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

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

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


Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

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

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

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

Tales of Symphonia

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

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

Persona 4 Golden

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

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

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

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

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

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

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

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

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

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

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


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

My Games of 2021

Ugh. What year is it? 2021 is over, so now I can talk about the games I played throughout the year. I was originally going to rank the games that I came out in 2021 that I played, but I ended up playing a lot of uninteresting titles. If you want me to talk more about Mario Golf: Super Rush again I can try, but that was already a struggle previously. So, this year I am going to shake things up and talk about my top ten favorite games that I finished this year. There is a good mix of new and old titles in here and it makes for a more interesting write for me. To give you an idea of how slow I am with things, here are two honorable mention list with games I wanted to play and games I started but haven’t finished.

Games Released in 2021 That I Had Interest Playing, But I Never Bought

Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
Pac-Man 99
Poison Control
Nier Replicant ver. 1.22474487139…
Returnal
Resident Evil: Village
Chivalry 2
Cris Tales
Famicom Detective Club: The Missing Heir
Famicom Detective Club: The Girl Who Stands Behind
Legend of Mana (Remake)
Pokemon Unite
The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Psychonauts 2
No More Heroes III
Sonic Colors: Ultimate
WarioWare: Get It Together!
Cruis’n Blast
Kena: Bridge of Spirits
Metroid Dread
Far Cry 6
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Hinokami Chronicles
Voice of Cards: The Isle of Dragon Roars
Forza Horizon 5
Dungeon Encounters
Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition (For the lols)
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX
Super Robot Wars 30
Wildermyth
Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator

Games That Came Out In 2021 That I Played, But Didn’t Finish

Persona 5 Strikers
Bravely Default 2
New Pokemon Snap
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Scarlet Nexus
Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game – Complete Edition
Back 4 Blood
Shin Megami Tensei V
Yu Gi Oh! RUSH DUEL: Dawn of the Battle Royal!!


Top Games That I Finished This Year

10. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

“Hie thee to the ocean city… To the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. A journey to the blue depths… To conquer the shadows of night. Though you know not what this means, you go towards Armoroad. What awaits is time’s end; death’s demise. A tempestuous dream… To push away the unfathomable dark and bring light to Armoroad… A stormy adventure begins…”

Creating my list was hard, but I knew I wanted to include this game. Etrian Odyssey III was one of the hardest games I have on the DS. My gaming knowledge was new to dungeon crawlers and understanding party compensation.10 years later, I have become an adult with a better understanding of how things work. I went from not understanding how certain abilities could be helpful to finding ways to make my party unstoppable. The mix between dungeon crawling and finding treasure out in sea made the game enjoyable for many hours. The game left such a big impression on me that I went out and got the other games in the series to slowly play through the story canon games in the series. I will report my thoughts when I finish the series twenty years from now.

9. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

The trend this year was finishing games that I’ve put off for years. I was really excited to play through this game when it first came out, but I found myself playing chunks at a time since I had started grad school at the time. Motivation went south fast when the definitive versions came out and sour my mood when I learned that you couldn’t transfer your progress to the newer, shinier version. So instead of starting all over, I chipped away at the base game and finally finished it this year. 

Dragon Quest XI is a comfort game for JRPG players. It is simple and friendly for newcomers while also engaging for series veterans. The story and setting make this an adventure worth playing while never feeling stale. There is always something to see, something to do, and challenges around every corner. I still need to finish the post game and eventually play through the definitive edition one day, but that won’t be until a while from now. I did write a post about this game back in October.

8. The World Ends With You: Final Remix / NEO: The World Ends With You

Yeah I’m cheating with this one. I couldn’t decide on which game I liked more over the other since they both have their high and low points. Ultimately I decided that if you put both together, you get a great game. The World Ends With You took me places that I wasn’t ready to go. The themes of your world ending when you refuse to live in it struck a chord that I never really thought about. It opened a new viewpoint that I was unaware of and kept the optimistic flame in me going. It’s sequel doesn’t do the theme justice, but it did deliver an improved gameplay formula that irritated me in the formal. Both games had me playing them whenever I had the free time to do it, and that’s coming from someone who ignored the original game when it came out. I am sad that NEO didn’t do well enough to Square’s expectations, but here’s hoping that the series can continue with new characters, locations, and a stronger emphasis on its theme.

7. Castlevania Advance Collection

I’m still cheating! When I learned that the Gameboy Advance Castlevania games were being rereleased, I got excited. Symphony of the Night is one of my favorite games and the advance trilogy share the same formula. While most games in the collection were better than others, I enjoyed my time playing through all four games. If you would like a more of my thoughts on the games, I wrote a post about them last month.

