Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Phinally Playing Phantasy Star

I don't own Phantasy Star (my Master System collection consists of the Hang-On/Safari Hunt pack-in game), but I figured it was about time I get it... so I unlocked it by overcoming the uber-tough first level of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (with two controllers active) on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection.

Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection.jpg
This is my favorite anthology ever.

Here, I just want to highlight and archive my critiques and favorite tropes from the game in detail - trying my best not to do so relatively or in comparison to competing (NES) titles - as I take a knowledge-fortifying deep-dive into 8-bit JRPG's.

Phantasy Star box.jpg
This box art is glorious by SMS standards.

Let's start with the cons:
  • Battle details
    I love the battles overall (more in a minute), but the animation is needlessly long and many of the sound-effects are jarring.
    • Monsters' treasure chests are annoying, too. The question and visual are a waste of time, and I despise the too-occasional traps.
  • People and menus
    The cutscene-like screen change when interacting with people and accessing menus is more waste. 
    • I also don't like approaching people and caves from certain directions.
  • Equipment and items
    Finding and equipping the proper stuff is clunky, and finding a second-hand shop at which to sell things is a nuisance.
    • I especially hate dungeon keys. Literally "using" the same one at every locked door is another unwelcome time-waster.
  • And most importantly, the dungeons and music.
    These two get special treatment because they're impressive technical feats. The 3D dungeons are a refinement over earlier dungeon crawlers. The clear, peppy soundtrack has a lot of variety from setting-to-setting (towns, towers, the overworld, etc.) and the tracks roll really smoothly into one another.

    However, my complaints are based on the variety within specific settings themselves. The music tracks feel short and wear on me quickly, and a lot . Staring down a monochrome hallway - no matter how technically advanced - gets old fast, too, and makes expected JRPG dungeon-memorization even, well... harder than expected.

    In particular, these two are paired because I hate the music in the dungeons. My least favorite track loops relentlessly in my least favorite portions of the game.
"Owl bear" is such a cute name.
There are a ton of pros, too:
  • The battles
    I love the beautiful backgrounds, the unique monsters and, usually, their attack animations.
  • The setting and layout
    The open world(s) is attractive, diverse, and offers a fair amount of exploration. 
    • Also, you're always close to strong monsters. Anywhere is just a few steps from a good patch of strong monsters for level-grinding and money-saving.
  • The story
    This took awhile; my mind naturally attaches JRPG to high-fantasy, not science-fiction. However, I'm learning to separate the two and enjoy what's here, which will come in handy for more Phantasy Star, Mother, and Sweet Home titles in the future. 
    • There are also respectable plot-twists and -turns, for such an early story-based title.
  • The characters
    Their in-game backstories are limited, but the characters are very diverse and likable
    • The villains are unique and guided by interesting motives, too.
  • And most importantly, the overall experience is great.
    Especially when wearing your 1988 glasses, it's easy to appreciate this game as tremendous. It demonstrates a strong growth of: 
    • Understanding and developing for the Master System's capabilities;
    • Complete story-telling in video games; and
    • Sega's development into the anti-Nintendo. Seriously, this title is noticeably and exactly well-built to oppose the Dragon Quest series.

Overall, it stands well on its own as a purely-Sega title by focusing on exciting technical development, or in opposition to its JRPG counterparts at the time via uniqueness and interest. It could be tightened up to alleviate the typical JRPG pacing and grinding complaints, but it's minor.

Phantasy Star logo.png
This sweet logo counts as a pro, too.

I'd recommend this game to an extremely large audience including anyone interested in the early history of Sega, story-driven RPG's, JRPG's specifically, or just retro titles technically impressive for their respective systems.

8-Bit Turn-Based JRPG's - Games Like Dragon Quest

I love Dragon Quest. I love that it's big, simple, story-driven, open-world, and aesthetically pleasing.

It's time I broaden my knowledge base and learn more about games like Dragon Quest, specifically starting with JRPG's for 8-bit consoles. The 3rd generation of video games is where this subgenre, home consoles, and myself all found one another.

What I know is limited. It's all listed right here in a few short paragraphs, and probably isn't even correct. My goal for the near future is to correct and build my knowledge base, then recreate this post with my hopefully-more-accurate thoughts in hindsight.

Let's start this backlog of games I need to play!

Phantasy Star box.jpg
glorious box art by SMS standards

Phantasy Star, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior II, Dragon Warrior III, Dragon Warrior IV
These are the easy ones; they're often compared, and rightfully so. I've played and love them all more than anything else you'll find on this page. In coming weeks, my goal is to post about this group, specifically.

Destiny of an Emperor, Magic of Scheherazade, Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord, Ultima (III) Exodus, Ultima (IV) Quest of the Avatar
This is a group I consider extremely akin to Dragon Quest. From this list, I've only personally played the two Ultima titles for the NES, but each game on this list seems to bear noticeable similarities to Dragon Quest in presentation and/or gameplay.

