Wings Over Ivalice

A convenient method of transportation whenever you’re not in Jagd.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an impressive remaster which introduces a number of new mechanics and provides an enjoyable experience throughout. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the new job system, but there are quite a few changes besides the inclusion of tantalising character builds. Most of these changes affect how you progress through the campaign, what certain Magicks are classified as, how you acquire some of the rarer equipment, and make the bazaar a more prominent feature for various reasons.

I’m mostly in support of these changes.

However, there are some, as previously mentioned regarding the job system, which do feel slightly imbalanced. Grinding is still prevalent in the earlier locations, but becomes almost non-existent as much of the higher level equipment can only be found. So there’s never a comfortable break even point. You’re either ridiculously poor or you’re obscenely wealthy.

The actual story campaign is as good as it ever was. You’ve still got the gorgeously vivid, freely explorable, incredibly detailed open world that will engage you for dozens of hours. Overflowing with side quests, rare monsters, optional marks, and more. Graphically, even without the remaster, Final Fantasy XII still holds its own. There are dungeons which take literal hours to fully explore, filled with traps and puzzles and not nearly enough save crystals. But I do feel as though something is missing from The Zodiac Age. I’m currently sitting on 10-15k Licence Points across the entire party, but I can’t spend them due to completing all of my boards, and so even though I’d like some characters to learn new abilities they can’t, which is eternally frustrating.

I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the world, uncovering its secrets, experiencing the main story, and being able to relive what I consider to be one of the best instalments in the series. But I do miss the freedom of the original Licence Board. That said, it’s still an incredibly good remaster and (mostly) highlights what made Final Fantasy XII so engaging. Gambits remain one of the best AI mechanics in the entire series and allow so much customisation of who does what and when they do it. Ultimately giving characters unprecedented levels of autonomy in battle.

Espers are pretty interesting, too.

They’ve changed slightly in The Zodiac Age but their premise remains the same. They can be temporarily summoned to provide assistance in battle, and they have a range of different abilities which are strengthened by the proficiency of their summoner. They’re also very rarely used in environmental interactions. Which is another thing that Final Fantasy XII does very well.

Despite disagreeing with some of the changes in the remaster, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is still a great entry point for new players and will provide an 80hr+ campaign if you’re looking to see and do everything. Even if you’re not you’re in for quite a long run. There has always been such a unique visual and musical style to Final Fantasy XII which really encapsulates the feeling of classic Final Fantasy instalments. It’s still much broader, more diverse, and has more depth than even the newest instalments. Which is a testament to the incredible amount of work that went into developing the original. Even now, twelve years later, it’s still one of the most exhilarating adventures in the Final Fantasy series. It’s absolutely worth your time!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Advertisements

Licence to Adventure

My life would be more interesting if I had one of these.

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age is an interesting adventure if you’ve ever experienced the original release. Unlike the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster which keeps most of the core mechanics intact, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age introduces a shiny new job system. Which, to be fair, was present in some versions of the original but definitely not the version I had. However, unlike other instalments with a job system, such as Final Fantasy III or Final Fantasy V, there is no need (nor any ability) to switch jobs after they’re chosen.

Which means you need to choose wisely.

But it also means that you don’t necessarily need to use every single job that’s available. Some offer little benefit other than access to another class of weapons which may or may not offer any noticeable difference. For instance, the Bushi, which primarily uses katanas, benefits from the Uhlan as they can use spears. As spears can hit flying enemies where katanas can’t.

That said, the only magick that combination could cast would be Black Magick unlocked via Espers and Quickenings. Which means that, unless you’re comfortable giving up the Esper, you’re essentially making a character that can only cast very limited Black Magick. Not that there is any requirement to have each character cast magick, but it does present an interesting issue when they’re going to gain increasing amounts of MP as they level. Something that is also prevalent with the Knight. The Knight is a class that will usually naturally develop low level healing magic, but in this incarnation they need to use Espers to unlock even the most basic White Magick. Of which their overall selection is quite limited but does prove useful.

I’ve never met a chocobo I didn’t like. Even this one.

For that reason I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this job system. For newer players it’s probably easier to digest than the original Licence Board, but for more experienced players I feel as though the job system takes something away from the experience. Especially when numerous jobs have access to Green Magick which seem to be almost exclusively unlocked through your Clan Rank. So there are several Licences you’re going to get little benefit from until much later in the story but they’re available fairly early on the board.

It’s natural that high level equipment would be saved for later.

But it does feel as though there is an imbalance between the progression. Some rapidly progress through equipment and HP Licences to become much more powerful earlier on in the story, while others seem to lack any kind of punch until much later. Like the Black Mage. Which was a secondary choice for me but didn’t become relevant until after the second board was available.