6. SaGa: Scarlet Grace – Ambitions

This was a surprise to me when I was looking over my options. The more I thought about this game, the more I remembered my playthrough and the adventure I went on. SaGa: Scarlet Grace has the charm and formula of a SaGa game that is also friendly for newcomers. The almost endless possibility of how your journey could play out makes finding and making decisions fun since you have to figure it out yourself (almost literally since there are not many guides). My journey with Urpina was a daunting one, but rewarding in so many ways. The other three protagonist are still waiting for me to take them on, but I am in no rush to get through theirs (especially since I started playing other games in the series). I wrote about my experience with the game back in August, so you can get the full read there.

5. Xenoblade Chronicles

The award for the game that took the longest time for me to beat this year goes to Xenoblade Chronicles. In hindsight, I could have finished this game a long time ago, but similar to Etrian Odyssey, my dumb young brain didn’t understand how to play the game logically. Xenoblade mimics a MMO game style where understanding how abilities and status modifiers matter. Once I understood this, the game became much more enjoyable to play and finish. It was a bit bittersweet to finally cross this game off my list since I was really feeling it. My advice if you want to play the game is to get the definitive edition on Switch. It is a really good game and worth playing. And yes, I did write about it as well as part of Love Your Backlog month.

4. Dark Souls Remastered

This is one of my proudest gaming achievements. I had no intention of finishing this game anytime soon, but the more I played and got into it, I was determined to see it through. I’m glad I did since the reward was definitely worth it and I felt accomplished. The original Dark Souls may not be my personal favorite out of the series, but it is now the one I am most comfortable with. There are parts in this game that I dread doing again, but I’m not afraid of facing them anymore. It is somber that I finally get to cross this off my list, but with other games in the series to keep me busy for the next four to nine years, I think the experience will make me a better player.

3. It Takes Two

There is a reason why this game won Game of the Year. It is a well-developed game. I played this with Kat the entire way though to the point where we couldn’t stop playing it. Everything felt well designed from the locations to gameplay to how everything relied on how cooperative you and your partner had to be. The story still irks me in several places, but certain moments make it up for being heartbreaking or hilarious depending on the type of person you are. I wish the game had more to do after the campaign since Kat and I were eager for more. If Hazelight Studios can expand on this gameplay and create something more inline with this, then it would be an instant buy from me.

2. Monster Hunter Rise

A new year, a new Monster Hunter game to play through. For me personally, I enjoyed Rise way more than I did with World. Rise fixed a lot of my personal issues with scaling down the bloated environment and making them smaller and more interesting. I like exploring the maps in Rise since there are things to discover like artifacts from the previous era and remnants of epic battles. My favorite is the Frost Islands where you can explore a destroyed ship and follow the skeletal remains of the monster it was fighting throughout the entire map. It’s details like this that I wish existed in World to make my time getting lost more interesting.

Besides the map, the mobility and how fast the game plays now made for interesting hunts. The Wire Bugs are one of my new favorite additions to the series and offers a lot of elements in and out of battles. I felt “meh” at first with the Wyvern Riding mechanic at first, but once I figured out how take advantage with the controls, it became fun to use. Rampage quest are still a struggle for me. The idea is to have multiple people with you during them, but my lonely self had a hard time maintaining everything that was going on. They do present a nice change of pace and strategy, but it does feel like it was meant to be played with others.

Other than that, the new monsters introduced had their fun gimmicks and quirks. I thought the Magnamola would be a pushover since I had no real difficulty up to it, but it quickly put me in my place when it decided to fly all of a sudden. The two new elder dragons are no pushovers either since they utilize Rise’s gameplay and your understanding of them. They are neat fights and made me say a swear or five. Outside of all of that, I’m happy Rise brought back interesting and creative designs for weapons and armor. It was something I was missing and happy to have back.

I never did write a post on Rise for one reason or another, but there is a lot that I can talk about. I originally didn’t have this game high on my list, but after replaying it this month, I feel in love with it all over again. On the fence if I might double dip and get the PC version when it comes out. I may actually finish Sunbreak when it comes out. The offer still stands if anyone wants to play online.

1. Tales of Arise

Tales of Arise is not a perfect game. If I had to rank it with the rest of the series, I would put it as maybe my fourth or fifth personal favorite. The game has a lot of good qualities in it, but there are glaring issues that hold it back from being up there for me like Symphonia and Vesperia. So why is it my number one game this year? From beginning to end, I could not stop thinking about this game. I wanted to explore everything this game offered and complete each difficult challenge that was available. I tend to avoid doing ridicules challenges in Tales of games, but Arise kept me engaged throughout. I didn’t find the characters annoying outside of battle and their struggles kept me invested. Even though I felt the story wasn’t on par with other titles, it did through me off guard at times and only decided to get complicated at the last minute.

