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

Finishing the Final Game in the Final Fantasy Advance Ports – Final Fantasy V (Backlog Tale)

Image from Final Fantasy Wiki

I never really grew up with the Final Fantasy series. My first encounter with the games was watching my older cousins play Final Fantasy VII whenever we would visit them. It wouldn’t be until the re-releases on the GameBoy Advance that I would properly play through the games. I had Final Fantasy 1&2 Dawn of Souls, followed by Final Fantasy VI Advance, and then Final Fantasy IV Advance. The only game in the series that I never got around to buying was Final Fantasy V Advance. The game never really appeared in the stores that I encountered, and I had since given up on finding it. That all changed in 2016 when I discovered one of my favorite retro game stores [include link to estarland] and decided to mark the occasion by completing my set. Now six years later after obtaining it, I have finally played and finished Final Fantasy V Advance. Was it worth the wait? No really.

If you are unfamiliar with the story of FFV, here’s the brief. The world is slowly losing the power of the crystals after overabusing them. Noticing the weak state of the wind, the king of Tycoon heads off to the Wind Crystal with his daughter following behind. At the same time, a meteorite crashes near the castle carrying a man who has lost his memories. All the while, an adventurer with his trusty Chocobo happens to be in the area and rescues the princess near the crash site. The two team up with the asmethic man to investigate the Wind Crystal while picking up a pirate captain on the way. They soon witness the Wind Crystal shatter before them and then are tasked with protecting the remaining crystals with the new powers they have been bestowed. The rest of the story follows how they continue to fail to protect anything and lose a lot of people and places along the way. They eventually defeat the evil being known as Exdeath and somehow restore balance to the world.

If my story explanation seemed rushed at the end, that explains how I felt about the story in this game. The story was the weakest part of the game to me. It felt subpar to me if you consider the game that came before this and the one that came after. Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI had a good story foundation that was carried greatly by their characters. The journey of Cecil is interesting to see him go from a dark knight to a paladin. The cast of FFVI all have their story motivation and you understand each of their motivations in both acts. FFV has a good plot to it, but none of the characters have a lasting motivation that carries from start to finish. You are given a reason why they are on this journey and small sections here and there to what keeps them going. There is little interest in these characters since they are not the main attraction in this game. If this game came out before FFIV, I believe that it would have more notoriety since future titles really started to focus on the character developments within the story.

The main attraction in this game is the new and improved job system. FFV allows you to fully customize your characters in any way that you see fit. Every time you fail to save a crystal, you are given shards of power that contain a new job for the group. Instead of worrying about your character level, the idea is to level up your job experience to unlock job abilities and stat growth.. While each character can only be assigned one job at a time, you do have the ability to assign a secondary action from any job that you have leveled up. This means you can have a knight who can cast black magic, a white mage with monk abilities, and so on. For me, this was the fun part about playing this game, but I wish there was more incentive to use all of the jobs.

You could play the game how the developers intended with changing out jobs when they would be most effective, but that makes little sense if you know the build that you want to go with. Since you normally get around 1 to 2 job points per battle and the number of points you need to level jobs increases, it makes most sense to just level up the jobs that you want to master to avoid the endless grind. Since I was familiar with the job system, I knew which jobs and abilities I wanted to give each character; making experimentation with other jobs pointless when I knew my end result would carry me through the endgame. When I got around to unlocking the “best” jobs in the game, I didn’t bother with them since I had the set up I wanted and didn’t want to grind out more points just to master them. Most of the playtime in FFV comes from grinding job points and not from the length of the game. My 30 hour playtime could have been reduced by a third if I didn’t grind for job points and the ultimate weapons.

While I am someone who enjoys grinding here and there, I was spoiled by the fact that I have played games with a similar job system and have done it better. The obvious example of this is Bravely Default. Bravely Default has the same job system from FFV, but streamlines it so most jobs have some appeal to them either through passive abilities or commands. Grinding job points was easier if you met certain requirements or unlocked abilities that granted more job points. The grind was fun in that game since the game was rewarding you from the start to get the most potential out of each job. If I had played FFV before Bravely Default, I would have personally rated it much higher.