I don’t hate the new system. In fact, I welcome it. It’s interesting to see the difference between the two approaches. But it would be nice if they would allow you to access the original Licence Board, too. For those who prefer that system. Or want to experience it for the first time. I’m still enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age regardless. It’s a huge adventure that never stops giving even when you think you’ve explored a fair chunk of the world. I’ve discovered hidden Espers, locations, and more while casually exploring the various locations that seem to be appearing as quickly as I clear them. I also decided that I’d put my thoughts down in writing. So, here they are. My thoughts. In writing.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

The Cure for Insomnia

It’s not safe to travel at night.

Normally I prefer being awake at night, but those pesky bloodthirsty daemons that occupy Eos once the sun goes down make it a little harder to justify. That was until I realised that by not sleeping I could save up (and consequently multiply) experience points at various locations, which ultimately led to not resting for weeks at a time. Which was great for everyone except Ignis who rarely utilised his culinary skills. But at least he cooked more meals than Noctis caught fish. I caught a grand total of two fish and both were for cats.

I later caught a third to talk to a NPC.

Final Fantasy XV is an interesting JRPG that invokes the nostalgia of earlier instalments while standing firmly with its own mechanics. Featuring one of the best open world environments I’ve experienced Eos is overflowing with dangerous enemies, dungeons to explore, secret locations to discover, and hundreds of quests to undertake in one form or another.

I was quite impressed with the character progression mechanics, too. Accruing AP will allow you to unlock new abilities and passive bonuses via Ascension, which made a noticeable difference and allowed your party members to act autonomously with variation in their abilities. It’s not quite the tactical system present in Final Fantasy XII, but it’s one that allows the different party members to retain their personalities and become more powerful over time. The attention to detail in their mannerisms and animations was refreshing as well. As was their role in the party matching their role in the story. For instance, Gladiolus, who acts to protect Noctis, has active and passive abilities that quite literally allow him to shield Noctis from damage.

I’m also glad to see that there is variation in the weapon types used by each character. It’s nice to see the return of a classic approach to upgrading equipment, but with the addition of equipment that is specific to Noctis (due to his role in the story) that allows him to fully utilise his Armiger. Not only reinforcing the new mechanics but allowing more variation when dealing with enemies who are resistant to certain weapon types. Or even magic types. Magic being a curious blend of drawing elemental energy from deposits and crafting this time around.

Elemancy is an interesting concept that I scarcely employed.

Having New Game+ as an option definitely invites the possibility to use different weapons and/or magic the second time around. Being able to switch to the other party members makes for an interesting variation, too. Seeing as each has their own unique mechanics which make them different to Noctis. I don’t know how feasible it is to stay consistently switched, though.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Final Fantasy XV but I was very pleasantly surprised. The open world is vast and features actual dungeons which not only include overflowing numbers of daemons but puzzles and rare equipment, too. The hunts are varied and increasingly difficult with many different enemies to encounter. The side quests often form quest chains which have logical conclusions with the characters concerned. It’s an accomplishment that the world feels as alive as it does- which is something the Final Fantasy series has lacked for a while- but something that comes so naturally to this instalment. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving world that’s just waiting to be explored. I highly recommend giving it a chance- it may surprise you.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Those Who Travel Alsgard

Neptune is the second Lvl 110 Paladin I’ve played.

Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online is an ARPG that is heavily influenced by MMORPG mechanics. Mostly because you’re playing an MMORPG with the cast of the Neptunia series. It boasts all of your favourite features, including, but not limited to: crafting, exploring dungeons, group events, loot, bosses, character classes, and character progression systems. It doesn’t boast the overflowing (and overwhelming) number of skills that most MMORPGs have, though. Which makes this a less intense and more enjoyable experience overall.

Not that having options is ever a bad thing in either an MMORPG or an ARPG.

But, in this case, the lack of options doesn’t restrict you. Each skill is generally more useful than several iterations of applying the same effect in a slightly different way. The only exception being the elemental damage skills which each class has limited access to. Naturally, Nepgear, the Mage, has access to all of the elemental damage skills. Including some that the Goddesses have.

The equipment strengthening mechanics also remove much of the busy work usually present in MMORPGs. It’s sort of like a crafting system that isn’t a crafting system. You still need to gather raw materials to strengthen your weapons or armour, but it is handled independently to your characters or their individual expertise. You can easily fully upgrade your starting equipment for quite the boost should you have the money and materials to do so. This is especially important later in the main story when more expensive equipment becomes available. Each upgrade is surprisingly potent, too. I was pleased to discover that some of the equipment I’d upgraded near the beginning of the story was still useful in the later areas. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

We must make haste for there are monsters to loot.

