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#JRPGJuly - Week One Update



Welcome to RPGamer's Week One update! The staff have been hard at work playing some JRPGs (some even finishing games, may I add). Here's a look at what progress has been made by each of the staff members participating.


Sam "Nyx" Wachter:

Okage: the Shadow King was a game I missed out on back when it released in 2001. It also happened to be a game my dear friend Becky "Ocelot" Cunningham had shared with me as one she had some fond memories of. I am really happy with my selection, as five hours in, I've already had some great laughs. Stan is a delight and his priorities for how to deal with the other "Evil Kings" is just utterly special in my books. 

Despite working all the shifts at the library, I've been trying to make at least an hour a day for Okage. Weirdly though, the first three chapters of the game are surprisingly short! After five hours I am knee deep in Chapter 4 and I am searching for cards in Madril. I realize there's a large complaint against this game that it's grindy, and oddly I am not midning it too much right now. I'm sure that is bound to change though. I hope to make some progress next week when I have a few days off. We shall see how things shape up!

I also may have had to start The Banner Saga 2 this week for review purposes, which has postponed more Okage time. I need more hours in the day, I swear.

Pascal "SquigglyLeo" Tekaia:

Fairy Fencer F is not my usual style of RPG. Not being familiar with the original release on PS3 a few years back, I was really just keeping my fingers crossed that battle system would be turn-based. As it turns out, it is. I was happy. But the remainder of the time is where I'm entering new territory. When not in dungeons, the name of the game is advancing through automatic conversations to move the story along. It seems like there's very little player agency; I can't explore, go where I like, or do what I want. Even a good portion of the dialog is with random townspeople, and doesn't seem to have any importance.

So the game is a little flat in terms of gameplay, with the exception of combat. The battle system is full of options, so many in fact that I think they may have overshot the mark just a little. But I'll save some of that for the review that's coming.

So far, I'm about twelve or so hours in. My party has just expanded to six Fencers. From the very first scene, the aim has always been to collect all one hundred Furies, mythical swords scattered around the land. Apparently, that's what Fencers are: people with special abilities who chase down and collect Furies. Each Fencer also has a Fairy companion that resides in his or her own Fury. So, Fairy Fencer, makes sense.

For the first ten hours, the flow of the game was very formulaic: go to a new dungeon, defeat the boss at the end, collect the Fury. But I've just passed the point in the story that introduces a new wrinkle into the routine: instead of collecting yet another Fury, the last dungeon housed an item known as the Faith Drop, which is an item needed to revive the Goddess, the benevolent deity that's sure to bring peace to the land. Hopefully this event heralds more diverse gameplay from this point on, as the grind was really starting to get to me.

Oh, and surprisingly, even though some of the girls' designs are highly sexualized (as is the conversation, at times), the number of panty shots has been kept to a pretty bare minimum so far.

Kelley "redrock963" Ryan:

The Wild ARMs series has a special place in my heart. The first game in the series was one of the first RPGs I played on the PlayStation, and is the game that actually got me into anime thanks to the cut scene. I’ve stuck with the series and its sequels throughout the years. For some reason or another, I never finished Wild Arms 5. It came out at a time when newer, shinier games were out, and 5 simply slipped under my radar. I am rectifying this glaring omission from the series this #JRPGJuly.

Part of my regret for not finishing this game, is its hook. I feel Wild Arms 5 has the most interesting hook I’ve ever seen in an RPG. The central story revolves around a golem hand falling out of the sky holding a girl. The second I read about this hook, I wanted to play more of this game to see where it was going to go.

Thus far, I have only went through two dungeons (it's been a busy week). I did not realize how expansive the dungeons in this game were. The beginning dungeons in the game have lots of nooks and crannies to explore, just like the first game in the series, you can break pots for items and track down treasure chests. They also contain the same Zelda-like environmental puzzles as the predecessors in the series.

