It is that time of the year everyone! Kim from Later Levels is back with Love Your Backlog Month! Thank you Kim for what is becoming one of my favorite holidays now. Since it is the namesake of my blog, you can probably guess that I have a very steep backlog in my collection. You would guess right since my gaming time has been reduced, but my collecting habit has never stopped. That is kind of a lie since I am reaching the point where I almost have all of the old games that I have been seeking (just the really expensive ones left).
I had to crunch the numbers yet again and made sure that I was as close to accurate. I have officially decided that I am not responsible for finishing any games that Kat has or bought since I did not purchase them myself. This helps take the edge off somethings and drastically brings my number down (even though I want that 1000+ badge…). This year’s grand total of unfinished games in my backlog is…
It is a smaller number from last year! Removing the filler really helped. Since I like working with spreadsheets, I broke down every system that I own and recounted every finished and unfinished game for each. I also started taking liberties when it comes to multiple copies of a game that is either on another console or just a remaster/rerelease of an older game. I have decided that if I have finished it on one console, then I have finished every other version of it, unless it is a completely different game (story changes, mechanics). For example, I own Mega Man X on multiple systems (I love Mega Man X). Since I have finished the game once, I am counting every rerelease of the game as finished as well since it is the same game. This cleans things up a lot since there is no need for me to go out of my way to finish the game again but just on a different system. It also saves me time to play other games.
I am proud that my Game Boy collection is complete since the only one I haven’t played belongs to Kat. The numbers were looking good until I got to my Switch and PC collection. I was expecting my PC backlog to be huge, but I honestly forgot that I have some games since they are not on Steam. The Switch backlog took me by surprise until I realized that that number comes mostly from all the collection packs that are available for the system. The Switch is the perfect little system to bundle a bunch of old games on, and that is where the inflation comes from. The worst offender is the Sega Genesis Classics that has over 50 games in it. If I knew Nintendo was going to add Genesis games to their online service, I probably would not have gotten this pack. I should get around to playing the two games that I own on Wii U virtual console to complete that collection. I am also tempted to not buy or finish anymore GameCube or PSP games just so I can keep it perfectly balanced.
With some of that out of the way, it is time for the Q&A section of this post. I will try my best to not repeat my answers from previous years.
A Game You Are Eager To Play, But Haven’t Yet Started
So many choices, but I think I will have to go with Pandora’s Tower on the Nintendo Wii. We all know the story about Operation Rainfall which helped bring Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, & Pandora’s Tower over to the west. Out of those games, Pandora’s Tower is the only one that I haven’t played. I got it for Christmas a couple of years ago, but I have yet to sit down and play it. I don’t know the reason for this, except maybe I’m just lazy and don’t feel like hooking up my Wii. Will I get around to playing it this year? Maybe?
A Game You’ve Started Several Times But Haven’t Yet Finished
This is a fun question since I recently attempted to play it again a few months ago. That game is Final Fantasy XV.
I’ve had this game since it released on day one. I remember coming home from work excited to play this. During my first playthrough, I got as far as Chapter 2, and then stopped playing. It wasn’t because I wasn’t having a good time, but Kat wanted to play the game as well. So in order not to spoil each other, we would take turns playing to reach where the other one left off. If you are asking why we didn’t just pass the controller to each other, it is because we have different styles of playing games. While I wonder and do the things that I want to do, Kat will complete everything that she can before moving on to the next part. I think this is where things fell off. It also didn’t help that we both got distracted by other games that came out later like Tales of Berseria and Horizon Zero Dawn.
We decided to get a second copy of the game and play side by side when Kat upgraded to her PS4 Pro, but we never got around to it until last year. We stopped playing again because we were getting exhausted from doing all of the side quests to the point where almost ten hours in we still hadn’t progressed much in the main story. With Final Fantasy XVI coming soon, one of us will have to sit down and finish it (which most likely will be me since I want to finish all the mainline games).
The Oldest Game In Terms Of Release Date
I said Super Mario 64 the previous year, but that was inaccurate at the time. The correct answer was Pac-Man on the Game Boy, but I now have something even older than that. The Final Fantasy Adventure was released in September 1990, beating Pac-Man for the Game Boy by one year. This game marks the beginning of the SaGa franchise that Square has been reintroducing to the west for some time now. I have been digging into the SaGa franchise over the past year, but haven’t gone back as far as Romancing SaGa. At some point I would like to do an overview of the series and talk about why the series isn’t as popular as some of Square’s other RPGs.
