The Kamurocho Revitalization Project

The deadliest real estate agent.

Yakuza 0 is a wildly unpredictable but ridiculously enjoyable JRPG. Featuring a broad main campaign, two substantial minor campaigns (the Kamurocho Real Estate Royale and the Cabaret Club Czar), an overwhelming number of mini-games, and hundreds of optional challenges to complete. There’s over a hundred hours of diverse content to explore which is quite an impressive feat. My only minor criticism is that with so much to do it’s hard to know when the best time is to do what. That said, there’s the Premium Adventure mode which unlocks after completing the main campaign that allows you to revisit both cities.

This progression goes towards the New Game+ save file.

I greatly enjoyed exploring both Kamurocho and Sotenbori as they’re both beautifully detailed, vibrant, living locations filled with myriad optional Substories allowing you to explore the personality of each protagonist. They also allow you to buy video games for children, pretend to be someone’s boyfriend, train a dominatrix, and go disco dancing.

The sheer absurdity of some of these Substories is what makes them so enjoyable. In fact, the entire experience is somewhat absurd. It’s heavily exaggerated but amazingly enjoyable. I can’t say that I’ve ever enjoyed playing through mini-games as much as I have when going bowling or Pocket Circuit Racing in Yakuza 0. These mini-games are fully fleshed out, entirely playable, quite complex slices of optional content. As if the existing main campaign content wasn’t enough. Yakuza 0 also serves as a prequel to (the remastered) Yakuza Kiwami and the titles to follow. Very lightly skimming through the rest of the series has confirmed that many of the characters, events, and locations are representative of the stories to follow. It’s a sensible prequel that does an excellent job of explaining the events to follow and allows players to become fully immersed.

I think it suits him well as a real estate agent.

As if this wasn’t enough the optional challenges consistently reward you for actually going out and doing things. The CP acquired for each challenge completed can be invested in bonuses towards combat, adventuring, or your business ventures. With some of the business venture bonuses being quite significant. These challenges may be to play certain mini-games, defeat opponents with certain combat styles, eat local cuisine, play pool, or sing karaoke until your lungs burst. There’s such a diverse selection available that everyone will find something that they enjoy and that they can earn CP doing.

I was also most impressed with how fluid and satisfying combat was.

Both Kiryu and Majima have three combat styles (with a hidden fourth style) and each represents a concept. Be it versatility, strength, or speed. By attacking enemies in any of these styles you’ll build up Heat, and once Heat has reached a certain level you’ll be able to unleash ridiculously powerful special abilities. These abilities differ depending on the style used.

If there’s one thing that stands out to me about Yakuza 0 it’s the massive scale of the content available. I wasn’t expecting something that was as broad or as developed as this is. The main campaign was engaging, exhilarating, and beautifully presented which for most series would be enough. But the Yakuza series kept layering more and more content on in a world that despite its size puts most open world video games to shame. For such a small map there is so much to do, so much to see, and so many characters to meet. I absolutely adore the art direction and voice acting, too. It’s an exceptionally well presented experience that is quite unlike anything I’ve played before. But highly recommended if you’re looking for something a little different but incredibly rewarding.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

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Masters of Orsterra

On a journey of self-discovery.

Octopath Traveler is an exceptionally enjoyable JRPG that tells an engrossing story through eight main characters in an ever-evolving world overflowing with secrets. It feels quite nostalgic, too. Not that it has any reason to, but everything about the art direction and mechanics feels akin to the JRPGs of the SNES. There are quite a few new ideas in there as well. You can utilise myriad path actions to interact with NPCs in various ways, which not only keeps progression fresh but allows those characters to have content specific to them in their respective campaign chapters. It also allows you to resort to thievery.

Which mostly results in quite a stack of pomegranates.

The path actions also present the opportunity to have multiple types of side quests. Some require you to guide NPCs to certain locations, others to inquire about valuable information, some to purchase rare or unique items that can’t be obtained elsewhere, and others which require you to defeat NPCs to access new locations.

