Welcome to RPGamer's Final Update for #JRPGJuly! Once again, a huge thank you to Chic Pixel for the running the event, and as we always love participating and sharing the love. I also want to thank the staff who participated -- it was a joy to watch your progress all month! I hope everyone who participated in #JRPGJuly had a great and productive month.
With our last week of July coming to a close, let's see what progress was made by the staff and if they completed their game(s) of choice.
Sam "Nyx" Wachter:
I am so proud of myself this week: I finally beat the boss I was stuck on and managed to get to Chapter 5 of Okage: The Shadow King. Ari is now a young ghost wandering about, which has been a great touch to the game, since it allows for exploration without dealing with any random encounters. So I've been checking out different areas and getting some side quests done. Definitely love the turn the plot has taken, but what's become of Stan? I can't wait to find out.
I am rather sad though, because I didn't finish the game during the event, but I am very happy with the amount of progress I made given my crazy work schedule. I think Okage is a delight and even though the grinding sometimes is something I don't enjoy doing, there's a part of me that's always excited to see where the story is going to go next.
Pascal "SquigglyLeo" Tekaia:
This week has been a little less productive for me. After finishing Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force last week, I've been plugging away at I Am Setsuna. I'm really digging the combat system, and I can see the similarities to some of my favorite 16-bit era RPGs. Especially combining two or even all three characters in combos. Brings back memories of Frog, Robo, Ayla. The game has a lovely all-piano soundtrack, very soothing for the most part, and something I've not seen a whole lot in games. Classical.
On the down side, the story hasn't really done a whole lot to blow me away thus far. I've survived a shipwreck, saved several villages from monster attacks, and overthrown a sneaky government official making backdoor deals with said monsters in exchange for keeping his town safe from them. But what I've been lacking is an emotional hook, something that lets me really relate and empathize with a couple of my characters, and gets me into the story more than just on a surface level. The game has been lovely, but I lack that connection as of yet.
Kelley "redrock963" Ryan:
It is the last week of #JRPGJuly, and it has been fun. One could even say it has been WILD! The plot has started to expand in the game a little bit more than last week. There hasn't been any major plot twists, but I'm sure one is right around the corner. I need to spend a little bit more time grinding, because random encounters are starting to get challenging. I also got an item that lets me scan for hidden items in dungeons called "The Detector." This item has been in previous games in the series as well. I plan on chipping away at this game as much as I can until the next WoW expansion comes out. Hopefully I will be able to finish it in another month.
Nathan "TwinBahamut" Schlothan:
Over the last week I've managed to put another eight hours into Romancing SaGa 2, and have made my way to the sixth and seemingly final generation of heroes. This last generation is set two hundred years after the previous, meaning that just over six hundred years have been covered in total. Now, the last and most powerful member of the Imperial line is tasked with finishing the long battle against the Seven Heroes without any heirs to carry on. From here on, letting a party wipe or losing all of my main character's LP will end the game. It is a pretty appropriate way of raising the stakes.
Backtracking a bit, I did manage to pull through after all my hardship in the third week. I lost my entire party with the sole exception of the person who was cursed, but my newly built replacement team was more than strong enough to carry on right where their predecessors left off. Ultimately, it might be for the best that I was somewhat delayed in ending that generation, since it gave me a chance to start unlocking the powerful elemental combination spells. Perhaps more importantly, it proved to me that the penalties for losing characters were far lower than I had realized. Romancing SaGa 2 is as generous as it is cruel, really.
Anyways, I've managed to make quite a bit of progress. I defeated the fifth of the Seven Heroes, Rocbouquet, and in so doing recruited the amazons of the jungle to my side. I then has to prevent one of my previous mistakes from blowing up an entire island, but kinda missed out on the reward for that because of another related mistake on my part. The first of the Seven Heroes, Kzinssle, came back from the dead to challenge me and I defeated him, but he got in a cheap shot that instantly perma-killed one of my party members. Another previously defeated villain came back in a new form to attack the Imperial capital, which was pretty surprising and stressful, but that one was crushed too. After that I went back on the offensive and more or less conquered the Japan-like region, defeating its king and recruiting a samurai, but ran into difficulties when fighting Wagnas, the sixth of the Seven Heroes. I'm actually rather frustrated because I know exactly how I can beat him, but implementing that strategy requires resources I don't have at the moment, so for now I need to reload an older save and think up something else to do while I properly prepare.
All the signs indicate that I am quite close to finishing Romancing SaGa 2, but I don't think I will be able to do so before the month ends. I keep getting distracted by other games, particularly God Eater Resurrection, so I just haven't put in as much time as I needed to. Still, I have really been enjoying the game, and weirdly enough I am already looking forward to playing it through a second time. The game gives you quite a lot of room to play through it in a variety of ways, and I would love a chance to see new things and fix some of my mistakes.
Cassandra "Strawberry Eggs" Ramos:
I think I'm about to start Chapter 3, but for now, I'm wrapping up Chapter 2 with another side story. This past week has me earning the hawkeye, white mage, and ranger asterisks, traveling to the country of Eisengard, watching some adorable ship teasing between Yew and Magnolia, experiencing a twist on the old "hi-jinks in the hot springs" cliche, and learning more about Yew's past and the Glanz Empire's goals. Some plot points I've seen or can see coming a mile away, but others surprised me. They are too much of a spoiler to discuss in detail here, but the game's story continues to hold my attention. The hawkeye job may become a favorite of mine, although I noticed that it shares the elemental-imbuing ability with the spell fencer job. I actually didn't realize until recently that the spell fencer asterisk is not in Bravely Second. Some jobs I guessed wouldn't return such as spiritmaster, arcanist, vampire, and conjurer. They likely have story-reasons for why they aren't returning; why the spell fencer and the salve-maker asterisks are missing is not as apparent. Maybe I will find out why in due time.
As for that side story I mentioned it features the knight Argent Heinkel and the ninja Konoe Kikyo. I'm not entirely sure what's going to happen, but it seems to center around a thinly-veiled parody Sherlock Holmes, who is apparently related to both of them. Have I mentioned that Sholmes is voiced by Benjamin Diskin? I've really enjoyed Mr. Diskin's prior performances as Daichi in Devil Survivor 2: Record Breaker and as Jakob, Saizou, and Hayato in Fire Emblem Fates. He has a good range and I find the voice he gave Sholmes amusing. I've taken a bit of a shine to him, even though he's not that important of an NPC.
As I thought, I am no where near done with this game despite it being the end of July. Considering that I spent nearly two hundred hours on the original Bravely Default, I will probably spend somewhere around that time on this game, though possibly less. I certainly know how to get the most out of my video games, ha. It will be a while before I can develop a full opinion on Bravely Second and how it measures up up Bravely Default. So far, it is more of the same, which I am not complaining about. Some things are better, like the voice direction and others not as good, like the new music. As long as I'm enjoying the game as much as itS predecessor, that's all that matters. I adore the original game and I know I've yet to dive deeply into Bravely Second. The Bravely Default games can sort of be considered the quintessential JRPG series, as they mix old school and contemporary ideas well, so Bravely Second made for an appropriate pick for #JRPGJuly.
Michael "GaijinMonogatari" Baker:
Progress has been made in Star Ocean Blue Sphere! I have trekked through the gargoyle- and monkey-infested badlands, worked my way through a ziggurat of variable geometry, been witness to a betrayal and an assassination, and made contact with a mysterious civilization beneath the sea. It's scary to consider that the tsunami which destroyed the continental cities was 1) a last-ditch Hail Mary against something really nasty, 2) not actually effective in destroying that nasty something, and 3) exactly what that something wanted. Hurray for absolute nihilism in villainy!
I've also managed to round out most of the party members, with only a couple under skill level 100. The Machinery skill is thankfully one of the easier mini-games to master, so Opera, Precis, and Chisato have all of their useful abilities by now. The magic-users (Celine, Leon, Noel, and Bowman) are all doing pretty well too. Dias and Ashton still have yet to learn a single new combat technique, though both of them currently meet all the prerequisites for all but the highest ones. I'm about to chalk this one up to coding error.
Finally, at this point I've managed to purge twelve games off my backlog, as chronicled here. I'm holding onto Sword in the Darkness and Farland Saga: Toki no Michishirube for now.
Note: You can read a longer version of Gaijin's adventures here.
There are still a few hours left in #JRPGJuly, and I'm looking for another game to take me through the month. I completed Final Fantasy V last night after just over 30 hours, and that was a good time. However, I don't expect to replay it for a while, even with the randomized allure of Four Job Fiesta. While the mechanics are creative and the monster design is solid, I grumbled through the story. It may have been the translation, but it felt like there was a haze of pixels and assumptions between me and the emotions the game intended to evoke. The humor fell flat and the apocalyptic terror was altogether too familiar. Near the end Exdeath was committing atrocities on the level of any Final Fantasy villain, but I was never invested enough in him or the world to really care. Maybe I just needed to use more of my imagination? No, it's the game that's wrong.
This isn't to say I didn't enjoy plumbing a treasure from the SNES era! As I mentioned during the second week of #JRPGJuly, playing the game with Four Job Fiesta's artificial constraints pushed me into trying tactics that aren't usually my first choice. It says a lot for FFV's underlying mechanisms that people can play it in so many different ways and run into challenges at different points. If left to my own devices, I would have created a team rich in thievery and summoned monsters. Bereft of my stalwarts, I still had all sorts of fun with a samurai, a ninja, a white mage, and a time mage. Dual-wielding katana and Quick-casting Haste 2/Cure 3 and Meteor/Holy wouldn't have been my first choice, but it worked! I can't imagine taking on either of the optional bosses with my crew, but they stood tall when I needed them.
Anna Marie "Paws" Privitere
For a game that had a rather ridiculous story up to the mid-point, 7th Dragon III: VFD knew exactly how to kick me directly in the heart. I was angry. I despaired. And I was completely motivated to get down to stomping the titular 7th Dragon: VFD, which I promptly did. The final fight uses the three-party system to its fullest, so if you haven't tweaked all three teams to your liking, be sure to do so within the final chapter.
With the first game in the books, it meant I could move on to Project X Zone 2. I had been assured back in January when I picked up the game everything frustrating about the first title was corrected, with all the fun stuff being retained, and that was a very apt description. Combat is styled similar to a fighting game, where moves are mapped to the A button plus which direction you're holding down. The idea is to "juggle" enemies in the air for as long as possible, building up a combo, with the help of nearby and/or extra partner units, as applicable. Yet between the two titles, combat has subtle changes – you’re more encouraged to spam the same move over and over as opposed to the first game where it’s more advantageous to vary moves, and locking an enemy into place with a Cross-Strike isn't as easy but is more powerful. Where you attack an enemy from now matters, and you have more choices when an enemy attacks you how to respond.
Story-wise, the game does a really good job revisiting characters from the first game who are returning while peppering in new faces. Even characters returning are often seen in a new light. For example, Morrigan and Demitri (two characters from Darkstalkes) were paired with Chun-Li (Street Fighter) and Dante (Devil May Cry) previously, but elect to fight together in the second game. This means even veterans of the first game will have to learn how these new pairings work together, which is fun. The story also starts out relatively fresh – so new players won't feel completely lost, with the simple understanding that many of the characters know each other to some degree. This is a nice improvement from the first game, where sometimes new players could be left mildly confused as former games' events are referenced with no context. Overall gameplay holds a steady clip, as levels remain smaller and groups of enemies move in a more logical manner. I'm about three hours in and I'm already looking forward to playing a lot more.
#JRPGJuly 2016 was a fantastic month of gaming for me. I finished three full games (Tokyo Mirage Sessions, 7th Dragon, and Project X Zone) while completing another to my satisfaction (Final Fantasy V), and diving into a game I've been waiting to play since the start of the year with Project X Zone 2. Here's to the remainder of 2016 chock full of RPG goodness!