The Most Recent Addition To Your Library
The last game that I got was the 20th anniversary edition of Final Fantasy II on the PSP. I found a copy of Final Fantasy for the PSP last year, but could never come across the second game in any of the stores I visit. Final Fantasy II may be one of the least popular titles in the series, but I actually enjoy it for what it is. It has flaws, but the music and scenario left an impression on me when I first played it years ago. Honestly, I just want to see if I can still use the Teleport spell to carry to the final boss again.
The Game Which Has Spent The Most Time On Your Backlog
I think it is the same answer as last time (Super Mario 64), so instead I will pick the game on my purchase tracker. All the way back in 2015, I bought Grand Theft Auto 5 for the PS3. I am not the type to play the story mode of a GTA title. I normally just goof around in the world and make up my own objectives as I go. Kat and I played online often when we were long-distance dating at the time. Good memories. Any who, this is the oldest from when I started recording, so it will remain old until I get around to that story mode.
The Person Responsible For You Adding The Most Entries To Your Backlog, Due To Their Good Recommendations
No one really influences my decision when purchasing games. I tend to just decide for myself if I am interested in playing something. The internet helps with this since I stay away from most things that are highly talked about (I wish Tears of the Kingdom would interest me). When I look at my PC list however, I will have to blame my friend E for the behemoth of a backlog that it is. He is the one who helped me build my first gaming PC, so it is completely his fault that I have so many unfinished games. He will recommend games that we can try out together and I will give it a try until something else would come up that he would want me to try. I’ve enjoyed his recommendations, but it is hard to finish one game when we keep jumping all over the place or can’t find time to play games in the evening. Even so, without his recommendations I wouldn’t be interested in some games like Total War, Borderlands, or Divinity.
As for what I want to do for Maybe in March, maybe I should do the story mode for GTA5. Knowing me, I doubt that will happen. I do however want to finish another GBA game since technically they have all been in my backlog longer than GTA5. Which one will that be? I guess you will just have to wait and see (I still need to figure it out).
That’s all I got. Thanks again Kim for hosting this event and I will see you all next month (or sooner since I have other things to write and talk about)!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time to talk about the games that you played this year, rank them arbitrary, and let a bunch of people on the internet judge your decisions. Luckily for me, I am immune to most online criticism so I have no trouble sharing some of my thoughts. 2022 was a busy year for me. I finished 27 games this year! This is a feat for me since I normally finish around less than 20 games in a year. Most of my accomplishments came from my 50-50 challenge that ended in August.
So let’s briefly go over the games that I finished this year and how I rank each of them. I didn’t know what format I wanted to go with originally, but then I realized that I never capitalized on the whole tier list craze that was going around. Since I am one who tends to be late at adapting trends, I decided to go the tier list route this year. These things tend to be more fun when it is happening in real time, but this is the best that I can do. Going from S to D rank without some type of guidance, so I came up with my own guidepost on how I should categorize each ranking:
S – Stupendous! This Game Made My Year! A – Amazing Game With Great Things! B – Better Than Most. In The Middle. C- Could Play Again, But No Time Soon. D – My Disappointment Is Immense, And My Year Was Ruined.
Cool. Let’s start the rankings then!
Dynasty Warriors 2
Dynasty Warriors 2 was the first game that I finished this year. Off the bat, it is one of the weaker games in the series. The action feels slow at times and the whole presentation just feels off. I know that this is my fault for starting at the third game and going backwards would affect my judgment. It is still Dynasty Warriors Gundam at the end, so I still had a fun time with it even though I was left wanting more. First game on the list and it goes into the C tier.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus
The first new game that I played this year is possibly my favorite game to come out this year. Pokémon Legends: Arceus made me realize what I enjoy the most in Pokémon games; exploring and discovering new things on my own and making it dangerous. To say that this game held my attention from beginning to end is an understatement. There were very few games that I played this year where I completed almost everything in it. Completing the Pokédex in this game is rewarding since it unlocks the true ending of the game and one of the best finales that I’ve seen in a Pokémon game. My only regret is that I will have to wait enough time to pass for me to forget most things, or for another game in this style to get this type of experience again. If you haven’t guessed yet, this is going in the “S’ tier for me. If you haven’t played this game yet, or thought Pokémon Scarlet and Violet didn’t innovate the series enough for you, give this game a try.