I’m quite fond of the character progression mechanics, too. Each character has their own base class and can combine this with one of twelve other classes. No two characters can have the same secondary class at the same time, which means if Olberic is an Apothecary and you want Tressa to be an Apothecary then Olberic needs to select a different secondary class. They are freely interchangeable, though. So make use of the unique passive skills for each class. Of the twelve classes there are the eight default classes and four advanced classes, which require you to explore the world and look for shrines in numerous locations. Unlocking skills with the advanced classes requires far more JP than default classes but they repay the investment with overwhelming power. Aelfric’s Auspices on a Sorcerer is a monstrous thing to behold.

I’ve greatly enjoyed the combat mechanics as well. They’re somewhat unconventional but quite intuitive and mostly require you to match your actions with the weaknesses of your enemies. Each enemy has a shield, which, once broken, leaves them vulnerable and allows you to deal additional damage. With the Warrior, Scholar, and Hunter there are quite a few ways to break shields on multiple opponents at once. Some characters (like Alfyn) even have unique talents that allow them to perform actions in combat to break multiple shields at once, which you can’t inherit by becoming their class.

I’ve written of some of these things before.

It’s quite rare for a JRPG to offer some distinction between characters besides their abilities or statistics. Even the path actions have different categorisations, which mean that some are considered lawful while others are unlawful and each carries their own risks and rewards. These will have different impacts on your reputation when used.

Which is what I think is best about Octopath Traveler. There are quite a few unconventional mechanics (at least for JRPGs) which opens up the opportunity to explore the world in your own way. You can choose to be entirely unlawful and force your way through towns and during events. Or you can choose to be entirely lawful. That said, it doesn’t present the multiple choice dialogue akin to CRPGs and so the campaigns themselves will mostly play out as they should. But it does offer enough individuality to stand out from other JRPGs. If you’re a fan of JRPGs and you’re looking for something that’s familiar but different then I can’t recommend Octopath Traveler highly enough. It’s an exceptionally engaging experience from start to finish!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

The Strength of Their Convictions

On the road again.

There are few things that I enjoy more than well-crafted JRPGs. Octopath Traveler was allegedly one of those well-crafted JRPGs, but as I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, nor have any interest in purchasing one, it became increasingly apparent that I would never know for myself. That was until it was recently announced for release on Steam, which prompted a (somewhat rare) pre-order and research into what made the nostalgia-driven but entirely modern JRPG stand out from the crowd. There are quite a few things, in fact. Not that it does anything entirely new or unique but what it does do it does very well.

It’s a very solid experience from start to finish.

The combat has a great rhythm that never feels particularly sluggish or boring. The path actions allow you to quite literally steal everything that isn’t nailed down or to inquire about secret treasures. The character classes are quite competent individually and when paired with a secondary class can become quite devastating.

One of the best choices I made was to combine Tressa with the Scholar. With her Rest skill she’s a self-sustaining damage machine that can devastate enemy shields, break multiple enemies at once, and deal ridiculously high amounts of damage. Likewise, Olberic as an Apothecary, due to his naturally high elemental defence, makes an excellent healer. With the Cover Support Skill he’s able to soak most of the damage, protect the party, and then heal himself. Should someone die he can just resurrect them. I’ve also got the Hang Tough Support Skill on Tressa which means she’s very unlikely to die. That is unless she’s hit by AoE damage or Olberic is dead. Once you’ve mastered the various classes you gain access to ridiculously powerful Divine Skills that absolutely destroy opponents. Or provide exceptionally powerful buffs.

To discover the truth behind the fall of Hornburg.

In many ways, the various mechanics surrounding combat and character progression are among my favourites. I love the concept of being able to boost damage (or healing) and being able to save highest damage for when enemies are already broken. Being able to boost physical attacks is quite neat, too. That allows you to chain several hits with a weapon to break enemy shields faster. Or, just as effectively, chain the strikes for higher damage. It’s very rare to have a turn where you don’t have something you’d like to (or need to) do. It’s an oddly effective fast-paced strategic combat approach that feels great.

It doesn’t feel particularly grind-y, either.

While some of the Support Skills are quite powerful they are the only things that carry over when mastering a secondary class. Some are also slightly useless when you first gain access to them, such as Surpassing Power, which allows you to break the damage limit, and is wasted unless you’re able to deal over 10k damage on the regular.