Even as I write this, I still find it hard to explain why this was my favorite game I played and finished this year. There is something to say here about acknowledging all the faults it has while still finding some enjoyment out of it. I may never write about this game because I can never find the true words that I want to say. The best I have is that it is good despite its flaws. Rather that is good or bad is left to the individual. All I know is that Arise was my favorite game that I finished and completed this year.


So that’s all I got. Sorry if it is not the follow-up from last year’s presentation, but there wasn’t a lot of excitement from my gaming bubble. Let me know what some of your favorite games were this year that you finished.

My Current Top 100 Games! (Minus 90 of Them)

If my math is correct, this post should be my 100th post here on Tales From The Backlog. I am surprised just like you all that I am here to celebrate this occasion. I already surpassed 100 follows on the blog a while ago, but I didn’t do anything at the time to commemorate it or anything. With this, I thought it would be a bit more special to do something for the one hundredth post on here. I do want to thank all of you who enjoy reading my random posts on video games and whatnot. Hopefully I can keep on doing it for a while longer and continue to grow.

As the title suggests, I was going to share my top 100 games, but quickly realized how hard that was. I got stuck around 50ish games until I gave up on that list. So instead I am cutting that number down by 90% and sharing with you my top 10 games instead. If I make it to my 200th post then I will share ten more with you, and by the time I get to my 1000th post you will have my full list. Picking your top 10 is never an easy tasks since you have to decide and debate what your favorite games might be out of all the possibilities that you may have. As someone who has played a lot of games, it is hard to narrow down the list and declare just 10 of them as your favorite. After time and consideration, I have narrowed down what I consider my current top 10 games of all time. This list will probably change over time as long as new games keep coming out. But where ever they may fall in the future, these games will have a special place within my collection.


10. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I-IV

This has become one of my new favorite series in the past few years. I randomly picked the first game up in 2018, but didn’t play it until the following year. The story in this series instantly hooked me with its insane plot twists and well thought out characters and their development. The only downside of this series is that it takes a lot of time to get through each game with this story connecting to others in the series; Sky with 3 games, Crossbell with Zero and Azure, Cold Steel with 4 games, Hajimari no Kiseki that came out last year, and now Kuro no Kiseki that comes out this year. That is a lot to commit to one series, but one that I will get to over the years.

Besides the story, there is a lot of variety when it comes to customizing your character’s skills. Each character has a Master Quartz attached to them that can be leveled up to unlock skills and raise stats (you can equip two at a time in later games). Along with that, regular quartz can be attached to each character to give them extra stat boosts, magic, and special benefits. It works almost like the materia system from Final Fantasy VII. Even though some characters have specific strengths in one area, it is nice that you have to option to outfit characters with a healing spell just in case you need it. It is a fun system to hunt down quartz that can strengthen your character’s build and it is one of my highlights.

The writer’s paid close attention to the story and nothing feels out of place or left unsolved. Everything connects throughout the events of the story even though an answer to a question doesn’t come up until the end of each game. Every character has their own development that’s continues to grow in each title. Even background characters have their own progression and story that doesn’t need to be there, but it is there if you want to learn more about them (or are going for the achievement). It makes the entire saga feel like a living world where characters not important to the plot may have connections with others characters and the overall world. It is a little frustrating to hunt all of these character notes and missing one feels like a let down, but it is worth it to get a sense of everyone’s struggles and viewpoints with all the events happening.

As of writing this, I am on part 4 of Trails of Cold Steel. I had to take a break from the series since I will spend over almost 100 hours on my first playthrough. I will finish it by the end of the year and cry my eyes out like I have for every ending in these games. I do have the Trails in the Sky games ready to go next, and I’m still up in the air if I want to play Azure and Zero. If JRPGs with good storytelling, attention to detail, excellent battle mechanics, and waifus all over the place, then I highly recommend giving these games a chance.

9. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons

When asked what your favorite Zelda game is, most people will go with one of the console Zelda titles (Link to the Past, Ocarina, Majora’s, Wind Waker, Breath of Wild). For me personally, I love the Oracle games in the series. If I had to pick one out of the two, it would probably be Seasons since it is the one that I had as a kid (wouldn’t play Ages until it came out on the 3DS Virtual Console). These games are just fun and have a lot of creative tools and mechanics that aren’t used in other Zelda games.

Each game focuses on a different aspect of the Legend of Zelda series. Ages focuses more on the puzzle elements of the series, while Seasons has a lot of combat areas in it. This doesn’t mean that each version is lacking the other element. Both games are great in their own merit and present a great Zelda title when played together.

Speaking of which, this is the only Zelda title that has two different version that you can link up for one super adventure. After you finish one title, you can transfer your save data via a password and continue your adventure in the other game. You won’t be able to bring over items, but you can transfer rings that you collect to help you in the next game. If you finish the second game with your save data, you will be able to unlock the true ending and face off against feral Ganon to bring the story to a close.