In the end, I was met with a classic game that has been outdone by its spiritual successors in my opinion. After FFV, there would be no other Final Fantasy game in the mainline series that would use this type of job system. It was good for the time, but other games have proved that it can be much better. Pair that with a story, characters, and world that felt very flat to me, I feel like FFV is now at the bottom of my personal tier list. If I ever revisit it, it will probably be in the form of the Pixel Remasters since every other version that I’ve heard of is meh. To leave things off on a positive note, the best character in the game hands down is Gilgamesh. I now understand why he is a recurring character in the series and his death was the saddest one for me.

If you are wondering about my personal rankings of the GBA Final Fantasy games, they are:

VI Advance
Tactics Advance (need to finish)
1 & 2 Dawn of Souls
IV Advance
V Advance

Backlog Report – May 2022

Holy Mayflowers Batman! What the hell happened to May!? One moment I’m celebrating that it’s finally May, and the next thing I know June is here. I swear the moment you finish grade school or college, time means nothing anymore and everything becomes a standard affair until something life changing happens that slows down time again. I’m still searching for my next big life changing moment; but I have a feeling that something will shake things up next year.

While May was a blur to me, there are some blog related items that I did accomplish. For starters, the blog has a fresh new coat of paint on it. I was growing tired of the old look for a while and wanted to make things more “pleasant.”  The only thing that I’m meh about is that I can’t change the background color to a slightly less bright white. Despite there being a setting to change the background color, it doesn’t work for me for some reason. Other than that, the banner is temporary until I get off my lazy arse and create one myself. I appreciate any feedback.


Finished This Month

Final Fantasy V Advance

Didn’t have my capture device set up

Continuing my playthrough of all the mainline Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy V is the newest title to graduate from the backlog. Final verdict. It’s not one of my favorites. There was a lot with this game that did not intrigue me to pay attention half the time. The story is basic and only has a few standout moments. The job system in this game is fine, but once you know what skills you want each character to have, there is little point in trying out other classes if you are trying to master the ones you need. It’s not that long of a game, so grinding job points could be seen as a way to pad the game out. If that is the case, then it only makes the game even more boring since the focus is on the job system and not the characters or story. I will congratulate FFV for being so bland that it made me appreciate FFIV way more than I ever had (it was originally one of my least favorite FF games).

Elden Ring

Rise ye Tarnished. I’ve gone from maidenless to Elden Lord in record time for one of these games. I thought this game would take me months to finish based on my track record from Bloodbourne and Dark Souls. I think my play style and familiarity helped carry me through all the new challenges in this stupidly big world. Playing this alongside a friend was also the drive that kept me playing for weeks. I didn’t realize how much fun I was having with this game until I beat the final boss and my friend asked if I wanted to create a new character and play it over again. Elden Ring is the type of game that you can replay multiple times since there are so many character builds that you can experiment with and items to try out. You can even be like me and explore places that you completely missed on the first journey! So far this game is tied for my game of the year, and it’s going to be hard to decide which one will come on top.


Added and Finished This Month *New Section*

*I needed a new section for games that I buy and actually finish in the month I purchase it. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does find it in this section!

Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin

Have you played anything that sounds ridiculous on paper, but actually works in some crazy manner? Well I played Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin so that you don’t have to. Silly jokes aside, I found myself enjoying this game even though I had no idea what was going on half the time. SoP takes aspects of the Nioh games and Dark Souls by making the combat all about action while having the punishment and patience to learn the mechanics. The game attempts to fill in the holes to its story by finding lore orbs(?) in the game and put the pieces together about how the Luferians are assholes and reset the world for their pleasure. I would be upset with their explanation on how Garland came to be, but then I remember that the original Final Fantasy had the flying tech fortress and time travel to defeat Chaos. The series has always been weird so just embrace the weirdness from time to time. I want to get the platinum trophy, but it requires a second playthrough on Chaos difficulty and I only have time for so much patience these days.


New Additions This Month

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

I have always wanted to join a tabletop RPG game. It has been an interest for some time, but living in an area where no one hosts games is an issue (I would have to travel at least an hour away). Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands is far from a compromise, but so far it has highlighted what makes TTRPGs so much fun to play. The quest lines, unexpected twists and turns, and having a good time with the people you are playing with is what makes these games entertaining. The Borderlands formula also complements TTRPGs to the point where nothing feels out of place despite being based around a fantasy game. Kat and I have been streaming this game over on her Twitch channel every Wednesday. Just excuse us for being rusty at the whole streaming thing.

