My Time With The Gameboy Advance

This is it. This is the device that kept me in the gaming sphere until the mid to late 2000s. While most people were enjoying the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Gamecube, or whatever the hell the N-Gage was, I had this pocket sized gaming machine by my side. 

Growing up in a low income household had its challenges; one of them being not being able to afford some of the things other kids your age had. We were very fortunate to have a mom that worked her hardest to allow me and my brothers to have some of the things that we wanted. We had every Nintendo system up to the Gamecube at the time, but finding time to play is hard when you have to share one system and tv with two other people. That is where the Gameboy came in handy. Instead of fighting over who’s turn it was to use the TV, I could sit on the couch or lay in bed and play one of the few handheld games that I had. This could also explain how I was a late bloomer to many modern games. One of the best surprises that our mom was able to give was giving each of us our own Gameboy Advance (SP model) for Christmas or some other event that I don’t remember. 

I had the Cobalt Blue Gameboy Advance SP model. Coming from the Gameboy Color, this was a big upgrade. The rechargeable battery and backlit screen were the hallmark of this device. No more begging my mom for batteries or being restricted to where I could play. Now I could play on the couch for as long as I want while my relatives warned me that I was going to ruin my eyesight (but would tell me to sit, be quiet, and watch TV?). It did have its flaws though. The SP model did not have a headphone jack. I had to go out of my way to buy a special headset that connected to the charging port in order to not annoy anyone with my boops and beeps. A big complaint for someone who likes listening to video game soundtracks.

I took my GBA with me wherever I went outside the house. Before people were addicted to having their smartphones at all times, I was the kid who would never put his GBA down. I would play it in the car to school each day and would have to leave it in my mom’s car so I wouldn’t get in trouble with it. Any long car ride or band trip would always be accompanied by my trusty GBA with my cool travel case that I still have to this day. If there was ever a decline in my reading habits, it was because my hands were preoccupied with playing my GBA.

So let’s talk about some of the games that I played on this bad boy. I will be honest and say that I have no recollection of the order that I got most of my GBA games. Normally in this format I would go in order of the games I’ve purchased/received, but I can’t do that this time. So let’s start with some well known titles.

Final Fantasy (Gameboy Advance Ports)

The Gameboy Advance was my gateway to the Final Fantasy series. Up until this point, I had never encountered the series outside watching my older cousins play Final Fantasy VII. The order that I played these games is kinda scrambled, so let’s just go in order.

Final Fantasy I+II: Dawn of Souls is a great port of the first two Final Fantasy games. Until I get around to playing the PSP or Pixel Remastered versions, this might be my favorite way to play these games. There isn’t much to say about the first Final Fantasy, but I do have words about the second game. I don’t hate Final Fantasy II. I didn’t hate my first playthrough since I had nothing to compare it to back in the day. I had to play it a second time since the music player will only appear if there are finished saved files for both games.. You would think that to cut your losses since it is just a music player, but before the age of good internet, this was the only way to listen to this music. Besides, if I didn’t replay FFII I would have never discovered that you can cast the Teleport spell on all enemies and bosses, and beat the game easily that way. The only time it won’t work on is the final boss, but even without increasing my proficiency in other other stats, I was still able to beat him with no problem. Give it a try! It is fun to just teleport your problems somewhere else.

Next was Final Fantasy IV. Up until recently, FFIV was my least favorite Final Fantasy game. I found playing through it at first to be completely boring. I didn’t find any of the characters interesting besides Rydia, and the progression of the story just felt stale to me. I would get around to finishing FFIV via the DS version of the game. After playing through that version, I found myself looking at this game more positively for some reason. It could be the wisdom with age thing, but FFIV still holds up to this day.

Final Fantasy V is my least favorite Final Fantasy game so far. I just recently finished it this year, and it is just bland to me. If I had played it back in the mid 2000s, I would have probably been all over this. Early 2020s however, there are other games that use the job system way better.

In the war between my favorite Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy VI is a top contender (fighting FFIX). This game is almost perfect to me. The multiple characters, the amazing soundtrack, and watching the world actually decline into chaos is done so well in this game. I’m just happy that I decided to pick this game up randomly from one of the infamous band school trips. My copy of the game is a little special since it will wipe the memory clean off if you drop it or touch it in a way that it does not like. This is one of the reasons why I never finished it until 2020 when I forced myself to sit down and play it without removing it from my Gameboy Player. I know the general consensus is that the GBA version is not the best way to play this game, but it is my preferred way since the audio compression doesn’t bother me. I own the full soundtrack so I can listen to that at the best quality whenever I feel like it. My opinion may change whenever Square decides to release the Pixel Remastered on something besides PC and phones.

Pokémon (Sapphire & LeafGreen)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Out of the two mainline Pokémon versions that came out, Leaf Green was definitely the one that I put the most time into. Pokémon Sapphire was the first Pokémon game that I got on the system, but my memories of my first time in Horen are kinda spotty. I remember finding a shiny Sharpedo and Duskull in game by myself, but other than that, I don’t remember much of what I did in those games. It doesn’t help that I started over in it a few times.

The real memories come from Pokémon LeafGreen. This was a birthday present for me that came out of nowhere, so it is pretty special to me. This would be the first Pokémon game that I would go on to almost complete the game 100% (almost finished the National Dex). I would find myself constantly playing this game and it would help bridge the rocky relationship I had with my younger brother at the time. Even though Gen 1 is not one of the best generations in Pokémon, I still cherish this game. The only regret I have is letting my brother erase my save file since I had moved on. Only a reason to one day grind everything out.

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones

I never knew about the Fire Emblem series until my younger brother decided to get Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the Gamecube. What he thought was a traditional JRPG was this turn-based strategy game with swords and magic. That didn’t stop both of us from enjoying it, but it did put the series on my radar. So of course I spent my lunch money on a copy of Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones on one of my many trips. Sacred Stones is a solid Fire Emblem game that I hardly hear people talk about. I think that the roster is a nice balance of units that make use for any situation. The story is straightforward and doesn’t include other plot points outside the main story. It also has a way to level up your characters outside the main story by finding encounters on the world map to help beef up any units that you need. The endgame tower is also a good challenge if you want to make your way to the top and recruit some special characters on the way. All in all, Sacred Stones is a solid Fire Emblem game that needs more recognition. I do have to confess that for some reason in the past, I sold my copy just so I could have money to buy another game (I don’t remember which one). Luckily, Kat owned a copy so I didn’t have to go out of my way to find a new one.