What makes me like these titles over the other Zelda games is the presentation of the games. I like the 2D top down Zelda titles over their 3D counterparts. The changing of the seasons mechanic is one of my favorite puzzle elements in a Zelda game, and I wish they would bring it back (they keep bringing time travel and passing between worlds). The dungeons are always fun to do, and the items that you get can be used in creative ways. If these games ever got the same treatment like Link’s Awakening did, I would be all over those (even though I have a soft spot for the Game Boy ascetic.

8. Star Fox 64

In space, no one can hear you scream. They instead can hear a space bunny tell you to do a barrel roll in your versatile aircraft machine. Star Fox 64 is one of those games that I played as a kid, but didn’t start to enjoy it until my later years. There is something fun about this rail shooter is fun to play over and over.

Star Fox 64 is not a long game or difficult. You shoot down baddies in each stage and fight a boss at the end. The replayability comes from exploring each route in the game since you can only follow a certain path based on what you did in the previous stage. You want to go to Sector X instead of the Asteroid Belt? Then I hope you knew that you had to fly under the arches in Cornelia to trigger the event to change paths. Each mission will result in a “Mission Accomplish” or “Mission Complete.” Mission Accomplish means that you did the right thing to continue on the path for the “good” ending. Mission Complete means that you completed your mission, but you missed something to finish your true goal. There is no road to a bad ending, so there is nothing to get discourage if you don’t get the true ending. Sometimes, it’s just fun to play the other areas if you are tired of trying to get the true ending.

Star Fox 64 is one of those comfort games that you can play and not feel stressed about anything. This is probably one of the few games that I like to play on the N64 over the 3DS version. The 3DS version polishes up all the textures in the game and looks impressive in 3D mode. There isn’t much different in the game however besides if you want to play with traditional controls or gyro motion. I prefer the abomination of the N64 controller when playing this game due in part to nostalgia.

7. Mega Man X

Possibly the first action/platformer game that I played on my own outside of Mario and Sonic. At a young age, this game should have been difficult or intimidating to me since all fast, paced games gave me anxiety. Mega Man X was different somehow that eight year old me could blast through all eight stages with no problem (playing it over and over helped a lot). The spider boss in the first part of the Sigma stage was my roadblock back then, but 20 years later and I now can finish this game in one sitting. There is a lot to love about Mega Man X from the music, stage design, and the mavericks that you fight against. I also have to thank this game for giving me the X in my user name.

There is a lot that I can say about this game since it is a perfect game in my opinion. The classic Mega Man formula is there with finding enemy weaknesses to help you greatly in their fight. What Mega Man X does differently however is having the stages be affected by ones that you complete. The lava in Flame Mammoth’s stage giving you trouble? Defeat Chill Penguin first and his stage gets frozen over in the process; making the stage easier. Defeating Storm Eagle before tackling Spark Mandrill will get rid of the electric sparks that come from the floor, but it will turn the lights off in some rooms; so it is a double edge sword in those regards. This can make for some fun replayability if you want to fight a Maverick with their stage intake or not.

The power-ups for X are great as well, even though at a young age I only got the feet and helmet upgrades. Each upgrade gives X an new ability. The feet upgrade gives him a dash which should always be the first thing you get when starting this game. The body upgrade reduces damage you can take, and the helmet can break obstacles above you. The Mega Buster upgrade that you can get by finding it or from Zero can charge your regular shot to a third level, and charge up your secondary weapons for cool new effects. You can also get a one shot Hadouken attack that make refighting the bosses a joke at times.

I enjoy watching speedruns of this game since it is easy to follow and see how other people play the game. It is one of those games that never gets boring no matter how many times you play it. Me placing it this “low” on my list doesn’t mean that the other games are better than this. It just means that at this time, this is where I would stick this game on my list. This is the oldest game on my list, and the fact that it still has a strong impression on me says a lot.

6. Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3

Back in 2014, I purchased my first PS3. The first game that I got for the system was Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3, and I never regretted that decision. The only exposure that I had to this game was playing it with a friend one day and finishing the campaign in one sitting. This was my first introduction to a musou game and I quickly learned that I am a fan of the genre. The Mobile Suit Gundam ascetic helped with that (and I’m still haven’t watched the full series).

Musou games are simple. You just plow through hordes of enemies and complete your objective. Some strategy is needed when you have to determine which areas to conquer to give yourself an advantage or to get rid of powerful enemies. There is also some challenge if you play it on the hardest difficulty where all of a sudden you feel like one of the papercraft enemies against general units. This simple repetitive motion of mowing down enemies left and right might sound boring to most, but I find it relaxing and a good way to get my stress out.