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 2

This is a collection that I’ve been waiting for. Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 2 contains two games: Makai Kingdom: Reclaim and Rebound & Z. H. P.: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman. I remember really enjoying Makai Kingdom even though it is a bit dated these days. That doesn’t stop it from being an enjoyable game and funny writing as you watch the strongest being in the universe defend his title while stuck in a book. Z.H.P completely missed my radar when it first came out, but I was hooked after the tutorial. It is some of Nippon Ichi’s best comical writing with a premise that makes fun of the whole Super Sentai/tokusatsu genre. I didn’t know before playing, but the game is actually a rougelike RPG that uses the same tactical grid set up from the Disgaea series. I will have to sit and finish this game since it is too funny and stupid to not finish.

Cruis’n USA

Oh look. More N64 games. Acquiring Cruis’n USA completes the racing N64 games that me and my brother enjoyed playing. It has been a while since I’ve played this game, but nostalgia is a terrible disease and I’m sure I will enjoy this game again nevertheless.

Kingdoms and Castles

Now here is a surprise. I felt the urge to boot up my PC after what feels like a three month hiatus from it. While deciding on what to play on it, I discovered this game on the Steam store page. It has been a while since I’ve played a strategy, city building game, and this was charming enough for me to investigate.

I have become addicted to this game. There are so many mechanics in this game that keep your attention busy at all times. Peasants are needy peasants who need everything from you and the world. Dragons and Vikings will attack your village at certain times and will always outsmart you depending on where you set up your defenses, and the Witch will be your best friend if you tell your peasants to work harder! And this is only on the beginner difficulty! The Kingdom of Dommy has seen lots of hardship in the 100 years, but has sense sabled itself to a functioning city. With the acquisition of the Isle of Mommies, the kingdom is starting to grow exponentially and we are better prepared for Viking attacks. I have no idea what other ordeals are waiting for us, but it is equally exciting and terrifying. I know at higher difficulties there are A.I. kingdoms that you can interact with and could work with you or invade you. I’m serious when I say that this has become one of my favorite games that I’ve played this year.


Currently Playing

I am currently in the flux of deciding what I should finish next. Trails of Cold Steel IV is the obvious choice since I have been pushing that aside for a while now. I may have to strap myself in and just finish it once and for all. My problem is that I’m trying to accomplish as much as I can on the first playthrough so that my list of tasks are simpler during the Nightmare runs. I am on act three part 1 out of 4, with two shorter acts afterwards. I know I should just focus on the story and do all the quests in another playthrough, but when the side content does a lot to flesh out the world and characters, it is hard to ignore them sometimes.

Kingdoms and Castles will be on the daily rotation. Since it does not demand a lot of resources, I can easily play this on my laptop and continue the harvest wherever I go (now I have to consider a SteamDeck). Elden Ring isn’t quite over yet since another friend has the game and we will be cooperating to help him get through it. Like I said before, Tina Tiny Wonderlands will be every Wednesday until we finish that game. The only other thing calling me at the moment is my DS/3DS collection. It has been a while since I’ve finished something on the handheld, so maybe that time is now. I don’t know. Something will come along.


Blog Update

By my records, I managed to post at least one item per week. This is a goal that I’ve been trying to work myself up to, and I think it wouldn’t have been possible without the many topics that I’ve started and slowly worked on. I have nine finished games that I still need to talk about, some fun posts that I’ve wanted to write, and more stories about certain games in my collection. I hope I can keep my productivity high while still improving my writing. Be on the lookout for two new Backlog Tales, a post about some of the games announced over the month, and a special post for a special day.


And that is all that I have for this month. Thank you for reading and your support!

Name That Tune! – EXP Share #7

Music is an important factor of my life. I started playing music at age nine in my fifth grade band and stayed in the music program up to my senior year. I remember in my junior year of high school, I told my mom that I had no interest in becoming a doctor anymore, and wanted to go to college to study music instead. A normal parent might have said that was a terrible idea, but my mom is super cool and always supportive of my decisions. So after high school, I went to college to study music full time…and quickly noticed that I was unlike most of the other students. As a music major, it was expected that you would be familiar with classic composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Scarlatti, Chopin, and current composers. Everyone also had their favorite genre of music from rock, pop, jazz, etc.; and our professors would expect us to know different aspects of each genre even before coming to college. That is where my oddity came in as my favorite music didn’t come on the radio or featured on top billboard charts that everyone was familiar with. My favorite music came from video games.

I remember my high school band director always turning down my pleas for playing band arrangements of popular game tunes. Their obvious response was that we did not have the instrumentation to play some of the things, but the harshest response they ever gave me was that video game music wasn’t “real” or good music. It wasn’t an uncommon thing for someone that old (I think they were in their 30s) with no concept of video games outside of the “beeps and boops” to say something like that. That comment made me upset (as it should have) to the point I wanted to question their music degree since they must have missed the lesson that all music is music regardless if you like it or not. This mindset didn’t end for me in high school. While my collegemates would talk about their favorite artist and music they listened to, some would raise an eyebrow when I would mention that my favorite genre were soundtracks from video games. I couldn’t begin to tell you who wrote some of the most well-known music out their, or who is currently trending. What I can tell you however is when one song plays at a particular part in a game just by listening to the first few notes of the song.

Video game music is my forte. What makes these soundtracks so great is that they come in various genres and follow the same basic music theory principles that all music follows. Take Final Fantasy XIII’s soundtrack for example. Most of the tracks follow the form of theme and variations (you establish a main theme and then create different variations around that theme). Even before that, the Tetris theme A-Type is taken from a Russian folk-song that originated in 1861. To say a folk-song is not music because you only recognize it from a video game does not invalidate itself from great music (augh those old farts!).

But this post is not about proving to my music teachers that video game soundtracks are great (I’ll do that another time). This post is about how good I am at identifying music from different games. I by all means do not know every single song written for every video game out their, but I am good enough to listen and make a good guess to where they come from. At this point, I can almost guess correctly every track from every mainline Final Fantasy game and almost distinguish them if they are arranged differently. Nobou Uematsu will always be one of my favorite composers since he knows how to turn the music into art. Even composers of the series after his departure like Hitoshi Sakimoto (the god behind Tactics and XII‘s soundtrack), Masayoshi Soken (XIV), Yoko Shimomura (XV and Kingdom Hearts), and Kumi Tanioka (Crystal Chronicles) have shown time and time again how their music can stand tall as modern classics. I think it is a combination of listening to each game’s soundtrack countless times and playing through the games that it has left a big impression on me. Even for some of the games I haven’t played or finished yet, I can at least tell you which game it comes from just from listening to the style of the track and comparing it to the rest of the games soundtrack.

A fun game that Kat and I play when we are on long car rides is to guess music tracks. For her, it takes her maybe a moment to guess it correctly if she is really familiar with it. For me, it sometimes takes hearing the first few notes in the first measure for me to know exactly what it is and where it came from. This infuriates her. When we are doing Final Fantasy music she will try and trip me up by playing the Dissidia arrangements of songs, but I can for the most part distinguish those as well. Outside of Final Fantasy, I am working on other series that I’m familiar with like Persona, Tales of (which is hard since Motio Sakuraba contributes to a lot of other series), and others that I can find on Spotify and YouTube. Another weird thing that I can do but don’t understand is telling apart each sound of a chest opening from each Zelda title. I haven’t played most of the Zelda games, but for some reason I know the chest sound from each game.

I’ll end this post with places where you can listen to some great soundtracks. Spotify and other music streaming sites have been adding a lot of video game soundtracks lately, which is great for someone like me who likes listening to them all day. There is also this website that plays video game music all day called NoLife-radio. If you have the Tunein app on your phone you can find their channel through that and listen to it on your phone. If you have other places that you like to listen to your favorite video game soundtracks, tell us about it in the comments. Tune in next time when I go to my old high school band director’s house and have a debate over their opinion of video game music.

Thanks for reading,

DanamesX

Reflections on Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered

I had to find time to write this and get this off my mind. I am normally someone who can look past faults and enjoy something for what it is. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered took a game that I enjoyed fondly, and somehow turned it into something that killed my excitement in an instant. I decided to ignore the comments surrounding the game at launch and play it for myself to form my own opinion. As of writing this, I am halfway in Year 4 and I think I can finish this game by Year 6 (years go by after you finish 3 dungeons).

