Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Final Fantasy — 20th Anniversary Edition (2007)

Genre: RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Tose

The first game in this (what came to be) ironically titled series is without question the most basic console RPG experience I’ve ever encountered. Yes, I do believe Mystic Quest is more complex than this is, in any of its iterations. Explore, talk to townsfolk, buy items, exchange items, fight baddies, and grind. That’s it. It’s quaint, almost painfully so.

You’re free to make a party of four, from six classes (Warrior, Thief, Monk, White Mage, Black Mage, Red Mage) and name them after you and your friends or other characters (oh hai Vivi~). The grinding could be considered severe depending on your history and personal tolerances, but it is structured to match the regimented story, at the very least. Gain ten levels to be comfortable in the introductory dungeon and ten more for each subsequent. Level 60 is where you’ll want to be for a winnable final encounter that will still elicit slight fears of failure.

In the original NES release, a pointedly dated/annoying mechanic was the system’s inability to automatically switch your aim to another enemy if the one you originally targeted was defeated by another party member. It’s been fixed in every other version, but it’s not a ‘smart’ system and you’ll still want to be careful about your assignments as you’ll often find your warrior suddenly attacking a smaller enemy that your mages could have taken out either alone, or in tandem, to save you a round of combat.

That’s another thinly veiled tip. Bring more than one mage if you aren’t doing a challenge run, of which there are MANY flavors. Of course, I have to admit that outside of those popular challenges and nostalgia for its own sake, there is NO reason to play this game, today. If you want to experience a standard, classic Final Fantasy, play IV or VI.

This version contains all of the bonus dungeons from the GBA version as well as an exclusive that utilizes a mechanic similar to VIII’s endgame. You’ll be repeatedly handicapping yourself in order to progress. For me, getting extra gear and fighting bosses from the later games is silly, but it’s extra content if you want it.

If you have a PSP and are absolutely sure you want to play it, this IS the version I recommend. All PSP owners need more games and it’s bright, crisp, colorful, and in widescreen here. Win.

Buyer’s Guide: Here we go. /takes deep breath: NES, MSX2 (what?), WonderSwan Color, Playstation (as part of FF Origins, in the west), GBA (as part of Dawn of Souls with II—fuck you II, die in a hole), iOS, PSP, Windows Phone, Android, Wii and Wii U Virtual Console, 3DS eshop, and the NES mini.

3 Parts of Neg Still Love To Name Nameless Characters out of 5

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (1988)

Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG | Players: 1 | Developer: Nintendo R&D4

I respect franchises that are brave enough to change much of their formula, especially early on. Accordingly, Zelda II’s change to a side-scrolling POV for interiors, random enemy encounters, and hidden overworld areas is not something I classify as a problem. It’s a decision; one that I have no qualms with, in a vacuum. The same is true for the brutal difficulty. There are magic drops in carefully doled out supply that will make progression exceedingly possible, if not delectably care-free.

There are RPG elements in play and while you are welcome to grind your heart out there are measures in place to facilitate a relatively swift adventure. You’ll be given a free level-up for completing each temple. If you use the experience-heavy enemies inside them to level just prior to placing the jewel at the end, you’ll be able to make the most out of this boon.

Regardless of my tolerance for these changes, there is a major problem: those very temples. Much like the original Metroid, there is a sameness to each area. Colors change from place to place, but within each temple it’s the same, from the floors to the walls to the bots drop from….the ceilings…The dungeons in the first game are equally guilty, but being presented top-down with a map system forewent the left-right, up-down experimentation necessary to complete these temples. “I went left last time, but I didn’t go up and then right at that elevator I found when I did, right?” is a conversation no one should have to have with themselves. EVER.

As tedious as one of the main focuses of the series is here, there are a few positives: Ocarina’s sages find their origin in the town names of this version of Hyrule. It’s Error and Bagu’s 'hood, yo. Yet most importantly, to me, is the music. There’s something about the tone that makes it haunting, perched on the precipice of madness. I love it. It should also be noted that a New Game+ exists that allows you to keep your levels and spells.

I can’t in good conscience implore anyone to play this in any serious capacity. If someone you know has it, give it a few minutes. Completing the first temple gives a representative enough feel of the experience.

Buyer’s Guide: Originally an NES game, it’s been ported to the GameCube (on the Zelda Collector’s Edition), the GBA, and every version of the Virtual Console currently in existence. It has also been included on the NES mini.

2 Sides of Yourself Enter, One Leaves out of 5

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (2000)

Genre: Action, Adventure | Players: 1 | Developer: Nintendo EAD

As with Zelda II before, Nintendo saw fit to make their second N64 console entry radically different from its predecessor. Virtually all of Ocarina’s assets are present, but they are turned on their head to create as new an experience as this franchise has ever mustered. Most importantly, the characters—and some NPCs who were originally not much more than character models—are given entirely new roles. It is the exact methodology exhibited in Stephen King’s Desperation and The Regulators (1996, both), with equally effective results.

Young Link is put in a position where he has the option to help as few or as many of these unfortunate souls as you deem fit. Gameplay revolves around a three day cycle that can be reset at will once the Song of Time is recalled. Link gets to keep the items, heart pieces and masks that he earns in each cycle, but the characters' memories and all events reset along with the time. This leads to repetition, but it is thought-driven, unlike the mindless variety I personally find to be in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. To further aid in this, people’s schedules are automatically recorded in a notebook the moment they open up to you with their problems.

The above mentioned masks have grown from a side-quest in Ocarina to being the main focus here. A few are transformative in nature, granting new powers. Others function in more limited ways or aid entry into the four dungeons, the process of which is now, also puzzle-driven in nature.

Frankly, there are aspects of MM that made my soul sing and others that I absolutely fucking loathed. I had problems solving certain things on my own, but when I retroactively looked at each case, I had to admit that the game indeed provided the means to resolve those issues. At a different time in my life, I probably would have been more patient and capable of doing everything independently.

In the end, this is the kind of game that teaches you things about yourself and life in general, if you’re willing to listen: when to ask for and provide help, when to accept things, and when things just have to be let go. I can’t claim to prefer it to Ocarina, though I can absolutely respect those who do because they are as equal as they are unique from one another.

Buyer’s Guide: It is of utmost importance to know that if you want the original 64 cart you’ll also need to procure an expansion pack as it is one of the few games that require it. It’s also available in the LoZ Collector’s Edition on the Game Cube and on the virtual console. The 3DS remake will be available the month of this writing (February 2015).

4½ Distraught Goatse Shields out of 5