I’ve pre-ordered few titles in the last few years but Octopath Traveler was definitely worth the risk. I’ve already amassed a (quite frankly ridiculous) number of hours in exploring the various locales of Orsterra, and I’ve yet to really experience the majority of the eight simultaneous main character campaigns. Not to mention the various dungeons, shrines, towns, and general JRPG busywork. I’m also quite curious about the four character classes I’ve yet to see. I’ve only seen mention of them in the achievements list. My best guess would be that they’re advanced or exceptionally powerful classes available closer to the end of the main campaign. Or perhaps even available post-campaign as things often seem to be in JRPGs nowadays. In either case, I’m definitely looking forward to experiencing more of Octopath Traveler in coming weeks.

Have a nice week, all!

Moggie

Strangely Coloured Crotch Rocket

An apt description of her transformation.

Superdimension Neptune VS Sega Hard Girls continues the series’ strange naming convention which seems to get longer with each new instalment. It also continues the series’ fascination with alternate timeline stories. Which I do so dearly adore. Featuring IF as one of two protagonists that set out on a journey to understand why time is disappearing, how to reverse or stop the process, and ultimately work towards a non-post-apocalyptic future. It’s also got a rather neat character class system which is reminiscent of JRPGs of yesteryear.

Which is more or less the entire reason that I bought it.

That and the Dreamcast was a criminally underrated console and seeing a living incarnation of said system decimating her foes is a cathartic release of sorts. Each character has multiple classes and even unlocks a final ultimate class that is representative of everything that character embodies. Such as IF being a ninja. Or Neptune being a kangaroo.

The battle system introduces a few new mechanics, too. There’s the Fever Gauge which builds during battle and can be utilised to unleash Fever Time. Which is more less you having infinite turns and priority in the turn order until the effect wears off, but also makes available various powerful skills that can only be used when that delightfully upbeat music is playing. Characters retain previously established transformations as well. The CPUs are still able to utilise their HDD forms while IF gains a more powerful awakened form. Like a fiery, not-so-golden, less aerial Super Saiyan. It certainly aims to make button mashing in battle less of a thing and (mostly) succeeds, as your position in the turn order is governed by how much you do in any given turn.

The series’ tradition of using a system of plans to unlock new weapons, armour, locations, and bosses is sadly absent. Instead many of these things are unlocked when certain story events have taken place. That said, there is a rather neat conceptual approach to making dungeons more explorable with different collectibles, breakable objects, and unique ways to access other floors. It’s definitely something that helps to prevent dungeons from becoming mundane or repetitive too quickly. It also suits IF as a protagonist as that’s pretty much what she does.

My only criticism is how (surprisingly) clunky the PC release is.

The translation is most baffling as information about items is either entirely absent or doesn’t accurately describe what items do. The fonts in dialogue boxes (especially for names) are weirdly distorted, too. Not to mention the awfully inconsistent dialogue for certain characters whose personality is then harder to understand.

It’s certainly not what you would expect from a series that usually has reasonably high quality PC releases, but it doesn’t detract from the experience too greatly. I’d be almost entirely okay with it if there were more information available about the different classes. They’re quite easy to figure out, though. It’s still an enjoyable instalment in the Neptunia series and features the series’ trademark humour, characters, and the internal quandary that Neptune has whenever she’s not the protagonist. In that way I can still recommend this title as something that will keep you busy for 30-40hrs. Perhaps longer if you’re achievement hunting. Or trying to get every character to Lvl 99 and every class to Lvl 50.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Jiants from the Hills

As mentioned in the Crimson (or Azure) prophecy.

World of Final Fantasy is an interesting and enjoyable JRPG which draws influence from the many main instalments in the Final Fantasy series over the years. It is marinated with a thick, juicy, tender layer of nostalgia. In which two young Mirage Keepers awaken to the world of Grymoire wherein they must fight, Imprism, and ultimately train powerful beasts and summonable creatures (referred henceforth as Mirages) who will fight at their behest. From inside their MiraBalls. They’re actually called Prisms. They’re also cubes. So maybe they should be MiraCubes…

There are myriad Mirage mechanics present.