The battle system also has a more tactical approach compared to most conventional turn based RPGs. Battles take place on a large field with hexes. You can take turns moving on different hexes, and many characters or enemies can occupy the same hex. Different hexes can also have elemental properties to help protect you from damage, or cause more damage. This hex placed system means that character placement is vital to the flow of a battle. If you have too many characters in the same hex, they could get wiped out with an Area of Effect attack. If you’re too spread out, you might not get to a character in time to heal them. Battles feel like they matter because of this system, and make you feel like part of the action.

I can’t wait to see more of what this game has to offer.

Nathan "TwinBahamut" Schlothan:

As a long-time fan of the SaGa series, I naturally picked up Romancing SaGa 2 pretty soon after its long-awaited English release on iOS, and since then I've been playing it a fair bit. It's my first time playing through it, so naturally this is a blind run, which given my history with the series means it will probably end very badly for me sometime in the near future. So far, though, it has been a lot of fun.

I've put ten hours into the game, and just finished putting together my third generation party together. Can't say I've played many RPGs which have had more than 200 years of history telling the story of multiple generations of adventuring heroes take place in less than ten hours of gameplay, but that is how it has been so far. I've already defeated the evil Kzinssle, conquered several provinces, recruited a gang of thieves, averted civil war in an allied country, restored the honor of a band of martial artists, and made a peace agreement with a band of pirates. I love the pacing of this so far, and judging by the size of the game map I've still got a lot more ahead of me.

This week's list of other RPG distractions includes Final Fantasy XIV, God Eater Resurrection, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, and the Final Fantasy XV Platinum Demo. I finally got a PS4 about a week ago, so I've been trying some random new things.

Robert "lolwhoops" Sinclair & Cassandra "Strawberry Eggs" Ramos:

RS: I've been mostly playing Bravely Second this last week. I'm chasing the skyhold all over the place, but taking a break to choose sides between a shifty merchant or an angry healer to get a new asterisk. Surprisingly, as much as I hated him in Bravely Default, I'm on the merchant's side here. Go figure.

I've also played a small bit of Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE too. I just cleared the first dungeon after taking down a really annoying announcer. I like the battles so far, and I haven't gotten far enough to judge the story, but the lack of English subtitles for bits of dialogue is annoying. All the stuff being said during battles means nothing to me and there's a scene with someone riding on a motorcycle saying a bunch of stuff and not a word of it was translated for me to understand. I really hope it stops bothering me as I play it more.

CR:  I've had it repeatedly recommended to me to play the Bravely Second demo before starting on the game proper. I found this surprising since the demo for Bravely Default consisted of a series of fetch quests and it gave an unfair impression of the whole game. I started the demo during the last week of June and I am very glad that I heeded everyone's advice. The demo has a simple story: the Three Cavaliers of the Crystalguard are sent to the city of Al-Kampis to investigate some odd goings-on. Though the demo doesn't seem play a large role in the full game, it does tie in story-wise and serves as an extended prologue to the game. More importantly, there is a lot of amusing and engaging interaction among the characters. Within the eight-to-nine hours I spent on the demo, I got to really like Magnolia, Yew, Janne and Nikolai. The gameplay overview the demo provided was neat as well, though things are largely unchanged from Bravely Default. Chaining encounters for greater rewards is fun, and I like the changes to the Bestiary. Now for every certain number of times an enemy is defeated, some more information about it filled in. The character also comment and exchange banter in the pages of Yew's Diary. 

While the voice acting is great in the demo, for some reason, the voices of the female characters sound tinny. Also, the Swordmaster Kamiizumi is voiced by someone other than Liam O'Brien, but only in the demo. Liam reprises his role in Bravely Second proper. I would think both the demo and the full game would be dubbed at the same time. It's not a huge deal, of course. Actually, I've noticed a marked improvement in the voice direction, and I'm glad to see that it has carried over to the full game. Bravely Default had an all-star English voice acting cast, but it seemed the voice director could have done better, as line delivery was sometimes off. Agnes especially came out awkward in the first game, and she's improved noticeably in this game. Michael Sinterniklaas absolutely kills it as Yew. He really nails the boy's enthusiasm, rashness, and occasional cowardice. 

