Friday 29 July 2016

Discovering the Fun of the Nintendo 3DS as an Avid PS Vita Fan

PS Vita has been my favourite portable console for awhile. I've had some of my best gaming experiences on it, such as Persona 4 Golden bringing me hardcore back into gaming and JRPGs, playing Final Fantasy X HD as my first game experience in all Japanese, going deeper into the Final Fantasy series with Final Fantasy IX and getting heavily sucked into so many stories that had as much depth as that ones I play on home consoles. Because I was having so much fun on my Vita, I initially had a very low level of interest in the 3DS for a long time. The only thing I was missing without a 3DS was the childhood nostalgia of Pokemon games that I never truly felt like I was missing out because I still had a Gameboy Advance. What finally got me properly interested in the 3DS was when Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance came out, which I was initially annoyed about as it was the first Kingdom Hearts game I couldn't play on Playstation. As much as it annoyed me, when it happened again with Persona Q I felt like a needed the console to continue these series I loved.

When I finally got my 3DS, I assumed for the most part I’d only play Pokemon, Kingdom Hearts and Persona. I didn’t think of the 3DS as a JRPG machine as that was how I thought of my Vita, but after doing some research into the system's library I quickly discovered there was plenty for a JRPG player like myself to enjoy. I first started picking up random Japanese DS JRPGs such as Pokemon Diamond to help my Japanese studies, but it was when I started playing Fire Emblem Awakening that I realised that while the 3DS may not have the same amount of JRPGs as the PS Vita, they certainly had some quality ones.

One of the things that make me love JRPGs so much is there silliness and for some reason it never crossed my mind that a brand like Nintendo would naturally put fun games like this into its 3DS library. Even while playing Fire Emblem Awakening, I noticed this silliness during the Support system and it reminded me why I was jealous of my friends who owned Nintendo 64s when I was younger. Whether in the form of chibi characters like in Persona Q or the witty lines in Fire Emblem Awakening, the games I’ve played so far on the Nintendo 3DS have featured great gameplay while not taking itself too seriously.

As much as the 3DS features a lot of fun and humour-filled games like Yo-Kai Watch and Persona Q, it does also feature serious games such as Shin Megami Tensei IV. The same could be said about PS Vita, with it featuring many fun and humourous JRPGs such as Hyperdimension Neptunia but also featuring darker ones like Lost Dimension. As a JRPG fan, having both the 3DS and PS Vita means I have access to more portable JRPGs than I can get through in my lifetime and with plenty of fun options on both systems, I definitely feel pretty spoiled (and a little overwhelmed).

While I’m taking a break from my usual JRPG time on PS Vita to play the Japanese visual novel cross third-person shooter Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls, I can say I love both systems and feel really lucky to have both. While new and upcoming PS Vita games such as Caligula and World of Final Fantasy have me more excited than Pokemon Sun and Moon on Nintendo 3DS, the 3DS’s popular and lighthearted franchises definitely have their place in the gaming world and I’m glad to welcome them into mine. With a lot of new releases focusing on home-console games, I hope the PS Vita and 3DS both stay around for a long time as great handheld JRPG machines.


What's your favourite 3DS JRPG? Are you Team 3DS or Vita?
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Friday 22 July 2016

Smartphone JRPGs Are Better Than I Thought They Were

Ever since I started playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper last year, I’ve noticed mobile games becoming more and more a standard part of my gaming life. This is somewhat surprising to me, since when I used to bring up the topic of mobile games to my friends, they were regularly talked about as lesser experiences when compared to console games. Despite this, when the port of the original Final Fantasy became my first venture into the world of mobile games, my expectations of them became very high very quickly. I was completely addicted to the old school JRPG and the best part was that it lived in my pocket. As much as I love my portable consoles, there's a lot to be said about having everything on one device, so this Final Fantasy experience carved out the beginning of my enjoyment of smartphone games.

I had paid money to play the original Final Fantasy game on iOS, so when I saw Final Fantasy Record Keeper was free, I was ecstatic. With a majority of my Final Fantasy experiences on consoles, I had always paid for my Final Fantasy games up until that point so I couldn't understand how I was getting Record Keeper for free. The best part was that it was a great game and had hours and hours of gameplay, with more levels being regularly added even now. I thoroughly enjoyed Final Fantasy Record Keeper so much so that I gave it my Game of the Year last year, but there was one thing that the game was missing - story content. The simplified version of Final Fantasy was fun, but it had no chance of fully replacing a console Final Fantasy game. Regardless I played Final Fantasy Record Keeper multiple times a week because of its nostalgia factor, it's fun combat and just how easy it was to jump in and out of during my day.

My mobile game routine has changed a lot recently though. This year has seen the release of three mobile JRPGs I really enjoy - X-Tactics, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. While playing these three games, I noticed how whether it was innovative gameplay, great collectibles or finally having some form of story on my phone, there were deeper JRPG experiences available on smartphones, I just hadn’t looked for them yet. And again these experiences are all wonderfully free with optional payments for extras available that don’t interfere with the main gameplay.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius was released recently and really got me thinking about the quality available in free smartphone games. I’m not that far into the game but already I can fulfill my basic JRPG desires. I can explore towns and areas, complete quests, do boss battles and enjoy an interesting story on my phone. It remembers exactly where I am no matter how suddenly I have to close the app and with levels that are fairly quick, I can get quick satisfaction out of finishing a level during my work day. It has so much content that I can say with confidence if this was a cheap Vita game, I’d probably pay for it yet it’s available for free on my iPhone, regularly updated, made better and only costs me money if I want extra in-game items. I love huge dungeons, quests and levels as much as the next JRPG player, but smartphone games have made me realise there's plenty of fun to be had in small levels too and it's nice to have the option of both types of experiences.

Somehow we live in a time where we’re spoiled as gamers on-the-go. With payment being mostly optional on smartphone games, we’re somehow getting these great smartphone experiences for nothing, which is pretty amazing considering the price of any full-priced console game. They’re not fully at the level of console games since I can’t play any game as modern, elaborate and long as my favourite game Persona 4 Golden on my smartphone yet, but it makes me wonder if there will something like it on my smartphone in the future. For now, I’m glad to be trying out more smartphone games and hope to find more elaborate JRPGs to play on the days I don't pack my 3DS or PS Vita . I’m enjoying the direction smartphone JRPGs are going in and am excited to consider it in the same league as my portable consoles.

All games mentioned in this post are available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

What's your favourite smartphone JRPG (Please let me know - I wanna try more)? What are your thoughts on Smartphone games?
Leave a comment below, send me a tweet at @JRPGJungle, hit me up Facebook or Instagram and let's talk!

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Friday 15 July 2016

JRPG Appreciation Post: Fire Emblem Awakening's Support System

I love most JRPGs that allow me to get to know the characters deeply, but I particularly love ones that have their own special systems to do this with. Some of my favourite JRPGs such as Persona 4 Golden and Ar nosurge feature brilliant systems based around Social Events and Interactions that raise the plot while giving an extra gameplay mechanic and I'm happy to say that Fire Emblem Awakening’s Support system is no different. While I’m definitely enjoying the tactical nature of Fire Emblem Awakening, its support system is done in a really meaningful way that closely ties itself to the core story. With well-written dialog featuring humour, friendship and romance, I haven’t unlocked a single scene I haven’t enjoyed yet and it’s become my favourite thing to look at after battles.

Making Fire Emblem Awakening’s Story Even Better

Photo Source: JustOneGamr
Fellow fans of fun and colourful characters will likely enjoy Fire Emblem Awakening’s Support system since all of the character dialogue is really well-done and gives a much needed insight into some of the minor characters in the story. Because the main story is quite serious and full of crucial and emotional moments, it’s rather refreshing that the Support system gives backstories to many of the characters through humour and banter, without filling the main story with unnecessary filler. Getting to know each character feels almost natural, with characters usually bringing up little details about themselves during everyday moments such as while doing the laundry or after dinner rather than in elaborate plot devices.

Fire Emblem Awakening’s Support dialogues also give an interesting look at the environment and circumstances the characters are living in. It’s never really emphasized that the characters are all living in each other’s pockets in a camp during the main story, so it's in the Support system that we're given a look into random day-to-day moments and the group's circumstances. It’s a great insight into the group’s relationship and a great way to humanize some of the strong characters such as Chrom or Frederick by showing another side of their personalities.

Battle Assistance

Character relationships play a role on the battlefield in Fire Emblem Awakening and while they only make a minor difference to the overall outcome of a battle, they can sometimes give just the required amount of luck needed to win a difficult battle. Characters fight better in pairs, so taking part in Support conversations gives higher attack and a higher chance that a member of the pair will block an attack. This can be significant, especially for players using Fire Emblem’s Classic mode which features Permanent Character Death meaning every evasion could basically save characters life. Also, on a more personal level, watching my carefully chosen pairs fight together feels much more satisfying than having them fight alone, so I take advantage of this as often as I can.


Photo Source: JustOneGamr
What’s probably fueled my love of Fire Emblem Awakening’s Support system most is my new favourite accidental mini-game - Matchmaker. This isn't an official term, but having the ability to make platonic and romantic relationships with over 30+ characters has turned me into a strange calculating Cupid when it comes to who predicting who will have the best S rank dialogue and results. It’s certainly possible for characters to have platonic relationships as well as romantic ones and there are plenty of great cutscenes for both, but the romantic relationships gave me some of the biggest surprises I've had from Fire Emblem Awakening. I've seen amusing banter, heartfelt moments and even common anime tropes used and other than perhaps some of the final scenes when a relationship is maxed out, none of it feels corny or out of place. It's also fun to match strange friendships together as well and finding which characters have a secret rivalry or small things in common, but I definitely enjoy matching up couples most. Whether you’re interesting in playing Cupid or not, having the option to pair off so many characters is a fantastic feature and I'm really impressed with the sheer amount of quality dialog moments available to enjoy.

Fire Emblem Awakening is many things - a great tactical game, a fun game and a fantastic social experience that somehow makes every character interesting and worthwhile. It’s thanks to the fun Support system that whenever I get a new Support dialog, I have to watch it right away because it'll bring me better battle pairs, amusing banter and an understand of Fire Emblem Awakening's roster of characters. It's because of the Support system that I carefully plan my battle with party around my pairs and I make sure to only get the right pairs to S rank. The amount of pair customisation and dialogue in the Support system is huge, which makes me think if it’s this good in Awakening, the idea of playing Fire Emblem Fates and experiencing a (hopefully) even better version of this experience is almost a little too exciting. I haven't finished Fire Emblem Awakening yet, but this is definitely one of parts of the game I enjoy the most.


What's your favourite part of Fire Emblem: Awakening? Who's your favourite pair?
Leave a comment below, send me a tweet at @JRPGJungle, hit me up Facebook or Instagram and let's talk!

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Friday 8 July 2016

Review: Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (iOS, Android)

When Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ was announced, it didn’t feel like a must-play game to me. I was already pretty heavily into Final Fantasy Record Keeper and since Record Keeper didn’t feature any significant story content, I very wrongly assumed that all mobile JRPGs (except for ports) wouldn't feature any compelling story content. While it certainly isn’t as deep as the story found in console Kingdom Hearts games, the nostalgic mini-stories and fun gameplay found in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is reminiscent of it’s console counterpart. On top of the surprisingly familiar gameplay, it adds in fun collectibles like character medals and avatars that really appealed to my completionist nature. It’s no replacement for Kingdom Hearts 3 or the other Kingdom Hearts games, but if you’re looking for a light JRPG on the go, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is a fun option for Disney and Kingdom Hearts fans-alike.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ’s story and gameplay is divided into small bite size quests that take on average less than 5 minutes to complete each, which is fantastic for those like myself playing on-the-go. If you’re interested in Unchained χ for the story, it currently boasts 200+ levels with more to come, so there's a lot to keep players busy. What may not satisfy all players is the pacing of Unchained χ’s story. The first hundred levels are mostly Disney and Gummi Ship filler, presumably in part to teach the gameplay mechanics, but still much slower than it should be. I'm just past level 100 and the original story portion of Unchained χ is only just beginning, which was a big surprise to me because there was so much filler I thought there may not be an actual story. On one hand, I liked the short length of the levels and the amount of them available as it felt like I was making a lot of progress. On the other hand, seeing myself progress so far without any significant plot felt a little discouraging, especially as a big fan of Kingdom Hearts' story. A recent update added in some story missions that are meant to be some of the ones featured in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 in Backcover χ, but these missions will take a really long time to get to for most new players and it’s a lot of time to invest without being pushed to continue by a faster paced plot.

Luckily, the gameplay inspired by the Kingdom Hearts console games in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is enjoyable enough for those making their way through the story. The active battle system from the Kingdom Hearts console games is transformed to incorporate the smartphone's touch screen and also changes the system into a turn-based system. Each quest is set in a small, explorable world based on locations from Kingdom Hearts and Disney. It was so good to be able to run around the map to choose enemies and open treasure chests, especially since most smartphone games I've tried (except ports) use simple menus to get to locations and don't have interactive areas. Running around the map is your custom avatar which uses the power of Character Medals and the Keyblades to fight Heartless during various quests, with each quest ending when the target enemy is defeated. Since the gameplay, locations and enemies were similar enough to the characters from the console game, I quickly felt at home in the new system and had fun trying achieve each level's mini-goal to get as many useful items as possible.

Avatar Boards, Character Medals and Keyblades provide plenty to customise, upgrade and collect in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ. One of the main collectibles are Character Medals, which are won through levels and events. The medals act kind of like weapons, each boasting their own stats and attack style. This helped me understand how they worked easily, but also meant the stats and attacks were far more important to me than collecting the medals for the characters. These medals are highly upgradable and I definitely enjoyed the upgrade process of combining and leveling up medals more than the collection aspect. The collectible I enjoyed most though are the genius Avatar Boards, which not only allow cool costumes to be earned for your avatar to run around in, but also allow for stat increases all in the one system. All of the Avatar Boards are like mini skill trees completed by unlocking useful game items with Avatar Points earned from levels. The combination of stats and silly costumes on these boards felt way more rewarding than just decorating a character and I always felt like I was getting a bonus reward for my quest accomplishments.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ has a good amount of events and special quests and when combined with the amount of story quests available, the amount of content to play with almost feels endless. Just at the time of writing, there are three different events available to play, a daily reward offer and special between Quest Raids (which are small boss battles between quests) for Avatar Board parts. Most of my experience with Unchained χ was story-based because at the moment some of those extra quests are quite high level, however the events I played provided much needed materials for upgrades that the story didn't.

An important thing to commend the game on is it's willingness to give out items and currency regularly and the cheapness of using AP. Jewels are Unchained χ's currency and can be purchased with real cash but are regularly given out from logging in and completing quests. AP are the credits used to play each level and can be restored with Jewels, by leveling or by waiting 3 minutes per AP. The cost to play each level is fairly low and I never found myself stopping and starting sessions with the game since my AP would usually get restored by leveling up which made each gameplay session feel much more meaningful. Players who purchase Jewels will never have to worry about getting low on AP or Avatar Boards, but players like myself who are looking for a cheaper or free game experience can have an extremely generous amount of fun in this free-to-download game.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is another triumph in Square Enix’s smartphone game journey. It makes use of the smartphones touchscreen well to create a turn-based, yet familiar version of Kingdom Hearts and has so much content that it may take me until Kingdom Hearts 3 is out to play it all. Getting to the important part of the main story takes a bit too much time, but if you're like me and you're enjoying the experience, it's only a small issue for an enjoyable game. For fans on the go who want a more JRPG-like experience, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is definitely a good start for those looking for deeper smartphone JRPGs.

Score: 8.5/10
While the plot takes a bit too much time to get going, the fun gameplay and collectibles are done well enough to keep me coming back for me. Now to complete another 100 quests!

Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ is available free for iOS and Android devices. Android users can find it in the Google Play store and iOS users can find it in the App Store.

What did you think of Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ? What are your favourite smartphone JRPGs?
Leave a comment below, send me a tweet at @JRPGJungle, hit me up on the JRPG Jungle Facebook page and let's talk!

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Note: Smartphone games are regularly updated and changed. My opinions about this game are based on the condition of the game at the time this review was released and may not cover any future important changes to the app.

Friday 1 July 2016

Figure Review: Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena Aegis (Taito)

Persona 3 left me with two things: dungeon fatigue and a love of the coolest humanoid robot ever, Aigis. While I think I'm finally getting over the dungeon fatigue, there’s no denying that Aigis is great and interesting character. Even pre-playing the Aigis-central second part of Persona 3 The Answer, her story was one of the highlights of Persona 3, especially during the social parts of the game as she was so different to the other characters in the way she responded to the world and events around her. My first true encounter with Aigis wasn’t Persona 3, rather Persona 4 Arena where she immediately struck my curiosity because she was a robot dressed as a human, and her charming interactions with the other characters really made her stand out against Persona’s already distinct and unique cast.

To commemorate mine and my boyfriend’s love of Aigis, we convinced each other it was about time to pick up an Aigis figure for the apartment. A year ago, I saw a huge Aigis figure in Akihabara in a rotating display that I really liked, but it was about $200 and was way too big to justify storing it anywhere in our small apartment and the slowly disappearing remaining space in my figure collection wouldn't allow it either. So instead of that figure, I found an Aigis (or Aegis as she's known in Japan) Persona 4 Arena prize figure from Taito that had a gravity defying pose and big weapons that seemed pretty cool for a low price of about $20.

Considering prize figures are typically not the highest quality, this Aigis figure is pretty decent. When I took her out of the box, I immediately noticed the beautiful detail of her face. If you look at her eyes, the drawing style is so spot on to Atlus’ animated version of Aigis that it almost makes the figure look more expensive. Her textured hair has a slight ombre colour effect, I’m guessing to add texture and simulate light being cast on her as it’s not something I really noticed about her in Persona 3 or Persona 4 Arena. I like the hair a lot, although there are a few very small bumps that up-close make the Aigis figure look a tad dirty sometimes, but from far back it's not a problem.

The rest of the figure is perfectly coloured with a mix of matte and metallic paints and is pretty detailed considering the price. While the gold, patterned detail on Aigis’ shoulder and leg connections have a few small bumps and tiny out-of-place paint marks, they're mostly smooth and detailed enough that from further back she looks just as detailed as other my other figures. A lot of these less perfectly-detailed spots are also easy to miss thanks to her cool looking weapon and dynamic pose drawing attention to other areas of the figure, so it's not a big issue for me. It may not be the most precisely detailed figure, but every detail is represented and done well enough.

The PVC body of the figure feels as strong as most of my other figures and is supported by a plastic rod attached to a plastic base. These can hold Aigis well on a shelf, but I’d probably advise against keeping this figure on a desk or area where she can be bumped as the part attached to the base that holds Aigis has a tendency to move very easily when touched. Even when I was taking pictures for this post, I bumped the base a little too much and suddenly had an upside-down Aigis figure. While it definitely looked amusing, it’s probably not the way most people want to display their figure. When kept in a steady area, I haven't had any problems or fears of damage and as long as it's not touched regularly, so my figure maintains it's structure and appearance just fine.

For the low price, this Aigis figure is very cool looking with it’s strong, dynamic pose. Although it’s not the most detailed and perfect Aigis figure ever, the colouring and face details are nicely done and when displayed on a shelf, she looks great and doesn't have any problems. I would eventually like to get the big high quality Aigis figure someday, but for now, this Aigis figure is a nice and cool-looking way to remember my Persona 3 experience without breaking the bank.

Score: 7.5
With amazing face details and a cool pose, this Aigis figure is a great find for the price.
Now I need to get her a Koromaru!


Who was your character from Persona 3? Do you have any Persona figures?
Leave a comment below, send me a tweet at @JRPGJungle, hit me up on the JRPG Jungle Facebook page and let's talk!

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