That is all I want to share of the plot, and it really is the tip of the iceberg for the full game. What I have described is just the start of the first episode, and there are 5. The story takes so many twists and turns with its plot that I don’t want to spoil it in any way. Of course, along with all the new stories this game has to share, there are also old characters and recurring story elements that are recognizable for most fans and a joy to see implemented in this game.
To be perfectly honest, Back to the Future the Game is not a game that I enjoy because of the game play. Don’t get me wrong, it can work to get you invested in needing to see what happens next, and figuring out a puzzle can give you a rewarding feeling even if they aren’t the most challenging ever. But the true allure of this game is the plot. This is one of those licensed games where you can tell the makers really cared about the source material. This is shown with certain references and moments that would make most fans really appreciate that it wasn’t over looked. Along with that, I think that the 1931 setting for most of the game was a brilliant idea, the story structure is solid and the twist and turns over 5 episodes surprisingly don’t get old. This game is of course worthwhile for fans of point and click games, but even more so, even the most casual fans of Back to the Future should enjoy this. I give Back to the Future the Game for the Wii and PC 9 levels out of 10.