HuniePop 2: Double Date
Yes the “aesthetic” is nice to look at in this game, but that is not what drew me into this game. You know your game is special when the T&A is good, but the gameplay is even better than that. I had no idea how the Hunipot developer was going to enhance the gameplay from the first game, but the double date mechanic is genius. It works well when you are trying to strategize your dates and be resourceful with your items. The final boss(es) was one of the best that I’ve encountered in a game in a while. It uses all of your knowledge of each individual girl and makes you think on how to counter each stipulation while being mindful of your turn limit. It took Kat and I a few tries to overcome it, but it was satisfying coming out on top of it. Honestly, I have nothing really bad to say about it. Even though I haven’t returned to the game ever since we beat it, I highly recommend this game if you are a fan of challenging puzzle games (you can turn the nudity off). It might be weird for me to put it in the “A” tier, but I will be honest and say that I haven’t played or thought about this game after beating it.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a mixed game for me. The beginning of the game feels slow and uninteresting to play, but starts to pick up once you reach the second half. The lighthearted nature of the characters threw me off as well since nothing ever felt at stake until you get towards the end of the game. I also didn’t find myself as intrigued with the world like I was with the first Xenoblade. With all of that said, it is not a bad game. Once the combat became more engaging, I was enjoying it. When the big reveals were revealed, it made playing through to the end worth it to see how everything tied at the end. It’s just a shame that the best parts of the game for me were placed in the second half of the game. Not bad, but without its faults. In the middle “B” tier it goes.
Trivia Pursuit Live! 2
How did they make this game worse than the first one? I enjoyed playing the first Trivia Pursuit Live! with Kat since it is a constant reminder that I’m terrible at Geography. You would think the sequel would be better, but it is a downgrade. The game just screams “budget title” since some of the charm from the first game was taken out and replaced with nothing. I know that’s a lot to ask from a trivia game developed by Ubisoft, but a little more effort would have been appreciated instead of just updating the pool of questions. Easily one of the worst games that I’ve played this year. Our first “D” tier game.
Yu Gi Oh! Master Duel
Yu Gi Oh! Master Duel was a surprising game to hear about. A free-to-play game where you can play with others using the current rule set and cards is a great way to get into the game, kinda. It is apparent that if you are unaware of the current meta of the game, then you will have a hard time in the ranked mode. The rules to Yu Gi Oh! are already complicated, and can be intimidating to new players. There are however multiple free rooms that you can use to help test out decks, learn new tricks, and slowly work your way up to the point where you feel comfortable taking on other players. I will say that this game is a great way to get into the game since it’s free and available on all platforms and mobile (you can even keep your progress on multiple systems). While I haven’t played in a while, I still recognize this as a good game. Into the “A” rank it goes!
Kirby and the Forgotten Land
After spending some time away from this game, I am now in the mindset of wanting more from this game. It is a fun Kirby game no doubt, but not one of my personal favorite Kirby adventure. While the game was fun to play through and the challenges offered some thinking on my end, it never grasped me to play for hours on end. There is something holding me back from really enjoying this game since others seemed to really enjoy this game. No offense to Kirbo, but the game feels like a “B” tier entry to me.
Final Fantasy V Advance
I don’t mean to be harsh with Final Fantasy V, but it is a let down from other past Final Fantasy games that I’ve played. The job system is great and allows for lots of party customization. The system is so good, that they decided to create a new series that utilizes this system and expand on it even more. What really brings Final Fantasy V for me is everything else in the game. The narrative is one of the weakest for me, and never held my attention during non-key points. While the main cast is good, the way they can go from emotional to having goofy fun made me forget that they were trying to prevent the void from consuming their world. That is where I am at with this game. You can read more of my thoughts in the post I wrote. Seeing as I wasn’t dragging my feet to finish this game, I will put it in the C tier since it wasn’t a complete disappointment at the end.
Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Now this was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting this game to win Meme of the Year with the heavy emphasis on edginess. What I wasn’t expecting was a well thought out game that required me to be patient and learn things as I played. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin seems stupid on paper and in person, but there is a layer of strategy where understanding your foes and having the right job setup will lead to rewarding victories. I don’t want to compare this to a soulslike game since it is not one at its core. Its similarities come to having limited restorative options, tough boss fights that require you to think and adapt, and not having a straightforward narrative. The game tries to keep you in the action as much as possible while offering challenges to make replayability interesting. There are elements that I don’t appreciate like the stupid amount of loot that you obtain in this game. There is too much loot for me to sort through and figure out if I need it. Big numbers means good right? That’s all I did in my playthrough. I do also wish that the AI companions were a bit smarter, but what can you do when they are always constantly asking Jack what to do. Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this game. I want to do the DLC quests at some point once they have all been released and maybe try and go for the platinum achievement. Surprisingly fun game that is held back by the loot mechanic. I feel comfortable putting this in an “B” ranking.
My second “Game of the Year.” I want to break the stigma that there can only be one game in your Game of the Year spot. Both Pokémon: Legends Arceus and Elden Ring provided two different experiences for me that jointly made my year one to remember. I am not the type of person who plays these types of games and finishes them in the same year. Elden Ring only took me three months which is a new record for me. That was in part of playing the game with one of my best friends from almost beginning to end. The fact that I was able to have a partner with me helped me with the exploration hurdles that I have and really challenged me to keep up with my friend when they would get ahead of me. It might be the “blasphemous” way of playing the game, but that made it one of the best games that I played this year. I still have two other buddy campaigns to do, so I don’t see myself being done with the game for a while (especially when DLC officially comes). It is one of my games from this year just for being one of the best co-op experiences I’ve had all year. S tier for Elden Ring even though my reasons are different from most.
Mario Strikers: Battle League
You would think I would learn to stay away from Mario Sport games these days, but there was no way they would mess up Mario Strikers. The previous games were short on content, but provided hours of fun because the core game was just fun. That didn’t really happen with this title. Something is missing from that core in Battle League. It is Mario Strikers in all mechanics, but something about it just doesn’t feel right. I haven’t had the chance to play this with other people so that might be it, but even so, something just prevents me from caring that much about the game. I argue that Mario Golf: Super Rush had more for me to be engaged with; and I hate Speed Golf. Until I figure that out, Mario Strikers: Battle League joins all the other disappointing games this year in the D tier.
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
I don’t like this game. I have a big personal problem with 3D platforming games that make them hard for me to enjoy them. Despite this, I try to play these types of games just to see if I can overcome my problems and find ways to adapt and enjoy them. Super Mario 3D World did not help. The way the platforming in this game works feels designed for Mario veterans to me. The floaty and sometimes slipper nature of each character made the simple challenge of jumping from one platform to the next irritating at some points. I didn’t even try playing Bowser’s Fury just because I was ready to be done with this game once and for all. That being said, it is a me problem and not a fault to the game’s design. If you like Mario games, you will have a blast playing through this. Me being the type of person who is bad at 3D platforming finds this type of game hard to enjoy. For my own personal reasons, this game goes into the C tier for me.
Super Mario 3D Land
I loved this game. I didn’t have the interest of playing this, but I got it for cheap one year thanks to birthday discount (remember when Nintendo would offer you discounts for your birthday?) I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it since it is a 3D Mario game, but everything in this game just works and clicks for me. I theorize that since the game is on a smaller screen, I have less things to process while moving forward. It also helps that the 3D effect actually works in this game and helps with seeing the 3D environments clearly. Maybe I should have played this before 3D World since I had such a better experience with this handheld game over the console upgrade. Super Mario 3D Land lands in the A tier for me.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
When it was announced that Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was getting a remake, I took the opportunity to finish the original PSP game. After not touching it for years, I was surprised to see that I left off right outside the door to the final boss. I couldn’t tell you why I never finished the game then and there. The fun part was relearning how to play the game while fighting the final boss. Once I got back into the hang of things, I managed to finally see the end of Zack’s journey in glorious fashion. So yeah, I don’t really remember anything about this game except that the combat can get frustrating at times. Nothing amazing was sticking out to me, but nothing bad either. I will play the remake at some point, so for now I will place the original in the B tier.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV
The finale to the Trails of Cold Steel saga took the longest time for me to finish. At this point, I was entwined in the story and characters that I had to see everyone’s resolution to the end. Unfortunately that cost me almost 200 hours of my life to do so. I don’t regret the time I spent, but I felt some things did drag on only for the story to speed through at the end. I am a huge fan of this series and I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here after finally meeting the Grandmaster of Ouroboros and what plans they may have in store next. Now I just need to find time to play the Sky trilogy and Crossbell duology before Trails into Reverie comes out in July. Sign. I am going to place this game in the “A” tier. Great conclusion to the saga, but could have been trimmed down just a bit.
