Archive for the ‘Traditional RPG Reviews’ Category.

Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection — Staff Review

Final Fantasy is a series well known for its ports and remakes, but out of the series, one game stands above them all as one of the most frequently remade games of all time.  Final Fantasy IV has seen six iterations over the years appearing on the SNES, PlayStation, WonderSwan Color, GameBoy Advance, the Nintendo DS, and finally the PSP as Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection.  Along with an updated Final Fantasy IV, players will also get Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and a new mini-story titled Final Fantasy IV: Interlude which helps slightly to tie the two main games together.  It’s a lot of game in a very small package, so the question becomes is there still life in Final Fantasy IV? Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection — Staff Review’ »

Dragon Age 2 – Staff Review

As if following up on Mass Effect wasn’t enough, BioWare had a major challenge in the sequel to Dragon Age: Origins. Despite its flaws, Origins boasted a malleable plot and fantastic characters, and much the same can be said of Dragon Age 2. Discarding the procedural fantasy epic for a more personal story, DA2 speeds up the action even as it paces itself on the narrative. It’s not always a healthy mix, as questionable choices intrude on and sometimes undermine serious developments, but the game easily succeeds in making this new direction fun and engaging. Whether its surpasses its predecessor, however, is far less cut-and-dry. Continue reading ‘Dragon Age 2 – Staff Review’ »

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation – Staff Review

Dragon Quest is one of the biggest franchises in Japan, but it took much longer to catch on in North America. Americans did get access to the first four games, but after that, the series went into relative obscurity. We completely missed Dragon Quest V and VI. Were Dragon Quest games like largely unconnected Final Fantasy series, this would not be as big of a deal, but the Dragon Quest series is known for trilogies. The middle three games form what is known as the Zenithian trilogy, all telling a loosely connected tale about sacred equipment and the heroes that can use it. Despite coming third, Dragon Quest VI actually predates the others in the timeline and helps explain the origin of the myths that play such a central role in the set.

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Pokemon Black and White – Staff Review

From Pokemon Gold and Silver onward, each new generation of Pokemon has improved on the basic formula of the series, refining the execution bit by bit. Pokemon Black and White continue follow this tradition, although the improvements are nowhere near as huge as the shift between the GBA games and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. Primarily a shift in interface and presentation, the core mechanics of the Pokemon series continue largely untouched from the previous cycle of Pokemon games, while the series’s habitually scattershot interface and connectivity receive the lion’s share of attention. Overall, it’s not quite the geological shift of Diamond and Pearl, but changes Pokemon Black and White introduce have been a long time coming, and they are most welcome. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Black and White – Staff Review’ »

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn – Staff Review

I’d like to start this review with a simple promise: I will not make a single solar pun or reference. It’s just too easy to make comments like that, and I’m sure that most other reviewers have fallen right into that trap. After a while, it’s just tiring. So, here it is, a straightforward review of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.

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Eschalon: Book II – Staff Review

“More of the same” is only a bad thing if same was bad the first time around. Consider Eschalon: Book II, the next entry in Basilisk’s classic-styled roleplaying series. Functionally identical to Book I, it boasts a few new hooks but overall just expands and refines the content: same engine, same gameplay, same ground rules. That basically means every other paragraph of this review will start with words like “As in Book I” and such. Fortunately, more of Eschalon – a challenging, intelligent, and versatile RPG by any measure – is most definitely a good thing. Continue reading ‘Eschalon: Book II – Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light – Staff Review

Perhaps related to the success of Matrix Software’s DS remakes of Final Fantasy 3 and 4, Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light is a stand-alone Final Fantasy game deeply ingrained in the old school tradition. Unfortunately, the developer seems to have taken all the wrong lessons from the old school. Four Heroes of Light does push for overall simplicity of design, and that does capture something of the spirit of older RPGs, but it also features an obtuse interface, inconsistent difficulty, and direction so vague that it borders on the incomprehensible. Four Heroes of Light does do some things right — the class system is interesting, if a bit basic, and the game’s visuals are exceptional — but the game is unfriendly on a basic level and doesn’t offer the player much reward for getting past that. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy: Four Heroes of Light – Staff Review’ »