Once I finished the demo, I began Bravely Second: End Layer itself. It of course starts with a comprehensive and very spoilery recap of the story of Bravely Default. I can't emphasize enough?unless you really don't care about spoilers to begin with the first game. Some of the revelations of that game still blow my mind. Anyway, this game wastes no time in having Kaier Oblivion storm in, wipe out several powerful characters, and kidnap Agnes. Yew charges ahead with rescuing the new Pope without anything resembling a plan, but fortunately Nikolai and Janne have his back. 

Anyone who paid attention to pre-release material could guess that Janne and Nikolai don't stick around in the party for long, though it was barely an hour before Yew would be alone. It makes me all the more glad for the demo, as the two other Cavaliers get more screen time and additional interaction with Yew. Perhaps they will get additional characterization later on in Bravely Second, but I feel like their sudden departure from Yew's party wouldn't have as much of an impact if I didn't play the demo. 

Regardless, Yew is alone, but he won't be for long, as a familiar feisty female soon joins his side. Yep, it's Ms. Mrgrgr herself, Edea Lee, my most favorite character in the first game. For some reason, however, her name is pronounced differently in Bravely Second. It's strange to have everyone, including the character herself, say her name differently when not two years have passed both in-game and in the real world. That's the price to pay for better voice direction, I guess? 

I've only gotten in about 2 1/2 hours so far and haven't even cleared the prologue chapter yet. I've only gained the Wizard Asterisk and many aspects of the gameplay have yet to be fully implemented. I imagine this won't take long, and so far, I'm enjoying the story and characters. Ryo's music is growing on me, and not surprisingly, I'm liking it more now that I'm experiencing it in game. I still get all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when I hear the music from the first game, though. I feel Revo is the superior composer. Anyway, there is a long game ahead of me. My next step is to meet up with another old party member: Tiz Arrior.

Michael "GaijinMonogatari" Baker:

I've been playing Star Ocean Blue Sphere on the commute and sometimes before class a bit, and I'm about seven hours in. It's been a busy seven hours, traversing the generic ruins, the root-filled ruins, and the ruins-turned-prison. Yeah, this game is all about raiding ruins, with a side order of evil despot who's forcing people to raid ruins for him. On the plus side, I just found Ernest (still no Opera), and I've got a lot of the item-creation skills unlocked. Now I just need to get them to work properly.

Note: You can read a longer version of Gaijin's adventures here.

Anna Marie "Paws" Privitere:

By the time July started, I’d already put more than 40 hours into Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE, a game that melds together the Japanese entertainment industry with a Persona-like story and combat that’s equal parts Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem, with its own flairs.  Each of your characters wants to make their mark – some as idols, others as actors, and even one who wants to be a Power Ranger.  Your character, Itsuki, supports them all in their dreams; having no singular entertainment talent himself, he takes on the leadership role and discovers that’s his true talent.

Like a Persona game, TMS moves between predominantly combat sections (chapters) and predominantly story sections (intermissions); there’s no calendar system but there is a relationship system, of sorts.  Characters who participate in battle slowly but surely gain Stage Rank, which unlocks side quests that reveal more about them and their potential career.  These stories help to build a rich world, even in something as fluffy as the J-Pop industry.

I think my favourite part about TMS is how the game continues to let you grow (both in combat and in personality) without making you feel like you’re overpowered or underpowered.  As you gain the ability to string combos of moves together in sessions, then Special Moves powered by the number and length of sessions performed, then adding in characters not part of the current party, and other key moments like ad-lib performances and duos based off of story events re-enacted in battle, through 65 hours the game never felt too dull or too repetitive, which is a feat unto itself.  I truly enjoyed my time with Tokyo Mirage Sessions and look forward to replaying the game in the future to hunt for more trophies.  My full playthrough of the game is available on our RPGamer channel:

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