I was on the path of completing all the missions and getting the platinum trophy for this game, but my data got erased when my first PS3 died on me. It was a devastating lost for me and I have yet to go back and finish everything again. This doesn’t mean that I’m bored with the game. When I first did it, I was living at home with not much to do with my days not working, so playing this game for hours helped with passing the time and distracting my brain of worries. Maybe since I’m done with school for good, I can revisit and lose myself in the heaps of scrap metal again.

5. Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver

In my opinion, this is where the Pokémon series peeked. This was an amazing remake of Pokémon Gold and Silver on the Gameboy. Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver showed how massive a Pokémon game could be with everything from the original game plus tons of additional content to keep trainers busy for a long time. I choose SoulSilver when it came out since I was the one with the Silver version when it came out.

New features in this version included the additional story and content from Pokémon Crystal with Eugene’s quest to find Suicune, choosing between playing male or female, and more to do with the Ruins of Alpha. Surprise features included the Pokéathlon (a mini game contest area), the ability to rechallenge gym leaders on certain days, a new battle frontier, the return of the Safari Zone, and the best feature ever, having your Pokémon follow behind you. This feature isn’t locked behind a certain area or restricted to certain Pokémon, all Pokémon available in the game can follow you everywhere. If you bought the game when it came out, you also got a pedometer called the Pokéwalker included. It was a really neat pedometer that you could transfer one of your Pokémon to and walk around with them to level up, grow affection, and get neat rewards for walking around. Sadly mine meet its fate with the washing machine one day.

I could talk all day about how these versions felt like the definitive Pokémon game that people wanted for forever. The improve visuals and changes to the battle mechanics made for great battles and customizations of teams. Daily events made replaying the game fun since certain things only happened on that day. Each gym leader’s gym got some redesigns that made going through their gym interesting with their specific themes. The only downside to some of the content is that it is locked behind special items that you could only get during special events (like the Celebi event). You could trigger these events with hacking tools, but aren’t necessary unless you really want to see those events.

For me, no other Pokémon games can top these. I find myself constantly revisiting this version since I just have so much fun with it. Pokémon Silver was an important game for me when I first got it back in 2000, so having this remake brought back good memories and quality of life improvements that made this the definitive version to play. I’m not going to say Game Freak is lazy these days or incapable of creating new games in the series like this. Games need to innovate and create new things to avoid being the same concept with a different coat of paint. I’m happy that each version of Pokémon is something different so that I can go back and replay the older titles if I want to experience it again. All I am saying is that I would love for a future game to go as hard as this version did just to test my love for this game.

4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

“What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets.” I first heard this line of dialogue just five years ago and I became hooked. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night came out in 1997, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to play it. I was hooked on this game from beginning to end and was left wanting more after I finished it. The gameplay, visuals, music, and design all felt cozy and left me feeling sad that I didn’t have the opportunity to play it earlier in my life.

Symphony of the Night was the first Castlevania game to fall into the Metroidvania format. You explored Dracula’s castle from top to bottom and you would return to areas one you found powerups to help you travers the castle further. What makes Castlevania different from Metroid is the RPG element of the game. Alucard is able to level up and equip weapons and armor to help boost his stats to help him in each area of the castle. You are also able to learn spells and acquire familiars to help you along the journey. I think this is why I preferred SOTN over 2D Metroid titles since I can change up my playstyle just a little bit to make playthroughs interesting each time.

Despite loving this game, I have never 100% completed the game. I’ve never finished the Richter playthrough despite that being a whole new experience. I think I just like playing as Alucard since I have more options available to use than Richter. Nevertheless, I just love playing through this game whenever I’m in the mood to do so.

3. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate

What I have come to learn is that your first Monster Hunter game is usually your favorite. Monster Hunter World introduced a lot of new players to the franchise, and will probably go down as one of everyone’s favorite in the series. Old school players will praise Monster Hunter Freedom Unite as one of the best Monster Hunter experiences out there. I’m not one of them. I was introduced to Monster Hunter with Monster Hunter Tri, but Tri is not my favorite Monster Hunter (for various reasons). My favorite (so far) is Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.

Why 4U? A number of personal reasons. Monster Hunter games are not renowned for their story, but I enjoyed the story in this game. The idea of becoming the hunter for this small caravan and traveling to different locations was fun and different from just being a village monster hunter. Every new character you picked up on the caravan offered a new service for you to use like mending, crafting decorations, and cooking. It just felt like a tall of a wondering caravan who would go to places and help resolve monster issues before returning to the guild headquarters. I just enjoyed that.