Pokémon Black Version – Staff Import Review

Two people could look at this game and come to entirely different conclusions. One could say that it’s the fifth verse, same as the first, another 160some pokémon and a whole lot worse. Another could say that the differences, though subtle, mix things up in ways that haven’t been seen in the series’ 15-year history. It’s a matter of how closely you’re looking. Continue reading ‘Pokémon Black Version – Staff Import Review’ »

Eschalon: Book I – Staff Review

Modern role-playing games have come a long way, delivering bigger worlds, shinier graphics, and – sometimes – better acting and writing.  Yet ask any old-school RPG fan and they’ll tell you some things just can’t be done with fully voiced characters and state-of-the-art visuals.  Illustrating the point is Eschalon: Book I, the debut title from Basilisk Games and first in a planned three-part series.  With thematic roots in series like Wizardry and Ultima, Eschalon is at once a nostalgia trip and a smart, atmospheric standalone adventure, provided you’re up to the challenge it poses. Continue reading ‘Eschalon: Book I – Staff Review’ »

Anachronox – Staff Retroview

Strip away the sci-fi veneer of futuristic settings and you’ll often find traditional stories buried underneath. Ion Storm’s Anachronox is little different, building its planet-hopping adventure on the back of a washed-up detective story set in a weird, wild future. Burdened by buggy gameplay that had problems when it was released, it nonetheless stands out even amongst modern titles. With skilled story direction and a few unique twists on the formula, Anachronox boasts more character and ingenuity in the first hour than most entire games manage. It’s just a shame the game insists on getting in the way. Continue reading ‘Anachronox – Staff Retroview’ »

Persona 3 Portable – Staff Review

Following the port-heavy schedule for the PSP, Persona 3 Portable builds on what was already a great game, adding new features, more combat options, and a huge whack of new plot in the form of new Social Links. Unfortunately, not all the alterations really work, as there has been some excessive tinkering with the game’s balance, and the technical limitations of the handheld platform have resulted in an oversimplified interface that causes some serious issues with suspension of disbelief. The end result is a game which feels a bit overworked, but has the potential to provide an excellent experience. Continue reading ‘Persona 3 Portable – Staff Review’ »

Resonance of Fate – Staff Review

Far in the future, the world has decayed. Toxins have poisoned the air and water, and the Earth’s axis has warped. Unable to adapt to these changes, humans were slowly dying out as a species. Those lucky enough to survive created Basel, a giant machine beneath the earth designed to repair the environment, while also doubling as the only area able to sustain human life. It is here that Resonance of Fate takes place.

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Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening – Staff Review

What often separates a good adventure from a classic one is whether it leaves you immediately wanting more. So it is with last year’s Dragon Age: Origins, a game sometimes hampered by technical and balance problems but broadly acclaimed for its storytelling and depth of character. The first proper expansion for the game, Awakening is at once familiar territory and new ground, taking established lore and mechanics from Origins and making smart additions to both. Small but recurring issues keep Awakening from ever quite stepping out of Origins‘ shadow, but it takes a lot less time to do much of what Origins did right. Continue reading ‘Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening – Staff Review’ »

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey – Staff Review

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, the most recent addition to the rather scant roll of the series’ mainline continuity, is a game with significance for the series as a whole. As the central pillar of the Shin Megami Tensei series, the mainline entries have always been fairly old school dungeon crawling affairs, considerably darker than the numerous side stories that have spun off of them. It has been a major point of curiosity to see which direction Atlus would take the series: outward into the younger, more upbeat world of spinoffs such as Persona and Devil Survivor, or back inwards, towards the darker, more chaotic entries of the early series. Interestingly, Strange Journey seems content to pick its own path, taking to heart many of the upgrades the series has seen in interaction and depth of character, while maintaining the disturbing, often sharply critical edge the older Shin Megami Tensei games had. The end result doesn’t quite have the same bite as Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, but Strange Journey‘s excellent story, solid character customization scheme, and exceptional dungeon design mark it as an excellent game in its own right. Continue reading ‘Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey – Staff Review’ »

Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Review

Since its announcement in 2006, fans of the series have eagerly anticipated Final Fantasy XIII. It was arguably one of the biggest stories to come out of E3 that year, and considering all of the announcements that year, that’s saying something.  And then in 2008, Microsoft finally dropped the bombshell that people had been expecting for years; Final Fantasy XIII was coming to PS3 and 360.  The net result has been four years of almost nonstop hype, which made the wait for the game all the longer.  So now, the question remains; was it worth the wait?  I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that it was. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Review’ »

Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver – Staff Review

Over the years there have been signs and portents of a remake of Pokemon Gold and Silver, fan favorites in the series due to its sheer size and the fact that it was the first game to expand the Pokemon universe beyond the confines of the Kanto region. The final result, Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver, is every bit as fully featured and chock-full of Pokemon goodness as the originals, but unfortunately, they also carry over some of the less desireable quirks of Gold and Silver. Most serious of these are bothersome balance issues, and a plot which is flat even by Pokemon standards. On the whole, HG/SS isn’t a bad game, and makes some definite strides in the areas of sound and visuals, but it probably won’t be of much interest to anyone but fans of the series. Continue reading ‘Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver – Staff Review’ »

Staff Import Review – Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey

It’s the early 21st century, and Atlus has finally deemed the time right to roll out a sequel to their cult classic RPG Shin Megami Tensei: NocturneShin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. Is it worth the six year wait? Short answer: yes. Long answer: read on…

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Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Import Review

Final Fantasy XIII has been a long time coming, and there’s little doubt that some people are going in with certain expectations. The fact that it’s also the first main series Final Fantasy game for the current generation likely only adds to this. To the extent that it’s possible, one has to put that aside and focus on the game for what it is rather than thinking about the rest of the series. Final Fantasy XIII is rather unlike anything else in the series anyway. Of course, it certainly has its fair share of staples such as chocobos, cactuars, and tonberries in the game, but the gameplay emphasis is very different. Exploration is all but ignored for the most part, and dungeons are the game’s clear focus. Towns are almost non-existent and functionally replaced by shops that can be accessed from save points while inns are rendered obsolete by auto-healing. Bits of story are delivered at very specific intervals, and the pace is carefully controlled to a large degree by a number of design decisions such as most dungeons being purposely linear. Continue reading ‘Final Fantasy XIII – Staff Import Review’ »

Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – Staff Review

Fourteen years ago, developer tri-Ace released Star Ocean for the Super Famicom. Touting “Space is an ocean of stars” as a tagline, it achieved a cult following among RPG fans and put the dev on the map. Many years, several releases and ports later, we arrive at a re-release of the fourth installment, Star Ocean: The Last Hope International, which delivers an experience largely in line with the rest of the series. Continue reading ‘Star Ocean: The Last Hope International – Staff Review’ »

Glory of Heracles – Staff Review

Over the course of the last decade or so, North America has seen a remarkable influx of games and series which, in the past, had been exclusive to the east. From Shin Megami Tensei to Fire Emblem, the widening acceptance of gaming in general has allowed for a much broader cross-section of Japanese gaming to be seen on our shores. However, there still remain a number of long running series which have yet to make the jump across the pond. Glory of Heracles, whose first game was released in 1987, is one of these, and although the game contains many elements that are carried over from earlier entries in the series, the fact that this is the series’s first international release works strongly in its favor. Continue reading ‘Glory of Heracles – Staff Review’ »