Tales of Phantasia

“If there is evil in this world, it lurks in the heart of man.”

These words were my introduction to the Tales of series. What looked like an ordinary JRPG that I decided to buy one day would eventually lead me to one of my favorite series. I just had to get through this game first. If you have experienced the GBA port of Tales of Phantasia, you know how bad this game is. How I managed to stick through it and finish it is a feat that I have no idea how I pulled off. From restricted controls to work on a GBA to a treasure trove of mistranslations, the thing that kept me invested in Tales of Phantasia was a time traveling story that I had never experienced. This also introduced me to my favorite video game antagonist, Dhaos. If Phantasia did anything right, it was introducing this monster of an antagonist and making him feel human at the same time. I enjoyed Phantasia, but dear lord I do not want to play the GBA version again. One of these days I will write about this game and the rest of the series. I will still not get over the fact that I beat all three forms of Dhaos at the end by spamming Tiger Blade and stun locking him in a corner.

Yu Gi Oh!

Since middle school, I have been a fan of the Yu Gi Oh! Trading Card Game. I would collect cards and watch the show, but I never had friends to play the game with. Luckily, there were a ton of Yu Gi Oh! games available on the GBA. There were two Yu Gi Oh! games that I had that I equally enjoyed for different reasons. The first one was Yu Gi Oh! GX Duel Academy. I know this game is viewed as one of the worse Yu Gi Oh! games that you can play, but when you don’t have the opinion of the internet to tell you this, then you don’t see its flaws. In Duel Academy, you are a student at Duel Academy where your goal is to become the King of Games. You do this by preparing for your exams and meeting requirements to increase your rank. Each exam requires you to answer ten questions about the cards, a duel puzzle that you have to solve as quickly as possible, and then a duel using specific rules for that exam. I can see this being annoying to some, but I was really into it at the time. There are story beats that happen when certain conditions are met, but I never figured out what made them trigger. I may just be the odd one out of the group, but I really like this game.

The second Yu Gi Oh! game that I had was Yu Gi Oh! Ultimate Masters: World Championship Tournament 2006. Seeing a title like this, you would think it would have this story of working your way through a tournament to become the next King of Games. This is what I thought when I picked it up during a band trip, but to my dumb surprise it wasn’t. This game is basically an introduction to the 2006 Yu Gi Oh! rule set and new cards that were released around the time. There is no story or real goal in this game. There is a campaign and a few modes that require you to use your big brain to work around and complete each challenge. You would think I would find this game boring since around this time I still didn’t know the best way to construct a functional deck, but something about this game kept me playing for a long time. The presentation is nice and simple, and the soundtrack is something that I still get stuck in my head from time to time. I would spend time just creating new decks and take the time to test them and figure out what works and what doesn’t. I never “finished” the game, but I think it is one that I could if I took the time to focus on the challenges (especially since this game doesn’t go past the GX era of cards and rules).

Other Games

This last bit goes out to the games that I played, but don’t have a lot to say about them. 

Like most young boys who had access to Toonami, my brothers and I were big fans of DragonBall Z. If we had the chance to play a DBZ game, chances are we would find a way to play it. The GBA had a lot of Dragon Ball games, but the first ones that come to mind are the Legacy of Goku games. Dragon Ball RPG games that followed the events of the story with subplots added in and glitches to take advantage of. I would have loved more of these on different consoles, but nothing has come close to the feeling of these games (I do own Kakarot, but haven’t played it yet). Besides the Legacy of Goku games, we also had Supersonic Warriors. This was a cool 2D fighting game that introduced us to the world of DBZ “what if” stories. It was a fun game that I could easily recommend. There was also Dragon Ball GT: Transformations; a game that I will advise to stay far away from (GT Theme intensifies).

Did you know that a sequel to Gunstar Heroes came out on the GBA? I didn’t until a good friend of mine gave me it one year for Christmas. Gunstar Super Heroes plays just like the original, but with less flashing lights. The sprite work in the game makes keeping track of what is going on so much easier and adds some nice designs to each character. The only issue that makes this inferior to the original is that the game does not support multiplayer. That is a shame since the multiplayer in the original Gunstar Heroes is what makes that game fun. Maybe one day in the future, Sega will release this title to modern platforms with multiplayer (not holding my breath on that one).

You know what game really needs a remake? The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap. Minish Cap is a short and fun Zelda game that I really enjoyed. This game was developed in collaboration with Capcom; whom also co-developed my favorite Zelda game of all time. This is probably why I enjoyed it. It had such a neat concept that no other Zelda game has done (like Seasons) and had a lot of potential with its shrinking mechanic (like changing the seasons in Seasons). Nintendo would rake in the money if this game got the same treatment like Link’s Awakening did on the Switch. What I’m trying to get at is that Nintendo needs to stop screwing around with whatever it is they are doing and remake the Oracle games for Switch. I guess you can add Minish Cap in there as well.

The End of a Legacy

As you can expect, all good things come to a somewhat end. At some point, my GBA SP was starting to show some wear and tear. The first thing to go was the charging port. I was unable to charge the battery in my GBA. To get around this issue I would take the battery out and put it in my brother’s GBA in order to charge it. Annoying? Yes. Did it work? Yup, and that’s all that mattered. What I couldn’t fix at the time was the “death” of my GBA SP. In a scenario that is so familiar to me, I let my younger brother borrow my GBA. He got mad at the game he was playing and slammed my GBA on the floor. He managed to break the LCD screen under the glass cover. I’m pretty sure we fought, but since it happened at my grandma’s house I don’t think fists were thrown. I was devastated. My second personal console destroyed by my younger brother. You would think I would learn my lesson at this point, but no. No handheld survives when I’m being nice and let someone borrow it.  For a while after that incident, I was left without a handheld system to play my games on unless my older brother was gracious to let me use his (he became very protective for good reasons). 

