Today marks the release of the English PC version of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, a fantastic JRPG from Japanese developer Falcom and localisation specialists Xseed Games. You should probably grab a copy.
Tempting as it is to leave this article as nothing more than that introductory paragraph — existing Trails in the Sky fans will know what I mean — I’m well aware that there are plenty of you out there who probably need a little more convincing than this, so let’s take a little while to ponder the game, why it’s so noteworthy, and why you should definitely support it. And also what on earth it is, for those who are unfamiliar with either Trails in the Sky specifically, or the Legend of Heroes series as a whole, which is entirely possible.
Grab yourself a drink, arm yourself with a suitably hefty-looking quarterstaff and prepare yourself, then; we’re going in.
Continue reading Why You Should Be Playing Trails in the Sky Right Now
Regardless of the type of overall game experience you’re going for in a massive, open-world game like an MMO — be it mechanic-centric or narrative-heavy — one of the most important things for the development team to get right is that feeling of “place” — of the virtual world feeling truly convincing.
This is something that Final Fantasy XIV’s predecessor Final Fantasy XI did very well, particularly within the main city-states, and it’s a tradition that A Realm Reborn continues with aplomb.
Worldbuilding is a far more complex matter than simply plonking some rocks and trees down at the side of pathways, however. It’s even more complex than the overall geometry of the environments that you explore over the course of the game — it’s a combination of things, all working together to make the virtual world as convincing as it possibly can be.
Let’s explore how A Realm Reborn handles this.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: How to Build a World
One common aspect of modern Japanese narrative-centric games and visual novels that we tend not to see quite so much in contemporary Western titles is the matter of multiple endings.
In some cases — visual novels being the prime example — seeing another ending is a relatively straightforward matter of picking different choices throughout the course of the story. In some cases, there will be a simple branching point towards the end that determines which ending you get; in other, more complex offerings, there will be completely divergent narrative paths down which to proceed.
In other cases — primarily more complex games such as role-playing games — seeing different endings is often dependent on a variety of other factors, some of which may not necessarily be entirely obvious at first glance, and some of which may be all but impossible to figure out yourself without the help of a guide.
Multiple endings provide replayability, sure, but are they a good thing?
Continue reading In Pursuit of Several Truths
Final Fantasy XIV’s third major content patch Defenders of Eorzea is here at last, bringing with it some significant new story content, some great new dungeons and a bunch of new game features.
One of the most anticipated new features in Defenders of Eorzea was the new Hunt system, a Final Fantasy XII-inspired activity that tasked players with several things: tracking down daily Marks from among the regular enemies that wander the world; tracking down a single weekly Elite Mark in exchange for significant rewards; and taking on any other Elite Marks you happen to stumble across in your travels.
While a sound idea in principle, so far The Hunt has had a somewhat questionable introduction to the people of Eorzea, even going so far as to make quite a few people disappointed, upset or even angry.
Let’s look in a little more detail at what’s up with The Hunt.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: The Hunt Begins
Final Fantasy XIV’s third major content patch, Defenders of Eorzea, is set to launch tomorrow, promising, among other things, an epic battle against iconic recurring Final Fantasy character Ramuh, the continuation of several narrative threads, plus a host of new game systems.
Square Enix has been gradually teasing the various new features over the last few weeks, culminating in the publication of the preliminary patch notes late last week. And while these patch notes don’t tell us absolutely everything about what to expect, they, along with the most recent Letter from the Producer direct from Naoki Yoshida, give us a pleasant preview of what the adventurers of Eorzea will be spending the next three months indulging in.
We took a preliminary look at what was coming in the new patch in the previous installment of Eorzea Diaries; let’s today take a look at some more specific details — plus some interesting tidbits of information that were quietly snuck into the patch notes having not really been mentioned prior to today.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Countdown to 2.3
Ponder, if you will, the most common criticisms of the video games medium as a whole. The things that make people roll their eyes and exasperatedly say “videogames” (with no space); the things that inspire endless op-eds by well-known games journalists that ask that eternal question: why aren’t things any better?