Dragon Crystal

Dungeon Crawlers
Wizardry, the Bard's Tale and Dragon Crystal are straight-up dungeon crawlers, which is obviously one very important element of Dragon Quest. However, they bypass extremely important open-world and epic-story elements.

Legend of Zelda clones
The Legend of Zelda (duh), Crystalis, Star Tropics, Willow, Golden Axe Warrior, and generally Golvellius constitute the overhead action-rpg sub-genre. Most people (myself included) lump bump-battle games into this group, like Hydlide (if it even deserves to be on any list) and Y's: The Vanished Omens.

Opposite of dungeon crawlers, each of these games offers the feelings of a vast, open world and an epic story, but each requires action and timing to fight off bad guys.

Sweet Home Japanese Famicom box art.jpg
The Sweet Home soundtrack is stellar.

Sweet Home, Mother, Final Fantasy II, Bard's Tale II
From what I can see, these games are only available in Japan in their 8-bit form outside of hacks and emulation. It's a shame, too, because the first three at least strike me as very interesting Dragon Quest parallels. The prospect of Sweet Home is particularly enticing to me; survival horror themes seem to lend themselves very well to this gameplay genre, and I'm surprised it wasn't done more often.

TurboGrafx-16 and Atari 7800
I'm ignorant, and therefore generally associate 8-bit with the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System alone. The TurboGrafx-16 chronologically fits in the 4th generation, while the Maria graphics chip in the untapped Atari 7800 doesn't resemble the tile-based graphics of its competitors.

However, both technically operate on 8-bit CPU's and therefore would have a place on this list... if I knew anything about RPG's on either platform. My knowledge here starts and ends with the Neutopia and Y's action-rpg's for the TurboGrafx.

Dragon Warrior.jpg
It all started with this guy.

Where am I off? What have I got all wrong?
I look forward to finding out over the next few weeks, and enjoying as many of these games as possible (or at least watching a random YouTube-gamer enjoy them if I cannot.

Friday, August 19, 2016

5 Awful PlayStation Games I Actually Own

I'm closer to a hoarder than a collector; I just have a hard time letting go of games, no matter how horrible or unrelated to my preferred gaming genres and formats. That means I own several embarrassingly bad games.

Oh, I am indeed ashamed, Dr. Zoidberg.

Boxing (PS1)

With so many other titles available and the PlayStation 2 on it's way to being the best console ever, there wouldn't have been demand even if it weren't the worst boxing game since George Foreman's KO Boxing on the NES.

Ford Racing Coverart.png

A lot of people don't even like product placement in their games. Outside of the exception/exceptional Beetle Adventure Racing, very few people want product placement as a game... especially when it stinks.

Trigger Man Coverart.png

Trigger Man (PS2)

This game is really bad, but not even in a way that makes it ironically fun a la South Park for the N64, or licensed-collectible-bad like Superman for the Nintendo 64. It just flat-out, regular stinks.

Box art for Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog (PS3)

I fall into the large camp of people that can't help but try and retry any Sonic game with hope that it will transport me back to November 21, 1992. Alas, outside of Sonic Colors, that hope has been misguided since June 18, 2001.

The Simpsons Skateboarding PS2.jpg

The Simpsons Skateboarding (PS2)

Amid reams of other terrible games released on Sony consoles, it feels like The Simpsons Wrestling gets too much of the (negative) attention. It should be noted that Skateboarding looks and plays almost every bit as bad one year later on a newer console, but without any of Wrestling's comedy.


The worst part about all of these games is that, because of their notoriety in my mind, I'll probably continue to own these games rather than attempt to part with any of them.

Except Trigger Man. It's heading straight to the trash bin behind the house of whichever neighbor I decide I like least.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Game Gear Games for Cheapskates

The most impressive facet of the Sega Game Gear - other than its glorious, colored, back-lit screen and impressive hardware - is the large number of stellar titles cheapskates like myself can buy cheap.

Many of the titles gamers see as synonymous with Sega consoles, and literally several of the best titles on the system, will cost you right around $10 a piece for the cartridge only.

Sonic Mean Bean Machine.jpgColumns.jpeg

Like puzzle games? Try Baku Baku, Columns, or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine.

Speaking of Dr. Robotnik, it wouldn't be a Sega console without a swell of Sonic games like Sonic the Hedgehog I and II, Triple the Trouble, Chaos, Blast, and other complete spin-offs like Sonic Drift 2 and Sonic Spinball.

Sonic Drift 2 might be my favorite racer eligible here, but if kart-racing isn't your style, try F1, OutRun Europa, Super Monaco GP or Ayrton Senna's Super Monaco GP II, and even a stellar version of Road Rash.

Cover artEcco-cover.jpg

If you like quirky games, try Ecco, Lemmings, or Dynamite Headdy. If you like classic games, grab Shinobi or Shinobi II, or one of my personal favorite games for the console, Prince of Persia. You can even get your classic fighters here like Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat II, and the unique-but-fun Virtua Fighter Animation, and one of the best beat'em'up franchises of all time via Streets of Rage I and II.