Eventually, I got my own DS and could once again enjoy my childhood (until history repeated itself). I held on to my GBA since it was special to me and I couldn’t just throw it away since I had no means of fixing it. I have plenty of options now, but I haven’t had the need to repair it. Marrying Kat came with not just one, but two GBAs that she and her dad used to play back in the day (neither one of them care for them now, so I happily accepted them). I also have a Game Boy Advance Player for my Gamecube now, so I can enjoy the games on a bigger screen if I choose. Sadly, if anything, there is no point in me fixing my GBA unless I personally just want it back in working order (I would also need a new battery and back cover).

I will always cherish my time with the Game Boy Advance. In some way, it helped me during hard times and kept me engaged in a hobby that I still enjoy to this day. There are still several games that I need to play and finish on the console, and hopefully one day I can cross them off the list. If you still have your GBA from way back in the day, buy it a beer one me next year since it will be of legal drinking age.

Honorable Mentions (Games I Got Later In Life or Sold):

  • Advance Wars
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
  • Fire Emblem
  • Golden Sun
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age
  • Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
  • Mega Man Zero 4
  • Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire
  • Sigma Star Saga
  • Sonic Advance 3
  • Yu Yu Hakusho – Ghost Files: Tournament Tactics

Turning 30

*Today is June 6th. You wake up normally around 6:30am. Despite your efforts to try and go back to sleep, you give in to your body’s urge to get up. After performing your normal morning rituals, you open the blinds and look outside the window to view your normal surroundings. It is a hazy day where the sun has already risen above the other houses in the neighborhood. There is fresh dew on the grass and the normal traffic noise has been replaced with the symphonies of the local avian duet. This peace is broken by the sound of your phone going off. You checked the number to see that it is a call from…yourself? Curious, you answer the phone.*

Good morning birthday (checks notes) boy! Congratulations! You did it! I never imagined you would make it this far; yet alone reach the milestone that is thirty years old. How did you get this old? How have you not found a nice comfortable room somewhere and decided that that was our world for the foreseeable future? You have changed so much from the quiet, shy, timid, invertebrate that you were when you finished high school. You are now somehow a more confident, independent, vertebrate who is still somehow afraid to open his mouth. Don’t worry. I’m sure in the next ten years you will learn how to get that mouth moving more frequently.

–     Who is this?

–    Sorry wrong number.

→ Thanks…

What are some of the things that you have accomplished over the years? Well for starters, you were the first in your family to graduate college with a Bachelors! You might not have been the first or second person to graduate college with a degree, but it’s the technicality that counts. Music may not have been the best degree program to go into, but the experiences, people we met, and life lessons learned were well worth the debt. Besides, it’s thanks to that degree that you met your wife. Another thing that you can rub in your family’s faces is being the first one to get married. Sure technically your mom beat you to that, and you weren’t the first to give her a grandchild, but no one (especially you) would have thought that you would ever get married. It has been the highlight of your life so far and you could not imagine life without her. It was truly a chance of lucky events that made it all happen.

–    What do you want from me?

–    Wrong. My tuba was my true love.

→ Can you please move on?

Enough mussy stuff now. There are other accomplishments that you made that you never saw coming. You found a career that you enjoy and never thought you would have. The library world was something that you never considered, but it chose you after a wonderful student work study experience. If you didn’t fail that music praxis test by one question, you would probably have gone and done music therapy which was the plan at the time. Stupid Praxis. Why not get influenced by your supervisor and coworkers to pursue a Masters in Library Science instead? That way you don’t have to take the Praxis and can use your job experience to get through the program.* Which you did! Another star point on the board for being the first person (that you know of in your immediate family) to hold a Masters in a field of study! Surely this upward momentum would propel you to get a Doctorate at some point. Wait. Why are you shaking your head so fast? You’re done with school for the rest of your life? Cool. We will see how that changes in the next ten years…

*Different programs require different tests or other prerequisites. I just happen to find one that didn’t need any of that.*

–   I’m going to hang up now

–   Why ask mostly choir/vocal questions for an instrumentalist?

→ Please talk about something else

Enough about you. Let’s talk about other things about you that you don’t want to talk about. Look how much of a changed person that you’ve become. People would have sworn that you would turn out to be some weird outsider with no social skills, but you have come to surprise even yourself. You’ve met people who liked you for who you are and were not out to just get something from you (some of them did creep in). You’ve also found friends who you would consider true friends no matter what. This is something you are not accustomed to since no one has stuck around longer than they have outside of being in the same group. Your trust issues are still the same, but for once you have a pretty good support group that won’t let you down.

–   I don’t like talking to you

–   My friends are my true strength

→ Sir, this is a gaming blog

What? This is a gaming blog so we should talk about video games instead? Sure that seems like a good segway into a different topic. Your love for gaming was strong to begin with, but know now it’s astronomical! You used to be the kid who was intimidated by 3D console games and mostly stuck to your Gameboy Advance and DS. Now, no game seems to intimidate you after playing games like Monster Hunter, Dark Souls, and Metal Gear Solid. Those were the types of games that you would never think about picking up the controller to play. Horror games are still a pass and 3D platformers are still the bane of your existence. We are just happy to see that your gaming horizons have expanded over the past decade.

–    I’m going to hang up the phone now

–   Take me back to the good ‘ol days

→ A lot has changed hasn’t it?

Speaking of expansion (I’m not going to talk about your weight), you have become quite the collector of games. It’s hard to believe how your small collection of GBA and DS games turned into a big collection spanning eighteen different platforms with over 1000 titles. I guess this is what happens when your two main hobbies are playing music and video games. These aren’t just random games that you just bought willy nilly for the sake of having a collection. Every game you own has a story or reason why you added it. It’s more than just plastic inside of plastic sitting on a wooden shelf, or data stored on a mechanical device housed inside another mechanical device. These are the worlds that you have thrown yourself into. These are the connections that you have with other people near and far. It’s what helps make you feel comfortable in certain social groups. It makes your relationship with your wife even better since you two share in the hobby. You don’t collect games out of the habit of collecting. You collect games that have a certain interest to you so that you may one day share that with others.