Games, these critics say, are worryingly homogeneous; the domain of late-20s, early-30s, bestubbled, gruff-voiced male protagonists with a big chip on their shoulder and usually some sort of “dark past” (or, in the case of anti-heroes, a dark present) to overcome. Games are overly violent and show a poor attitude towards women; games are concerned more with chasing the gritty Hollywood blockbuster model than providing inclusive experiences for everyone to enjoy; games are rehashing the same old ideas over and over again, often on a yearly basis.
Now take a moment to consider Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland. Or, indeed, the original Atelier Rorona that came out back in 2011. Or, for that matter, the Atelier series as a whole. Spot anything interesting?
That’s right; it’s a series that deftly addresses a significant number of these concerns about modern video games — and yet it’s one that passes a significant number of people by. If you’re not already “in on it,” chances are you won’t give it a second look. And that’s a real shame.
Let’s take a look at why.
Continue reading Atelier Rorona Plus: The Nicest Game You’ll Play This Summer
When Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn launched last year, it was promised that the game would enjoy significant new content updates every three months — and it’s a promise that Naoki Yoshida and his team has kept.
Not only that, but between the three-monthly big patches — which tend to advance the game’s main story, introduce new dungeons and endgame encounters as well as numerous other bells and whistles — the FFXIV team has been generous in providing players with a bunch of smaller updates in between times, helping keep the game fresh and interesting as well as improving the general quality of life for everyone playing.
The last of these smaller patches to hit the game introduced a few little tweaks to gameplay as well as the enjoyable but infuriating collectathon that is the Sightseeing Log — a system that finally makes the weather in the game relevant, but which in the process will cause you to curse it on a regular basis — but now, as we approach July, we’re looking forward to the next major content update: patch 2.3, known as Defenders of Eorzea.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Defenders and Ninjas
Having explored the narrative paths of all the other girls in the Western-developed, Japanese-inspired freeware visual novel Katawa Shoujo, it’s time to turn our attention to the final girl: Rin.
As I’ve noted in the previous explorations of Emi, Hanako, Lilly and Shizune, one of the interesting things about Katawa Shoujo is that while you initially — for better or worse — recognise each of the cast members through their disabilities, all of the narrative paths throughout the game serve to show that people most certainly aren’t defined by their most obvious physical characteristic. In many cases, they can surprise you greatly.
Rin is one such example. Despite having no arms, Rin is an artist, and a great deal of her path explores the way she deals with having an artistic temperament — and how protagonist Hisao learns to appreciate the beauty in everything around him. Thematically and tonally, it’s one of the more complex, difficult paths in Katawa Shoujo, but it’s also one of the most rewarding to explore.
So let’s do just that.
Continue reading Artistic Temperament
With the Western release of Vita title Hyperdimension Neptunia: Producing Perfection, a character-centric idol management game-cum-dating sim-cum-visual novel based on Compile Heart’s popular RPG series, I thought it high time we took a closer look at the game’s cast.
And, since Noire — also known as Black Heart — is indisputably my favorite member of the cast, I figured there was no better place to start. I’m not the only one who favours Noire, mind; such was her popularity in Japan that she recently got her own game: a Vita-based, Sting-co-developed strategy RPG spinoff of the Neptunia series that looks like being a lot of fun. There’s no news of a Western release of that game as yet, but in the meantime, we can enjoy hanging out with Noire (and her friends, I guess) in Producing Perfection.
But who, really, is Noire? Well, let’s ponder that.
Continue reading Goddesses of Gamindustri: Noire
I’ve tried to get my “real life” friends into MMOs in the past. Lord knows, I’ve tried.
And, for a brief, blissful period in World of Warcraft’s early heyday, it was successful. We were all playing together, enjoying ourselves and having a blast. Then the inevitable happened: one of us started playing more than the others, and started steaming ahead. Then another person did the same. Eventually, we were left with something of a split group, unable to practically and productively play together because of our level disparity.
This is a common problem that has plagued MMOs since their inception, and different games have tackled it in different ways. (Some games haven’t tackled it at all, for that matter.) Final Fantasy XIV, for my money, handles it in a fairly elegant manner that helps ensure that all the content in the game remains relevant, regardless of whether you’ve just levelled up enough to try it for the first time, or you’re a level 50, item level 97 veteran who has run it hundreds of times to date.
Continue reading Eorzea Diaries: Those Who Play Together…