Mirages gain experience as is traditional to JRPGs but level up via Mirage Boards. Each node represents some form of improvement (be it a new ability or statistical enhancement) and some afford the use of seeds to customise Mirages further, which ultimately contributes to how strong the stack with the Mirage Keepers will be.

Mechanically what this means is that when stacked they will unlock more powerful abilites under certain conditions. For instance, two Mirages that can cast Fire and Fira respectively would combine to cast Firaga. Mirages (or Mirage Keepers) with high level magic may even unlock Holy, Flare, or Ultima. But with great power comes great weakness. As all weaknesses are amplified in these forms. In that, if two Mirages are weak to thunder damage, the combined form would be ludicrously weak against it. Some Mirages may also possess a rarer Mirajewel node which essentially allows them to pass their abilities to either of the Mirage Keepers. Unlocked as a reusable Mirajewel these items allow the Mirage Keepers to further bolster their stacks with impressive abilities and statistical enhancements. Or to utilise unique combined abilities.

Until the completion of the main campaign the stacks must consist of two Mirages and one Mirage Keeper. However, after the true ending has been unlocked, you can remove the Mirage Keepers from the stacks. That’s only really relevant when attempting the post-completion content, but if you’ve decided you’re finally tired of Reynn’s constant smug know-it-all attitude you’re offered some respite. Or if you’ve ever wanted to see a Kuza Beast, Gilgamesh, and Magic Jar tear all those who stand before them asunder. That’s a perfectly valid reason, too.

Some characters have definitely been more annoying than others.

That said, I’m rather impressed with the main antagonist (especially their voice acting). I’d have expected something light-hearted given that World of Final Fantasy was meant for younger audiences. But, no, the developers are certainly gearing up fledgling adventurers for the darker stories they’ll find in the rest of the series.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from World of Final Fantasy but I was pleasantly surprised. I feel as though the availability of new mechanics and Mirages could be better paced, as there are some Mirages which you have from the very beginning of the campaign which don’t realise their full potential until after the first ending is unlocked. At which point most people (I would assume) have moved onto other Mirages. As they literally can’t level those ones up further without the appropriate Memento. But, besides that slight criticism, it’s definitely an enjoyable experience and the many Mirages are fun to try out. If, like me, you’ve played literally every main (non-MMORPG) instalment in the Final Fantasy series, World of Final Fantasy should rekindle some nostalgic embers in your heart. I highly recommend it!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Seekers of C’drall

I’m not entirely sure that we want to find them, though.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar is an exceptionally enjoyable JRPG that features six playable characters, a number of explorable dungeons, engaging character development, crafting mechanics, and myriad enemies to cleave in twain. It also features one of the least frustrating fishing minigames that I’ve experienced in a while. I actually want to catch these fish, too. Those Shadow Coins are pretty useful. I’ve greatly enjoyed exploring the locations (and dungeons) around the map, and find that it usually provides meaningful rewards. Which is a refreshing change of pace.

I’m quite impressed with the character development mechanics, too.

The crafting mechanics allow you to not only craft weapons, armour, jewellery, and trinkets but powerful enchantments. You can even craft each of the six legendary weapons. This replaces the often ever-present convoluted process of returning to previous locations to acquire unique items to form the most powerful armaments.

Each of the legendary weapons require specific rare (or unique) crafting materials, but most of these can be acquired by completing optional quests and you’re likely to have the majority of them when you gain access to the recipes. There’s only one crafting material that requires running a specific dungeon to acquire. That said, I’ve found the grinding to be quite palatable overall. I’ve usually had most of the materials required to craft most recipes, and any that I didn’t have were easily obtained via random battles on the world map. You can also overcharge each recipe (besides legendary ones) to provide higher statistical bonuses at the cost of more crafting materials. You can use any materials you wish, though. So be sure to use the most plentiful stock first.