This is a game from my childhood. Whenever we would visit one of our cousins, we would ask to play this game since it was so chaotic and fun. Revisiting it now made me question how durable we were as children since there are so many flashing lights and it gets hard to comprehend what is going on on the screen sometimes. Thanks to the Nintendo Switch Online service (words that I won’t say often), I was able to play this game with my older brother and beat it in one sitting. According to him, we have never beaten this game, hence why it is on my list. If you have never played Gunstar Heroes before, give it a try since it is available on almost all systems at this point. Just make sure to ask your optometrist if your eyesight is strong enough to handle everything on the screen. I give this game an A rank on this list.
Final Fantasy VII
I love playing RPGs (more specific JRPGs). To tell people that I have never finished one of the most iconic JRPGs until now was a fun treat. I have attempted to play and finish this game in the past, but losing your progress doesn’t help to motivate you to restart. Having the drive to finally restart this game and see it through to the end was both equally satisfying and comforting to a younger me since the game is not difficult whatsoever. Sure the superbosses are difficult as you would expect, but nothing in the main story presents much difficulty as long as you are properly equipped. I think the biggest hurdle is how slow the game is. Playing this on original hardware would have been a chore since things just move slowly and getting anything done takes time. That is why I recommend doing what I did and play one of the newer versions of this game that includes toggle turbo speed to get to place faster. I will always recommend playing older games at a faster speed in certain points since it really takes some of the bore away when you want to get to the next story beat. I did manage to get my one and only platinum trophy from this game this year, and I found the game enjoyable to this day. Maybe it was the time of the year that I played it, or if I missed the FFVIII hype train back in the day, but at the end of the day I found this game to be amazing and still holds up to this day. That is why it is in the A tier for me personally.
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
The surprise sleeper hit for me this year is probably Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. I have given this game so many tries, but the appeal never grabbed me. It didn’t help that I was hours into Monster Hunter World when Capcom decided to release this in the West. With the help of a friend, I was finally able to enjoy the game for what it is. This is a great sendoff to the old style of Monster Hunter, and has plenty of content that not even World or Rise has been able to acquire. While I love this game now, I do know that its limitations are hard to ignore. Even so, I am happy that I no longer have a clear answer to my least favorite Monster Hunter game now. Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate is deserving of my A ranking. It would be an S if it didn’t take this long for me to enjoy.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is a beast of a game. At times I feel like Monolith Soft knows how to work with the Switch better than Nintendo’s first-party developers know how to. The fact that the game can support seven characters fighting hordes of enemies and keep a stable-ish framerate is an impressive feat. I thought this game was better than XC2, and had the same level of mystery and surprises like the first. The ability to change classes is a mechanic that works well for the series since battle tend to get repetitive without some changes. For many, this is probably one of the best JRPGs that they have played this year. If I felt like I wasn’t wasting some of my time with some of the side quests that didn’t yield much benefit for doing them, then I would say XC3 hits the mark. I found myself racing towards the end in the final chapter and getting my big payoff from finishing the game then and there instead of dragging it on with the side stories. I can’t place this lower or on the same level as Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so it must go into the A tier.
Sometimes a game sounds so stupid and ridiculous that you have to try it out yourself. Trombone Champ was that game for me this year. Being a musician myself, I had to try this funny trombone game that popped up out of nowhere on my timeline. What went from laughs turned into something serious however. The power of the trombone started to swell in me, and I found myself compelled to achieve S rank on all the songs and collect all of the collectable cards that I could. The mystery of the trombone still eludes me and I need to find out why they are associated with the baboon. Baboons. Baboons….Ba..boo…ns. Uh sorry. Trombone Champ is a fun game even if the fun lasts for about 5-10 hours. Good on you trombone kid. You get an A rank from me.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Lament of Innocence was the second Castlevania game that I played this year, and could stomach to finish! While I enjoyed the combat and soundtrack, I found the level design, camera control, and BS platforming sections to hinder my good time. It is not a long game to beat, so I may one day return to it to 100% complete it. Stuck in the middle, so it will be placed in “B” tier.