–    …

–    I have spent so much money…

→ You’re right

Oh! Look at the time. I know holding conversations is a struggle for you, so we should wrap this up. The future is unknown at this point. Right now, there is no clear sign what direction we will take in the coming years. You have an idea what the next big step in life is going to be, but you are unsure when that will happen. It’s unclear if any of your goals will be met since life has a way of always being unpredictable. You used to never let this idea of uncertainty get you down, but I guess with age comes a more conscious awareness of things around you. I’m asking that you try and not let these unseen forces ruin and dictate how you go about your life. This is a tough request since anxiety has plagued us for a while now. Just try to take it one day at a time until you figure out what needs to be done and plan accordingly. You made all of your other accomplishments work this way; so I’m sure that your hidden talents will lead you in the right direction.

You never told me who you were.

–    I think this is going to be the best season yet!

–    …I’m scared.

You should already know that. I believe a famous video game series stated that “I am thou, and thou art I.” Just know that in the next ten years if you ever feel lost or unsure about yourself, look back on this exchange and hopefully this will remind you that you are on the right track. I may be your harshest critic, but I’m also your biggest supporter. Together, there is nothing that we can accomplish.

–   …okay.

Is this the part where we go and kill God?

–   Thanks.

Yes, Unknown to you. A Godlike entity has been waiting on the line to give you a cryptic message on where and how the world will be destroyed unless you found four elemental thingamabobs to seal him away. It is weak to lactose, so make sure that you keep a steady supply on hand. Now get out there and show the world what you are made of!

The phone call ends. You are unsure if all of this was part of a dream or if you are still just waking up. The sounds of hearing a cat scratch on furniture confirms that you are indeed awake. You reflect on the phone call and all the things “you” said to…yourself. Thirty years is a long time, but that just means the next thirty will have to be just as eventful as the last.

Like Choosing Your Favorite Child. My (Current) Top 5 JRPGs.

The Japanese Role-Playing Game genre is my go to for gaming. It might have something to do with my love for reading at a young age, or being slow paced enough for me not to fumble my controller. I just enjoy experiencing stories, learning each game’s combat rather it’s turned-based or in real time, and just losing myself (hopefully) in the world. I’m getting to the point in life where I can’t spend 60+ hours on one game anymore, but I try to find ways to tackle the many JRPGs that I haven’t finished as best as I can.

In 2020, Pix1001 and Craig Rathbone (Winst0lf) collaborated to bring us the Great JRPG Character Face-Off! This was an event to vote for our favorite characters from any JRPG. With thousands of options, it was fairly easy for me to decide which characters I enjoyed the most out of all the games that I’ve played. This year, they have up the ante and presented the Great JRPG Showdown. This was surprisingly easier than my character choices. There was still some heartache when choosing my top 5, but at the end of the day I feel confident in my response. So without further ado, here are my choices for the Great JRPG Showdown!


Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

I wouldn’t say that I’m the biggest Dragon Quest fan. The games are fun enough if you are in the mood for a classic JRPG and some can be an instant classic for some. At this point I have only played four games in the series being Dragon Quest 7, 9, 11, and of course Dragon Quest 8. I remember my brother borrowing this game from a friend and finding it difficult at some points. I would watch him and help him along the way as best as I could. One day I just decided to pick the controller up myself and finished the game before he did. 

I became captivated by the world and story that the game presents. There were lots of twists and turns that kept the adventure alive, and the intense fights that I faced kept pushing me to come up with new strategies. Dragon Quest VIII follows the protagonist and his group on a quest to defeat an evil court jester named Dhoulmagus. Dhoulmagus has put a curse upon the kingdom of Trodian, turning the king into a troll and the princess into a horse. The plot seems simple, but the heroes find themselves battling more than just a clown’s evil schemes.

I think that’s why I like this game so much. The fun but difficult enemies were fun to fight, the characters were memorable, and up to that point I had not played another game like it. Finishing this game may have been a turning point in my life since it was one of the most challenging games that I had finished (I didn’t have enough points in my courage stat). It pushed me to start looking at other “tough” games and start using my brain more than just running away from all of my problems. Video games were teaching me better life lessons than school ever did.

Tales of Symphonia

Of course I was going to include my favorite game of all time. Tales of Symphonia felt like a masterpiece when I played it for the first time in the mid 2000s. It was one of the first games I played that made me believe that video games were just as good at telling a story like books and film. 

Tales of Symphonia follows the journey of Lloyd Irving as he helps his friend, Colette, become the new Chosen of the world. You finish the journey in the first 10-15 hours, and then the real quest begins after that. What follows are great twists and revelations that most games fail to deliver since they are easy to see coming. I don’t want to spoil this 17 year old game for anyone who hasn’t played it. It goes on sale on Steam for like $5 often, so you have no excuse to play it (unless you don’t have a PC…)!

Persona 4 Golden

Persona 5 is a damn good game. If the Persona series wasn’t popular enough, the fifth entry brought it to the top. While I enjoyed the game and the joys of rebellion, my favorite Persona game will always be Persona 4 Golden

The thing I like the most about Persona 4 is the theme. Pursuing your true self. At a young age I struggled with my identity and how I wanted others to see me. I was a quiet, timid person who didn’t have a lot to say or things to really bring to the conversation (some things hardly change…). I used to hate being myself around people since it’s hard being a nerdy black guy in an area where you are either in a pretend gang or a good ‘ol southern child. I didn’t fit in anywhere except for the band room and my confidence stat was undeveloped. I’m not going to say Persona 4 changed things around for me, but it did start helping me understand that it is okay to be me if I’m true to myself. To this day, I know exactly who I am and what that means. I refuse to just blindly follow the same thing that the people around me believe, and instead choose to follow what I believe in my heart. I’m [REDIACT] and I am no longer afraid to be who I am.