Like any system, there are plenty of cheap sports titles to choose from here. My favorites are NBA Jam, Joe Montana Football, and World Class Leaderboard Golf.

A couple other rando-titles worth mentioning include G-LOC: Air Battle for solid flight combat, fan-favorite shooter Fantasy Zone, a familiar shoot'em'up in Desert Strike, and one of my favorite Star Wars games ever (though I prefer this version on the NES).

SMS Lucky Dime Caper Cover art.jpgDeep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck Coverart.png

Disney had a stellar run on the system. These include Master System ports Deep Duck Trouble and The Lucky Dime Caper both starring Donald Duck, and my two favorite Game Gear games of all time in Castle of Illusion and Legend of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse.

Couple all this up with the fact that a working Game Gear isn't too expensive, and this is a handheld system that will always deserve recognition. Just make sure you have the power cord; our ecosystem can't handle the Game Gear's demand for batteries.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Spending Spree, Pokemon, and Wii Anthologies Worth Mentioning

This week I got a lovely gift certificate to Gamer's HQ, which is of course the best excuse for a spending spree, which in turn is bound to inspire disconnected thoughts.


  • First I grabbed A Link Between Worlds (3DS) which would be my favorite LoZ game of all time (I'll take top-down RPG's over 3D any day) were it on a console instead of a handheld.
  • After a Twitter discussion, I decided Chrono Cross (PS1) deserved a 2nd chance given its low price. I'm not far in and the story is slow so far, but I'm enjoying it more this time.
  • The remastered Duck Tales (PS3) is stellar. Literally the only way I'd love it more is if it were part of a remastered collection (I love compilations).
  • I stumbled on BattleTanx: Global Assault and Vigilante 8 (N64) at a garage sale, which just so happen to be two of my favorite non-Mario Kart/Super Smash multi-players for the system.
  • Thankfully I didn't want any more Pokemon games on this particular spree. PokemonGo's popularity has done a number to already-steep prices on the handheld games.
  • Finally, I grabbed Kirby's 20th Anniversary Dream Collection (Wii game disc only, sadly), which leads me to my next point.
I'm about to share unexciting opinions with you.
The PS3 may have the greatest lineup of compilations and anthologies of any video game system ever. However, the Nintendo Wii deserves some love. The success of the Virtual Console replaced most demand for Anthologies, but there are still a few physical releases worth mentioning.
I just wanted a random meme here.

Happy weekend!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Decompressing some Pokemon, 6th Gen, & Gamer's HQ Thoughts

My brain is full of crap for which I have no other place to store but here.

  • I'm addicted to the collecting aspect of Pokemon Go (I don't care much for the gyms, and I imagine I'm not alone in that); it's like geocaching, but actually fun.
  • In the 6th generation, we got the last in a great line (Sega Dreamcast), the first in a great line (Xbox), the most successful system of all time (PlayStation 2), and a purple lunchbox with the word "Nintendo" on it!
  • It's time for my next purchase at Gamer's HQ; I'm just not sure what to buy. Wii U titles like Splatoon (for my wife), Mario Kart (for my wife and me), and Super Smash Bros (for not-my-wife) are all on the table.
  • My dog loves what Pokemon Go has done for our family more than anyone. Furry little fella is beefing up from all those kilometers.
  • I'm not interested in a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One at this point. However, I do want a Metal Slime PlayStation 4 just for the schwag aspect, and the Rare Replay/Gears of War Ultimate Edition for the Xbox One because it looks like one of the great compilations ever.
  • Speaking of great compilations, I'd love the SNK Classics Vol. 0 that came out in Japan for the PSP. Most of my SNK-experience started before the crazy-pricey Neo Geo, so this game's lineup hits me right in the nostalgia.
  • Here's a picture of that Metal Slime PlayStation 4, in case you like your articles with pictures. Isn't it sexy?

    My brain is empty now, so you may go.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Best Dragon Quest / Warrior Collection I've Ever Seen

My friend Tracy likes his video games, but what he's done with his Dragon Quest collection is at another level.

It was actually this friend, as you might have guessed, that inspired my own tremendous love and appreciation for the Dragon Quest series.

Watch the video, of course, but just for giggles, here are some of the highlights of his collection.

  • Dragon Warrior I new/sealed, graded 80+
  • Dragon Warrior II new/sealed, graded 85 (the rarity of this game and being graded so highly probably make it the most desirable of the first four)
  • Dragon Warrior III new/sealed, graded 80
  • Dragon Warrior IV new/sealed, graded 80+
  • Probably his personal favorite is Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker autographed by Yuji Horii himself. It was a 1-of-3 contest prize, and Mr. Horii doesn't sign many autographs.
  • Dragon Quest IV (famicom) new/sealed; most famicom games were not sealed at all.
Obviously there's plenty more - having every iteration released in North America sealed, the original Japanese Dragon Quest Swords, the Japanese Metal Slime controller, etc., about all of which are worth talking - but the main point I want you to take from all this is that I'm insanely jealous.