The soundtrack is fire, but the rest of the game belongs in a fire (not really). D tier.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Ah Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. Just when I was ready to write off all 3D Castlevania games being bad to just ok, you showed up and showed me what could have been if more 3D titles were made (by Igarashi). Curse of Darkness incorporated my favorite elements of the series and made it work in a 3D environment. While I have some minor complaints about it, I found the game to be a good palate cleanser to the other average and bad games that I played. Thank you, and take your spot in the “A” tier.
I don’t know if this counts, but the Blizzard treated this as a new game, so so am I! Overwatch 2 should have never happened. Blizzard could have easily done a big update to gut the loot box system and everything would have been fine. Instead, they wasted so much time to hype up this “evolution” to the original Overwatch, and the result was a worse version of Overwatch. It is the same game with one less player on each team. I dislike the UI, the removal of post game stats, and the quirky fun of the game. Don’t even get me started on the bullshit that is the battle pass and how unapologetically predatory it is. This is the worst battle pass system that I have seen; and I am only familiar with two of them. I’m going to stop here before I get into a giant rant of how Blizzard thought this system would be better. I still find some fun in the game on a base level, but there was no need to rush this “sequel” out in the state that it is in. This can go nowhere else but the “D” tier.
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire
Before PokémonScarlet came out, I wanted to finish some other Pokémon titles that I had in the backlog. I have tried playing the remakes for the third generation a number of times, but for some reason I could never get past a certain point. I would mostly lose interest in it and would restart the game to refresh my opinion. My final opinion is that this is how a remake should be. Keep everything that was in the original release, but add some new designs, introduce the new mechanics to the series in a way that makes sense to the story, and introduce some new quality of life improvements to make the game stand out. I really wished I played this game soon when it first released since it would have been my go to Pokémon game on the 3DS. Until I revisit Pokémon X and Y (since I have no memories of those games), Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby will now be my recommended titles for the Nintendo 3DS. I would put this in the “S” tier, but one thing that I kept constantly missing while playing the game was the original GBA soundtrack. If my compressed trumpets were in the game, then this would be the perfect game. Even so, this will be placed in the “A” tier.
I had a wave of emotions while playing this game. When it was first announced, I was like “okay….”. When I started playing it, I was like “Okay!”. When I was trying to finish up the last gyms, titans, and Team Star bases, I was like “Okaaaay….”. When I reached the final area and the climax of the game, I was like “OKAY!!!!”. Pokémon Scarlet is a great new direction for the mainline series. Having the world be open for you to explore and discover new things on your own is something people have wanted for ages. The story is a bit one note at the beginning, but opens up to be something more endearing than most storylines in the series. This would have been the greatest Pokémon game that I have ever played, if Legends: Arceus didn’t come out this year. When I compare the two, Legends: Arceus always comes on top for me. Scarlet may get better once the technical issues get resolved, or if future DLC somehow blows the finale out of the water. Pokémon Scarlet just has the misfortune of not being better than the other two Pokémon games that I played this year. Still a great game with great ideas. It still deserves to be in the “B” tier.
Simplicity at it’s finest. Your goal is to power up and survive the time limit in each stage. It is simple on paper, but it is the way Vampire Survivors handles this approach. Normally the difficulty in these games should get harder as time goes. Vampire Survivors mixes it up so that you have several calm and hectic times throughout your survival. It helps keep the player on their toes while playing a simple game. That and the cryptic story that you slowly uncover as you explore each stage. What surprised me the most about this game is that for how simple and cheap it is, The developer put a ton of care to the world building, how all the tools work with each other, and made it so that the game is not as impossible as it may seem. I may be a few achievements away from 100% completion, but I don’t see a time where I don’t boot the game up just to play one round (especially now that
As the saying goes, that is that. If any of my personal placements upsets you, then please consult a medical professional. My goal next year is to try and beat more games than I did the previous year. With the amount of JRPGs I have to get through next year, I may have a tough battle ahead.
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).
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):
*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.
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.
→ Is this the part where we go and kill God?
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.
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.