A little background about Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. When this game first came out on the Gamecube, it was a fun game that you could play solo or with friends via a complicated co-op method (I’m starting to believe that I was the only poor person who played this with no friends who had their own GBA and link cable). While the game is enjoyable playing by yourself, the game shined when playing with friends. What made this feel different from other games at the time was the concept of working with your friends to protect your village throughout the years together rather than joining up like random adventurers. Remember this point, as I will refer to it later.

The main premise of the game is that you have to collect myrrh to power up your village’s crystal within the year, or it would die out and kill everyone via the miasma. To accomplish your mission and protect you from the miasma, you are given the crystal chalice to collect myrrh at the end of each dungeon. This leads to one of my favorite game mechanics, as you and your group have to stay within the radius of the chalice and take turns carrying it. It gives the game charm and adds to the fact that everyone needs to work together to get through each dungeon; adding to the stakes everyone shares.

Single player in the remaster is mostly the same. Since this is the mode that I am more familiar with, it was nice to see familiar locations and take my time to explore each map. The music is still one of my all time favorite OSTs, and I can’t help but to whistle along with the music. They did include a new mimic mechanic to the game that allows you to dress up as an NPC from other caravans. You unlock these by visiting Moogle house and collecting stamps. Get all matching stamps, and you unlock a new costume. Another new addition is voice acting, which is hit and miss for some NPCs. Moogles in this game sound weird since I’m used to them having high pitch voices and not sounding like a PR manager. For everything that single player has, I couldn’t help to notice that I felt like I was not enjoying myself. That feeling mostly comes from the other play style of the game and the main draw of the game, multiplayer.

This dungeon and quote summarize my feelings.

After pondering and thinking over it, I finally came to terms with my thoughts about the multiplayer. Multiplayer in Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered is terrible, and it ruined the main reason why I was excited to play this version. I will stand by my belief that this version is still the most accessible way to play this game with friends. I know people were bummed about there being no couch co-op for the game, but I believe that it is hard to do without having your own screen with the number of times you go in and out of menus. You can play the remastered version on PS4, Switch, or with your phone and still play with anyone due to cross-platform support. When I first heard about that, my excitement jumped through the roof, as I was finally going to be able to experience multiplayer to its fullest. I was asking friends if they wanted to join me in this game, as it felt solely unique and the shared progress.

Instead what we got was a drop in multiplayer set up that takes away everything the original was. I didn’t mind not having couch co-op if it still meant that I could form a group with my friends and progress through the story normally. What happens instead is that before you enter a dungeon, the game asks if you want to play multiplayer. You are then thrown into a lobby where you can either host a party or join one. This means more than likely, you are playing with random people who can drop in and out during any part of the dungeon. You can meet up with friends, but you have to go through a friend code system in order to start together at the beginning. You could find some work around this and still enjoy the multiplayer experience, but then the developers decided to do something that makes no sense at all. Even if you form a group with just your friends and start from the beginning together, only the host of the session will get the drop of myrrh and progression in the main story.

Why did the developers think that was a good idea? That destroys the entire concept and theme of this game. Remember my earlier statement about how you and your friends were a group working together to protect the village that you come from? That does not exist in this game. There are no stakes when playing multiplayer since the people you play with are just trying to protect their own village. There is no sense of comradery as everyone just feels like a random adventurer that assists you on your quest. That is not what multiplayer in this game is about. The whole idea of being part of a crystal caravan is the idea of working in a group with a common cause. There is no point in using the term “caravan” if it is only a group of one. This decision alone made my excitement and recommendation of the game to drop significantly.

I am still going to play the game for what it is. I’m used to playing this game solo, so I still have that going for me. I found that a real challenge is to play solo in multiplayer mode just for the extra challenge. Playing through this again is motivating me to go back and finish the original. This is still one of my favorite games of all time, and I wished the remastered version elevated it even higher on my list.

So to wrap this up and give my final thoughts, I can’t really recommend buying the remastered version. There is a free version if you want to try it out and see if it is something you will enjoy playing. The great thing about the free version is that if you play with someone with the full game, you can play all the dungeons with them. I have a feeling Square knew some would not like the direction they were going and offered a free version for those on the fence. I’m not afraid to hide my disappointment with this version as it had so much potential and could potentially revive the series. I hope by some miracle in the world (haha miracles happening in 2020?), a future update will address the online issue. But as of now, I will stick to my original viewpoint that the series hasn’t been good since the original came out on the Gamecube (sorry fans of the sequels).

DanamesX