Oh yeah. The whole mystery murder story is great. Yes Yosuke and Teddy can be annoying, but that’s life. Not everyone that you meet is going to be a respectable citizen with high morals. Both characters have good qualities about them, but you also have to acknowledge the flawed parts of their character. Let’s see what else. I did not guess who the murderer was the first time playing until the final hints. Everyday’s great at your Junes. I will murder anyone who tries to hurt Nanako again. Anyone.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

I am a recent fan of the Legend of Heroes games. I may be at the end of the Cold Steel Saga, but I already have the Sky trilogy ready to go and now the Crossbell games are officially coming this year and next. That is a lot of games to play, but I’m committed since this has been one of the best series I have ever played.

Trails of Cold Steel follows the trials of Class 7, a group of students at Thors Military Academy. While the main plot focuses on Rean Schwarzer, the whole cast of Class 7 have equal importance to the story and help make this series so great (and a pain to complete). Every character is important to the story even if it is just for backstory notes. Just when you think you are done with a side character in the first game, they magically come back in the final game and reveal they have been helping you in the background. It’s the type of character development that you like to see the main cast go through, but you see it for every character introduced. Sure it gets overbearing to try and remember each important main and side character you meet, but that is where the character notes section in your journal comes in handy.

Outside of that, the combat system is one of my favorites. You are able to fully maximize a character’s strengths using the game’s orbital system or challenge yourself and make them the opposite to what they are meant to be (kinda like the materia system from Final Fantasy 7 but fleshed out way more). My favorite characters and setups have to be Elliot, Emma, and Kurt. Elliot is designed to be a healer and support character. With his master quartz, he is able to restore more health using basic healing spells at a reduced cost. If you give him the right set up, You can fully restore anyone using the base level healing spell and reduce his delay time. Emma can use powerful spells and with the right setup, not only can she cast the most powerful magic at a reduced cost, but she can make them critical hits and restore her magic points with each hit. Kurt is my new favorite. He starts off with a master quartz that makes him deal critical damage for each attack he evades. If you find the right equipment to raise his evasion to 100%, you can send him to the front lines and let him deal well over 10,000 to anyone who tries to hit him. The system can be broken if you know how you want to develop your characters and that makes going into battles so much fun.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

There were a lot of games that I could have chosen as my number five pick. I ultimately decided to go with this game since it was the very first JRPG that I ever played. Some would call Super Mario RPG one of the greatest JRPGs right there next to Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. I am in the camp that it is not a game I go back to often, but it is a really good game. This was another game that I would watch my older brother play. I remember during some of the boss fights, we would select our attack and then run out of the room because we were scared our attack wouldn’t finish the boss (don’t do that there are reaction inputs). Out of all of the games on this list, this is the only game that I have never finished, but I have played it so many times that it feels weird to ever think about seeing the end.

The story is the same old Mario flair. Mario goes to beat up Bowser for kidnapping Princess Peach (Toadstool in this game), but is interrupted when a giant sword falls onto Bowser’s Castle. From there, Mario learns about the Smithy Gang, a bunch of weapon themed enemies that are trying to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. During the invasion, the Star Road is destroyed and seven stars fall onto the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s up to Mario and Co. to gather the stars so that people’s wishes can come true again and defeat the Smithy Gang from taking over. It is a story that fits in the Mario universe and sadly something unique that we will never see again.

Ok. I’m going to go ahead and say it and you can all hate me later. Geno is an overrated character. Besides looking “cool,” having cool attacks, and a cool blue cape, there is nothing interesting about the guy. He has no development. He is just a star warrior who takes the body of a doll and helps Mario so that he can repair the Star Road. That is all to his character and he gets replaced quickly by Bowser. I understand the cool factor about his character, but I don’t think he is worth all the praise people are willing to give him. That’s my opinion and if you want to fight about it, come find me on the streets.


And those are my choices for The Great JRPG Showdown. Thank you again to Pix1001 and Chris for hosting an awesome event! Tune in next time where at least one of my picks will be different.

Xenoblade Chronicles – 9 Years in the Backlog #MaybeInMarch

#MaybeInMarch is the second part to a two part collaboration hosted by Kim from Later Levels and Solarayo from Ace Asunder. Participants were asked to share their love for their backlog last month, and now this month to finish one of the oldest titles in your backlog. While I highlighted a different game in my first post, I choose a different game that has been in my backlog for quite some time.

If there was a game that I loved playing, but was terrible at the core mechanics of, it would be Xenoblade Chronicles. Xenoblade Chronicles was one of those games that I was excited to get back in the day that kept me hooked for months. The main draw that kept me playing, like others, was the massive open world that was fun to explore and discover every part of this giant world. For Wii standards, this was impressive at the time, and some might say that it still holds up to this day. But, if you read my title, this is my first time finishing the game since buying and playing it back in 2012. Why did it take me this long to finish such a great game if I was enjoying it so much?

For those who have not played, heard, or know what a Xenoblade is, allow me to explain. The world of Xenoblade Chronicles takes place on the bodies of two colossal giants; known as the Bionis and the Mechonis. The Bionis is home to different races; Homs (that represent normal humans), Nopons (cute ball-shaped creatures), and the High Entia (humans with angelic hair), while the Mechonis is home to machines, the Mechons. The people of the Bionis and Mechonis have been at war with each other with the people of the Bionis on the losing side of things. That’s before the hero Dunban started to take control of the battlefield wielding the mythical blade, the Monado. The Monado has the ability to destroy the Mechons unlike normal weapons which do little to them. With this OP weapon, the people of Bionis should start turning the tides right? Well it seems that the Monado is very picky about its wielder and leaves Dunban with a destroyed arm after he failed to control it’s power. A year later, a boy named Shulk spends his days researching the Monado in hopes of understanding it better so the next wielder can control it. After an Mechon attack on his home, Shulk learns that he can use the Monado without any negative side effects. Even better, he can now see glimpses into the future to avoid his and other’s deaths. This isn’t perfect since there are somethings out of his control (as he quickly finds out). Without spoiling much, Shulk and his best friend Reyn go on an adventure to defeat the Mechons with the Monado at hand. The plot doesn’t sound like much without going into spoiler territory, but once the adventure starts you understand the weight of the journey that they carry.

And that is about as much of the story I can tell you since most of the journey is a blur to me. There are a lot of things that I forgot happened since it has been so long since I played those parts. Just know that the destination is worth it since the story goes places that I wasn’t expecting and ended on a scope that I was not prepared for. The story, environment, and visuals (for Wii era) were so impressive that it really carried the game for me. If you like to explore and have enough quest to find items, defeat monsters, and deepen bonds with characters, then Xenoblade has it all for you.

There was something though that prevented me from enjoying this game from beginning to end in one setting that ultimately prevented me from finishing this game until now; the gameplay. Your game can look pretty and impressive all you want, but if the gameplay is not great, then the whole game falls apart. This is not me saying that the gameplay in Xenoblade is bad. It has one of my new favorite battle mechanics that is customizable to bring out the full potential of each character. The problem is understanding it.


So let’s go back in time to the year 2012. Roblox had been hacked, Windows 8 was terrorizing the nation, and a youngish nineteen year old Danames had just started playing Xenoblade Chronicles in his freezing apartment. The tutorial battle starts and…the characters are attacking on their own? Ok, auto attack is the primary way of fighting in this game, and if you want to use a fancy move (arte), you select them at the bottom. Ok, no problem at this point! Now the game is throwing terms at me like aggro, break, topple, positioning, ether, gems, and a cluster of different effects. This…didn’t feel like any JRPG that I was used to playing. It turns out, Xenoblade plays more akin to an MMO. You have to understand each character’s role and make the most of what they specialize in to make the most of them on the battlefield. Guess who had zero knowledge of MMOs back in 2012?

If you are familiar with MMO mechanics, or can perform the basic concept of reading the tutorial, then the battle system and character customization will not be an issue for you. I have come to learn that I used (and sometimes still) to get overwhelmed with so many mechanics to learn, memorize, and apply to in order to make the most of a character’s growth and specialties. It doesn’t help that the menus and details in Xenoblade is a lot to learn and wrap your head around in order to equip the right equipment to each person, the types of gems that will be beneficial to them, what artes you want to equip them with, and what team compositions would be the best for boss. I greatly underestimated the importance of ether until the last few dungeons, and I was beating myself up that I wasted a lot of potential for certain characters since I did a poor job of outfitting them properly.

The best example I have is Melia. I never used Melia when I first got her, because she was ether based and her abilities sounded really confusing to me at first, I just avoided using her. I never bothered to understand her utility since I was getting by just fine with Shulk, Sharla, and Reyn. It wasn’t until the fight against *Spoiler* at the Bionis Heart. This boss would spawn multiple enemies to buff it and it was hard to take them all out in a fast manner. This is when I learned that Melia has AOE attacks that could destroy them in one or two hits. The problem was, I never developed Melia to be that effective. I found a guide that helped me build her up and that’s when most things finally started to click. By the time I was done developing Melia for that fight, she became one of my most powerful characters since she would just buff everyone and then release powerful attacks that destroyed anything in her path. I felt bad that I never took the time in the past to really get to know how to use her since she would have been very useful in other battles.

This issue wasn’t exclusive to just Melia. For a long time I thought I had to keep Sharla in my party because she was the designated healer. The only problem with Sharla is that she sucks at everything else outside of healing. What’s worse is that after every arte she uses, her rifle will start to overheat, and you would have to cool it off before she could use her artes again. Its good to have her if you want a strong healer on your team, but Xenoblade does not make that a requirement if that is not how you want to format your team. Almost every character has a healing ability that they can use to keep them in the fight, or an ability that helps them stay alive. So, if you don’t want to have terrible Sharla on your team, you don’t need to depending on how good your team is. It took me until the final dungeon of the game to finally realize who the best character in the game it, Rikki. Memes aside, Rikki is stupid versatile with what you want him to do. He has the highest health stat in the game and that sets him up for the best support character in the game. The health stat would be tempting to make him a tank, but he needs all that health to slowly murder and help the people around him. Give him gems to increase his physical and ether defense and make him a priority ether user to use the strongest healing arte in the game as well as nasty ether attacks that have status aliments to them. My final team consisted of Shulk, Dunban, and Rikki since they would end battles so fast for me.


Sigh. As I’m writing this, I’m really upset that I ruined some of the experience of the game for myself. If I wasn’t so stubborn in the past to use guides and take the time to learn the game, I might have this one of my favorites games of all time. That is not saying that I found the entire journey free from some annoying issues. I am not one of the people who doesn’t dismisses a game entirely if the framerate isn’t consistent all the way through, but the framerate issues I had with the Wii version of Xenoblade made me rage so many times. The only time where the game would slow down because it couldn’t handle everything on screen was during battles. In the boss fight that I mentioned in the Bionis’ heart, the adds that would spawn in would make that battle miserable since things would happen, but you can’t react since different things are processing at different times and then you find yourself dead. The amount of times the framerate would screw me over in a game where your positioning is important drew me up the wall towards the endgame. I was waiting for my Wii to melt at any point either from trying to handle everything or the heat from my frustration would vaporize it. Ugh.

Also there are too many side quest in the game. I know the developers wanted you to explore this expansive world, but there are too many useless fetch or slaying quest that just gives you money as a reward. The Colony 6 side quest are fine since those actually build up to something, but when everyone has something for you to do, then you don’t really have anything that you want to do. Some of these quest can be fun, but a majority of them just feel like padding.

So that is pretty much my thoughts on Xenoblade Chronicles. I appreciate this game more now that I have finished it and learned how to play it effectively. I wasn’t planning on it, but I immediately started playing the definitive edition on Switch, which improves so many things for me. My eyes feel like they are no longer burning since the Wii visuals didn’t age well for me and the text felt small to read. The user interface feels so much better to navigate and read, and the updated graphics are fine to me. There are also small quality of life changes that improve the game from the base game. I’m only on Chapter 3, so if there is something stupid that the definitive edition did, I won’t know until I get there.

But that about wraps up my thoughts and time with Xenoblade Chronicles. I’m happy that I was able to finally cross this game off my backlog and get one step closer to completely finishing my Wii collection. Of course I would be interested in getting Xenoblade Chronicles 2 now when you can’t find a used physical copy anymore. I may cave and get the digital version, but with other games on my backlog right now, I can hold off purchasing it right now.

Again, thank you Kim and Solarayo for hosting this collaborating event!

Thanks for reading,

DanamesX

What’s In The Box…Weird Can Thing!? A Gift From My Father-In-Law.

So. My in-laws are moving out of their house a “retiring” down to Florida. I enjoyed the visits we made to their house during the summer and holidays, but know it looks like I will have to venture hellscape that is Florida to enjoy board games and beer (Florida is not a bad state, I just hate the heat down there). While my father-in-law is not the gamer that he once was, he does find the time to enjoy gaming when he can. He currently enjoys his Switch and is currently playing his second playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. His influence got Kat into gaming as well; and it is thanks to him that we have some impressive games in our collection (all five mainline Suikoden games just to name some). However, some of our taste in games don’t line up well since he is a big sports fan and I know how to play a game but suck at everything else.

That brings us to this wonderful…thing that he sent us. For the record, I have zero interest in Nascar. I have no idea why people spend hours watching cars drive in a loop, but if that is your form of entertain then please keep enjoying it. The only reason I know who this person is, Jeff Gordon, is because of all the Nascar fans from my school (I wouldn’t have known it was him without the signature on the can). So why was I given this cooler for a sport that I have no interest in? For the contents inside apparently. While cleaning out their basement, they decided to place all of his old gaming stuff into this container and let me shift through it to see if there was anything that I wanted. I really appreciate the thought of letting me look through them to see if there was anything that I wanted. They know I am a video game buff, and sadly they appreciate it more than most people on my side of the family. However, they did not realize my policy of not selling or getting rid of games that enter my possession; no matter what the game is or if I will ever play it. It is a self imposed rule that I placed on myself after selling games that I regretted in the past. So, let’s see what fun things this cooler holds.

When I opened up the lid, the very first game that greeted me was Fox Sports College Hoops ’99….

Sigh. Okay no big deal. I know that my FIL (just going to start using this abbreviation now) is big into sports, so of course some of these will be sports titles. I have never heard of this game, or who would be in it that I know. Kobe? Is Kobe in this? Who played basketball in 1999? Dirk? Is that you? Obviously I know some sportsball people, just my knowledge is slim when recognizing famous players. To get some of my “meh” findings out of the way, here is a highlight reel of all the other ball games we found in this thing.

Madden 2000. I might have fun with this one. My younger brother made me play a bunch of Madden games with him in the past, so I will have some idea on how to play it.

PGA Tour 98. This isn’t Mario Golf. This is regular golf for people who want to play actual golf (ie. not me).

Triple Play 98. I’ve never really had a problem with baseball. There was a baseball game that we would rent out a lot of times on the N64, but I doubt this is the same brand (I looked it up and it was All-Star Baseball 99; we tried to hit each other with the ball). I’ll give it a whack and see if it is a home run or a foul.

NHL 99. The sticker on the case says that this is the “coolest game on earth.” Obviously this was the case before Club Penguin came into existence.

Triple Play 2000. I don’t remember much from the year 2000, but Kat informed me that she was in Kindergarten at the time. This made me go into a fetal position and deny the fact that I’m old for my age group. Also I’m pissed that my Triple Play collection is now ruined since I’m now missing Triple Play 99.

NCAA Football 2000. What would make the college football games more interesting would be to let the marching band take the field and watch them play a game. Similar to the mascot mode in later games.

Madden 2002. Apparently Madden 2001 wasn’t that great, so he skipped straight to the 2002 version.

And that is all the sports games that were in the cooler. I joke, but I am curious to test run these games even though I’m not sweating at the palm to play them. Realistic sports games are not my jam. I prefer playing games like the Mario spinoffs or any other fun and creative game that uses a sports formula. There might be a ton of people who had fun playing these games back in the day, and I hope seeing them again brought back some good memories. My memories of these games will probably be bad, but don’t let my dismissive mind tarnish yours.


With that out of the way, let’s look at some things that did peek my interest. Some of these I will talk about in more length than the sports games, and some I will have no clue what the public’s reception is to them. If I had to put them in some kind of ranking of excited to own, I would say these games get an eyebrow raise from me.

Sentient. I have no idea what this game is about. The back of the case tells me that this is a 3D adventure game where you have to solve a murder mystery in space…I think. From what I can tell, this game came out early in the PlayStation lifespan and most critics were very critical about it. I’m sure there maybe some redeeming qualities in it, but I will never know until I try it one day. This game is one of the only games that feels odd in my FIL’s games that is outside his normal genres. He likes sports, strategies, and RPGs. Having a semi horror adventure game seems out of place for him to own. Add the fact that their are faded faces in the back ground and the case has semi claw marks on them, I could convince myself that this game is haunted.

Warcraft II: The Dark Saga. I have not played any of the Warcraft games or any other game by Blizzard outside of Overwatch. I have no idea if playing a real-time strategy (RTS) game is comfortable with a controller or not, but sadly I don’t see myself playing this anytime soon.

Jeopardy. Rip to the great legend that was Alex Trebek. Jeopardy will never be the same without him. I used to have a Jeopardy game for PC way back in the day; and surprise surprise I was terrible at it. I imagine I will be terrible at this version since this game came out in 1998. Kat and I will definitely get a kick out it one day and she will dominate me since she is the better one at trivia.


That does it for the mid tier interest level finds from the crate. Again, not bad things, but things that didn’t get me overly excited. These next few items listed are what I consider my highlights from what I found. I thought I had already found the good stuff when I was looking through his games before, but somehow these things skipped my attention at the time.