I was pleasantly surprised at how flexible each of the party members were, too. Each character has two different Masteries (usually with one for damage and one for utility), which, when combined with enchanting, allows almost unprecedented ability to customise each character. You can only have three characters in your party, though. But you’re free to change that around whenever you feel that you need a different approach. Parties are mostly used when in dungeons or explorable areas on the world map, with each character having access to unique dungeon skills.

These can provide significant buffs to your party when exploring.

For instance, Calibretto, the hardy war golem, can heal the entire party by a certain amount when exploring and outside of combat. Garrison, the bleed-inducing critical hit machine, can deftly dodge traps and stun enemies before combat. These skills can be boosted via character Masteries, which adds another layer to the depth and customisation of each character while influencing experimentation. Wherein you develop your own specialised dungeon running party formation.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Battle Chasters: Nightwar but I’ve been continually impressed. The art direction is absolutely gorgeous and the combat is incredibly fun, with beautifully fluid animations and character models which look amazing when using their powerful Battle Bursts. I wasn’t sure how long it would last, either. But my first playthrough was over 40hrs and I’ve still got New Game+ to experience yet. I’m rather hoping that there will be either a sequel or a continuation of the story, too. It definitely deserves one. I can’t recommend Battle Chasers: Nightwar highly enough to those among us who enjoy the great JRPGs of yesteryear. This feels akin to those experiences but with all of the modern conveniences included.

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie

Repeatedly Running Away

Evading the cold embrace of death.

Monster Hunter World is a contradictory collection of enjoyable and frustrating mechanics. I’m going to write a more comprehensive post once I’ve completed the main story, but now that I’ve ascended to the glory that is High Rank I thought I’d share my initial reactions. To be fair, I’ve probably seen the majority of the mechanics now. I’ve also seen some hilarious yet devastating monster behaviour. Like the Tzitzi-Ya-Ku who decided to run to several different locations on the map only to arrive and immediately run to another.

That was an expedition that didn’t go as planned.

Thankfully it was just an expedition, so I didn’t exactly lose anything other than the time invested and a few consumables. I’m rather fond of that particular mechanic, though. I like the fact that the monsters will eventually leave a location rather than wait patiently for their inevitable death. It gives both expeditions and investigations a reason to exist when gathering resources.

That said, I’ve encountered few mechanics which frustrate me more than the main story quests. They seem to be specifically designed for a full group of hunters, but they don’t provide any NPC support if you’re doing the quest alone. Not that the quests are actually that difficult. But they also seem to progress even if you don’t complete the currently required objectives. So you’re either being pushed through several objectives so quickly that you can’t tell what’s going on, or you’re frantically running back and forth trying to load every cannon you can see. It feels as though there should be at least a few NPCs helping you. Especially when the consequences of failure are so catastrophic, and yet you’re literally the only hunter trying to do anything about it.

Only one of these hunters will actually attempt to stop Zorah Magdaros.

Oddly every other quest works as you would expect it should. The assigned quests (not involving Zorah Magdaros) all have introductory encounters, the optional quests are varied and numerous, investigations are an excellent source of everything, and expeditions basically allow you to roam the world freely. In many ways the diversity of the quests really help to bring this entire experience together. It’s also refreshing that the developers acknowledged that you’ll be doing an immense amount of grinding and have provided investigations to allow you do just that.

It’s a much better solution than simply repeating story quests.

The crafting mechanics are quite refreshing, too. Not only can you mark pieces of equipment that you want to craft and you’ll be notified when you have the resources, but being able to craft items automatically removes so much repetition. It’s even better that you’re in control of what should be crafted automatically. These are simple but appreciated considerations.

The inventory management mechanics are so intuitive that I wish every JRPG, RPG, and MMORPG had them. Being able to allocate a set of items to a loadout and then simply refill that loadout after a quest saves so much time. You can even tailor those loadouts to different types of quests. There are so many minor but incredibly clever alterations to conventional mechanics. I was sceptical about Monster Hunter World, but I’ve greatly enjoyed my time with it and now that I’ve reached High Rank I’ve got new opportunities to take advantage of. On the other hand, this is where the intense grinding begins so maybe this is where it will start to wear on me. Either way it’s easily worth the price of admission and quite fun, too!

Have a nice weekend, all!

Moggie