Besides the story, I really enjoyed all the monsters that you fought. The Gore Magala was an interesting monster that rewarded you for being aggressive and punished you for being too cautious. Monsters affected by the Gore Magala’s virus were fun aggressive variants of themselves, and it could affect all monsters in the game. Of course there were other great monsters in this game like the Dalamadur (a snake like monster that you fought on a platform), the Seregios (a wyvern that cuts you), and the Gogmazios (an elder dragon covered in oil and a dragonator). The Gogmazios fight in particular is tied to one of my best memories in gaming that I really need to write down one day.

Outside of that, this title was the first Monster Hunter game that I really got to play with others frequently. I managed to have a group of four friends that would meet up and play through the G rank missions in the game. Sitting around and hunting together in the same room is a complete different experience than just playing online alone in the room. The sense of comradery of helping each other and celebrating together after a successful hunt is an aspect that I miss and wish I could experience more. Monster Hunter Rise on the Switch could itch that feeling, but I don’t have many people around me anymore to meet up and play together.

I also miss the fun and creative weapons, armor, and quest that were in this game. In my opinion, 4U had some of the best armor designs that felt creative. There were a lot of collaborative events in the game with Universal Studios Japan (USJ) that came with different armor and weapons that looked silly, but added charm to the series. There were also Nintendo dlc where you could costumes and weapons from Mario, Zelda, and Metroid. I will never forget doing the Three Virtues quest to get the Link armor set and weapons. While armor layering didn’t exist back then, you could add a rainbow color changing setting for your armor that was really cool.

I don’t know if Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will continue to be my favorite in the series if the gameplay continues to evolve with every title. But the pure sense of enjoyment and how much of a badass that I felt while playing the game will never leave me and always hold this game fondly. I once considered this game as my favorite game of all time, but I have since scaled it back down.

2. Persona 4 Golden

Have you ever played a game that really resonated with you in a way that helped you understand yourself better? For me, Persona 4 helped me realize who I was and to never pretend to be someone I’m not. That is the theme of Persona 4. Pursuing your true self.

If you haven’t played Persona 4 (PLAY IT!), you follow a bunch of high school students as they try to solve a murder mystery taking place in their town. Most of the playable characters find themselves a victim of the killer, who kills their targets by placing them in the TV world. In the TV world, the person is confronted by a part of them that they try to hide from others. This could be a crazy wild side that you don’t want people to see or denying a part of you that makes you “you.” Regardless, if they are unable to come to terms with this part of them, they are killed by their shadow. Accepting your shadow grants you the power of a Persona, your true self and source of power to fight the shadows.

Each Persona game has its own personal theme to the story. Persona 3 is all about accepting the cycle of life and death and not being afraid to live life. Persona 5 is all about rebelling against your nature and how society expects you to act and behave. Persona 4‘s theme of accepting who you are is a deep one that I hold tightly. In the past, I was that kid who was ashamed of the way I looked, talked, acted, and sharing the interest I had. I was (and still a bit to this day) a mute who was afraid to share anything about myself out of fear of being judged by others. Now, I am confident in my individuality and never doubt myself about who I am. Persona 4 didn’t fix that for me, but it did make me realize that I need to have confidence in being true to myself.

I choose Person 4 Golden on my list because it is the best version of the game. The dungeons and presentation may not hold a candle to Persona 5, but the story and characters are what keep me coming back to it. This is another one of those games that I really love, but have not 100% done everything. I completely skipped the Marie content in Golden and meant to play a second time to get everything. The best thing about Persona 4 Golden is that you no longer have to find a PlayStation Vita to play it! It came out on Steam last year and runs pretty good from what I’ve seen (yes I immediately bought it when it released and have yet to touch it). It may not be the flashes game in the series, but it is my personal favorite and has a great story to it.

1. Tales of Symphonia

I had to really ask myself if this was my favorite game of all time. The answer that I gave to myself was “of course.” Tales of Symphonia is my gold standard when it comes to JRPGs. An amazing story, great characters and development, a fun combat system, and events that keep you guessing what’s next. It may seem like a game that follows tropes that we are familiar to these days, but playing it when I first could back in 2007/2008 (around that time), I was surprise of how well made of a game this was.

Tales of Symphonia follows the story of Lloyd Irving as he helps his friend Colette on her journey to bring salvation to the world. Things don’t pan out well once Lloyd finds out what Colette has to sacrifice in order to complete this task. What comes next is a tale of learning the truth behind the journey of salvation, enemies becoming friends, friends becoming enemies, traveling between worlds, plot twists coming out of every left field, and a social commentary about racism, the rich vs. the poor, and trying to help someone who has lost their way. I wasn’t expecting all of these elements to be covered in a sixty hour game, but Symphonia tackles all of its themes and produces a well written story that is entertaining and somber.