While there are some mechanics which I really enjoyed, there were some which were quite hazy. Like the choice of party tactics. I don’t really know what each of those options mean or what they change about the behaviour of my party members. I would assume that Blanc, a Priest, would default towards healing over damage, but when specifying what I would assume is that option she still seemed more concerned with damage. Then again, I don’t think any healing AI will ever do what I want it to do. But that’s just me being a defensive player.

That said, it’s a minor drawback that doesn’t impact things too greatly.

I’ve been looking forward to Cyberdimension Neptunia 4 Goddesses Online for some time now and it hasn’t disappointed me. It’s not exactly a full length adventure like Megadimension Neptunia VII or other earlier instalments, but it is a greatly enjoyable way to spend thirty hours. There’s definitely potential for regular additional DLC akin to MMO content patches, too.

I wasn’t sure if I’d get around to playing this one as soon as I have due to wanting to play Final Fantasy XV (Windows Edition) at release, but I’m glad that I spent the time on it. I really did enjoy the experience and do wish it were longer. It intentionally feels unfinished (for reasons explained in the story) and that only makes me want to find secret dungeons and/or bosses. I’ll be attempting to get all of the achievements, too. I’m mostly there save for the quests which I still need to finish. I’m hoping that Neptune at Lvl 110+ with an additional roster of Lvl 85-90 characters is enough to beat the final final boss. The most final of bosses. With instant death attacks and several million health. Most likely. I guess I’ll find out when I get there.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Realisation of a Dream

The very fabric of the universe is tearing apart.

Megadimension Neptunia VII is the first adventure that I’ve experienced in the Neptunia universe that isn’t part of the Re;Birth remake series. It’s an interesting one for that reason. Things that I’ve become acquainted to (such as the Remake system and Stella’s Dungeon) are not present, but there’s a bunch of other interesting ideas to replace them. Like the ability to invest in cities, which, for the most part, replaces the Remake system. Or the use of Scouts. Which also replaces some aspects of the Remake system.

There’s a world map (with actual enemy encounters), too.

Along with more emphasis on New Game+ in which more items become available the further you go. I was most surprised about this, as I know that Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth2 Sisters Generation used a similar mechanic for multiple endings- but New Game+ is almost required in Megadimension Neptunia VII. It’s still incredibly content dense without it, though.

It’s broader (with a much longer story) but simultaneously narrower (with much less to unlock and use) but there’s more emphasis on each choice. Weapons have been completely overhauled in this way, they are fewer in number but actually have specific combo capabilities. Chaining together effective attacks is more important, too. The EXE Drive returns but only lasts for a single battle, while Formation and Coupling Skills are actually based on surrounding an enemy. Or slicing straight through it. There’s quite a variety of those as well. You’ll easily be able to build effective parties (even with DLC characters) and utilise those powerful attacks. There are also specific intense boss battles with unique conditions which require HDD to be activated.

Even the quests have been reworked so that you need to earn access to higher rank offerings. It’s incredibly ambitious and ridiculously enjoyable. The lack of opportunities to grind endless experience in your first run presents much tougher opposition, with some boss battles becoming quite heated. The introduction of a smaller but more specialised cast is appreciated, too. The DLC characters are some of the best I’ve seen in the series, with many not only having a great selection of skills but really unique (and gorgeous) character models.

Then there’s the HDD Next Form for the CPUs.

Introduced as the ultimate evolution of the CPUs and requiring a second activation to unleash once available, it boasts skills that are so powerful they cancel out HDD once used and return the CPU to their human form in return for devastatingly powerful results. They also feature really gorgeous character models and some of the most impressive animations in the series.

I’ve only one regret with regards to Megadimension Neptunia VII and that is that it marks the end of the currently available content. That said, I’ve scarcely been happier with a series than I have been with this one. I’m looking forward to seeing them all through again in New Game+, too. Especially this one. Which boasts the highest replayability of the series. I was surprised by the depth of the story- which is actually three stories- and how enjoyable it was. The true ending was among the best I’ve experienced so far as well. I’m certainly looking forward to the return of Neptunia (in any dimension) and can easily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys JRPGs. Or Neptune. Even if you don’t now- she’ll grow on you. I promise.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

A Neptune to the Past

That’s what you get for going into the light.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth3 V Generation is an alternate universe continuation of the story present in the preceding entry in the series. We’re also in the past… so it gets a little confusing as to where this Gamindustri fits into the universe, whether we’ll see it again, or if it’s just a pudding induced Neptune fever dream. Or eggplant induced fever dream. Stella’s Dungeon makes a return alongside a new Remake system with the (much appreciated) ability to search for materials, while everything else is generally bigger and better.