Riven: The Sequel to Myst. This may sound like blasphemy, but I have never played Myst. That didn’t stop me from being intrigued by what I assume is the collector’s edition of Riven. I have no idea what is going on, but this 5 disc game came with unique slide cases for each disc. For all you Myst buffs out there, this might look really cool to you. I have no idea since this was the first time I realized Myst had a sequel. I have no way at the current time to play this since I lack the software requirement to try (a CD drive), but I’m sure the digital version exist out there. For the time, I will admire how cool and maybe rare this might be (you can tell me in the comments if it is rare or not).

Beyond the Beyond. I have never heard of this game before. What makes me excited to check it out is that this game was developed by Camelot Software Planning. If you don’t know who they are, they mostly now do the excellent Mario Gold and Tennis games, as well the first three Shining Force games and freaking Golden Sun! You can tell that it is from the same developer since they share a lot of aspects in the menus and battle. Some of the screenshots that I’ve seen make this look like an early concept of Golden Sun without the fun Psynergy puzzles to do. Critics didn’t find this game to be special at the time, but I’m always down to try out older JRPGs and see how they stand today. If anything, it will scratch that Camelot RPG itch that I’ve had ever since finishing Golden Sun: Dark Dawn almost 10 years ago.

A Toys ‘R’ Us PlayStation Demo Disk. This still has the factory seal on it, so I guess no one was interested in trying out any of the games on the disk. I’m surprise he held on to since there are some interesting demos on this disk. This disc was trademarked in 1998 and offered some really good games. This disc demoes for the following games:

  • Gran Turismo
  • Blasto
  • Tekken 3
  • Hot Shots Golf
  • Jersey Devil
  • Einhander
  • Gex 2
  • Tomb Raider 2
  • Tomba!

The disc also has some special videos that I’m guessing were teaser trailers at the time. Those videos include:

  • Spyro the Dragon
  • Metal Gear Solid
  • NFL Xtreme
  • MLB ’99
  • Resident Evil 2

Gex alone would have made me play this disc nonstop. I am interested in Hot Shots Golf since it was developed by Camelot Software as well. I know the age of demo disc are a thing of the past, but it is sometimes fun to play old demos and see what a game was at a certain point of development. I’ll pop that seal off one day and do some investigation.

The Final Fantasy Legend. Probably the rarest game that I found in the crate. The Final Fantasy Legend was the first game in the SaGa series that was renamed for us in the states for better sales I’m guessing. I have only played two games in the SaGa franchise and I enjoyed what I played. While this doesn’t have the Free Scenario gameplay that the later titles implement, it might be fun to play an old school RPG and discover its charm. Right now you can play this game on the Switch via the Collection of SaGa if you don’t want to hunt down a copy.

Shadow Madness? Never heard of it. For some reason I get budget title RPG vibes from this. If you have played this game before and loved it, let me know. It looks interesting based on the information on the back of the case. Too bad I won’t be able to test that theory since…

There was no game in the case. How are you going to tease me with this terrible looking game that could be amazing? I’m not going to lie and said this made me want to find the game even more, because while nice I don’t have any intention to seek this out. But why would my FIL just pack an empty case? Did he believe that there was something inside and just packed it in haste? Or, was there something else hidden on the other side of the case (since this is a multi-disc case). Sure enough, I open the other side of the case and found this.

Original release copies of the Final Fantasy Anthology. Why is this here!? Did he lose the case to this at one point and decided to hide them away in a place no one would think to look? Regardless, this might have been my second favorite find out of everything that was packed. I already own these games for the PlayStation, but my copies are the Greatest Hits rereleases that replace the disc art with a generic label. I think that’s what made me excited about finding this since the disc art on these are gorgeous. Final Fantasy V’s disc has the four heroes in different job class outfits. I don’t think I have ever seen this artwork before, so it is a neat bonus. Final Fantasy VI’s disc has the iconic artwork of Terra on the magitek armor overlooking the capital of Vector (I think). Look, I just find this really neat to have since I miss the days of effort in packaging an item. Am I eager to play these…ehh maybe one day when I have the patience to tolerate load times. I do own both of these for the GBA, so it might just be a crossing off my list type of ordeal.


That does it for the games that I found in here. Not all the games I found were bad, just games that will be hanging around until I get the curiosity of playing one day. That doesn’t end all of the other things that were included in this package. There were other random things in there, like tons of PS1 controllers. Most of them were all third party controllers with some I just outright tossed since they were sticky and falling apart. I did keep most of them including a wireless PS1/2 controller that has the L2 and R2 buttons further down the bottom of the controller. I honestly like the design of it since the button rest where my middle fingers would on the dualshock controller. I have to make sure that the receiver that was in the case is the correct one and see if it still works.

As much as the controllers were cool, they were pointless to me since I don’t own an original PlayStation. I came in late to the PlayStation game by getting a PS2 right as the PS3 came out and was the new kid on the block. I had the chance of getting a PS1, but I had no way of justifying the $7 USD price tag and purpose at the time. That’s no longer an issue now since towards the bottom of the container was my FIL’s PlayStation.

The collector side of me is happy since I now almost have a complete PlayStation console collection (looking at you PS5). I may now play my PS1 games through the original console for that “authentic experience.” All I am missing now is the CRT TV.


And that is where the highlights end. I hope this was entertaining for you as it was for me to randomly pull these out of Gordan’s can. My in-laws do want the cooler back, so unfortunately that will not be rotting away in my backyard. There were a few other miscellaneous items inside, but they weren’t much to talk about. There are more boxes to go through that have come from my in-laws house, so if I find anything else interesting that’s worth talking about, I might post them up on my Instagram (trying to force myself to post more there). If you would like for me to do another box opening post in the future, then I would need to go like thrift shopping or visit yard sales or something. Magical boxes full of video game items just don’t show up at my door all the time, so don’t hold your breath something else like this will happen again.

Thanks for reading,

DanamesX