My brain is a little scattered on the order of Tales games that I played, but I think Phantasia was my first, then Legendia, then Symphonia. Phantasia on the GBA is a mess, and Legendia had its ups and downs (the music if phenomenal though). Symphonia took my issues from those games and gave me a game that I had little to no complaints about. The action combat in this game feels perfect to the point where I’m not lost in the dazzle of the visuals, but never bored watching the techniques and spells on the field. The party composition also matters since they cannot be changed during battle and require a little though about who to bring in. An argument that some characters feel like a waste (like Persea and Regal), but I feel like their inclusion helps with the balance of physical attackers and magic users (something I feel earlier Tales game disregard). Speaking of which, I love using the magic users like Genis and Raine when playing multiplayer since I just get to sit in the back and not fight the camera to focus on me.

I don’t really know what else to say about this game. Unlike other games on this list where I haven’t finished everything, I believe that I have done everything in this game (maybe minus the coliseum). I just never have a bad time playing this game and could possibly be content just playing this for the rest of my life. It is a game that I can always go back to and just try new things to change up my play session. The battle dialogue will never get old for me (Pancake time! Stalagmite!) The last time I played it I just learned how to use union attacks effectively and I realized how big of a mechanic I had been missing. It is just one of those games that I find fun to play and never disappoints,

What was disappointing was Tales of Symphony: Dawn of the New World which was…..eh.


So that is my current list as of June 18, 2021. Will my list change over the years? Probably since there were other games that made it on my list before. Making a list like this is not easy since I enjoy most of the games I play, and they each offer a different experience from one another. The same would happen if I made a list of games that I absolutely hate playing. To end this massive post, I would like to say that your favorite games don’t have to be one’s that are critically praised or the “best games ever made.” Your favorite games should be the ones you enjoy the most and have value to you. Forget what other people may say about your opinions, because at the end of the day opinions are just that.

Thank you for reading! Go out and play your favorite video games. And I will see ya when I get back from my vacation.

DanamesX

My Entries For The Great JRPG Character Face Off!

Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) are an all-time favorite genre of mine. I didn’t discover my love of the series until my teenage days. My love for reading and storytelling captured my interest in the genre and has kept me satisfied to this day. The most prominent games that come to my mind are Tales of Symphonia, Final Fantasy VI, and Trails of Cold Steel. While I could go one about each individual game, this post is focused on the characters from this genre. 

The dynamic duo of Pix1001 and Winst0lf has asked the community on who are our top 5 favorite characters from any JRPG. To take a look at their choices, you can find Pix1001’s here and Winst0lf’s here. If you would like to participate as well, feel free to write a post about it, or let Pix1001 and Winst0If know via social media or in the comments.

With that out of the way, let us get to the difficult part; selecting characters. Choosing from all of the JRPG games that I have played, I had to ask myself why did I like this character to begin with. It became more difficult to define my reason why I liked them based on their character, personality, and significance to the story. There is a good chance that I missed someone while thinking things over, but I am satisfied with my choices. So without further delay, here we go (by the way, none of these are ranked in any particular order).

  1. Elliot Craig

At first glance, there is nothing really special about Elliot. It is strange that this fragile good boy is enrolled in a military academy, but has no intention to harm anyone. Being the son of a famous lieutenant-general also doesn’t help his awkward predicament. So why do I like him among his fellow classmates? Two reasons.

One, he is the best white mage that I have ever played as. The Master Quartz that he is given at the beginning sets him up for greatness as his healing arts have greater potency and cost less. If his quart is leveled up all the way, he can easily fully heal someone with a single Tear (beginning healing art). His crafts can also heal and buff characters and normally cover a good area to include everyone in one go. Finally, in the heat of the moment, his S-Craft ability, Remedy Oratorium, lets you not only revive everyone, but fully restore them, replenish CP, and gives them regan for 2 turns.

Second reason, he is a man of music. As a fellow musician myself, I appreciate his philosophy of healing the world through song. Not everyone his stature can find the strength and courage to meet danger head-on, but Elliot doesn’t let his weakness bother him in order to protect his friends. His mission in life is to heal the world through music and I greatly appreciate that.

  1. Magilou

Mazhigigika Miludin do Din Nolurun Dou (or Magilou for short) is a funny and annoying character. While her character can be seen as a comic relief to balance the team out, she also carries a dark, unfortunate side to her. She’s not afraid to stare death or Velvet in the face, because she is that confident/cocky in her abilities. What made her really stand out for me was her gameplay in battle.

At first I was hesitant to use her because she felt slow. That was until I learned how to play her and discovered that she is a bane to all spellcasters. Magilou has the ability to siphon her opponents’ magic while they are casting, and then use it to unleash powerful spells of her own. I immediately jumped on the Magilou train afterwards and would immediately switch to her if I noticed any pesky spellcasters out there. Plus, she has a belt made out of books. How badass is that!

  1. Dhaos

Dhaos was one of the first antagonists to make me feel two things at the same time; fear and sympathy. He is introduced in the very first scene of Tales of Phantasia dominating over his opponents. He is only defeated when he is sent back in time and imprisoned on arrival. About two hours in, he is freed from his tomb and proceeds to one shot everyone around him; including his lackeys and your best friend. You are then left to wonder how you will defeat someone who can just travel through time when defeated, can only be harmed by magic (in a world with no magic), and can kamehameha his way through people.

Then you learn about him. Originally from the planet Derris-Kharlan, Dhaos is a benevolent prince that goes on a mission to save his planet after a war destroys their Mana Tree. Using their life to teleport Dhaos to the planet Aselia, Dhaos tries to plead with the king of Midgards to cease their development of magitechnology to prevent what happened on his planet. Used as a martyr by the king’s closest advisor, Dhaos is seen as a demon who will destroy Midgards. With little choice and power, he makes a contract with the demons of Daemonium to force Midgards to stop their research and the firing of the Mana Canon. His efforts are in vain however, as the canon is fired and kills Aselia’s Mana Tree in the process. With no way to germinate a new Mana Seed, Dhaos loses his mind as he feels he failed both worlds. He then starts killing humans so that no further catastrophe can happen. This is just an abridged version, as the full story makes his story more tragic.

Dhaos’ character shows that anyone can reach a breaking point. Everything that he sacrificed seemed pointless at the end when he gave up trying to resolve things peacefully. It makes the opening statement of the game even more haunting; reminding that if there is evil in this world, it lurks in the hearts of man.

  1. Zidane

The last entry was dark, so let’s try to lighten things up! Zidane is a lovable playboy thief with a monkey tail. His charisma and willingness to help anyone makes him more of a burden than helpful. Nevertheless, he is seen as trustworthy on a number of occasions and will go out of his way to see his promises through. His character never cracks until he discovers his origins. He goes from friendly and optimistic to harsh and distant. He loses himself for a while, but his friends get him out of it and he goes back to being the protector he is. Without the help from his friends, he could have forgotten who he was and find the resolve to stay true to himself. I admire that and hope that I have his strength when/if the time comes.

  1. Towa Herschel

Towa is best girl and must be protected at all time! No scratch that. This confident and capable women don’t need no knight in shining armor to get what she needs done. The amount of work that she juggles while attending Thors Military Academy would make anyone exhausted. Due to how badass she is, she casually lead an airship full of military students during a civil war like it was f***ing nothing. Towa shows that strength can come in many different sizes and it is one’s commitment that can accomplish anything. She is a normal human being with no special powers, but has one of the biggest hearts I know.

So those are my choices. Who are your favorite JRPG characters? Feel free to share your favorites with Pix1001 and Winst0If!

Advent Gaming Calendar 2019: Day 6 – Tales of Zestiria

Credit to No18July21’s YouTube Channel

People have different opinions about Tales of Zestiria. You either like it or hate it with me being for the latter. I can see the flaws of the game with camera angles and the confusing equipment skills, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to hate this game. I normally have one or two characters in my party that I don’t care to use often, but I was attached to every character in this game which is a rarity. I believe much of that is due in part with this opening theme.

There is nothing special going on that holds a hidden significance. In some cases, it feels like a generic anime opening. The two things that immediately stand out to me however are some of the cinematic shots and the theme. Tackling the visuals first, everything looks muddy, grey, and dull. While the story does try to make the world feel barren of color and emotions, there were only a small number of times that the story felt depressing. This does feel misleading and hides all the goofiness that the game has. What the game does have, however, are beautiful visuals and landscapes. I do like the visual effects in this opening especially the shot with Mikleo and the clash between Sorey and Heldalf. These shots capture some of the breathtaking locations and set pieces that are in the game. And that is pretty much all I can say about the visuals.

The real showstopper here is the opening theme “White Light” by Superfly. If I was to go out with a bang for some reason, I would want this song playing in the background. This song is the sole reason why I watch this opening and the reason it sticks in my head. Unfortunately, the U.S. version of the game cuts out the vocals and only provides the instrumental track. What gives with that? This isn’t the 90’s or late 2000’s where networks were replacing “lame” J-Pop with “cool and hip” raps that told you about the plot so you never forgot. Give me my unedited Shiho Ochi screaming her lungs out and making me feel like the badass that I am! If you play this on PC, please do yourself a favor and download the patch that puts the vocals back in.

Instrumental version if you hate words with your songs
Credit to Kotaku’s YouTube Channel

Sorry for the rant in there. While maybe one of the weakest openings on this list, I personally like it too much to not include it in here.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 7!

DanamesX