Stella’s Dungeon has an impact on the main story now, too.

Each time you successfully complete an area you’ll get a bounty of goodies- items, plans, materials, keys to the next area, and much more will be awarded for your efforts. These not only help when progressing to new areas in Stella’s Dungeon, but also with quests and the like where these materials will help you meet the requirements. It’s also a steady source of easily attainable income.

There are also new character challenges which fit into the Remake system to provide further party customisation. Most are statistical changes and are valuable in varying degrees of importance, but some will unlock new skills and new passive bonuses. The EXE Drive system has been completely reworked as well. SP is now immediately and permanently set to a maximum of 1000 for each character, it’s generated through Rush Attacks (or through general combat), and will be how you activate the EXE Drive. Either through having to reach a particular amount to use EXE Finish Skills, or by consuming a considerable portion of SP to unleash an exceptionally devastating EXE Drive Skill. It’s a change which adds a strategic layer to most combat.

Within which there are many positive changes from having more EXE Drive Skills available per character, more advantage being taken of the various Coupling and Formation Skills, further choices for the equipment CPUs and CPU Candidates will use in their HDD form, and a fifth combo slot for each attack type which expands the potential for damage and chain bonuses. It definitely feels more content dense (in a good way), while, at the same time, there are opportunities to expand on these mechanics even further in later entries in the series.

Which the Hyperdimension Neptunia series has done quite successfully so far.

No two entries are the same and that’s a good thing. It’s enjoyable to experience new mechanics or at the very least alterations to existing ones. This makes the desire to continue playing through the series even stronger than it normally would be, as you can’t wait to see all of the positive changes they’re making. Or all of the new things you’ll have to get accustomed to.

I’ve definitely spent more time with this entry than anticipated but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the time spent. Which is why I would recommend this series to anyone looking for something akin to the JRPGs of old from the days of the SNES or the PS1. They’re light hearted, fun, and not too complex. There are a lot of characters to choose from (especially with the free DLC options) and each is genuinely interesting in their own way. It’s also sure to induce a few pangs of nostalgia given it’s a parody of the gaming industry (and many of the series and characters therein). There are also quite a few different titles available which branch off from the main series in interesting ways, which might also interest those who love the characters and want more from them.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Emotions Are Prohibited

For the most part.

NieR: Automata is an exhilarating experience which flawlessly blends intense action with a deeply emotional story to deliver a truly unique adventure. It also boasts a number of endings, various character perspectives, deep character development mechanics, and multiple weapons to collect. There’s a rather unique use of the New Game+ mechanic, too. Each main ending will open up a new Route, which allows you to experience different perspectives or entirely new portions of story with different characters.

Most of your progress will carry over, though.

So when you’re starting Route B (or beyond) you’ll have the same weapons, side quest completion, inventory, and general collection statistics. That said, there will be some weapons or side quests which are only available on these different Routes. But it’s well worth experiencing the collection of main endings to fully understand and appreciate the story.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the various side quests as they tend to explain more about the history of the world, the different characters, and even (at times) hint about some of the later story developments. It’s interesting as those story developments are often restricted to the main quests, but NieR: Automata continually rewards you for going out of your way to do as much as you can across the rapidly deteriorating world. It’s a pretty large world, too. There are quite a few things hidden throughout the locations you’ll visit. There are also a number of smaller endings you can experience by doing certain things in certain places. Which, again, is interesting, as often you would humorously suggest but never be able to actually do those things in other titles.

For those who aren’t really interested in the story and the side quests, the combat is incredibly satisfying and the range of weapons you can collect is diverse and enjoyable in its own way. Each weapon will perform differently both when they’re first obtained and when they’re fully upgraded. Often with the weapons gaining new, unique, and powerful abilities as a result of investing time and resources in them. There are also countless other customisations you can make to the characters to change how they perform in combat and even in the field.

It’s an extensive adventure in several ways.

There’s an absurd amount of attention to detail in the world, which truly shows that it was a labour of love and care as there are so many minor (seemingly insignificant) details that are intentionally highlighted. Alongside a rather mysterious and constantly evolving universe which is quite unlike any setting I’ve seen before. It really does have something for everyone.

I’ve immensely enjoyed my time with this title. It’s one of those rare occasions where everything comes together in the most satisfying way, where the combat is fluid and the controls are tight, where the world is interesting and intentionally kept mysterious, and where you will enjoy exploring the various locations because the soundtrack is incredibly good. There is so much to say about NieR: Automata but it’s one of those stories that’s best experienced as blindly as possible. However, I will say that this title has repeatedly surprised and impressed me and that it has exceeded any expectations I may have had regarding it. I highly recommend this title and can almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie