Friday 26 August 2016

JRPGs I Played in Summer 2016

This Summer was the season of a surprising amount of mobile games for me. I did play a bunch of games on consoles and portable devices, but with the release of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and Mobius Final Fantasy I had my work as a JRPG fan cut out for me. Aside from mobile games, I also finally completed the wonderful Fire Emblem Awakening and I just started Lost Dimension on Vita which I’m happy with so far. Speaking of handhelds, I’d like to give a shout out to portable gaming devices in general this month as they were a total gaming lifesaver while I was moving apartments this month. Without portable consoles, my gaming life would’ve been on hold and that simply wouldn't do! So here’s what I played this season and I hope everyone enjoyed their Summer gaming time! Let me know your favourite JRPGs of this Summer in the comments.

Lost Dimension (PS Vita)

Status: Now playing. Suspicious of everyone.

I've definitely still got a lot of Lost Dimension to get through but I picked it up recently to fill time in between now and Final Fantasy XV (which you know, is delayed now) after it was recommended to me on Twitter (thanks @Sypherica!). I’m already enjoying its tactical battle system a lot and I really like how the Vision system helps you take notes on who the traitor may be. Since I’ve been enjoying the Danganronpa 3 anime recently, Lost Dimension satisfies my JRPG needs and my mystery 'find-the-traitor' visual novel needs all in one game.

Digimon World DS (DS, Japanese)

Status: Played for about 15 minutes, back on the shelf.

I missed Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth enough to pick up Digimon World DS when I randomly saw it for under $10 secondhand. I didn’t do any research on it, I was just hoping it would bring me fun Digimon collection and the Digimon World experience I remembered from my childhood. I switched it on, found the different animation style and Japanese a little jarring, but I’m not saying it’s bad as it’s way too early to tell. I’ll have to sit down and really give this game a proper try sometime but I still think it was a cool find.

Long Gone Days (Steam demo, full game coming in 2018)

Status: Now playing, played a small amount between packing boxes to move. Hoping to play in full in the next few weekends

Another game suggested by a friend (thanks @DefurInTokyo!), Long Gone Days is probably my second or third indie JRPG. I only played it briefly while taking a break from moving preparations, but already I like its quick character development and simplistic, yet smart battle system that required a little more thought than just hitting attack. Since I really enjoy the JRPG cross Visual Novel genre, I'm looking forward to getting back to this one soon.

You can play the demo of Long Gone Days on Steam now for free!

Mobius Final Fantasy (iOS)

Status: Played for about an hour, not actively playing

I played Mobius for an evening after being super excited for it in the weeks leading up to its launch. After playing it, I found myself a little underwhelmed. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad game, but it didn’t hook me in. I don’t mind games with cards (I play Hearthstone regularly) but when combined with the lack of familiar Final Fantasy mechanics, while the system was interesting, it's not what I overly want from a portable Final Fantasy game. I really wanted to like Mobius so I may check in with it on occasion, but for now it's not nearly as compelling as Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is for me.

Mobius Final Fantasy is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth (PS4)

Status: Slowly platinuming

With my trusty Agumon pillow, I remembered I wanted to platinum Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth eventually and remembered how much fun I had with it. Coming back to a game after such a long time though, I saw how much I needed to do, felt a little overwhelmed and kinda bounced out. I do want to try platinum games I love in Japanese like I’m trying to do (with limited success) with Final Fantasy X so I know if I really want to collect all of those Digimon, I’ll do it.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius (iOS)

Status: Playing a few times a week on the go

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius was another Final Fantasy mobile game I was extremely excited for and to my delight, ended up totally loving. Since I was a long time fan of Record Keeper, I initially wondered if Exvius would be as good as it was and it turned out to be better. It's character collection is like an upgraded version of Record Keeper, its battle system is much smarter for the platform it's on and there are finally some maps to explore making it feel much more like a legitimate RPG. In my opinion, it's the best Final Fantasy game on smartphones so definitely try it if you're a fan of Final Fantasy.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (iOS)

Status: Playing a few times a week on the go

Another one of the great mobile games released by Square Enix recently is Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ. I think Unchained χ is a particularly amazing smartphone game because it manages to somehow turn the active battle mechanics of Kingdom Hearts into a turn-based system while feeling like a really similar system to the Kingdom Hearts games on Playstation consoles. Unchained χ is literally giving away Stamina/AP right now with the current 0 AP Summer promo so if you're looking to try the game without limitations, now is the time.

Kingdom Hearts Unchained X is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

X-Tactics (iOS)

Status: Playing occasionally on the go.

With so many new mobile games out, my X-Tactics playing did fall a little by the wayside. The times I did play though I was reminded how well the gameplay mechanics work together and would like to catch up on quests for it during Fall. I also really want to continue collecting X-Coin to get the adorable Kuku into my party and finish the quests to get the third special attack for my characters.

X-Tactics is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper (iOS)

Status: Hiatus

It’s with many sighs that I consciously jumped off the Final Fantasy Record Keeper train this month because I just couldn't enjoy it the same way after Brave Exvius came out. Record Keeper was a great game when it came out but I got stale with the repetitive mechanics without any story or other incentive to keep playing, especially after I got behind on its content. I really liked Record Keeper for a long time so I’m a little sad it’s out of my mobile game roster but I’m also excited to keep finding more games that will keep me committed for over a year like Record Keeper did.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS)

Status: Finished the main story. May play again one day in other difficulty modes

I really wish I hadn’t put off playing this for so long because it was fantastic. Fire Emblem Awakening is hands down one of the best tactical JRPGs I’ve ever played. The way its Support system affected the battles had me really motivated and excited to pair off characters and just the way the game was so personable with its characters was nice too. I already miss Tharja as well, my new favourite experimenting mage that’s high on my best girl list and many of the other fun characters that enriched the experience. As a new Fire Emblem fan, I’ll definitely be picking up Fire Emblem Fates soon as I’m sure it will be even better than Awakening. Feel free to comment with any other Fire Emblem suggestions!

Honourable Mention (Non-JRPG): Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Technically not a JRPG, but it’s one of the funnest third-person shooter adventure games I’ve ever played and hooked me in the usual Danganronpa way of interrupting any after work activities I needed to do all week because I needed to finish that story. Not a good idea while I was preparing to move, but goddamn it was a fun 30 hours. I wanted to add it in this list because Danganronpa always manages to give me that hook I'm always looking for in games and its mechanics are a little similar to JRPGs, so I think some people will enjoy it and its messed up story about kids killing adults.

Fall Game Plan

Once this heat has subsided and fall has arrived, it brings with it a really big JRPG title - Persona 5. However this will only be out in Japanese and I definitely won't understand it on a native level. I was completely ready to give Final Fantasy XV the rest of my year, but since it’s been delayed I have no excuse not to try and understand Persona 5 in Japanese now. I’ll give it a shot, but it won’t be my top priority gaming wise. I’ll probably finish Lost Dimension and after that I’m not really sure. Like I said, Final Fantasy XV really had the rest of the foreseeable year for me and I have such a surprising amount of free gaming time now that I'm not sure what to do with it.

To fill this free time, since I’ve finished moving apartments it would be nice to get back in touch with my home consoles. I may finally try the Atelier series or give Final Fantasy VII - one of my biggest unplayed JRPG sins - a try on PS4. I'm also pretty excited for World of Final Fantasy after the E3 footage shown and the new trailers, so at least I can get my Final Fantasy fix somehow!

What did you play in Summer? Do you have any gaming plans for fall or did Final Fantasy XV's delay also leave a hole in your life?
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 19 August 2016

A Brave New Record: Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Review (Reviewed on iOS, also on Android)

The Final Fantasy series has really made its way into the mobile gaming market. With a majority of the core Final Fantasy games available as paid apps on smartphones alongside free Final Fantasy apps such as Final Fantasy Record Keeper, there’s an experience for Final Fantasy fans of all budgets and tastes, ranging from the old school JRPG Final Fantasy style to the more modern 3D style seen in recent Final Fantasy games. The Brave Frontier inspired Final Fantasy Brave Exvius take inspiration from the classic Final Fantasy games with its turn-based battle system, pixel art sprites and town exploration that will be familiar to fans of the series. But it isn't all classic Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius balances bringing a new Final Fantasy experience to the smartphone space featuring an interesting story with witty dialogue reminiscent of the classic games and also brings in the fun collection and turn-based systems featured in other mobile and core Final Fantasy series games of old and new.

As someone who was a longtime fan of Final Fantasy Record Keeper but needed something to hook me in to continue playing, the story in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a solid answer to this problem. Brave Exvius is set in the world of Grandshelt and explores the protagonists Rain and Lasswell’s journey in balancing Grandshelt's powers of Lapis and Visions. This is the main premise anyway, as the pair seem to get sidetracked frequently, whether it be to save helpless citizens or, in true Final Fantasy style, to meet mysterious girls inside crystals. This kind of more lighthearted storytelling is great for the small story chapters in Brave Exvius as a game that'll live in most people's pockets, so the witty banter between Rain and Lasswell males each chapter feel enjoyable in its under 5 minute length and is a nice way to progress through its 'saving the kingdom' story.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius gets part of its name from Brave Frontier, another popular RPG game by developer A-Lim. But Final Fantasy Brave Exvius also places plenty of importance of the Final Fantasy part of its name, using plenty of mechanics, characters and aspects from Final Fantasy. As someone who hasn’t played Brave Frontier, I still felt right at home with the familiar gameplay elements featured in Brave Exvius. The spells, Espers, limit breaks and explorable towns and dungeons are all very Final Fantasy-like and are a much needed upgrade to the basic character battle used in other Final Fantasy mobile games. Brave Exvius features a touch-based interface that utilises swipes to give a variety of different commands during battle. A swipe to the left will allow you to use skills, a swipe to the right will allow you to defend. This kind of smart use of the smartphone’s touch screen take advantage of the available screen space and allow for a battle system pretty close to the one seen in older Final Fantasy games. Add in Espers and Limit Breaks and battles are pretty exciting. While it does have an Auto function that’s featured in most Final Fantasy mobile games, this kind of complexity encourages players to actually think out their moves and play like they would on a console Final Fantasy game or at least use the Repeat function to automatically use the same command you used before.

A really noteworthy thing in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is its inclusion of towns and exploration maps, something that I really enjoyed in Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ and was glad to see in Brave Exvius as well. Towns allow players to buy a variety of items at stores, including weapons, armour and healing items, along with recipes to craft all these things for those wanting to save gil and use materials in the neat crafting mechanic instead. Also in the towns are NPCs that give quests, an RPG feature that makes the world of Brave Exvius feel much more real and RPG-like than most smartphone RPGs I’ve played. The quests given in towns usually lead to visiting an Exploration area, which features a maze-like map littered with monsters and treasure chests for players to hunt out items for quests, crafting and character upgrades. The exploration is generally simpler than what’s found in console Final Fantasy games, but it’s still one of my favourite aspects of Brave Exvius because it makes it feel like a genuine JRPG world.

Along with finding items for quests and upgrades, there’s plenty to unlock, collect and upgrade in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius whether you’re into character collection or stat building. For those like myself who came from Final Fantasy Record Keeper, the character collection continues with Brave Exvius' gacha system that uses Friend Points accumulated by making friends or having other players assist you in battle to summon extra units to battle with. These units include characters exclusive to Brave Exvius and also characters from old Final Fantasy games, which I was delighted by when I got a Vivi. For those looking to strengthen their battle units, characters can be Awakened (upgraded) up to a 5 star ranking, providing plenty of opportunity for more powerful characters and grinding. Grinding is made easy with Brave Exvius' Vortex quests, which provide either materials, gil or experience depending on the type of dungeon the player chooses for each day. Whenever I was under-leveled for a quest, I really enjoyed how easy it is to find a way to get better units and upgrade my existing characters and found it really easy to understand as a JRPG player.

To accelerate unit collecting and upgrade material collection is Lapis, a material Grandshelt and also Brave Exvius’ in-game currency that can be bought with real world money. For those wanting to keep their experience free, there are plenty of opportunities to win Lapis in the game through quests and login bonuses and I never found myself to be out of them. A cool thing that Lapis can purchase are the weekly shopping packs released in Brave Exvius that offer materials that are more difficult to get. They also offer some of these packs for purchase with real money as well, but they’re never materials that are impossible to get just by playing the game.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is almost as dense as most Final Fantasy games, yet it fits perfectly on a smartphone due to smart mechanics and plenty of ways to collect and upgrade characters. With story, Espers and exploration, the experience features much of what Final Fantasy players enjoy on the console games in an easily accessible way for players on the go. As someone who was very into other Final Fantasy mobile games such as Final Fantasy Record Keeper, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius feels like a clear upgrade to the mobile Final Fantasy experience and I’m glad I can finally enjoy the Final Fantasy battle system I love with enjoyable banter on days I leave my Vita at home.

Score: 9.5/10
Final Fantasy's best mobile game yet manages to balance great story content, an explorable world and mechanics that fit smartphones perfectly in this on-the-go adventure.

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Are you playing Final Fantasy Brave Exvius? Who's in your party?
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 12 August 2016

My Goodbye to Final Fantasy Record Keeper

I’ve spoken about smartphone games a lot recently, mostly because of the release of new Final Fantasy mobile games like Final Fantasy Brave Exvius and Mobius Final Fantasy. My previous smartphone gaming habits involved only one game - Final Fantasy Record Keeper, one of Final Fantasy’s first quality original smartphone games that incorporated familiar RPG and Final Fantasy mechanics into a light experience on the go. I downloaded Record Keeper on the first week of its release so I was able to keep up with its main quests, events and limited edition characters for a good period of time (especially before I dropped my phone two months later). But all good things must come to an end, because recently I’ve stopped playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper completely to the point where I may delete it.

For most smartphone games, deleting one is sadly a mere a necessity most of the time, whether it be for clearing memory or just getting an icon off your home screen. But to be deleting Final Fantasy Record Keeper is a little more to me. Record Keeper happened to be released at a time when I’d just moved overseas and was struggling pretty hard for money and had some time before my new day job started. The TV in my apartment had no HDMI ports, so for gaming I had my PS Vita and my phone. When Record Keeper was released, I needed something to entertain me and had the rare opportunity of having time to get really into it.

All good things must come to an end though When I fatally dropped my phone two months later, since I’d just moved my life over to another city in another country, it took me two months to get the money together to get a new phone. Not having a working smartphone was completely unexpected so I didn't have a chance to backup my save and my multiple Level 50+ characters and all of my event rewards were completely gone. Once I realised what a tragedy this was, I was pretty upset but since I’d started my job at this point, Record Keeper had served its purpose of keeping me entertained and sane when I could’ve just been at home stressing about my budget situation.

Once I got my new phone, I tried really hard to get back into Record Keeper. I wanted to get back up to date with the story and to follow events just like I had before because I still had extremely fond memories of my time with Record Keeper. Now that I was playing with a very different schedule, the commendable constant stream of content that Record Keeper has was too much for me to keep up with. That began my cycle of jumping in and out to collect cool characters and weapons, but never truly catching up with Record Keeper’s content. It’s a great plus that Record Keeper has so much content consistently but for players who weren’t there from the start, the amount of content could also be considered overwhelming. I could never shake the feeling that I’d be doing better if I’d just had those few months without my phone back and it made it hard for me to fully appreciate Record Keeper like I had before.

The last time I touched Final Fantasy Record Keeper was a little over a month ago, just before I downloaded Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. I was in the midst of giving up doing events in Record Keeper so I could catch up on the dauntingly large amount of main quests I'd missed. Events used to be one of my absolute favourite parts of Record Keeper because of the fun collectible characters and more recently the addition of costumes from my favourite Final Fantasy games. However as I mentioned in my impressions for Record Keeper, its story premise is extremely vague and mostly serves as context rather than an actual story. I love JRPG gameplay but by even with the wealth of mechanics and things to do in Record Keeper, the repetitive mechanics weren’t pushing me forward without any story. That's where Final Fantasy Brave Exvius comes in.

If Final Fantasy Brave Exvius was just Final Fantasy Record Keeper with story, I’m pretty sure I'd be into it. The fun banter between Rain and Lasswell would be amusing enough to keep the fun going for a long time (although I can't see either of them having the time to stray from their mission to collect old Final Fantasy characters). But whether intentional or not, Brave Exvius takes the best parts of Record Keeper such as the console Final Fantasy-like turn-based system and the character collection and combines them with a little console Final Fantasy magic of included a larger variety of attacks available and a proper fleshed out story and makes a mobile JRPG that I want to push forward in to level up my characters as much as possible and to learn more about the world of Grandshelt.

I'm not saying anyone has to pick between the two games, but it's what I've done. I get the satisfaction of collecting things from Final Fantasy Brave Exvius along with a story that motivates to keep playing and since I have the advantage of being there from the start of its release, I'll hopefully get to the end of its story soon and will be able to keep up with any updates. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to keep up with a smartphone game as well as I did in my magical first two months with Final Fantasy Record Keeper, but with Brave Exvius I feel like I’m going at a pace I’m happy with and not falling behind.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper meant a great deal to me in a stressful time and I’ll always appreciate it for providing me good free fun when I needed it. It was a simple smartphone game that was my own personal simple slice of fun in a difficult time, but it’s not the only smartphone game in the world and I have to respect what I'm having more fun with at the moment. So for now at least, goodbye to my Mythril and my character collection in Record Keeper and hello to new mobile experiences in interesting worlds in games such as Final Fantasy Brave Exvius.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius are available in both the App Store and the Google Play store.

Are you still playing Final Fantasy Record Keeper? What's your favourite Final Fantasy smartphone game?
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 5 August 2016

First Impressions: Kingsglaive Final Fantasy

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy is set to release in cinemas later this month in the US, along with being streamable online shortly after. It's also currently showing in cinemas in Japan, so since I’m in Japan I knew I had to see it as soon as I could, even if it’s well above my Japanese level. I was initially a little worried about completely spoiling the story of Kingsglaive for myself before I saw it in English (which I definitely did), but I was far too excited to get some backstory for the world Final Fantasy XV.

Kingsglaive Final Fantasy focuses on the events relating to Noctis’ father Regis that occur at the same time as Final Fantasy XV’s story, a rather interesting story dynamic considering Final Fantasy XV isn’t out until late September. The film is much more than an extended trailer for Final Fantasy XV, with it’s own story moments that will no doubt leave their footprint on Final Fantasy XV. While I can’t comment on the script of Kingsglaive because I saw the film in Japanese, the story and beautiful visuals of Kingsglaive Final Fantasy still were satisfying enough to increase my already high excitement for Final Fantasy XV.

Even just from watching the trailer for Kingsglaive, it's easy to see that it's visually stunning and this holds true throughout the film. Kingsglaive uses a lot of motion captured movements and it shows in the precise facial and body movements seen throughout the film. The way the character's faces move, change and crease with each facial expression was really immersing and there were honestly a few times in the film I forgot everything was just really good 3D rendering. One thing that kept me from being fully immersed in the film on occasion were the mouth movements, which were made to match the English script. While the Japanese script was supposedly made based around these mouth movements, some movements were a little slow or off. In saying that, it’s something I rarely noticed and for those planning to see the English version, this probably means everything will even smoother.

I could only understand a limited amount of Kingsglaive Final Fantasy’s story due to the language barrier, but in spite of that the significant events of Kingsglaive were represented enough to allow me to follow along with the story's prominent moments.  Going into Kingsglaive, I was a little worried the story wouldn't be significant and the film would serve mostly as an introduction to Final Fantasy XV, but I was wrong. Kingsglaive's story has its own significant plot and story moments, driven by it's strong cast of original characters. As the characters defend Lucis from invasion, there are plenty of moments where characters such as Nyx and Libertus have their moment to shine as strong, passionate characters and other moments in the story provide an insight into characters that will be featured in Final Fantasy XV like Lunafreya, Ardyn and Regis. While my understanding of the intricacies of the plot may not be very good, the events in the film told an interesting story with a few twists that had me surprised, so I'm looking forward to exploring the story more when the English version is available, hopefully with a script that matches the good feelings I have about the story without it.

While the film was in Japanese and I couldn't understand the finer points of Kingsglaive Final Fantasy, what was universal was the excitement and hype I had for Final Fantasy XV when I left the cinema. Thanks to the stunning visuals, intriguing characters and the surprising plot twists that will no doubt affect Noctis’ journey in Final Fantasy XV, I really enjoyed Kingsglaive Final Fantasy and will be sure to see it again in English when it’s release. The script is naturally a vital part of making sure the beautiful graphics and visual story are done justice, but from what I saw, Kingsglaive Final Fantasy will at the very least satisfy fans of the beautiful visuals of Final Fantasy and give a few surprises to those waiting for Final Fantasy XV.

Are you excited for Kingsglaive Final Fantasy? Will you see it at all?
Leave a comment below, send me a tweet at @JRPGJungle, hit me up Facebook or Instagram and let's talk!

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